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
, 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.