Best Ski Resorts in Colorado

Discover the best ski resorts in Colorado and why they should be on your bucket list.

With a fun, historic town and quiet, extensive slopes, Aspen is one of our favourite ski resorts in the United States. Built on silver mining in 1892, Aspen has a historic centre with a huge variety of restaurants, bars, swanky shops and galleries. The resort’s slopes are widely dispersed across four mountains, with each one worth a visit.

Just yards from some of the top hotels and luxury condos in Aspen is Aspen Mountain (also known as Ajax), which has a mix of long cruising blue runs and short steep blacks down from the ridges. Five kilometres to the west is Aspen Highlands, the most adventurous mountain with gladed tree runs and steep vertical descents. Buttermilk is perfect for beginner skiing in Colorado with long gentle trails and a dedicated centre known as The Hideout helping children learn. It also has an extensive terrain park and is known for hosting the Winter X Games, making it a popular spot for freestylers. A further 16 km to the west is Aspen Snowmass, the largest of the four ski areas with terrain to suit everyone, no matter their ability. Off-piste enthusiasts will love the Hanging Valley Glades and the Cirque with rocky chutes, incredible scenery and steep wooded slopes.

Beyond skiing, Aspen offers a wide variety of alternative winter outdoor activities such as snowshoe tours, snowbiking, tubing, ice skating and shopping. There’s always a spectacular array of events that happen throughout the season too. Wintersköl is a four-day celebration in January featuring on-mountain activities, snow sculptures, a torchlight descent, fireworks and more. There’s also the endurance race AUDI Power of 4 in February and the national ski racing championships in April.

If like us, you enjoy eating at excellent restaurants during your Colorado ski holiday, then Aspen has no shortage of them. The newly opened Las Montañas serving Mexican cuisine has made quite an impression whilst Chica at Little Nell has a vibrant mix of Latin dishes and inventive cocktails.

If you’re planning a trip to Aspen then we recommend staying at Four Peaks Estate, a luxuriously appointed five-bedroom property with unobstructed views of all four Aspen mountain peaks.

Photo: Jeremy Swanson/Aspen Snowmass
Photo: Jordan Curet/Aspen Snowmass
Photo: Four Peaks Estate

Another renowned Colorado ski resort is upmarket Vail, an enormous resort built from scratch in the 1960s that stretches almost four miles along the I-70 freeway running west from Denver. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this season, Vail has a huge ski area with 5,317 acres of varied terrain spread over three linked sectors. Several other resorts, including Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte, are also covered by the Epic Pass so you can certainly clock up the kilometres when skiing in Vail.

The original Vail Village is full of Bavarian/Tirolean-style buildings making it a pleasant place to stroll around. The swankier Lionshead village base is more modern and is home to some of the more luxurious accommodation in Vail whilst Golden Peak makes for a quieter base with a fast chairlift to the slopes.

Vail has three distinct ski sectors; the Front Side, the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin. Beginners can make their first turns on nursery slopes and there are good long easy runs to progress to. The ski school is also one of the largest in North America with an excellent reputation. Intermediates can enjoy the long cruising runs on the Front Side and there are clearly marked blue runs and easier ungroomed runs at Blue Sky Basin too. The Back Bowls are a powder playground with go-anywhere territory, perfect for adventurous skiers.

Non-skiers can also soak up the atmosphere in Vail. Guided snowshoe hikes are a popular alternative activity as is dog sledding. Ice skating at the Solaris Ice Rink in the heart of Vail Square is a fantastic way to enjoy the fresh mountain air or why not go on an exhilarating snowmobile tour of the backcountry?

Vail has a more lively and varied après ski and nightlife than many ski resorts in Colorado. First opening in 1963, the Red Lion in the middle of Vail Village is always a popular spot whilst Shakedown Bar’s dance floor is always filled. In Lionshead, Garfinkle’s is the perfect place to stop for a craft beer or cocktail at the end of a day’s skiing.

If you like to be in the heart of the action during your Colorado ski holiday, then stay at Arrabelle Chalet, a stunning penthouse perched above Vail Square in Lionshead Village. The Eagle Bahn Gondola is just steps away as are the surrounding shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants.

For more information take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Vail.

Photo: Arrabelle Chalet
Photo: Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts
Photo: Arrabelle Chalet

Developed in the 1980s, Beaver Creek is an unashamedly exclusive resort just 16 km west of Vail. The village is centred around a smart modern pedestrian area with upmarket shops, an open-air ice rink and heated pavements. The lift system spreads across the mountains to Bachelor Gulch and then to Arrowhead, another slopeside hamlet.

The slopes immediately above Beaver Creek are divided into two sectors - one centred on Spruce Saddle, the other on Bachelor Gulch. Ideal for beginners, Beaver Creek is a family-friendly resort with excellent nursery slopes and plenty of easy long runs to progress to. In fact, everywhere you look are long, quiet cruising blues, including top-to-bottom runs with a vertical of 1000m. Experts will be satisfied by plenty of steep terrain, including long, mogulled runs, downhill race courses and steep glades. There’s also a fantastic network of cross-country tracks at McCoy Park to explore.

Away from the slopes, endless fun can be had at the outdoor ice rink right in the centre of the village. Also popular is the Vilar Performing Arts Centre which hosts jazz, comedy, dance, music, theatre and film nights throughout the year. The village also has a range of fashion boutiques, high-end sports apparel, jewellery stores and art galleries to peruse. Signature events include the Winter Culinary Weekend in February when Beaver Creek hosts world renowned chefs and wine makers in a weekend of culinary celebration. Also in February is the Talons Challenge where participants attempt to conquer over 26,000’ of vertical down 14 of the toughest black and double black diamond runs on the mountain in one day.

For the best accommodation in Beaver Creek, head to the Ritz Carlton and stay in a stylish penthouse such as The West Wing which offers unparalleled views of the ski slopes or the exquisite Colorado Lodge with its cosy Scandinavian-style interior and moss rock fireplace.

Photo: Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts
Photo: Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts
Photo: Colorado Lodge

For something a little more off the beaten track, Crested Butte is ideal for family ski holidays in Colorado. The resort is located 30-40 minutes by car from Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport which is serviced by both American Airlines and United Airlines. This charming old Wild West town may be small, but it packs in an astonishing mixture of perfect beginner slopes, easy cruising runs and expert terrain.

Starting out as a mining town in the 1880s, Crested Butte is a real Colorado ski town with breathtaking views, and meticulously preserved false-front buildings in bright colours harking back to the old days. Stroll down the main street and discover local shops and restaurants, historic buildings, art galleries and museums.

Known for some of the best lift-served extreme terrain in the nation, Crested Butte is home to 1,547 of skiable acres, 2,700 vertical feet of lift-served terrain, 15 lifts and 121 trails. Beginners shouldn’t be scared off by the resort’s reputation as an expert-skiing mecca with nearly a quarter of Crested Butte’s terrain being beginner-friendly. However, things certainly open up if you’re an intermediate skier whilst advanced skiers flock from all over the world to experience the resort’s legendary terrain. Crested Butte is also the Nordic ski capital of Colorado, offering 50 km of trails for classic and skate skiing through open valley, Aspen groves and pine forests.

Another reason why Crested Butte is so popular is down to the range of alternative winter activities it offers such as fat biking, horseriding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. The resort plays host to a number of events during the season too, including the Ski Town Breakdown music festival and the Al Johnson Memorial Telemark Race.

One of the best places to stay for the ultimate luxury ski holiday in Crested Butte has to be Scarp Ridge Lodge. Each morning, a custom-designed snowcat will pick you up from the front door of the lodge and transport you to the slopes. There’s also plenty of opportunity to unwind in the saltwater pool or hot tub after a day’s skiing or climbing.

Photo: Eleven Experience
Photo: Scarp Ridge Lodge
Photo: Scarp Ridge Lodge

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