10 Tips for Dropping into Colorado’s Dramatic Ski Bowls

Thanks to the high elevation of resorts in the Colorado Rockies, you won’t just find tons of trails, but you’ll also find wide-open (often treeless) bowls that sprawl across entire peaks. The mere sight of these expansive bowls is striking and for some, intimidating. However, bowls are not made up solely of extreme terrain and are actually super accessible and manageable for intermediate skiers and riders.

Here are a few pointers to make for an easy glide into the widest slopes around.

1.Take your time.

As with stepping up your game by moving from green to blue runs or blue to black, proceed slowly into your first bowl. We’ve added some easy options at the bottom of the list to get you started, and remember you just have to make one turn at a time.

2. Glide rather than drop in.

Skiing bowls is not synonymous with plunging off of a cliff. “Dropping in” makes it sound like you’re plummeting off of a cornice every time you enter a bowl, but this is not the case. Many bowls are accessed through wide gates and even via flat slopes and broad openings like any other trail.

3. Go on a clear day.

Given their high elevation, many bowls are situated above the tree line, meaning that visibility can be challenging during snowstorms or on cloudy days. The most magical time to ski bowls is when the sun is shining and you can see the entire stunning panorama.

Skiing in bowls might not be as difficult as you thought.

© Vail Resorts

4. Stay inbounds.

Unlike in Europe, where ungroomed, natural slopes are considered “off-piste,” the bowls at Colorado’s resorts are controlled for snow safety just like all of the other trails. It is typically through gates outside of the bowls that skiers access backcountry terrain, but staying within the bowls themselves (the ones marked on the trail map) is the way to go.

<<Rent the perfect ski set-up for dropping into the bowls today.>>

5. Focus on solid technique.

Although numerous trails in Colorado’s bowls are often groomed, many of them feature natural snow, which can vary between velvety powder, sun-baked crust, and everything in between, depending on weather conditions. That’s why staying centered and evenly weighted on your skis or board is key, as well as keeping your knees bent and your hands held in front of you. This will keep you balanced and in control, ready to be the boss in any variety of snow condition.

6. Scope out your next few turns.

With such open panoramas all around you, it’s simple to stop on the slope and take a few seconds to map out your line. The possibilities are endless here in the bowls, from broad, swooping S-turns to short, tight routes.

Plan your turns before heading down.

© Vail Resorts

7. Watch for obstacles.

While most obstacles, particularly rock bands and cliff areas, are clearly marked, there are often stumps and boulders protruding from the slopes in the bowls. Another benefit of scanning your next few turns from above is seeing potential obstacles and thus avoiding them.

8. Be prepared to funnel onto a single trail at the bottom.

Every dreamy expanse of snow must come to an end. Luckily, the bowls all end in a chairlift that will take you right up to do it all again and again. Most bowls converge into one or two runs that lead you toward the chairlift, so be sure to watch around you for other skiers and riders approaching from different directions and remember that the downhill skier has the right of way.

9. Take photos.

With the endless sea of peaks shimmering in the backdrop and the sun (hopefully) shining from above, there is no better place for a photo opp than in the bowls. Better yet, keep your gloves on and hit up an EpicMix photographer to take a shot for you.

Colorado resorts have plenty of options for easing your way into the bowls.

© Vail Resorts

10. Start out on bowls featuring bountiful blue runs.

Here are some great options for launching your love of bowl skiing:

    • The Outback at Keystone: While not technically a bowl, the Outback certainly gives you the same sensation of being perched on top of the world, away from it all. Also, the majority of long runs are intermediate and usually groomed to perfection. Oh, Bob, Bighorn, and Porcupine are the broadest, most bowl-like options.

    • Blue Sky Basin at Vail: This pristine landscape presents a great chance to familiarize yourself with natural, powdery snow through wide, easy-to-navigate glades. In the Wuides under Earl’s Express Lift is an entire slope of low-angle, wide glades with a blue rating. Big Rock Park is an ideal place to find natural terrain features, with valleys that resemble halfpipes and small rocks to pop off of.

    • China Bowl at Vail: Nearly all slopes into this bowl are low-angle white sheets of paradise begging for easy turns (Chopstix, Poppyfields East, Poppyfields West).

    • Peak 6 at Breckenridge: The majority of lift-accessed terrain from the Kenosha Superchair is lower angle, built for intermediates to spread out and claim their territory (try Bliss or Elysian Fields). 

    Rose Bowl at Beaver Creek: The entire floor of this bowl is a blue run from C Prime to Stone Creek Meadows.

With so many options, it can be tough to decide which resort to start at when planning your Colorado ski vacation—What Ski Resort Is Right for You can help you make up your mind. See you on the slopes!

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