5 Lesser-Known Ski Towns: Where you don’t have to ski to have fun
Tubing in Frisco. Photo Credit: Todd Powell
You’re planning a winter vacay in Colorado and some people in your party ski and some don’t. Not to worry—here are some lesser known mountain towns in Colorado where the fun isn’t limited to the slopes. Even if you’re a long-time local, you may not realize that these smaller towns in the middle of Colorado ski country have getaway options galore for winter adventure.
1. Love life in Leadville: Tubing on the Dutch Henry
Colorado Springs has long made Ski Cooper their day-trip ski mountain of choice. Denverites can find it easily, too, in the little town of Leadville. They’ve got short lift lines and wide intermediate runs as well as some challenging moguls.
A former silver mining town, Leadville also offers the Dutch Henry Tubing Hill on McWethy and Highway 24; the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum; and several mine tours open year round. At Ski Cooper, a four-day XP Pass is only $139 for a limited time.
You can also take Hwy 91 for a short trip from Leadville to nearby Frisco to hit up the Frisco Adventure Park Beginner Ski & Ride Hill for the smallest or least experienced skiers in your party. And its’ fun tubing hill opens on Thanksgiving Day.
2. Frosty fun in Frisco: The epicenter of your bucket list ski vacation
Bask in a winter wonderland that feels like a small town getaway but is centrally located, letting you explore the entire region, with free transportation from their charming Main Street to four of Colorado’s legendary ski resorts – Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone and A-Basin. Three additional resorts- Vail, Beaver Creek and Loveland are all an easy drive in your own ski-rack clad car. It’s wallet-friendly to stay here and take in all of the gastronomic pleasures the town has to offer, after all, you’ve earned it on the slopes. Or you can take a draft-mule-drawn sleigh to some dinner with TwoBelowZero Sleigh Rides.
Traditional Mexican food, two Italian restaurants locals rave about, two yummy breweries and many more dining options are a short shuttle drive from wherever you are staying in this quaint 1.8 square mile town. This is THE place to beat the traditional winter crowds and enjoy new adventures like tubing at the Frisco Adventure Park, Nordic skiing at the Frisco Nordic Center or free ice skating at Meadow Creek Pond (bring your own skates!).
Don’t miss Outer Range Brewing Company’s famous 12 IPAs on tap, including local favorite, The Steep IPA, a New England style IPA. It’s balanced but still all about the hop—yet not as much as its West Coast IPA cousin. The beer’s drinkability stems from the brewing style that allows the “fruity” flavor of hops front and center, rather than the bitterness that makes you shy away from a classically hoppy IPA.
For some indoor fun, travel back in time at the free, Frisco Historic Park and Museum.
3. Silverton offers old school ski town charm-and a ghost town
Half the fun of getting to Silverton is navigating the roads in—crossing over the 11,000 foot Red Mountain with its switchbacks and uh-oh drops is not for the faint of heart. Skiing Silverton Mountain means you’re to expect nothing but a fire-warmed Quonset hut at the bottom of the hill, however, the single lift gets you up to some truly expert runs, with helicopter drops available. Silverton is so steep, you’ll be required to keep avalanche equipment on you at all times. About six-and-a-half hours outside Denver, check before you go—passes can close with super-stormy weather. If you go early or late in the season, you can even rent a snowmobile and visit a real ghost town, Animas Forks, where mining heiress and Hope Diamond owner Evalyn Walsh, wrote her biography.
4. Granby’s ice fishing competition and cozy B&Bs
The parking is free, and a Granby Ranch Season Pass also includes free skiing for three days at Monarch Mountain; Loveland Ski Area; Sunlight Mountain Resort and Ski Cooper. As for the town of Granby itself, only 90 minutes from Denver, you and your crew will feel like you’ve discovered your own ski town getaway. Travel on January 24-26 for the 3 Lakes Ice Fishing Tournament and stay at the Inn at Silvercreek, a favorite for families; or snuggle up with your S.O. at a dude ranch off-season for great prices. The Romantic RiverSong Bed and Breakfast Inn gets great reviews for its peach pancakes and friendly hosts.
5. Idaho Springs’ idyllic choices for a long winter weekend
You may know all about Loveland Ski Area, close by Idaho Springs and 30 minutes away from the center of downtown. But try out Echo Mountain, just west of Evergreen, with 60 acres of skiable terrain, it’s the closest skiing to the Denver metro area. Spend the day soaking in the town’s famous Indian Hot Springs and then head out for some night skiing at Echo Mountain to flip the script of your winter adventure. Get off I-70 sooner than most skiers, and make sure to eat at the famous Beau Jo’s Idaho Springs, where the Colorado-style pizza is hot and fresh and the service sublime.