Just two days after he first snapped on skis, Denver native Bobby Brown landed his first trick—a 360. He was 12. Six years later, the skier pulled off the first-ever switch double misty 1440 (four full rotations in the air) at the 2010 Winter X Games in Aspen and won two gold medals. “It was a pretty indescribable feeling,” Brown says. “My mind was just blank. I was kind of amazed at how I landed on my feet.”
This month, at the ripe old age of 19, the freestyle skier is poised to throw bigger and harder tricks when he competes in Aspen at the 2011 X Games (January 27–30). Brown, who lives and trains in Breckenridge, has perfected the unnatural double cork (a maneuver that includes two-and-a-half spins performed in the opposite rotational direction the skier’s accustomed to). It’s a must-do trick to win, but for Brown, it’s simply another step forward for the sport: “Everything’s a progression,” he says. “You have to have confidence. If you overthink it, you can really mess up what you’re gonna do.”
Colorado-based athletes to follow all winter long.
Duncan Adams, 18, skier
Town: Breckenridge Cred: Adams didn’t let his youth at last year’s X Games hold him back; despite being only 17, he finished fifth in the superpipe final.
Jen Hudak, 24, skier
Town: Aspen (part-time) Cred: The oft-injured Hudak—she’s had five major surgeries—is a U.S. Freeskiing Open champion, a four-time U.S. National Halfpipe champion, and has five X Games medals to her name.
Gretchen Bleiler, 29, snowboarder
Town: Aspen Cred: The best-known female snowboarder in the world, Bleiler is the only woman to win the X Games superpipe three times—and she’s an Olympic silver medalist.
More than half of Colorado’s ski resorts offer backcountry-quality terrain—think tight chutes, untrammeled glades, and wide-open bowls—inside the ropes. Avalanche training isn’t required, but beginners need not apply.
Keystone's Outback (snowcat/hike) Daily 10:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., $5. Depart from the Outback Bowls gate.
Terrain 1,918 acres, 748 vertical feet
Expect Big mountain–style bowl skiing is at its best right off the cat, near the summit of Wapiti Peak; for more tree skiing, continue traversing the ridge.
Inside Tip The North Bowl holds powder for days after a storm, so when the mountain is tracked out, forgo the cat and hike halfway up. Drop in and bear hard skier’s right to the Stadium and Outer Limits runs.
Aspen Highlands’ Highland Bowl (snowcat/hike) Daily 10 a.m.–2 p.m., free. Take the cat from Deep Temerity chair partway up Highland Peak; hike 20 minutes to the summit.
Terrain 270 acres, 1,656 vertical feet
Expect Hiking the 700-plus feet of elevation gain is a solid workout, but the widely varying terrain—from chutes and precipitous 45-degree pitches to gentle bowls and shady, powder-filled, north-facing glades—is worth it.
Inside Tip Keep an eye out for the less-tracked Boxcar or Mosh Pit, just past the rock outcrop on the hike; they’re epic runs, but most people walk right by.
Monarch's Mirkwood Basin (hike) Daily until 2:30 p.m., free. Depart from the top of the Breezeway lift for a 15-minute march along a cat track.
Terrain 130 acres, 1,100 vertical feet
Expect Some of the steeper in-bounds options in the state, with sustained pitches in the Staircase glades reaching a stomach-clenching 55 degrees. Try the Orcs run—which retains snow longer than other wind-scoured faces—for friendlier angles.
Inside Tip Timid? Sign up at the Ski and Ride School for the $55 Mirkwood Tour, a guided two-hour exploration of the terrain (Saturdays, 11 a.m.).
Copper Mountain's Tucker Mountain (snowcat/hike) Fri–Sun, 10 a.m.–1:30 p.m., free. Depart from the base of Mountain Chief lift.
Terrain273 acres, 1,200 vertical feet
Expect A 15- to 20-minute ride up Copper’s West Ridge for your choice of lines into the gigantic Copper Bowl. Hike farther along the ridge for untrammeled powder and chutes.
Inside Tip The cat stops right in front of the lowest-angle slopes. First-timers should drop into Nacho or Taco for the first run, then gradually head outward.
Steamboat's Mount Werner (hike) Daily until 3:30 p.m., free. Depart from the top of Morningside lift for a five- to 15-minute unguided hike toward the summit.
Terrain 75 acres, 800 vertical feet
Expect World-class tree skiing in the glades below Mount Werner’s summit. Dense copses alternate with narrow alleys and open meadows, and the long horizontal spread of terrain means there are still untracked lines well into the morning.
Inside Tip Tackle Mount Werner early in the day; reaching the area is a bit of a hassle. For each run, you’ll need to drop into Morningside Park (Steamboat’s back bowl), ride up the Morningside lift, and then hike to the peak. Trust us, it's worth it.