How do we go about determining the best ski mountains in Colorado? When ranking ski mountains, we need to consider many factors such as terrain variety, accessibility, grooming, on-mountain food, and pricing. To make matters more difficult, some may consider challenging terrain a positive, while others may prefer to seek family-friendly moderate terrain instead.
Great ski resorts balance all of these factors to create a blended experience for skiers of all tastes and ability levels. We’ve looked for resorts which have the best combination these criteria, and we’re going to break them down for you here.
Because good ski resorts offer a lot more than just the steepest, fastest, and hardest terrain, we’ve taken a holistic approach to consider the whole mountain’s personality. Our #1 overall pick for best ski mountain in Colorado goes to Telluride Ski Resort. Telluride offers variety, challenge, and often empty slopes. Sign the kids up for Telluride’s reputable ski school and enjoy your day farming lines down the Colorado powder. And whatever you do, don’t forget to invest in the best ski boots or best mountain skis if you want to take full advantage of these slopes.
Now let’s take a look at the best ski mountains in Colorado.
Best Ski Mountains in Colorado
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#1 Pick Telluride Ski Resort
Lift Ticket Price: $86 | Accessibility: Difficult | Best For: Scenery and solitude
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Being difficult to access makes Telluride slopes often empty and enjoyable!
Telluride gets our number one vote for best ski mountain in Colorado for top-notch scenery and wide open space. Surrounded by breathtaking mountains and often barren due to its remote location, you can enjoy the best of this mountain year-round in relative solitude.
A single day Adult lift ticket will set you back a cool $86 which, at least when compared to many industry resorts, is relatively reasonable. Book in advance, online, and for multiple days in order to receive the largest possible discount on lift tickets when visiting Telluride.
Anyone looking to polish their skills on the mountain can enjoy Telluride’s well-known ski school, and while the terrain around the mountain provides something for all skill levels, strong intermediates may have the most fun exploring this mountain. Fair warning, however, as meals on the mountain are quite pricey and may “eat” into your budget.
#2 Pick Aspen Snowmass
Lift Ticket Price: ~$93 | Accessibility: Difficult | Best For: Terrain Choice
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Expansive lift system and over 4,000′ of vertical.
Snowmass may not be easy to get to, but it is worth the trip. Though remote, this three-peak resort offers the most vertical in the United States. Paired with a great (and improving) network of lifts, you’ll fall in love with skiing every inch of these mountains.
Snowmass is known for ski-in-ski-out accessibility, and the resort properties almost exclusively tout skiable access. Ski from your lodging straight to one of three terrain parks, or take the kids to some of the children’s features on the mountain such as 5 tree-trails.
While accessibility is an issue, we think that Aspen Colorado skiing offers enough to keep any skier interested. There’s practically no end to the terrain variety to be found across the three peaks of Snowmass.
#3 Pick Vail
Lift Ticket Price: ~$149 | Accessibility: Difficult | Best For: Epic Pass
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Despite the corporate buyouts, Vail runs a solid ship.
If you’re willing to risk being stuck in I-70 traffic during powder storms or busy weekends, often for hours at a time, then venturing to Vail Mountain Resort may be for you. Despite the headache that is traveling I-70, Vail is growing and leading the industry, making this flagship resort a top pick.
While Vail is often known for quantity over quality, the abominable lift lines can be avoided one you learn the resort. Over 30 lifts and more than 5,000 acres of skiable terrain mean that you can usually find a fresh line somewhere without running into hundreds of other shredders before you get there. Vail also wants skiers to stay on the mountain as long as possible, and they offer multi-day discounts on their steeply priced lift tickets. Ultimately Vail wants to see skiers move to the Epic Pass which offers unlimited skiing at any Vail-owned resort (the number of which is multiplying yearly).
Vail is known as one of the best apres skiing scenes in the industry but watch out for melting plastic. Your wallet will feel lighter when you leave, but the number of resorts included on the Epic Pass certainly makes the price easier to stomach.
#4 Pick Steamboat Colorado
Lift Ticket Price: ~$140 | Accessibility: Difficult | Best For: Skiing Trees
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Friendly service and endless laps through the trees.
Steamboat Springs Colorado skiing is remote enough to make accessibility an issue, but that really just means more freedom for you to enjoy the mellow trees. Known for nearly limitless tree skiing and boundless intermediate terrain, Steamboat is one of the most laid-back and welcoming resorts in all of Colorado proper.
Chock full of easier terrain for beginners and intermediates, Steamboat may be one of the best ski resorts in Colorado for families. The mountain has a relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff, paired with (newer) night skiing means almost 24/7 skiing and apres. Many rave about the authentic mountain town feel, despite the long drive from Denver.
One of the biggest critiques of Steamboat is a lack of steep “expert” terrain, so if you’re looking to rip chutes like McConkey, look elsewhere. At $140 the lift tickets certainly aren’t low priced, but if you’re making the trip to Steamboat, we’re pretty sure you’ll like what you find. With 400″ of snow every season and 23 lifts, that tree skiing is starting to sound pretty appealing!
#5 Pick Beaver Creek
Lift Ticket Price: ~$149 | Accessibility: Difficult | Best For: Grooming and Class
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: High class and great service meet some of the best hidden stashes.
While steeps and hidden gems don’t often come to mind with Beaver Creek, once you get to know the place you’ll find secret stashes along with top notch service. Food and grooming count among the resort’s strongest assets, and make up for the sometimes repetitive terrain.
And although $150 a pop for daily lift tickets is a hard pill to swallow, the resort is known to make up for it with immaculate trails, lodges, and on-site properties. Visitors to the resort are somewhat notorious for staying on-piste, so you might even find powder stashes long after the latest storm if you’re willing to work to ride the best snow.
Nightlife ranks among the most lacking features of Beaver Creek. Once the sun begins to set the atmosphere tends to dry up as guests and families head in for the night. Apres and nightlife are not the talk of the town at Beaver Creek, so if you’re after the full vacation experience you might be better off at a resort like Vail instead.
Key Factors and Features of the Best Colorado Ski Mountains
Price: Lift ticket prices vary wildly these days and prices can change depending on where and when you buy a pass. We recommend comparing prices and booking early. Look for multi-day discounts, and consider a season pass if you think you’ll be on the snow for more than three days through the winter.
Terrain: Steeper is not always better. Terrain choice should be based on your skill level, who you’re skiing with, and what type of skiing you like to do. “Expert” level skiing down the steepest chutes and gnarliest runs isn’t always the best. Many skiers, especially families and beginners, may prefer to look for mellow terrain and a nice resort atmosphere for a more relaxing experience overall. We’ll include some of the best ski resorts in Colorado for beginners.
Accessibility: With very few resorts in the “easy to access” category in Colorado, you’re almost guaranteed a long drive from Denver no matter which you choose. Watch out for weekend and holiday traffic on I-70 to many of the most popular resorts, as the already-lengthy drive can turn into a half-day nightmare if you get stuck in traffic.
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Epic Pass: Skiing Colorado means you’ll be in the heart of Vail’s resorts. Vail Holdings, Inc. owns many resorts in Colorado, as well as dozens more around the world. All of their resorts are now included under a single pass known as the “Epic Pass”. For the best multi mountain ski pass in Colorado, you can’t beat the Epic Pass. If you’re thinking about doing a lot of skiing this season, you may want to look into which resorts are and aren’t available on the Epic Pass.
Crowds: Although easy access and an all-encompassing Epic Pass sound like great assets to a ski mountain, they bring strong negatives as well. Easy access means flocks of skiers during busy times, and the low price of an Epic Pass means those resorts will be doubly crowded. Long lunch lines and 45-minute lift lines are not unheard of.
Mistakes to Avoid
Booking the Busiest Season: While work, vacation, and life obligations often get in the way, in order to avoid crowds try booking during off times. See if you can get your lift tickets scheduled for the second week of January instead of the Christmas holiday, for example. Generally speaking, the week (or two) following any major holiday is usually totally dead at the resorts.
Skimping on Price: Whenever possible, try to avoid making your ski resort choice based on price alone. We know it’s hard to stomach the rising price of an already expensive hobby… but the trade-off is obvious. With skiing you really do get what you pay for, and many top-end resorts provide an unforgettable (and some might even say “priceless”) experience.
Not Dressing the Part: By this we don’t me getting the look right. You’ll want to dress according to the time of year and weather that comes with it. Which is heavily details in our what to wear skiing piece.
Which Colorado Ski Mountain is Right For Me
To experience less crowds and a unique weekend, Steamboat might be your best choice. Authentic atmosphere and limitless gentle tree skiing are what sets Steamboat apart. For skiers uncomfortable in the tress, this may not be a top pick.
Looking to get the best bang for your buck? Telluride’s reasonable lift tickets and vast skiing selection make the resort our number one contender. Even with a few pricey meals thrown in, you’ll come out on top.
If you’re going to be skiing Colorado frequently we recommend checking into an Epic Pass, which covers Beaver Creek and Vail on our list, as well as so many others! You can even ski Canada and Australia on your Epic Pass, all in the same season. Where will Vail go next?
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