Colorado is a skier’s paradise. During the winter months, this state enjoys steady snow and plenty of powder thanks to its western half sitting right up against the Rocky Mountains.
These epic peaks rise more to over 14,000 feet in elevation, which makes for a long winter season that can often keep the mountaintops covered in snow all year round. That range is why so many amazing skiing opportunities to be found in the region.
Within all of these mountain peaks and snow-filled wilderness sit some truly amazing ski resorts. Colorado has 32 different resorts in many different regions, and each one provides access to the legendary snow the state’s known for. However, which ones are the best?
Below, you’ll find some world-renown options as well as some of my personal favorites. It’s hard to pick just one best resort in Colorado, so we’ll take a look at a handful.
1. Aspen Highlands (Best Ski Resort for Advanced Skiers)
I’m going to start off this list with my personal favorite ski resort in Colorado: Aspen Highlands. Living and skiing in Colorado for the majority of my life, I’ve had the best in-bounds ski days of my life there and would highly recommend exploring this resort if you’re in the area. While Highlands doesn’t offer a lot of beginner terrain, if you’re an experienced skier, the terrain and conditions are second to none.
Aspen Highlands is a sister resort to some of the other more visited resorts in the area, including both Aspen (often called Ajax) and Snowmass. It’s a smaller resort than other popular destinations, but will still provide you with access to steep chutes, epic glades, and one of the best chunks of terrain you’ll find within resort boundaries anywhere in the world. Highlands is a favorite among locals and experienced skiers alike.
Being a resort that caters to experienced skiers, you’ll find far fewer crowds here and will rarely have to wait in a long lift line. Highlands only has six chair lifts, but they give you access to over 1,000 acres of skiable terrain and there’s a vertical rise of 3,635 feet (1,108 meters). That may seem small compared to other larger and more popular resorts, but with Highlands, it’s quality over quantity.
The resort has a few long groomers where you can take a warm-up lap before tackling the terrain that makes Highlands so amazing. If you don’t want anything too intense stick to the frontside of the mountain as well as the Exhibition and Cloud 9 lifts. Those will give you access to long intermediate runs and the several lodges across the mountain.
Once you’re ready for action, you should take full advantage of some of the expert terrain. The chutes and double diamonds off of the Deep Temerity chair can keep you busy and deep in powder all-day long. However, the real reason Aspen Highlands is my favorite, and therefore best, resort in Colorado is Highlands Bowl. You have to hike to access the bowl, but that makes it all the more amazing.
The hike to Highlands Bowl takes you along a rising ridge from the top of Loge Peak. You’ll have to take your skis off for about 20 to 60 minutes depending on what route you take, but the rewards for your hard work are immense.
2. Vail (Best Overall Resort)
Another one of the best ski resorts in Colorado is Vail. This makes the list because it has something for everyone and comes with plenty of recognition on a global scale. To begin with, Vail is the largest ski resort in Colorado. That means it gives you access to a vast amount of varied terrain. It’s a great location to experience new types of terrain and practice your skiing to improve and expand.
Vail mountain has 5,317 skiable acres. This is broken up into 18 percent beginner runs, 29 percent intermediate runs, and 53 percent advanced/expert terrain. All of that means there’s something for everyone, ranging from basic bunny-hills where you can learn the basics of the sport to expert runs that will challenge even the best skiers in the world. All of the terrain is accessible by 25 high-speed lifts and two gondolas with a Pomo lift.
Vail has a ton of skiable area. So much of that it will take you several days or longer to explore it all. You can easily grab a trail map and go for it, but there are a few places I’d like to recommend. China Bowl has some awesome runs and on a powder day can be really epic. Blue Sky Basic takes some effort to get to but offers great tree runs, moguls, and can hold powder stashes on a busy day.
While Vail makes this list because it’s great for skiers of all levels, there is a great ski scene that contributes to it being a world-class resort destination as well. Within the two main base areas – Lionshead and Vail Village – you’ll find plenty of amazing dining locations as well as some excellent lodging accommodations.
Great snow conditions, a ridiculous amount of accessible terrain, fine dining, and a lively international vibe all contribute to making Vail an amazing ski resort destination. It’s also under 2 hours from Denver International Airport, meaning you can be at the base of the mountain shortly after your flight into Colorado. There’s a reason Vail has such a great reputation and it’s more than worth a visit the next time you’re in the region.
3. Telluride (Best Resort to Experience Colorado)
If you’re looking for a unique Colorado skiing experience with serious skiing, world-class views, and amazing accommodations, Telluride is the resort for you. Set in the southwest corner of the state, the resort can take a bit of effort and time to travel to. However, if you’re ok with a little adventure, you’ll be happily rewarded upon arrival. Telluride is the best way to experience real Colorado.
As it is off the beaten track, Telluride has less crowds. However, that’s not the only reason to visit the resort. It has stunning views as well. Perched in the imposing and impressive San Juan Mountains, Telluride is truly a sight to behold.
The mountain has over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain with a good mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced terrain. You can also access several popular backcountry skiing locations through access points directly from the resort. Just make sure you are prepared with safety equipment and have the skills to ski in the backcountry if you choose to drop a gate.
The 17 lifts give you easy access to the 148 trails that make up the skiable area within the resort boundaries . With a vertical drop of nearly a mile (4,425 feet) and the longest run allowing you to ski uninterrupted for 4.6 miles, it’s easy to wear yourself out while skiing only a few runs here and there. Even so, there are plenty of options to explore.
After a day on the slopes, you can ski right into downtown Telluride and experience the magic and wonder of this historic Colorado mining town that now boasts all the dining and accommodations you’d expect from a world-class resort. Telluride has small-town appeal and world-class skiing – a combination that’s truly the definition of Colorado.
4. Breckenridge (Best Resort in Summit County)
Breckenridge is another top resort in Colorado and it’s the best option within one of the most popular and easily accessible areas of the state. Summit County is home to four different ski resorts; Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, and Arapahoe Basin. While they are all worth checking out, Breckenridge takes the prize for being the best of the pack.
Summit Country is a popular skiing destination because it’s found just over an hour (depending on traffic and weather) from the Denver metro area. That enables locals and visitors to both flock there during the winter months. Breckenridge is another large resort with great access to some fun and challenging terrain. My favorite thing about skiing Breck is that you have access to some unique high alpine terrain that can hold serious powder and challenge your abilities.
Breckenridge has nearly 3,000 acres of skiable terrain and nearly 40 percent of that is the high alpine terrain I mentioned above. There are plenty of beginner runs that the family can enjoy, but also some challenging and fun expert terrain. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world if you venture to the top of Peak 8 with its 13,000 foot summit. With 34 lifts and 187 runs, you’ll have plenty of room to explore no matter how you like to ski.
Breckenridge is another resort that has a mountain town setting filled with great dining and comfortable accommodations. The town also hosts the annual Ullr Fest winter celebration. That usually takes place in January and makes for a memorable experience with parties and fireworks all over town.
5. Winter Park (Best Resort for the Family)
If you’re looking for one of the best resorts to take the family in Colorado, you’ll want to check out Winter Park. This ski resort is another option that’s fairly close to the Denver metro area, but it’s more affordable and without as much glitz and glamour as Vail or Aspen. Even so, it still has amazing skiing and is a great resort for just about anyone.
Winter Park has some of the most consistent snowfall in the state, which means it’s always a good option if you’re looking for quality snow and coming in from out of town. It also has a good mix of terrain to match the needs or abilities of your family. Beginners can take advantage of plenty of mellow terrain, while more experienced skiers will enjoy the bumps of Mary Jane and the high alpine access.
The resort has over 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, and the 23 lifts make sure you can reach all of it. Winter Park has a mellow feel compared to many of the other resorts in Colorado, which is appealing if you want a nice comfortable getaway with the family without a high price tag. There are plenty of great dining options as well as an ever-expanding number of hotels and rentals.
Another great thing about Winter Park is that there are sled hills, cross country skiing, sleigh rides, and a bunch of other winter activities in the area. If you’re on a family trip and someone isn’t a skier, they will still be able to have a ton of fun.
There’s an almost endless amount of skiing options in Colorado. You really can’t go wrong, especially when the snow is falling. However, the resorts you’ll find here are some of the best and they all come highly recommended due to their world-class skiing, great dining, and ample lodging accommodations. Whatever you visit, you won’t be disappointed.
Do you have a favorite resort in Colorado? Which is it and why? Let us know below!