When asked about the best ski resorts in Colorado, there is a very good chance the same names will crop up every time: Vail. Breckenridge. Keystone. Telluride. And while all of these big-name resorts are beautiful mountains with great skiing, there is something to be said for the little guy. Colorado is chock-full of ski resorts, but here are 8 that you may not have heard of just yet.
Best Ski Resorts in Colorado
Tucked away from the madness on the I-70 corridor, Monarch Mountain is a great ski spot for families looking to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city. Situated to the west of Salida on Highway 50, Monarch is a good three hours from Denver, making it best as a weekend getaway. Snowfall is plentiful (350” on average per season) and the easy walk to the lifts from the (free!) parking lot makes it a great bet for little legs. It is not as big as the larger resorts, but Monarch still boasts 800 acres of skiable terrain with a top-out elevation of almost 12k. Trust us: the views up there are worth it! Pro tip: Check out the tree skiing. Since there are fewer visitors, the trees remain untracked for days after a big snowfall! Price: $89/adult; $59/teen; $43/junior; $59/senior if purchased at the ticket window. Buy online for savings of up to 40 percent. Details: For more information, visit Monarch Mountain.
While the name has flip-flopped back and forth (the mountain was briefly named Durango Mountain Resort before returning to its beloved moniker of Purgatory), one thing has not changed: awesome skiing. Located in the southwestern Colorado town of Durango, Purgatory is closer to New Mexico than it is to Denver. But locals wouldn’t have it any other way, as the six-hour journey from the city keeps the hordes of people far from the slopes. Plus, the town of Durango is a great spot to visit on its own, making Purgatory an awesome choice for couples on their honeymoon. This year boasts a new mountain coaster, a 4,000-foot track with 300 feet of vertical drop. Sure, it isn’t skiing, but it sounds like a lot of fun! Pro tip: If you visit, don’t forget to check out the nearby Ski Hesperus. Owned and operated by the same owner as Purgatory, Hesperus is a small mountain with affordable pricing; tickets cost a scant $39. Price: $89/adult; $70/teen; $55/child; $75/senior; lift tickets for Super Senior (80+) and kids 7 and younger are free Details: For more information, visit Purgatory Resort.
Let’s be clear: Silverton isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, it could easily be argued that Silverton is the most difficult mountain in the entire state of Colorado. Because of this, this mountain is best for expert skiers. But, if you think you have the technical chops, Silverton makes for an unforgettable day on sticks. Situated in the tiny town of Silverton, the mountain averages over 400 inches of snow per year and features zero groomed runs. As for chair lifts? A lone double chairlift accesses 1,800 acres of steep and ungroomed terrain. But the fun doesn’t end there; an additional 22,000 acres of skiing are accessible via helicopter or hiking. Guided and unguided skiing is available, although certain times of the year require guided ski days. On days when unguided skiing is allowed, the mountain caps it at 475 visitors in an effort to maintain an ecological balance. Pro tip: If you’ve always dreamed about heli skiing but haven’t quite made it to Alaska, Silverton will make your dreams a reality. Price: $179/guided skiing; $69/unguided lift ticket; $99/guided during unguided season; $179/single heli drop; $999/six heli drops in one day. If you are traveling from far away, it is worth it to make a reservation during unguided season. Details: For more information, visit Silverton Mountain.
If ease, accessibility, and affordability are your top criteria, Eldora Mountain will likely please you. Located in the small mountain town of Nederland, Eldora is only 40 minutes from Boulder, making this hill a great spot to hit up before work. For 2017, Eldora is debuting a new high-speed six-person Alpenglow lift. Previously, two old-school, fixed-grip lifts serviced this terrain, so the high-speed lift is a welcome modernization. Eldora is a great option for beginners with their Level 1 packages. These can include lift tickets, lessons, and gear, which make it a great deal for those who are just getting into the sport. Pro tip: If you are more into cross-country than downhill, the Eldora Nordic Center is a great option. With almost 25 miles of groomed trails, the Nordic Center offers classes, rentals, and snowshoes for those wanting to enjoy a day on the hill. Price: $99/adult; $59/junior; $19/child 5 and under; $59/senior; $59/active duty military. Buy online in advance for a serious discount on these prices. Details: For more information, visit Eldora Mountain.
It can be easy to confuse Ski Cooper with its neighbor of a similar name, but that’s where the similarities end. Boasting the self-described softest snow in the state, Ski Cooper is a local’s paradise. With 400 in-bounds acres of skiable terrain, Ski Cooper isn’t a megalopolis resort, but it doesn’t want to be. Lift lines? Non-existent. Crowds of people? Sure, if you count your group of friends. The terrain is good for all abilities, with an additional 2,600 acres of open bowl skiing accessible by snowcat tours. The best part is that Ski Cooper really means it when they tout their mountain as affordable; lift tickets are less than half the prices seen at nearby giant resorts. Pro tip: When you’re done skiing, head into nearby Leadville. It’s the highest incorporated town in the United States! Price: $54/adult; $34/child; $44/senior; $34/senior plus; Free/Super Senior. Discounted rates available if you purchase online in advance. Details: For more information, visit Ski Cooper.
Wolf Creek Ski Area
As one of the state’s last family-owned mountains, Wolf Creek is like stepping back into ski history. Condos and overnight lodging aren’t an option at this southern Colorado ski hill, so Wolf Creek is a mountain meant for hardcore skiers and those looking for what some would call the last great ski hill. The average annual snowfall is 430 inches, making Wolf Creek the snowiest mountain in Colorado. It’s also one of the toughest to reach; it’s a five-hour drive from Denver. If you’ve got the technical prowess, the hike-to terrain in the bowls and glades is not to be missed. Pro tip: After a day of quad-busting powder turns, head into the nearby Pagosa Hot Springs for a relaxing soak in the therapeutic waters. Price: $70/adult; $36/child; $41/senior; $28/beginner lift only Details: For more information, visit Wolf Creek Ski Area.
Loveland Ski Area
If you are a Colorado native who grew up skiing, there is a good chance you spent your early years on the slopes at Loveland. Situated smack on I-70 before the Eisenhower Tunnel, Loveland is easy to reach from the city. In just over an hour, city dwellers can be carving turns on this small-yet-challenging ski hill. It is a great mountain for singles since the crowds are small, lines are short, and people friendly. (Besides, with a name like Loveland, how can you not expect a little chairlift dating?!) But don’t be fooled: just because Loveland is smaller than the other resorts on I-70 doesn’t mean it is a baby ski mountain. Catch the Ridge Cat (free snowcat skiing) for advanced lines along the Continental Divide. Pro tip: If you want to save a few dollars but still enjoy a warm lunch, bring something to grill and head to the Ginny Lee Cabin under Lift 8. The warming hut has a wood-burning stove, restrooms, and a propane grill for you to use at your leisure. Price: $61/adult; $29/child Details: For more information, visit Loveland Ski Area.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
Known by locals as A-Basin or A-Bay, Arapahoe Basin is the place to enjoy some wicked hike-to terrain by day and a bumping tailgate party by afternoon. No, seriously: The Beach at A-Basin is always a scene, seven days a week. If you visit in the spring, it’ll be at its prime, since the terrain is 100 percent open but the sun is shining brightly. Makes for some memorable tailgating weekends! As for the skiing? Yeah, you should do that, too. The 2017 season brings a long-awaited expansion: 468 acres of bowl skiing, tree glades, and steep in-bounds skiing have been added to the mountain. Pro tip: Check out the beer menu at the 6th Alley Bar & Grill; most of the beer options are from local Colorado breweries. Price: $95/adult; $79/youth; $47/child; $85/semi-senior; $35/senior Details: For more information, visit Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.