Every ski resort has its signature runs, those perfect downhills you could lap all day long that remind you why you ski. At Summit County’s four resorts (and just over the Continental Divide at Loveland) the classics include a dreamy montage of terrain, from powder-choked alpine bowls to glistening World Cup tracks to cartilage-crushing bump runs. Every one of them is pure joy. We’ve singled out the top 40 of the more than 630 named runs in our corner of ski country we believe make skiing here unlike anywhere else in Colorado, or for that matter, on earth. Think that’s hyperbole? Go ski for yourself.

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Olympian Keri Herman airborne in Freeway Terrain Park

Image: Brent Clark

Breckenridge

 
Whale’s Tail to Y Chute

Like a number of the runs on this list, the names are self explanatory once you see—and ski—them. Whale’s Tail begins on a broad, corniced saddle between Peaks 7 and 8, then feeds a glorious above-treeline snowfield that gets windloaded with fresh flakes most days of the winter—even the dry ones. At the bottom of the Tail, the pitch mellows before dropping steeply down the lower Peak 7 face into Y Chute and, like a white carpet, depositing skiers at the top of the Independence SuperChair.

Lift: Imperial Express SuperChair

Difficulty: Double Black Diamond

Vertical: 1,388 ft

Length: .67 mi

4 O'Clock

When the resort opened in 1961, this three-and-a-half-mile cruiser became an instant icon, for it allowed tired skiers to descend all the way to town and the comfort of a hot mug and crackling fire. The same holds true today, only now, thanks to the Imperial Express SuperChair, you can start your groomed run (via Imperial Ridge, the resort’s only double-black groomer) from just below the summit of Peak 8 at 12,840 feet, which adds more than a quarter-mile to Breck’s longest run.

Lift: 6 Chair

Difficulty: All ability levels  

Vertical: 2,667 ft

Length: 3.5 mi

Horseshoe Bowl

For my money, this is Breckenridge’s signature classic run. It wasn’t part of the original seven-run Peak 8 Ski Area, but ever since it opened in 1968, via a Poma that ran from Vista House up the south rim, the semicircular “Front Bowl,” as locals refer to it, with eight named double blacks, has delivered some of the best fall-line bang for your buck in the county. Plus, now you get to lap a T-bar, which is always nostalgic.

Lift: T-Bar

Difficulty: Double Black Diamond

Vertical: 417 ft (average)

Length: .16 mi (average)

Freeway Terrain Park

 Freeway is known for its 22-foot superpipe, enormous jumps, and high visibility, which is why much of the 2018 Olympic slopestyle and half-pipe fields will descend on Breckenridge to train for the PyeongChang Winter Games starting in December. 

Lift: 5-Chair

Difficulty: Black Diamond

Vertical: 564 ft

Length: .46 mi

Mach 1

At a sustained 29 degrees, Mach 1 is one of the steepest competition mogul runs in the Rocky Mountains, a proving ground for rising US Ski Team stars as well as the old Pro Mogul Tour. And because it plunges off the south side of Peak 8 in front of the SuperConnect quad, you rarely ski it without a crowd of spectators, which can make slushy spring days feel like they’re straight out of the cult ski classic Hot Dog… The Movie.

Lift: Peak 8 SuperConnect

Difficulty: Double Black Diamond

Vertical: 371 ft

Length: .13 mi

Bliss

When Breck expanded onto Peak 6 in 2013, one of the best backcountry runs in the county became a groomed grin inducer aptly named Bliss. The low angle and alpine setting attract a range of skills, but it’s become especially popular among intermediate skiers who want to ski an above-treeline bowl.

 Lift: Kensho SuperChair

Difficulty: Intermediate

Vertical: 591 ft

Length: .31 mi

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Image: Brent Clark

Cimarron

Hosting a 1991 Alpine World Cup giant slalom on Cimarron remains a crowning (albeit faded) moment for the resort, but this Peak 10 run, with a tumbling pitch that begs for speed, is just as fun now as it ever was.

Lift: Falcon SuperChair

Difficulty: Black Diamond

Vertical: 1,132 ft

Length: .68 mi

Lake Chutes

 This precipitous rocky cirque, four named (e.g., 9 Lives) runs in hike-to extreme terrain, has served as Breck’s unquestioned proving grounds for decades. The fun begins just under a spooky cornice near the summit of Peak 8, above the chutes’ namesake lake. That knocking you hear as you peer over the edge? It’s called sewing-machine knees.

Lift: Imperial Express SuperChair

Difficulty: Expert

Vertical: 452 ft (average)

Length: .16 mi (average)

Copper

 
 
Lower Enchanted Forest

 Some names make sense on a trail map, but others you need to ski to understand. Such is the magic of Enchanted Forest, a blissful tree run through an old-growth forest that has never been logged nor affected by wildfire. You rarely find an unhappy visitor here.

Lift: Storm King T-bar

Difficulty: Black Diamond

Vertical: 463 ft

Length: .39 mi

Main Vein

All of Copper’s runs were originally numbered from east to west. The numbers lasted through the end of the first season in the spring of 1973, at which point management launched a contest for guests to rename the runs. The aptly titled Main Vein (née Trail 24)—one of the widest, most consistently sloped groomers anywhere—cleaves the heart of the resort before ending at Center Village.

Lift: American Eagle

Difficulty: Intermediate

Vertical: 1,484 ft

Length: 1.18 mi

Hallelujah

From the top, especially in the early season, this run (Trail 22) just below and skier’s left of the Excelerator Chair, often looks like a boulder field. But because its topography creates a leeward landing for windblown snow, it skis more like a velvet carpet, with a series of bulges and troughs adding a little zing to your turns. Longtime Copper skiers view it as an ol’ reliable when it comes to finding soft snow—even a few seconds of it—no matter the recent weather. Best of all, you can lap it in less than 10 minutes.

Lift: Excelerator Chair

Difficulty: Black Diamond

Vertical: 846 ft

Length: .61 mi

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Andy's Encore at Copper

Image: Zach Mahone

Andy’s Encore

This superfast groomer (Trail 14) runs under the Super Bee lift, which rises 2,400 feet in 10 minutes, delivering some of the most efficient vert in Summit County for those who like to track their descents (when Rainer Hertrich was racking up 33,000 feet per day during his world-record, eight-year ski streak, he virtually lived on the Super Bee). The run is named for Andy Daly, Copper’s former patrol director and president, who went on to lead Beaver Creek and Vail, then became Vail’s mayor, and now owns Powderhorn Mountain Resort near Grand Junction. It is also part of the US Ski Team’s preseason downhill track, a.k.a. the US Speed Center, where America’s best racers trained this fall in advance of February’s Olympics.

Lift: Super Bee

Difficulty: Intermediate

Vertical: 2,293 ft

Length: 1.68 mi

Hodson’s Cut

For expert skiers, one of the best runs on the mountain is this line from the bottom of Spaulding Bowl to the bottom of the Resolution Lift, a beautiful northeast-facing bump run named for Director of Operations Bruce Hodson, in honor of his 40 years of service to Copper. Good luck skiing it without stopping.

Lift: Resolution

Difficulty: Black Diamond

Vertical: 1,427 ft

Length: .84 mi

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Willy's Wide at Arapahoe Basin

A-Basin

 
 
International

Another experts-only stalwart blessed by A-Basin’s predominant north aspect, this roller starts with a steep shot between Kong Rock and the Pali chair in North Glade, then tumbles down a roomy open bench to a mellow ramp, often dotted with hero bumps, back to the chair.

Lift: Pallavicini           

Difficulty: Expert

Vertical: 1,102 ft        

Length: .5 mi

Pallavicini Spine

On the 12,461-foot Grossglockner, the highest mountain in Austria, a steep couloir plunges to the east. The first team to climb this couloir, on August 18, 1876, included Count Alfred von Pallavicini, hence its name as the Pallavicini Couloir (still considered one of the finest ice climbs in the Alps). The 1,300-foot Pallavicini Face at A-Basin bears a slight resemblance to the Austrian couloir, so the run—and, in 1978, the Basin’s iconic double chair—got the same name, likely from a well-traveled patroller. If Pali (pronounced more like “Polly”) represents the heart and soul of A-Basin, it’s no coincidence the Spine runs down its center. Often windbuffed and blessed with a perfect pitch, this rib works like a magnet when you are standing at the top of the cornice, wondering what to ski. “The Spine is my favorite run anywhere,” says A-Basin COO Alan Henceroth.

Lift: Pallavicini           

Difficulty: Double Black Diamond

Vertical: 459 ft        

Length: .15 mi

Cornice Run

Think of this like a surfer thinks of a wave. You drop in, do a bottom turn, come back up to the lip, maybe pop onto the crest again, find another place to dive back into the wave, and repeat until it runs out. A playful skier’s paradise.

LiftNorway

Difficulty: Intermediate

Vertical: 356 ft

Length: .35 mi

Willy’s Wide

There are many hike-to classics on the Basin’s iconic East Wall, but this is the most visible run and the easiest powder stash to hit in the spring. It is accessed by a staircase up from the East Wall Traverse, which takes strong hikers about 20 minutes—and more than 700 steps—to climb. As for who it’s named after, a bit of controversy remains. Some say the Willy in question was Schaeffler, a famous German-American former US Ski Team coach who ran the Basin’s ski school; others say Johnson, an old-school A-Basin patroller. Both are dead, so we might never know. And it wouldn’t change how much fun the run is if we did.

Lift: Hike-to-Access Only

Difficulty: Expert

Vertical: 320 ft

Length: 540 ft

Dercum’s Gulch to High Noon

With the upper half named after Summit ski pioneers Max and Edna Dercum, this groomer covers 1,133 vertical feet and is often the first top-to-bottom run open in Colorado.

Lift: Black Mountain Express to Norway

Difficulty: Intermediate

Vertical: 1,133 ft

Length: 1.29 mi

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Keystone's Schoolmarm

Image: Zach Mahone

Keystone

 
 
Go Devil

While most of Keystone’s lifts and runs were named after surrounding towns (Montezuma) or mines (Wild Irishman), this one came from a logging term for a sled placed under a log to accelerate its travel downhill. You can see why the steep pitch fits the name: when I used to cover high school ski races on Go Devil, the teenagers often reached speeds of 65 mph. I wouldn’t advocate for that, but suffice it to say you can scare yourself without trying here.

Lift: Peru Express or A51

Difficulty: Black Diamond

Vertical: 1,227 ft

Length: .88 mi

Schoolmarm

When Keystone founders Max and Edna Dercum arrived in the Snake River Valley, their neighbors included a couple named Dimp and Lula Myers, who lived where the River Run Gondola stands today. Dimp was the son of a Civil War colonel; Lula was a schoolteacher from Frisco. The Dercums appreciated Lula’s kindness and canned fruits and vegetables (as well as the solar-heated bathtub Dimp built them), so they named their soon-to-be-famous family ski trail after her. Schoolmarm remains one of the only top-to-bottom green runs in Summit County and, as such, is one of the best places anywhere to learn to ski or snowboard. 

Lift: Montezuma Express

Difficulty: Beginner

Vertical: 2,339 ft

Length: 2.95 mi

Two If by Sea

If you’re a sucker for long powder runs, this is your jam. Its relatively low angle (about 28 degrees) and never-ending duration (especially compared with other above-treeline runs in Colorado) make for magical promo photos as well as a worthy destination for hikers. Like the rest of the runs in Independence Bowl, it gets its name from the American Revolution, specifically Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride”—“one if by land, and two if by sea.” You need about 75 minutes to hike out there, if you haven’t booked a cat trip, but if the snow is good, you won’t regret the sweat.

Lift: Snowcat + Hike-to-Access

Difficulty: Black Diamond

Vertical: 942 ft

Length: .42 mi

Bushwhacker

Arguably the premier powder stash in Keystone’s Black Forest zone, I stumbled upon Bushwhacker one fluffy midweek day while exploring the Outback in 2003—and promptly stopped exploring so I could lap it time and again. It takes its name from those pioneers who charted their own course, and the opportunity for you to do the same awaits every time you drop in.

Lift: Outback Express

Difficulty: Black Diamond

Vertical: 974 ft

Length: .61 mi

The Windows

Some of Keystone’s best tree skiing can be found here in 11 gladed runs (hike-to terrain also served by the resort’s snowcat) just above Adventure Point, where brief breaks in the forest canopy allow beautiful windows toward the Gore and Tenmile ranges. The name also stems from a handful of powder-covered scree fields that create windows in the terrain to float freely for a moment, before focusing again on the tree trunks ahead.

Lift: Outpost Gondola + Hike-to-Access

Difficulty: Black Diamond

Vertical: 645 ft (average)

Length: .32 mi (average)

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Loveland's Zip Basin Street

Loveland

 
 
Zip Basin Street

For an 1,800-acre ski area, a common refrain you’ll find among Loveland locals is that it rarely feels crowded, even on busy days. One of the reasons is because it offers a handful of distinct zones, including the south-facing hillside accessed from Lift 8. Zip Basin Street, a long groomer that skis best first thing in the morning, is an ode to when “Zip Basin” encompassed this entire zone. The basin took its name from the Zipfelberger Ski Club, which included some of Loveland’s earliest skiers.

Lift: Lift 8

Difficulty: Intermediate

Vertical: 845 ft

Length: .67 mi

Wild Child

Skiing off the Continental Divide is cool no matter what, but this is one of the longest continuous runs you can take from The Ridge, which elevates its status. The name honors Ben Booker, son of Loveland Sport Shop manager Sue Booker. Ben grew up on the slopes due to his mom’s job, and as such, people around the ski area took to calling him “Wild Child.”

Lift: Lift 9 + Hike-to-Access

Difficulty: Expert

Vertical: 440 ft

Length: .26 mi

Cat’s Meow

According to Loveland lore, a local skier named Tommy McHugh proclaimed, “That was the cat’s meow!” after his first run down this pitch. The name stuck. At one point, Cat’s Meow hosted Loveland’s signature event, the Three Pin Grin telemark mogul competition, but today it is simply the Hollywood bump run under Lift 1—which rises 956 feet from the base area and ties with Pallavicini for providing the fastest access to awesome terrain from any ski-area parking lot.

Lift: Lift 1

Difficulty: Black Diamond

Vertical: 625 ft

Length: .34 mi

Over the Rainbow

Another of Lift 1’s gems, “OTR” was originally called Rainbow by Loveland pioneer Al Bennett, who, among other achievements, used a Model T engine to power the area’s rope tow in 1937. When an explosive-triggered avalanche expanded the run in 1996, creating a new line into the parking lot (where the debris destroyed a Loveland shuttle bus), patrollers renamed the run to its current name. It remains a go-to among Loveland diehards because it holds fresh snow longer than most runs.

Lift: Lift 1

Difficulty: Double Black Diamond

Vertical: 1,066 ft

Length: .45 mi

Catwalk to Mambo to Home Run

This pitch is usually the first top-to-bottom run to open at Loveland and makes for a terrific get-my-legs-under-me dance downhill. But it’s also a classic all-season option and, as the name suggests, a fitting way to end another great day on the Divide before heading home.

Lift: Lift 1

Difficulty: Beginner

Vertical: 988 ft

Length: 1.18 mi

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