Skiing in Colorado

Skiing in Colorado is world renowned because Colorado ski resorts are some of the best ski resorts in North America, and indeed the world.

Colorado is the nation’s highest state and it has more than 50 peaks higher than 14,000 feet. So it’s not surprising that this incredibly mountainous state and the magnificent Rocky Mountains are synonymous with spectacular skiing and snowboarding.

Over the years there have been more than 150 Colorado ski areas, but it’s been a case of survival of the “fittest”. There are now only 28 major Colorado ski resorts (only!!) and the competition continues with the resorts working very hard to stay fit! Many of the Colorado ski resorts have invested millions of dollars in recent years to enhance the ski terrain, chair lifts, snowmaking facilities, terrain parks, and resort amenities.

Colorado Ski Resorts

Some of the Colorado ski resorts offer world class luxury. Beaver Creek caters to the well heeled market, and the massive Vail Ski Resort also offers high levels of service, lavish accommodations, and well developed facilities. The popular Aspen Snowmass is also where the glamorous people go to strut – whoops, I mean ski.

Other high profile mega ski resorts in Colorado with great infrastructure include Telluride, Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Winter Park and Steamboat Ski Resort.

Conversely there are lesser known resorts that fly under the radar of international skiers, sometimes known as “gems”, where you’ll find minimal crowds, minimal frills, and a much cheaper skiing experience. These Colorado ski areas also tend to be smaller. Examples include Arapahoe Basin, Wolf Creek Ski Area, Powderhorn Resort, Monarch Mountain and Ski Cooper. At the extreme end is Silverton Mountain that has one lift, 100% expert terrain and absolutely no grooming or luxuries.

Examples of a compromise between the high end ski resorts and the “gems” include Crested Butte and Purgatory Ski Resort. These have the benefit of very good facilities minus the big crowds and the high price tag.

Colorado Ski Towns

Some of the Colorado ski resorts are purpose built (e.g. Keystone, Copper Mountain), and whilst they have impressive amenities, they can lack a little charm.

Other ski areas sit above historic mining towns that have made the progression from pick to powder. Some of these ski towns are bustling and trendy (Aspen, Breckenridge), whilst others have delightful rustic charm (Crested Butte, Silverton). Other beautiful Colorado ski towns include Telluride and Steamboat.

Which Colorado Ski Resort?

Can’t decide which ski resort to go to for your next Colorado ski vacation? Everyone has different factors that are important when deciding on the best Colorado ski resorts. To aid in your decision making:
  • See our “best ski resorts in Colorado” awards for ideas on which resort may suit your needs. As well as overall awards these are broken down into many aspects such as: terrain for different abilities; the powder; lift infrastructure; family-friendliness; cost; nightlife; and the likelihood of finding “freshies”. 
  • For more detail on the strengths and weaknesses of each resort, check out the Powderhounds' USA ski resort ratings
  • See our USA ski resort statistics comparison for stats on terrain size, terrain for ability levels, lift ticket prices, and annual snowfall.

Where are the Colorado Ski Resorts?

The skiing in Colorado is all in the western part of the state and west of Denver (see the Colorado ski resorts map in the right hand top corner). The right hand column shows the detailed geographical groupings of the ski resorts, or the majority of resorts can be categorized by location a little more broadly.

Closest to Denver are the Denver and Front Range ski resorts. These tend to be frequented by the locals, and other than Winter Park, they’re not destination ski resorts.

A little further along the I-70 are the very popular (aka super busy!!) ski resorts in Summit County and Vail Valley. Most of these Colorado ski areas are household names such as Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge.

Travelling a little further west are the famous Aspen Snowmass ski resorts, and not far away as the crow flies is Crested Butte.

The bulk of other ski resorts in Colorado are in the southwest of the state, which include Silverton Mountain, Telluride (rated as the best Colorado ski resort), and Wolf Creek. Due to their distance from Denver, these ski areas tend to have very little skier traffic so they’re well suited to powderhounds looking for fresh tracks.

Skiing Colorado Characteristics

The Colorado ski resorts have reasonably high snowfalls ranging from 5 to 11.8 metres (200 to 465 inches) per season. The quality of the powder is generally very good, and if you’re a fair weather skier you’re likely to be in luck. Many of the ski resorts in Colorado boast a statistic of 300 days of sunshine annually. Break out the man-kini!

Most of the Colorado ski areas have a spread of terrain for all ability levels, but there are a few exceptions. Silverton Mountain solely caters to experts whilst there are a couple of ski resorts that only have mellow terrain for beginners and intermediates.

Buttermilk, Breckenridge and Keystone have phenomenal terrain parks whilst many other ski resorts can also cater pretty well to park dudes.

When is the Best Time to Ski Colorado?

Like most other North American ski resorts, they are incredibly busy and expensive between Xmas and New Years, and then prices for accommodation fall dramatically for January. Prices rise during February and the weekend of President’s Day is super busy. Late March and April are cheap times to visit, but as to be expected the snow conditions are not as reliable. Of course, if you don’t have a heavy social calendar in December, pre-Xmas is a great time to visit for piste skiing. See our USA ski resort statistics for the typical season length for each of the resorts.

More Reasons to Go Skiing in Colorado

In addition to resort skiing, there are lots of Colorado snowcat skiing companies and two Colorado heli skiing operators. Cat skiing and heli skiing are a superb way for powderhounds to escape the crowds and get loads of fresh powder.

Safari (Road Trip) Tours

USA Snow Road Trip
SNOWBOARD PROGRESSION TOUR
13 Nights | 10 Days Instruction
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Advanced
Want to ride up to 8 of the USA's top ski resorts in one hit whilst hanging out with like minded people & improving your riding skills? This incredible snowboarding only tour is available to solo travelers & groups alike & visits resort in Colorado, Utah & California.
Price p/p From price based on twin-share room occupancy.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 4,614
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See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit Colorado here

Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours

15 Night Aspen Instructional Tour
HOSTED INSTRUCTIONAL PACKAGE
16 Days | 15 Nights | 14 Skiing Days | 4 Resorts
Ability: Beginner to Expert
Get the best out of Aspen and improve your skiing with a company that has been giving people the time of their lives since 1995. Resorts including Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share room occupancy.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 5,602
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Cowboys & Ski Bums Package
SW COLORADO RANCH STAY & SKI PACKAGE
7 Days | 7 Nights | 4 Skiing
Ability: Beginner to Expert
Looking for a ski / snowboarding holiday with a difference? These fabulous week-long packages will have you hootin & hollarin staying on a working ranch in SW Colorado. Ski/snowbord, horse riding, gun target shooting, hot springs & more...
Price p/p Sample price based on a private group of 4
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Displayed price may vary slightly due to fluctuation in exchange rates
USD 2,200
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See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit Colorado here

Heli Skiing Tours

Telluride Helitrax - Day Heli Skiing
TELLURIDE DAY HELISKIING TOUR
6 Runs of Powder Heaven!
Ability: Intermediate to Expert
Solo skiers/boarders, small groups & larger groups can enjoy an epic day of heliskiing at Telluride Helitrax. And if you’re skiing at Vail or Aspen, they can organise a same-day charter flight (fixed wing aircraft) to get you to Telluride. Have an awesome day heli-skiing & be home in time for dinner with the family!
Price p/p From price based on single day of heliskiing (6 runs) per person (1-3 in group).
Base/invoice currency is in USD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 1,345
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See all Heli Skiing tours that visit Colorado here

Cat Skiing Tours

Aspen Powder Tours - Day Cat Skiing Tours
DAY SNOWCAT SKIING & BOARDING ASPEN
Ski the backside of Aspen
Ability: Intermediate to Expert
Escape from the moguls and masses in Aspen this winter with a day or more of cat skiing in Aspen's backcountry. With over 1,200 skiable acres you will be sure to get plenty of fresh tracks. These tours book up early so be sure to secure your spot asap.
Price p/p From price based on single day mixed group cat skiing.
Base/invoice currency is in USD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 499
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Silverton Powdercats - Day Cat Skiing
SILVERTON POWDERCATS DAY CAT SKIING
Cat Skiing in the heart of the San Juans
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
In close proximity to other ski areas and really close to Silverton Mountain, Silverton Powdercats provides the opportunity to combine some lift accessed skiing with cat skiing.
Price p/p From price based on single cat skiing day per person.
Base/invoice currency is in USD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 450
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Steamboat Powdercats - Day Cat Skiing
DAY SNOWCAT SKIING STEAMBOAT
Revel in Steamboat's deep dry powder
Ability: Intermediate to Expert
Cat skiing with Steamboat Powdercats makes the perfect adjunct to a Steamboat ski vacation. Take in some resort skiing and then head out for a day with Steamboat Powdercats. Or if you know you’ll be hooked on riding virgin powder, go cat skiing for as many days as you’re able!
Price p/p From price based on single person in a mixed group for a single day of cat skiing
Base/invoice currency is in USD inc taxes (ex gratuities).
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 625
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See all Cat Skiing tours that visit Colorado here