By Allison Cohn
Skiers of all levels can always appreciate tearing their edges into some fresh corduroy. There’s something supremely satisfying about making the first turns across a groomer, bisecting those perfectly laid lines that have been painstakingly carved into the mountain by nocturnal snowcat groomers working the nightshift. These impressive machines and their skilled operators work while you sleep, chomping through the powder to mitigate avalanches, tame moguls and to create more challenging and skiable terrain for resort guests. And the beauty of groomed trails is that they come in all shapes and sizes, from green to black. Here’s a shakedown of some of our favorite groomed runs in Colorado.
Vail: China Bowl
Photo: Stephen Shelesky Photo/Vail Resorts
The Back Bowls of Vail are the place to be. All 3,000 acres of them. Ask anyone. But don’t be intimidated by their size and reputation. China Bowl is super easy to access and has wide open, sprawling terrain chock full of groomed blue runs (the only groomed blue runs in Vail’s Back Bowls, in fact), such as Poppyfields and Chopstix. Whizzing around China Bowl’s seemingly endless terrain at top speed with nothing between you and the lift at the bottom of the hill but vast field of corduroy is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Aspen Highlands: Thunderbowl
Aspen Highlands' Thunderbowl
This 150-yard wide blue groomer is located off of the Thunderbowl Lift, at the base of the Golden Horn run. This groomer isn’t terribly popular, as most visitors to Aspen Highlands head to the top for some more extreme terrain. It isn’t unheard of to catch fresh corduroy as late as noon on Thunderbowl.
Aspen Mountain: Ruthie’s Run
Aspen Mountain's Ruthie's Run
Ruthie’s Run is an expansive groomer with sweeping views to the north and west. The famed run is named after former Aspen stockholder Ruthie Brown, who donated $5,000 in 1946 for a trail to be cut into Spar Gulch that was suitable (see: easy enough) for her to ski. Ruthie’s Run was completed in 1949, where it was greeted with a huge crowd and three feet of fresh powder. It has since become a local favorite, appreciated for its diverse terrain of corkscrews, slopes and funnels.
Beaver Creek: Centennial
Photo: Stephen Shelesky Photo/Beaver Creek Mountain
Located off the top of the Centennial Lift (too obvious?), this run starts off black and turns to blue after it crosses Dally, a green run that bisects the mountain. Centennial follows the lift bearing its nomenclature all the way down the hill, making it the resort’s longest run at 2.75 miles. You’ll be able to fly down the hill, carving hard through Centennial’s groomed corduroy while everyone watches anxiously from the lift above.
Crested Butte: International
Photo: Greg Hydle
Ah, the elusive groomed black diamond run. International is one of those real gems where you can truly spread your wings and fly down the hill at max speed, all the while acutely aware that any glitch will send you toppling into a hard fall that could really kill your buzz, at the very least. Crested Butte is proud to be the “Home of Colorado’s Best Corduroy,” with about 300 groomed acres. But of all those raked trails, International is the one not-to-be-missed. It’s steep, it’s splendid and it’s groomed for your pleasure.
Telluride: See Forever to Lookout
Photo: Visit Telluride
Telluride boasts roughly 475 groomed acres, so you’ve certainly got your choice when it comes to corduroy. But See Forever, which is more often than not groomed, is special: It runs along the ridgeline of the resort, with 360 degree views of the surrounding San Juans (on a clear day, you can allegedly see as far as Utah!). See Forever is both steep and challenging, easily accessible from the Gold Hill Express Lift and leads into Lookout. Lookout is a blue run, but famous for its ultra steep first pitch. After you recover from the shock of that steep, you can enjoy more epic views of the Town of Telluride as you cruise down into more intermediate territory.
Copper Mountain: Andy’s Encore
Copper Mountain's Andy's Run
Copper Mountain has a whopping 1,107 groomable acres and Andy’s Encore is among the crème de la crème. Andy’s Encore is home to over two miles of terrain, 2,300 vertical feet of drop and a menagerie of of rolling steeps and flats to keep things spicy. The groomed snow on this run is just delicious, at times stretching as far as several hundred yards wide. Get it while it’s hot, this corduroy will get tracked out fast.