[Arapahoe Basin, Colorado. Photo: reid.neureiter ] With Colorado being home to the Rocky Mountains it’s no surprise that the state boasts some of the world’s best ski resorts. What may surprise visitors though is how close Denver is to the world-class skiing that Colorado is known for.
We’ve compiled a list of twelve magnificent ski resorts, all of which are within a two hour drive of the heart of the Mile High City. They all make for an incredible skiing or snowboarding experience. Most share access via Interstate 70 west from Denver, so there’s some driving competition. Access to the slopes is still far quicker from Denver than from Colorado Springs, which is two hours vs less than an hour from Denver. Many of the ski resorts nearest Colorado Springs, are still closer to Denver, with the exception of Monarch.
Ski Resorts Within 2 Hours of Denver, CO
Drive times into the mountains from the city can shoot up starting Friday afternoon, as well as Saturday and Sunday mornings during the winter, so plan to head up on a weekday if at all possible. The drive home to the front range metro on weekends is also horrendous, especially vexing on Sunday nights. There are limited way to avoid I-70, with Eldora being one of the only options.
Here are the closest ski resorts near Denver, CO, in order of driving proximity:
Echo Mountain Resort – 36 miles / 50 min
Echo Mountain is easily the smallest resort on our list, but it’s also the closest to Denver. Located just south of Idaho Springs, Echo Mountain is only about an hour from downtown. The resort has only one chair lift and 9 runs, so don’t expect to be able to explore new terrain all day like you can at some other Colorado resorts.
Having said that, Echo Mountain is much more reasonably priced than other resorts and the terrain is specifically geared toward beginners. If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding and are looking for a way to test the waters then Echo Mountain is a close and reasonably priced option. Plus they have night skiing, one of only a select few resorts to offer skiing after dark.
Loveland Ski Area – 56 miles / 1 h
Loveland Ski Area sits high atop the Continental Divide right where I-70 cuts through the top of the Rocky Mountains at Eisenhower Tunnel. A little over an hour from Denver, Loveland features nearly 100 trails over 1,800 acres of terrain. It’s strictly a ski area with no lodging at the base.
Most of the runs are for more experienced skiers and snowboarders, but the resort doesn’t ignore beginners who can find plenty to keep them busy. There’s actually an entire Loveland Valley, a separate tiny ski area to the bigger Loveland Basin, so beginners can ski without all the speedsters around. Loveland has a few options for dining and picking up souvenirs, but don’t expect to find a great deal of options as the resort’s clear focus is the terrain. The closest commercial town on the east side of the Eisenhower Tunnel is Georgetown at 12 miles, or Silverthorne at 11 miles on the west side.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area – 63 miles / 1 h 11 min
A-Basin as it’s called, like Keystone, is another resort geared more toward veteran skiers and snowboarders than beginners. With around 1,400 acres of skiable terrain the resort is one of the smaller resorts by Denver, and with a clear focus on the terrain, restaurants and shops at the resort are limited. A-Basin encompasses nearly 150 trails including some very extreme terrain, but only a handful of the runs are suitable for beginners.
A-Basin is only around an hour and fifteen minutes from downtown Denver, residing closest to Keystone but carries a neighbor Dillon postal address. And while it may not be the best option for a typical family ski trip, if you’re looking for extreme terrain close to Denver then A-Basin should not be overlooked. Plus with “The Beach”, its tailgate friendly parking lot, and usually the longest ski season in the state, the party and vibes are always going strong at A Basin.
Eldora Mountain Resort – 48 miles / 1 h 12 min
Eldora is one of the few resorts on our that is not located along the I-70 corridor west of Denver. Instead, Eldora is perched in the foothills about forty-five minutes southwest of Boulder, and around an hour and fifteen minutes northwest of Denver. With just under 700 skiable acres and only a couple dozen trials, Eldora is not nearly the size of some of the other ski areas near Denver. You also won’t find anything close to the selection of restaurants and shops that you will at the bigger resorts.
This locals’ ski area, however, is great for beginners and the location near Nederland allows visitors to ski or snowboard in the morning and still have time in the day to explore the sights of the nearby towns. Plus it allows you to avoid the bumper-to-bumper traffic that plagues I-70 on winter weekends. If you plan to visit Eldora do be aware that the resort often reaches its capacity during weekends, so it’s best to arrive early in the morning or visit during a weekday if possible.
Winter Park Resort – 66 miles / 1 h 19 min
Winter Park Resort has a unique history among Colorado’s ski areas as it’s the “oldest continually operating ski resort in the state” and was an actual city park owned and operated by the City of Denver until early in the 2000’s. Do note that Steamboat Springs’ Howelsen Hill is actually the oldest continually operating “ski area” in North America, first opening its alpine area in 1931. Another oldie, Monarch Mountain first opened in 1939, although it has changed ownership numerous times and closed down at one point or another before reopening.
This Grand County resort has undergone a number of expansions since first opening in January 28th, 1940 and currently boasts over 3,000 skiable acres and 166 designated trails. It may have more to offer to experienced skiers as compared to beginners, but the sheer number of runs available will keep skiers and boarders of all abilities occupied. For those looking for more of a challenge, the Mary Jane section of the resort is well known for its bumps and tree runs. The town of Winter Park boasts both a mountain village and “downtown” strip along Highway 40.
Keystone Ski Resort – 69 miles / 1 h 19 min
Some resorts in Colorado cater to a more luxurious experience, while other resorts cater to a more extreme experience. Keystone Ski Resort falls under that second category. It lies just a bit east of Breckenridge and on the other side of Loveland Pass from Loveland Ski Area. The resort stretches over 3,100 skiable acres and six peaks. The town of Keystone is centered around its picturesque ski village with some commercial shops around Highway 6.
Experienced skiers and snowboarders will love the bowls, chutes, and tree runs higher on the peaks, but the options for the less experienced are quite limited as there are only a few trails rated for beginners. Keystone may not be able to offer the luxury ski experience that some other resorts can, but if you’re seeking an alpine adventure within a quick drive from Denver then it’s well worth it. There’s also the state’s best night skiing at Keystone.
Copper Mountain Resort – 77 miles / 1 h 20 min
Copper Mountain Resort is an endearing ski area located around an hour and fifteen minutes straight west of Denver. With just under 2,500 skiable acres and 140 trails, the resort features plenty of options for skiers and snowboarders of all levels and is laid out so that similarly rated runs are fairly clustered together. This layout has the effect of keeping skiers and boarders among others with a similar skill level, but also means that beginners won’t be able to explore too much of the mountain.
The town of Copper Mountain rests at the base of the mountain, providing the shops, restaurants, and hotels, which can be expected at a well developed ski resort. It’s a definite mountain village vs an authentic downtown. Unlike some other more secluded ski resorts Copper Mountain and its Summit County neighbors (along with Keystone, Breckenridge, and A-Basin) are only a short drive from the towns of Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon. The resort’s proximity to those towns opens up all kinds of other lodging, dining, and entertainment options that simply can’t be squeezed around the base of a ski resort.
Breckenridge Ski Resort – 81 miles / 1 h 31 min
Tucked in the mountains just south of Dillon, Breckenridge isn’t just home to a fantastic ski resort, the town itself is a destination. Founded in 1859 when gold was discovered in Blue River, Breck quickly grew to over 1,600 residents and became one of Colorado’s most productive gold towns. Once the gold rush died down the town itself nearly wasted away. In 1950 under 300 citizens remained but Breckenridge Ski Resort opened its doors in 1961 and brought new life to the area. The town has been able to preserve several historic buildings, many of which now house restaurants, shops, and hotels along the picturesque Main Street.
Breckenridge Ski Resort features terrain suitable for all skill levels spread over five distinct peaks and nearly 3,000 acres. The resort’s Imperial Express SuperChair holds the distinction of being the highest chair lift in North America, topping out at a breathtaking 12,840 feet above sea level. It’s worth noting it’s one of the state’s busiest ski areas, so plan accordingly.
Vail Ski Resort – 97 miles / 1 h 39 min
Vail, Colorado, for good reason, is known worldwide for both its terrain and gorgeous mountain villages. With over 5,300 skiable acres and the best grooming around, as well as hotels, restaurants, and shops that stretch for close to seven miles along a charming creek, Vail is one of the biggest resorts on our list. Ski runs of all difficulties are spread throughout the mountain, meaning that all skiers and snowboarders can enjoy this massive playground.
And the fun isn’t limited to just the winter, as a mountain coaster, white water rafting, hiking, and mountain biking are available during the summer months. Vail Ski Resort is one of the more expensive destinations on our list, but for good reason. Between the resort and the enchanting Bavarian-inspired town itself, Vail showcases an unforgettable Colorado experience during any season all within around an hour and a half of Denver.
Granby Ranch – 86 miles / 1 h 42 min
Granby Ranch is unique in that it’s one of Colorado’s last family owned ski resorts. Located in the mountains just south of Granby, the resort lies about 20 miles drive north of Winter Park. There’s a small mountain village, in addition to downtown Granby. The resort is smaller than most on our list with 38 trails spread over 400 acres and two separate peaks.
The trails tend to be separated by skill level, with the easier terrain on East Mountain and more difficult terrain on West Mountain. You won’t find extreme terrain or an abundance of restaurants or luxury shops at the base of Granby Ranch, but it is a great option for a family-focused ski getaway. They have night skiing to providing after hours fun on the slopes.
Beaver Creek Ski Resort – 109 miles / 1 h 53 min
Perched on the slopes just south of Avon, and a little under two hours straight out I-70 from Denver sits Beaver Creek Resort, one of Colorado’s most famous and most luxurious ski areas. The resort seamlessly combines luxury and alpine adventure with 1,800 acres of skiable terrain, stunning views of the Vail Valley and surrounding peaks in every direction, and several top-notch ski-in/ski-out hotels. The resort prides itself on offering terrain for all ability levels, and there truly is something for everyone with everything from meandering greens to intensely steep double-black diamonds on the multiple peaks that make up the resort.
Once you’ve had your fill of skiing for the day there are no shortage of restaurants, spas, galleries, and shops to discover among the three base villages. If the dozens of shops and restaurants in Beaver Creek don’t have what you’re looking for, the Riverfront Express Gondola provides service to the edge of Avon, which itself is a pleasant mountain town worth exploring.
Ski Cooper – 108 miles / 1 h 55 min
Leadville’s hidden gem is perfect for families and beginner/intermediate skiers looking to save a few bucks and time on the lift lines. Although new for the 2019/2020 ski season is another chair lift accessing new challenging terrain. The Tennessee Creek Basin opens up three types of expert terrain, all of which are steep.
The official stats for Ski Cooper are 400 skiable acres, 41 trails and a 1200 foot vertical. However, with the new terrain expect some of those numbers to rise (will update if does). The base of Cooper is like most small ski areas, with no lodging, and a cafeteria style dining and gift shop. Come see why locals love “the heart of skiing in the heart of the Rockies”!
Local skiers and snowboarders all have their favorite runs and resorts for their own reasons. It may take a little time for you to find your favorites, but you can’t go wrong with any of these fantastic options within just a couple hours of Denver.