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Total Resorts in Region:

23

Average Snowfall in Region:

306"

Resort with Most Snow:

Steamboat Ski Resort - 368"

Largest Vertical:

Aspen Snowmass - 4,030'

Largest Resort by acreage:

Vail Ski Resort - 5,289 acres

Colorado has always been the flagship state for ski resorts, ski trips, and skiers. If you mention skiing to somebody in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or wherever, you will often kindle a conversation about ski trips to Colorado. It's a place, more than anywhere else, that has been conjoined to an activity that so many of us love and often travel long distances to enjoy.

Colorado is the state of skiing. Ski trips to Colorado are often the medium within which so many people get hooked on the sport.

No skier can be complete without ripping some turns in the Rocky Mountain State. If you haven't done it, you should.

There are a lot of rankings for 'The Best Colorado Ski Resorts' out there. Most of them are ridiculous. One site that garners a lot of traffic for such things clearly values the resorts that book the most lodging for it as the 'best.' You may have seen the ranking, which does not feature the same resorts at the top of this and is clearly a list of resorts that have the most hotel rooms and condos.

We list lodging options here because it's how we keep the servers turned on, which cost more than they used to because we get more traffic, but our rankings are about four main things, none of which are lodging:

Snow: Winter precipitation quality consists of many things, mainly: quantity, density (most snow that falls in Colorado is very light and excellent for skiing), the characteristics of the mountain in holding and preserving snow (slope aspects, elevation and latitude), and snow consistency (high standard deviations are bad, low standard deviations are good). Most of Colorado has moderate to low standard deviations and is far more dependable than, say, the Sierra in California/Nevada.

Towns: we prefer older, real towns that back up to the ski resort. The best town in all of skiing, Telluride, is obviously in Colorado. Aspen is second, and also one of the best in North America. Other great towns in Colorado: Crested Butte, Steamboat, Frisco (close-ish to Copper, A-Basin and Breck) and Breckenridge the town, in that order.

Crowds: This has always been an important consideration when picking a ski resort, but this aspect has become more important than others during the last few years as the number of people skiing multiple days and mashing into popular ski resorts has increased. Places such as Telluride and Aspen get bumps here compared with Breckenridge and Keystone because they see far fewer skiers and are harder for Denver drivers to reach.

Terrain: We like steep terrain and we grade highly for that. But we also have families and we feel that a diversity of terrain is important. Telluride, which is our No. 1 resort in Colorado, has some of the best steeps in the state (chairs 14, 15, 12 and 9), but it also has terrain off of Chair 10 and Chair 1 that is ideal for beginners: long, wide and gradually sloped. And intermediates at Telluride will revel in blues coming off of chairs 4, 5 and 10. As another example, Vail, which has great intermediate terrain and some good lower-level advanced terrain, doesn't have much that's at the steeper end of the spectrum. Nor does Vail have a lot of true beginner runs that aren't cross-mountain catwalks, a place where nobody wants to learn how to ski. Beaver Creek has gobs of this kind of terrain, however, and it's a place we often recommend to families with kids who are best suited to skiing green terrain for now.

Best Colorado Ski Resorts:

Resort
True
Snowfall*
Acreage Vertical
Drop
Summit
Elevation
Lifts PAF
Score
1 Telluride Ski Resort
CO
276 in 2000 acres 3845 ft 12570 ft 18 95.6 more
Visually, Telluride is the most striking ski town in North America. The richness of scenery created by 14,000-foot peaks and an old mining town that backs into a box canyon can't be overstated. The town is, by our judgement, the best in skiing, with venerable buildings that have been carefully restored making up the majority of the main drag (Colorado Ave.). It has more to offer than any other mountain town, with great intermediate terrain mixing with steeps that are among the best on the continent. Town is connected via a free gondola to Mountain Village, where much of the newer lodging is. The gondola runs from 7 a.m. to past midnight. The dining scene is among the best in skiing.

Pros:

  • No crowds. Waiting for a chair here is a rarity; of the major ski resorts in Colorado, it's the farthest from Denver.
  • Terrain: Some of the best steeps in the state, including a 2,000-foot couloir that is in-bounds, and bootpacks that cover up to 1,300 vertical feet reaching beyond 13,000 feet. The steep runs leading to town are the stuff of dreams. Great intermediate and beginner terrain off of chairs 4, 5, 10.
  • Scenery: The San Juans here reach to the sky with the steepness and urgency of the Alps; this is the prettiest ski resort in North America
  • Town: Not only the prettiest, this is the best ski town in North America. It abuts the slopes, the box canyon above town is stunning, and the 100+ year-old buildings give this place a feel that is unique. Town is awash in great food and interesting lodging options.
  • No chains. Skiers won't find a chain restaurant, hotel or anything related in Telluride

Cons:

  • Lodging can be expensive
  • Harder to get to, but Montrose-Telluride airport does have a lot of direct flights: Denver, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix. Driving from Denver airport is not a good option as it's seven hours
2 Vail Ski Resort
CO
354 in 5289 acres 3450 ft 11570 ft 31 90.8 more

Vail excels at giving skiers choices. Not only between green, blue and black, but also between slopes that face north, south, east and west, and terrain with pure fall lines and that which is pitched to the left or right. Vail goes on and on and on—that's it's best quality. It's also true that mant of those 5,000-plus acres that comprise Vail offer genuinely great skiing. If one were picking a spot to spend a powder day and competing skiers weren't an issue, Vail would be toward the top of the draft board in Colorado. Great lift system, good terrain, and lots of hiding spots.

But Vail does see a lot of skiers. The solution to this conundrum, for those who want to ski Vail: ski it Monday through Thursday when the crowds tend to be mild. A Wednesday in the middle of February can offer nirvana. In either case, it's best to get the slopes first thing and avoid lines that can bunch at the bottom of the mountain. Once you're up the mountain at Vail, there's a lot of room to roam—skiers should do just that.

Pros:

  • A good snow profile: Vail is about as steady as it gets for precip in Colorado
  • A lot of terrain for intermediates and budding experts
  • Comprehensive lift system that constantly sees upgrades and uphill capacity expansion
  • It's big: more than 5,000 acres. Cagey skiers can get up early and dodge crowds

Cons:

  • Can get slammed on the weekends, gondola lines grow Epic (sorry for the pun). Traffic over Vail Pass can extend ride past Summit County more than an hour
  • Town isn't really a town; it's the purpose-built ski area base, which is extensive and fashioned in the spirit of Epcot Center Switzerland
  • Parking can be a major pain. Just pay up and get your car into one of the garages early
  • Lack of true beginner terrain that isn't a cross-mountain cat track. Not a place for people who like green runs
3 Aspen Snowmass
CO
295 in 3132 acres 4030 ft 12510 ft 20 88.9 more

The editor of a prominent ski magazine once said to me, when I asked him if he preferred Vail or Beaver Creek, "Why stop there when you can drive another 90 minutes and be in the promised land?"

This person was referring to Aspen, of course. Having put in plenty of days at Aspen myself, I find the editor's point to be spot on. Our opinions are clearly among a minority, however, because if that weren' the case, Aspen wouldn't benefit from the lack of crowds that, compared to parts of Colorado to the east, is one of its defining and best features. And that's the thing—when most people think about Aspen, they assume it's the town and the pomp of the place that set it apart. Town is fine. It backs up to Aspen Mountain—one of four separate ski hills here—and that's charming. But Aspen the town isn't Telluride and it's not Park City. It's Breckenridge with a higher spending limit. No, the best thing about Aspen isn't town—it's the skiing.

Aspen Mountain has a relentless pitch, no green runs (that's a minus and a plus), and rarely sees crowds. It's our favorite of the bunch. Just behind that is Highlands, also awash in good fall lines and very few people. The Highlands Bowl is one of the best in-bounds ski hikes in North America. Snowmass, the biggest of the lot, is less steep than the previous two, but, as a Russian dictator once said, quantity has its own quality. Snowmass, in our opinion, can get more crowded than the other mountains and most resembles skiing at destination resorts in Eagle and Summit Counties in Colorado, but it still sees fewer skiers compared with those mountains closer to Denver.

The fourth Aspen mountain, Buttermilk, is a mellow spot perfect for green and aspiring blue skiers.

Pros:

  • Few crowds
  • Good terrain at Aspen Mountain and Highlands
  • Good town, great dining
  • Good air access—direct flights from many metros. But any kind of weather shuts the runways down quickly

Cons:

  • Expensive lodging
  • The best beginner terrain is a bus or car ride away from the best expert terrain
  • It lives up to the Aspen stereotype. There's only so much Prada and Bogner one can take on the slopes
4 Steamboat Ski Resort
CO
368 in 2965 acres 3668 ft 10568 ft 18 88.3 more

Steamboat occupies a piece of Northern Colorado well away from the fray of Eagle and Summit Counties. People still flock to the place but so does snow. The northerly Colorado latitude puts the mountain in the sights of the jetstream more often than other Colorado resorts, giving it an excellent track record for getting terrain open early. The mountain is relatively low for colorado, with a base of 6,900 feet, which makes it cold in the darkest months of the winter and warm in the later months. That warmth, plus the general lack of north-facing terrain, make it a better January destination than a March one, for skiers seeking to optimize on potential snow conditions. It's a mellow mountain that lacks the straight-up steeps of Telluride or Crested Butte, but it does have good tree terrain and some shorter steep shots at the top of the mountain to keep experts occupied. Our favorite lift at Steamboat is Bar-U-E, an old fixed grip that never has any lines but leads to some nicely gladeed trees and pockets of less-skied snow.

Pros:

  • Excellent early-season opening rate, most dependable
  • Large lodging base near mountain, which is a mile or so from town
  • VRBO rentals can be cheaper here than many other Colorado mountains
  • Great terrain for intermediates and families

Cons:

  • Can see crowds due to large lodging base
  • Lack of north-facing terrain and low CO elevation make spring thaw cycle especially pronounced
  • Nothing super steep
5 Winter Park Ski Resort
CO
347 in 3081 acres 3060 ft 12060 ft 25 85.4 more

Not so long ago, Denverites sought out Winter Park for its mellow atmosphere and lack of lift lines compared with ski resorts closer to I-70. The purchase of Winter Park by Alterra Mountain Co. and its full inclusion on the company's Ikon Pass has change the dynamic. Winter Park remains sleepier than Vail-owned spots close to the Front Range, but make no mistake: Winter Park forms the front line for Alterra when it comes to selling passes to the Denver metro area.

Despite all that, Winter Park remains a skier's mountain—and one that isn't directly in the sights of I-70. Winter Park offers intermediates an exciting canvas on which to challenge themselve with more than 1,000 acres that will keep them investigating these parts of the Rockies. Experts won't find the steepest of pitches at Winter Park but they will find an abundance of long bump runs and tree skiing hideouts that can't all be discovered in a single season.

Snow is a strength for Winter Park, as the mountain draws more of it than most Colorado resorts. Its holds the second highest score for snow in Colorado, behind only Wolf Creek. Its high base elevation of 9,000 feet and 50% north facing terrain, with nearly zero that faces south, means that it is an elite preserver of snow.

Pros:

  • One of the stronger snow profiles in Colorado
  • Well-balanced terrain with good intermediate groomers and lots of bumps for experts
  • Skiers driving here can escape I-70 much earlier than those headed to Summit or Eagle Counties
  • Lodging base still limited, which keeps destinations skier numbers down

Cons:

  • Slopes get busy with Denver Ikon Pass skiers on the weekends
  • Town is limited. There are restaurants and places to find gear but it's not much of a destination itself
6 Beaver Creek Resort
CO
325 in 1815 acres 3340 ft 11440 ft 25 84.9 more

Many of the skiers we know best who ski on an Epic Pass rank Beaver Creek ahead of all other Central Colorado mountains. There are good reasons for this. Its terrain is varied, with some of the best beginner runs in Colorado, and also plenty of solid advanced terrain, including Birds of Prey, an infamous World Cup run, which, when it's groomed to resemble something close to racing conditions (read: ice) can be a heat check for skiers who are traipsing about the mountain with misplaced confidence. The crowds at Beaver Creek tend to be less acute than those at Epic mountains further east: Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail.

The mountain possesses a solid snow profile, as it enjoys its premium position west of Vail Pass, where snow falls in larger quantities compared with east of the pass in Summit County. And 55% of Beaver Creek's runs face north, keeping snow cold. There is no town here, however, not even a fake one pulled from the sets of Epcot Center. Beaver Creek Village is quiet and fancy, but nobody has ever fallen in love with it. The skiing, however, is a different matter.

Pros:

  • Solid snow profile, good quantities and lower standard deviations, 55% north-facing terrain
  • Chocolate chip cookies served every day at the base, 3:00 p.m., and they're free
  • Perhaps the best ski school in central Colorado. Your kid would have to start a fire for you to get a call in the middle of the day
  • There are escalators that take people from one level to the next in the Village. Small thing, but an awesome one
  • Perhaps the best place for beginners and small children in Colorado; superb upper terrain for beginners, who are often stuck skiing at the bottom of the mountain

Cons:

  • Parking is expensive; simply have to put up with it and get on with your day
  • Lodging around main base can be pricey
  • Can be crowded, especially during the weekend onslaught of Denverites
7 Aspen Highlands
CO
252 in 1028 acres 3635 ft 11675 ft 5 83.8 more
Aspen Highlands gives ski trips to the Aspen area an added dimension. This is a skier's mountain, where fall lines are pure and runs tend to be void of people. The bootpack up Highlands Bowl is one of the premier in-bounds hiking tracks in all of skiing. And for those who make its summit (it's not that bad; you can make it), the rewards are real: long, steep lines with powder stashes throughout the trees. Highlands offers a little nip of Alta-style rough edges in the what is the most exclusive alpine valley in North America.
8 Aspen Mountain - Ajax
CO
250 in 675 acres 3267 ft 11212 ft 8 83.0 more
The name Aspen has been synonynous with ski trips for decades—with good reason. Aspen defined the paradigm for ski towns everywhere else in North America. And it still remains one of the continent's best destinations, with one of the most tightly integrated relationships between ski resort and town. Skiers here can go as upmarket as they want in lodging and fare, but there are bargains to be had by those who book early. The skiing here will please anybody: tons of legitimate expert runs, great intermediate cruisers and very few crowds.
9 Breckenridge Ski Resort
CO
282 in 2358 acres 3240 ft 12840 ft 31 81.7 more

One of the best-known names in skiing, Breck features one of the most varied collections of terrain in Colorado, with something for everybody. The upper steeps are legit—when they're open. And the bottom apron of the mountain features miles of wide intermediate runs. As the Epic Pass resort closest to Denver, crowds are no stranger to this place and the slopes here are probably the most crowded in the state of Colorado. Our advice to skiers who want to hit Breckenridge: go during the week and leave the weekends to the ruffians who don't know any better. Skiers' best move at Breck, similar to Vail, is to arrive early and to quickly get to areas up and away from the base. Mine those. If there's new snow and it's later than Feb. 1, powder seekers should get out as early as possible—first chair—because the dominant eastern aspect of the mountain means that the snow can get warm and heavy by 1:30 pm. Breck has a classic downtown mainstreet that has the old buildings and charm to make it the favorite of many, despite its oversubscription of T-shirt shops. Main Street will see crowds, too, so plan your meals ahead and try not to drive into the heart of the beast looking for parkting.

Pros:

  • Close to Denver
  • Vibrant town, not far from slopes (but town doesn't abut the slopes, like Aspen, Telluride and Park City)
  • Good range of terrain
  • High elevation of ridge draws good amount of snow
  • Large lodging base, cheaper than Vail and Beaver Creek

Cons:

  • Close to Denver (yes, it's a pro and con)
  • Crowds: it's a popular destination resort and a favorite of Denver folk with Epic Pass
  • East-facing mountain can warm up quickly in the spring
10 Crested Butte Ski Resort
CO
253 in 1547 acres 2500 ft 11875 ft 16 79.5 more

Without a doubt, this mountain and town share one of the cooler names in skiing. Anything crested has to be good. It's also a good place that should be of particular interest to Epic Pass skiers, as it's one of the least-crowded options available to those holding the Epic Pass. Unlike Telluride, Vail owns Crested Butte, which means Epic Pass holders can get as many days as they want here. The mountain's distance to Denver keeps away the kind of crowds that descend on Breck, Winter Park, Vail and others, but determined Denver drivers can still make a weekend out of it. Crested Butte possesses some of the most technical terrain in Colorado, which makes it a great pick for those seeking out steeps in February and March. Lodging saw an expanded building boom in the late 2000s that created a lot of inventory and moderate prices for skiers. This is one of the better towns in Colorado; only Telluride is demonstrably ahead of it in our book (Aspen's streets run right to the slopes of Aspen Mountain, unlike Crested Butte, which is a short distance away from the hill, but the ambiance of Crested Butte is better overall).

Pros:

  • Charming town less than a mile from mountain
  • Excellent expert terrain. It can take a while to open, but this is among the most technical terrain in the state
  • The least-crowded Vail-owned mountain; Epic Pass skiers should seek it out to dodge crowds in Eagle and Summit Counties
  • Lodging tends to be cheaper than than average for a major Colorado mountain

Cons:

  • Early season can be thin; this place requires a lot of snow to get open but it doesn't get as much precipitation as other major resorts
  • Harder to get to: Gunnison has more flights than it used to, but still a limited number; Drive from Denver Airport is close to five hours
11 Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
CO
314 in 900 acres 1692 ft 12472 ft 7 78.7 more

The resort has developed something of a cult-following in Denver and Summit Counties, not dissimilar from the adoration that Alta gathers on a larger scale from the North American ski community. A-Basin is a more spartan mountain than other resorts nearby, also similar to Alta, which focuses the experience on skiing. Unlike Alta, A-Basin doesn't get the prolific snow amounts and snowboards are permitted on its pistes. But make no mistake: this is a skier's mountain, with many wide-open bowls that bump up after snows and some of the better in-bounds boot-packing trails in the state. Skiers (and riders) can pick from a wide selection of expert terrain hairy high-elevation nooks put A-Basin in the class of Crested Butte and Telluride when it comes to steep skiing. The best thing about A-Basin is its spring season, where its high elevations and north-facing terrain make it the premier place to ski in Colorado in late March and April. The rocky terrain requires large amounts of snow for good coverage, which can be an issue in the early season, but one that's usually solved by March.

Pros:

  • Great terrain, best expert slopes in central Colorado
  • Excellent spring skiing: high elevations, lots of north-facing terrain
  • Close to Denver

Cons:

  • Crowds: Proximity to Denver and Ikon Pass access can draw a lot of people; spring weekends can get nutty
  • Early season can be spotty compared with close-by resorts that require less snow to open more terrain
12 Copper Mountain
CO
278 in 2465 acres 2601 ft 12313 ft 22 78.1 more

Sitting in Summit county not too far from the town of Frisco, Copper has been a destination resort for decades. Not being owned by Vail or Alterra puts it in an awkward position as a mainline resort close to the Front Range. Copper doesn't have the cult following that A-Basin, also in Summit County, enjoys. To draw Front Range skiers, Copper needs to be on a multi-resort pass full-time—and it is. Nearly everybody skiing at Copper does so on the Ikon Pass. As a full-time Ikon destination sitting right on I-70 Copper will see crowds on the weekends, but they're generally sparser than those at Breckenridge, a Vail Resorts destination in Summit County. The terrain is varied, offering something for everybody. Experts will find good stashes high up—over 12,000 feet in Copper's case. One of Copper's strongest characteristics is its ability to preserve snow. With a base elevation of 9,700 feet and more than half of its terrain (55%) facing north, Copper slopes stay chalky and cold well into March, making it a strong choice for spring trips.

Pros:

  • Large lodging pool at base; significantly cheaper than that at Breck or Vail
  • Big mountain, good balance of terrain
  • The best preserver of snow in Central Colorado along with A-Basin. An excellent pick in the spring

Cons:

  • This is a pure resort, there is no town at the base. Frisco isn't far, just down I-70
  • As with any major mountain near the Front Range, weekends are crowded and skiers have to fight I-70 traffic
13 Loveland Ski Area
CO
344 in 1800 acres 1900 ft 12700 ft 10 77.8 more
This place is gem hidden in plain view. It sits on south side of I-70, stradding the east entrance to the Eisenhower tunnel. Even by Colorado standards, Loveland is high, with a base of around 11,000 feet. That means lots of snow and great snow preservation. Add in the fact that 40% of Loveland's terrain faces north and you have a veritable deep freezer keeping things cold and soft. Loveland makes for a great day trip for any ski trips staging out of Vail or Summit County ski areas.
14 Keystone Resort
CO
235 in 3148 acres 2718 ft 11998 ft 20 76.0 more
Keystone is a unique ski trip destination that has a special knack for making things easy on families. The parking is free, and gear wagons, used to shuttle kids and stuff from the car to the slopes, are free and abundant. The ski runs here are long, with good extended fall lines coming off of several peaks. There's nothing super steep at Keystone, but experts can stay sated by hiking or riding the cats ($10 a ride) to some back bowls and snow that don't see many skiers.
15 Wolf Creek Ski Resort
CO
387 in 1600 acres 1604 ft 11904 ft 7 75.8 more

Wolf Creek embodies what many of us wish skiing had more of: family-oriented resorts with solid facilities and a noticeable lack of commercialization. Wolf Creek is effectively a fairly raw mountain ridge in Southern Colorado that happens to have ski lifts installed on it. No hotels, no spas, no billionaire seven-story holes in the ground awaiting a steel superstructure), What there is, however, is snow—a lot of it. More than anywhere else in Colorado, in fact. Little weather disturbances that cross Colorado become big ones thanks to the geography of Wolf Creek's mountain faces. The mountain's easy-going terrain plus the outsized snow totals mean that Wolf Creek skiers can expect the slopes to be 100% open before anywhere else in Colorado.

Pros:

* Most snow in Colorado, better chance of powder skiing here than anywhere
* Dependable early-season skiing
* Lack of crowds
* Great local food at base—try the green chile chili

Cons:
* A little harder to get to: best bet is to fly to Durango, which lacks direct flights, drive 90 min east
* Lodging is sparse, look to VRBOs in Pagosa Springs
* Lack of steep terrain

16 Purgatory Ski Resort
CO
264 in 1360 acres 2029 ft 10822 ft 10 69.1 more
17 Aspen Buttermilk
CO
200 in 470 acres 2030 ft 9900 ft 8 69.0 more
18 Monarch Mountain
CO
284 in 800 acres 1162 ft 11952 ft 7 63.7 more
19 Powderhorn Resort
CO
225 in 1600 acres 1650 ft 9850 ft 5 61.1 more
20 Eldora Mountain Resort
CO
225 in 680 acres 1600 ft 10800 ft 11 60.0 more
21 Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort
CO
232 in 470 acres 2010 ft 9895 ft 3 58.4 more
22 Cuchara Mountain Resort
CO
200 in 225 acres 932 ft 10180 ft 5 50.3 more
23 Ski Granby Ranch Resort
CO
200 in 406 acres 1000 ft 9202 ft 6 48.6 more
Special Rates At Top Colorado Ski Resorts: