When one hears the word Colorado, visions of majestic mountains are almost automatic, and for good reason. For many, the thought of mountains also brings up the thought of recreation, specifically skiing or snowboarding. With its glutton of world-class resorts, it’s no stretch to call Colorado the winter sports capital of the United States. California and Utah are the only other states that can even come close.
While I myself have not visited all the Colorado mountain resorts (it would be quite difficult, they’re well spread throughout the state), several have provided exceptional experiences and have earned my recommendation. If you’re thinking of a vacation to Colorado this winter, this list should provide some useful information about where to visit.
Best Ski Resorts in Colorado: Steamboat
Colorado’s most northern resort, Steamboat Springs sits far away from Denver and the Front Range ski resorts. Steamboat has a great variety of trails for all skill levels, and plenty of them too. Steamboat’s in-bounds runs include six different mountain peaks. The trail count is numerous, as Steamboat boasts one hundred and sixty-four (164) named trails. Beginner trails, composing 14% of the mountain, are mainly located on the lower half of the mountain.
Intermediate and Advanced runs have about equal numbers and can be found on nearly all sections of the mountain. For the extreme skier, there are also some double-black-rated extreme trails that are hike-accessed. In short, skiers and snowboarders of all levels can suitable terrain for their ability level. Even though beginner terrain is far outnumbered by steeper trails plenty of easy terrains are available, including the mountain’s longest run, Why Not, which stretches over three miles.
Powder enthusiasts will be hoping for heavy snowfall while in town, as Steamboat is famous for its exceptionally light and fluffy Champagne Powder. I’ve been lucky enough to ride this powder and it was magical, with Steamboat containing many great tree skiing areas to fully enjoy the powder in. The weather always seems to be nice even after it snows overnight, and the people are friendly, making for one excellent mountain. A lift pass in the middle of winter will cost around $91.
While the other two mountains on this list are more family-oriented, Arapahoe Basin is for the adventurous skier or rider. While not as large as Steamboat or Breckenridge, A-Basin provides plenty of vertical drops and more natural settings for you to ride in. Advanced sliders may enjoy that much of the mountain is ungroomed, and a thrilling steep run is rarely far away.
With the recent opening of more terrain, A-Basin continues to grow but still maintains a laid-back attitude, something not present in many of the nearby areas, where hustle-and-bustle are the reality. Arapahoe Basin has a very long ski season, typically spanning from October into June. A-Basin is in an annual competition with Loveland Ski Area to see which resort can open first and claim the title of first North American ski area to open.
Snow and adverse weather seem to be common occurrences here, and temperatures can get bitterly cold when the wind begins to howl. The upper mountain has little to no tree cover, so you can be exposed to some nasty conditions on a wrong day. However, the thrill of this mountain’s challenging runs seems to make the weather a little bit more bearable. A lift ticket in the middle of winter will run about $69, slightly more tolerable than the prices elsewhere.
The monster of Summit County, Breckenridge is a very complete resort and town. Every skill level will find enough terrain to keep them entertained for days, with the upper mountain providing some very thrilling turns. For those that don’t find the natural lay of the land exciting enough, Breckenridge is well known for its terrain park system. Five parks scattered around the mountain provide a training ground for any level of rider or skier. Ski schools and structures around the base of the mountain are very well developed and numerous. Breckenridge offers one hundred and fifty-five trails and thirty lifts, providing plenty of space and transportation for the fairly large crowds that find their way to this mountain.
A single-day ticket in the middle of winter will cost around $89, but the singular ticket also gets you access to nearby Keystone and Arapahoe Basin.
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