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In an era of mega-passes and mega-resorts, it’s easy to find a renewed appreciation for small, independent ski areas that hold on tightly to their roots in the weird and wonderful world of the ski bum. The most recent hip—albeit not new—trend adopted by diehard weekend warriors involves fully kitted out vans as a means for fulfilling mountain dreams. Fully stocked with kitchens, solar panels, gear storage, and everything you’d need for a semi-luxurious parking lot experience. The only thing left to do is decide where to head next.
Silverton’s off-the-beaten-path vibes were made for van life. Find dinner in town before driving up County Road 110 to the mountain’s parking area and snuggling in for the night. Overnight parking is allowed in the small dirt lots just past the small base area (don’t park next to the lift), and, especially if it’s snowing, there’s always a chance the local plow driver will wake you up before dawn to adjust your parking spot to avoid being parked in. A small price to pay for fresh powder.
Related: Six Authentic Western Ski Towns
Wolf Creek Ski Area
Wolf Creek is known for putting up big snowfall numbers, a noticeable lack of crazy crowds, and having an amazing Base Operations team. This is the crew responsible for handling overnight parking, whom you’ll want to thank after your epic morning of fresh snow. Parking lot attendants can point you in the right direction when you arrive or, if arriving after hours, park in the main lot as close to the lifts as you’d like.
More about Wolf Creek: A Place in the Sun
Sunlight Mountain Resort
With phase one of an advanced- and expert-level terrain expansion project completed this fall, there are new runs to discover at Sunlight and a parking lot ripe for the picking. The hidden gem of the Aspen Valley is often overlooked for its more popular neighbors upvalley (we see you, Highlands) which means you won’t find champagne-soaked celebrities here, but you will find fun terrain, great people, and a parking lot waiting to be parked in overnight. Pro tip: Pack a headlight and ski touring gear to get some exercise in the dark. The mountain’s 2,010 vertical is perfect for self-powered nighttime tours.
More from Sunlight: The Sport of SkiMo – My First Race
Loveland Ski Area
The parking policy at Loveland might not officially allow overnight parking, but it doesn’t officially not allow it, either. With a bit of a gray area on the official policy the parking lot becomes peppered with vans and ski bums come nightfall during the ski season. Be prepared to move when the plow shows up to scrape the lot of fresh pre-dawn pw, which will give you plenty of time to grab first chair. Or, head up Loveland pass a little ways and you’ll probably find plenty of other #Vanlife companions waiting for early-ups at Loveland and nearby A-Basin, especially when the moon is full.
Aspen Custom Vans
Based in Basalt, Aspen Custom Vans is building a small fleet of vans available for rent starting at $210 per night. Check out Blue, a 19′-long 2016 Mercedes Sprinter with a bed that easily converts into a table for dinner, a remote work session, or Disney+ marathon. There’s nothing quite like making dinner with the door open as the sun sets when weather permits, and a solar-powered heater can be turned on temps drop. Extra-comfortable, very functional, and the perfect size for two adults and one small child.
Related: Home Away from Home
A-Lodge Adventure Vans
The vans at Boulder’s A-Lodge, a recently renovated motel-meets-adventure hub, are built to keep up with skiers like you. Waterproof rubber flooring with in-laid racks locks skis, bikes, and whatever else you can throw at it into place. In summer months an outdoor shower (ok, a hose with heated water) is as much a legitimate luxury as it is functional tool for rinsing filthy gear.
There isn’t a table or place to sit inside other than the driver and passenger seats, but skiers who have their priorities straight won’t know the difference. Bonus: Run the diesel heater at night without worry of draining solar reserves. Rates start at $159 per night.
A-Lodge Adventure Vans Video
Jon Jay contributed to testing the vans and reporting this article.