Home to an astonishing 4 incredible ski resorts, all within a half hour of each other, Summit County is one the best Colorado destinations for a winter holiday. The towns of Breckenridge, Keystone, and Copper Mountain hold the four ski areas.
Summit County is so frequently visited by the front range masses that it practically feels like a suburb of the capital. This isn’t a surprise when you ski the local slopes, all of which share membership on one of two Colorado ski season passes: Ikon and Epic, noted below.
There are six main mountain towns in the Summit County metro: Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Dillon, Frisco, Keystone, and Silverthorne. Frisco has its own beginner ski area at the Frisco Adventure Park, and a tubing hill too.
Skiing and Snowboarding near Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Dillon, Frisco, Keystone, Silverthorne
Silverthorne is the first town you hit after coming through the Continental Divide, via the Eisenhower Tunnel, from Denver. That is, unless you detour around the Eisenhower Tunnel over Loveland Pass. This route is Highway 6, which will take you by our first ski resort on the list. Either way, welcome to Summit County!
Since we’re about to discuss the closest skiing to Summit County, we’d be remiss not to mention the skiing directly on the pass. The Clear Creek County side of Loveland Pass is more popular for backcountry skiers than the Summit side, but that’s not to say people don’t shred the gnar on both sides. They do. Give a hitchhiker or two a ride over the pass if you’ve room to spare. And take precautions if you ski on Loveland Pass.
Let’s dive into the four ski resorts in Summit County and what makes each special.
Arapahoe Basin – Ikon Pass
Gotta start things off with “The Legend”. If you want to ski the legend, you do so at Arapahoe Basin. It’s the locals’ favorite due to its laid-back attitude, parties on The Beach, and cool terrain. It boasts nearly 1500 skiable acres, including the backside of the mountain on Montezuma Bowl, plus steep chutes via the hikable East Wall.
Summit County across the board is a high-elevation place, and A Basin is no exception. The resort starts at 10,780 feet and climbs 2,530 feet to its summit elevation of 13,050 ft. It’s among the highest chair lift-served terrain in the country. Beginners, intermediates, and experts will find choice terrain here and even a couple of parks for the rats.
A Basin is the smallest resort on the list and the only one without lodging at its base. There are several places to eat at the resort though with prices a little lower than you’d find at Breck.
- 6th Street Alley Bar & Grill – Base of the mountain place to grab a pint during any time of the ski day.
- Black Mountain Lodge – Mid-mountain restaurant located just off the main chair lift, serving up house-smoked BBQ.
- The Legends Café – Quick-go cafeteria style at the base of the mountain for breakfast and lunch.
- Il Rifugio at Snowplume – European-style bistro parked on top of the mountain at 12,500 feet.
28194 US-6, Dillon, CO 80435 | 970-468-0718 | arapahoebasin.com
Keystone – Epic Pass
Heading around Highway 6 from A Basin leads you to Keystone Ski Resort, in a matter of minutes. Keystone is the largest resort in Summit County with 3,148 skiable acres. Any kind of terrain you’re looking for you can find, so it’s a fantastic resort for groups of varying abilities. From most runs at Keystone, you can find an easier way down, while the experts shred the steeps.
On most weekends and select holidays, Keystone offers night skiing. This is great because you can go up later on a Saturday avoiding the morning jam and ski until 6 pm or so, and avoid I-70 traffic on the return. Just be sure to bundle up in layers for when that sun sets!
Food-wise, Keystone and the other resorts have you covered. So we won’t get into specifics. The town of Keystone is pretty cool, centered around the picturesque River Run Village. If you enjoy ice skating, take the family or a date over to Keystone Lake Ice Rink, for 5 acres of Zamboni-ed perfection.
100 Dercum Square, Keystone, CO 80435 | 970-496-4118 | keystoneresort.com
Breckenridge – Epic Pass
Breckenridge is probably the most visited resort in the state. If you’ve ever been there on a weekend, you can attest to this. But the crowds flock there for a reason. The town of Breckenridge is one of the nicest ski towns in the whole state. Add to that a resort with 2,908 skiable acres, spread out over five distinct peaks. And a relatively, short 1.5-hour computer from Denver.
Breckenridge Ski Resort sits at 9,600 feet and rises to 12,998 feet of elevation, providing a thrilling vertical of 3,398 ft. From groomers and glades to above-treeline bowl skiing, Breck has a whole lot of trails to choose from, 187 to be exact. Add 25 acres of terrain parks to that.
Downtown is lined with colorful storefronts, their exteriors paying homage to Breck’s former mining days. Out of all the ski towns, Breckenridge has one of the largest selections of restaurants, so be sure to stick around for a happy hour.
1599 Ski Hill Rd, Breckenridge, CO 80424 | 970-453-5000 | breckenridge.com
Copper Mountain – Ikon Pass
Among the favorite places to ski in Summit is Copper Mountain Resort. In the past, it was the only resort on the Ikon Pass in the county, so it stayed relatively, uncrowded while everybody else went to Keystone, Breck or A Basin. With the addition of A Basin to the Ikon last year, this newer Copper/A Basin combo is an excellent choice for your Summit County fix.
It’s among the largest ski resorts by size in the state. With 2,490 skiable acres, it’s the 7th biggest in Colorado and 3rd in Summit County, behind Keystone and Breckenridge. More than 140 trails provide a mix of terrain: (21% beginner, 25% intermediate, 36% advanced, 18% expert). This is even nicer considering the layout of the mountain and the natural progression from easy to hard.
The town of Copper Mountain consists of three base villages: East, Central, and Union Creek. All are located within walking distance of each other, or via a free bus ride. Parking at Copper is free too. And there are plenty of places to eat, shop and sleep within the town, though it does get sleepier after dark than the Keystone or Breckenridge.
209 Ten Mile Cir, Copper Mountain, CO 80443 | 970-968-2318 | coppercolorado.com
Other Ski Resorts near Summit County
If you’re willing to drive outside the county, you open up even more possibilities within about 30 minutes of Summit. This means you can stay in one of Summit’s lovely towns, but still save money on skiing by trying one of the first two resorts listed below.
Loveland – Clear Creek County
The closest resort to Summit County that’s not in the county is Loveland Ski Area. Loveland is a fun, affordable, locals’ mountain. It’s easy to access from Denver or Summit County and easily one of the most scenic. Plus there are a surprising 1800 acres to play on.
Situated twelve miles west of Georgetown in Clear Creek County, it’s a tough mountain to really appreciate when just driving by it on I-70. But once you ski it, it’s easy. The resort spans both sides of the highway and is connected by a tunnel underneath it. Loveland Valley holds the beginner area, serviced by shuttle, to the larger and more popular Loveland Basin.
All types of terrain can be found at Loveland, from fast groomers and steeps to moguls, bowls, and tree skiing. You can take a lift up 12,700 feet at the top of the Continental Divide and hike (or take a free cat) to just over 13,000. Then drop in and enjoy world-class bowl skiing. The base area has cheap eats but no lodging.
Ski Cooper – Lake County
Hidden 31 miles south of Copper Mountain in Leadville, this next ski area is probably the cheapest on the list. But don’t let that fool you. This family-friendly resort recently expanded its terrain, now offering some black diamond runs for a total of 470 skiable acres and 2,600 served by snowcat should you up the ante.
With views of Mount Elbert and Massive, Ski Cooper is one mesmerizing little ski area. The base starts at 10,500 feet and rises 1200 feet to 11,700. Groups will appreciate the terrain split over 60 trails and 5 lifts: 31% beginner – 35% intermediate – 34% advanced/expert.
While the base village lacks overnight accommodations, downtown Leadville is only a 15 minutes drive. There is a base lodge though with the typical ski rentals and a grab-and-go cafeteria. If you need a beer they got you covered too! This is skiing the way it was meant to be – fun and affordable.
Vail – Eagle County
Only twenty miles from Copper Mountain via Vail Pass, is the largest resort in the state, at 5,289 acres. Vail has everything. Its iconic back bowls are the stuff of dreams on a powder day. Plus, it’s on the Epic Pass so maybe you have one and can ski for free.
After you’re done trying to discover the mountain, Vail’s Austrian-inspired villages await. Main Village and Lionshead are pedestrian-friendly, glamorous places to explore. From fine dining to the finest ski apparel, Vail makes it easy to drop cash.
Parking at Vail is a drawback, which costs $30 for one of two parking structures: 2-3 hours is $10, 3-4 is $20, 4-15 is $30 and 15-24 is $50. Sometimes cars are permitted to park on Frontage Road for free, but usually only if the garages fill up. Use caution.
And if you’ve gone this far, maybe you’ll go a little further…. less than twenty minutes west of Vail is Beaver Creek.
Beaver Creek – Eagle County
Another Epic Pass resort, Beaver Creek is a world-class mountain and one of the best Vail-owned ski areas. It’s big with a lot of variety, including steep, fast runs, yet is simple to navigate from village to village. You can ski from Beaver Creek Village to Arrowhead Village, on 1,815 acres.
The resort is made up of three different peaks: Arrowhead Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Beaver Creek Mountain. On the way from Arrowhead to Beaver Creek, Grouse Mountain has many wide-open blue groomers. There’s also the legendary Birds of Prey downhill run on Beaver Creek.
The skiing at Beaver Creek Resort is a mix of moguls and cruisers, with some tree skiing and plenty of mountains to explore.
What’s also nice about Beaver Creek over the town of Vail, is free parking. The free lot before you enter the village gates has shuttles every ten minutes. There is also paid parking in the village. The village of Beaver Creek is exceptional too, upscale like Vail, and located at the base of the mountain. It shares a mailing address with its lower-elevated neighbor Avon.
Those are all the ski resorts in Summit County, as well as the closest ones around it. Remember not to French fry when you really want to pizza. Good luck out there!