Skiing in the Rockies is like no other experience - it's truly powder central! There's little pain taking a tumble in Colorado compared to the hard-packed slopes of the East. Crawling out of a powder hole may, however, be a problem.

Those coming from the East Coast may find it challenging to let go, lean back a bit, and let the skis do the work.  At resorts like Jackson Hole or off the backside of Steamboat, it may still be possible to find fresh tracks even days after a storm. At many of these resorts, marked trails are simply entrances and exits to the best skiing.  Finding these secret spots is also the best way to get around the large crowds resorts like Vail often bring in.

Colorado

Vail

Skiing

Skiing Blue Ski Basin (Vail/Liam Doran)

It's impossible to talk about Colorado without talking about Vail. Yes, it's trendy and skiers may see more fur coats than they're comfortable with, but the 5,289 acres should easily make up for that. Vail may be right, it's Like nothing on Earth. Let's cut to the chase- the seven renowned back bowls are filled with loose, deep powder surrounded by snow-covered spruce trees. Chasing the powder in the expansive backcountry is also the best way to avoid crowds that tend to gather on the front side.

Best Feature: It may take a few lift rides to get over to Blue Sky Basin, but the most remote area of Vail is worth every second. The remote paradise is a playground for skiers and snowboarders with cliffs and untouched powder. 

2011-2012 Season Dates: Nov. 1- April 15

Rates and more information: www.vail.com

Getting There: Denver International Airport is about two hours from Vail, but those who want to get closer can fly into Vail/Eagle Country Airport. From there, it takes about 30 minutes on the Colorado Mountain Express or by taxi.

Breckinridge Ski Resort

(Breckenridge

(Breckenridge Ski Resort/Liam Doran)

Spanning across four peaks and over 2,300 acres, Breckenridge's got something for everyone. Beginners and cruisers have masses of freshly groomed corduroy at Peak 7 and 9. Advanced skiers have loads more room at Peak 10 and the Lake Chutes, which have spectacular narrow and steep vertical drops. The newly added Breck Connect Gondola takes a lot of the hassle away from lugging belongings up to the base.

Best Feature: Breck's got not one but five terrain parks for every ability level. Take some time out to watch the saggy-pantsed hipsters pull off some off the most insane tricks.

2011-2012 Season Dates:  Nov.11 - April 15

Rates and more information: www.breckenridge.com

Getting There: Breckinridge is a two hour drive away from Denver International Airport. Like in Vail, visitors can take the Colorado Mountain Express to the mountain.

Steamboat

View

View from Steamboat (Creative Commons/JohnnyAlive)

Steamboat is the original home of champagne powder. Taking a spill here means little pain, but it also means digging your sinking skis out of the powder. The mountain boasts 165 named trails, almost 3,000 acres, and 16 lifts. Avoid the long lines around the gondola and head over to the backside or Christmas Tree Bowl for fresh tracks and plenty of room.

Best Feature: Steamboat's small town cowboy vibe makes the mountain great for a week-long vacation. Bring the whole family to the top of the gondola at night for great views and a Western Style BBQ.

2011-2012 Season Dates: Nov. 23- April 15

Rates and more information: www.steamboat.com

Getting There:Steamboat has its own airport, Steamboat/Hayden (HDN), that seven major airlines make stops at. There's even a special ski rack where passengers pick up their skis. Visitors can take the GO Alpine shuttle from the airport or catch a taxi outside of the terminal.

Wyoming

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Jackson

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

The terrain of Jackson Hole is certainly not for beginner skiers or riders. But, if you're up for steep and rugged chutes, powder bowls, and endless backcountry skiing, there's no place else in the world quite like Jackson Hole. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is just one of many options in the Teton Mountains, yet it offers the most terrain (2,500 acres) situated on two distinct mountains (Apres Vous and Rendezvous). The town takes its Wild West cowboy persona to Disneyland extremes, so it's best to just laugh and have a good time with it.

Best Feature: The best of Jackson Hole isn't on the map. Most groomed trails are simply entrances and exits to some of the best backcountry skiing in the U.S.  First timers can hire Alpine Guides that will show skiers and riders favorite off-the-map spots and correct safety procedures.

2011-2012 Season Dates:  Nov. 26- April 8

Rates and more information: http://www.jacksonhole.com

Getting There: Visitors can fly directly into the Jackson Hole Airport in the Grand Teton National Park. From the airport, take either a hotel shuttle or taxi into town.

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