Steep, Deep, and Thrilling - Colorado Ski Resorts

Top 5 skiing areas in Colorado including alpine skiing, x-country skiing, and backcountry skiing.
By Staff,
Skiers and snowcat and Jones Pass. Photo by Crystal Sagan

Alpine Skiing in Colorado

1. Winter Park and Mary Jane

With more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain and 25 lifts, Winter Park is big enough to have runs for every skill level but small enough to feel manageable on daytrips and quick family visits. Denver and Boulder locals like it for that reason, and because they rarely spend as much time driving compared to the I-70 resorts below. The mogul skiers also love it because neighboring Mary Jane (the resorts have one owner and are connected by lifts) is a paradise for advanced skiers, with numerous bump runs and ultra-steep glades. Winter Park is the closest resort to Grand Lake on the west side of RMNP. Info: www.winterparkresort.com 

2. Vail Resorts

At least once in his or her life, every skier should drop into one of the ungroomed back bowls at Vail. Long, open slopes and curvy aspen glades await, as does some of the deepest, lightest snow in the Rockies. To traverse the massive landscape at Vail on a storming powder day is, quite simply, one of the best skiing experiences on the planet. Of course, with 5,300 acres of terrain and 350-plus inches of snow a year, there are enough other runs and hills to keep you busy for years (which is good, because Vail attracted more than 1.7 million skiers last year). Vail is about 100 miles west of Denver on I-70, and weekend winter traffic can be epic. It’s also worth checking out three other Vail Resorts properties on I-70: Beaver Creek, a large, family-friendly mountain just west of Vail; and Keystone and Breckenridge, slightly smaller areas east of Vail and closer to Denver. Fair warning: Life-list powder ain’t cheap. You’ll pay close to $100 (or more) for a one-day lift ticket (buy an Epic Pass if you’ll be skiing 5 days or more), and meal prices are steep, too. Info: www.vail.com

3. More Downhill Ski Resorts

Colorado is so blessed with great skiing that many Denverites never get farther than the I-70 corridor. But out-of-towners looking to settle into one resort for a week should consider a few of the state’s more far-flung spots, all of which stay less crowded than the metro-area hot spots—and offer unique attractions. Steamboat Springs, about 3 hours northwest of Denver, is known for its long season, consistent snow quality, and soak-the-aches-away hot springs. Telluride, about 7 hours west of Denver, is a gorgeous, high-end town that feels more like the Swiss Alps than western Colorado. And Wolf Creek, about 5 hours south of Denver, is legendary for monster storms that dump up to 5 feet of snow at once.

X-Country Ski Areas in Colorado

4. Eldora Nordic Center

Connected to the Eldora alpine ski resort—a favorite of Boulderites for its proximity from downtown (only 30 minutes)—this high-country park offers 25 miles of trails for classic cross-country skiing, skate skiing, and snowshoeing. Don’t be surprised if you’re passed at warp speed by skinny skiers in spandex; Olympians train here, as do many über-fit locals. Eldora is the closest major resort to Estes Park on the east side of RMNP. Rentals are available on site (eldora.com).

Colorado Backcountry Skiing

5. Jones Pass

For more adventurous skiers seeking solitude, untracked champagne, and wild turns through aspen glades and steep chutes, sign up for a day of cat skiing with the guides from Powder Addiction. Based in Winter Park but skiing in the Jones Pass area south of there, these powder pros know the slopes and bowls here well enough to lead you to runs where the snow is thigh-deep and safe from avalanches. Rental gear is available, and all food, water, and avalanche safety tools are provided. For prices and availability, go to www.powderaddiction.com or call (970) 726-5442.