Fresh Pow Pow
Colorado offers some of the best skiing on the planet. Within 100 miles or so from the temperate Front Range, the rugged Rocky Mountains reach high into the atmosphere where they collect snow throughout the winter—a lot of it!
Beyond having an abundance of the white stuff (300 inches is the average snowfall at most resorts), the high elevation of the Colorado mountains means there’s little moisture in the precipitation. So, we enjoy light, fluffy powder that skiers and snowboarders can float through like clouds. Gliding through fresh powder up to your hips is an experience you just can’t get on slopes almost anywhere else. There are 21 ski resorts in Colorado. Each one has something different to offer. From the towns where the resorts are nestled to the variety and difficulty of the terrain, they all have a distinct character.
2 hours, 5 minutes**
One of the highest resorts in Colorado, most of the mountain’s terrain is above timberline, which means there are a lot of open bowls. It also means this resort tends to have one of the longest seasons of any Colorado resort. Open from mid-October to early June, there’s little excuse to miss this opportunity.
The term “resort” is used loosely at A-Basin, as the locals call it. There is no resort lodging at the mountain, and there’s no ski village or town at its base. Perched on the edge of Loveland Pass, visitors have to wind back down the hill to Keystone, Breckenridge or Frisco for a place to stay. With its extreme location comes some of the most extreme terrain. There are some nice gentle slopes for beginners, but not many.
3 hours, 52 minutes
Aspen has a reputation as a town for the super wealthy and often famous. Home of the $1 million mobile home, it’s filled with glitzy galleries, fine dining and steep price tags on just about everything. Of course, the price comes with a quality you won’t find everywhere. The setting is breathtakingly beautiful, and the skiing that put this remote little mountain village on the map is without argument, some of the best in the world. Its remote location and sense of exclusivity mean crowds are thin and lift lines are short.
Aspen is home to four resorts.
• Aspen Mountain is the town hill. Walk there from the shops, bars and hotels. This is where the locals get in a few turns on their lunch breaks. It’s casual and easy to reach, but still boasts a wide variety of terrain.
• Aspen Highlands is just outside of town and is considered Aspen’s more expert mountain, known for its steep slopes and powdery bowls.
• Aspen Buttermilk is home to the Winter X Games and has an amazing terrain park for those who have moves worth showing off. The resort also offers gentle slopes ideal for beginners.
• Aspen Snowmass is a sprawling resort with long, groomed runs. Offering family-friendly activities and on-site lodging, it’s a comfortable and enjoyable place for experts and beginners to coexist.
2 hours, 52 minutes
Beaver Creek is just outside of Vail. It’s a sophisticated, quiet resort with tons of terrain. There is lodging spread out on the mountain, so it’s easy to find ski-in-ski-out homes and condos for rent.
With tons of terrain, it takes a little time to find your way to the best spots, but once you find them, they’re lightly trafficked and full of adventure.
2 hours, 16 minutes
Breckenridge is one of the easiest resort towns to reach. The colorful Victorian-style town throbs with excitement. Bars, restaurants and shops have a comfortable, relaxed vibe. This town is not pretentious or overpriced. But it is BUSY. People pour into Breckenridge year-round. Some ski at the massive 9-peak resort. Some just come for the myriad of winter events or the atmosphere at the base.
Tons of lodging along with day-trippers from the Front Range keep this resort hopping. You’ll wait in line for the lift and you’ll never have a slope to yourself here. But there is no shortage of terrain with something for everyone, great lessons and lots of fun on and off the hill.
2 hours , 42 minutes
Cooper is one of Colorado’s oldest ski areas. It’s also one of its quietest. It doesn’t draw the crowds of the bigger resorts and offers much more comfortable pricing. Offering good terrain for both experienced skiers and beginners, it’s great for family ski trips.
2 hours, 18 minutes
Copper Mountain is a sprawling mountain resort. While it doesn’t have a town at it’s base, the resort includes plenty of lodging and dining options. The terrain is diverse with plenty for both experts and beginners to explore.
3 hours, 47 minutes
The skiing is world-class, and the remote location eliminates crowds and lines. There’s something for everyone at this massive ski area. Divine expert terrain, gentle slopes for beginners, fast groomers for intermediate skiers and boarders and sweet terrain parks provide fun for all.
But the real enticement for Crested Butte is the community. This former mining village has a deep sense of adventure and excitement about it. It’s not fancy or glamorous. The atmosphere is warm, welcoming and electric.
2 hours, 9 minutes
Just outside of Boulder, this resort is easy to reach. Offering something for everyone, it’s a great family day trip if you’re staying in Boulder or Denver. Of course, it’s easy location means there will be no shortage of lines and crowds, especially on weekends.
2 hours, 17 minutes
This is a great family resort with plenty of good beginner runs, great intermediate groomers and a fun-filler terrain park. Keystone offers some of Colorado’s only night skiing. Enjoy a ride up the hill in the protective gondola and cruise down the slopes from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Spaghetti legs will be the only thing in your way of extraordinarily full days.
Keystone isn’t as much a town as it is a resort with plenty of lodging and restaurants.
Loveland Ski Area
1 hour, 57 minutes
Right on I-70 before going over Loveland Pass, this ski area is easy to reach. Without all of the resort amenities, it’s a simple, casual mountain offering free parking and a long season of deep and steep skiing and boarding.
2 hours, 26 minutes
Monarch is easy to reach without having to get on I-70. The drive is beautiful. The setting is gorgeous. The terrain offers something for everyone – steep and deep for experts, groomers for intermediate, gentle slopes for beginners and a terrain park for tricks.
It’s a quiet, simple mountain without a lot of fringe. Prices are affordable, and there is some humble lodging nearby.
Steamboat Ski Resort
3 hours, 50 minutes
Steamboat Springs is a welcoming western town. It has a quaint and comfortable vibe with plenty of great dining, shopping and lodging options.
The ski resort itself boasts trademark (literally) Champagne Powder. The remote location combined with a massive six-peak resort prevents big crowds and long lift lines. There is seemingly endless terrain for exploration and no shortage of other fun family or romantic activities on and of the slopes.
5 hours, 47 minutes
Telluride is a long trip from anywhere on the Front Range. It’s hard to reach, but worth the effort. Surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks, this resort enjoys some of the most stunning scenery of any ski resort anywhere. The massive mountain allows visitors to spread out and experience a serene sense of solitude. Claim your own unsullied path through pristine powdery snow.
The town itself has some of the same glitz and glamor of Aspen, but being a little more remote, there’s a balancing toughness and authenticity about it . The dining is fine. The galleries are significant. The lodging is luxurious. But there’s also a sense of adventure among visitors. They found Telluride. It’s a little off the beaten path and it takes some planning and ingenuity to get here. There’s satisfaction that comes with knowing you’re experiencing something very special
2 hours, 36 minutes
Vail is a massive resort with sprawling terrain that offers something for everyone. There are expert bowls and back-country style terrain in bounds. Plenty of groomed intermediate runs blends well with beginner slopes to make this a great family resort.
Just a little bitter farther and over a big mountain pass from the Front Range, this resort is much less trafficked than those in Summit County. Yet, it’s right on I-70 and isn’t hard to reach – although traffic on the interstate on winter weekends can be daunting.
The town itself offers plenty of excitement, great lodging, and fine dining. It’s more sophisticated —dare we say “upscale?”—then the ski areas on the other side of the pass.
There are plenty of other small resorts sprinkled all over the state. Most of them have a sense of ownership from the communities where they’re located. They don’t have big resort facilities, but they do tend to have more challenging terrain and expert locals carving turns through the powder. They’re also usually a bit cheaper and often have good opportunities for kids and beginners.
• Howelesen Hill
• Ski Granby Ranch
• Sunlight Mountain Resort
• Winter Park
• Wolf Creek
** Indicates Drive times from Colorado Springs