Locals just call it A-Basin. The first to open this season, this ski area is just under 70 miles from Denver, making it the perfect spot for a “sick day.” Coloradans and visitors alike appreciate what hasn’t changed at this simple, accessible ski and snowboard area: an exciting mix of terrain — steeps, chutes, glades and bowl skiing, balanced by expanded family-friendly runs. And let’s not overlook the long-cherished off-mountain scene. The “Beach” is A-Basin’s name for the slopeside pull-up parking lot where regulars enjoy DIY barbecues, brews and friends.
What’s in season: Visitors are still loving the 468-acre terrain expansion into the Beavers and Steep gullies, which includes the new four-person Beavers chairlift and two new groomed runs.
The brand, Aspen Snowmass, accounts for four wildly varied mountains — Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. The storied steeps of Aspen Mountain shoot right out of ritzy downtown Aspen. Just down the road, Highlands is a big-mountain skiing enclave with titanic bowls and hike-to terrain. Beginners enjoy Buttermilk, but so do athletes who practice in the resort’s varied ski and snowboard parks. And Snowmass has a little bit of everything: the most lift-served vertical feet in the country and all-day, all-mountain adventures for both families and skillful skiers.
What’s in season: For the 19th consecutive year, Buttermilk will host the world-renowned X Games, bringing some of the world’s best athletes in the disciplines of ski, snowboard, snowmobile and snow bike over four action-packed spectator-friendly days of competition and parties.
Beaver Creek’s Old World base area sets the tone at this mountain of refinement. Expect luxurious lodging, epicurean dining, even heated walkways and homemade cookies on hand. This is a resort for guests who expect the best, including exclusive ways to lay the day’s first tracks, plus one-of-a-kind wine and dinner tours. But Beaver Creek is also an intimate, dynamic mountain with a slick mix of terrain, from top-notch learning areas for new skiers to the famous Birds of Prey World Cup alpine run for pros only.
What’s in season: Beaver Creek opened Haymeadow Park in 2018, featuring a second learning area with tyke-size terrain features, a beginner racecourse, a kid-friendly lunch spot and an ice cream parlor. You won’t find more dedicated learning amenities in Colorado.
There are five peaks at “Breck” making up nearly 3,000 acres of skiable terrain. Thirty-four lifts access 187 trails, four terrain parks and a 22-foot superpipe. And that’s just for starters. Breckenridge’s ski and snowboard school is renowned for shaping little rippers for the next generation. But the massive mountain and the variety that comes along with geography is only part of the appeal here. Connected to the mountain via gondola, the town of Breckenridge’s shops and dining stops will make a vacation of any visit.
What’s in season: Breck’s Peak 8 base area has finally emerged from its flurry of construction, and the third resort building features escalators to the ski areas (no more clomping up stairs in ski boots!), the ski and ride school, lift ticket office, rental shop, day care, cafe and outdoor ice rink.
Located outside the high-altitude old mining town of Leadville, Cooper’s gentle, wide-open 400 acres are ideal for first-timers and whole families learning to ski. But harder terrain is not far away. The legendary Chicago Ridge Snowcat Tours operation quickly whisks experienced skiers to 2,600 acres of powder bowls and glades in nearby national forests — the same winter training grounds of the historic 10th Mountain Division troops.
What’s in season: Cooper is joining the world of expert terrain with their new Tennessee Creek Basin improvement project. New double black diamond runs will add 70 acres of new terrain, most featuring glade runs. The expanded area will be accessible by the new high-speed “Little Horse” T-bar lift.
Highly accessible and highly treasured by dedicated skiers, Copper Mountain is a straight shot west of Denver, right off Interstate 70. Free parking and a shuttle service helps skiers get right to it. Three base-area villages blend lodging and dining at the bottom. The mountain is divided naturally in difficulty. The west side is gentle enough for lessons and beginner practice sessions. Head east and the slopes get more challenging. In between, play in terrain parks, ski big-mountain bowls off the backside, or head to Woodward Copper, the resort’s renowned indoor action-sports training facility.
What’s in season: Woodward is expanding Copper’s terrain park offerings with Red’s Backyard, dedicated to Olympic gold medalist Red Gerard, and Woodward Peace Park off the Woodward Express Quad (previously called the Union Creek Quad).
Recently acquired by Vail Resorts, changes are coming to this iconic mountain tucked away in southwest Colorado. But as upgrades arrive at this historic ski hill, known for both extreme terrain, wide-open cruiser runs and a fun mix of terrain parks, the fairy-tale downtown is expected to remain intact. Tying the historic shopping and dining district to Mount Crested Butte, a free shuttle runs between this colorful, secluded mountain town and the wild mountain that towers above it.
What’s in season: Crested Butte has upgraded the Teocalli lift, replacing it with a faster four-person lift that will debut this season. The Twister lift has been decommissioned, with no current plans for replacement.
The closest ski area to Denver, Echo Mountain is just 35 miles west of downtown. The reinvented micro ski area on the way to Mount Evans, the highest paved road in North America, has one lift, two petite terrain parks, a tree-skiing trail and a growing beginner’s area. In addition to easy access, locals love Echo’s walk-up night skiing operation for laps under the lights — and the stars. A cozy modern lodge, food hall and equipment rental facility are also steps from free parking.
What’s in season: Echo recently introduced a tubing hill, and doubled its learn-to-ski area while continuing its popular “ambassador coaching” program included in a day lift ticket purchase.
Eldora is where Boulder skiers have grown up going since the early ’60s. The beloved ski area is a quick drive or RTD Ski-n-Ride up the canyon to Nederland. The familiar 680-acre resort features a nice mix of terrain, from beginner areas to double black-diamond glades. As it expands and upgrades under new corporate ownership by the Powdr Co. conglomerate of resorts, Eldora keeps all the comforts locals appreciate: slopeside parking, skilled ski school, Wednesday night racing series and a popular 40-kilometer Nordic center for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
What’s in season: Eldora is opening Woodward Mountain Park this season, with a Start Park learning zone, reimagined Progression Parks in Uncle Bob’s Fun Zone, and a new snow-shaping machine.
Just 90 minutes from the Front Range, Granby Ranch is a year-round residential community with an outdoor-sports bent. Just down the road from the much larger Winter Park, family-owned Granby Ranch offers an attractive alternative: a convenient, affordable 406-acre hill for those learning to ski. All of the mountain’s runs funnel to one manageable base area. There are also progressive terrain parks, night-skiing once a month and a nearby Nordic skiing network.
What’s in season: Granby Ranch owners put it on the market in 2018 and have finally found a buyer, so look out for changes when the resort changes hands.
At over 3,000 skiable acres, Keystone is a big mountain to navigate. But it’s made more manageable through five distinct ski areas and experiences: Decrum, North Peak, The Outback, A51 Terrain Park and Cat Ski. Family-friendly offerings are always a top priority here. On slope, there’s a top-notch learn-to-ski program, fun family ski and ride zones, and the infamous oversized snow fort. Off the mountain, Keystone is known for its kids-ski-free lodging deals, ice skating pond and the ever-popular Kidtopia program, which gives kids all kinds of free non-ski activities.
What’s in season: New high-efficiency snow guns contributed to Keystone’s earliest opening in over 20 years, and will offer more powder this season without increasing water usage.
LOVELAND SKI AREA
All are welcome here, but locals are wedded to Loveland. So much so that sometimes they sleep over in the free slopeside parking lot to catch first tracks. Just 50 miles west of Denver, Loveland sits on the stunning Continental Divide, which means most ski runs offer stellar views. For the most memorable lines, serious skiers can catch a free snowcat ride to the tippy top—The Ridge—for 360-degree views and endless challenges on the way down.
What’s in season: Visitors are still loving Loveland’s first high-speed quad lift, Chet’s Dream, the largest single capital-improvement project in the ski area’s history.
Monarch Mountain is all about location. Sheltered in south-central Colorado, this ski area is off the beaten path, which means it’s away from most weekend ski traffic. But it’s also in a high snowfall corridor, which means Monarch gets blanketed by big storms that miss other mountains. Just up the pass from the art- and- outdoor-focused town of Salida, Monarch keeps things simple with accessible parking, a mix of terrain for all types of skiers and access to one of the best backcountry snowcat skiing adventures in the state.
What’s in season: Monarch is showing off some new amenities, with more chairs and tables in the tunnel area, and a new event space called the Monarch Room.
Skiing on the world’s largest flat-topped mountain sounds counterintuitive, but after one visit you’ll see how this quirky topography works. Suspended above the town of Grand Junction on Colorado’s temperate Western Slope, Powderhorn invites skiers to earn their turns in the morning and head back to town for a round of golf in the afternoon. With 1,600 skiable acres and two terrain parks, there’s plenty of beginner and intermediate skiing at Powderhorn. But the adventurous will quickly uncover the mountain’s secret stashes: glades, bumps and boulder fields.
What’s in season: This season, Powderhorn is unveiling six new tiny homes at the base of the mountain available for nightly rentals. The tiny homes are sustainably built and clustered around a fire pit for cozy evenings.
Don’t be scared off by Purgatory’s fateful name. This historic mountain in southwestern Colorado is as friendly as they come. A favorite backyard wintersports playground for residents of Durango, Colo., Purgatory continues to evolve with new lodging and lifts, yet stays true to its low-key traditions. There are 1,605 skiable acres, plenty of terrain parks, plus all kinds of alpine alternatives: dog sledding, sleigh rides, tubing, cross-country skiing, ice climbing, snowmobiling and more.
What’s in season: The Inferno Mountain Coaster is a mile-long ride with 300 feet of vertical drop, nine switchbacks and speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. Also, kids ages 10 and under get a free season pass to Purgatory—no blackout dates and no parent purchase required.
Silverton takes skiing very seriously. If you make the journey to this snow-pummeled part of Colorado, you have to know what you’re doing. Deep in the dramatic San Juan Mountains, Silverton has one lift (and one helicopter) to deliver intrepid skiers and snowboarders to advanced and expert backcountry-like powder stashes that seem to grow larger by the day. There are guides and avalanche beacons for safety, but most diehards who sign up to ski Silverton Mountain do it for an epic check on the bucket list. There’s simply nothing like it.
What’s in season: Silverton has a new permit that expands its heli-skiing operations to cover more than 25,000 acres, giving thrill seekers more powdery landing spots than ever.
With nearly 3,000 skiable acres, 165 trails, four terrain parks and tree skiing the likes of which you’ll never see again, Steamboat remains one of Colorado’s largest and most legendary resorts. More than 80 Winter Olympic athletes have made the cozy mountain town of Steamboat Springs home over the years. But Steamboat is a cowboy town at heart, and it’s this mashup of ranchers and skiers that make it so special. Oh, and the unbelievably fluffy “champagne powder” that falls heavily, and only here, each year.
What’s in season: Steamboat has replaced their old gondola with a new Doppelmayr model that increases capacity by 38%, allowing it to bring 1,000 more people up the mountain per hour.
Sunlight Mountain Resort is a 700-acre ski hill outside of Glenwood Springs, home to the world’s largest hot springs pool. In keeping, the resort continues to offer a popular ski-stay-and-swim package, which conveniently ties a day of skiing at Sunlight with a soothing soak for sore legs after. Comparably, everything is less here: fewer lift lines, cheaper lift tickets and lessons, and free kids skiing when you book local lodging.
What’s in season: Sunlight Mountain has begun an expansion of the East Ridge, and this season will feature new gladed terrain between runs like Alligator Alleys, Deception, Defiance and Perry’s Plunge.
Telluride consistently tops the list of the most beautiful mountain towns in Colorado. It’s tucked in a box canyon in the captivating San Juan Mountains of the southwest section of the state. If you like skiing with a view, Telluride Ski Resort is nothing short of spectacular. The ski area has both beginner and intermediate skiing on over half the mountain, plus hike-to terrain that will make any skier or rider earn their next turn. Plus, the upscale resort and real estate is all tied to Telluride’s historic downtown district via gondola.
What’s in season: Advanced and expert skiers can enjoy 40 new acres of glade skiing at Telluride this year on the new expanded terrain around Lift 9. Other new features include rock drops and chutes.
One of Colorado’s most iconic ski areas, Vail is steeped in history. Yet the resort continues to reinvest in amenities that are relevant to modern skiers and snowboarders. Even with the fastest 10-passenger gondola on the continent, it takes more than a day to figure out this massive mountain’s 5,200 diverse acres of skiable terrain and seven skiing miles in seven back bowls. While locals love Vail for its endless adventure, international travelers feel at home in a European-inspired village and among ski and snowboard instructors who can accommodate 22 different languages.
What’s in season: Vail has begun upgrading its snowmaking equipment, with 192 acres of new and enhanced coverage coming over the course of this season.
Skiers have been learning to turn at Winter Park since 1940. The tradition endures at this accessible mountain, one of the closest to Denver and Front Range communities. In addition to an extensive range of terrain for families, adventurous skiers can work up a sweat at sister resort Mary Jane, right next door. But Winter Park’s greatest legacy is in teaching skiing: There are single-day lessons all the way up to full-season racing programs, along with the renowned National Ski Center for the Disabled.
What’s in season: The three-person Sunnyside Lift at Winter Park has been replaced with a faster six-person lift that cuts the ride down from eight minutes to four minutes. The Winter Park Express bus from Denver now offers increased service and food and beverage options.
WOLF CREEK SKI AREA
Near the southern Colorado town of Pagosa Springs, Wolf Creek is one snowy, but never showy, independent ski area free from crowds. The mountain boasts its potential for 430 feet of natural snowfall—the most in the state during a stormy winter. It takes a trip to get to Wolf Creek, but once guests arrive, skiing is stress-free: simple slopeside parking and reasonably priced lift tickets and food. The range of terrain at Wolf Creek is well balanced—20 percent both beginner and expert, 35 percent intermediate and 25 percent advanced. An adjacent Nordic center keeps skinny skiers content too.
What’s in season: To celebrate their 80th birthday, Wolf Creek is reviving their high-speed D. Bryce Poma lift. They’ll also be holding celebratory events this season, so keep an eye on their website.