How To Avoid Long Lift Lines At Summit and Eagle County Ski Resorts [PHOTOS]
Long lift lines don't have to be in your skiing or snowboarding reality. They aren't in mine and I'm a workaday guy. Weekends are my times to ski and ride, with a few weekday vacation days scattered in here and there. Avoiding long lift lines is all about timing. When it comes to the resorts in Summit and Eagle counties, since they are so close to Denver, they can be very crowded, especially on the weekends.
Coloradoans have such an advantage in enjoying the recreation that people from all over the world love. The key? Go on a weekday. More and more people from Denver drive to Summit and Eagle county ski resorts every year, and the majority of them do it on a weekend. The simple fact is that it's hard to find uncrowded lift lines between 10am and 2pm on a Saturday or Sunday.Almost every Tuesday and Wednesday, you can find chairs at almost every resort with no lines at all. Weekday skiing is remarkable.
Skiing and snowboarding are about as much fun as a person can have, of course the resorts will be crowded when everyone is off work. Taking the days during the week off can seem like a sacrifice, but it's also a sacrifice to have to wait in line all day and ski or ride on really crowded slopes. It becomes difficult to stay in a group.
Also, crowded slopes can be hazardous. The more people who are sliding down the side of a hill, the more likely we are to collide, right? Over this past weekend (Jan 18-20, 2013) I was only on the hill Friday night and Saturday morning, and I saw two flight for life choppers in action. I don't think that's at all typical, but this weekend, it happened.
Even if you're reading this outside of Colorado, the best times to enjoy the resorts are on the weekdays. Now, all of the state's resorts are completely capable of handling the tens of thousands of people that come through on weekends. They keep plenty of staff on hand who are visible and helpful. It's just that when the slopes and base areas are a bit less crowded, the overall experience is enhanced a lot. You can really find your own personal corner of Colorado on uncrowded days at these resorts. You'll carve big turns on wide open slopes and really sink your edges into Rocky Mountain's finest. The weekday rates are also cheaper at most lodging places.
The only time I can go is Saturday, so...
Go early. People just don't get up. Pull in the lot at 8am. Much later and you'll be in line to get in the parking lot. It's amazing how much more time you can have if you are one of the first ones up the hill. There is so much acreage, it takes a few hours to fill up. Once it's full, there's not much to do to avoid it, but there are always two solid hours of no lines every morning.
Just before lunch, take a hike
This only applies to experts because terrain that you hike to is NOT for beginners or intermediate skiers. If you are up to the challenge the perfect crowd avoiding tactic is to ski or ride the groomed or fresh powder that the lifts serve until about 10:30, then take a nice, long hike to the top of the mountain from one of the upper lifts. By the time you reach the top it could be 11:15. A nice long run of Colorado's legendary skiing and riding will have you at the bottom after noon. Take a long lunch, and then enjoy the late afternoon turns when the resort starts to clear out at around 2pm. This is when the people who hit the hill at 11am will start thinking about having a drink or three in the bar.