Copper Mountain, CO
Diagnosis Copper is naturally divided by skier ability: The gradual slopes of the West Side are for beginners, the steeper pitches of the midmountain are for intermediates, and the East Side and the four Arctic-like bowls that cap the mountain please the experts.
Spaulding and Resolution Bowls top the mountain at over 12,000 feet and feel like gnarly out-of-bounds terrain.
The gentle grades of Roundabout and Soliloquy are easier on the nerves.
With one terrain park, a half-pipe, and a superpipe, Copper caters to the young at heart (and limb). Tubing, ice-skating, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are also available, and the Sunsation event at seasons end tops the silliness chart with the Eenie Weenie Bikini Contest.
Average Annual Snowfall 280 inches
Breakdown 21% beginner, 25% intermediate, 54% expert
Monarch Ski and Snowboard Area, CO
Diagnosis Perched at 11,961 feet in the Sawatch Mountains of southern Colorado, Monarch gets hit with storms regularly. Its isolation on the Continental Divide keeps crowds away, giving beginners plenty of room to practice and experts plenty of terrain to ski hard.
The Panorama Lift, with its perfectly spaced tree runs, is your best bet in-bounds, but splurge with Monarch Snowcat Tours ($180 per person; 888-996-7669) for the real steeps.
The Thumbelina Lift is a short ride to an open field of green circles.
Ski, board, or snowshoe up 11,312-foot Monarch Pass, or tromp out to Lost Wonder Huta swanky backcountry log cabin (970-382-9722; www.lostwonder.com). Drink Il Vicinos Wet Mountain Pale Ale in the Sidewinder Saloon.
Average Annual Snowfall 350 inches
Breakdown 21% beginner, 37% intermediate, 42% expert
Telluride Ski Resort, CO
Diagnosis In 2000, Telluride spent $14 million to put three new high-speed detachable quads into Prospect Bowl, adding 733 acres and nearly doubling the skiable terrain. Yet the town remains unchanged: quaint Victorian buildings and lots of cafés, like the Steaming Bean, for sipping lattes and jawing with locals.
If skiing The Plunge off Lift 9 or ducking out-of-bounds through the backcountry gate off Gold Hill doesnt get your blood pumping, then call Tellurides Helitrax (800-831-6230), the only heli-skiing outfit in Colorado.
Double Cabin off the Sunshine Express meanders for two miles with great views of the San Sophia Range.
The in-town network of cross-country trails is free. For gear rentals call Telluride Sports, (800-828-7547). Ice-skating is also free at the town park. Call Telluride Parks and Recreation (970-728-2173) for times and rentals. Wintermoon Sled Dog Adventures (970-729-0058) is an option, and so is the San Juan Hut System (970-626-3033), a series of eight backcountry huts spread over 206 miles.
Average Annual Snowfall 311 inches
Breakdown 22% beginner, 38% intermediate, 40% expert
Diagnosis With everything from superpipes to five-star hotels to world-class spas, Vail is the Disney World of ski resorts. Its got everything for the entire family...for a price.
For a real leg-burner, link up the bumps, steeps, and chutes of the Prima, Pronto, and Log Chute runs (The PPL, to locals).
Any run from Chair 14 (the Sourdough Lift) is groomed to perfectionlike a putting green on a slope.
The superpipe is 425 feet long with 15-foot walls and 17-foot transitions. Need we say more? If youre pooped, check out the Dew Drop Inna heated yurt with video games, a sound system, and a 40-foot sundeck. And who needs cross-country skiing when you can Thrill Sled (a headfirst ride on an independently suspended, four-ski sled), tube, ski-bike, and play laser tag at the Adventure Ridge activities center (970-476-9090).
Average Annual Snowfall 346 inches
Breakdown 18% beginner, 29% intermediate, 53% expert
Copper Mountain, CO