With over thirty ski resorts, backcountry passes, guided snowcat tours, and heli-skiing, there’s no shortage of great riding in Colorado. Both snowboarders and skiers will love the Rocky Mountains. Some ski areas are tiny local hills, while others are world-class resorts.
List of Ski Areas in CO
The ski season typically kicks off in October with A-Basin or Loveland duking it out to open first, while Wolf Creek is quietly among the early contenders as well. Hills begin closing in late March and most will close on or before the third weekend of April, except for a handful that last into late spring.
Map of Ski Areas in CO
Snowcat & Heli-Skiing in CO
Maybe you’re looking for fresh powder all day long with no one to steal from you. Colorado snowcat and heli-skiing are surefire ways to find it. Tours are located throughout the Rockies and make for an unforgettable experience on untouched terrain.
Backcountry Skiing in CO
Whether you want to escape the crowds, shred new runs, save money, or catch an epic powder day, backcountry skiing may be the ticket. It’s a do-at-your-own-risk activity and requires a little bit more planning than resort skiing. Loveland Pass is the most popular area due to its close proximity to the front range and Berthoud Pass near Winter Park is also a hot spot. Consider a snowcat or heli tour if you really want to experience the magic of deep backcountry adventures.
Airport Transfer and Buses to CO Ski Resorts
From Denver International, there are an array of shuttle services. Some are private for you and your group, others are shared with like-minded travelers. Most of the regional airports in Colorado will have some form of airport transfer service available, especially if they are located close to a ski resort.
Snowbike Rentals in CO
Snowbiking is a perfect activity for the non-skiers who are still looking to get out on the slopes. You can rent snowbikes at Roger’s Snowbike Rentals on South Main Street in Breckenridge and ride as you would a ski or snowboard. Because it’s a relatively new trend, be sure to check individual resort rules to make sure you are allowed to bike down.
Indoor Skiing in CO
Work on your winter craft year-round in Centennial, about fifteen minutes from downtown Denver. SNÖBAHN offers a chance to take ski and snowboard lessons all summer long so you are primed and ready to go in November. In just 30 minutes on their revolving indoor slopes, you can cover up to 11,500 feet of elevation change.
Gondola Rides and Chairlifts in CO
Come summertime, many ski resorts around the state welcome sightseers to their gondolas and select chairlifts. Mountain bike racks are often affixed to some of these, providing bicyclists a quick way up for more thrilling rides down. There are a few free gondolas and lifts that connect summits or villages, offering a pretty unique way to get around town!
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Evidence of skiing can be found dating all the way back to 6000 BC when it was mostly a form of transportation. Today, skiing is still used for that in some areas but is mostly a recreational sport. When visiting the Centennial State you will see that skiing is sacred among those who live here. Ski areas are plentiful and people from all over take advantage of these resorts for vacations.
You can find every level and terrain option under these vast blue skies. There is a mountain to fit any skill level. If you’re looking to hit the slopes soon and escape your daily stresses, rest assured skiing and snowboarding are the way to have the time of your life. Both are exhilarating!
How many Colorado ski resorts are there?
Including ski areas or those without any other base lodging, 32 resorts are operating during a good season when all the smaller hills open. Once you feel the Rocky Mountain high, you will be hooked. You can see the best mountain scenery in Colorado ski areas. And because Colorado has some of the most mountainous terrains in the continental U.S., it also holds many of the best ski resorts available.
Not to mention, the dry climate produces better snow than you probably have ever experienced. This means anytime during the season is a good time to go skiing or snowboarding here. If you’re ready for an unforgettable vacation, Colorado is waiting.
You can get updates on season opening and closing dates, trail conditions, and snow reports from a number of resources. Here are the best snow report resources:
- Check out ColoradoSki.com for all the ski resorts in Colorado that are not Vail-owned, which is the majority of them, including favorites like Aspen, Telluride, and Steamboat.
- Snow.com brings you updates on all the Vail-owned resorts in Colorado.
- OnTheSnow.com is the best place on the web for snow forecasts. If you want to see if there’s a chance you’ll get dumped on, this is the preferred locals’ source.
If skiing or snowboarding is still not your thing, there are still plenty of other activities available to make the most out of your time on the mountain. The scenery is breathtaking, the air is crisp and clean, the ski village atmospheres are warming, and the hot cocoa is to die for. It does not get any better than wintertime in Colorado.
When do resorts open and close?
The race to open first usually kicks off early in October. It’s generally a battle between A-Basin and Loveland. Thanks to its unique position in the San Juans that makes snowstorms plentiful, Wolf Creek is another early opener. Typically all resorts are fully open and operating by late November to early December.
While Loveland’s season can regularly go into May and sometimes June, A-Basin has even made July in the past. It’s definitely the spot to go if you’re looking to tailgate and have warm-weather ski fun. Its infamous “Beach” is the place to be during spring. However, these are anomalies and most resorts close down the slopes in early to mid-April.
What are the terrain options?
Looking for big bowl skiing? Try Vail. Not only does it have the most skiable acres at 5,289, but also the largest collection of bowl skiing. Another option for back bowls, a bit closer to Denver, is Copper. Its diverse terrain gradually toughens from easy to expert as you go west to east.
Tree-huggers flock to Steamboat. It easily has the best tree skiing in the state, thanks to runs like Shadows & Closets and deep champagne powder that sticks around for days in the trees. Mary Jane, Winter Park’s other half, is another solid place to enjoy the woods. Out west, head to secluded Powderhorn for dry snow and well-spaced out trees.
The southwest is home to four big ski resorts, including the most notable: Telluride. This San Juan resort features over 4,400 skiable acres and some of the most advanced terrain in the world in its upper mountain areas. Another technically difficult but worthwhile spot is Silverton, which is probably the most unique around. It only has one chairlift that accesses nothing but double black trails.
If you aren’t quite at the daredevil level the aforementioned mountains require, Purgatory is full of fast, rolling trails suitable for all levels. Wolf Creek is also in this region and boasts the most snow in Colorado, perfect for if you’re craving a fresh powder day.
Where is there backcountry skiing?
Backcountry skiing options are pretty varied based on what you’re looking for. You can find everything from organized backcountry “uphill” ski areas to free spots on federal land, accessed by a range of transportation methods. Some are found near main roads, while others are much further into the backcountry.
In Kremmling, Bluebird Backcountry is a pretty special organized backcountry ski area that has tickets and season passes. You’ll have to trek to the top here, no ski lifts in sight. Similarly, Cuchara opened a mountain resort where you hike up and their main lodge is an old building from the former ski area.
Others, like Loveland Pass and Berthoud Pass, are free, car-friendly spots where you can drive to the top. Folks will park near where they know they will end their run and then hitchhike or shuttle to the starting point. There are also backcountry areas that must be accessed via snowmobiles, a great option if you want seclusion.
Silverton Ski Area has a backcountry vibe that’s served with a single chairlift to the top and the rest is skiing/traversing/hiking from there. While there is no uphill so you won’t have to work for your runs, it still offers the same peaceful, less crowded energy as other backcountry areas.
Other options include guided snowcat and heli-ski tours. There are a number of outfitters spread throughout the Rockies, all of which offer an amazing time on untouched terrain. They match you with experienced guides who are familiar with the local area to ensure a safe, fun day on the slopes.
Always ski safely, with a friend, and tell somebody where you’re going. Appropriate backcountry gear includes a beacon, helmet, shovel, probe, and cell phone. It’s wise to go with someone knowledgeable in snowpack conditions and to potentially invest in a deployable backpack airbag.
How much are ski lift tickets?
Seemingly every year, lift tickets rise in price. The best solution to this, if you’re a local, is to buy a season pass. Single-day tickets are typically expensive and can add up quickly if you’re skiing for multiple days. However, there are still a few gems out there that offer affordable day rates and great terrain.
An adult day pass at most of the larger ski resorts in Colorado ranges from $75-$225, not including the price of rentals. Children’s passes typically run a little bit cheaper, from free to $155. Prices fluctuate based on the day of the week as well, be sure to do your research so you aren’t surprised when it comes time to pay.
The cheapest option is Howelsen Hill, the oldest continuously running ski resort in Colorado, opening its doors in 1914. Another choice is Ski Cooper and although it may not be ginormous at 400 acres, it’s got wonderful runs and huge mountain views. Eldora is another locals’ favorite on the front range with cheaper tickets and ample bumps, cruisers, and steeps.
What are the cool ski towns?
Those who are looking for great apres-ski towns should head to Aspen Mountain, Breckenridge, or Crested Butte. Each of these western towns has a slew of walkable restaurants and shops. Telluride and Steamboat Springs are two other historic options that visitors love.
Vail is one of the most unique, boasting an Austrian-modeled village. If you want international flair, go here. If you’re looking for great skiing, plenty of restaurants and activities, and are not worried too much about nightlife, Keystone, Copper Mountain, and Winter Park all do the trick with beautiful ski villages.
Due to the popularity of the state as a skiing destination, most of the large resorts have great towns supporting them. You really can’t go wrong with whichever village you end up choosing, and many are close enough together that you can pop over and check out the other ones during your stay.
Remembering Colorado’s Lost Ski Areas
Just like ghost towns, Colorado is full of former ski areas. Some sit vacant while others were never finished in the first place. There have been over 150 operating ski areas over the years, but today only about 30 are still functioning.
Sometimes the areas change hands of ownership too often and are eventually just vacated. Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain closed and years later became Echo Mountain, which then changed to a private ski facility for the Front Range Ski Club. Then in the 2016-17 season, it reopened to the public as Echo again. Winter moves forward!
Tips for Skiing and Snowboarding
There aren’t many better ways to spend a cold Colorado day than on the slopes. As long you’re comfortable, you’re going to have a good time. Some tips to make the most out of your day:
- Dress warmly and in layers. Avoid cotton and opt for more sweat-wicking materials.
- Wear wool or wicking socks and stick some toe warmers on.
- Boots are the most important item, make sure they fit snugly.
- Wear a helmet.
- Turn down your music and keep your head on a swivel.
- Sunscreen is necessary at these altitudes, especially with the snow reflecting light.
- Drink lots of water throughout the day and bring snacks.
- Your cell phone could come in handy if you get stuck or separated, it’s a good idea to download a map of the area.
- Make sure your gear is ready to roll.
Driving I-70 from Denver, to and from the mountains can be a feat on its own. Road closures, delays, and construction are common. Follow CO Trip for the up-date highway conditions and cameras throughout the state. They even have a mobile app. It’s also smart to check out some tips for driving during Colorado’s winter.
Colorado Ski Instructor Bios
If you don’t know how to ski or snowboard this is not a problem. Most resorts offer skiing and snowboarding classes with trained professionals to show you the ropes. With their help, you’ll be a pro in no time!
We’ve interviewed a number of local ski instructors, whose bios reside below. Some still teach, others do not. All their stories are unique and inspiring. You can book a ski or snowboard lesson with several of them.
- Cindy Leuchtenburg, Aspen
- Kim Richhelm, Aspen, CB, Vail
- Matt Feeney, Winter Park
- Seth Masia, Vail
- Jill Sickels Matlock, Int’l Mountain Adventures in CB
- Kate Howe, Aspen
- Weems Westfeldt, Aspen
- Leon Joseph Littlebird, Arapahoe Basin
- Andrew Halls, Beaver Creek
- See all
People come to Colorado to ski and have a good time. There are a handful of skiing-specific events throughout the season to look forward to. There’s no excuse to stay in hibernation this winter, whether you’re a skier or not, these events are a blast to witness.
Jan – Winter X Games – Colorado’s and probably North America’s premier snow sports competition, the Winter X Games, is held annually in Aspen in late January.
Jan – Cowboy Downhill – Held in conjunction with the Denver Western Stock Show, witness real cowboys and cowgirls battle it out to make it down the hill first.
Feb – Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Race – Teams of two test their strength over 24 miles and 10,000 feet of vertical to climb in Aspen held in late February.
Apr – Steamboat Pond Skim Closing Day Celebration – Bid farewell to the ski season at this hilarious annual event. Participants dress up in their best costumes to zoom down the mountain and catch enough speed or gracefully (or not) skim over the pond at the bottom.
Learn more about the rest of the US ski resorts outside of Colorado on our sister site, La Vida Nomad.
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