If there’s one thing Colorado is famous for in the winter, it’s skiing. In fact, the best ski towns in Colorado feature world-class ski resorts that bring thousands of people slopeside each year. From the uber-ritzy Aspen area to the down-to-earth town of Breckenridge, the best ski resorts in Colorado have one thing in common – and that’s lots of fluffy, powdery snow!
Skiing and snowboarding have long been an established pastime in Colorado. Visitors from far-flung reaches of the globe and locals alike love to hit the slopes in the winter. With 32 distinct resorts, finding the best ski towns in Colorado can feel like a daunting task.
But don’t worry, I may have lived in Colorado for well over 12 years now, but I’ve been skiing in Colorado since I could walk. If you’re looking to ski Colorado like a local, not a tourist, then you’re in the right place.
About this Guide to the Best Ski Towns in Colorado
Inside this guide to the top ski resorts in Colorado you’ll find:
- Info about the best time to visit Colorado for skiing
- The best ski resorts in Colorado
- Your Colorado ski town questions answered.
When is the Best Time to Visit Colorado for Skiing?
So you may be tempted to wax your skis and hit the slopes as soon as humanly possible, but you may want to hold off for a few months. The ski season in Colorado runs from mid-November until late April (sometimes June at some resorts).
However, the best time to visit Colorado for skiing is from January through early March. February boasts lots of snow, but the light, fluffy, powdery variety (January can also be quite good depending on the year). March may be the snowiest month, but the snow is starting to get wet and heavy with spring conditions creeping into the afternoons. December typically doesn’t see full coverage everywhere with plenty of closures and hazards.
The Best Ski Resorts in Colorado
One important thing to remember about Colorado mountain towns is that some of the best ski towns in Colorado have multiple resorts. You’ll see the best ski resorts in Colorado listed below each mountain town for clarity.
Local Tip: Lift ticket pricing depends on many factors such as the time of year, day of the week, and if tickets were purchased online in advance or not. Oftentimes, booking multiple days in a row will yield cheaper prices.
1. Crested Butte
Nearby Resort: Crested Butte ($101-119 day pass)
Nestled away from the mess of traffic on I-70 in a quaint little mountain town. Crested Butte Resort is a real winner. The town is charming and the resort has a real local feel – catering mainly to advanced skiers and riders.
Crested Butte claims to have the highest snow totals of any mountain town in Colorado, but in practice, that’s not always the case – especially in recent years.
When it does get deep snow, it’s absolutely glorious, but the pow days can really be hit-or-miss throughout the season.
What they may lack in snowfall, Crested Butte certainly makes up for in charm.
Annual Snowfall: 234 inches
Opening/Closing Dates: November 24, 2021/April 6, 2022 (estimated)
Best For: Steep Terrain – If you shred double black diamonds, you won’t be disappointed at Crested Butte.
Nearby Resort: Vail Mountain ($155-239 day pass)
Vail might be the most famous ski town in Colorado, and it certainly lives up to its legendary reputation as one of the very best ski resorts in Colorado and beyond. Vail Mountain is massive – the largest ski resort in Colorado – with over 5,000 skiable acres of terrain, catering to all skill levels.
But even if you don’t ski at all, there are still plenty of things to do in Vail in the winter, from snow tubing and ski biking at Adventure Ridge to learning about local history and wildlife at the Nature Discovery Center. Après-skiers will be impressed with the drinking and dining options, too. Check out the perennial staple Garfinkel’s for a rowdy happy hour or indulge at the classy Remedy Bar in the Four Seasons.
Of course, a world-class reputation and easy access from Denver along I-70 also leads to the biggest con of Vail – the crazy crowds. Still, there’s a reason so many people join those crowds, and Vail is definitely worth visiting (especially on a weekday, if you can).
Annual Snowfall: 366 inches
Opening/Closing Dates: November 12, 2021/April 19, 2022 (estimated)
Best For: Diverse Terrain – Vail is seriously huge, and thanks to the sheer amount of terrain, it truly offers something for everyone.
Nearby Resort: Breckenridge Resort ($145-219 day pass)
Arguably one of the most popular ski resorts in Colorado, everyone puts Breckenridge Resort on their hit list. With 5 peaks (you can hike to the top of each one) and 187 trails, there is a lot to explore. Catering to all abilities, there’s something for everyone at Breck in the winter.
However, beginners love this mountain thanks to the abundance of green runs located throughout the park. More advanced skiers and riders will love the over 2,900 acres of skiable terrain that enables you to really choose your own adventure. For a real lung buster, hike to the top of Peak 9 and ski down.
Annual Snowfall: 353 inches
Opening/Closing Dates: November 12, 2021/May 30, 2022 (estimated)
Best For: Beginners – Breck is one of the best places to ski for beginners in Colorado with an abundance of great green runs, so you’ll really love it if you’re not yet steady on your skis.
Which is Better, Vail or Breckenridge?
Many people debate if Vail or Breck is the best ski resort in Colorado. Having had season passes to both, the answer largely depends. Vail caters more to skiers than snowboarders, with long, winding cat walks connecting one enormous resort.
Breckenridge is more suitable to beginners and has a younger, more social vibe than Vail (more “affordable” too).
If you’re an advanced skier, you’ll love the back bowls at Vail, but snowboarders should be prepared to do some walking.
Nearby Resort: Aspen Snowmass ($164-204 day pass)
Aspen is amazing on many levels, from the slopes to the bars, and it is truly the cream of the crop of the best ski towns in Colorado. Aspen Snowmass is comprised of four separate mountains – Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass – all of which can be accessed with one pass or lift ticket. A free shuttle runs between the mountains to make getting around easy.
Beyond the slopes, Aspen is a hot spot for shopping and dining, and the après scene alone makes Aspen stand out as one of the best ski resorts in Colorado. The patio at Ajax Tavern is the place to see and be seen while you enjoy excellent drinks and to-die-for truffle fries.
But all this amazingness comes at a cost – literally. Aspen is pricey! If you’re on a budget, visiting Aspen could easily break the bank.
Annual Snowfall: 300 inches
Opening/Closing Dates: November 5, 2021/April 17, 2022
Best For: Variety – Aspen Snowmass is made up of four distinct mountains, so it’s a great place to mix it up or take a longer trip.
Nearby Resort: Telluride ($162-205 day pass)
Telluride is at the top of many lists of best ski resorts in Colorado, with something for everyone both on the slopes and off. The jaw-dropping scenery of the San Juan Mountains will take your breath away even if the altitude doesn’t, and the town of Telluride has historic charm while the resort offers modern amenities.
There’s tons of terrain of all levels to keep the skiers busy for days, and non-skiers have a variety of things to do in Telluride, too. You can go on a snowmobiling tour of a ghost town or take in the sweeping views while gliding around the ice rink at Telluride Town Park. And definitely don’t miss a tasting of the spirits at Telluride Distilling Company in Mountain Village.
Really, the only thing bad about Telluride is that it’s definitely not budget-friendly. Lift tickets are pricey, and so is the lodging. But if you can swing it, you absolutely won’t regret a visit to Telluride!
Annual Snowfall: 280 inches
Opening/Closing Dates: November 25, 2021/April 3, 2022
Best For: Terrain Parks – Telluride has three of them, so if you like to do tricks and shred, you’ll be thrilled.
6. Winter Park
Nearby Resort: Winter Park ($94-186 day pass)
One of the closest ski resorts near Denver, Winter Park is one of the best ski towns in Colorado for a quick getaway. Winter Park Resort has two mountains, Winter Park and Mary Jane. Winter Park is where you’ll find chill groomers while Mary Jane is an absolute playground of moguls.
If you’re not into hitting the slopes, you can hit the rink for some Colorado ice skating right in the Village at Winter Park. You can also head into the backcountry on a dog sled, and let huskies show you the best views in this mountain town.
As mentioned above, Winter Park is incredibly close to Denver, so expect incredible crowds. The recently installed Zephyr Gondola does at least help speed up the lift line.
Annual Snowfall: 327 inches
Opening/Closing Dates: November 17, 2021/May 6, 2022 (estimated)
Best For: Moguls – Mary Jane Mountain is a mogul-lovers paradise, making it many people’s driving force for visiting Winter Park.
7. Steamboat Springs
Nearby Resort: Steamboat Springs ($119-239 day pass)
A far-cry from the weekend warrior crowd, Steamboat Springs has one of the most relaxed vibes of any mountain town, making it one of the best ski towns in Colorado. Steamboat Springs ski resort has plenty of beautiful terrain for all abilities. People come for the atmosphere and stay for the tree skiing.
Glades upon glades let you get lost amongst a sea of aspens as you bounce your way back down to the lift lines. The resort feels more spread out, with many areas on the upper mountain that don’t see many people.
Not to mention, there’s plenty to do in Steamboat besides ski. Snowmobiling is a popular pastime (tours available) thanks to the lower avalanche risks compared to the rest of the state. And when you’re done with the slopes, you can soak in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, one of Colorado’s top hot springs.
Annual Snowfall: 314 inches
Opening/Closing Dates: November 20, 2021/April 10, 2021 (estimated)
Best For: Tree skiing – The aspen glades combine with the signature Steamboat “champagne powder” for some seriously amazing tree skiing if that’s your thing.
Nearby Resort: Monarch Mountain ($64-114 day pass)
Salida is a bit of a secret compared to other ski towns in Colorado. Nestled in the Sawatch Range, this small town was founded as a stagecoach stop and is full of history – and hot springs. Nearby Monarch Mountain has a much more relaxed vibe than the big resorts, and you’ll really never find lift lines here.
The tradeoff for cheap accommodations and lack of crowds is a lack of amenities. There’s no lodging at the resort itself and no après scene beyond the Sidewinder Saloon, but the unassuming charm of Salida can actually be quite refreshing.
Annual Snowfall: 350 inches
Opening/Closing Dates: TBD
Pass: None, independent.
Best For: Powder Skiing – Monarch gets a lot of snow, and all of it is natural, so the fresh powder days can’t be beat!
Nearby Resort: Purgatory ($49-88 day pass)
Durango is so much more than one of the best ski towns in Colorado, but Purgatory makes it a great resort town, too! The mountain provides lots of fun for beginner and intermediate skiers, and the price is right at Purgatory, which is significantly cheaper than most other ski resorts in Colorado.
If you need to escape Purgatory, you can take a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for a scenic journey through San Juan National Forest or go on one of Durango’s top hikes.
While Purgatory doesn’t get the most snow, that drawback is definitely offset by the cheap prices.
Annual Snowfall: 260 inches
Opening/Closing Dates: November 20, 2021/April 22, 2022 (estimated)
Pass: None, independent.
Best For: Families – Not only is there plenty of beginner terrain at Purgatory, but the prices are very budget-friendly, making it one of the cheapest places to ski in Colorado. Kids under 12 even ski free with the Power Kids season pass.
Nearby Resort: Keystone ($126-199 day pass)
The town of Dillon sits just a few miles from Keystone Resort, making it one of the best ski towns in Colorado. Keystone is very family-friendly with plenty of trails for kids, and even tunnels to ski through and bridges to cross. And Keystone also offers adults plenty of fun intermediate runs and an awesome terrain park.
If you don’t ski, you can still have plenty of adventures on Lake Dillon! In the winter, this large lake freezes over and is home to ice fishing, snowkiting, cross-country skiing, and is a great place to go snowshoeing in Colorado. Warm up after your freezing fun with a hearty meal and local beer at Dillon Dam Brewery.
Of course, Keystone has its drawbacks, too – it doesn’t get as much snow as some of the other nearby resorts, and its proximity to Denver (about an hour and a half on I-70) ensures that it’s almost always super crowded.
Annual Snowfall: 235 inches
Opening/Closing Dates: October 22, 2021/April 11, 2022 (estimated)
Best For: Intermediate Skiers – Keystone is ideal if your skiing prowess lies somewhere between the bunny hill and black diamonds.
Where is the Best Place to Ski in Colorado for Beginners?
Beginner skiers and riders should check out Keystone Resort, Breckenridge Resort, or Steamboat Springs. Each of these resorts has plenty of beginner-friendly terrain to choose from. Keystone boasts the best ski school in Colorado (especially for kids), while Breckenridge caters to more of the adult beginner crowds.
What is the Most Visited Ski Resort in Colorado?
As the largest ski resort in Colorado (5,289 acres and counting) Vail Resort is the most visited ski resort in Colorado. Despite being super-large, it is still very crowded at Vail Resort. Don’t expect to find solitude here, even in the middle of the week.
Where Do Rich People Go Skiing in Colorado?
A lot of people seem to want to know where the “rich” go skiing in Colorado. But here’s the thing, skiing requires money – lots of it. So the question is kinda silly since you need to have a lot of excess money to ski in most places in Colorado.
However, there are a few ski towns in Colorado that certainly cater to the rich and famous. Aspen Snowmass, Vail Resort, Telluride Resort, and Beaver Creek are the most expensive places to ski in Colorado. The crowds here tend to be more upscale compared to other ski resorts in Colorado.
Additional Colorado Travel Resources
Wanna ski in Colorado? Experience Colorado like a local not a tourist with these local travel resources.