On New Year’s Eve day, our family celebrated in a sparkly sort of way. We’re not sparkly people: no glam ski wear, no iridescent goggles, no bling or bangles, so it wasn’t what we wore, but where we were.
We were at Eldora Mountain Resort west of Boulder, the sun was shining through fast-moving clouds and it was lightly snowing. We skied in festive sparkles all day.
Which was only fitting, because this is a festive birthday year at Eldora. On January 19, the mountain holds its official 50th birthday bash celebrating with games and giveaways at the base area, live music in the Corona Bar and the University of Colorado Alumni Day (including CU Buffs Ski Team racing and discounted lunch and lift packages for alums).
Eldora wouldn’t be what it is, without ski racing and the University of Colorado. When Lake Eldora Ski Area opened in January 1963, CU Ski Coach Bob Beattie was part of the management team and Eldora became the home of the skiing Buffs. Beattie was also coach of the US Ski Team and the 1964 Olympic team trained at Eldora. At the 1964 Innsbruck games, Jimmy Huega and Billy Kidd became the first U.S. men to win Olympic medals in alpine skiing, placing second and third in slalom.
Ski racing continues to be a big part of the Eldora experience. When we pulled into the Eldora parking lot on December 31st, we quickly noticed a group of junior ski racers running gates near the base.
Prior to coming to Eldora, I had chatted with Dave Belin, an Eldora dad and ski instructor, about where we should ski. “One of my favorite trails is La Belle Dame,” he told me. “It’s the race trail for the University ski team and it’s a great trail because nobody goes on it. Typically it’s just used by racers.” I couldn’t wait to try.
Unfortunately, La Belle Dame was closed. Eldora has 100% snowmaking on its groomed trails, and the guns were firing on the run. So while I couldn’t pretend to be a world-class racer (one of my consistent and lasting fantasies), the snow on the rest of the mountain, which was a combination of natural and man-made, was skiing great.
Our goal for the morning was the Corona lift, home of Eldora’s most challenging terrain. Beginning from the base, we worked our way over to Corona along a series of fun blue groomed runs underneath the Challenge and Indian Peaks chairlifts. Although there is difficult terrain off of both lifts (as well as double-black glade skiing), the majority of the trails in this area are fun intermediate groomers.
The Corona chair doesn’t have any easy or intermediate terrain and is famous for it’s glades and chutes. While they weren’t open, right underneath the Corona lift is a run called (surprise!) Corona. Although often groomed, Corona was bumped up and super fun. A run with three distinct changes in pitch, the bumps varied across the slope from steep ‘n’ deep to hero-making minis giving the run a different feel every time we skied it.
As for the glades, my friend Dave specifically recommends Brian’s Glades and Salto Glades. Next time we visit, we’ll be sure to hit those.
Eldora Times Two
Eldora Mountain Resort is divided into two distinct sections: a “big” mountain which includes Challenge Mountain, Indian Peaks and Corona Bowl, as well as a terrain park on Lower Diamond Back. This portion of Eldora is served by four chairlifts and the Timbers base lodge.
Just to the east of the Timbers lodge is the “little” mountain and Indian Peaks Lodge, home of the ski school and the rental/demo shop. Eldora’s beginner terrain is here, along with the longest magic carpet I’ve seen. Several terrain parks, some short intermediate slopes and a race course, used for training and the after-dark community race series Nighthawks, are also found here.
While we didn’t ski this part of Eldora, I was impressed with the division between the learning areas and the rest of the mountain. There are no tricky trail crossings that put beginners in the path of more advanced skiers and the terrain progresses quite naturally from east to west. Seven lifts serve this part of the mountain, so even on busy weekends when the ski school and race programs are bustling, lift lines should be minimal.
The Eldora Nordic Center
Eldora is also well-known for its Nordic Center. Directly across the parking lot from the Timbers lodge, the Nordic Center has 40 km of trail groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing.
Although New Year’s Eve day was beautiful (and sparkly!) at Eldora, it was also super cold. Needing to stoke our internal fires, we clicked out of the alpine gear after lunch and stepped into skinny skis for the afternoon. We skied several kilometers of green and blue trails and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the quiet forest. Best of all, one ticket provides access to both alpine and Nordic skiing at Eldora making it easy and affordable to combine both disciplines in one day (Nordic only trail passes are also available).
Why Ski Eldora?
The big draw is, of course, fun alpine and Nordic terrain. But other reasons to ski Eldora are convenience and it’s proximity to Boulder. Eldora is a close-in, easy-to-reach resort from Boulder, the northern Denver suburbs and communities north to Fort Collins. Traffic is minimal, even on weekends, making it a great destination for a day trip.
There is no lodging at Eldora, but the resort and many hotels in Boulder offer Boulder Escape lodging and lift ticket packages. While visitors don’t have ski-in/ski-out convenience, they do enjoy Boulder’s many restaurants, shops and bars.
When I asked Dave Belin why he and his family choose Eldora, he mentioned the mountain’s “hidden strengths.”
“People who don’t know Eldora very well, don’t realize how big it is and how good the longer, steeper runs are. There is a good mix of terrain for a mix of abilities. Add in the Nordic center and you’ve got a great variety of options for all families,” Dave shared.
He then added a plug for the ski school’s multi-week programs. “My kids did Trek last year on six consecutive weekends. Their ability just exploded. They really took off and since Eldora is so close, it was never a hassle getting them here.”
I would add one other strength: Eldora is sparkly — at least on a cold winter day, when the sun is shining and the snow is falling. High in Colorado’s Front Range, Eldora shines, celebrating snow, winter and 50 years of alpine and Nordic fun.
Happy Birthday, Eldora.
When You Go…
Eldora Mountain Resort is located along Canyon Boulevard (Highway 119), 35 minutes from Boulder. Driving instructions for other Front Range communities are found here. Eldora is also served by RTD from Boulder.
Daily lift tickets are $75 for adults, $45 for juniors ages 6-15 and $10 for kids 5 & under.
While the first session of Kid’s Trek is already underway, the second session runs from February 23 through March 30. Eldorables, a learn-to-ski program for 4-6 year-olds offers classes on weekday mornings and afternoons. For more information about ski and ride school programs, including women’s days, All Mountain Freeride Trek, racing and avalanche school, look under “Programs” on the Eldora website.
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