Aspen, Colorado Ski Resort

Best Colorado Ski Resorts (with map)

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Colorado’s winter resorts offers something for every type of traveler

An unexpected move to Colorado in 2010 was a snowy dream come true — I’ve always loved mountains and skiing. Being a local has given me the chance to hit the slopes in nine different resorts, and to get to know the pros and cons of each.

I believe there is something for everyone in my home state and winter is an extra special time to visit. Snow-capped mountains, frosted pine forests, and lots of sunshine make it a magical place for a ski vacation.

With more than 30 ski resorts in Colorado choosing one can feel overwhelming. So this guide starts with a map of Colorado ski resorts, to help you get a sense of their location relative to the various airports. I’ve also selected my eight favorites and highlighted where I believe each is special: best for families, best for foodies, etc. I hope this guide helps you plan a wonderful ski holiday in Colorado. 

Map of Colorado Ski Resorts (with nearby airports)

My Favorite Ski Resort in Colorado - Steamboat!

I’ve skied bunny slopes with my kids and steeps with my friends. I finally got the hang of powder skiing on one very snowy day in Vail. I’ve hosted multiple groups of friends on the Colorado slopes and planned trips for my family and others.

So, over the years, I have developed my favorites which I am sharing here. I’ll start with one extra-special Colorado ski resort that’s a little further from Denver and worth the trip. For me, Steamboat stands out in a state full of stand-outs.

Steamboat Springs Colorado

Steamboat has a special place in my heart. It is a stunning resort with a historic town dating to the late 1800s, full of Western charm, and champagne powder. It’s my favorite place to ski and my first choice for out-of-state visitors because of the lower altitude. To me, it retains the “wild-west” you might hope to experience in Colorado, yet also offers enough choice of luxurious hotels and dining, if that’s what you are looking for. 

In 2024, Steamboat is adding a 650-acre expansion to its terrain — Mahogany Ridge. The addition will make it Colorado’s second-largest resort after Vail. There’s also a new gondola going in which will be North America’s longest and fastest. 

While it’s slightly further than some other Colorado ski resorts, if you are coming for a vacation, that doesn’t really matter. It’s both family-friendly and good for beginners. What it’s not is cheap, but that’s true of much of Colorado. (More on Steamboat below). 

Susan Heinrich is on skis at the top of the back bowls in Vail Colorado
Susan at the top of the back bowls at Vail ski resort in Colorado

The Rest of the Best Ski Resorts in Colorado

 I go into more detail further on about each of these best ski resorts in Colorado, and what makes it special. In the interest of efficiency, for those who don’t want to read the whole article, I am starting with this list and short overview of my eight Colorado favorites.

2. Vail

Vail has incredible terrain, back bowls, and luxurious hotels. Plus an incredible dining scene – it’s ideal for foodies! Instead of a Western flare, it feels like you’ve arrived in a Swiss Village.

3. Telluride

Telluride offers stunning scenery, a charming town and incredible terrain. Also, potentially lighter crowds. The downside is the distance from Denver. 

4. Breckenridge

Breckenridge has a charming historic town, a great ski school and varied terrain. The downsides are it can be windy and is at a higher altitude than others. Take time to acclimate.  

5. Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek does luxury incredibly well and the ski school and beginner terrain, McCoy Park, are terrific. If you have the budget for BC, it’s a fine choice for avid skiers or beginners, parents and kids alike.

6. Keystone

Keystone was made for families and is relatively close to Denver. It is the one I would suggest for anyone who is on a budget or is new to skiing. They are also known for a fantastic terrain park and night skiing at no extra charge. 

7. Crested Butte

Crested Butte is the under-the-radar gem that still feels like Colorado used to — before all the development. It has a cute town, an earthy vibe and challenging terrain.

8. Winter Park

We spent a season skiing at Winter Park and it’s where we skied most as a family. I think it’s a great resort for beginners and it’s more affordable than many others on this list. The mountain pass you have to drive over to get here can be a bit intimidating and it does occasionally close. 

A sign marking the Railyard terrain park area at Winter Park ski resort with a group of people waiting at the top for their turn.
Terrain Parks are popular with younger skiers and a feature of many Colorado resorts. Winter Park, CO.

2024 Colorado Ski Resorts Guide

When I am asked by friends for a Colorado ski resort recommendation my answer depends on several things. Who they are going with and what style of ski holiday are they imagining — a family vacation or a luxury couples trip? Are they beginners or avid skiers?  

In this guide to Colorado ski resorts, each listing has symbols that reflect what it is best for, to help you pick a ski resort that matches your group’s interests. 

Icon Legend - Colorado Ski Resorts

Map of Colorado Ski Resorts with icons
Colorado ski resort icon legend
A circular icon of a cowboy hat

A ski resort built around a historic Colorado town, most of them dating to the mining rush of the mid to late 1800’s. These are some of my favorites.

A round icon representing luxury

A resort destination known for luxury – upscale accommodations, special amenities, exceptional dining and a wide range of activities… lots to do beyond skiing. 

An icon representing a family

A destination that is ideal for a family ski vacation. It offers a range of family-friendly accommodation and diverse activities, to keep everyone happy. 

A round icon with a child skiing

A good place to learn to ski; the ski school is well run and there is a nice variety of terrain for beginners. 

An icon with two wine glasses clinking

My favorites for a ladies’ getaway: great skiing, delicious food and a variety of activities and amenities, including spas and nightlife. 

An icon with a spoon and fork across a heart

This resort and/or ski town is especially known for a variety of excellent restaurants, ideal for foodies.

An icon with a dollar sign set inside a downward pointing arrow

These resorts are slightly less expensive than some of Colorado’s best-known ski destinations. Still not cheap. 

A barn in Steamboat Springs Colorado
Steamboat Springs is set in ranch country in northern Colorado

Best Colorado Ski Resorts for Historic Charm

Steamboat

Ski resort icons Steamboat

I’ve already said I think Steamboat has it all: the historic mountain town of Steamboat Springs, a Western flair, and all of the activities you could dream of, on and off the hill. The skiing is amazing – it’s known for its ultra-light champagne powder and gets close to 300 inches a year. You’ll find luxury accommodation yet it doesn’t feel overly fancy like Vail can.  It is also family-friendly with lots of activities beyond alpine skiing. We loved taking the gondola to the top of the hill for dinner. A great activity for the non-skiers as well. 

A man and two children swim in an outdoor pool in winter with snow around the exterior.
My husband and kids enjoying apres-ski fun in the pool at the Steamboat Inn in Steamboat Colorado

Where to Stay in Steamboat Springs

As for accommodation, there are lots of super deluxe, and expensive, options in Steamboat. With a larger budget, the Steamboat Grand offers a great location and amenities. I also like the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas for families. Rooms comes with a kitchen and living area. For a moderate-priced option, we loved the Inn at Steamboat. It offers great value for money — it is charming, has a nice breakfast, and a heated outdoor pool which my kids and husband enjoyed after skiing. I was in the hot tub. We have also stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott Steamboat Springs — not fancy but perfectly fine. 

Susan Heinrich stands in the historic town of Breckenridge Colorado with as view of the ski mountain in the distance.

Breckenridge

Icons of features at Breckenridge ski resort

Fans of Breckenridge are true fans – they return again and again and absolutely love it. Like Vail, Breckenridge is a huge resort. There is seemingly limitless terrain to enjoy, almost 60% of it for advanced skiers. It is also known for its terrain parks. And, like all the big Colorado resorts, the ski school is excellent. It also has a cute and historic town with lots of delicious restaurants and a good aprés-ski scene. And there’s lots to do besides downhill skiing. I cross country ski here often and it is fantastic.  

The only negative I can report is it can be very windy and the altitude at the top is the highest so keep that in mind if you are coming from sea level (stay hydrated). So “Breck” has everything you could want in a ski holiday and I’ve had a great time there. For families, I do prefer Steamboat. I think its northern Colorado “ranch country” setting makes it feels more western. But Breck is a little closer to Denver and also has a great town with historic interest. 

The lobby of the Breckenridge Residence Inn with a grouping of chairs in front of a fireplace, a vaulted ceiling and chandelier.
Residence Inn Breckenridge has a great location

I like the budget-friendly Residence Inn Breckenridge, with its suite-style rooms with kitchens. The location in town is ideal for dining and meandering along the charming Victorian streets.  Note that budget-friendly is a relative term in Colorado ski towns, especially over the holidays. 

We also stayed at the Marriott Mountain Valley Lodge some years ago. It offers more amenities than the Residence Inn; rooms are either studios or 1-bedroom suites. Both are very comfortable and come with kitchens. 

With a big budget, I would choose the new Carlin Breckenridge.

Budget tip: you may find more affordable accommodation options in the nearby town of Frisco. (It’s a charming mountain town located between Breckenridge and Copper Mountain). I will be staying at the AC Hotel Frisco over the holidays in 2023 and will update you after my stay with my thoughts.

Telluride town and ski resort in Colorado

Telluride

Icons of features at Telluride ski resort

I haven’t been to Telluride – it’s the furthest from Denver – but it’s at the top of my ski holiday wishlist. Telluride gets glowing reviews as a secluded gem and is a favorite Colorado ski resort of many, so I had to include it here.

The scenery here is arguably the best of all the ski resorts in Colorado with a dramatic backdrop of the jagged peaks of the San Juan Mountains. The historic mountain town dates to 1875 when it was a mining camp called Colombia. It is overflowing with Victorian cowboy charm; Butch Cassidy apparently robbed his first bank here.

Although the terrain is not as big as Vail, Steamboat and Breck, the skiing is ideal for everyone and anyone, with close to 60% of the terrain for beginners and intermediates. And its location means it will almost always be less crowded.

The food scene is said to be amazing. You will find the highest elevation fine dining in the U.S. here at Alpino Vino, located at almost 12,000 feet. The casual dining is supposed to be exceptional as well. 

While it is a very long drive from Denver it’s possible to fly into Telluride, with a connection at Denver International. There are direct flights to nearby Montrose from many U.S. Cities, on American, Delta and United.  I’ll meet you in Telluride! 

A cabin at Beaver Creek Resort
Even restrooms are charming at luxurious Beaver Creek

Best Luxury Colorado Ski Resorts

Beaver Creek

Icons of features at Beaver Creek ski resort

At the base of Beaver Creek is one of the most luxurious hotels in Colorado, the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch, and just for fun, I once looked up the prices to stay there over Christmas. Let’s just say you could buy a car for what it would have cost for a week. I have stayed there in fall when it is more affordable. It is stunning and highly recommend if you have the budget. 

This gives you an idea of the vibe at Beaver Creek; it is a beautiful and luxurious place to ski. They also have great programs for families and kids, especially with the 2021 opening of McCoy Park, a beginner-friendly area with 17 new trails and two new lifts. This bowl-shaped area is also protected from the wind to keep tots, and parents, happy.

Like Vail, located just down the road, Beaver Creek is a beautiful ski resort. But it’s not historic, there’s no old mining town. It and the town of Avon next to it where mostly built in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Susan Heinrich is on skis at the top of the back bowls in Vail Colorado
Susan at the top of the back bowls at Vail ski resort in Colorado

Vail

Icons of features at Vail ski resort

Vail is a world class ski resort by any measure. It is the largest in Colorado with over 5000 acres of terrain and 195 runs.  The back bowls of Vail are an amazing experience – a vast open winter wonderland above the tree line. After years of skiing, I finally got the hang of skiing powder at Vail. It was a blustery day, with the snow dumping down on us, and I experienced that rhythmic floating sensation as I swooshed through the powder. It was also the first place I ever skied in Colorado, so Vail holds a special place in my heart. 

I also love to eat and the food scene here is excellent, perhaps parallel to Aspen but with more options, because it’s bigger. So why not always recommend Vail for a Colorado ski holiday?  There is no historic town here, as there is in Steamboat, Aspen and Telluride. Vail was built in the 1960’s and has seen enormous development since. It’s a scene. 

That said, anyone would have a wonderful Colorado ski vacation here and I especially like it for a girls getaway or a couple trip. If I am skiing with other women, it’s where I go most often. They offer a free guided ski day for women, a few times a month.  Check the website for details. 

A group of women skiing together at Vail
Vail offers Ladies' Ski Days, a chance to ski with a guide and other women

Where to Stay in Vail

This depends on your budget and what you are looking for. I’ve stayed at the Grand Hyatt Vail, formerly the Vail Cascade Resort. It was wonderful then and has since had a massive renovation.

It’s directly connected to the mountain via chairlift #20 which is at the base of the hotel. You can ride the same chair down at the end and of the day, and into the arms of a ski valet. Ski valet, you ask? A staff member meets you as you exit the lift and takes your skis and poles and puts them in storage for you. If you have small children with you, this will be the single best moment of your day.

The Grand Hyatt is removed from the busier areas of Vail, which I like, but that would not be for everyone. It has a lovely pool which looks out over Gore Creek, a beautiful spa and huge attached fitness center which I did actually use. Looking back I have no idea why I felt the need to exercise, after a full day of skiing. It also has a basketball court and other amenities. 

Aspen ski resort with the town beyond

Aspen Snowmass

Icons of features at Aspen ski resort

I’ve been to Aspen a few times and really enjoyed myself, although I did not ski. The restaurant scene is fantastic and there are lots of luxurious amenities and beautiful hotels. It’s come a long way since it was founded as a camp for silver miners in the 1880’s.  While this is definitely  “lifestyles of the rich and famous”, the western charm of the original town helps to moderate the fancy vibe, in a good way. The skiing is comprised of four mountains, with the one set at the town of Aspen known as Ajax (note that it is short on beginner terrain.) 

So Aspen has a lot to recommend it, yet I rarely do. Unless you specifically want to experience Aspen. I would choose other resorts. For a big-budget ski holiday it would be Telluride. For families, I would choose Steamboat or Breck. For a ladies’ ski trip I would go to Vail.

So when would I recommend Aspen? If luxury was the priority, I would suggest it, along with Vail and Beaver Creek. And I always say it is a worth a visit to the town of Aspen if you are nearby. Have lunch or dinner at the French Alpine Bistro

If you do stay in Aspen, I quite liked where we stayed on our last visit: The Aspen Square Hotel has a great location, nice mountain views from the pool and the prices were moderate for Aspen. 

Crested Butte Ski Resort Colorado

Best Ski Resort for Old Colorado Vibes

Crested Butte

Icons of features at Crested Butte ski resort

I’ve skied here only one day and the weather wasn’t very good – bad luck.  But Crested Butte is a favorite of many people I know. It is a charming resort with incredible scenery and fabulous skiing. It is known for its challenging terrain, so it’s a great place for expert skiers. Crested Butte is considered a sort of holdout, a resort that feels like Colorado used to before it was all so developed and fancy. You could say it’s the opposite of what Vail has become. 

They have done a great job of preserving the charming town which dates to 1878. One downside is it’s located further from Denver (see above map of Colorado ski resorts), so it is more challenging to get to, but if you are looking for an authentic old-school Colorado ski trip, this is it. 

At Crested Butte I stayed at the Almont Resort and if you don’t mind being away from the mountain this was great value. Next time I would stay at the Pioneer Guest Cabins. I tried to get in there, but it was booked when we went. 

Colorado Family Ski Resorts

My boys in the trees at Steamboat

Steamboat

See above for all the reasons I love Steamboat. And it’s great for families. We’ve spent a lot of time there and it’s really special. Steamboat has a “Kids Ski Free” offer which allows kids 12 and under to ski free  with the purchase of certain multi-day adult lift tickets.

Beaver Creek

I love skiing at Beaver Creek. While I never skied there with young kids — we mostly skied with our kids at Winter Park, Copper and Steamboat, I have many Denver friends who skied there with kids and loved it. It’s known as one of the more family-friendly of the Colorado resorts. However, it’s not budget-friendly. 

Copper Mountain Ski Resort Colorado
Copper Mountain Ski Resort Colorado

Copper Mountain

Icons of features at Copper Mountain ski resort

Copper Mountain was the first place we skied as a family when we moved to Colorado and we’ve had great experiences there. The ski school is very well run and the beginner terrain is terrific; it’s a great place to learn to ski. 

It is also “slightly” less expensive than some of the bigger name resorts that appeal to international visitors (Steamboat, Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge), and it is possible to get packages that make it more affordable, so I am giving it the budget symbol. There is also lots of condo-style accommodation, great for families and groups. And you could also consider staying in the nearby town of Frisco.  

One unique amenity at Copper Mountain is “The Woodward Copper Barn” an indoor training area with trampolines so kids and teens can safely learn tricks that they can take on to the hill. One program gives kids and teens half the day training indoors and half out on the mountain. 

Three children on skis head toward a stand of trees at Winter Park Mountain Colorado

Winter Park & Mary Jane

Icons of features at Copper Mountain ski resort

When our kids were young we spent a lot of time skiing at Winter Park, Colorado. With lots of terrain that’s great for kids who are learning and more affordable accommodations, this is a popular choice for locals from Denver. 

If you are planning a ski vacation, this is a great choice for families and a multi-generational trip; there are many activities beyond skiing, including snow tubing, snow bikes, snowshoeing, nordic skiing and more. 

For anyone looking for a challenge on the slopes, this resort is also known for its bumps skiing. Mary Jane Mountain has some of the best mogul skiing in the state.

Keystone

Icons of features at Copper Mountain ski resort

Keystone has incredible facilities for families, is budget-friendly, and fairly close to Denver. You don’t have to drive over any mountain passes to get there and there are lots of accommodation choices, especially condo rentals. It lacks the hotel choices of Breckenridge, the luxury of Beaver Creek, the dining of Vail and the historic town and Western charm of Steamboat. 

Colorado Ski Passes for Kids & Teens

Affordable is a relative term and as I said at the outset, downhill skiing is very expensive and gets more expensive each year. But some resorts are more affordable than others and planning ahead can help make your ski vacation more affordable. For example, you can buy multi-day lift tickets to the place you plan to visit months ahead (usually by September) and get a good deal. If you happen to know someone who skis in Colorado and has a season pass you can ask if they have buddy tickets you can take advantage of.

If your kids happen to be in grades 3-6 they qualify for the Colorado Kids Ski Passport, which gives them free tickets at 20 resorts. There are blackout dates to be aware of so read the fine print. For kids 12-17 there is a pass called Gems Teen Pass, which may work for your vacation. 

A snowboarder in the air at Eldora Ski Resort

Affordable Ski Resort Near Denver

Elodora

Icons of features at Eldora ski resort

If you are looking for a shorter ski trip or to learn to ski on a budget, Eldora Mountain outside of Boulder is a nice option. It’s only an hour from Denver, and Eldora has lesson packages and the Woodward Mountain Park, which offers the chance for action sports training (the same franchise as in Copper, but this one is outdoors). 

While it doesn’t have all of the activities and amenities of the big resorts, there are some other options, including nordic skiing. And nearby Boulder has a fantastic dining scene and lots of accommodation choices. 

A group horseback riding near Steamboat Springs
Horseback riding near Steamboat Springs ski resort

Other Colorado Resorts for a Winter Holiday

The map of Colorado ski resorts at the top of this guide includes a few ski resorts which I have not expanded on here. Arapahoe Basin is known for its extreme terrain and extra-long season. It also has very affordable rates for seniors. 

Simply put, Colorado has an abundance of choices. A Colorado winter holiday can be a travel splurge, but if you are open to different locations and experiences, there are ways to have fun on various budgets. Again, if budget is an issue, I would strongly encourage you to consider other winter activities besides downhill skiing. The mountains, pine trees, and blue skies are enchanting, regardless of what activities you are enjoying. 

 

Beyond Skiing in Colorado

Downhill skiing is very expensive and has a steep learning curve (pun intended), but there are lots of fun winter activities that are easier on the budget and quicker to master. Many of Colorado’s resorts offer some or all of the following: nordic skiing, snow biking, snowshoeing, ice skating, snow tubing, sleigh rides and dog sledding. You could happily spend a week on vacation in Colorado and not go downhill skiing.

If you are interested in a budget-friendly Colorado winter adventure, you might enjoy my story: A Colorado Winter Yurt Vacation.

Have you visited Colorado in winter? Do you have a favorite mountain ski resort? Please share your experience in the comments. 

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About - Midlife Globetrotter

Hey there,

I’m glad you’re here. Can we talk about midlife? I reached my late 40’s, realized my kids were growing up, and adventure began calling in a new way: big travel adventures as well as everyday ones. I want Midlife Globetrotter to be a place where we explore how to add a sense of fun, freedom and meaning to these precious years. Let’s celebrate how far we’ve come, and all that’s ahead.

Susan

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