8 of the Best Colorado Ski Resorts for Thrilling Terrain and Stunning Scenery
Skiing and snowboarding in Colorado is a truly unique experience. The unmistakable peaks of the majestic Rocky Mountains, the sheer variety, volume, and breadth of the resorts, and plentiful annual snowfall make this state one of the most coveted winter playgrounds. The pandemic has given us all a renewed appreciation for the outdoors, and what better way to experience it this winter than at one of these eight Colorado ski resorts. Each destination offers something unique, like world class art exhibits in Aspen, backcountry cat skiing in Crested Butte, or whiskey tastings in Breckenridge, to name a few, but the best ski resorts in Colorado have two major things in common: great winter weather (allowing for a longer ski season) and exhilarating terrain that makes for an unmatched skiing experience for all skill levels.
Colorado is a Swiss army knife of winter activity, and the key to unlocking it is the Epic Pass, a single season pass that covers different resorts across the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan (including several on this list). At each of these Colorado ski resorts, you can push your skills, master the terrain, and even enjoy some charming non-skiing activities in some of the West's most idyllic towns.
Vail Ski Resort
Just a little over two hours from Denver International Airport, Vail has been a winter haven for almost 60 years and has always promised just as much excitement for non-skiers. Up on the mountain, more than 5,300 skiable acres welcome adrenaline junkies, with the longest run clocking in at a whopping four miles. At the base, enjoy a picturesque stroll through the town of Vail, where you'll find heated cobblestone streets and chalets that look like they belong in the European Alps. Don't miss skiing the "Legendary Back Bowls" and plentiful après-ski and dining options to satisfy the most picky skier.
Find it: Vail
Steamboat Ski Resort
When you ski at this northwest Colorado resort, you're actually traversing a completely independent mountain range with more than 2,900 skiiable acres. The resort prides itself on being family friendly with free lift tickets for kids 12 and under with the purchase of a 5-or-more day adult lift ticket. When you're not on the slopes, warm up those muscles at one of the area's famous hot springs. Announced this past February was Steamboat's "Full Steam Ahead" initiative -- a $135 million multi-year capital infusion focused on a complete renovation of the resort's base area, a new, world-class learning area, and an additional 10-person gondola (which will be the longest in North America).
Find it: Steamboat
For skiers and snowboarders looking to extend their riding experience, this resort is the place to be — Keystone opened for the season in October. When you're not pounding the more than 3,000 acres of powder, hop on a scenic sleigh ride for some festive vibes, or get your cardio in with snow biking (a cross between skiing and downhill mountain biking). Kids (and kids at heart) will appreciate the daily fresh cookie après-ski. Oh, and did we mention that kids under 12 ski free (with no blackout dates) when families book two or more consecutive nights via Keystone Resort?
Find it: Keystone Resort
Telluride Ski Resort
With varied mountain terrain (and nearly 60 percent dedicated to beginners and intermediates), this resort has something for everyone. When you're not hurtling down the mountain on skis or a snowboard, you can still enjoy the mountain views with a guided snowmobile or snowshoeing tour. Looking to combine your adrenaline fix with some history? Head to the Telluride Historical Museum where you can participate in a Ski Into History Tour for a unique perspective on the mountain. If fine dining is your thing, be sure to check out two of the best on-mountain restaurants in the state: the ski-in/ski-out, Alpino Vino, America's highest restaurant (11,966 feet above sea level) which features an incredible selection of European wines, meats, and cheeses, or Allred's, accessible only via the town gondola with impressive views of the San Juan Mountains.
Find it: Telluride Ski Resort
Celebrating its 60th anniversary this season, "Breck" is one of the highest altitude resorts in Colorado. Boasting 2,908 skiable acres spread over five peaks with 187 different trails, there's something for every skill level. Down in town, this charming village, which started as a base camp for the gold rush in the 1850s, welcomes visitors with architecture that harkens back to the Old West and historical tours that explore its gold mining past. Check out Breckenridge Distillery, where you can sample award-winning bourbons, whiskeys, rums, and vodkas. New for the 21/22 season is the Freedom SuperChair, which will provide skiers with an entirely new and interconnected way to experience the epic rolling terrain of Peak 7. Sitting slope-side on the base of Peak 9, Gravity Haus Breck's Snow Cabanas are an extension of the hotel's restaurant, and each cabana comes with QR code access to the full menu and full-service delivery from the restaurant and bar.
Find it: Breckenridge
Crested Butte Mountain Resort
Also celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Crested Butte Mountain Resort is one of the best ski resorts in Colorado, perfectly tuned for more advanced skiers or snowboarders — particularly those in search of a challenge as 53 percent of its 121 runs are considered advanced or expert level. Take a guided lesson to explore the mountain's extreme terrain, or sign up to ski with an Olympian to really test your skills. For the truly adventurous, Irwin Guides and Scarp Ridge Lodge can arrange a private, luxury cat-skiing experience to encounter some of the greatest backcountry terrain (averaging 600 inches of snow per year). If your preference is more low key, take a leisurely stroll down historic Elk Avenue, where Old West Victorian architecture welcomes you to explore the small shops and some of the best dining in the state. Be sure to swing by local favorite Secret Stash for truly unforgettable pizza, Montanya Distillers for cocktails with locally distilled rums, Soupcon for rustic French bistro fare, and The Slogar for skillet-fried chicken.
Find it: Crested Butte
Beaver Creek Resort
Scheduled to debut during the 2021-2022 winter season, the McCoy Park area will add 250 acres of lift-served ski terrain for beginner and intermediate skiers. This represents the resort's newest learning area -- a separate, family-friendly zone, allowing for a more relaxed experience for beginner families with 17 trails of natural, groomable glades alongside fan-favorite snowshoe and cross-country areas. This is in addition to the mountain's 1,800 skiable acres and 150 trails. Intrepid early risers will want to sign up for BC's First Tracks program, where they'll get access to untouched, exquisitely groomed corduroy runs starting at 7:15 a.m. Later in the day, lace up your skates and hit the rink in the middle of the village, or take a snowcat to the famous Beano's Cabin for one of the best on-mountain, off-the-grid alpine dining experiences.
Find it: Beaver Creek
This chic, celebrity-favorite Colorado ski resort area is actually four different resorts that combine to form one of the most varied ski and snowboard experiences in the state. Check out Buttermilk, where you'll find the home of the Winter X Games as well as a learning area for younger skiers and riders, or head to Snowmass for more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain and runs as long as 5.3 miles. Aspen Highlands is perfect for more advanced skiers and revelers (be sure to snag a hard-to-get reservation at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro). Last, but certainly not least, Aspen Mountain (known as Ajax to locals) is right in the middle of town. After a long day on the slopes, hit some of the area's high-end après-ski options or indulge in a little luxury shopping on the quaint village streets. New dining this year includes Italian restaurant, Casa D'Angelo, and NYC transplants Sushi Nakazawa, cocktail favorite, Dante (which is taking up a year long residency at The St. Regis' Chef's Club), and Catch Steak. Finally, LA's famous see-and-be-seen nightclub, Bootsy Bellows, is reopening in a new location after remodeling the former Maru sushi space. If culture is your thing, be sure to check out the Andy Warhol: Lifetimes exhibit at The Aspen Art Museum, which opens on December 3, 2021.
Find it: Aspen Snowmass