Looking to go skiing in Colorado? We compiled a list of everything you need to know before you hit the slopes. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or it’s your first time on the snow, this is a great place to start before planning your next ski trip to Colorado!
With towering mountains, deep snow, and endless ski resorts, skiing in Colorado is an incredible adventure for thrill seekers of all levels. We’ve been making the trip out west every winter just for the chance to catch some fresh powder. While certainly not for the faint of heart, if you’re looking for the adventure of a lifetime, we’d encourage you to try skiing in Colorado! Enjoy!
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Ski Resorts in Colorado
Many resorts are cut and dry. You go, you ski, you fall, you get back up, repeat, and then you leave. Ski resorts in Colorado are nothing like that (minus the falling)! The villages that line the Rocky Mountains buzz with activity. Ski bums show for the snow conditions and epic terrain. Families come for a quick break from school and work. Locals flock to enjoy the shops and local restaurants. The resorts out west are much more vibrant than the bland ski villages of old. Even if you’re not skiing in Colorado, there’s plenty to do at the resort!
Most resorts host other outdoor activities (ice skating, tubing, snowmobiling, etc.) for anyone to try. Granted, you can expect to pay for the experience. Local towns are a great way to find more budget friendly adventures and eateries during your stay. Most resorts are ‘partnered’ with local towns and it isn’t uncommon to find discounted Ski and Stay packages. Wherever you end up choosing, be sure to check online for deals on lodging, dining, and lift tickets.
We break down how to go about choosing the correct resort later, but in the meantime we’ve attached a list of all 26 ski resorts in Colorado below. Off to the right side you’ll see a breakdown of each resort’s vertical drop, ski-able acres, and average annual snowfall. Reports on these stats vary but you can feel confident they’re close. Feel free to check out any resorts sites that intrigue you to learn more about them!
- Arapahoe Basin (2,530 ft./1,458 acres/350 in.)
- Aspen Highlands (3,638 ft./1,010 acres/300 in.)
- Aspen Mountain (3,267 ft./675 acres/300 in.)
- Aspen Snowmass (4,406 ft./3,128 acres/300 in.)
- Beaver Creek (3,340 ft./1,815 acres/310 in.)
- Breckenridge (3,398 ft./2,908 acres/370 in.)
- Butter Milk (2,030 ft./435 acres/200 in.)
- Copper Mountain (2,601 ft./2,465 acres/310 in.)
- Crested Butte (3,055 ft./1,547 acres/300 in.)
- Echo Mountain (600 ft./226 acres/275 in.)
- Eldora Mountain (1,240 ft./680 acres/300 in.)
- Granby Ranch (1,000 ft./406 acres/220 in.)
- Howelsen Hill (440 ft./50 acres/150 in.)
- Keystone (3,128 ft./3,148 acres/230 in.)
- Loveland (2,210 ft./1,800 acres/422 in.)
- Monarch Mountain (1,170 ft./800 acres/400 in.)
- Powderhorn Mountain (1,650 ft./1,600 acres/250 in.)
- Purgatory (2,029 ft./1,200 acres/260 in.)
- Silverton (3,087 ft./1,819 acres/475 in.)
- Ski Cooper (1,200 ft./400 acres/250 in.)
- Steamboat (3,668 ft./2,965 acres/400 in.)
- Sunlight Mountain (2,010 ft./470 acres/250 in.)
- Telluride (3,845 ft./2,000 acres/330 in.)
- Vail (3,450 ft./5,289 acres/370 in.)
- Winter Park (3,060 ft./3,081 acres/370 in.)
- Wolf Creek (1,604 ft./1,600 acres/480 in.)
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What You Need to Know Before You Go Skiing in Colorado
Quickly, we’ll cover five things you absolutely need to know before going skiing in Colorado. Then, we’ll break down our favorite and least favorite parts about the slopes. Then the decision is up to you. You evaluate the information and decide if you want to give it a try!
Choosing the Resort
Assessing Your Ability
Just above we’ve attached our handy list of resorts. If you’re a beginner don’t worry so much about the ‘Big Mountain’ stats. Vertical and acreage won’t matter near as much this early in your skiing career! 😉 Instead do a quick search of any resorts that interest you and see what they offer for lessons, ticket prices, and beginner skiing. All of these matter much more at this point.
If you’re a more advanced skier, or even a competent one looking to push your limits, start comparing those stats we discussed. Check out the sites and look into who offers cat-skiing and hike-up terrain. Compare the different resorts amount of ‘Advanced’ and ‘Expert’ labeled terrain. You’d be surprised, most ski resorts in Colorado offer some form of advanced terrain.
Proximity, Cost, and Community
Overall, there are a few things to consider: proximity, cost, and community. Try choosing a resort that’s close to where you’re staying. A one hour drive won’t feel terrible on the morning of day one, but by day four you’ll be spent. Again, with a little foresight you can save a ton on your ski trip. Try searching for ‘Ski and Stay (insert resort name)’ and seeing what pops up. Also look on the resorts sites to see if the offer any discounted passes or group rates.
Have any friends that ski? Ask them where they go! Locals often know the best spots and may even be interested in showing you around their home mountain. If you don’t know anyone who does that’s fine too. Instead, look to see if the resort offers free guided tours, it’s a great way to make friends and learn how to get around the mountain!
Getting to the Resort
Many local ski towns offer shuttle services to the resort. After you get ready in the morning you can slip over to the closest stop and pop out at the resort minutes later. A quick search online will help you identify if you’re resort offers a shuttle. Alternatively, many hotels also offer the same service so you can book accordingly. If you made the drive out to Colorado you can always take your car and park at the resort. Some charge for parking and some don’t so that’s a hit or miss. Always remember to take your boots out at night… just trust us!
There are plenty of rental options in every ski town. If you’d rather leave your equipment at the resort overnight, you can try renting from the resort themselves and seeing if storage is included. Be sure no matter who you rent from, you allow them to help size your gear. It’ll be tempting to say the boots are too tight, or skis are too short, but these are well trained individuals. They know what they’re doing and want you to be safe.
Gear you should always rent if you don’t own equipment includes: helmet and goggles, boots, and skis. If you’re a competent skier you should also grab a set of poles. As a beginner, poles are more of a hindrance so leave them at home. Some companies offer a ‘Full Kit Rental’ that also includes nice gloves, snow pants, a ski jacket, etc. This can be a great way to save some money if you don’t own any other gear!
What to Wear
We won’t break down the science of layering here but if you’d like to read about it check out our Definitive Winter Hiking Guide. It breaks down the ins and outs of dressing for cold weather properly. Briefly, we recommend well insulated socks, a base and mid-layer shirt, comfy and warm pants, and your outerwear. Outerwear should include your gloves, face-mask, jacket, snow pants, helmet and goggles, and boots. If it’s extra chilly add layers accordingly. Most of the time you’ll be surprised how warm skiing makes you. Always remember sunscreen on your exposed skin, while it may be chilly the sun isn’t taking any breaks.
Staying Safe on the Slopes
Most of these rules are common sense but they’re important to iterate nonetheless. Choose slopes and trails that are in line with your ability. The general scale follows a green (easiest), blue, black (hardest) color scheme, stay within your ability. Never ski alone, there are many unmarked and hidden obstacles and you always need a buddy. Stay within the boundary. Again, this is common sense but so many neglect these rules and endanger themselves and others by doing so.
Obey signage. If it says ‘Caution’ it means it so slow down. Look uphill before merging, this is a lot like checking your blind spots while driving. Call out before passing on narrow or slick conditions. Everyone appreciates a heads up, especially when things are dicey. Lastly, never stop in the middle of the trail or where you can’t be spotted from above. Just having a general awareness to your surroundings will be more than enough to keep you safe when you’re skiing.
The Best Parts About Skiing in Colorado
Most of the resorts are only a few hours from Denver or another regional airport. The Denver Airport is also a Southwest hub, so you can usually find inexpensive flights anytime of the year. After arriving there are tons of local ride share and resort shuttle options. Some even offer resort to resort service so you can hop between your favorites.
Colorado has some of the tallest peaks in the Lower-48. When you go skiing in Colorado you are literally riding down those giants, or sliding down depending on your ability level! 😉 Regardless of how you get down, the views from the mountains are unparalleled. Cascading peaks scrape the blue skies as far as the eye can see. After you’ve seen them once you’re hooked.
Most resorts get between 300-400 inches a year. That’s around 30 feet of fluffy, white powder! All this snow makes the ride down a thing of beauty (and the falling down more tolerable). It also means that learning on Colorado’s slopes are much more forgiving. Picture landing in a big pile of cold cotton candy. During the winter months you’re almost guaranteed a ‘powder day’ if you stay for more than 3 days. All this snow makes for near perfect conditions day after day, enjoy!
Yeah you heard right! Don’t be surprised to see temperatures in the 30’s even in the coldest months. The mountains help to trap moisture in valleys smoothing out the sharp temperature contrasts people imagine. Most days in the mountains are actually warmer than what we get here in the Midwest. To combat the early morning chill, try wearing layers you can easily shed as the day goes on.
The Worst Parts About Skiing in Colorado
Mountains galore everywhere! The downside to the elevation is a major lack of oxygen and the possibility of altitude sickness. There is about a third less oxygen at 12,000 feet compared to that at sea level. Skiing is fairly strenuous so your body is working much harder to carry and use oxygen. This extra work can lead to some nasty headaches and nausea if you fail to account for it. Good news, the remedy is simple: drink water! Lots of it!
Colorado ski resorts report around 7.1 million visits annually, unfortunately, this sometimes means long lines and large crowds. To help avoid this, shoot to ski Mondays-Thursdays as most locals are working or are in school. You might be wondering why not Friday? Most kids in the area have Fridays off for ski practice. Man does that sound awesome or what? Alternatively, studying the route map just a little before your arrival will help a ton. Knowing your way around the mountain (and the crowds) will make your trip so much more enjoyable.
Colorado has some of the best skiing in the world, and they certainly charge for it. Most resorts you visit charge upwards of $125 per person per day. As you can imagine, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly adventure skiing is not the answer. You also need to consider the cost of renting gear when you go, most of the time that’ll be around $40 per person per day. Try booking passes online beforehand, they often have deals and promotions running to cut the prices. You can also look into a season pass. At some resorts if you ski 4 or more days your season pass is already paid off!
Having to Leave
I won’t lie to you… this is definitely sounds like a cop-out, but I promise you it isn’t. With perfect snow, amazing food, and hundreds of shops to explore, it’s a miracle anyone ever leaves. If you’re looking for a fun family adventure then look no further, skiing in Colorado is a blast and the resort has something for everyone!
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So please let us know in the comments below… Have you ever been or would you ever go to skiing in Colorado? Which resort would you like to visit? Still have questions or comments, let us know in the comments! Where’s your next vacation taking you? Please remember to like and share God Bless, K+J!
To read about more family-friendly adventures check out:
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Verse of the Week: Ephesians 3:20-21
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
How incredible is it to have a creator so powerful we can’t comprehend all that he is capable of? The line, “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” tells us this is true. He called the stones to rise and build the mountains, settled raging seas, and calmed prevailing winds. Yet somehow we feel as if we have to suffer this world on our own. We don’t! The Lord answers prayers everyday. There is nothing you can ask him that he can’t accomplish. This week, try praying intently. Don’t put things past God, instead ask him directly for his guidance and help.
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