BEST OF: CO Ski Country USA Gems & Brews Tour 2013

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by: Bryon Dorr

The Gems & Brews Tour was a 2-week (2/11-25/2013) ski pilgrimage devoted to sampling some of the best small mountain resorts, fine craft beers, spirits and food across Colorado. Over those 2-weeks I visited 5 Colorado Gem mountain resorts, 13 breweries, 3 distilleries, 1 hot spring, 5 bars, 4 hotels, spent 3 nights with friends, Sportsmobile camped 4 nights, went cat skiing and had my first proper snowmobile adventure. A very packed schedule full of awesome! The tour was a collaboration between CO Ski Country USA and Exploring Elements. The idea is to give you a small taste of what you can expect when you explore these spectacular Colorado locations. Don’t overlook the Gems!

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The following are some of the highlights of the trip and the best that the Colorado Gems and surrounding areas have to offer. Full reports on each resort will follow in short order.

The tour stopped at:

ELDORA MOUNTAIN RESORT

(FULL Eldora Mountain Resort Report)

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MONARCH MOUNTAIN

(FULL Monarch Mountain Report)

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ARAPAHOE BASIN

(FULL Arapahoe Basin Report)

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SUNLIGHT MOUNTAIN RESORT

(FULL Sunlight Mountain Resort Report)

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POWDERHORN MOUNTAIN RESORT

(FULL Powderhorn Mountain Resort Report)

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BEST OF GEMS:

Best Groomer: Jolly Jug to Sunset at Eldora is just a fun cruiser run with enough turns and features to keep things interesting. The exceptional grooming at Eldora makes laying ruts in the corduroy that much more fun.

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Best Beginner Friendly Glades: Sunlight offers tons of quality glades, but if you are just starting to ski in the trees your going to want to check out Charlie’s Glades for easy to navigate super fun aspen glades.

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Best Advanced Glades: Powderhorn offers up a huge variety of glade skiing, but the quality Mad Dog Glades just can’t be beat for the expert rider.

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Best Freestyle Terrain Park: Powderhorn offers up some quality small and mid sized jump features and lots of super creative rail features in its terrain parks.

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Best Natural Freestyle Terrain: Arapahoe Basin offers up some amazing wind lips off Cornice Run and rocky knolls near West Gully where you can huck till your hearts content.

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Best Bowls: Arapahoe Basin has some great open bowl skiing. Check out Pallavicini and the Northern Spy areas.

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Best Inbounds Hiking: Mirkwood area at Monarch takes a little hiking effort, but is worth every step! Check out the goods in Staircase.

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Best Cat Skiing: Monarch offers an amazing Cat Skiing operation that provides access to a 1,000+ acres of quality varied expert terrain. Its hard to beat a seat in a cat for only $275, getting you well over 10,000 vertical feet of fresh turns in a day!

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Most Annual Avg Snowfall: Monarch and Arapahoe Basin both average 350” of fresh Colorado snow each season.

Most Skiable Acreage: Powderhorn has 1,600 skiable acres of quality terrain for your riding pleasure.

Longest Season: Arapahoe Basin opens in October and usually lasts into June and beyond. July 4th skiing has been known to happen!

Best Day Lift Ticket: Sunlight at only $55.

Best Season Pass Value: Monarch offers the “One Planet One Pass” season pass program, which covers 2 continents, 5 countries, and 9 states for a total of 31 different areas for only $459. A smoking deal!

Best Snowmaking: Eldora offers modern high tech quality snow making that covers 100% of their groomed terrain.

Best Parking Lot Party: “The Beach” at Arapahoe Basin is a tailgate/party scene like no other.

Best Nordic Skiing: Eldora has 40km of trails and is the most visited Nordic Center in Colorado.

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Best Snowmobiling: Sunlight offers snowmobile tours that range from mild to wild on an extensive maintained trail network adjacent to the resort.

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BEST COLORADO BREWS:

Kolsch- Elevation Beer Co 8 Second Kolsch

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Hefeweizen- Kannah Creek Brewing Company Highside Hefeweizen

Wheat- Backcountry Brewery Wheat

Dark Wheat- Palisade Brewing Company Dirty Hippie

Saison- Boulder Beer Company A Honey of a Saison

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IPA- Avery Brewing Indian Pale Ale

Lager- UpSlope Brewing Company Craft Lager

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Red- Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub St. James Irish Red

Scottish Ale- Carbondale Beer Works Ale House & Wienery Haggis Scottish Wee Heavy Scottish Ale

Brown- Dillon Dam Brewery Sweet George’s Brown

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Porter- Breckenridge Brewery Vanilla Porter

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Stout- Pug Ryan’s Steakhouse & Brewery Gorilla Vanilla Stout

Spicy Beer- Eddyline Brewing Innerglow Red Chile Porter

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BEST COLORADO SPIRITS:

Whiskey- Deerhammer Distilling Company Whitewater Whiskey

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Bourbon- Peach St Distillers Colorado Straight Bourbon

Gin- Wood’s High Mountain Distillery Treeline Gin

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Vodka- Peach St. Distillers Artisan Goat Vodka

Brandy- Peach St. Distillers Pear Brandy

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Best Cocktails- The Pullman

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BEST COLORADO EATS:

Best Pub Grub- Wild Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery

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Best Tapas- The Fritz

Best Pub Desert- Kannah Creek Brewing Company Brownie Sundae

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BEST HOSPITALITY:

Best Place to Stay: The Denver Hotel takes the crown as it is only 20min to the slopes of Sunlight, has the Glenwood Springs Brew Pub on the first floor, amazing cocktails next door at The Pullman, the Glenwood Hot Springs are within walking distance and it offers an antique regal feel with modern amenities.

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Best Place to Relax & Recover: Glenwood Hot Springs

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GRATTITUDE:

A HUGE thanks goes out to Colorado Ski Country USA for putting this tour together and supporting these awesome Gem resorts. A special thanks has to be extended to ALL the Gem Resorts for sharing their incredible mountains and local hospitality. Of course the Gems & Brews tour wouldn’t have been the same without the amazing local Colorado beers, spirits and food to enjoy and refuel with after long days on the mountain. Colorado is full of fascinating people, places and businesses. Get out there and explore them!

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