On most days, Eldora - which is the closest Gem to Denver (47 miles) and an easy drive from Boulder (21 miles) - is a laid-back ski area popular among passionate weekend skiers who'd rather be cranking turns than crawling in bumper-to-bumper ski-traffic on I-70. When it snows, however, Eldora transforms from a quiet family ski area to something more closely resembling a powder-covered mosh pit.
I live in Boulder and, well, live for fresh powder. Which is how, on a weekday last year, I found myself standing in a mob of fellow job-ditching neighbors all waiting for the Corona Bowl glades to open. When the rope dropped, scores of powderhounds pressed forward, gliding over the backs of each others' skis in a mad rush. It was a fully Darwinian experience. (If it was you I pushed, sorry!) Riding back up the chair, I could hear shouts of joy from deep within the trees.
A powder day at Eldora may not bring out the best in human nature, but that's the price you pay to ski powder within 45 minutes of a major urban area in Colorado. Fortunately, the terrain makes it worth the jostle because Eldora's bite-size 680 acres pack a powerful punch. In addition to the sweet cruisers on the frontside and off the Indian Peaks chair, the area boasts the double-black territory of Corona Bowl and the sweet, steep Salto Glades, which, when they go off on a powder day, are a mini-version of Steamboat, Colo.'s famous tree shots.
In many ways, Eldora offers the best of both worlds: Its proximity to Colorado's Front Range cities allows visitors to combine urban fun with a full-on alpine experience, while also permitting Boulder and Denver's ski-bums-gone-yuppies to pretend they live in a real ski town.
Visitors can find charming small-town lodging in or near the town of Nederland, about 10 minutes from the ski area; but most opt to enjoy the nightlife and lodging in Boulder. The city offers regular bus service to the resort, and also offers discounted Boulder Ski Escape lodging/lift ticket packages at many of the city's finest hotels. Try the plush St. Julien Hotel & Spa or the Victorian Hotel Boulderado; hit the Kitchen, Mateo or Frasca for dinner; and don't miss Sherpa's for excellent Nepali food with a groovy Boulder Buddhist vibe.