1. Be out of Denver by 6 AM
It's early, I know. But you'll thank me when you're killing time drinking coffee and eating a breakfast burrito in the base lodge instead of sitting in the I-70 gridlock. The traffic heading into and from the mountains on weekends is worse than Denver's weekday rush hour, so do yourself a favor and wake up early.
Wait to have breakfast until you are either at the resort or in Summit County. This is the perfect way to kill that extra time before the lifts open at 8:30.
2. Ride Loveland
How many people do you see in this photo? None. That's because I wasn't at Keystone or Breckenridge. If you want to avoid lift lines, douchebags, and tracked out lines, as well as cut at least an hour off of your roundtrip commute, Loveland is the place to be. I have heard many people dog Loveland for their old lifts, lack of a huge terrain park, and for being right on the highway but those are easy to overlook if you actually value quality on-snow time and lift accessed backcountry.
3. Talk to Ski Patrol to find out if they are opening any terrain mid-day
Weekends are notoriously busy, so any opportunity to catch fresh tracks is worth the wait. In this photo, I am waiting for Tiger's Tail to open for the first time this year. There were about thirty or so people waiting along with me, but plenty of fresh tracks to go around. I wouldn't have been there right at rope drop if I hadn't done a little research.
4. Hit it hard and then hit the bar
I'm not sure I have every seen anyone in a bad mood at a ski area bar. They are the one place where everyone is drinking to relax and enjoy their mountain experience instead of drinking away their sorrows. It's easy to make a friend and have good conversation when everyone around you is stoked on their day.
5. Hit the road by 2 PM
Just like you left early in morning, you'll want to be on the road back towards Denver by 2 to avoid the scenario shown above. This nonsense puts a serious damper on a good day.