Colorado Skiing Photos: Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, and Copper Mountain

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My four-day snow-fueled exploration of three Colorado ski resorts started at Keystone. And with 3,148 skiable acres and 135 trails, it became clear by midday that one day at this stellar resort was not enough—especially with views like this.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Day two was also at Keystone, but this time well away from the lifts thanks to their epic cat-skiing. The operation departs from the summit of Dercum Mountain and heads into the resort's backcountry bowls for a full day of deep-powder skiing and boarding.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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After a safety briefing and getting outfitted with avalanche transceivers, we tossed our demo powder skis into the cage mounted on the nose of the snow cat, hopped inside, and rode to the top of Independence Bowl where heavy winds and untracked powder waited.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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To reduce the threat of avalanches, runs are taken one at a time, with one of two ski patrol guides leading the group, and the other trailing. At the base, we amassing and then glide back to the cat—the backcountry equivalent of a snow-conquering, pimped-out Cadillac Seville (and that's even with the XM Radio on the fritz).  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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As expected, the trip is targeted to advanced and expert skiers comfortable with above-treeline skiing in bowls and tight glade runs—a modest-grade trial run gives the guides a sense of the skill set. After that, any of the five backcountry bowls are fair game.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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After six thigh-screaming, hoot-n-hollerin' runs, we stopped at the new backcountry yurt for lunch, part of the daylong fee.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The meal, served buffet-style, originates from the culinary artists at Albenglow Stube, the luxe restaurant atop North Peak. Soup, sandwiches, even cheese cake (approach the latter with caution—that first post-lunch run can be a shock to the well-fed system).  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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By the end of a day marked with all types of weather (50 mile-per-hour winds, bluebird skies, and snow scatters) we got in ten runs, two shy of the record. Trips average six to eight runs, minimum, but the total number is dictated by the group's skill set. In other words, if you can find 11 similarly-skilled best friends, the cat—and Keystone's backcountry—can become your own private limo-powered playground.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Next day it was onto one Colorado's most iconic resorts—and my personal favorite, Arapahoe Basin. While it may not boast the acreage of other Rocky Mountain spots, A Basin makes up for it in sheer mountain-lover's attitude, double-blacks with knee-wobbling pitches, and postcard-perfect ridgelines.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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And there's Montezuma Bowl, A Basin's new 400-acre expansion with 36 intermediate and expert runs and 1,100 vertical feet (not counting backcountry access). As with the rest of the resort, the expansion stands an example to the ski industry; only 1 percent of the existing trees were felled, and no roads were built to aid the expansion.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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After exiting to the left off Montezuma's new Zuma Lift, extreme skiers can hit a series of steep mogul-ridden chutes lining the Zuma Cornice, including Max, Groswold, and Durrance. Trust me, they look considerably more tame from this vantage—from the lift itself.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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This all-too-brief whirlwind tour of three Colorado resorts ended at Copper Mountain, easily one of the smoothest-running ski operations in the industry. The layout of the mountain itself segregates the different skill sets, which prevents black-diamond daredevils from careening into a group of green ski students.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Naturally, however, I migrated to their free cat-service, which offers transport to the ridge of Tucker Mountain. After a ten-minute ride, it's a 20-minute hike to the top of the peak, where you drop into runs like the Taco and Freemont Glades before looping back to the Blackjack Lift.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The lines off Tucker Mountain are more visible when seen from the opposing peak. The small, square blot on top of Tucker? A ski patrol station, the best place to get advice on the best runs down, especially in variable conditions. Just plan on getting there early—mountain access closes at 2 p.m.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
 
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