Winter is coming; and you know what that means: Colorado ski towns are abuzz with tourists and locals praying for a powder day. But with 25+ world-class resorts, how do you decide where to shred first?
Let us help you determine where to get your first turns of the season.
Biggest Resort in Colorado: Aspen-Snowmass
Drive time from Denver Int’l Airport: 3 h 54 min
Terrain Breakdown: 10% Beginner; 45% Intermediate; 29% Advanced; 16% Expert
Aspen-Snowmass is Colorado’s largest collective ski resort. As the host of the winter X-Games and other notable annual competitions, the resort is a fantastic place to see top athletes compete, while hosting your annual ski trip. The mountain is home to diverse range of terrain and, with plenty of space, Aspen-Snowmass makes it easy to get lost in a haven of white that feels like it’s miles from the city.
If you prefer the hot tub and hot chocolate side of skiing, the town of Aspen is home to some of the greatest chefs in the world. Food options range from high end to budget, appealing to a wide range of visitors. Be sure to grab a stack of homemade pancakes from Main Street Bakery, a local favorite.
Best In-Bound Terrain: Beaver Creek
Drive time from Denver Int’l Airport: 2 h 20 min
Terrain Breakdown: 19% Beginner; 43% Intermediate; 21% Advanced; 17% Expert
Beaver Creek has a reputation for being the go-to destination for hoity-toity out-of-towners, but despite this, the resort also offers some of the steepest pitches in the state and handily some of the best mogul terrain. It’s also one of the most empty on weekends, luring visitors with free parking and a shuttle to the base.
In addition to advanced in-bound terrain, you can help yourself to complimentary warm cookies and champagne at the base of the Centennial Express Chairlift daily at 3 pm. How sweet is that?
Most Diverse Terrain: Vail
Drive time from Denver Int’l Airport: 2 h 6 min
Terrain Breakdown: 18% Beginner; 29% Intermediate; 25% Advanced; 28% Expert
With the ever-famous back bowls, lengthy runs, and plenty of annual snowfall, Vail boasts some of the greatest terrain in the world, suitable for any experience level. Snowboarders, on the other hand, tend to suffer due to the plethora of cat tracks around the resort. Knowing this, there is truly something for everyone at Vail.
After long hours making lines, hit the town for a fantastic après ski meal at Red Lion, Los Amigos, or splurge on the salmon at The Left Bank in Vail Village.
Best Terrain Park: Breckenridge
Drive time from Denver Int’l Airport: 1 hr 57 min
Terrain Breakdown: 11% Beginner; 31% Intermediate; 24% Advanced; 34% Expert
There’s a very good reason that some of the top winter athletes come to Colorado to train, and it’s not just the elevation. The state offers one of the best terrain parks in the country at Breckenridge. With a mini park on Peak 9 and an advanced park on Peak 8, Breck offers some of the most well planned features of any terrain park in the country. With that said, be sure to brush up on your park etiquette and remember to ski SMART.
Breckenridge also has one of the best towns for après ski and late night entertainment in the Colorado Rockies. Munch on dollar tacos and free nachos during happy hour at Mi Casa. Sip a margarita and dine on inexpensive, filling burritos at Rita’s. Try various craft beers with a seasonal touch at Breckenridge Brewery. Play bar games with the locals at Oli’s or stop by the ever-popular Breckenridge Whiskey Tasting Room, which also makes a fantastic souvenir.
Best Tree Skiing: Steamboat Springs
Drive time from Denver Int’l Airport: 3 h 12 min
Terrain Breakdown: 14% Beginner; 44% Intermediate; 42% Advanced
Bluebird days are not a rarity in Colorado, but there are few things better than high visibility and picking your lines through the aspens. Steamboat is one of the true hidden gems among Colorado ski resorts, thriving at a low enough elevation while still receiving heavy snowfall throughout the high season. They trademarked “champagne powder” for a reason.
Main street provides visitors and locals with tons of entertainment options, but be sure to check out The Cantina for fresh squeezed margaritas and some spicy Steamboat history. Also make a point to go to Strawberry Hot Springs while you’re in the area. Clothing optional after 9 pm, this steamy resort is a local favorite where you can virtually touch the stars on a clear night.
Most Family Friendly Resort: Copper Mountain
Drive time from Denver Int’l Airport: 1 h 46 min
Terrain Breakdown: 21% Beginner; 25% Intermediate; 36% Advanced; 18% Expert
With a fantastic ski and snowboard program, Copper Mountain provides a safe, friendly environment for beginners to strut their stuff. Copper is also the official winter training site for the local and regional Special Olympics programs with over 550 athletes competing in various sports. The mountain also holds the annual USSA Grand Prix ski and snowboard competition that serves as a qualifier for many major competitions including the Olympics.
Camp Woodward plays a large role in getting skiers and boarders ready for the mountain. With high-end training facilities and some of the best coaches around, Woodward is the perfect spot to gain confidence and master your pizza and French fries.
Best Party Mountain: Arapahoe Basin
Drive time from Denver Int’l Airport: 1 h 37 min
Terrain Breakdown: 10% Beginner; 30% Intermediate; 37% Advanced; 23% Expert
One of the greatest hidden gems in Colorado ski life is Arapahoe Basin (or A Bay, to those in the know). Located just over the Continental Divide, it’s the closest to Denver and almost always has the longest season, opening as early as October and closing sometimes as late as July 4, ideal for spring skiing craziness. If there’s one day to visit, it’s Gaper Day, which is celebrated annually on April 1 (aka the local’s chance to dress like awful 80’s tourists).
While the mountain has no official ski town, the bloody marys at the base camp lodge are on point and you are guaranteed to find friends grilling in the lot willing to trade burgers for a beer.