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9 Essential Tips for Surviving the snow and crowds of popular Summit County weekends and holidays

Well it’s been quite a winter season so far here in Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, and Arapahoe Basin! This early part of January 2017 has Arapahoe Basin closed due to TOO MUCH snow – when does that happen?

The avalanche danger in the backcountry is extreme, and even the high alpine peaks of the resorts are being blasted and remain closed much of the time due to snow slide risks. Highway 6 was closed due to the risk of snow slides covering the road and potentially stranding people at Arapahoe Basin, which was evacuated at the request of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT to locals) and closed for 3 days. But we are NOT complaining! POWDER

Plus over the holidays and during I-70 road closures, the towns of Dillon, Silverthorne, Breckenridge, Keystone and Frisco are jam-packed with people trying to find a place to tuck themselves away while they await the snow, wind, ice, or accidents to clear – or just celebrate the great snow we are enjoying on the slopes.

So how do you cope with loads of snow (besides fantastic powder skiing and riding!) and lots of people struggling to get where they’re going while in Summit County? Here are a few tips from the locals who have been through this more than a few times:

Prepare your vehicle for extreme winter driving conditions

Seriously, you need 4-wheel drive or good snow tires (potentially with studs) – preferably both. You need to be able to get traction on piles of snow. A high-profile vehicle doesn’t hurt either – high-centering on a snow bank or just really deep snow on the roads is no fun. A long, strong snow scraper for your windows, an extra blanket, some tissues, a power bar or two, a shovel, a couple full reusable water bottles, and a bag of sand are wise items to keep in your vehicle. Extra credit for jumper cables, a flashlight, a small candle with matches or a lighter, and tow ropes. Think about what you would want if you were stranded on Vail Pass or the Dam Road for 2+ hours, or slid into a ditch or snow bank and needed to get yourself out. Or wait for help. Or pee on the side of the road – it happens.

Know your road options

This applies to weather closures and crowded streets. Ideally get yourself a map – the Summit Chamber of Commerce map with iResort information is a great street map to help you navigate around road and traffic issues. Specifically, if you need to get between Frisco and either Keystone, A-Basin, Dillon or Silverthorne and both I-70 and the Dillon Dam Road is closed, Swan Mountain road is your best option. Just remember, you could get stuck in traffic on Hwy 9 if everyone is in line waiting for the highway to open (the police are starting to prevent that thankfully). Side and back streets like going through Dillon Valley, or behind the outlets in Silverthorne are good routes to avoid the long waits on Hwy 9. In Breckenridge, avoid Main Street like the plague – go up to Ridge Street and around until you reach your destination.

Book the details online

There is so much you can do to plan ahead and make your time in the mountains optimal. One is to reserve your ski equipment online ahead of time, often saving you money and always saving you time and the headache of them not having what you need or want. Online grocery delivery above is a great option. Online lift tickets if you don’t have a pass are about the only way to go (unless your friend has buddy passes). Liftopia offers deals on Copper Mountain, Loveland, and Arapahoe Basin. Keystone and Breckenridge are a little trickier to find with a deal, so straight-forward multi-day passes is the way to go there. Or just buy a season pass – way better and you know you’ll use it!

Eat early or Late

Not only is happy hour at the restaurants a great value, but you will typically avoid massive crowds during busy holiday and spring break seasons. Show up at 6:30 or 7:00 PM and expect an hour+ wait at the most popular restaurants like The Dillon Dam Brewery and Pug Ryan’s. Late is good too – show up closer to 8:30 or 9:00 PM and you’ll get seated pretty easily most of the time. Same goes for on-mountain dining – don’t stop between 11:45 and 1:30 PM – go early or go late to avoid lines and the dreaded “no place to sit” feeling. At popular restaurants that accept reservations – get one … and show up or call.

 

Cook in your Condo

Avoid the whole going out scene altogether and cook in your condo if that make sense for you. A little pre-planning, and you avoid the whole restaurant reservations, parking, wait once you arrive, and expense of dining out. Or if you’re here a week, eat out a couple nights and in a couple nights to mix it up. Or hire a personal chef – there are numerous great ones in the county that will set you up for a great, relaxing experience. And how about having the groceries delivered so they’re waiting for you when you arrive?

Have a resort parking plan and execute early

For super crowded weekends and holidays, the best parking lots fill up at all the resorts. At Arapahoe Basin, busy weekends allow carpools only in the closest main lot. At Keystone, avoid the dreaded shuttle parking and get there early enough to park in the free River Run lot. At Breckenridge, the shuttle lot is free while the gondola (taking you to peaks 7 and 8) lot is $5 on weekdays and $12 on weekends and holidays, while the Beaver Run Peak 9 lot is even more expensive. At Copper Mountain, the main lots fill up early on busy days – and the lot at the Super Bee is paid until 2 PM. Their shuttle lots are huge – if you park there and take the bus (choose the bus going to the base areas they take you to – green, blue or black) be sure and make a strong mental note of where you parked your car. It will look entirely different when you get back there in the afternoon.

Play it cool

Look, there are a lot of people attempting to do the same thing – have a great time and enjoy the mountains! So we all just need to keep it low key, take our time, and be ready to shift plans when things don’t work out as we’d hoped. Pack a sandwich, take in a movie, bowl a game at Lakeside Bowl, stop for a bite to eat, drop into Whole Foods, or just listen to some music and take in the views. If the highway you were attempting to jump on is closed, pull off and find a distraction for an hour or two and monitor the road status through CDOT’s website or app – or sign up for their text alerts, which are frequent but super helpful during a storm. Fill the car with gas, use the restroom, get some water. Chill.

 

Ski or ride late

Keystone is open most nights for night skiing, which sounds cold. But it’s really not most of the time (not sure why that is). So if you get a later start – say 1 PM, you can stay til say 6 PM and still get 5 hours on the slopes. After 3, you lose the back mountains North Peak and the Outback so if you were counting on getting some runs in there, go there first. Ski Patrol will sweep the back mountains, closing those down and pushing everyone to the front of the mountain starting at 3 PM. At the other resorts which close at 4 PM, arriving after 2 PM gives you a couple advantages – free close-in parking (and front row spots from those who already left), slopes largely free of crowds, and no lift lines. You won’t have corduroy or fresh powder tracks (unless you frequent the trees), and the light can be flat late afternoon especially between mid-December and early February – but it’s one of my favorite times to ski because you have the slopes to yourself. Extra credit for clear or yellow-lens goggles for late afternoon flat light and night riding.

Travel to and from the Front Range off-hours

I live here but I still mess this up on occasion. DO NOT – I repeat, DO NOT travel to Denver from Summit County any weekend day (or end of a holiday) between 1 PM and 7 PM. Just don’t do it. Not worth it and no fun. Plan to stay for happy hour or dinner, go shopping, do whatever to entertain yourself after you finish on the mountain so you avoid that whole scene. And refer to #1 for car preparation. It really pays to stay an extra night and drive home Monday morning early or whenever you can avoid the traffic – plus you can jump in the hot tub, have a glass or wine, and snuggle in for another delightful mountain evening. Or you can sit in traffic for 3 hours crawling home discussing why we need a train between Denver and the mountains. We do – not sure it’s ever going to happen. Oh, and watch the weather forecast to avoid getting stuck on the road in a major snowstorm.

 

Have a great time here in Summit County – just give yourself the gift of navigating wisely during pressure-filled holiday weekends like and Martin Luther King Day in January and Presidents Day in February. Know that the resorts, businesses and locals all want your experience to be a good one and actually make a real effort to stay out of your way when it’s busy – whether on the slopes, at the store, or out to eat. Do it like a local and don’t be that guy.

 

Check out iResort App or www.iresortapp.com for the latest events, get restaurant recommendations, find a ski shop, or book a spa appointment. And have a great time!

 

Categories: Travel and Tourism, Trip Planning and Itineraries January 12, 2017 at 07:08 PM
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