New in Colorado skiing: Four resort improvements to try this winter

The culmination of Steamboat Resort’s ambitious three-year redevelopment project tops the list of most exciting resort improvements in Colorado this winter with a new base-to-summit gondola that will dramatically increase uphill capacity and a 655-acre terrain expansion.

There’s also a new lift at Keystone to serve above-timberline bowl skiing that previously was hike-to terrain, and a fancy new mid-mountain restaurant at Copper Mountain, but Steamboat’s $220-million transformation stands apart as the most significant upgrade in the resort’s 61-year history.

Since 2021, Steamboat — which was pounded by snow last year — replaced an old gondola that ran from the base to mid-mountain at Thunderhead and demolished the old gondola building to make room for base area improvements that include an ice rink and a food hall. Last year, the first leg of a second gondola, the Wild Blue Gondola, opened from the base area to a new on-mountain learning center called Greenhorn Ranch. This year its second leg will extend from Greenhorn Ranch to the summit of Sunshine Peak.

That extension will make the Wild Blue Gondola the longest and fastest 10-passenger gondola in North America at nearly 3.2 miles while increasing Steamboat’s total uphill capacity out of the base from 6,000 per hour to 10,000.

“The completion of the full Wild Blue gondola is going to be a game-changer at Steamboat,” said spokeswoman Maren Franciosi. “You will be able to ride from the base area to the top of Sunshine Bowl — some of our most loved intermediate terrain — in 13 minutes.

“Three out-of-base lift options will take you to three different places. We still have the Christie Peak Express that will take you to the top of Christie Peak, the Steamboat Gondola to mid-mountain at Thunderhead, and the Wild Blue Gondola to the top of Sunshine Peak,” Franciosi added.

Sunshine Bowl is known for rolling, wide-open beginner runs, along with some nice intermediate cruisers and some great tree skiing between runs. In addition to Sunshine Bowl, the Wild Blue Gondola extension also will provide quick access to Steamboat’s backside, Morningside Park.

For expert skiers, Steamboat is adding 655 acres of terrain at Mahogany Ridge and Fish Creek Canyon that used to be “side-country,” meaning skiers could enter it by a backcountry access gate and ski it at their own risk. It was within Steamboat’s permit area, but not its operating boundaries. Now it will be served by a lift and ski patrollers, offering cliffs, steeps, glades and tree-skiing rated advanced, expert and extreme. It’s going to give Steamboat a salty side it didn’t have before.

“Steamboat is not known for our expert terrain,” Franciosi said. “We do have our famous gladed tree runs, and some really great blacks and double blacks, but this is truly taking it up a notch in offering expert and advanced terrain.”

High adventure calls at Keystone

A new high-speed six-passenger lift at Keystone, the Bergman Express, will provide above-timberline skiing in Bergman and Erickson Bowls that previously required a hike to access. Bergman Bowl is known for its mellow terrain while Erickson Bowl has steeper advanced slopes, and together they expand Keystone’s lift-served terrain by 550 acres. Another 1,300 acres of nearby high-alpine hike-to terrain will remain open for expert skiers and riders.

Elevated dining at Copper Mountain

An aerie is the nest of a bird of prey. It’s also a new building at Copper’s mid-mountain that will expand the resort’s dining options this winter.

The Aerie replaces Solitude Station, which used to be Copper’s main on-mountain dining destination. At 25,000 square feet, The Aerie will have a full-service restaurant called Forage and Feast on the upper floor with a bar and lounge. Below that level will be a cafeteria with typical on-mountain fare. The Aerie also will be the new upper terminal for the American Eagle lift from the base, unloading at the Aerie’s second-floor deck.

The views there are spectacular, offering a 270-degree panorama taking in the Tenmile Range, Buffalo Peak, Uneva Pass, the Gore Range and Vail Pass.

Aspen Mountain’s skiable terrain grows 20%

Aspen is adding 150 acres of chutes, glades and trails with a 1,220-foot vertical drop, and resort officials are calling it the most significant addition since the Silver Queen Gondola debuted in 1985. Simply called Hero’s to honor major Aspen skiing influencers dating back to the 1940s, this expansion on the upper eastern aspects of the mountain will be served by a high-speed quad.

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