Denver: A Springboard To Colorado Snow -

Denver International Airport ranks as one of the top 10 busiest airports in the world. It sees volumes of winter travelers due to Colorado's 30 ski resorts. Several see early fall skiing and late spring snows, creating some of the longest ski seasons in the continental U.S.

Many of Colorado's ski resorts cluster around Interstate 70 that slices horizontally through the state's northern tier. A freeway road trip from Denver hits both small ski hills and mega-resorts with ease—Though there is a weekend rush of traffic by Coloradoans to and from the slopes.

Say you have only part of a day to ski and don't want to waste time in the car. Then, head to Echo Mountain Park, only 35 minutes from town. The hill may be small, but it's open 12 hours per day Wednesdays through Saturdays for bonking off its hip park features.

An hour's drive can take you to where the locals go along the Continental Divide for some of the state's highest elevation skiing. Loveland, which is actually two ski areas connected by bus, tops out as the second highest resort in the state with its hike-to summit touching 13,010 feet. Its sky-scraping elevation often permits the resort to begin making snow in September.

A 90-minute road trip from Denver leads to a fistful of ski resorts. Winter Park, located on Highway 40, connects three peaks under one lift ticket. Almost 60 percent of its terrain is rated advanced to expert, which explains why the U.S. Freestyle Mogul Team trains preseason here every year. But, there's plenty of terrain for beginners.

Arapahoe Basin — or A-Basin, as the locals call it — claims the record book for the highest skiable terrain in North America. It tops out at a lung-busting 13,050 feet. Its expert terrain is a magnet for the hard cores, but the elevation also lets its north-facing bowl hold snow for skiing into early June.

Four massive mountains comprise Keystone with its 19 lifts and longest run stretching 3.5 miles. It lights up the slopes for the largest night skiing in Colorado that includes a monster terrain park with over 50 rails and fun boxes.

Hoards of destination skiers head to Breckenridge with its 30 lifts. The resort often crowns the top of the popularity list with Vail, seeing up to 1.6 million skier visits per year. Copper Mountain, on the other hand, attracts the locals for its four big bowls, fewer crowds on the slopes, and shorter lift lines.

Longer drives can put you at the doorstep of many more ski hills. Most can also be accessed via short flights from Denver into county or smaller city airports.

Continue west on the I-70 for the pair of upscale sister resorts. Vail and Beaver Creek sprawl their luxury communities about a two-hour drive from Denver. Vail rivals Breckenridge for annual skier visits, but with double the acreage on its seven-mile-wide ski hill. Beaver Creek lures families with one-third of Vail's acreage.

Roll westward on I-70 about three hours from Denver to Glenwood Springs, the doorway to five more resorts. Tiny Sunlight sits right above the town, so you can ski and soak in the mineral pools all in one day. An hour's drive southeast on Highway 82 links to Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, and Snowmass. You can ski or ride terrain made famous in all four by the X-Games. Snowmass also claims its place in the nation for having the longest lift-served vertical at 4,406 feet.

Want off the I-70 beaten path? A three-hour drive northwest from Denver lands you at Steamboat Springs, where 20 lifts service nearly 3,000 acres. The terrain claims a record for producing 54 Winter Olympians—more than any other resort in North America.

Find Crested Butte and a rugged Colorado backcountry flavor about four hours southwest of Denver. The resort gained a reputation with expert skiers and riders for its double-blacks in Headwall, Extreme Limits, and more terrain opening in Teocalli Bowl.

Colorado's high mountains yield a big plentiful advantage of snow. Denver is its quick springboard to the slopes.

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