10 Best Ski Resorts in Colorado
Colorado is home to some of the most world renowned ski resorts in the United States. With so many great choices, it can be hard to decide which resort to go to on your next trip. So, we have curated a list of the 10 best ski resorts in Colorado (trust us, this was not an easy task). The list is based on a number of factors, including terrain variety, ski area size, resort ambiance, affordability and accessibility.
At these resorts, you can expect to make epic memories both on and off the slopes. With the exceptional snow quality and incredible mountain views, Colorado is a top destination for skiing and snowboarding. Get inspired and plan your next winter trip using our list of the best ski resorts in Colorado.
Breckenridge has the complete ski resort package. It strikes the perfect balance between being a world-class ski resort and providing a laid-back, casual vibe. The ski area is huge, spreading across five different peaks, and offers terrain for all skill levels. From groomed learning areas to extreme, alpine bowls, Breckenridge has something to offer for everyone.
Breckenridge was the first resort in Colorado to allow snowboarders and continues to demonstrate their passion for freestyle riding with their award winning terrain parks. The resort also has a top notch ski school and child care available for those too young to hit the slopes. With several on-mountain dining options and bars in town, Breckenridge is also known for its après scene.
Everyone can take the free gondola to the base of Peak 8, the heart of the resort. First time skiers and riders can find plenty of beginner trails at both Peak 8 and Peak 9. The learning area at Peak 9 is especially nice because it’s isolated from other parts of the mountain. If you’re looking to improve your skills, Peak 7 is a great area for intermediate runs. On crowded days, another option is Peak 6, where you can soak in stunning views of the valley.
The big-mountain feel of Breckenridge sets it apart for advanced skiers. There are several steep, alpine bowls located above the treeline off the t-bar on Peak 7. You can also hike a short distance off the Imperial lift on Peak 8 to check out Whale’s Tail or the Lake Chutes. These provide a playground of the most extreme terrain for experts wanting to test their mettle. Majority of the advanced ski areas at Breckenridge are also serviced by their own lift so that skiers don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the crowds at the base after each run.
Steamboat is another premier destination in Colorado, known for its “champagne powder”. This is a term coined by the resort to describe their light, fluffy snow. You’ll also hear people call it “Ski Town USA” because of the number of winter Olympic athletes that call Steamboat home. The mountain is known for its unique aspen glades and rich western heritage.
The resort is family friendly, offering free lift tickets to children 12 and under with the purchase of a 5-or-more day adult pass. The summit elevation is also relatively lower than the other ski resorts in Colorado, which makes it a good option if you’re concerned about altitude sickness. Another highlight is the geothermal hot springs located near Steamboat. After a long day of skiing, you can soak your tired muscles in the natural springs and feel rejuvenated before hitting the slopes again.
The tree skiing at Steamboat is phenomenal with a variety of aspen glades for beginners to experts. Another unique feature is that some of their easier terrain is at the top of the mountain, rather than at the base. Beginners and intermediates can take the Sunshine Express lift up and enjoy views from the peak. With almost half of the ski area composed of blue runs, intermediate skiers and riders will especially be happy exploring this mountain.
Advanced skiers have their choice of classic glades, tree-lined moguls or steep groomers. Famous runs include Closets and Shadows, which are long tree runs that cannot be missed on a powder day. If you’re looking for a workout, take the Burgess Creek lift or Four Points lift to find great mogul runs. There’s a small section of expert terrain in Christmas Tree Bowl and off Chutes 1, 2 and 3. You can either go for the chutes, the steepest runs on the mountain, or head to the backside to Morningside Park, where there’s terrain for all types of skiers and riders.
Vail is a skier’s and snowboarder’s paradise. Its resort draws people in from all over the world to experience the magic both on and off the mountain. The ski area is enormous with an efficient lift system, and the villages provide plenty of dining and shopping options to keep the non-skiers happy too. Boasting over 5,000 acres of skiable terrain, with extensive trail systems on both the front and backside of the mountain, Vail mountain offers something for every type of skier and rider.
Vail is known for their seven legendary back bowls and luxurious village ambiance. The terrain, on-mountain amenities and highly rated ski school are sure to satisfy everyone in your group. Whether you want to ski until last chair or stop midday to enjoy a well deserved après treat, Vail has you covered.
Vail has a few distinct areas that offer varied terrain for all skill levels. The front side of the mountain is ideal for beginner and intermediate skiers looking to cruise freshly groomed corduroy. First timers should check out Eagle’s Nest, which is easily accessible from the Eagle Bahn gondola. For those just starting to dip their toes into more challenging terrain, Game Bowl Creek is a great area to practice. Mountaintop Express is another fun area for some short intermediate runs.
More advanced skiers and riders can explore the bowls on the backside of the mountain. Here they’ll find epic backcountry terrain that feels so open, it’s easy to forget you’re at a resort. From the back bowls, you can continue on to Blue Sky Basin for some excellent tree skiing. Then, if up for the challenge, you can take Vail’s longest run, Riva Ridge, down to the bottom to end your day on a high, but thigh-burning, note.
#4. Winter Park
Winter Park is known for being a family friendly resort and caters to skiers of all skill levels. Although not as glamorous as some of the other Colorado ski resorts, Winter Park has all the modern amenities you need to have a great ski trip. The ski area spans across two distinct mountains, giving skiers plenty of variety.
Winter Park has its own tubing hill that can be accessed by the village cabriolet. There’s also a quaint ice rink at the heart of the village that’s fun for all ages. Another important thing to note about Winter Park is its location off the main highway of I-70. Skiers can happily exit before the infamous Eisenhower Tunnel where traffic jams are likely to occur.
The resort divides terrain among two mountains, Winter Park and Mary Jane, with seven distinct territories. The Winter Park side contains long, wide groomed trails and is better for beginner and intermediate skiers. If you’re a first timer, this is where you’ll go to take a lesson with their fantastic ski and ride school. Mary Jane is home to legendary mogul runs, incredible tree skiing and high alpine bowls. This mountain is better suited for strong intermediate and advanced skiers.
Now let’s dig into the territories that stretch across both these areas. You can sometimes find hidden stashes of powder on Vasquez Ridge, which is a great area to escape from the crowds. For alpine terrain, skiers and riders should check out Parsenn Bowl, where they’ll be greeted with expansive views at the top. Then, if you really want to go the extra mile, you can traverse over to the Cirque to experience some inbounds backcountry skiing. This feeds into the Eagle Wind territory, known for its intense glades.
#5. Aspen Snowmass
Aspen Snowmass is a combination of four different ski areas that surround the town of Aspen and Snowmass Village. Snowmass, Aspen Mountain (Ajax), Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk provide 5,303 skiable acres combined and offer terrain for all ages and abilities. Aspen Mountain sits above the town of Aspen, creating an iconic postcard image during the winter. Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands are only a few miles away, while Snowmass is a 20 minute drive from town. One lift ticket gets you access to all four mountains, and there’s a free shuttle that runs between Aspen and the resorts.
When most people think of Aspen, they think of a luxurious place where celebrities vacation. They’re not wrong. This is a high quality ski resort with world class service and an authentic town. Although the resort is not the cheapest or closest option to Denver, the variety of mountains, restaurants, shopping and lively bar scene make it worth the trip. It’s another resort with a mild base elevation, so it’s a good option if you’re traveling from lower altitudes.
As noted above, Aspen is made up of four different mountains that each offer a unique experience to skiers and riders. Since all four are located in such close proximity to one another and are included in a single lift ticket, they are grouped together on this list as a single destination. You can pick and choose which mountains you want to explore based on your ability and preference.
- Snowmass: This is the largest of the four mountains with the most diverse terrain. Snowmass has a more casual vibe than Aspen and is very family-friendly. With a huge vertical, it’s also home to the longest ski run in the state, aptly named Longshot, where you can enjoy over five miles of cruising terrain and spectacular views.
- Aspen Highlands: Known for its expert terrain, powderhounds and locals flock to this mountain to avoid the crowds at the other resorts. There are only a few beginner and intermediate trails, so the mountain is best suited for experienced riders. Many of the trails contain mogul fields and glades, and there are no terrain parks. The Highland Bowl is a popular spot on the mountain, where you can find fresh lines by hiking or taking a ride on the snowcat.
- Aspen (Ajax): This mountain has the deepest roots to early ski culture and maintains the glamorous stereotype of Aspen. Petite in size, the resort caters to tourists and celebrities that prefer a luxurious ski experience. With no beginner or extreme terrain, the mountain is great for intermediate and advanced skiers that enjoy long cruisers, steeps and moguls.
- Buttermilk: This is the smallest of the four mountains with terrain for everyone, except the hardcore experts. It’s a gentle mountain with wide, tree-lined groomers and is great for beginners first learning. Buttermilk is also famous for hosting the Winter X-Games and is the best resort in the area for terrain park lovers. Buttermilk Park has over 100 features, including a massive superpipe and an elaborate course with high jumps.
#6. Copper Mountain
Copper Mountain is a unique resort in that its terrain is naturally divided by difficulty. The beginner terrain is in the West Village, intermediate terrain is in the Center Village and advanced terrain is in the East Village. Although Copper feels a bit more isolated from the other ski resorts located in Summit County, it has all of the amenities, accommodations and après spots to make for a great winter vacation.
Copper has some excellent deals for kids and a multitude of on-mountain activities. Kids 4 and under always ski for free, and kids 12 and under ski for free with the purchase of an adult 2-day pass. With an alpine coaster and uphill skiing tours, there’s limitless possibilities to enjoy each day on the slopes. Although Copper doesn’t have its own distinct ski town, the villages at the base of the resort are decently sized with great dining and shopping options.
The natural division of the mountain is great for skiers and riders first learning. On the other hand, it can also be a point of frustration for groups with different skill levels that want to stay close. Beginners can start out on the Kokomo Express and then work their way over to the Woodward Express, where skiers and riders can easily cross between runs and practice their turns. Varied, intermediate terrain can be found off the American Eagle and Timberline lifts.
Copper also has a fun tradition called their “noon groomer” where they rope off a specific run until 12:00 pm so that fresh corduroy can be enjoyed midday by all. Advanced skiers and riders can expect more than playful groomers to keep them happy though. From narrow glades to open steep runs, they have several options off the Super Bee lift. Experts can make their way to the summit to check out Copper’s alpine bowls, as well as Tucker Mountain. Previously only accessible by hiking or the free snowcat service on the weekends, Tucker Mountain’s Three Bears lift is now servicing expert, exposed terrain.
With stunning views of the San Juan Mountain range, exceptional skiing and fewer crowds, it’s no wonder Telluride has become a top destination. Skiers and boarders alike won’t have complaints on this resort’s setup with its efficient and high-speed lift system. From family-friendly cruisers to intense hike-to terrain, Telluride has terrain for everyone.
After the lifts close for the day, the fun doesn’t stop. There are many après and fine dining options in town to explore. Unique events, festivals and live music are a common occurrence for both locals and visitors to enjoy. If you still want to stay active but take a break from skiing or riding, check out one of the many guided tours, including snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice climbing.
The free gondola from town is great for non-skiers to be able to soak in the views or meet up with others for an on-mountain lunch. With almost 60% of the terrain rated as beginner and intermediate, Telluride is great for families and those first learning. Beginners should head over to the Sunshine Express where they can enjoy meandering, long green runs. If blue runs are more your sweet spot, you can happily bounce between Village Express and Polar Queen Express for a variety of intermediate terrain.
Advanced skiers have a choice between both lift serviced terrain and hike-to terrain. Off the Plunge lift, there are several options with stellar views of town and the surrounding peaks. What’s awesome about these runs is that they end right in town – you can easily go from skiing to eating at one of the delicious cafes in minutes! Another scenic vista is at the bottom of Revelation Bowl, where there’s sweeping views of Bear Creek. Then, if you’re up for the challenge, you can hike to Black Iron Bowl, the Gold Chutes, Palmyra Peak or Bald Mountain for more thigh-burning fun.
#8. Beaver Creek
At Beaver Creek, you’ll feel both pampered and welcomed on your trip. With escalators to take you from the village to the base, heated sidewalks, and slopeside ski valet service, the start and end of your day will feel hassle-free. Beaver Creek is located only 10 miles west from Vail but experiences much fewer crowds. The mountain itself is immaculately groomed and has a higher percentage of beginner terrain than any other resort on this list.
The resort has three village areas that each offer a mix of luxury accommodations, shopping and dining. If one thing’s certain, it’s that Beaver Creek satisfies those with a sweet tooth. The on-mountain Candy Cabin is a treat for kids and adults alike looking for an afternoon pick-me-up. They’re also famous for their free, freshly baked cookies that are offered to guests at the base area each afternoon. Yum!
Beaver Creek is pretty evenly divided between beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain. The mountain is great for beginners because of the network of easy trails located at the top, giving even the most novice skiers and riders the chance to enjoy riding with panoramic views. Red Buffalo is a family favorite! Intermediate terrain is spread across the mountain with some fantastic runs near the bottom at the Arrowhead Village and Bachelor Gulch lifts.
Although Beaver Creek is quite beginner-friendly, this doesn’t mean advanced skiers and riders won’t enjoy this mountain. Many people flock to the Birds of Prey lift to check out the downhill ski area used for the men’s FIS Ski World Cup. If speed is what you’re after, Centennial is another great run to cruise down on. Beaver Creek also offers tight tree skiing and some steep chutes. Royal Elk Glade is particularly fun in good snow conditions.
Keystone is another household name in Colorado that offers an affordable, family-friendly ski experience. The resort is spread over three mountains, with each one taking skiers and riders further away from the bustling base area. Keystone is the only resort in the area that has night skiing available and is home to the famous A51 Terrain Park. Serviced by its own lift, the park has over 100 different features, rails and pipes for all ages and abilities.
Another perk is the free onsite parking lot. Parents can rejoice with Keystone’s free to use wagon fleet that makes carrying the kids gear to and from the base much easier. The resort also prides itself in the parade held at the end of each day, where free cookies are handed out as a hard earned treat to all the skiers and riders. With casual hotels to premium condos, there’s plenty of lodging options as well to suit most budgets.
One of the best things about Keystone is its long runs. If you’re picturing yourself skiing or riding down a long, winding run that gives you time to soak in the views around you, Keystone won’t disappoint. The first mountain, Dercum Mountain, has all of the green terrain. Many beginners flock to the famous Schoolmarm run, where you can cruise down 3.5 miles of groomed bliss. However, this run can get very crowded so don’t forget about the learning area off the Ranger lift if you’re a first timer.
Beyond Dercum is North Peak, which has intermediate and advanced terrain, including moguls and steep runs. If you need to give your legs a break, the Outpost is a great spot to hang out and relax, especially on a spring, bluebird day. Even further out is the last mountain, The Outback. This area boasts more intermediate and advanced terrain with some great tree skiing. There’s also plenty of opportunities to hike or take the snowcat up to Keystone’s five pristine, alpine bowls that will be far less tracked than the trails being serviced by lifts.
#10. Crested Butte
Crested Butte is one of the best resorts for advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders to put their skills to the test. Over half of the mountain is rated black or double black and the mountain hosts a number of freeskiing championships. The ski area is known for its steep chutes, tight tree glades, and alpine bowls and cliff drops. With that said, the resort still offers beginner and intermediate terrain, making it a fine destination for families and groups with varying abilities.
Although its location is remote as compared to other ski resorts, this means less crowds. This is another resort that has an authentic town, located just three miles from the ski area. However, it doesn’t have the vibrant nightlife that some of the other ski resorts boast about. Crested Butte is great for those that enjoy a more relaxing evening out in a serene mountain setting.
Despite having a smaller ski area as compared to the other resorts on this list, Crested Butte is competitive with its variety and expert features. Beginners can still have a great time on this mountain, with the Red Lady Express lift servicing a multitude of easy groomers. This lift is isolated from the expert areas of the mountain so that first timers don’t have to worry about experienced skiers and riders zipping past them.
The intermediate runs at Crested Butte are a bit steeper than other resorts but are great fun. A variety of blue runs are available off East River Express. Paradise Bowl is great for all types of riders with groomed sections and mogul sections to practice on. The upper parts of the mountain are where things start to get intense. Double black diamonds galore can be found off the Silver Queen Express and High lifts. Crested Butte is one of the best places to be on a powder day with its few crowds and gnarly terrain.
Have you visited any of these resorts? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!