Sunday, February 6, 2011

Eldora...not just for East Coasters

Went to Eldora today with Bailey. We met up with Maureen and JD and their friends Eric, Kat, Matt, Dave, and Cindy. One of my favorite things about Eldora is that it is small enough that you can run in to so many other people on the mountain that you know, or that your friend's know.
This was my 6th powder day at Eldora. We had 7" the night before and 8" while I was there.

I've had many people question or outright scoff at the notion of skiing at Eldora. The reasons for not going according to them are:

1) it's on the east side of the divide
2) it's small
3) there are no highspeed lifts
4) it's expensive for what you get (no buddy passes, $450 something for a pass)
5) IT'S ICY and gets no snow. You'll love it if you're an 'Ice Coaster' (Bailey boarded at Sugarloaf throughout college)
6) There is no ski village/resort complex

I thought I would attempt to debunk/refute each of these arguments:

1) I cannot argue with geography. It is in fact on the east side of the divide. HOWEVER, as you can see here, Eldora's base elevation is higher than Winter Park, Vail, Aspen, Beaver Creek, and Steamboat's. It is also adjacent to the Indian Peaks Wilderness which straddles the Continental Divide. So how much does being 'east' really matter? I will admit that Eldora does have a lower summit elevation than other major resorts.

2). Eldora is small, at 680 acres. Compared to Winter parks 3,060 or Vail's 5289 it is dwarfed. However Aspen Mountain is 678acres and A Basin is 900 acres. Monarch Mountain is 800acres and I can say that besides Wolf Creek (amazing!), Monarch is the 2nd best place I've boarded in Colorado. So ladies, does size really matter? or is it how you use it? I like that I can ski the entire mountain of Eldora in a day if I so choose. It is also neatly laid out by difficulty, so you usually don't have to constantly be on the lookout over your shoulder for some first timer barreling down at you at unsafe speeds over on Indian Peaks or Corona Lifts. At 3 miles, Eldora's longest run is also similar to other resorts, though it's vertical drop is only 1600, which is only higher than Monarch, Ski Cooper, and Sol Vista, Echo, Howelsen Hill, and Ski Hesperus.

3). 1 point for the big boys. You can spend some time on the lifts here. they have a tripple and a double side by side (Challenge and Cannonball lifts) so that you aren't going slow AND waiting in line. To it's credit though,I have yet to see a line at Eldora like the 20-30min lines I've waited in at Keystone or Copper. The longest wait I've had at Eldora is 10 minutes.Maybe. Probably more like 6.

4). Eldora is pricy for a season pass and there are no buddy/ski-with-a-friend deals in place currently. Daily lift tickets are cheaper then the 'big resorts' with a full day mid season is $69. Early season it was $57. Here is a comparison of passes for CO:

-Eldora adult renewal pass is $419 ($429 first time)
-Epic Pass was $599 this year( Vail, BC, Heavenly, Keystone, A Basin, Breck)
-Summit Pass was $409 (Breck, Keystone, A Basin)
-Rocky Mountain Super Pass $409 (Copper, Winter Park, 6 days at Steamboat)
-Keystone/ABasin Pass was $359 (new this year!)
-ABasin only ($299)
-Monarch was $329
-Ski Cooper was $199
-4 Packs of various costs, $100-$200 range

However Eldora is cheap for college students and those of us who can still pass with a college ID. My season pass was $148. The next cheapest deal was the $200 Winter Park/Copper Wells Fargo deal I got my first year at CSU. With my Eldora pass also comes full access to their groomed 40k of nordic ski trails. It's fun to be able to board from 9-2 and then cross country until 4 and really makes up for the small size of Eldora (see #2 above). Other mountains with nordic centers are Beaver Creek and Keystone, Breck, and Vail. Devil's Thumb Ranch is NEAR winter park, but not affiliated.

I like to think as well that the money and time I save driving to Eldora is also worth it. My house to Eldora is 54 miles. ABasin is 67miles. WP is 70miles. Keystone 83. Copper is 80miles. Vail 101 Miles. That's between 26 -94miles saved each round trip. Factor in my car gets about 35mph on steep winter roads @ $3/gallon, and I save. Plus, my longest drive to Eldora or home has been 2 hrs. I bet you can't say that for the I-70 resorts! That comes in handy especially now that I have a bow-wow waiting for me at home.

5) Eldora ranks middle of the pack for snowfall, above Copper, Keystone, and the Aspen resorts. I have personally had 6 powder days at Eldora so far this 2010-2011 season. Icy depends on wind exposure (Eldora is frequently windy) as well as how much snow gets skied off. It seems that a smaller resort would lend itself to a lower # of skiers, and hence fewer people packing down the non-groomed runs? I'm no snow scientist or ski resort worker though.

6) I think one of the big issues here is also that Eldora doesn't offer things that other ski resorts and villages offer. It has two lodges. It does not have condos or a 'village'. The closest town is the sleepy hamlet of Eldora or the quirky town of Nederland. The fact that there is no glitz and glamour is what attracts me to places like Eldora, Monarch, or Wolf Creek. It may not attract others. If you want to be bombarded with advertisements and store after store of overpriced (insert noun), go somewhere else.

PS: Other reviews of Eldora can be found here.

PPS: Here's an interesting site that details past smaller/"mom and pop" ski resorts in CO that have gone out of business.

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