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Eldora Mountain Resort: Braving the Elements

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Not all ski days are created equally and sometimes–no matter how great the resort–the weather just doesn’t cooperate. Thus describes last Saturday on the mountain. My husband was on a winter campout with the Scouts while my kids and I opted for the more sane option: skiing Eldora Mountain Resort.  Or so we thought. 

Eldora is a true local’s mountain. You won’t see fur collars or high-speed lifts here. Eldora is for the purists, where brown-bag lunches reign and the RTD “N”  route conveniently delivers oodles of skiers from downtown Boulder 21 miles up the canyon to the base, avoiding the I-70 gridlock. With just 680 skiable acres, this resort is about quality, not quantity as upslope snow storms provide sensational snow, backed up with one of Colorado’s most comprehensive snowmaking system that covers 100% of alpine skiable terrain on trails. No snobs allowed, unless you’re of the powderhound genre.

The mountain has naturally divided terrain that makes it easy for families to progress–from the Little Hawk Family Zone to the extreme bowls of Corona and west ridge. The family zone has several short, simple green runs, as well as several intermediate-level options for transitioning to the larger lifts. The problem is navigating over to the Challenge Mountain and Indian Peaks areas, where you need to take a quick shuttle to the base. We opted to avoid the hassle and just ski the more challenging terrain and with two inches of fresh snow, Eldora had all the makings for the perfect ski day.

eldoraEnter: Mother Nature.

I’m Canadian and a firm believer that there is no such thing as too-cold-weather, only inadequate clothing. However, my little half-breeds begged to differ and after two hours braving snow devils and bone-chilling wind on the (normally fun) cruiser trails off the Indian Peaks quad lift, we took a warm-up break in the Timbers Cafeteria with their delicious sticky buns and hot chocolate. We braved the conditions for Round 2, lasting only 1.5 hours that time before calling it a day…but not until after a pizza, burger and chili lunch. Priorities you know. 

Disappointed, we chalked it up to bad luck.  Five years ago, we had our very best ski/ride school experiences ever at Eldora. My son Bode is a great skier now but we had some speed bumps along the way.  When he was 3, he was fearless and indomitable on the slopes. At age 4, he was much more cautious but by kindergarten, he had turned downright fearful. I resolved to do something about it. Or rather, I decided to have someone more skilled and knowledgeable than me to do something about it so hired PSIA Level III Ski Instructor Nate Emerson was, hands down, the best thing that has happened to Bode since he discovered Minecraft (high praise, indeed).

On our drive to the resort, Bode faked a leg injury so we knew we needed the very best experience possible and he got it. At the end of their lesson, grumpy, fearful Bode was chasing Nate down the mountain, playing imaginary games like catch-the-dinosaur, dodge ball and basketball, all the while unknowingly learning new skills that made him more confident and capable. As it turns out, just telling a kid to point their skis and go down the mountain is not an effective teaching method. And that, my friends, is why I am not a professional but Nate is. 

We may not have had a memorable ski day this year but the great thing about Eldora–the closest resort to the Front Range–is there can easily be a next time.

Need to Know

  • There is a free shuttle that connects the two base areas but on a busy weekend, you’ll possibly be sharing it with all the ski school kids so plan for extra time.
  • Alternative transportation is available via the N route of RTD, it leave from the Boulder Transit Center. Detailed information about stops and times is available on rtd-denver.com.
  • If you’re looking for extra seating or simply a place to stash that diaper bag or backpack, families tend to congregate in the west wing of the Timbers Lodge where you’ll also find storage lockers.  Basket check rentals are available in Indian Peaks for $10 a day .
  • Arrive early. Eldora’s peak arrival times are generally between 9-10:30 a.m. on weekends so if you are planning on doing rentals or lessons, you’ll want to arrive by 8 a.m. to begin the process. Use the 10-minute parking area located right at the base to unload your family and gear before finding a parking spot.
  • For dining options, try the Indian Peaks dining area or Timbers Cafeteria. The food isn’t fancy but there is a wide variety of menu options. You may also try the Lookout on the mountain where you can find burgers, brats, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, snacks, and more.
  • Adult Tickets: $84 – $89; kids are $49. Ski/Ride School: $129 Kid’s Mountain Explorer all-day (rentals, lift ticket, hot lunch). For the best deals on lift tickets, check Eldora.com and their Facebook page for information.

Nordic Fun

Eldora’s Nordic Center boasts 40 kilometers of cross-country skiing, skate skiing and snowshoeing through serene forests, expansive meadows and past staggering mountain backdrops. Though I consider myself a skilled alpine skier, my cross-country skiing pedigree leaves much to be desired so I was particularly excited to learn about their various packages. A popular tradition is the Women’s Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  No matter what your ability level or physical conditioning, this is an awesome opportunity to cross-country ski with women of your same ability level in a fun social setting with a continental breakfast, a gourmet lunch and four hours of instruction with their professional instructors.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Candace February 6, 2012

    I grew up skiing Eldora. You can’t beat the proximity and avoiding I-70’s nightmare. The facilities need some updating but then again, I don’t expect a Vail experience when I go. It’s just a good, solid mountain that is pretty awesome when it snows!

  • comment avatar Amber's Crazy Bloggin' Canuck February 6, 2012

    So true, Candace. When I go to some of these small resorts, I don’t expect all of the same amenities but keeping them current should be a priority.

    I didn’t write about the food (I’d heard some complaints) but we ate on the deck of the Nordic Center and had the most amazing burgers off the grill outside (grass-fed, locally raised). I would expect nothing less of the Boulder area. 🙂

  • comment avatar Tracey February 7, 2012

    I love Eldora! I live in Boulder and you can’t beat the location. Sometimes it get windy and icy but when the conditions are good (like you had it) you really can’t beat it for a small resort.

    I’ve never tried cross country skiing but those classes sound fun.

  • comment avatar Amber's Crazy Bloggin' Canuck February 7, 2012

    Agreed! I’ve heard about the wind and ice. I’ve been fortunate during both of my visits.

  • comment avatar Manisha February 7, 2012

    The Women’s program at the Nordic Center is quite awesome. I did it way back in 2006. They have wonderful instructors, too.”

  • comment avatar Corinee February 7, 2012

    We actually went to Eldora on Saturday and were turned away. I’ve never had that happen before. THey must have been overrun because they said they’ve reached capacity. I guess that’s good and bad. Good they don’t let it get too crazy but bad because it happened to us.

  • comment avatar Matt November 7, 2014

    This turned out not to be a great relationship all the way around for Eldora and the Boulder skiing community with all of the long lines from Epic holders and parking issues. I’m not confident that the Rocky Mountain Super Pass will be a great deal better. There will be less traffic up there, but it will not be back to old levels.

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