Trip Report: 13 Days in Colorado (My Longest Ski Trip Yet!)

Trip Details:

  • Resorts: Park City, Telluride, Crested Butte, Monarch Mountain, Loveland
  • Trip Dates: March 22 to April 3, 2024

Friday, March 22 (Travel Day)

Day one, we flew into Salt Lake City midday and met up with friends at their Park City timeshare. As has become our Park City tradition, we started the trip with a great dinner at High West Saloon and a stroll around the extremely walkable Park City Main Street.

View of Park City Main Street from the rooftop patio at No Name Saloon.
Mac and Cheese at High West Saloon – always a hit!
The new Chicken & Waffles at High West Saloon

Saturday, March 23 (Park City)

  • 0 inches new snow, 45 degree high
Park City Town Lift on Day 1

Not sure how my legs would hold up over the next two weeks of skiing, I approached day one as an easy warmup day.

We skied mostly soft slushy groomers off Dreamscape in the AM, then met up with my wife and her friends in the Canyons learning area (which we’ve found is much better for beginners than the Park City side).

It was fantastic to be back on skis, but we called it a day around 12:30 PM since the beginners were tired.

Sunday, March 24 (Park City)

  • 8 inches overnight, 2 inches throughout the day.
Park City Town Lift on Day 2

Powder day!

We woke up to massive snowflakes and a snow report of 8 inches overnight.

Park City Town Lift Line Day 2

Me and my buddy planned to head straight to Jupiter Bowl but soon realized the terrain was closed, so we spent the morning lapping Thaynes and McConkey’s. Both were filled with nice, soft, and deep variable snow conditions.

Things started getting skied out around noon, so we made a few last laps off Motherlode and again, cautious of my conditioning, ended the day around 1:00 PM.

Monday, March 25 (Park City)

  • 0 inches overnight

Park City bluebird powder day

No new snow overnight, but we knew the goods were waiting for us if Jupiter opened. And Jupiter DID open, so we high-tailed it to the top of the bowl, then hiked ~10 minutes to the Dead Tree area.

Park City Jupiter Peak Hike
Hiking to Dead Tree / Jupiter Peak

This was one of the few times in my skiing career when I’ve been able to spot my powder tracks on the next chairlift up!

The goods were so good that we repeated this run three times, before hiking to the top of Jupiter and tackling a line in between The Chutes and Puma Bowl.

Park City Jupiter Peak View
View from Jupiter Peak
Park City chutes line
Untracked lines!

I had to leave at noon to catch my flight back to MSP, but this was one of the most memorable powder days of my life so far. And it was a bluebird day, to boot!

Tuesday, March 26 (Travel Day)

After the powder paradise of Park City, I was greeted with chaos to start the travel day.

In Park City, I realized my driver’s license was expired. So at the last minute, I had to push back this Tuesday’s MSP to Telluride flight from by a few hours, run to the Minnesota DMV first thing in the morning, and pray to the heavens the notoriously slow DMV renewed my license in time to still catch my flight.

Shockingly, the DMV processed my renewal in record time. But the flight adjustment meant I wouldn’t be able to join the rest of my buddies on the shared shuttle we’d arranged from Montrose to our Telluride ski condo. But in another lucky turn of events, I was able to grab a rental car at the Montrose airport, and picking the car up on Tuesday, a whole four days earlier than my previously booked Saturday pickup, cost just $20 more than my original plans.

A $5 per day car rental? Yes, please.

In Telluride, it was also snowing, and we had an awesome ski condo in the middle of the Telluride Mountain Village. It was walkable to the lifts for skiing each morning and walkable to the Gondola when we wanted to go into town at night.

Telluride condo and Gondola

Taking the Telluride Gondola from Mountain Village into Town

Wednesday, March 27 (Telluride)

  • 5 inches overnight

Telluride Day 1 - Mountain Village

Day one at Telluride. They had received 15 inches in the past few days, then 5 inches overnight. That said, I broke the cardinal rule of “no friends on a powder day” and graciously skied the powdery morning with my non-powder acclimated friends, who rejected my proposals to hike the Prospect Express/Black Iron bowl.

Instead, we essentially toured the powdery mountain, bouncing around between the blues off Village Express and Polar Queen, then a soft bumped up Bushwaker on the front-side. We did eventually make our way into Revelation Bowl, which was nice, deep, chopped up powder.

Telluride Day 1 - Revelation Bowl
Revelation Bowl at Telluride

By afternoon, the weather had turned from winter to spring, and we caught some of Telluride’s legendary views.

We finished our day in the Prospect Woods before heading to one of my favorite apres scenes of all time – beers and bloody marys at Gorrono Ranch.

Gorrono Ranch at Telluride

Bloody Mary at Gorrono

Thursday, March 28 (Telluride)

  • 0 inches of new snow

Day two at Telluride. We woke up to a bluebird morning, and quickly decided the gameplan should be to head towards the front-side Plunge area to see some of Telluride’s iconic views of town.

Telluride Frontside

The views were exactly as advertised – truly one of the more jaw-dropping scenes in skiing. However, I was more surprised with how awesome the frontside groomers were. Milk Run and Lookout were perfectly pitched, fast groomers with a picture-perfect backdrop. So awesome. (I previously posted about how I didn’t “get” Telluride. This was the moment I “got” Telluride.)

The weather again changed on us. Whereas yesterday went from stormy to sunny around noon, today, the weather did the opposite – abruptly changing from sunny to cloudy after lunch.

We decided to head over to the one lift we hadn’t yet checked out – Sunshine Express. This seemed to be a mistake, as we burned up most of the afternoon on the insanely long and quite boring Galloping Goose. That said, we did find Enchanted Forest, which was a lot of mellow fun, although everyone wished it was about 4x as long, and the consensus was it wasn’t worth enduring more time burned on Galloping Goose in order to lap it.

Friday, March 29 (Telluride)

  • 0 inches of new snow

We decided the highlight of yesterday was the frontside groomers, so we booked it up Village Express and towards Telluride Trail. We were surprised to find that despite what the grooming report said, Cimarron was fully groomed, and this made for an awesome, steep black groomer that we lapped again and again, pausing only to check out Milk Run again.

Telluride Day 3 Morning Carving

This was amazing empty carving, made even better by the empty runs (on a Friday!) and liftlines that looked like this:

Telluride Liftlines

After a half-dozen laps of the frontside groomers, we made our way back to Revelation Bowl. Not sure what to expect, especially when the wind nearly blew us off the top of the Apex lift, we were met with wonderful, chalky, wind-swept snow throughout the entire Revelation Bowl.

Revelation Bowl Chalk 1
Nice, chalky snow in Revelation Bowl!

Four laps later, we headed down to Gorronno Ranch for lunch. In the afternoon, we sent our tired legs to Polar Queen, where we found our favorite trees of the trip.

I ended the day with a few last laps off the frontside. I was having a blast until on my “last run” in flat light conditions, I stupidly carved a GS turn into some surprise moguls at top speed. The result was my most intense double ejection in years, and I’m lucky it wasn’t catastrophic. A humbling reminder to take it easy, especially with so many more days still to ski.

Saturday, March 30 (Travel Day)

While the rest of the guys caught their flights out of MTJ, I planned my day of driving. I originally wanted to make the ~6 hour drive to Taos, but I got scared off when I read forecasts for 50+ mph wind gusts on Sunday. Wind and chairlifts rarely mix…

Instead, I pivoted to Crested Butte. I found a last minute lodging deal for a private room (shared bathroom) at the Crested Butte Hostel and began my ~3 hour trek.

Taking my time and ahead of schedule, halfway through the drive I was surprised to stumble upon a National Park I’d never heard of before. Black Canyon of the Gunnsion sits about 1.5 hours from Crested Butte. The park is pretty small, and most of the driving routes were closed due to winter conditions, but the easy drive-up overlooks were the perfect way to kill a few hours before my hotel check in.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon

Black Canyon National Park

black canyon views

The rest of the drive was quiet, peaceful, and surprisingly pretty. The Grand Mesa / Gunnison region is a really interesting part of Colorado that I never got a chance to explore back when I lived in the state.

Crested Butte drive

I checked into the Crested Butte Hostel right on schedule at 4 PM, and I was pleasantly surprised with my first hostel experience since college.

crested butte hostel

The hostel was immaculately clean, the shared baths were loaded with more stalls than would ever be used, and best of all, the location was less than 1 block away from the last stop on the Crested Butte Mountain Shuttle. This was incredibly convenient for the next few days of skiing, since I could go from hostel lobby to first chair in less than 15 minutes, no parking needed.

The town of Crested Butte was also adorable. I’d long heard the rumors that this sleepy little valley might quietly be the best ski town in Colorado, and on first glance, I think I’d agree. In a state that’s packed with the mega-destination resorts, Crested Butte somehow still feels true to its roots, reminding me of the small, charming ski towns I’ve visited in more relaxed ski destinations like Interior British Columbia and Northern Montana.

crested butte ski town 2

Sunday, March 31 (Crested Butte)

  • 0 inches overnight

crested butte day 1

The mountain website talked about 2 feet of snow in the past week, but the forecasted ~4 inch storm ended up being a bust. I quickly realized how spoiled I’d been with this trip’s conditions, because my first day at Crested Butte brought the first icy/crunchy snow found all week.

I spent the morning warming up easy, checking out the greens off Red Lady and the blues off Paradise Express, East River Express, and Teocalli.

To be honest, first impressions of the mountain weren’t great – aside from the conditions, most of this terrain has boring flat sections, and I was disappointed that Teocalli felt like the slowest lift I’ve ever ridden. (I’m usually a fan of slow lifts at most places, but this was something else.)

That said, I completely changed my opinion of the mountain after my first ride on Silver Queen – the black diamond International and Crystal runs were fantastic skiing. The runs here are long, steep, and tons of fun. I spent the next few hours lapping this area again and again, intercepted only by some fun bump runs off Paradise Express near the end of the day.

Mt Crested Butte Views 2
Views of town from the Silver Queen Chairlift

Monday, April 1 (Crested Butte)

  • 2 inches overnight

Crested Butte empty Day 2

With my 7 day Epic Pass now used up, I started looking at options. Window tickets were $160, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that all day advanced lessons, plus a lift ticket, came out to $300 for Epic Pass holders when booked the night before. Not super cheap, but $140 for an all day ski lesson is a steal compared to most resort’s pricing. I also had a suspicion that an end-of-season advanced lesson on a Monday might turn into a private…

When I arrived on a surprise bluebird Monday morning, the mountain was completely dead. I watched empty chair after empty chair go up the mountain, and minutes went by before the bored scanners had any action.

When it came time for the lesson lineup, there were five total people who’d booked lessons that day:

  • I placed myself in the level 7-8 group and stated my goal of improving technique and hopefully skiing the extreme Banana/Peel/Forest frontside terrain.
  • One snowboarder was a never ever.
  • An older lady placed herself as level 6, with the goal of getting better despite her tired legs.
  • And one boyfriend/girlfriend couple were there because of a birthday, with the goal of skiing as many double blacks as possible all day long.

The school wisely split us all up into separate groups, meaning sure enough, I was in for an all-day private lesson!

(This makes me 3-for-3 on “private” group lessons over the past few seasons, previously at Whitefish and Schweitzer’s ski school, using a similar weekday strategy.)

The lesson started with some very basic technique on the blue groomers off Paradise Express. I found this info a nice, maybe too basic, refresher but made sure to use the instructor’s request for feedback as a chance to reiterate my goal of hopefully shifting this lesson into more of a guided mountain tour after lunch. He was receptive to my suggestion, and we spent the rest of the day skiing moguls before working into the double blacks off the upper mountain t-bars.

He consulted with another instructor, who told him the conditions on the Banana/Peel/Forest frontside terrain were less than ideal, so we axed that plan, unfortunately. That said, Hawk’s Nest, Powder 8 Gully, and Headwall all had fantastic snow and were real highlights of the trip.

ski lesson day 2 CB 4

ski lesson day 2 CB 2

Despite the change of plans, I felt like my money on the lesson was very well spent. I felt a noticeable improvement in my rhythm and speed control in the moguls from the beginning of the day until the end, and this carried through the next few days of skiing. I also doubt I would have had the confidence to make the sketchy traverses required to drop into some of this blind terrain – Crested Butte is definitely a mountain where most of the goods are well hidden.

Tuesday, April 2 (Monarch Mountain)

  • 0 inches new snow

Monarch Mountain Base Area

I originally planned for this to be a rest day, but my legs were feeling good, so I decided to buy a $69 lift ticket to Monarch Mountain. Monarch is just 1.5 hours from Crested Butte on the way to Denver, so I thought this would make for a good “half-way point” before I landed in Summit County. My goal was to just use this pit stop to ski a few quick laps before I got bored with the small amount of terrain, but Monarch ended up impressing me so much that I skied here all day long!

Monarch Mountain

Monarch is filled with all slow lifts, the largest of which is barely over 1,000 feet of vertical. But the snow quality was good, and when you consider the low skier traffic, how long that snow quality lasts is something mega-resorts can only dream about. I imagine this place is nuts on a powder day, but my day was limited mostly to lapping fresh corduroy all morning, followed by stash hunting in the afternoon.

It was also cool how spaced out the trees were here, which gives the option for approachable tree skiing off nearly every run.

Around 4:00 PM, I booked a cheap hotel for the night in Summit County, hopped in the car, and drove the final two hours. I used to live in Denver, but never made the drive in this part of the state before, and I was surprised at how peaceful and pretty it was. (Summit County, on the other hand, felt like anything but. Maybe I’m just spoiled from my recent trips to remote places, but the traffic jams, shopping malls, etc. were a huge turn off to me.)

Wedensday, April 3 (Loveland)

  • 0 inches new snow (6 inches in the past three days)

I wanted to ski A-Basin this day, but I was surprised to see the lift tickets jump up in price at the last minute, so I decided to give Loveland a shot instead.

I’m glad I did, for a few reasons:

  • I’d never skied Loveland before and have always been curious.
  • The mountain is way cooler than it leads on.
  • Unbeknownst to me, it was demo day!
Loveland Demo Day
Free demo day!

I had fun trying out different skis all day, and I was impressed with the vast bowls all over the mountain. Again, the snow quality and lack of traffic puts the mega-resorts to shame, which made for a much more enjoyable experience. (I’m kicking myself for driving past this place so many times!)

Loveland morning

Loveland Peak View

After Loveland, I drove 1.5 hours to the Denver airport and reflected back on my longest, and best, ski trip yet.

Final Trip Tallies

  • Days traveled: 13
  • Days skied: 10
  • Powder days: 3
  • Total Runs: 190+
  • Total vertical: Over 220,000 feet!