Sheer Torture but Good to Know (Part II)

Continuing with my ski resort rampage, I will delve into the resumes of several of the closer ski resorts to the greater Denver area.

Echo Mountain

Opening Day- Thanksgiving Weekend (unless weather plays a bad hand)

General – Echo Mountain is definitely the unofficial ‘Mecca’ for econo-skiers and boarders on the Front Range. It has become this because it fulfills the basic requirements of the econo-snow junkie which are distance, price, and time on the mountain. In terms of distance, it is the closest to Denver by far with a short 35-mile drive from downtown. By price, a $129 (now $149) season pass is hard to beat and single day passes are just 39 dollars. Best out of all the benefits listed above is the amount of time one can spend on the mountain. With night skiing capabilities, Echo Mountain is open from nine in the morning to nine at night Wednesday through Saturday.

Peak – 10,650 ft.

Base – 10,050 ft.

Vertical Rise – 600 ft.

Skiable Terrain – 85 acres

Average Snowfall – 275 inches

Snowmaking – Coverage 100% (except for Westside Glades)

Lifts – 2

Terrain parks – 1

Cool and New – Since this resort is so small, it has largely focused on free-style to specialize on. This said, it continues to expand its terrain park and other trick toys. Also, new expansion has brought an additional couple of acres of new advanced skiing in the “Westside Glades.”

Eldora Mountain

Opening Day- November 21

General – Beaten only by Echo Mountain, Eldora Ski Resort is the closest skiing resort to the Denver area. Located 47 miles away from Denver in the town of Nederland, Eldora is a fair bit different than Echo Mountain. With more runs, diversity in terrain, higher altitude, and much greater size, it is arguably the first major ski resort when heading westward. It has always been a favorite of ‘Boulderites’ and Golden residents mostly due to its rather low rates, good natural snow, and great snowmaking; they are proud of the fact that they have 100% coverage of all groomed slopes.

Summit Elevation: 10,800′

Vertical Drop: 1,600′

Skiable Acres: 680

Annual Average Snowfall: 300″

Trails: 55

Lifts: 12

Cool and New- They have four terrain parks at Eldora with ever-changing formats.


Opening Day – October 15th (tied with A-Basin for first US resort to open this year)

General- An impressive resort similar in elevation to A-Basin, Loveland provides a very snow-conducive environment. With the help from colder temps at higher elevation, the resort is able to stay open from October to May and accumulate a whopping average of 400 inches a year! I smell powder. Do you? It is also very close to Denver as well sitting at approximately 53 miles from the city.

Skiable Acres – 1,365

Base Elevation – 10,600 feet (3230.880 meter)

Summit Elevation – 13,010 feet (3965.448 meter)

Lift-served: 12,700 feet

Vertical Drop – 2,410 feet (734.568 meter)

Snowmaking Capability – 160 Acres

Lifts – 3 double, 2 triple, 3 quad, 1 surface lift and 1 tow

Average Snowfall – 400 inches (10.160 meter) based on 31-year average

Longest Run – 2 miles (3.218 km)

Slopes – 13% Beginner 41% Intermediate and 46% Advanced

Cool and New- Much like Eldora and Echo Mountain, Freestyle has helped place emphasis on the need for a changing and improving terrain park. Look for new and better stuff than ever before this year.

Written by Elliot Matthews in: General |

Sheer Torture But Good To Know (Part 1)

Just in case everyone has not been tormented enough, I have decided to compile a rough overview of a few of the Front Range ski resorts! Included in this two part overview will be the given resort’s estimated opening day, general facilities/capabilities, and cool new additions. For the sake of order, I will list them in alphabetical order.

Arapahoe Basin:

Opening Day – October 15th(currently open!!)

General – If you have read my online article about this resort, then you know the unique history and a few general facts already. With half of this resort above tree line it is not only the highest skiable terrain in the country, but it also boasts one of the longest seasons (October – June) Being so high up also means that snow is generally not a problem especially with its snowmaking capabilities. It tied with Loveland this year to be the first resort in the country to open and it was all made possible by its 18 inch base of man-made snow.


Vertical rise: 2,270 feet

Base elevation: 10,780 feet

Summit elevation: 13,050 feet

Average annual snowfall: 350 inches

Number of trails: 105

Longest run: 1.5 miles

Skiable acres: 900

Snowmaking acres: 125

One quad chairlift Two triple chairlifts Three double chairlifts

Cool and New- Their much anticipated “Montezuma Bowl” is officially and completely open this year. Provides an expansion of some 80% in skiable terrain.

Beaver Creek:

Opening Day – November 26th

General – This resort is quite ritzy in nature with all of its spas, shopping, and dining facilities. This said, the resort has a lot to offer and do not be fooled by the rich overcoat. They boasted a best-year ever last year with 430 inches of snow!

Base Elevation 8,100 ft. / 2,469 m

Summit Elevation 11,440 ft. / 3,488 m

Vertical Rise 4,040 ft. / 1,231 m

Number of Trails 149

Number of Lifts 17

Bowls 2, Rose Bowl and Larkspur Bowl

Gondolas 2

High-Speed Quads 10

Triple Chair 2

Double Chair 3

otal Uphill Capacity/hour 25,939 skiers/hour

Snowmaking 605 acres

Average Annual Snowfall 310 inches / 787 cm

Total Skiable Area 1,815 acres

Longest Run (Centennial) 2¾ miles

Cool and New- Their New automated snowmaking system is bound to improve snow cover, just in case they do not get 430 inches this year. Also, if you are the type or your girlfriend is the type that demands excellence. They have a new resort and spa called the Westin Riverfront. It has amazing features and connects directly to the resort via a gondola outside the front door of the resort.


Opening Day – November 7th

General – Breckenridge is one of the most well-known resorts in the Front Range and rightfully so. It has a large night life in addition to a large park. Add in its proximity to I-70 and you get 1,650,321 million visitors(the number of skiers who visited Breckenridge last year.

Base elevation 9,600 ft.

Summit elevation 12,998 ft.

Snowmaking 565 acres

Average snowfall 300 acres

Total ski area 2,385 acres

Trail Classification 36% Expert 31% Advanced 33% Intermediate 15% Beginner

Longest run “Four O’Clock” at 3.5 miles

Half pipes 3

Lifts 29 (40,680 per hour)

Cool and New- The resort is opening its gondola (Breck Connect) that runs from the town up to its new base area “Peak 7″. This means the whole supporting area of ticket sales, rentals, dining, and lodging is brand new. Opening a new base area is something that they have not done since 1971. Moreover, Breckenridge will be the first stop on the AST Winter Dew Tour being held between December 18 and 21.

Copper Mountain

Opening Day – November 7th

General – Located 75 miles west of Denver and just South of Vail, Copper Mountain is a fairly large resort with good capacity and variety. It is known for its “naturally divided” terrain which basically means you do not have worry about going down a bunny slope and then having it turn into a triple black diamond all of a sudden. According to summit.net some locals call it “Colorado’s perfect ski mountain.”

Base Elevation: 9,712 feet/2,926 meters

Summit Elevation: 12,313 feet/3,767 meters

Vertical Drop: 2,601 feet/793 meters

Lifts: 22 total (1 six-person, high-speed lift; 4 high-speed quads; 5 triple chairlifts; 5 double chairlifts and 7 surface lifts)

Lift Capacity: 32,324 skiers per hour

Skiable Acres: 2,450 acres/985 hectares makes Copper one of the largest ski and snowboard resorts in Colorado

Marked Trails: 126 (21% beginner, 25% intermediate, 36% advanced, 18% expert)

Average Snowfall: 282 inches/710 centimeters

Snowmaking: 380 acres/154 hectares

Longest Run: 2.8 miles/5 kilometers (Soliloquy to Roundabout)

Cool and New- Newer and faster chairlifts, an additional 110 acres of snow coverage, and top-to-bottom snow coverage of the main lifts two main runs screams good stuff early and late in the season.

Written by Elliot Matthews in: General |

What I Miss and What I Don’t Miss

Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of benefits that come with living out on the flatlands. I always realized this whenever I took a trip into the mountains or cities, but now that I am actually living in a city (and in the mountains no less), both the benefits and disappointments of living here have become even more obvious to me. For the sake of space and readability, I have only selected my top three of both categories to discuss.

Out of the three things that I miss most, I would definitely have to say the one thing that stands out above the rest is fire. Yes, it may sound trivial or even caveman-like, but when you have become used to fires outside, a complete ban on “all open-flame fires in the City of Golden” really takes the wind out of your sails. Back home, it was a given that, if you were going to have a party at night, fire was to be the first invited. There is nothing like sitting around a fire with a bratwurst and/or cold beer and enjoying good company. It provides an atmosphere of relaxation in which you can really sink into when it is cool outside.

Next on my list is the absence of over-bearing light pollution. I miss being able to see the stars with good clarity and Denver is a bad source for sure. That constant orange glow at night gets me missing the dark blue.

Last, but not least of the things that I miss, is open hay fields. Now, you are probably thinking I have completely lost my mind at this point, but please, let me explain. The reason why a flat, open, and completely uninhabited hay field is awesome takes a simple recipe to understand. In this recipe of fun, first take this platform of “nothingness” and add to it one or more parts ATV. Next, take several good ropes and mix them well with either a tractor tire tube or car hood of choice and the ATV(s). After all that is said and done, simply garnish with several good drives and top with a number of giddy riders. The end product is a delectable spinning and speeding mass of humanity fighting to stay on the tube or car hood while g-forces do their thing.

At this point in the blog, you may be wondering why then, did I leave such a glorious playground for Colorado? Even as fun as all this sounds, not everything is hunky-dory. Besides the fact that where I come from does not have a School of Mines, the three major benefits to living here are profoundly greater than the downer aspects.

First of all, the climate is unmatchable. Instead of a dreary and wet winter, there is a lot more fluctuation of snow levels. Also included in this is the amount of white stuff that falls. Where two feet over a season is seen as a good year back home, it’s viewed as a bad week here. So, waiting for that good time in the snow is not nearly as much a problem.

Secondly, is the simple fact that everything is so close. Skiing is not a 10 hour drive. It is usually within an hour and a half, at most. Do not get me wrong, using horsepower to generate speed over snow is fun, but not using gasoline and instead using gravity is much more fun.

Thirdly, the geological landscape provides an overall greater variety of outdoor opportunities. The rock is solid, which means good climbing. The mountains are tall and steep, which means hiking and skiing are much more enjoyable. And, best of all, the sounds and smells of clear water and pines means a kick in your sensory system. Would you not agree?

Written by Elliot Matthews in: General |

Econo-Skier Sounding Off

We all see them on the slopes, those skiers and snowboarders who have the newest and latest gear every year. Despite often lacking the skills and job title to back up the necessity for such consistent replacement, these ‘winter wonders’ are still, for some reason, compelled to do so.

This sort of behavior is not only a terrible waste of potential gas money and a counter-intuitive action in the mindset of an econo-skier, but it is also just downright tacky. Style points for the ‘snow man’ or ‘snow bunny’ can reach epic lows not only in the eyes of econo-skiers but pros as well. How are style points awarded one may ask?

When it comes to these bright and shiny slope anomalies, most use the extent to which the person has replaced his or her gear as a rule. It is one thing to replace goggles or gloves; these things can be torn or scratched. However, to buy the newest poles, beanie, and/or jacket to match is pushing past reason.

I know there are many like myself who view these folks in this way, so I am not alone. Do not get me wrong, I still want others with my viewpoint to comment, but what I would like to see here, is for one of the people described above to comment/provide a logical rebuttal. Remember, no posers-just true-blue bill-droppers can take this position of defense.

Written by Elliot Matthews in: General |

A Break From The Normal

I have made a great exception in bringing this post to the blog page. As anyone with my same idea of fun will tell you, being on a slope somewhere in the middle of nowhere is definitely more fun than being slouched in front of a TV screen. However, even the most relentless of us must occasionally surrender to a warm couch that is so often fronted by a ‘boob tube’.

Since this is a common problem, I have made a list of the top three outdoorsy-based movies of all time. I do so to help my fellow outdoorsmen keep sane when they are deprived of pine-scented air.

  1. Jeremiah Johnson
    If ever there was a movie any and all people who love the outdoors should see, this is it. Starring Robert Redford, the story chronicles a fictional character’s battle with civilization and his quest for a life absent of its complications. He goes AWOL from the Mexican War and heads up north into the Rockies to become a mountain man. Along the way, he encounters characters of amazing originality and learns through interaction with them and the natives, why the Rockies are the “…marrow of the world.” Full of tragedy, stark reality, and great humor, this movie has it all and is worth buying right off the shelf. Do not even bother with renting it.
  2. Into the Wild
    Based on the true story and life of Christopher McCandless, the movie outlines the triumphs and tragedies surrounding his life and death. In general, McCandless had it all. In the beginning, he had just graduated from a major university, he had a family who loved him, and a more-than sufficient savings account, but, similar to Jeremiah Johnson, the civilized world was just too much of a trap to his way of thinking. So, he gave all of these things up in the hopes of heading into the wild. Also similar to Jeremiah Johnson, he discovers life’s lessons the hard way and finds comfort in the rare acts of kindness that he stumbles across. The movie will warm your heart, anger you, and leave you thinking “wow.”
  3. Castaway
    Tom Hanks plays his part well in this movie. He actually gained weight and then lost all of it and then some to make his character seem more realistic. The fictional story involves Tom Hank’s character “Chuck Noland” crash-landing on an island and surviving alone with just a few packages to keep him company. Through grit and determination, he survives on the island for four years before coming to the ghastly conclusion that he is not going to be rescued. He constructs a raft and then sets off to return to the life that he had had before. However, even when he miraculously manages to make it back to civilization, he finds a world far removed from his new way of life. The movie is sad but, in the end, comical and thought-provoking-a ‘must see’ for sure.
Written by Elliot Matthews in: General |

The “Wells Fargo Deal”

We have all heard about the amazing deal Wells Fargo puts on for college students and staff. Most, like myself, have bought this pass. However, out of the resorts covered by this pass, which one provides the most ‘bang for your buck’?

The deal provides a buy-one get-one free pass for just over 400 buckaroos. The common way to go about getting this pass is to split it with someone and, in doing so, cut the cost to just over $200 per person. Either way, the three-way season pass includes Winter Park/Mary Jane and Copper Mountian, and is quite possibly the best deal in skiing this area has to offer. That said, of the triad of choices, which makes this deal a real steal?

In gauging this situation from a position of never having actually skied at either one, I have gone off mere logistics and statistics of the two complexes and personal style.

Copper Mountain is a little further of a drive, sitting 75 miles from Denver, compared to Winter Park, which is 67 miles away, and it has fewer acres of skiable terrain (2,450 acres versus 3,060 at Winter Park). Where I see Copper Mountain having a possible advantage is in the added distance traveled combined with more snowmaking capability. These attributes may allow for lesser crowds and an earlier/more consistent snow cover than Winter Park, especially early in the season.

Winter Park, on the other hand, has the benefit of essentially being two parks in one, with Mary Jane. As a result, longer runs, more lifts, and a greater variety of skiing add together to form a more diverse dish for skiers and snowboarders alike. They also have a greater consistency in snow cover than Copper Mountain, which means a higher probability for good skiing throughout the year.

Together, these attributes make Winter Park look more impressive numerically in comparison to Copper Mountain, but as I know from experience, the numbers do not always tell the story. As of right now, I predict Winter Park being my playground of choice, but as wisdom dictates, I shall wait until I actually go to both before I officially make up my mind.

For those of you who have gone, give me a piece of your mind concerning the two resorts. Which do you prefer and why?

Written by Elliot Matthews in: General |

Freeboards Are Not Long Boards

Summer has long been a plague to many snowboarders, but now, their need for a more snowboard-like feeling alternative has come.

Thanks mostly to my roommate I have been made aware of the new and rising sport of Freeboarding. Often times, people see him on campus and ask him what in the world he is riding or just look perplexed as he spins by. One time somebody drove by and yelled out the window, “Long boards are (expletive)!” which made us both laugh considering the fact that it was far from such distinction. As a spawn of snowboarders desiring a summer substitute to boarding, Freeboards have a much greater capacity for creativity than just the cruising attributes of long boarding.

Freeboards originated from a group of California-based riders/designers whose whole goal was to bring the feel of a snowboard to a skateboard platform. Their general appearance is a mix between a long board and regular skateboard but with three major differences.

First off, a Freeboard has semi-bindings on top for the rider’s feet to slide into. They are basically brackets that make an L-shape over the feet and greatly enhance control, which is a good thing when your board has the ability to spin going down a hill.

Secondly, the trucks are much wider than both a skateboard and long board adding to all-around stability.

Thirdly, what makes the Freeboard truly “free”, are the additional two rotating castor wheels located just inside the trucks. These additional wheels, combined with slightly raised wheels fastened like other boards to the trucks, are what give the Freeboard its ability to rotate, back-slide and slide facing squarely downhill.

All-around, it is a really cool creation and one which is sure to expand in popularity in the future. It has already received a lot of attention on sport-video websites and YouTube. So, the next time you see a unique-looking board spinning and sliding as it goes down the side-walk, remember, it is a Freeboard-not a long board.

Written by Elliot Matthews in: General |

Missing Paintball

Throughout the course of my outdoor adventures, one of the most memorable activities I have ever participated in is paintball.

Few outdoor sports contain the variety that paintball provides. One can be battling a middle-aged man one moment and then a 13 year-old girl the next. It provides some great diversity of play, skill, and tactical variety.

There are also numerous game formats to choose from that test different skills. One can either pick the game of best fit or continually mix it up. Personally, I have tried just about every kind, from ‘scenario’ and ‘woods ball’ to ‘speedball’ and ‘x-ball’. They are all great in their own way, but being alone and outnumbered in a camouflaged setting plays best to my personal tastes.

The sport is best known for its ability to bring everyone together. Maybe it is the natural instinct to hunt in packs, mixed with the self-empowerment that one feels when “fighting back” the opponent, that makes it such a draw. Or maybe, on a less-primal level, it is so attractive because a player gets to mark his or her friends with a wall of colorful goo and then laugh about it afterwards. This feeling of victory is fun for all, given shot placement is appropriate, and it’s great for around-the-campfire stories later on.

Paintball is an awesome indoor activity and an even better outdoor activity. However, with the restrictions on “guns” of any kind here at Mines, it is a subject less publicized than the liberal arts. Needless to say, I am lonely for the heart pounding action paintball induces and looking for opportunities to play. If anyone knows of a good spot or two where I can play, I, along with many other Mines paintballers I am sure, would not mind hearing about it.

Written by Elliot Matthews in: General |

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