Home Travel 17 Top Colorado Ski Resorts

17 Top Colorado Ski Resorts

by Atlanta Business Journal

When you think of Colorado, sparkling ski slopes and epic terrain parks might come to mind. The Centennial State is known for its world-class ski resorts, from picturesque Telluride to the quintessential ski town of Steamboat Springs. You don’t have to hit the slopes to enjoy all that a Colorado ski resort has to offer, either: Many ski resorts include luxurious ski-in/ski-out lodging options, bars and restaurants perfect for an après-ski, and fun family-friendly activities like snowmobiling and dog-sledding.

Before planning your next Colorado ski trip at these top resorts, you’ll need to identify your experience level and determine which passes or tickets to buy.

(Note: Some of the following ski resorts and locations may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. New policies may be in place, including requirements for proof of vaccination, capacity restrictions, reservation requirements or mask mandates. Check with your chosen establishment and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before your visit.)

Experience level

The difficulty of a ski run is often classed by color: Green runs are wide and easy, blue runs are slightly steeper and moderately difficult, black diamonds are steep and difficult, and double black diamonds are very steep and very difficult. If you’re just starting to learn, you’ll be spending most of your time on bunny hills – ski areas set aside for beginners – and conveyer belts (often called “magic carpets”) before progressing to greens and perhaps a blue run or two.

Passes

There are a variety of pass and ticket options for every Colorado ski resort. Check each resort’s website for season passes; day, multiday or family tickets; and discounts or free day options at partner resorts.

If you’d like access to multiple ski resorts across the state as well several other countries (including Canada, Australia, Switzerland and more), consider purchasing either the Ikon Pass or the Epic Pass. And, if you have a child in grades three through six, don’t forget to check out the Ski Passport Program.

  • Ikon Pass: At $1,179 for adult skiers and snowboarders of the 2022-23 season, the Ikon Pass includes access to more than 50 ski destinations, including six Colorado resorts; Boyne Mountain, a top Michigan ski resort; Windham Mountain, a top New York ski resort; and even Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley in the stunning French Alps. The pass also includes lift ticket discounts for friends and family, lodging deals and more. Check the Ikon Pass website for pass prices for kids and young adults, and pay only $839 for the Ikon pass if you’re a college student, nurse or military member.
  • Epic Pass: The Epic Pass, $879 for adults in the 2022-23 season, grants access to more than 60 ski resorts across the state, country and world, such as Arlberg, Austria; Verbier 4 Vallées, Switzerland; and Hakuba Valley, Japan. The pass also includes discounts on food, lodging, lessons, rentals and more, as well as discounted tickets to share with friends or family. Visit the Epic Pass website for the full list of pass options, including the full Epic Pass, one- to seven-day passes, regional passes and child passes.
  • Ski Passport Program: Available for third to sixth graders, the Ski Passport Program gives access to 20 ski areas – with four days at each participating resort – for only $59. Check the website for blackout dates and other helpful information.

Note: Prices are subject to change.

Once you’ve established your experience level and purchased the right pass for you, it’s time to hit the slopes.

The Top Colorado Ski Resorts

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Located about 160 miles northwest of Denver, Steamboat Resort boasts nearly 3,000 acres of permitted terrain, 17 lifts and 170 named trails, of which 14% are beginner slopes and 42% intermediate. The resort has an annual snowfall of 314 inches, giving skiers and snowboarders plenty of opportunity for powder days. With terrain parks, private and group ski and snowboard lessons, and adaptive programs for those with disabilities, Steamboat makes skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels feel at home. The resort is also working to champion diversity through its Steamboat Ski Resort Scholarship, a $2,500 scholarship for people of color studying resort management, ski area operations, tourism or hospitality.

As a full ski town – in fact, it’s nicknamed “Ski Town USA” – Steamboat offers a variety of restaurants, activities and lodging. After a day spent hitting the slopes, relax at Routtie’s Barbecue for an après-ski. When you’re in need of a ski break, take up snowmobiling or a cozy sleigh ride. If you’re staying in town, consider the elegant Steamboat Grand, where guests praise the plethora of amenities including hot tubs and a gym. Lodgers also appreciate that the gondola is only a short walk away from the hotel.

Howelson Hill, known as the oldest operating ski area in North America, is also owned and operated by Steamboat Springs. Though this ski destination is small, with only four lifts and 17 alpine trails, its history is powerful: Howelson Hill has provided training grounds for more than 100 Olympians and is home to one of the largest natural ski jumping complexes in North America. Today, it’s one of the most affordable ski resorts in Colorado, and it even offers free skiing on Sundays.

Copper Mountain Resort: Frisco

Group of friends on a snowboarding trip to Copper Mountain ride the chairlift through the fog on sunny winter morning. Morning sunbeams shine on snowboarders riding ski lift up to the top of mountain.

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Less than 80 miles west of Denver, Copper Mountain is home to about 2,500 skiable acres and 24 chair lifts. Of the 140 marked trails at Copper, 21% are at the beginner level and 25% are intermediate, making this ski resort a great choice for beginners. The resort also sees an average annual snowfall of 305 inches. Once you’re finished skiing, you can enjoy other winter activities like ice skating, snow tubing and riding Copper’s alpine coaster.

If you’re looking to enjoy a few days of mountain adventures, Copper includes three villages – East, Center and West – for lodging. Consider booking a stay in the West Village for easy access to beginner terrain.

Eldora Mountain Resort: Nederland

Aerial shot of sunrise over Eldora Mountain Resort.

(Courtesy of Eldora Mountain Resort)

Located around 20 miles from Boulder, Eldora is the perfect ski destination for University of Colorado Boulder students looking to learn a new sport. Students can even receive a discount on tickets, as well as use their free RTD bus pass to get to the mountain. Eldora is home to 10 lifts – including two magic carpets for beginners – and 680 skiable acres for all ages and skill levels to enjoy. With green and blue runs accounting for more than 60% of the park, resortgoers learning how to ski or snowboard will find plenty of opportunity to safely practice. More advanced skiers can still enjoy a variety of difficult terrain, such as a number of double black runs and eight terrain parks featuring box, rails, jumps and more.

Beaver Creek Resort: Beaver Creek

Father and daughter walk under sign that says "Beaver Creek Resort" while holding skis.

(Courtesy of Vail Resorts)

At Beaver Creek Resort – just over 10 miles from Vail – visitors will experience 167 trails over more than 2,000 skiable acres, 24 lifts and 325 inches of average annual snowfall. If you’ve never skied before, sign up for group or private lessons through the resort’s ski school. Or, spend the day at Haymeadow Park, where you’ll have access to magic carpets as well as a beginner gondola and lift; you can also celebrate your learning with an ice cream stop at The Parlour. Once you’ve learned the basics, head to McCoy Park and tackle its 17 runs – most of which are green. Consider enrolling the kids in the BEAVO Development Program, a multiday youth ski and snowboard program that fosters an inclusive learning environment for skill development.

After a day on the mountain, visitors can explore the village of Beaver Creek’s shops and restaurants. Book a stay at The Osprey for an outdoor pool and hot tub, ski valet, quick access to the village and more. For a more private stay, consider Trapper’s Cabin, which sits among aspens at 9,500 feet of elevation.

Powderhorn Mountain Resort: Mesa

Skiers and snowboarders can explore 1,600 acres of skiable terrain – 70% of which is beginner or intermediate – at Powderhorn. The resort is also home to two terrain parks and world-class Nordic skiing, as the Grand Mesa (the northern edge of which Powderhorn sits) is the world’s largest flat-top mountain. If you’re new to the slopes, Powderhorn offers private and group ski and snowboard lessons, as well as children’s multiweek programs. Resortgoers who have never skied or snowboarded before are eligible for the Bob Beverly Program, where participants can learn to ski for free.

To get to Powderhorn, expect a 230-mile drive west from Denver or fly in to the Grand Junction Regional Airport. You can lodge in the nearby towns of Mesa, Palisade or Grand Junction, or stay in the rental Tiny Homes at Powderhorn. Guests love the location close to the ski lift but warn that the Wi-Fi isn’t up to par.

Telluride nestled under the San Juans at Dusk. This view is captured along the Jud Wiebe Trail, a beautiful trail that takes hikers high up along the ridge within the box canyon.

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Telluride, a stunning ski town and one of the state’s best places to visit, is the perfect destination for a romantic getaway in Colorado. Telluride Ski Resort boasts more than 2,000 skiable acres and 19 total lifts, half of which are high-speed. Of the 148 trails, 41% are for advanced and expert skiers. With terrain parks, peaks to climb up and ski down, and Nordic trails, travelers will find plenty of challenges at Telluride Ski Resort. You can also try your hand at a number of other winter activities in Telluride including snowshoeing, dog-sledding, helicopter skiing, ice skating, ice climbing and more. Book your tickets for the end of February to enjoy Telluride Gay Ski Week, an inclusive celebration for LGBTQ skiers and snowboarders.

After you’ve worked up a sweat on the slopes, grab an après-ski either in Mountain Village or down in the town of Telluride. On the mountain, skiers can enjoy American or French cuisine at Allred’s Restaurant or Bon Vivant. Head into town for pizza at Brown Dog Pizza. One top lodging option is The Peaks Resort & Spa, where guests love the stunning views and appreciate the excellent service.

Keystone Resort: Keystone

Two adults take pictures of a child attempting a trick at a Keystone terrain park.

(Courtesy of Vail Resorts)

With 49% of its 130 trails being classed as advanced or expert and only 12% as beginner, Keystone is definitely the Colorado ski resort for those seeking more difficult terrain. Keystone Resort features 20 lifts, more than 3,000 skiable acres and 235 inches of annual snowfall on average. Explore three peaks and hike-to terrain for an extra workout. If you’re a beginner, don’t worry: Keystone still offers child and adult ski and snowboard lessons, as well as multiweek programs. The ski resort also partners with Keystone Adaptive Center to provide instruction for skiers and snowboarders with disabilities.

Stay at the Lone Eagle for ski-in/ski-out availability or at the Keystone Lodge & Spa for spa treatments, in-room dining, private ski shuttle transportation and more. Recent guests at the Keystone Lodge & Spa appreciated the many amenities, but some warn that the property is a bit outdated.

Winter Park Resort: Winter Park

Opened in 1940, Winter Park Resort is the longest continually operated ski resort in Colorado. The resort receives an average of 345 inches of snow every year for epic powder days; it features 166 trails and 23 lifts over more than 3,000 skiable acres. Only 8% of the terrain is beginner-friendly, with another 18% intermediate, 19% advanced, 52% most difficult and even 3% “expert only.” But don’t worry if you’re not ready for the more challenging runs: Winter Park comprises seven territories, and the Winter Park Territory gives access to the Ski + Ride School. Other territories include Parsenn Bowl, where you can see the top of Longs Peak; Terrain Park, which features an 18-foot superpipe; and Mary Jane, the perfect place for practicing mogul runs.

Other Winter Park activities include snowshoe tours, snowcat tours, ski bike tours and tubing. There are more than 20 lodges available in the Base Village and the town of Winter Park, one of which is the highly rated Iron Horse Resort. Lodgers commend the ski-in/ski-out availability, though some caution that beginners may not be able to handle the skiing needed to get back to the lodge.

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area: Dillon

Aerial of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area at sunrise.

(Ian Zinner/Courtesy of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area)

Arapahoe Resort is perhaps best known for the length of its ski and ride season, which is the longest in Colorado. In fact, A-Basin (or A-Bay) often stays open from October through June. The resort was even open for skiing on the Fourth of July seven times, the most recent of which was in 2019. The latest it has ever stayed open was Aug. 10 in 1995.

Arapahoe Basin includes nearly 150 trails over more than 1,400 skiable acres, with 49% black diamond runs and 24% double black diamonds. Only 7% of runs are beginner-friendly, so this ski resort isn’t for the faint of heart. If the skiing and snowboarding is a bit too challenging, consider taking a snowshoe tour instead. When visiting in the summer, don’t forget to attempt North America’s highest via ferrata, a guided-only climb that reaches 13,000 feet. A-Basin does not offer onsite lodging, but Breckenridge hotels are only 20 miles away.

Fireworks during Vail's 50th Anniversary Celebration in Vail, CO.

(Jeff Andrew/Courtesy of Vail Resorts)

With more than 5,300 skiable acres, Vail Mountain Resort is one of the largest ski resorts in Colorado. Over half the terrain is designed for advanced and expert skiers, so you’ll have plenty of access to challenging terrain parks, bowls, basins and peaks. If you’re a beginner, take advantage of ski and snowboarding lessons available; the Vail Nordic School offers snowshoe, cross-country ski and backcountry ski lessons for all skill levels if you want a change of pace.

Vail Mountain Resort is also host to the 2023 National Brotherhood of Skiers Summit, where thousands of people of color from across the country gather to enjoy skiing together. NBS works to support athletes of color in winter sports.

In the town of Vail, explore a variety of shopping and dining. Lodge at The Arrabelle at Vail Square, one of the ski resort’s signature properties, for luxurious accommodations and amenities. Recent visitors appreciate the friendly staff and excellent service, as well as the location (only a short walk from the village).

Silverton Mountain: Silverton

Skier skiing down steep terrain at Silverton Mountain on a sunny day.

(Courtesy of Silverton Mountain)

Silverton Mountain offers a unique ski experience, in that there is only one chairlift but nearly 27,000 acres of skiable terrain. This ski destination is truly for advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders; in fact, 0% of the terrain is classed as beginner- or intermediate-friendly. Silverton Mountain is the steepest ski area in North America with the easiest run at a 35-degree slope. The resort boasts more than 400 inches of annual snowfall on average and caps the number of unguided skiers at 475 a day, meaning you’ll have plenty of access to fresh powder. In fact, the mountain regularly sees less than 80 skiers per day.

If you’re not an expert but you’re in the area, don’t worry; the town of Silverton won’t let you down. Try your hand at guided rock, ice or alpine climbing, or you can touch up your safety skills with an avalanche course. Travelers can enjoy tasty breakfast burritos, artisan pizzas and local craft beer at a variety of eateries and breweries. Consider booking a stay at the highly rated Villa Dallavalle Historic Inn, where recent visitors praised the homemade breakfast and hot tubs.

Aspen Snowmass: Aspen, Snowmass Village

Gondola overlooking Aspen.

(Courtesy of Aspen Snowmass)

Explore four mountains – Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass – and two ski towns on your Aspen Snowmass ski trip. With approximately 5,500 skiable acres in total, Aspen Snowmass has something for everyone in the family to enjoy. Aside from skiing and snowboarding, other family-friendly activities include tubing, snow biking, snowshoeing and riding the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, which can reach up to 28 mph. While the kids are taking ski or snowboarding lessons, adults can always enjoy a small romantic getaway by taking a snowcat up Aspen Highlands for dinner at the Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro or Lynn Britt Cabin.

Aspen Snowmass works to include and support a variety of causes within the community, including racial justice, sustainability and support for LGBTQ communities through the annual Gay Ski Week. Another well-known Aspen event is the X Games, where the world’s top athletes compete in 14 disciplines including Snowboard SuperPipe and Big Air. The event is free to attend.

Explore condominiums, ski-in/ski-out options, pet-friendly properties and vacation homes at the Aspen Snowmass lodging website. Top-rated hotels include Aspen’s The Little Nell – where guests rave about the cuisine and service – and Viceroy Snowmass, which recent lodgers recommend for those seeking a quieter and more laid-back environment than downtown Aspen.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort: Crested Butte

A skier skiing down steep terrain at Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

(Courtesy of Vail Resorts)

Though Crested Butte lies about 200 miles southwest of Denver, the drive (or flight to Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport) is well worth it. The ski town and resort offers a stunning mountain escape perfect for a family vacation. On the mountain, visitors will find 236 inches of average annual snowfall, two terrain parks and 121 trails – 14% beginner, about 50% intermediate or advanced, and 37% expert – over more than 1,500 skiable acres. Crested Butte Mountain Resort offers a selection of child, teen, adult and private lessons so everyone in the family can feel their best on the slopes.

Crested Butte is truly a ski town, with no traffic lights, chain stores or high-rise buildings. Partake in a variety of dining and shopping options when you’ve finished skiing for the day, or explore the 1.7 million acres of the surrounding national forest through hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Travelers can stay at the Grand Lodge Hotel and Suites for spacious suites and oversized hotel rooms (some of which are pet-friendly) or lodge at The Plaza in a unique condominium setting.

Adaptive ski program at Breckenridge Ski Resort.

(Brent Clark/Courtesy of Breckenridge Ski Resort)

Head to this destination in Colorado for not only top-notch skiing but also restaurants, breweries and other winter activities. Explore 187 trails and just under 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, half of which consists of groomed trails. Of the 35 lifts, 11 are magic carpets for beginners. Consider participating in one of the signature programs at Breckenridge Ski Resort, such as Women’s Camp or Breck Belles, which are designed by women for women; seasonal youth programs for children of all ages; and adaptive programs for individuals with disabilities.

The town of Breckenridge offers a plethora of dining, shopping and spa options. Winter activities for the whole family include snowshoeing, snowmobiling and dog-sledding, and don’t forget to buy your tickets for the International Snow Sculpture Championships. For an overnight stay, travelers might consider booking a room at The Lodge at Breckenridge. Recent visitors praised the spacious rooms and appreciated that pets were welcome.

Cooper Hill Ski Area: Leadville

Not to be confused with Copper, Cooper is located near Leadville – the highest incorporated city in North America – about 100 miles from Denver. Cooper is one of the smaller ski resorts in Colorado, with less than 500 skiable acres, five lifts and 64 trails, but don’t let its size deter you: The resort is perfect for a family weekend getaway. Cooper Hill Ski Area boasts few lift lines and plenty of powder days, with 260 inches of annual snowfall on average and a unique philosophy of not over-grooming terrain. Plus, if you want more to explore, Cooper offers snowcat skiing tours on Chicago Ridge, giving you 2,600 more acres for cold weather adventures.

If you’re a beginner, Cooper’s Ski School hosts private and semiprivate ski and snowboard lessons for all ages. Families can even take lessons together at a discounted rate. Even more, Cooper boasts the longest magic carpet in Colorado. There are no lodging options at the resort itself, but Leadville offers plenty of hotels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts and more. For a unique experience, book a stay at Tiny House Leadville. Recent lodgers love the comfort and coziness of a tiny house, but some warn about poor Wi-Fi.

Loveland Ski Area

Young girl on magic carpet at Loveland Ski Area.

(Courtesy of Loveland Ski Area)

Family-owned and -operated Loveland Ski Area, located about 55 miles west of Denver, features 1,800 skiable acres, nine lifts and free snowcat skiing along the Continental Divide. You’ll be treated to plenty of powder days as the resort receives a yearly average of 422 inches of snowfall, the most of any Front Range or Summit County resort. What’s more, Loveland is the first ski area on the Interstate 70 corridor – so you won’t have to sit in the traffic as long as with other ski resorts.

The resort comprises two ski areas: Loveland Basin and Loveland Valley. Loveland Basin is the main area, featuring terrain for all ages and skill levels as well a variety of family-friendly events. At Loveland Valley, a separate area just for beginners, you won’t have to worry about running into more advanced skiers and snowboarders. Loveland Valley is also home to Loveland’s Ski & Ride School. Though on-site lodging is not available at Loveland, nearby Georgetown, Silver Plume and Idaho Springs offer plenty of options.

Wolf Creek Ski Area

Located in Pagosa Springs about 230 miles southwest of Colorado Springs, Wolf Creek Ski Area boasts the most snow in Colorado with 430 inches of annual snowfall. The resort’s 1,600 skiable acres and fairly even distribution of difficulty – 20% beginner, 35% intermediate, 25% advanced and 20% expert – mean Wolf Creek’s slopes can be enjoyed by every skill level. Elementary, middle and high school students can ski for $20 as a part of Wolf Creek’s School Program, and family members of these students can receive a lift ticket, two-hour group lesson and free ski rental for only $15 on Family Day.

Book an overnight stay at The Springs Resort & Spa in Pagosa Springs for your family getaway. Recent guests recommend soaking in the springs after a long day skiing and praise the friendly staff.

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