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Despite being roughly 50 miles from Denver, Loveland Ski Area is often ignored by powder hounds bound for glitzier—and more crowded—resorts. That might be because the 80-year-old operation, the second oldest in the state, isn’t part of Colorado’s multimountain passes, unlike nearby Arapahoe Basin. But you shouldn’t pass up this affordable option, especially in a year that started with so little snow. Loveland’s base sits above 10,000 feet so it’s almost always one of the first mountains to open and one of the last to close. If that’s not enough incentive to turn off at Exit 216, here are six other reasons to fall head over heels (not literally, please) for Loveland.
The Price of Love
Full-day lift ticket: $89
Season pass: $479
Free Cat Skiing
Accessing backcountry powder usually means long days full of hiking (or skinning) to remote areas with serious avalanche danger. Not at Loveland. Since 2012, the 18-passenger Ridge Cat has provided free (with a lift ticket) snowcat tours, which means you can access some of the mountain’s steepest terrain, including the Marmot, the Rock Chutes, and Velvet Hammer. The Ridge Cat operates Wednesday through Sunday (10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) on a first-come, first-served basis, picking up skiers and riders every 15 to 20 minutes near the top of Chair 9 and dropping them just below the summit of Golden Bear Peak—the highest point at the resort.
Terrain For All
With its base elevation at 10,800 feet, most years Loveland sees more snow than any other ski area in Summit County. That means plenty of powder throughout the area’s 1,800 acres (Loveland Valley for beginners and Loveland Basin for steeps-seeking experts). And since nearly 60 percent of the ski area’s terrain is above treeline, you’ll find that deep snow in wide-open bowls on gnarly, hike-to runs like Wild Child or on mellower options like the Perfect Bowl off Chair 4. (Of course, for the same reason, you’ll also find plenty of wind.)
Every Valentine’s Day for the past 26 years, sweethearts have come to Loveland to get hitched or renew their vows at 12,050 feet at the top of the Ptarmigan lift. Typically, about 100 couples participate. You can’t miss them as they zoom past you in tuxedos and wedding dresses on their way to a cozy reception at the base.
You’ve heard of the pocket beer. What about the pocket burger? With four cabins on the mountain, all of which boast propane grills and wood-burning stoves, Loveland encourages skiers to bring their own meat and cook satisfying slopeside lunches. Non-DIY-ers can post up at the Ptarmigan Roost Cabin (renovated during the 2012-’13 season) and enjoy a bread bowl of pork green chile on the large deck with views of the ski area below.
Because of Loveland’s proximity to Denver, most folks don’t bank on spending the night. As such, there’s no lodging on-site (which is part of the reason you’ll never wait more than five minutes in a lift line). But if you do want to avoid the I-70 headache, Loveland sometimes offers ski-and-stay deals with properties in Clear Creek and Summit counties. We like the riverside Hotel Chateau Chamonix in Georgetown, which serves wine upon check-in and features private hot tubs in some rooms (from $165 a night).
Runs To Remember
Sometimes honoring the past means living it up in the present—and at Loveland, that means shredding historic runs. Start by heading left off the top of the Ptarmigan Roost chair and carving some wide turns down Bennet’s Bowl, named for Al Bennet, who took over operations in 1937 and famously powered a rope tow up the Continental Divide with a Model T engine. After that, ride Lift 8 and cruise Chet’s Run down to the Ginny Lee Cabin, named for husband and wife Chet and Virginia “Ginny” Upham, whose family has owned Loveland since 1955 and preserved the mountain’s welcoming vibe.