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I70: The Fast Lane to the Heart of the Rockies

I70: The Fast Lane to the Heart of the Rockies

There are several roads in North America that can lay legitimate claim to being “The Skiers’ Highway” — Route 100 in Vermont, State Route 89 in California and The Powder Highway in Southern British Columbia to name a few.

But there is only one road that can proudly call itself “The Skiers’ Interstate” and that’s I70 in Colorado.

Running 74 miles from Idaho Springs on the east to Avon on the west, this section of Interstate 70 cuts through the heart of the Colorado Rockies and provides easy access to seven world class resorts. Together the heptad of hills combines for 18,873 skiable acres — which is nearly two-thirds the size of San Francisco — 148 lifts, numerous restaurants and bars, any kind of lodging you can think of and tons of the product that makes Colorado famous (we’re talking about  cold smoke here).

Here’s a quick look at what you’ll find at the resorts that line the asphalt corridor known as I70, Colorado’s “Skiers’ Interstate”.

Loveland Ski Area

Situated on the east side of the continental divide and straddling the famous Eisenhower Tunnel, Loveland is a mid-size hill (1,900 acres, 100 of which are strictly hike-to)) with a decent vertical (2,210 feet) made accessible by nine lifts. Loveland prides itself as usually being the first resort to open in Colorado each season.

Arapahoe Basin

Generally the last resort in Colorado to close each season, Arapahoe is a throw-back to skiing and snowboarding‘s funkier times: less pretentiousness (Dirt bags are always welcome) and more fast laps on the runs. A-Basin, situated on the west side of Loveland Pass, is the smallest of the I70 resorts (1,331 acres serviced by six lifts), but it has a big-mountain feel with 2,530 feet of vertical and topping out at 13,050 feet, the highest resort elevation in the state.

Keystone

Lying about halfway between Arapahoe Basin and Interstate 70 on US Highway 6, Keystone is a well-regarded “family” resort: There’s a huge emphasis on kids’ participation throughout the day and the season.  Much of the front side of the 3,148-acre playground is lit up for night-time riding, and perhaps the most heavily traveled of Keystone’s 20 lifts is Peru Express, which gives access to the 60-acre A51 terrain park, also lighted for evening frolicking.

Breckenridge

A few miles west of Keystone lies the five-peak wonder known as Breckenridge. Situated above the eponymous Old West gold and silver mining town, Breck has five mountains (Peaks 6 to 10) to choose from, each with its own personality and clientele. The Imperial Express Superchair on Peak 8 tops out at 12,840 feet, making it the highest chairlift in North America.

Copper Mountain

One of two resorts along the I70 corridor not operated by Vail Resorts (the other is Loveland), Copper‘s 2,465 acres is divided by ridges, with each pod between ridges being consistently either green, blue, black or double diamond, allowing skiers and snowboarders to enjoy the mountain at their own ability. Copper is also the home of Woodward Camp, a 20,000-square-foot indoor ski and snowboard training facility for park and pipe riders.

Vail

Ground Zero for Vail Resort’s massive holdings, Vail’s 5,289 acres sprawl from a few feet from the breakdown lane on eastbound I70 southward over a couple of ridges and bowls to provide just about any type of skiing or snowboarding you can think of. The powder trees of Blue Sky Basin are fun and the Back Bowls are iconic, but there’s nothing like taking fast laps off the Highline Express lift.

Beaver Creek

Laying claim to the most vert (4,040 feet) among the I70 seven, Beaver Creek also skis much bigger than its 1,832 acres. That’s because of the infamous Birds of Prey terrain, which include some the steepest tree-lined runs on the continent — Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Kestrel and Goshawk drop 2,484 vertical feet in around 1.7 miles. But there’s a gentler side to Beaver, and most of the resort’s 25 lifts service long blue and easy black cruisers,  the 2,100-vertical-foot Centennial run, accessed by the Centennial 6-pack, being the crown jewel.

Dan Giesin

Dan Giesin

Dan Giesin has spent most of his life poking around the mountains of the American West, especially in his backyard Sierra Nevada range. It has been -- and still is -- an uplifting experience
Dan Giesin
  • clairewalter

    Sorry, Dan. Good idea, but on winter weekends, there’s nothing fast about I-70. Famous choke points: Floyd Hill, before you even get to Idaho Springs from Denver. On Friday evenings, and both weekend mornings and evenings, drivers also find perpetual back-ups at Twin Tunnels (despite widening), the S-curves, the Georgetown-Silver Plume hill and the approaches to and descents from the Eisenhower Tunnel. Snow on the road covers the lane lines. Early dusk and oncoming headlines slow things even more, especially at those choke points.