While Colorado is known for its blue groomers and sunny, bluebird days, there’s plenty of big-mountain terrain for expert skiers and riders in Colorado. Most resorts have a few steep runs, a few bump runs and a few glades, but these resorts have the best gnarly terrain in the state. Grab your helmet but check your ego in the chairlift line.

George Tyler of Denver took this photo at Beaver Creek in December 2009.

Beaver Creek Resort

Avon, CO
(800) 842-8062

Although Beaver Creek carries the hoity-toity airs of a gaited subdivision and is known for its well-coiffed image, it’s surprisingly raw if you’re a skier who’s willing and able to get off the blue groomers. The double-diamond trio of Goshawk, Peregrine and Golden Eagle (the later of which is home to the famed Birds of Prey World Cup downhill) are as long and relentless as any bump runs in the state. Check out the Royal Elk and Black Bear glades off the west face of Grouse Mountain for some steep and challenging tree skiing and hit Stone Creek Chutes (when there’s enough snow) for some of the most gnarly inbounds terrain in Colorado.

Laurie Talbott took tis photo of the Continental Divide and Mary Jane ski area from the Zephyr Express Lift at Winter Park Resort in January 2011)

Winter Park Resort

Winter Park, CO
(970) 726-1564

For years, the Mary Jane side of Winter Park has been know as a bumper’s haven as Derailer, Trestle and Railbender offer absolutely no rest for the weary. But hidden above those runs are arguably the best (and some of the steepest) chutes in Colorado. Although they’re closed more than they’re open (because of snow conditions), Hole-in-the-Wall, Baldy’s and Awe Chute require a Big Gulp of courage and short, precise turns. Although it’s still somewhat hard to get to, the Vazque Cirque offers big thrills and a long run-out through the trees to the Vasquez base area.

Telluride ski area (credit: Eric Blumer/CBS)

Telluride Ski & Golf Resort

565 Mountain Village Blvd.
Telluride, CO 81435
(800) 778.8581

Telluride is about as remote as you can get, but it’s worth the drive (or the flight) it takes to get there. More than 40 percent of the resort’s 2,000 skiable acres are rated advanced/expert terrain, ranging from the long burn of Sully’s to the steep tree run of Buzz’s Glade to the wide-open thrills of Andy’s Gold and Millions. If that’s not enough, you can challenge yourself on some of the best hike-to terrain that Colorado has to offer, either in the more moderate Black Iron Bowl or the gonzo Gold Hill Chutes below 13,320-foot Palmyra Peak. And perhaps there’s no groomed run in Colorado as steep and as thrilling as Bushwacker, a classic front-side burner that is known for cold snow even when the rest of the resort has spring conditions.

Crested Butte

12 Snowmass Road
Crested Butte, CO 81224
(800) 810-7669

There’s a reason Crested Butte has hosted so many U.S. extreme skiing championships over the past 15 years, namely because it has some of the best double-black diamond ski runs in North America. The area has become famous for The North Face, a collection of a dozen very steep rip-roarin’ runs that hold great snow well into the spring. But there’s much more to explore on your oversized skis, including Teocalli Bowl, The Headwall and all of the gnarly steep stuff on the front side adjacent to the Silver Queen lift like Banana Peel, Upper Forest and, for those skilled or stupid enough, the sheer drop off the Peak run from the summit of Mt. Crested Butte.

Aspen Highlands

1600 Maroon Creek Road
Aspen, CO 81612
(800) 525-6200

Hiking to the 12,392-foot summit of Highland Peak and then dropping down the ultra-steep face of Highland Bowl is one of the single best experiences for expert skiers and riders in Colorado. The recently opened double-black diamond glades and wide-open chutes under the Deep Temerity lift have added to Aspen Highlands “X” factor. And if that’s not enough, there are still plenty of steep shots on the steep lower faces of the front side of the mountain – such as Aces & Eights and Audacious – that have made après ski legends and fools for more than 50 years.

– Brian Metzler is a Boulder-based freelance journalist who has written for the Denver Post, Outside, Ski, Skiing, Runner’s World, Men’s Journal and Running Times magazines.