- 1 1. Vail Mountain Resort
- 2 2. Aspen Snowmass
- 3 3. Telluride Ski Resort
- 4 4. Beaver Creek Resort
- 5 5. Breckenridge Ski Resort
- 6 6. Keystone Resort
- 7 7. Purgatory Resort
- 8 8. Steamboat Ski Resort
- 9 9. Copper Mountain
- 10 10. Arapahoe Basin
- 11 11. Silverton Mountain
- 12 12. Wolf Creek Ski Area
- 13 Tips for Skiing in Colorado
- 14 Frequently Asked Questions about Skiing in Colorado
- 15 The Best Ski Resorts in North America and Europe
Ranging from personal taste, skiing preferences, skill level, budget, convenience of location, to when you want to ski in Colorado, finding the right resort is about all of these things. Unlike some of the ski resorts in Utah, all of the ski resorts in Colorado are open to everyone.
There are various ski resorts in the area surrounding Denver, among them include Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Copper, Vail, and Beaver Creek. Aspen and Steamboat are slightly outside of Denver but are still accessible via road travel. These two airports also have direct flights to major US cities. The resort of Purgatory, Telluride, and Silverton in the more remote southwest region of Colorado.
The opening and closing days of ski resorts are dependent on the weather. Some resorts open when the conditions are suitable and can stay open as long as they need to. Many of the dates listed below reflect real-time numbers reported by ski resorts.
1. Vail Mountain Resort
Among the mountain resorts in Colorado, Vail is considered the best. This is one of the largest ski resorts in the US and is full of good skiing. Given the seven slopes, skiers can ski a whole season. If you can resist the long groomed runs which run past the town of Vail, which overlook the town. Also, there are those who never drink above the rim of their beer glass.
The extensive and varied terrain makes it possible for the resort to accommodate all levels of skiers, from beginners to experts, and the resort can always find good conditions on the mountain. Beginners and intermediate skiers will enjoy the smooth trails on the front side, while advanced skiers will find challenging and varied terrain on the backside.
Vail receives more snow than many of the other resorts in the region, usually receiving more than 350 inches of snow per season. The resort is undertaking a major snowmaking project, which should lead to a more enjoyable skiing/snowboarding season. Made up of over 5,289 acres of land, the mountain features 31 lifts, three terrain parks, and does extensive grooming. It is a great place for people of all levels of skiing.
Just off of Interstate 70 is the small town of Vail. It caters in part to high-end travelers with luxury accommodations and fine dining.
By resort standards, Vail is large. At the interchanges, you can choose between routes to East Vail, Vail Town Center, and West Vail. Vail Town Center, including Lionhead Village, is where all of the shopping and eating goes on. Town Center is where you’ll find a variety of restaurants and shops, as well as skiing and other activities. These two areas are closely associated with one another.
East Vail is separate from the main action and largely populated with homes and condos. Getting to the ski hill will require figuring out transportation. West Vail is more in the middle of town and has more convenient access to grocery stores, fast food restaurants, entertainment, and regular shopping. You will still need to take the shuttle to the mountain.
Nearby Towns and Other Accommodation Options
Vail’s accommodation is expensive, but cheaper accommodation can be found in nearby towns including Silverthorne, Frisco, Avon, and Eagle. A lot of visitors fly to Denver and drive or take a shuttle to Vail. Eagle-Vail Airport is the closest airport, which is a 40-minute drive from Vail.
2. Aspen Snowmass
“Aspen Snowmass” is actually a combination of four ski areas that surround Aspen and Snowmass Village. The four mountains together, which consist of Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk, cover vast areas comparable to Vail.
Snowmass is the largest with over 3,000 acres of terrain. This hill is mostly a family-oriented hill and offers great intermediate skiing.
The base elevation of the range is around 8,000 feet, but the higher elevations of the range are around 12,500 feet.
As the base of the mountain, Snowmass Village has a very traditional and welcoming ski village atmosphere. This is a good place to start for snowboarding in Snowmass.
Snowmass provides free s’mores on select evenings at the seasonal fire pits, and at the Snowmass Mall.
Buttermilk, although has few competitors, is world-renowned for having hosted the Winter X-Games three times. There are many beginner and intermediate runs in the park. Aspen Mountain does not allow beginners to ski.
Although Aspen Highlands may be a more advanced ski area, it does have beginner and intermediate skiing.
The town of Aspen, Colorado, at the base of Aspen Mountain, attracts high wattage celebrities. Many famous people own property in this area including Hollywood superstars and famous athletes. It is a popular day-trip destination from Denver, even without the skiing.
The resort is not just a ski resort created around a ski hill. As a mining camp, it’s historical, authentic, and has a distinctive mountain town feel. You can find a variety of accommodation at the base of the slopes, or even further back if you just want an overnight stay.
3. Telluride Ski Resort
In a remote setting of the San Juan Mountains, Telluride is one of the most scenic ski towns in the United States. Telluride also has incredible terrain, consistent snowfall, and as a result, it’s become very popular with skiers and boarders.
If you plan on skiing a significant amount of vertical within Colorado, this is one of the best places to ski. The resort covers more than 2000 acres of terrain, has a base elevation of 8700 feet and a maximum elevation of 13,150 feet (4,425 feet vertical drop). The mountain offers a balanced mix of beginners to experts with varied terrain for all levels and types of skiing. The amount of annual snowfall is 300 inches.
A free bus connection between the town of Telluride and Mountain Village, meaning skiers staying at the Village can ski whenever they like, and it’s easy for skiers staying in the Village to get to the ski hill. You don’t need to be on skis to ride the gondola, everyone is welcome to take a ride and enjoy the view.
It is possible to ski all the way down to Telluride from the Mountain Village or to take the gondola to town. The runs from the top of the gondola down to the town are not green runs, and they’re not very beginner-friendly. They’re more difficult than beginner skiers want to attempt.
Telluride is a real ski city, not a resort town owned by the company. There are interesting shops, restaurants and coffee shops on the scenic main street. You are not required to be a skier to enjoy a stay at this resort, and the town is as enjoyable in the spring and fall as it is during the winter months. The city hosts year-round events, which makes it an amazing getaway.
Nearby Towns and Other Accommodation Options
Telluride is a great ski town in Colorado and staying in Telluride is the best option. You can stay at lodging in the city, or mountain resorts. The high demand in peak season will probably raise prices. Even if a hotel does accept pets, finding a hotel without a pet policy can be a challenge.
For lower prices, pet-friendly accommodation options, and a ski culture that is lively, you may also want to consider staying in Durango, about two hours away. Even people in Durango can still ski at Telluride, they just make day trips there. Although Montrose is a pleasant alternative to Killington, the town does not have a ski town atmosphere.
4. Beaver Creek Resort
Vail Resorts owns Beaver Creek Resort which lies nearby the Vail area and is only a short distance away from Denver. This resort has great customer service, is well-groomed, and has a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
With over 1,800 acres of available terrain, this ski resort has a full range of runs for all abilities, but it’s also a great starting point for beginners. The resort provides excellent grooming, ensuring the highest quality skiing.
The smell of fresh-baked treats wafts through the air every afternoon at 3pm as chocolate chip cookies, served by employees in chef’s hats, are distributed to skiers coming off the hill or lingering around the base. An escalator takes guests up several flights of stairs from the town and employees are on hand at the top to help those who are tired and struggling with their skis. The sidewalks are heated which prevents cold spots from forming.
The mountain has the lowest summit elevation, combined with the lowest base elevation of the big resorts in the area. This helps people traveling from lower elevations to the area where they live. If you decide to ski Beaver Creek multiple times during your multi-day ski trip, starting there will help you acclimatize to the altitude.
At the bottom of the ski resort is the quaint village of Beaver Creek. This is a nice place to relax at the outdoor table following a day on ski or snowboard, and to see the last remaining skiers descending the pistes. Within the resort community is a pedestrian-only area with an attractive outdoor space. Here is where you’ll find seats, fire pits, and a large outdoor skating rink. Surrounding the main shopping area are shops and restaurants.
Nearby Towns and Other Accommodation Options
The city of Avon, which can be an excellent base, is located around 10 minutes down the hill from the village of Beaver Creek. More affordable lodging options and a wide range of restaurants and retail stores such as sports shops, food stores, and a pharmacy are often found. Regular free shuttle services take guests to Beaver Creek from their Hotels in Avon.
Check out Vin 48 or Blue Plate in Avon for high-end restaurants with a casual atmosphere and excellent food. Northside Kitchen is a favorite locally for breakfast, where you can sit and enjoy a delicious meal or have some front pick up pastries.
5. Breckenridge Ski Resort
Breckenridge is the most complete skiing and snowboarding destination, with groomed runs through the trees, great apres, and extraordinary high alpine bowls that you can access with lifts. With even a minimal amount of hiking on the Imperial Chairlift, you can find some outstanding terrain. The exposed bowls may look intimidating from a distance, but the advanced skiers can find great skiing opportunities there. This is the place where people can move their level of expertise beyond intermediate levels.
Breckenridge offers multiple terrain options, from green, blue, and black slopes to beginner-friendly terrain, jumping areas, and moguls. This mountain is fairly easy to navigate, as it is a long stretch of mountains split between the front and back. It’s common for the on-mountain dining to make a good impression on Breck guests.
The skiing here is technically challenging, with an elevation that starts at a lofty 9,600 feet. The Peak 8 chairlift is the highest level in North America as well as being the highest lift in the country. On spring days, when the bottom of the hill is soft due to snow, the top of the hill can have hard-packed snow due to full-on winter conditions with excellent snow.
For late-season skiing, Breckenridge can serve as a good choice. Keep in mind, changing your altitude can be difficult if you have recently moved from a lower elevation.
Breckenridge has gone through many changes, including updates to its guest service facility, with new children’s ski and snowboarding schools, childcare facilities, and new equipment rental facilities.
Breckenridge is a fun, small city with a sweet main street and great after-ski possibilities. You can take a snack on a day in spring and sit on the city’s outdoor patio watching the mountain that you just skied late in the afternoon sun. The gondola that reaches the mountain leaves the town, and here you can park. This makes it extremely easy and convenient to get to the mountains. Parking in comparison to other resorts in the area is relatively cheap.
Nearby Towns and Other Accommodation Options
Breckenridge is a nice place to stay, and if you are skiing Breck you should make that your first choice. If you can’t find a place to stay here, some moderately priced hotels often have nearby Silverthorne. In the surrounding area, Frisco is another excellent option. This is a lovely city with many restaurants, coffee shops, and hotels.
6. Keystone Resort
Keystone Resort is located along three mountains, each of which is farther from civilization. As one departs the resort the skiing is less crowded. This resort offers 20 lifts to suit everyone’s needs, making it a great place for families.
The runs on Decorum Mountain are beginner cruisers and groomed runs. Beyond this is North Peak, an area full of challenging terrain. At the back are The Outback and where the resort’s highest peak is. Some parts of this area are also suitable for advanced skiers and boarders.
The resort offers both CAT skiing and the ability to access a number of bowls. Keystone Resort claims they offer the best ski day because of their night skiing schedule.
Keystone has two villages, River Run and Lakeside.” The River Run Village is located at the base of the mountain. For skiers, this is the most exciting part. It offers a variety of relaxed dining options, helping people to relax after a day of mountain activities. Parking here is convenient and free, making it easier and more affordable to spend a day skiing in this resort than some of the surrounding resorts, such as Vail, where parking is at a premium and the rates are correspondingly high.
Lakeside Village is, as the name implies, set around a small lake. It is frozen over and used as skating rink in the winter. The lake is surrounded by shops, restaurants and condos.
Keystone Resort does an excellent job providing entertainment for guests who visit the area. The hotel offers additional activities beyond skiing, snowboarding and skating including horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowmobiling, yoga and an art studio.
7. Purgatory Resort
The Purgatory Mountain Resort is mainly a family-oriented ski hill in the San Juan Mountain area just outside Durango. It was formerly known as the Durango Mountain Resort. This is a local mountain with a friendly atmosphere and an old-school attitude, although services are constantly being upgraded. It is quite popular for offering reasonable lift tickets and amenities.
Since those who ski and board at Purgatory traditionally skew towards beginners and intermediates, so does the terrain. However, most individuals with advanced skills have always been able to challenge themselves right here.
The development of the property has expanded since 2015. Within the last few years, the resort added intermediate- and advanced-level terrain and expanded the areas for tree skiing.
Nearby Towns and Other Accommodation Options
Purgatory has various types of accommodations, but there is no town located at the base of the mountain. Many people stay in Durango and travel about 20 minutes by car.
A former mining town, Durango has a lively atmosphere with restored historic buildings lining its western edge. It has numerous boutique shops, great restaurants, and trendy clothing retailers.
Puragatory is a two-hour drive from Telluride. If you are interested in traveling here for the weekend, you could make a day trip to Telluride and check out some new areas.
Official site: www.purgatoryresort.com
8. Steamboat Ski Resort
The Steamboat Ski Resort is located close to Mount Werner, just outside of Steamboat Springs. The mountain receives a sizeable amount of annual snowfall, averaging 334 inches annually. When you hear of Steamboat’s trademarked “Champagne Powder Snow”, it refers to the dry fluffy snow that is known for Steamboat.
The highest point is 10,568 feet with a base elevation of 6,900 feet. By Colorado standards, this is not extraordinarily high, and it can be a good option for people who are concerned about the effects of high altitude.
Steamboat is a big ski resort boasting a variety of terrain and is particularly well-known for its fantastic tree skiing.
Steamboat Springs is relatively isolated from the rest of Colorado and the other major ski resorts in the state. The town has a Western heritage and cowboy culture that reflects a Wild West theme. This theme is prevalent in festivals, fairs, and events.
Steamboat Springs is a 3-hour drive away from Denver, but it has a direct airport from many of the main US airports.
9. Copper Mountain
Copper Mountain is a family-oriented resort located a little more than an hour away from Denver. As you travel along Interstate 70, you can see the stretch runs along the mountainside. With a total of 23 lifts spread across over 2,000 acres, there is ample terrain for skiers and boarders to explore and good carrying capacity. The trail offered a decent mix of runs for all levels, from beginner to advanced skiers.
Ski conditions at this ski resort are on par with the areas around it. The copper is high with a base level of 9,712 ft, and an elevation of 12,313. Sometimes you can see fresh snow on the side of the mountain, but it has plenty of room for grooming.
The mountain empties into a cute little village with convenience stores and restaurants. There are plenty of places, such as the City Pop, that are family-friendly, but there are also plenty of adult nightlife opportunities as well.
The village is split into East Village, Center Village, and West Village, which have chairlifts that are very close to the main areas. Center Village, where all the activity is, is located at the base of the chair lift, while West Lake is tucked in behind.
Official site: www.coppercolorado.com
10. Arapahoe Basin
Arapahoe offers one of the highest points in the region, which is rare to come across. Located on Loveland pass, the summit reaches over 13,000 feet in elevation and the base reaches over 10,800 feet in elevation. This allows the resort to remain open for a longer period of time than surrounding mountains, up until June or later. Arapahoe is one of the more well-known ski resorts in Colorado.
At Arapahoe, you can expect to find beautiful downhill runs with varying degrees of difficulty. Runs tend to follow ridgetops due to the prevailing wind conditions, regardless of the day’s weather. This can be a windy mountain but, due to one side or side being sheltered, the wind on most days is not as strong.
In past years, the resort was not known for having an excessive amount of terrain, but that is changing. The resort is expanding in quantity and quality, with additions to the Steep Gullies and Beaver area. This new ski trail is becoming increasingly more popular among advanced skiers.
The laid-back atmosphere at Arapahoe is also one of the biggest attractions of the mountain. On spring days, people enjoy barbecuing on picnic tables at the edge of the valley at the base of the mountain, watching the skiers make their way down the mountain. Kids, dogs, and the whole family by participating in events at the ski resort will have an enjoyable day.
Arapahoe Basin is well-serviced from Denver, offers good value, is included with a number of passes and the area is beautiful. They offer a variety of specials which might be of interest to you if you are planning a ski trip. Though you wouldn’t have to fully vacation to A-Basin, it’s worthwhile to check out the surrounding resorts if you are skiing elsewhere.
Nearby Towns and Other Accommodation Options:
Since Arapahoe Basin does not have an actual town at the base, you will need to find accommodation nearby. Breckenridge is a 10-minute drive from Arapahoe and a 30-minute drive from Keystone.
To find the most reasonable hotel rooms, it is best to look in Silverthorne, about a 20-minute drive from the mountain. Slightly farther away, but with a more lively atmosphere than the surrounding town, is the town of Frisco.
Official site: www.arapahoebasin.com
11. Silverton Mountain
No article on Colorado skiing and snowboarding is complete without highlighting the importance of Silverton Ski Resort. This mountain is not suitable for everyone, but its summit offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This private retreat has appeared in the recent ski movie, Timeless.
An old double chairlift takes skiers and boarders up a steep mountain to hike-to terrain. It is backcountry skiing with access to a lift. This resort is for the enthusiast, where advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders travel in order to enjoy the powder. The area gets an unusually large amount of snowfall, and many of the trails are not groomed.
Individuals are outfitted with avalanche gear prior to heading up the hill. Old school buses pick up guests, take them a kilometer or so down the road, and later take them back to the lodge from there.
The yurt is little more than a home-built, tent-covered dwelling. This is not a fancy hotel. It has great skiing that is unmatched, is followed by a devoted group of skiers, and has an atmosphere like no other ski hill in Colorado. Everyone feels optimistic about skiing, and the rustic atmosphere makes it better.
Additionally, Silverton Mountain offers heliskiing and heliboarding. This includes six helicopter tours in areas designated solely for tourists.
Silverton Mountain is in a tiny town called Silverton. This town is primarily a summer-time destination, with many of the establishments in operation during the winter months. It is situated over 9,000 feet and during winter is often over-snowed. In winter, most of the accommodations are motels, but a few small historic inns offer a nice touch of luxury.
Nearby Towns and Other Accommodation Options:
Durango is a little over an hour’s drive away from Silverton. In snowy conditions, plan for extended travel times. If you want more action than Silverton, descending to Durango is a good choice. There are a wide variety of amenities here.
Official site: http://silvertonmountain.com
12. Wolf Creek Ski Area
This is one of the best ski resorts for epic powder skiing in Colorado!
The huge amount of snow in the San Juan mountains is set in the southwest corner of Colorado. The town receives a mind-boggling 430 inches (over 35 feet) of snow annually, and is the first to boast that it has “the most snow in Colorado.” Much of this snow comes down in big storm events. If you’re caught up in a snowstorm, expect to be melting down miles of snow at Wolf Creek.
The ski area reaches a peak of over 11,900 feet with its base at just under 10,300 feet. The mountain has a variety of beginner and intermediate runs, but a substantial portion of the mountain’s terrain is for advanced and expert level skiers. The mountain provides 1,600 acres of skiing and 1,604 feet of vertical gain.
There is no town. The ski area is located on a high mountain pass. A camp located below the mountain provides excellent food, but there are no overnight accommodations.
For accommodations closer to the pass, one must travel to Pagosa Springs, which is about 35 minutes away. On the east side of Wolf Creek is South Fork, approximately 25 minutes away from where you can stay overnight.
Official site: https://wolfcreekski.com
Tips for Skiing in Colorado
Dealing with Altitude:
In Colorado, skiing generally occurs at high altitudes, and first-time visitors may not be prepared for the altitude. Many Colorado ski resorts such as the ones found west of Denver are set at extremely high altitudes. From time to time you can expect skiing above 13,000 feet. For comparison, Sunshine Village, the highest ski resort in Canada, is 8,960 feet above sea level.
If you live or come from much higher altitude, you will experience the altitude’s effects. It may be best to allow your eyes to adjust to the altitude before taking on the slopes, especially if you will be skiing in destinations like Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, and Keystone. If you plan to ski at a number of different resort areas, skiing the first day at the lowest altitude mountain will save you time and energy. Check out this education page about altitude sickness.
Weather Report for Skiers:
Before going out on the ski slope, make sure that you have checked the weather forecast and that the conditions are safe and optimal for skiing.
Frequently Asked Questions about Skiing in Colorado
When is the Best Time to Ski in Colorado?
The skiing season in Colorado starts in the fall and builds as the winter continues. On average, February is the best month for skiing in Colorado. Spring skiing typically begins around the middle of March. Some ski resorts close down by the end of April and others close by the beginning of May. There are a few higher elevation ski resorts that remain open later into the summer such as Arapahoe Basin that can be open later into the summer.
When skiing in Colorado in December, there are some days where the snowfall is inconsistent, but most resorts have some snow on their mountain by Christmas.
If you are trying to plan your ski trip, February is the best month to hit the ski slopes. Snow amounts are peaking in many areas this time of the year. In January, a certain location may be cold and in March, a place is busy due to spring break.
Low-elevation ski resorts, like Steamboat, tend to peak in the middle of winter and thaw out in the later winter months. On the other hand, Telluride usually experiences its greatest snowfall in March.
How Far is Vail from Denver?
While there are a number of ski resorts nearby Denver, Vail is the most popular skiing destination and it is conveniently located. Vail is only a short distance from both Denver, CO (about 50 miles) and Denver International Airport (about 100 miles). Drive times can vary based on traffic, road conditions, and weather. Without traffic and in good conditions, it will take less than two hours to drive from Denver to Vail.
Interstate 70, which runs from Denver to Vail, reaches a high point at 10,666 feet. In winter, snowstorms can make conditions hazardous, and roadways can be blocked by snow.
If you are coming directly from Denver International Airport, it will take you 20 minutes longer on Route I-70 because of the traffic.
Whether you drive yourself or choose to fly, we have compiled a guide on how to get to Vail. This will provide you with a thorough overview regarding shuttles, buses, and more.
The Best Ski Resorts in North America and Europe
Ski Utah & California
You’ll find another great playground for skiers and boarders just one state away from Colorado. Visit our article on Top-Rated Ski Resorts to discover more of the best ski destinations in Utah. Ever wondered what it’s like to ski in California? Look at the ski resorts in California or check out the skiing around Lake Tahoe. There are more ski areas than just Squaw Valley.
Western mountains are some of North America’s best skiing options. There are also surprising numbers of resorts in Eastern Canada, with many of the most well-known Olympic skiers in that area being trained in and from Canada. See our list of Canada’s best ski resorts for details on skiing from coast to coast.
Ski the Eastern USA
See our article on the Top Ski Resorts on the East Coast for a full overview if your skiing will take you eastern this year. See our articles on the top-rated ski resorts in Vermont, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Michigan for a closer breakdown of each state’s best ski resorts.