SolVista Basin at Granby Ranch has a special place in my heart: it is where my 3-year-old daughter learned to ski.
Or rather, first attempted to ski (see photographic evidence here).
Four years later, my daughter and SolVista Basin are still going strong. Touted as one of Colorado’s most family-friendly resorts, this mountain offers some fantastic terrain, an expanding base area with new facilities and a knowledgeable staff.
You may be asking: Colorado has many world-class ski areas so why bother with a small resort two hours from Denver?
This season, we’ll tell you why these GEM resorts (smaller, inexpensive) are worth a second look. Not only are they more affordable but they’re free of crowds, paid parking and over-the-top prices.
And with SolVista Basin’s top-notch ski school, s’mores roasting, night skiing and tubing, you’ll find it’s very much worth it.
SolVista Basin has 406 skiable acres that cover two interconnected mountains. East Mountain is primarily for beginners and intermediate skiers, while West Mountain offers more advanced terrain (though don’t expect any death-defying chutes). If you want to get your thrill on, the Terrain Park has 6 progression parks. Lift tickets prices: Kids 5 and under ski free, Junior (ages 6-12) are $38 and adults (13-60) $56. Prices vary during Spring Break.
Learning to Ski
If I were to grade many area resorts on their newbie terrain, they would get an “F” because their magic carpet area is often too flat, the bunny slope too steep or the whole area is just difficult to access.
SolVista Basin, on the other hand, gets an A. The Pony Surface Lift (magic carpet) is adjacent to the ski school, the Milestone lift (bunny slope) is just steep enough to provide a challenge for magic carpet graduates but is not overwhelming. All the trails filter into this Snow Play Area so it is easy for parents to monitor their kids’ progress in ski school. Best news of all: kids 5 and under ski FREE!
Ski & Ride School
Ski school. Uttering these two glorious words brings to mind FREEDOM! At SolVista Basin, ski and ride school is affordable: only $99 for a full-day lift ticket, equipment rental, group ski lesson AND lunch. To put this into perspective, many large resorts’ lift tickets are over $100.
The instructors are conscientious as they teach direct-to-parallel skiing using the latest shaped skis. Their unique philosophy: rather than teach new skiers the wedge, they focus on getting children to hold their feet parallel as early as possible.
The enrollment policy is a bit of a Catch-22. They won’t turn anyone away (good), however this sometimes results in larger classes (bad). Holidays and weekends are obviously the busiest so reserve your spot early. Go here for additional information.
Saturday Night Fever
During the week, SolVista Basin is slow-paced and peaceful. Enter: Saturday when an influx of families and activities ignite the resort. From 3-4 p.m., roast free s’mores by the firepit. Vista Vibe is a free après ski concert series from 3-6 p.m. in Seven Trails Grille in the Base Lodge.
SolVista Basin offers Grand County’s only night skiing and snowboarding from 5-8 p.m. Cost is $12 for the flood-lit hill that also includes the three terrain parks.
In an innovative move, a snowcat transforms the beginner slope into a three-lane, lift-serviced tubing hill. Night tubing is $14 for a 45-minute session or pay $20 for both night skiing and tubing. Children must be 6 and older to tube or meet the minimum height requirement.
Tip: Avoid the sold-out tubing sessions. We had long lines and were only able to tube three times before the next session began.
Though I know some couples who enjoy skiing/riding together, many don’t due to different ability levels, lack of patience or that tempting spa treatment. SolVista Basin is trying to help couples bond on the slopes with their private Couple’s Lessons.
Though my husband and I have comparable ability levels, my form is better and he’s a faster, more aggressive skier. We were paired with Tom McNamara, a retired lobbyist who knocked us back to square one on the bunny slope and rebuilt our skills correctly. Thought humbling (and at times frustrating), it was the best lesson I’ve ever had and I’ve never skied better. Jamie and I jokingly called Tom “The Drill Sergeant.” For obvious reasons.
Sweetheart of a Deal: 2-hour Couple’s Lesson, $180 (regularly $215) in February. Does not include equipment or lift ticket.
The Ultimate Family Event
Saturday, February 4, 2012–Kids’ Totally Insane Winter Blast. Enjoy fun activities like a treasure hunt, Family Quest, hide-and-go seek, a rail jam and live music, followed by night skiing and tubing. Tip: Sign your family up for the Family Quest and be sure to watch out for the Abominable Snowman!
Less than 10 miles away, Snow Mountain Ranch at YMCA of the Rockies offers indoor basketball and roller skating. If you want to stay outdoors, ice skate at Cooper Creek Square in Winter Park; skates can be rented at Viking Ski Shop or Christy Sports. Lake Granby, Grand Lake, Hot Sulphur Springs and Shadow Mountain Reservoir are also nearby in Grand County.
SolVista Basin at Granby Ranch is 85 miles from Denver. Take I-70 West to the US-40 W exit. Exit 232 toward Empire/Granby. Merge onto US-40 over Berthoud Pass. Continue 15 miles past Winter Park towards Granby. Turn right onto Village Road, just before City Market. Continue 2 miles to Granby Ranch. For lodging, call 888-850-4615 or [email protected].