Five chairlifts carry skiers and snowboarders to wide-open, above-timberline terrain, much of which can be handled only by strong intermediate skiers. Experts traverse "off-piste" to reach the area's toughest skiing, on the sheer East Wall. That said, novices will find enough terrain off the one beginners-only lift and the Molly Hogan hill to keep busy for days. Since there are no accommodations at A-Basin, you'll find mostly locals— and die-hards who want to hit the highest skiable slopes in North America.
Daily lift tickets: Adults $44 ($29 after April 23); kids 6—14 $15. (Buy one adult ticket and you'll get one free kids ticket free.) Open until July 4, weather permitting. For more information, call 888/272-7246 or 970/468-0718.
Owned by Vail Resorts, Keystone is the antithesis of Arapahoe. For one, it's got lodging; beyond that, the Keystone takes pride in keeping its facilities up-to-date. The sprawling, ever-evolving modern resort is especially popular with families that appreciate the fine ski school, the cruisable, well-groomed trails, and the ease of condo-by-the-slopes living.
Keystone has three separate mountains, one behind the other; the terrain becomes more challenging the farther back you go. In high season (November through late March), the resort also has the largest nighttime skiing operation in Colorado (with 235 acres open until 8 p.m.), a lit tubing park, and a five-acre skating pond.
Besides the excellent terrain, if you stay at a Keystone property, you'll get free one-day lift tickets to ski Arapahoe Basin. You'll also get two Mountain Passports, good for complimentary snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, yoga classes, and other activities before April 16; after that, through May 24, the passports can be used for boat, bike, and in-line skate rentals, tennis clinics, and wine-appreciation seminars, all free of charge.
Lift tickets: Adults $57 ($35 after April 1, $31 after April 15); kids 5—12 $2 ($17 after April 1). Open until April 29, weather permitting. For more information, call 800/468-5004 or 970/496-2316.
Twelve miles down the road from Keystone, Breck, is one of Colorado's most popular ski areas. The highly walkable, historic mining town, founded in 1859, is jammed with taverns, casual restaurants, galleries, and T-shirt shops, all housed in colorfully painted Victorian buildings. Breck has four skiable mountains suitable for every level, as well as an excellent ski school. The resort is favored by snowboarders, and stages world-class boarding events throughout the season.
On April 1, Breck begins Spring Massive, a new two-week festival. Concerts, bump-skiing competitions, and snowboarding exhibitions are scheduled; special lodging packages are available. The events conclude on April 14 with the grueling three-stage Imperial Challenge, whose participants bike and hike from town all the way up Peak 8 (13,000 feet), then ski or board down to the finish line.
Lift tickets: Adults $57 ($35 after April, $31 after April 15); kids 5—12 $17. Open until April 22, weather permitting. For more information, call 800/427-8308 or 970/453-5000.