Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is known as “The Legend.” That’s due to its long season — with more operating days than any other ski area in Colorado, typically opening first in North America and sometimes staying open through Independence Day.
This makes longtime executive Alan Henceroth happy for obvious business reasons. But also, on the opening day of the 2017-18 season, he was found reflecting on simple pleasures. “I just like walking around and chit-chatting with everybody. I see a lot of old friends.”
That tight-knit quality is what makes A-Basin special in resort-packed Summit County. And to be sure: the ski area is serious about its locals and loyalists. That was evident in 2019, when the decision was made to leave the Epic Pass in an attempt to cut crowds.
The ski area's newest terrain is the Beavers and Steep Gullies, featuring open bowl skiing up top and serious glades just below. Its newest eatery is Il Rifugio, considered the highest dining option in all of Colorado ski country at about 12,500 feet.
Skiable terrain: 1,428 acres
Mountain stats: 13,050-foot summit, 10,780-foot base
Check out: 6th Alley Bar and Grill at base; Snake River Saloon and Steakhouse in Keystone; Broken Compass Brewing in Breckenridge
Highlands boasts the second most terrain of Aspen’s four ski areas, and it doesn’t draw nearly the crowds of the biggest, Snowmass. That’s because not many novice skiers and riders dare venture here.
Locals claim Highlands as their territory, and even the most expert among them can be humbled. Double black diamond runs coat the majority of the mountain. Most heralded is the Highland Bowl, reached on foot, which speaks to the do-it-yourself character of Highlands as a whole. The hike to the bowl follows a ridge, where the breathtaking views are punctuated by the postcard Maroon Bells.
Aspen’s website says the hike takes 20 minutes and warns: “Colorado’s premier in-bound terrain is not for the faint of heart, but it is certainly unlike anything else in the Rockies.”
Another good bet for powder is in the Temerity area, defined by steep glades. The Thunderbowl and Exhibition lifts lead to challenging runs such as P-Chutes and upper and lower Stein.
Skiable terrain: 1,040 acres
Mountain stats: Highland Bowl at 12,392 feet, 8,040-foot base
Check out: Breakfast at Poppycock’s; Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro on mountain; wine at Element 47
Aspen Mountain is an adrenaline-fueling outpost for well-traveled enthusiasts. Also known by its old name, Ajax, the mountain is considered “a terrain smorgasbord” in a relatively small area. Though compact, capable visitors should find room to operate in the bowls and glades that lend a true backcountry feel.
A high-speed gondola rises up the mountain that's laden with famously steep runs such as Silver Queen. Local powder hounds are familiar with the phrase “face to six”; when they hear it, they know it’s time to board Chair 6 and take turns at the Dumps, featuring thin woods and open snow fields. Others hit runs called Walsh’s, Hyrup’s or Kristi’s on the ski area's east side. All of those end at the lift to Gentleman’s Ridge, where a day is complete with a long shot down Jackpot.
The best bet for families is on the upper mountain’s corduroy. Ruthie’s Run is a favorite, a cruiser with splendid views.
Skiable terrain: 675 acres
Mountain stats: 11,211-foot summit, 7,945-foot base
Check out: Bonnies on mountain for breakfast; Ajax Tavern at base for apres eats; Aspen Brewing Co.
Beaver Creek is a cornerstone of Vail Resorts’ portfolio, exemplifying the company’s pride in nothing but the finest. This plush, alpine retreat off Interstate 70 features an apres-packed village at its center plus mountainside gourmet meals reached via sleigh ride. Though seeming exclusive, there’s a bigger club of vert seekers that fit right in at Beaver Creek.
They go for fresh powder while most guests stick to the groomers. What some call black diamond and double black diamond extreme terrain has gone by “EX” according to insiders. Stone Creek Chutes has rocks to huck, the Royal Elk Glades has tight trees to navigate and the Birds of Prey run is meant for serious downhill skiers.
But the resort’s commitment to novices is exemplified by Red Buffalo Park, a 200-acre area that opened on the mountain’s highest elevations in 2017. Here visitors find themselves with some of the best views around. The long, wide runs called Gold Dust and Latigo are intermediate favorites.
Skiable terrain: 1,832 acres
Mountain stats: 11,440-foot summit, 8,100-foot base
Check out: Doughnuts and coffee at Northside Kitchen; Blue Moose for pizza; wine at Vin48
In Breckenridge, rugged history meets modern luxury. Old buildings and new condos frame Main Street, with the backdrop being the Tenmile Range that is home to one of the world’s most famous winter destinations. Now skiers and riders flock here in place of the gold miners from centuries ago.
Whether you seek steeps, powder stashes or mellow groomers, this place has it. The resort’s five peaks, named 6 through 10, cater to all types of skill sets. And now regulars delight in a longer season, with Breck in recent years upgrading its snowmaking to extend the fun through Memorial Day.
Some of the more beloved terrain is on Peak 8, which hosted the resort’s first trails in 1961. The Imperial Express leads to high-alpine bowls and hike-to areas called Lake Chutes and Snow White. Peak 7 appeals to intermediate skiers and riders, and its base is an apres setting of lodges and upscale restaurants. Visitors push themselves through backcountry tree runs and imagine themselves as Olympians on Peak 9, complete with a race course. Peak 10 is reserved for black diamond experts.
Skiable terrain: 2,908 acres
Mountain stats: 12,998-foot summit, 9,600-foot base
Check out: Crepes a la Cart; Sancho Tacos; Breckenridge Distillery
Buttermilk is the smallest of Aspen’s four ski areas. It’s the one for freestyle enthusiasts. It’s also good for newbies. So, it makes sense why the Aspen conglomerate calls Buttermilk “one mountain with two personalities.”
Knowing it’s home to the vaunted Winter X Games, visitors looking to get their ski legs under them might shy away from Buttermilk. But they don’t have to, with a significant portion of the terrain defined by long, wide rollers. Powder hounds are typically better off scavenging the other three mountains.
Tiehack on the east side of Buttermilk has been growing in popularity with the growing uphill skiing movement. Hikers pick up about 1,700 feet in 2 miles and earn their turns indeed.
But it’s the terrain parks that put Buttermilk on the map. One can spend a whole day exploring the main park, with jumps and rails spotting a 2-mile stretch. The centerpiece is a 22-foot superpipe. Newcomers test themselves at S3 Park.
Skiable terrain: 470 acres
Mountain stats: 9,900-foot summit, 7,870-foot base
Check out: Cliff House Restaurant on mountain; Home Team BBQ at base; Woody Creek Tavern
Blessed by the wintry winds blowing west of the Continental Divide, four world-class ski resorts share competitive space in Summit County. In separating itself from Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge and Keystone, Copper Mountain touts its geographic arrangement. Green and blue runs are naturally divided so that they don’t intersect expert terrain. Even Harry Dunne could figure it out — the “Dumb and Dumber” character was seen here in the 1994 film’s ski scenes.
Beginners typically cluster in the resort’s West Village, where the ski and ride school is based. The East Village is made up mostly of black runs and is also home to the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center. Experts should be satisfied by bowls and high-alpine runs with stunning views of the Gore and Tenmile ranges.
Tubing, ice skating, dog sledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are available elsewhere on the mountain, adding to its draw as a family vacation.
Skiable terrain: 2,490 acres
Mountain stats: 12,313-foot summit, 9,712-foot base
Check out: Maple Street Biscuit Co. in Frisco; Outer Range Brewing Co. in Frisco; Frisco Nordic Center
From its days as a training site for the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, Cooper hasn’t grown much. Though, any skiers previously overlooking the local hill near Leadville had their attention turned in 2020, when 70 more acres were unveiled. Tennessee Creek Basin adds a new dimension to Cooper, otherwise an ideal place to learn. The backside is tree- and mogul-laden with double black diamond runs that go by Maverick, Viper and Needle’s Eye. Be prepared to take a T-bar; it’s the only way out.
From the front side, the 10th Mountain double chair leads to the top and a host of green- and blue-rated runs.
Cooper trusts you’ll appreciate the comparatively low ticket prices. And the low to no wait times. And the all-natural terrain — no snowmaking required at an altitude beginning near 10,500 feet.
Skiable terrain: 470 acres
Mountain stats: 11,700-foot summit, 10,500-foot base
Check out: Coffee at City on a Hill in Leadville; historic Silver Dollar Saloon in town; Tennessee Pass Nordic Center & Sleep Yurts
Vail Resorts acquired Crested Butte Mountain Resort in 2018, leading locals to wonder what would become of their previously family-owned ski area. Would the so-called “Last Great Ski Town” maintain its rebel reputation and rugged charm? Or would Crested Butte take on the glossy, upscale aspects that make Vail’s resorts the world-renowned destinations they are?
The company has indicated it loves Crested Butte just as it is. That includes the remoteness. The steep terrain. The multi-color bus shuttling people from town to the lifts. And, historically, those closing days of scantily clad skiers.
The resort pays homage to the old ways of mountain life. One restaurant is Uley’s Cabin, named for the eccentric moonshiner of local lore. Downtown maintains its village-like appearance, though the victorian buildings lining Elk Avenue now house tourist staples such as clothing boutiques, candy shops and art galleries. The views are tough to rival, with the town’s namesake mountaintop slightly curling like something from Dr. Seuss’ imagination.
Skiable terrain: 1,547 acres
Mountain stats: 12,162-foot summit, 9,375-foot base
Check out: Coffee and doughnuts at Camp 4 Coffee; pizza at Secret Stash; Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum
Less than an hour from downtown Denver, between Evergreen and Idaho Springs, the ski area at Echo Mountain has lived many lives. Overseers are counting on this one to be the fullest.
In the 1960s, it was Squaw Pass Ski Area, one of the more popular places for practice and post-work turns before Eisenhower Tunnel opened and connected Denverites to Summit County. From 2012 until former owners declared bankruptcy in 2016, the area was private and frequented by racers. Now the hope is to appeal to people wanting to avoid the hassle and traffic of large resorts — and to people wanting to learn.
Another attempt at standing out has been by offering night skiing. Advanced tickets online recently were listed at $30 for adults, who from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. can lap two intermediate runs lined by lights. The terrain isn’t much — but neither is the price compared with the rest of ski country.
Skiable terrain: 60 acres
Mountain stats: 10,650-foot summit, 10,050-foot base
Check out: Country Road Cafe in Evergreen; Beau Jo’s Pizza in Idaho Springs; Elk Meadow Park for snowshoeing
“Just say no to I-70” goes the slogan at Eldora, situated just outside Nederland, the funky little town on the other end of the canyon from Boulder. Clearly, people are saying “no” to that busy interstate and opting for what has long been described a local spot. But in recent winters, Eldora’s parking lot has filled early and often — seemingly a result, too, of the ski area joining the Ikon Pass. Now outsiders swear by the snow and terrain.
The six-person, high-speed Alpenglow Express opened in 2017, granting guests quick turns and big vert before or after work. That lift zips up Challenge Mountain, the go-to for advanced skiers and riders. The confident head to the Corona Bowl, reaching double black territories of glades, steeps and cliffs.
Don’t be intimidated: Eldora prides itself for being “THE place to learn in Colorado.” The Little Hawk area is lined with green groomers.
Skiable terrain: 680 acres
Mountain stats: 10,600-foot summit, 9,360-foot base
Check out: Coffee at Train Cars; Crosscut Pizzeria and Taphouse; Eldora Nordic Center
Family-owned Granby Ranch aims to ease. Ease the headaches that come with crowds; let them gather at Winter Park 20 miles south. Ease the financial burden; adult tickets have been less than $100 in recent years. “Everything about Ski Granby Ranch is EASY,” promises the website.
That goes for the resort’s East Mountain terrain, the wide-open groomers where learners progress after their lessons at the base. West Mountain stocks trees, with runs such as Rimfire known to stash the occasional powder. On either side, the views of the Continental Divide are spectacular. And true to the “easy” mantra, all runs end at the base.
A Granby Ranch outing is complete with night skiing under the lights. In recent winters, operators have picked certain dates for the opportunity.
Away from the slopes, visitors take advantage of the cross-country and snowshoe trails in nearby meadows.
Skiable terrain: 406 acres
Mountain stats: 9,202-foot summit, 8,202-foot base
Check out: Hot Sulphur Springs; Mid Town Cafe for breakfast in Granby; Brickhouse 40 in town
Some things haven't changed since the early days of Hesperus Ski Area, tracing to the 1960s. Take, for example, the all-volunteer patrol team. But competition has certainly ramped up in Colorado’s southwest region, with nearby Purgatory Resort and Telluride Resort now much bigger attractions. Hesperus is a place to learn for Durango youngsters, and unskilled tourists might be wise to try the hill for the cheaper day pass.
For the limited terrain, Hesperus claims a variety from the top of the chairlift, however modest below 9,000 feet. Hesperus derives from the term in Greek mythology meaning “evening star.” And it’s in the evening when the ski area shines. The lights come on, and locals after work come to get their turns.
Skiable terrain: 60 acres
Mountain stats: 8,888-foot summit, 8,100-foot base
Check out: Kennebec Cafe in Hesperus; cocktails at speakeasy Bookcase and Barber in Durango; tubing at ski area
Nothing proclaims Steamboat Springs as Ski Town, USA, like the local hill. It’s not just any local hill. It’s steeped in a 105-year history, the longest going history of any ski area in the West. No such complex in North America quite compares with these jumps. Natural snow covers them, gleaming under the lights at night, and resident youngsters gaze upon it from downtown, feeling the urge to strap on the skis and continue their pursuit of being the next hotshot out of Steamboat.
Since its establishment under Norwegian immigrant Carl Howelsen, almost 90 Olympians have made the area their training ground. That’s counting 13 members of the National Ski Hall of Fame and 22 Colorado Ski Hall of Famers. The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, the oldest ski club this side of the Mississippi, is based here.
Tourists largely keep to the massive Steamboat Resort. But some can’t resist the urge here.
Skiable terrain: 50 acres
Mountain stats: 7,136-foot summit, 6,696-foot base
Check out: Nordic center near base; snowshoeing plus backcountry and cross-country skiing off Rabbit Ears Pass; pizza at Mountain Tap Brewery
At Keystone Resort, the offerings are endless. That’s from a skiing and riding standpoint and also from a dining and shopping standpoint. The resort is known for traditions, such as warm cookies and fireworks. Kids programs cater to out-of-state families, and anyone shy of the slopes is pointed to ice skating and sleigh rides.
Experts and beginners alike won’t be disappointed. The biggest of Summit County’s four ski areas, Keystone spans three mountains, including a renowned terrain park. Uniquely, A51 Terrain Park promotes itself for all skill levels, with five areas of shreddable obstacles. The park is on Dercum Mountain, which features long groomers for beginners as well as rolling, intermediate runs. The Outback is a powder haven and, at 11,980 feet, the resort’s highest peak. Hidden stashes and wide-open turns can be found in the North and South bowls.
Keystone has added a feather to its cap with state-of-the-art snowmaking technology that allows for an early-season kickoff in October.
Skiable terrain: 3,148 acres
Mountain stats: 12,408-foot summit, 9,280-foot base
Check out: inxpot for breakfast; Snake River Saloon and Steakhouse; sleigh ride dinners
Loveland Ski Area gets a lot of love from Denverites, with this being the metro’s closest major venue for the sport. Though that might lead to longer lift lines, crowds are manageable as vacationers don’t huddle here where there’s no lodging. Rather than the frills of hotels, condos and whatnot, Loveland keeps it focused on the skiing. And Mother Nature provides the goods.
With a base close to 10,800 feet, it’s no wonder Loveland has historically been among Colorado’s first ski areas to open. Enthusiasts await snow to blanket the upper reaches — the lift-served area at nearly 12,700 feet.
Loveland Valley comprises the beginner and intermediate terrain that makes up half of Loveland’s total skiable acres. First-timers should hop on Chair 7 to reach All Smiles and Take Off, wide and gentle runs. Chair 3 leads to cruising slopes used by the Loveland Race Club, which practices regularly.
Loveland Basin is a hub for experienced powder hounds. The deepest, steepest stuff is found here, with Lift 4 rising to tree runs and Lift 9 taking riders to that 12,700-foot paradise of open bowls.
Skiable terrain: 1,800 acres
Mountain stats: 13,010-foot summit, 10,800-foot base
Check out: Loveland Grill on mountain for breakfast; Tommyknocker Brewery and Pub in Idaho Springs; Alpine Restaurant and Bar in Georgetown
Monarch Mountain is a favorite of southern Coloradans. That’s for the location of course, but also for the affordability. And also for what it represents: the antithesis of the industry beyond.
The ski area is without the glitz and glamour of the northern resorts that march on with development. Monarch, meanwhile, appears trapped in time. And the ownership — a group of enthusiasts, some with deep pockets and some without — plans to keep it that way into the ski area’s eighth decade.
While many visitors from southern states are welcomed to their share of beginner runs and longer, intermediate cruisers, experts have taken to the snowcat tours. Monarch calls Mirkwood Basin its “hidden gem,” boasting 130 acres of double black diamond terrain.
Skiable terrain: 800 acres
Mountain stats: 11,952-foot summit, 10,790-foot base
Check out: Brown Dog Coffee in Buena Vista; Sweetie’s Sandwich Shop in Salida; pizza and beer at Eddyline South Main in Buena Vista
Snow is not in the classic picture of Grand Junction. This part of western Colorado is defined by a massive flattop mountain and by desert terrain prime for mountain biking. That, not skiing, is the famous outdoor activity of the region. Yet for five decades on the edge of Grand Mesa, Powderhorn Resort has satiated locals who crave snow like every other Coloradan.
As “one of the most family-friendly resorts you’ll find anywhere in the West,” 70% of Powderhorn’s terrain is meant for beginner and intermediate skiers and riders. In 2015, the resort launched the Flat Top Flyer, the high-speed quad that takes guests to the modest top of the mountain. From there, the scenic Bill’s Run is considered a good introduction.
For something more challenging, the ski area points to Sweet Misery, considered the mountain’s best run for moguls. After a storm, regulars know to seek fresh tracks in the trees of Sven’s Bend.
Skiable terrain: 1,600 acres
Mountain stats: 9,850-foot summit, 8,200-foot base
Check out: Tacoparty in Grand Junction; Hot Tomato in Fruita; wine in Palisade
Durango serves as the hub for endless outdoor fun in southwest Colorado. Mountain bikers feast on the surrounding singletrack while baggers of 14,000-foot peaks have an array from which to choose. The scenic ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a famous summer attraction. In the winter, Purgatory comes alive.
If the resort name doesn’t sound familiar, you might recall it formerly as Durango Mountain Resort. Despite the ominous title, it’s all smiles here at Village Plaza, a scene of family activity, lodging and dining. And it’s all smiles on the mountain, which isn’t as crowded as the major resorts in the central part of the state.
The terrain is well-suited for intermediate skiers. Next-level guests get their fill of moguls. They’ll also find jumps and half-pipes across four terrain parks.
Skiable terrain: 1,635 acres
Mountain stats: 10,822-foot summit, 8,793-foot base
Check out: Oscar’s Cafe for breakfast; burgers at James Ranch; Ska Brewing Co.
“Steep and deep” is the motto at this ski area that is unlike any in Colorado. Few in North America can compare with the operation that features heli-skiing — dropping from a helicopter onto powder-packed slopes. You won’t find groomers anywhere across this daunting, secluded swath of the San Juan Mountains.
“Chances are you’re not good enough to ski Silverton Mountain,” begins a New York Times story. “The soul of skiing still lives at Silverton,” Forbes once proclaimed, for the mountain places rugged adventure above all else.
Reservations have been made for guides to show groups around the hike-to wilds, festooned with rocks, cliffs, bowls and chutes. A double chairlift is the only thing keeping the terrain from feeling like pure backcountry.
Skiable terrain: 1,819 acres, with 22,000 additional acres for heli-skiing and hike-to terrain
Mountain stats: 13,487-foot summit, 10,400-foot base
Check out: Grand Imperial Hotel; Avalanche Brewing Co.; skiing and more at Kendall Mountain
Of the 5,300-plus acres spread across Aspen’s four mountain resorts, Snowmass is by far the biggest, covering more terrain than Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk combined. Families from afar make Snowmass their vacation and discover the apres atmosphere famous to Colorado winters.
The resort claims to offer more vertical feet than any other in the country. The Cirque lift, running when conditions allow, rises to 12,500 feet, reaching an expert area full of glades and moguls. Learn why Snowmass promises to be “never the same mountain twice” by exploring vast areas such as Hanging Valley and the Burn Cliffs, comprising technical chutes, rocky drop-offs and open fields great for powder days.
Well-known are the resort’s wide cruisers, including a 5-mile blue run starting from Burnt Mountain. Also renowned are Snowmass’ terrain parks. Lowdown Park is for those new to shredding boxes and rails. A 22-foot superpipe is the centerpiece of the expert Snowmass Park.
Skiable terrain: 3,339 acres
Mountain stats: 12,510-foot summit, 8,104-foot base
Check out: Paradise Bakery and Cafe; Slow Groovin’ BBQ; snowshoe tours by Aspen Studies of Environmental Science
In Steamboat Springs, skiing is as fundamental as walking. This is Ski Town, USA, worthy of the title for having produced a bunch of Olympians.
So maybe it’s no surprise the local ski resort is one of the largest in Colorado, boasting four terrain parks, including the premier Mavericks Superpipe, promoted as “a freerider’s dream.” And maybe it’s no surprise that nearly half the terrain across Steamboat’s six peaks has an advanced designation.
Powder hounds seek the resort’s choice stashes and big moguls. Still, families find fun here every year — including on the Outlaw Mountain Coaster, the alpine ride extending an impressive 6,280 feet.
Tree skiing is the draw to Steamboat, where the area’s famous “champagne powder” fills between the timber. If you’re a beginner, take the Christie Peak lift to largely untouched corduroy on the lower portion of Mount Werner. How about a 3-mile cruise? Why Not is the resort’s longest run.
Skiable terrain: 2,965 acres
Mountain stats: 10,568-foot summit, 6,900-foot base
Check out: Breakfast at Creekside Cafe; western attire at F.M. Light & Sons; Taco Beast snowcat on mountain
Glenwood Springs is a base for outdoor bliss. In the summer, the surrounding canyons bustle with hikers and mountain bikers, and the rivers are alive with rafters and kayakers. The world’s largest mineral hot springs pool entices year-round. How about a soak after a day on the slopes? Sunlight Mountain Resort awaits 12 miles away.
“No hassles. No hype.” That's the word from Colorado Ski Country, the association representing the resort. At Sunlight, skiers and riders park at the base or take a shuttle there from town. Atop the lifts, they get glorious views of the Elk Mountains. Be it a long cruise down the trail called Ute or the steep, 52-degree pitch that is the Heathen, all trails lead back to the modest base.
With 75% of the trails for beginners and intermediate skill sets, Sunlight is known as a family-friendly retreat. For double black diamond runs, seek the East Ridge. Also, Sunlight offers 18 miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the scenic, high valley called Babbish Gulch.
Skiable terrain: 680 acres
Mountain stats: 9,895-foot summit, 7,885-foot base
Check out: Glenwood Hot Springs Pool; doughnuts at Sweet Coloradough; comfort food and cocktails at The Pullman
Central to Telluride Ski Resort’s logo is a miner’s axe — a nod to the history of one of Colorado’s most iconic towns. Remotely tucked in the heart of the majestic San Juan Mountains, Telluride mixes nostalgic charm with apres spoils. Impossible to miss is the free-of-charge gondola from downtown, affording riders the surrounding views of towering peaks and access to epic slopes.
For beginners, the best terrain is at the majesty of 11,800 feet. The Prospect Bowl Express ascends to green-rated runs found there. The famed Galloping Goose, the resort’s longest run at 4.6 miles, also can be reached from the lift. From the Revelation Express and Gold Hill Express, intermediate skiers and riders enjoy the groomed See Forever, the name of which rightly suggests the vistas to expect on the wide, meandering way.
Thrill-seekers take a shot down the Plunge, which drops 3,140 vertical feet. Powder hounds split days by hiking to the Gold Hill Chutes and the terrain on Palmyra Peak.
Skiable terrain: 2,000-plus acres
Mountain stats: 13,150-foot summit, 8,725-foot base
Check out: Breakfast and lunch at Baked in Telluride; Gorrono Ranch at mid-mountain; Telluride Brewing Co.
It’s true: Vail really is “like nothing on Earth,” as the slogan goes. What was once a valley of sheepherders is now a world-famous destination.
In North America, Vail is behind only Whistler Blackcomb, Big Sky Resort and Powder Mountain in terms of skiable terrain. Shuttles and heated walkways connect the resort’s three sections: Front-Side, Blue Sky Basin and Back Bowl. All have achieved legendary status for their range of challenges and views. Shangri-La is regarded as a must-hit on powder days.
The basin attracts backcountry lovers who find everything from wide, open areas to glades and bumps. The black diamond Riva Ridge is one of the resort’s oldest trails and is still the longest at 4 miles. Beginner and intermediate skiers and riders stick to the mountain’s east side, stocked with corduroy and friendly cruisers.
Skiable terrain: 5,317 acres
Mountain stats: 11,570-foot summit, 8,120-foot base
Check out: Breakfast at Village Bagel in Edwards; Minturn Saloon; dinner and drinks at Sweet Basil
More than 80 years of institutional knowledge is kept at Winter Park Resort, one of Colorado’s oldest ski areas. What began as a project by Denver government to provide winter fun for residents has become a major destination about a 90-minute drive from Denver International Airport. While recent development has focused on year-round recreation — if you haven’t heard, Trestle Bike Park is a hit — classic skiing and riding is still the calling card.
The famously bumpy terrain is spread across two mountains, with the majority of beginner trails located on the resort’s namesake peak. Meanwhile, the Mary Jane side caters more to the advanced types. “The legendary lady,” as the mountain is called, boasts technical moguls and flowy blues.
The Parsenn Bowl is a high-alpine paradise. Best known for its powder stashes, Vasquez Ridge offers more backcountry thrills. If tricks are your thing, check out the resort’s terrain parks for varied skill levels.
Skiable terrain: 3,081 acres
Mountain stats: 12,060-foot summit, 9,000-foot base
Check out: Lodge at Sunspot on mountain; Randi’s Irish Grill and Pub; Hideaway Park Brewery
Pull off scenic Wolf Creek Pass and enter a winter wonderland of nostalgia. Across the industry that becomes more apres and plush every year, Wolf Creek Ski Area keeps its bare-bones appearance. That is a point of pride for the Pitchers, overseeing one of the state’s last family-owned slopes.
The Wall Street Journal not long ago counted Wolf Creek as a best-kept secret among the country’s ski areas. A visit to the parking lot, especially during the holidays, and the Texas license plates would imply the secret is out.
But locals here between the San Luis Valley and San Juan Mountains are spoiled with supreme powder. Wolf Creek claims to get more natural snow than any other ski area in Colorado.
The split among beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain invites skiers and riders from near and far. For the more experienced, a variety of bowls and glades are hike-to treasures.
Skiable terrain: 1,600 acres
Mountain stats: 11,904-foot summit, 10,300-foot base
Check out: Pagosa Springs’ hot springs; Root House Coffee in Pagosa; Two Rivers BBQ in South Fork