The Rockies of Colorado are synonymous with ski. It’s well known and publicized that Colorado is home to the best ski resorts in North America and by some accounts in the world. We made our first visit to the state to check three of the best ski resorts in Colorado out. It was our first full season of riding and by the time we reached Colorado, we were ready to test our legs on the amazing terrain at Keystone, Breckenridge, and Aspen.
Here are all the details so hopefully you can bring the family, significant other, or friends and do it yourself!
The Best Ski Resorts in Colorado
Our first stop on our Colorado road trip itinerary took us to Keystone Resort. We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful sunny Colorado days as we explored the three mountains of Keystone. The three peaks are in a row stretching out from the base area so the further you go the quieter the runs. A highlight of any trip to Keystone has to be the sunset laps you can take. The front mountain lifts run until 8 p.m every night, meaning you can ride as the sun goes down. We’ve had sunrise rides, but never sunsets and find it completely unique to the resort.
The first mountain, Decorum Mountain, is largely aimed at beginners and intermediates. It offers long enjoyable runs that are often groomed and perfect for an awesome cruise. While, the furthest mountain, The Outback, happens to be the resorts highest peak just under 12,000 feet in elevation. We found it to be a surefire bet for the quietest groomed runs in the resort. If you’re a competent skier the glade areas of the Windows and the powder bowls are often very quiet during the week.
If you’re looking for some thrills there are a number of inbounds bowls that are within hiking distance to the nearest lift, or you can save yourself the hassle with a $10 Cat ski ride. If you plan to take the Cat ski ride make sure to have some cash for payment.
There are a number of factors that set Keystone Resort apart from the other resorts of Colorado. The resort offers free skiing to children, has the longest ski day in Colorado, and is easy driving distance from Denver. Accommodation prices in Keystone are generally cheaper than the surrounding resorts of Vail Valley.
Keystones close proximity to Denver does serve as a negative on the weekends as the resort becomes crowded. If you’re not used to lift lines then I would recommend visiting on the weekday. We generally started the day on the Outback peak and worked our way to Decorum as ski patrols close the back mountains earlier in the day.
The cute resort village at Keystone keeps true to Colorado’s mining roots which is apparent as soon as you walk around. There is plenty of parking at the ski resort and the best of all resort parking is free, something that is not always a given at resorts in Colorado. In addition, a large selection of homes and condominiums offer visitors plenty of options for affordable accommodation. We stayed at the River Run Condominiums which were incredibly comfortable and homey.
- Lift Ticket Cost: Adult – $149 • Youth – $86 • Child – $0 • Senior – $139 (Book Tickets Here)
- Runs/Skiable Terrain: 128 • 3,149 acres
- Favorite Runs: School Marm,Victory Chutes, Anticipation, Oh Bob, Upper Windows
- Trail Map: Link to Website
If we were to pick our favorite resort in Colorado it would have to be Aspen Snowmass. Aspen is usually listed as the best ski resort in Colorado is celebrated around the world, but that does mean it comes with the highest price tag we’ve seen for a ski resort (in the world). Aspen is well known for being the ski destination for the rich and famous so you would figure they want the best their money can get. The price of one lift ticket does come with four ski resorts – Aspen Highlands, Aspen Snowmass, Buttermilk, and Aspen Mountain.
Each mountain delivers something unique. Aspen Highlands is the famed expert’s mountain with a massive in-bounds bowl. Buttermilk is for the jibbers with a large terrain park and beginners with nice mellow blues and green runs. Aspen Mountain is perfect for ski-in-ski-out groomed beginner and intermediate runs, but don’t let it deceive you the ski area also has some seriously steep double black diamonds.
With limited time we went to the largest resort with the greatest variety, Aspen Snowmass. You can find chutes, cliff faces, groomers, moguls, glades, terrain parks, and even a half pipe at Snowmass. It has just about everything anyone could want! We got lucky with four inches of fresh snow on a late season powder day. The highlight of our trip was a ride down Roberto’s an extreme rated double black a chute a few meters wide, that’s actually the widest extreme expert chute. The chute runs right into the Frog Pond Glades that offer tight tree skiing with plenty of fresh lines and deep powder. Do be careful and always ride or ski with a partner, tree wells are a serious threat to light and dry powder. Skiing is a serious affair in Aspen, there’s a reason so many legendary riders and skiers call Aspen “home.”
While the expert level runs on the mountain were certainly the thrilling part of our day the groomers off of the Sheer Bliss and Village Express stole our hearts away. It’s tough to beat a fresh layer of powder on an even grade slope with a few trees.
We stayed at the Aspen Meadows Resort located five minutes down a quiet residential road. The 98 suites are in six buildings strewn about the 40-acre property. The “Bauhaus” architecture feels at home and odd against the surrounding birch trees and mountains. With its location just outside of the town, you manage to escape the mild hubbub and noise of the popular ski resort. Our quiet evenings in our hotel room were spent deer milling around the surrounding nature.
For all of its fame, the town of Aspen is surprisingly down to earth just like Lech am Arlberg in Austria. In Aspen, you’ll find fur-clad socialites walking alongside duct-tape-clad-ski-bums. It also happens to be the only ski town we know of where you can shop at a Gucci, Prada, Dior, and Ralph Lauren. Keep it mind you don’t always have to ski to enjoy a ski town, there are plenty of non-ski snow activities to take part in in Colorado.
- Lift Ticket Cost: Adult – $155 • Youth – $102 • Child – $0 • Senior – $102 (Book Tickets Here)
- Runs/Skiable Terrain: 145 • 3,3322 acres
- Favorite Runs: Robertos, Hanging Frog Glades (Tree Well Risk!)
- Aspen Snowmass Trail Map: Link to Website
Breckenridge Ski Resort
If you want to find the most popular resort in Colorado it would have to be Breckenridge. With almost 3,400 feet of vertical drop and a countless number of bowls and an easy drive from Denver, it’s easy to see the appeal and heading here is one of the best things to do in Colorado.
The appeal extends beyond the epic skiing because Breckenridge is the full vacation package. At this Colorado ski resort, you can expect just about everything you could want from a ski trip and it’s easy to see why it draws such a crowd.
Despite the size, the resort is pretty easy to navigate as it is spread along the front side of several peaks. There is plenty of terrain for every skill set, with beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert level runs including a few extreme rated double black diamond runs. All of this sits on top of a former mining town that is now full of bars, shopping, gorgeous cabins, restaurants, and luxury hotels. It’s an enticing mix and for those big into the apres ski scene Breckenridge is regarded as having one of the best in the world.
We’d seen some vertical this winter, but with a base elevation of 9,600 feet even we were gasping for air while walking uphill. Anyone looking to up the ante and tackle some expert terrain will find that the resort’s bowls are easily accessed by the highest chairlift in North America. The Imperial lift is a highlight of anyone’s trip to Breckenridge. Despite having a lackluster snow season we were still able to dig in and find fresh lines at Breck. With some 3″ of fresh snow, we got first tracks on the Magic Carpet, The Contest Bowl, and all sorts of pockets in between runs and under chairlifts.
For those staying in slopeside accommodation, you have the chance to take part in First Tracks Friday. Every Friday the Mercury Super Chair opens up at 7:45 so you can enjoy fresh corduroy early in the morning before the crowds arrive.
The area has a plethora of winter activities to enjoy. You can scream down an alpine coaster, dog sled, cross-country ski, ice skate, sleigh ride, or ride a snowmobile. We hit the trails and climbed the continental divide on a pair of snowmobiles with Good Times. It was our first time on the snow machines and loved every minute of it! It’s the easiest way to get views like these in the winter:
After a long day on the slopes head into the former mining town. Be sure to check out the Broken Compass and the Breckenridge Distillery for an amazing post ski drink. The Broken Compass is just outside of town but carries a strong locals vibe with bring your own food, families, and dogs. For delicious craft cocktails and a fresh kitchen, you need to check out the Breckenridge Distillery nearby the brewery.
We stayed at the ski-in-ski-out One Ski Hill Place. The lodge is replete with stand out amenities like two private movie theatres, complimentary transportation to town, a plethora of fireplaces, full spa and fitness center, and bowling alley. There are a wide range of rooms from studio rooms to four bedroom condos.
We stayed in a one bedroom and loved a well stocked modern kitchen, fireplace, balcony, and king bed. There was more to be applauded with an initiative to reduce plastic waste with filtered water in the rooms, a modern ski room, and free parking in a heated garage in the basement of the building. (Before leaving Denver, make sure the best BBQ joints in Denver).