GETTING THERE & GETTING AROUND
Most of Colorado’s resorts are within one to three hours driving distance of Denver so getting to the slopes can be both quick and easy. Denver International Airport is served by international flights as well as being a major hub for air travel within the United States. The city is also served by Amtrak Trains and Greyhound us Services.
From Denver, there are several shuttle companies offering direct ground transportation from the airport to the ski resorts and most can be booked independently or are included in package deals. Of course, rental cars are also widely available across Colorado or visitors can opt for chartered vans or taxis. Many of the ski towns operate public transit around the area, including transport from town centers or hotels up to the slopes.
Colorado is home to more than 25 ski resorts and there is literally a resort for everyone. Trendsetters can make a beeline for swanky, celebrity-studded mountain villages like Aspen and Vail while those wanting to leave it all behind can choose away-from-it-all places like Telluride and Durango Purgatory. Steep and deep junkies can head for Crested Butte, families can enjoy Copper Mountain’s self-contained village and well-organized beginner areas and the après-ski crowd can light up the evenings in Breckenridge.What follows then is a brief overview of Colorado’s most well-known resorts but there are a dozen other local ski areas to add to the mix. And while some resorts are favored for their double-black mogul runs and others for their terrain parks, most will offer something for every age and level, including world-class ski and snowboard schools, trendy village scenes and a plethora of off-slope activities.
Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Keystone & Winter Park
Situated less than 100 mi (160 km) west of Denver, these resorts are the closest to the city, thus making them popular with both locals and visitors. Arapahoe Basin (locally called A Basin) boasts one of the longest seasons in the country and while its skiable terrain is smaller in area than many—approximately 900 acres (365 ha)—its location above 13,000 ft (3,960 m) makes it one of North America’s highest resorts. Breckenridge is a different story. The resort spans four mountains and includes three base villages, giving skiers and riders a wealth of terrain choices. After the lifts close, the former mining town—now completely renovated to exude its historic Victorian charm—comes alive and the après-ski choices are no less impressive.
Keystone and Winter Park both take playing in the snow to new levels. At Keystone, off-piste enthusiasts can ski fresh tracks every time with snowcat skiing, while tricksters can spend endless hours in Colorado’s largest night terrain park. And Winter Park? The resort consistently receives more annual snow than its competitors and features five inter-connected mountains on which to play, each with its own flavor and fun.
Vail, Beaver Creek, Copper Mountain & Steamboat
Mention skiing in Colorado and one inevitably thinks of Vail. Largely considered the state’s (if not the country’s) premier ski destination, Vail has earned the label. Its 5,000 acres (2,023 ha) are accessed by an unrivalled high-speed lift system, while its Austrian-style village—featuring hundreds of shops, restaurants, bars and spas—matches its mountain. Vail’s partner mountain, Beaver Creek, is the valley’s answer to upscale Aspen. Beaver Creek is home to not only high-end lodging and amenities, it also draws the world’s top skiers to its annual World Cup races.
In international circles, Copper Mountain is somewhat unknown but for locals and those who know it, the resort is a big-time favorite. Featuring an award-winning trail system of diverse terrain, the popular resort has something for everyone, including a relaxing vibe and a family-friendly approach. Located north of the state’s other large resorts, Steamboat brings the Wild West to the mountains. Its western authenticity can be felt on the slopes, in the town and in its local Stetson-sporting atmosphere.
Aspen & Crested Butte
Aspen’s ski history began in the 1940s and since its beginning, the town and its four respective resorts have been a magnet for the rich and famous, as well as some of the world’s best skiers when it regularly features on the World Cup skiing circuit. Aspen Mountain (also called Ajax) is the original, flagship mountain and possesses incredible bumps to match its incredible views, while Aspen Highlands is known for its challenging vertical and off-piste terrain. Buttermilk, on the other hand, features loads of moderate groomers and is ideal for beginners or those wanting to relax while they carve. Snowmass, the fourth of Aspen’s mountains, is big, varied and friendly. Children will love the Treehouse Kid’s Adventure Center while intermediates of all ages will delight in the Big Burn, a mile-wide, tree-speckled run perfect for cruising.
West of Aspen on the Rockies’ western slope is Crested Butte and where Aspen is all about attitude, Crested Butte is about the lack there of. The town remains true to its roots and visitors can expect a laid-back Colorado town with Old West charm. Much of the terrain, however, is anything but laid-back and the resort boasts the most double black runs of any in Colorado.
Telluride & Durango Purgatory
Situated in southern Colorado with the nearest traffic light being over 60 mi (96 km) away, winter visitors head to Telluride to get away from it all. Surrounded only by a bevy of 14,000 ft (4,265 m) peaks, the lift lines are as non-existent as the choices of where to head are indefinite.
Even more out of the way, Durango Purgatory might be named after Dante’s Inferno but, for many, the resort is a slice of heaven. Bright bluebird days regularly bless Purgatory Mountain and the mountain returns the favor by bestowing winter enthusiasts with dramatic alpine views, legendary terrain and an easy-going, family-friendly energy.