An Expert Guide to 10 Ski and Snowboard Resorts Near Denver

Not sure how to navigate all of your options when it comes to skiing and riding in Colorado? Ski Expert Allie Staffen breaks down the best resorts near Denver!

Ski Experts Allie Staffen, Jake Renner, and Hayden Wright sitting on a charlift.

Ski Experts Allie Staffen, Jake Renner, and Hayden Wright. Photo courtesy of Allie Staffen

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Planning a Colorado ski vacation can be tricky, given the number of fantastic ski destinations. All the stats are public online—elevation, skiable acres, terrain breakdown from beginner to expert, and more. However, all the stats in the world aren’t going to tell you what a resort is really like. The actual act of skiing or snowboarding is only part of the experience if you're looking to turn this into an incredible vacation. How do you even get started with planning your trip?

Where Do I start?

The first thing to know is that even though most visitors to Colorado fly into Denver International Airport (DIA), you probably aren’t going to want to stay in Denver for your ski vacation, as it’s at least an hour’s drive to get from the city to the slopes.

Distance could be the determining factor in choosing where to go. For example, suppose you’re short on vacation days or your departing flight leaves at the crack of dawn. In that case, you may not want to drive the two hours to and from Beaver Creek—let alone the four hours to and from any of the four mountains in Aspen to include Aspen Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, and Buttermilk Mountain.

Don't forget to take traffic into account when looking at these numbers, though. I-70 can be an absolute beast, depending on when you are heading out to the mountains. It seems as if all of Denver will be on the road come Saturday morning and Sunday evening. So make sure to plan your drive accordingly. If you can drive out there in the afternoon or evening and drive back in the morning, I would highly recommend doing so. A word to the wise: play it safe when planning your drive back to DIA.

When Is the Best Time to Go?

The next challenge is deciding when to go. Most ski resorts are going to be busy (and pricier) around the major winter holidays: Christmas/New Year, Martin Luther King weekend, and President’s Day weekend. Most Colorado ski resorts are also busy during the month of March as various schools and colleges have spring break during this time.

That said, because these times are busiest, there are frequently fun activities planned for visitors like free concerts, fireworks displays, and more—so don’t rule them out without checking into the resort’s events calendar!

Don't worry, resorts still do fun events throughout the entire year, even when it isn't a holiday. Check out Subaru's WinterFest for fun events in the spring if you are planning to go to Copper Mountain or Eldora Mountain Resort.

What Else Is Important to Know?

Snow, of course, is another determining factor when planning your winter escape. Typically, the best snow tends to be from January through March, with most resorts experiencing their colder temperatures during January and February. I wouldn't count out some late spring skiing, though. The stoke will be as high as the temperature, and you'll be sure to see some crazy outfits as well as some sick tricks being thrown even outside of the park.

You may not want to wait until it gets close to see what the snow does! At many resorts, especially if you plan to travel during the busier holiday times, you’ll want to book certain things as far in advance as you can—we’re talking six months up to a year before your trip. Things like sleeping accommodations, ski lessons, and rentals can sell out during busier times, and lift tickets frequently get more expensive the closer you get to the date of usage.

Pro tip: if you need help booking your mountain getaway, try contacting the reservations office at the resort you plan to visit, as they’re more than happy to help you put together a package and get you the best deals! Typically booking in advance, whether that's over the phone or online, will save you some serious cash. If you wait until you're at the resort and go up to the ticket window, you will pay the most and risk the chance of lift tickets being sold out for the day. Who wants to spend all of that time and money planning a trip just to miss out on a day of fun on the snow?

That said, all the logistical tips in the world don’t tell you what skiing in a place is actually like. Here’s a guide to the ten ski and snowboard resorts nearest to Denver, from closest to farthest afield!

1. Echo Mountain

Coming in at just over an hour from Denver International Airport, this small ski resort could be the perfect winter escape for families, those short on time, or those on a tight budget. Adult lift ticket prices range from $55 to $65 depending on the time of the season. Night skiing is available on certain nights (only for intermediate/advanced skiers).

Don't forget your clear lenses if you want to partake in the fun of night skiing. I'll tell you first hand, you don't want your dark lenses or to go goggle-less. It's not fun!

2. Eldora

A ski run at Eldora Mountain Resort.

Photo by Allie Staffen

This local mountain is a fan favorite from the town of Nederland where it's located to college students and families in Boulder and even those in Denver not wanting to battle the traffic of I-70. While this used to be mainly a locals-only resort, Eldora is now on the Ikon Pass, making it accessible to more skiers and riders. This resort is smaller acreage-wise; however, that doesn't mean you won't find incredible terrain. There's something for everyone from beginners hitting Little Hawk Mountain to the Experts riding the spine of Moose Glades over on the far side of the mountain in the West Ridge terrain. You'll find visitors from all over on the lifts to locals who have grown up in the towns of Nederland or Eldora and have been skiing at Eldora Mountain Resort their entire lives.

Pro tip: Indian Peaks Lift typically has next to no lift lines, and you can lap that terrain over and over.

The entire vibe of the resort makes you feel as if you're a part of the Eldora family, and you'll be sure to have a great time. You'll find more “Slow” signs at Eldora than anywhere else, as safety is their number one priority. So come on up, make turns, and make friends! There is no lodging at this resort, but you will find plenty of options in Nederland and Boulder.

Parking has typically been a major issue in the past, but this summer, Eldora will undergo an expansion to their lots to accommodate more skiers and hopefully mitigate the traffic issues on Shelf Road since there is only one way in and out of this fun little resort.

3. Loveland Ski Area

From I-70, this resort may seem small; however, it is anything but. Head up Chet's Dream and over to Ptarmigan Lift to really open up your options. If you're looking for bowls, then head up Lift 9. From there, you can hit the bowls right off the lift or hike out to the north or the south. If you are looking for the most extreme terrain, then head North to Gate 1 and catch a ride with the FREE Ridge Cat to hit the most difficult and extreme terrain the resort has to offer. If you're looking for something a little more mellow, have no fear; there are plenty of greens and even a learning area—just stick to lifts 3 & 7 until you're ready to try some more blues!

There is no lodging at the mountain but plenty of lodging in the surrounding towns of Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Dillon, Silverthorne, Frisco, and Keystone. Depending on where you are at in the resort, you can see Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, and even Breckenridge! Loveland is not on any major pass, so you will have to purchase a season pass with them for $499 or a lift ticket, don't forget to add the Ridge Cat pass onto that for free if you want some steeps and deeps!

4. Winter Park Resort

Photo of Winter Park Ski Resort taken from a charlift.

Winter Park Ski Resort. Photo by Allie Staffen

A perk of Winter Park is the number of free parking lots that are offered, although if you want to only ski on the Winter Park side, I would get there early to snag a spot in the North Bench Lot and walk to the Gondola. You can also park in the F & G lots for free or park in the Old Town Lots, including Bus Barn, Lone Tree, and Blue Spruce lots. All of these lots are serviced by the free Park-N-Ride shuttle, but only the F & G lots are serviced daily. The rest are weekends and holiday parking only; if you're looking for more extreme terrain, park over on the Mary Jane side. Both sides of the resort have a number of lodges for on-mountain dining, restrooms, or even just a place to warm up on those frigid days.

You'll find something for everyone here, whether that's putting the kiddos, or yourself, in ski school, finding untouched stashes of pow on the Pano Lift, or enjoying some mellow trails on the front side of the Winter Parkside. Lodging is plentiful here, with countless options in the Base Village to the towns of Winter Park and Fraser.

Winter Park Resort is on the Ikon Pass, so whether you want to spend your next vacation entirely there or want to hit several resorts during your time in Colorado, you definitely have options.

5. Keystone

Get ready to download the EpicMix app because it has everything you could ask for right in the palm of your hand. You can track your stats, check trail maps, and even check wait times on chairlifts ahead of time. There are a few “pay” to park lots here, but the River Run Gondola and Mountain House East E & D lots are free, and you have a quick walk to either the Gondola or the Peru Express and Discovery lifts, depending on which lot you choose. You can also park in the Powerline or North Shuttle lots and take the shuttle to the base of the resort.

Taking the Gondola or Summit Express Lift will drop you off at the top of Dercum Mountain. From there, you have a number of choices on where to go. If you're a beginner, there is a learning area as well as the Schoolmarm trail, which is one of the longest green runs you'll ever find, with plenty of designated rest areas to regroup or take a breather. You can also head over to The Outpost by either taking the Gondola or your choice of blues, blacks, or double black glades. There are plenty of dining options from the base village to almost every peak on the mountain.

Looking to ski-in, ski-out? Keystone has it! Want to just stay in the base area and walk to the gondola? Keystone has it! You can also find lodging nearby in Keystone, Dillon, Silverthorne, or Frisco. However, you may want to look into staying at the resort if you have kids—book two or more nights, and kids 12 and younger ski FREE! Keystone also has night skiing on certain nights if you want to extend your day. Again, don't forget those clear lenses! This is an Epic Pass resort, so check out their website for all of your pass options!

6. Arapahoe Basin

A-Basin proudly boasts that they have the longest ski season in Colorado and rightfully so. Their Opening Day is typically in October, and guests can ski and ride until June most years and sometimes even into July. Pack your sunscreen if you're there in the spring and summer. Whether you're hitting the East Wall or Molly Hogan's learning area, you will definitely have the best day! There are several on-mountain dining locations here. I would highly recommend stopping into the 6th Alley Bar and Grill in the base area and ordering the fries. They're absolutely delicious and big enough to split between two!

Taking Loveland Pass from I-70 is the fastest way to get there, but if it's snowing heavily, it may close. On those heavy snow days, even if the pass is open, it's still better to head down to Dillon and backtrack past Keystone to get to the resort, as the pass can be a dangerous road to be on when visibility and traction aren't at their best. As with Loveland Ski Area, there is no lodging at the resort, and the surrounding towns of Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Dillon, Silverthorne, Frisco, and Keystone will be your best bet to rest your head at night. A-Basin is on the Ikon Pass; however, it has limited days. If you have the full Ikon pass, you get seven days, and the Ikon Base pass will give you five days of skiing and riding at this legendary mountain.

7. Copper Mountain

A ski run at Copper Mountain Ski resort. There are mountains in the background and skiers on the run.

Copper Mountain Ski Resort. Photo by Allie Staffen

Copper Mountain is home to not one, not two, but three base areas. The West Village provides access to mainly Green trails, while the Center Village provides access to more Blue trails, and last but not least, the East Village is home to the majority of the Black trails. Both the Center and East Villages allow skiers and riders to head to the back bowls in order to find the Double Black Diamonds. If you're looking for expert skiing, you'll find it there. Copper and Eldora both have incredible terrain parks that are built by Woodward. If you want to practice your skills off the snow, you can head into The Barn to throw your tricks on trampolines and into a foam pit.

Each Village has dining options, as well as lodging options. If you don't want to stay at the resort, you'll want to head back east towards Frisco to find lodging. If staying in Frisco, definitely head into the town of Breckenridge for some incredible eats. We'll cover that in a minute, though. Parking is incredibly easy here, and while there are several paid parking lots within walking distance of the base areas, the Alpine and the Far East lots are the way to go. Free shuttles service both of these lots and will take you to all three villages. You can also walk to and from the East Village from the Alpine lot if you would like. The ten to fifteen-minute walk is a great time to hype your buddies up for the day and soak in the nostalgia of a perfect ski day on the way back to the car.

8. Breckenridge

This is somewhere that you'll often find me on my birthday and certainly a place where you can easily make fond memories. Make sure to pull out that EpicMix App again! It certainly comes in handy when deciding which lifts to head towards. Just like Copper, there are three base areas that are home to not only multiple dining and rental options but also lodging options. Unlike Copper, the level of trails are not broken down by each base area. There's a trail for everyone at each peak, so make sure to pay attention to trail signs! I'm sure you guessed it from the EpicMix App comment, but this wonderful resort is on the Epic Pass.

Honestly, one of the biggest perks of staying either at the resort or in the town of Breckenridge or Frisco is Main Street in Breckenridge. There are a slew of restaurants that make my mouth water just thinking of them. No matter what you're in the mood for, you can find it on Main Street. There is also incredible retail shopping, including big brand names like Patagonia and Burton, to local shops like Joy of Sox. Here you can find just about every sock imaginable to Ole Man Berkins, which just so happens to be the only book store in Breckenridge.

9. Vail Resort

Epic Pass resort Vail is the one that started it all. At Vail, you can take any lift from the base and easily find beginner runs. Hop on one more lift after that, and you're on your way to more expert terrain. Those looking for Green runs need not fret, though, as there are more to be found off those same lifts. If you're really looking for expert trails, bowls, and glades, make your way over to Blue Sky Basin and The Legendary Back Bowls to challenge yourself.

Vail is one of the most well-known peaks in North America and not just for its legendary Back Bowls. If you want to shop until you drop, you'll find an abundance of retail shops in Lionshead as well as Vail Village. This shouldn't come as a surprise, but there is also an ice rink in Lionshead! There are plenty of dining and lodging accommodations to choose from at the resort as well as in the towns of Vail, Minturn, Eagle-Vail, and Avon. You can also fly into Eagle County Regional Airport for a shorter commute to the resort instead of flying into DIA and making the long trek out there while dealing with the struggles of I-70.

10. Beaver Creek Resort

This resort is where I did my first front flip on a snowboard! It was totally an accident, but my friends saw it, and I was on top of the world. Even total strangers around me cheered. There's a magic about Beaver Creek that makes everyone you meet your friend. This may be the furthest resort from Denver, but it's a blessing and a curse. This means that although you have to drive quite a ways to get there, there are also nine other resorts that all of Denver and its visitors have to pass before arriving. More often than not, this leads to fewer crowds and shorter lift lines. Who can complain about that?

After riding up luxurious escalators, that's right, no walking upstairs in ski boots, you'll easily find Centennial Express Lift; take this to the Cinch Express Lift. If you're looking for Green runs, go left once you get off the lift, and you can lap Red Buffalo Express lift to your heart's content. For more advanced terrain, go right and explore the western side of the mountain. You won't struggle to find something to fuel your skiing and riding at any of the restaurants here, so do your best to get back down to the base of Centennial Express at 3 pm, so you don't miss out on freshly baked cookies. Oh, did I mention Cookie Time is FREE? Not sure how to get back down the Centennial Express? Well, pull out that EpicMix App one last time because Beaver Creek is on the Epic Pass.

Honorable Mentions

Other resorts that are in Colorado and worth mentioning are Crested Butte (Epic Pass), Telluride (Epic Pass), Steamboat (Ikon pass), Wolf Creek, Monarch, and Ski Cooper. These are all great and have incredible terrain; they're just a little further than the rest and not as accessible from the Denver Area. I would definitely still check them out if you have the time to do so.

Quick Reminder

Hopefully, gone are the days of face coverings, proof of COVID-19 vaccinations for indoor settings, and pass reservations, but make sure to pay attention to the resorts' websites ahead of time to know what to expect. Each resort will have to follow whatever county's guidelines that they reside. Currently, there are no COVID-19 requirements at any of these resorts, but we did not start the season that way this past year.

Reservations

Rental reservations for a day rental or all week long can all be made online at these resorts, and it is highly recommended to do so beforehand, or you may be running back into town to try and find rentals for the day. Keep in mind that Echo Mountain's rentals are only available until 5 pm, and you will have to find rentals elsewhere if you want to partake in night skiing. Of course, holiday availability will make finding rentals more difficult so really make sure to book in advance if you are planning your trip during popular holiday periods. If you have an Epic pass, you will receive exclusive epic pass holder savings on rentals and ski & ride school programs at Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, and Beaver Creek.

That's All, Folks!

I hope you enjoyed my breakdown of the ten closest resorts to Denver. I certainly love skiing and riding all of them and am happy to share my wealth of knowledge with you! While there is a lot of planning to be done for your big trip, I hope this guide helped at least a little. These guides are only part of our experience, though. Whether you're planning your getaway today or still have some months before you start – just know if you have any questions on finding the right skis, bindings, or boots for you, you can always reach out to me or one of my fellow Ski and Snowboard Experts here on Curated. We'll be happy to help you with free, personalized recommendations via live chat.

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What's up??? I hope you're as stoked for this season as I am!! I'm a former ski patroller in Colorado, but I took a step back from that this season so I can focus more on Curated and helping as many people find the perfect gear for them. However, I grew up as far away from the mountains as possible...

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