Vail locals hit 32 Colorado resorts in one winter, checking off final 4 after COVID-19 shutdown
Cliff Merchant and Susan Weston had to hike Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass
Locals Cliff Merchant and Susan Weston call Vail their home mountain, but this winter, the couple set out to hit all 32 Colorado resorts.
Merchant, 36, has been snowboarding since 1996. Weston, 35, grew up skiing before switching to snowboarding. He moved to Colorado in 2002 and lived in Summit County before moving to the Vail Valley in 2014. She has been spending winters in Vail for seven years while also living in Las Vegas during the summers.
“I realized over all those years that there were several places I hadn’t been in the state,” Merchant said. “There were about 11 or 12 resorts I hadn’t been to yet. I thought it would be fun to knock those out. I got to thinking about it a little more and I realized that some of the ones I’d already done, I hadn’t been to in 10 years. So I thought maybe it would be fun to do them all in the same season.”
Both Merchant and Weston work nights at Vail Health Hospital, so their itinerary included many day trips, a couple days hitting multiple resorts and some overnight trips for the farther away resorts.
Before the season, they bought both Ikon and Epic passes.
“It’s definitely got me thinking that I’m going to buy at least the Ikon and Epic passes again next year,” Merchant said. “It was really nice to have access to all those places. You don’t realize what you’re missing not going to Copper, Winter Park, Steamboat and others during the season. It’s nice to kind of break it up.”
While they said they enjoyed visiting all of the mountains, they really enjoyed the small towns across the state that sit below the ski hills.
“I think everyone should see all of these small hills that people would never ever go to that were so fun,” Weston said.
Along the way, they said locals in towns across the state were friendly and curious about their travels.
“It definitely gives you perspective on the different resorts,” Merchant said. “It makes you realize how much more grooming they do around here.”
‘We loved every mountain’
As COVID-19 started spreading across the state and country, Merchant and Weston were trying to wrap up their winter mission. They were down to four mountains, in Aspen, and even had a hotel booked for Sunday night, March 15. Their plan was to ride two mountains Sunday, stay the night and then finish the final two on Monday.
On Saturday, March 14, ski resorts across Colorado shut down due to coronavirus.
“He looked so sad when they closed the mountain,” Weston said. “I’ve never seen someone look so defeated and sad.”
With plans already in place, they decided to hike the final four mountains — before more restrictions came down on uphill access at ski resorts.
“We both knew that we couldn’t quit on it,” Merchant said. “It was just accepting the fact that we were going to be hiking the next two days.”
Along the way this winter, friends of the couple joined along at different stops across the state. When they finished their final resort, Buttermilk, they popped champagne at the top of the halfpipe and again at the bottom with friends.
“Mainly, it was his idea,” she said, “and I’m glad I did it.”
Merchant said he was looking forward to going back to a few places and riding Vail for some “normal snowboard days,” but the abrupt end to the season has eliminated the possibility of that.
They plan on creating some kind of memento with the pins, patches, trail maps and stickers collected from resorts across the state.
“We loved every mountain,” Weston said. “Silverton was the most memorable and probably always will be. The small mountains gave us a great appreciation for the towns that still operate them. It reminded us of the small mountains we grew up on. We are both very fortunate to have met and live in Vail. We have one of the best mountains in the country right in our backyard.”
- Arapahoe Basin
- Aspen Highlands (Aspen)
- Aspen Mountain (Aspen)
- Beaver Creek
- Buttermilk (Aspen)
- Chapman Hill Ski Area (Durango)
- Copper Mountain
- Cranor Ski Area (Gunnison)
- Crested Butte
- Echo Mountain Park
- Hesperus Ski Area
- Howelsen Hill
- Kendall Mountain (Silverton)
- Lake City Ski Hill (Lake City)
- Lee’s Hill (Ouray)
- Loveland Basin/Loveland Valley
- Monarch Mountain
- Powderhorn Resort
- Purgatory Resort
- Silverton Mountain
- Ski Cooper
- Ski Granby Ranch
- Snowmass (Aspen)
- Winter Park/Mary Jane
- Wolf Creek