Colorado has around 30 ski resorts, all located within its famed Rocky Mountain range. Colorado has some of the most iconic ski resorts in the country, ones that even the non-skier would recognize.
Most visitors skiing in Colorado do so along the I-70 corridor, due to being so close to the city of Denver, and Denver International Airport. Areas such as Breckenridge, Vail, and Keystone are some of the most popular ski resorts in this area, but ski towns like Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Grand Junction also have their fair share of major ski resorts.
Ski Season in Colorado
Ski season in Colorado usually starts in mid-to-late October. The main Colorado ski season starts at the beginning of November and goes through April. However, there are some years when the weather changes to spring slower than normal, and the ski season can last into May or June.
Typically, the ski resorts that open the earliest each fall are Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Loveland and Wolf Creek, which open in October. The ski resorts that open the latest in the season are Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, Kendall and Sunlight, which open in mid-December.
The best time to ski fresh powder in Colorado is in January. The deep winter cold creates light, fluffy snow, that comes down regularly. The peak time to ski in Colorado is in March. This is because the snow base is still on the slopes, but the deep freeze has subsided into warmer temperatures. This warmer temperature also makes for great cross country skiing, which most resorts in Colorado have.
The terrain parks within these ski areas usually open later than everything else. This is due to the amount of snow and work involved in getting the terrain online.
Colorado Resort Discounts
Even though Colorado is a mecca for ski enthusiensts, you can still score discounts if you time everything right.
Discount #1: Early Season
If you are willing to gamble on less than stellar conditions, or a minimal number of trails open, the early season may be for you. Early in the ski season has limited snowfall, which means the number of trails that are open will be limited. Because of this, many ski resorts run early bird specials that provide considerable discounts on regular lift prices.
Discount #2: Cheapest Ski Resorts
Lit tickets in Colorado can get expensive. This is because the resorts here are some of the largest and steepest in the country. I looked at the prices of all ski resorts in Colorado and found that there are a few bargains if you’re willing to visit a lesser-known mountain.
Sunlight Mountain is the cheapest ski resort in Colorado, followed closely Echo Mountain and Ski Cooper.
Discount #3: Nationwide Lift Passes
Many Colorado ski resorts also are members of at least one nationwide lift passes. These nationwide lift passes allow you to pre-pay for lift tickets that end up costing less than walk-up prices. These nationwide lift tickets also work across multiple ski resorts.
Colorado is home to the Vail Resort, owner of the EPIC nationwide lift pass system. There are six Colorado resorts participating in this pass system, which allows you to buy one annual pass that gets you into each resort.
Crowds at Colorado Ski Resorts
The busiest days at any ski resort in Colorado will be over holidays and weekends. The Epic lift pass has blackout dates that include the week between Christmas and New Years, President’s Day and MLK Day. The crowds at ski resorts swell quite a bit during the weekends surrounding these holidays because they fall in the middle of peak ski season, and are usually 3-or-more day weekends.
List of All Colorado Ski Resorts
Map of all Colorado Ski Resorts
Explaining Our ‘Difficulty Score’
Parks & Trips created a proprietary Difficulty Score that is generated by looking at the number of easy-intermediate-expert slopes by acreage and the maximum vertical drop of the overall resort.
Our algorithm compares each resort’s metrics with all others in North America, then gives each a Difficulty Score, which we use to rank them accordingly. Resorts with a lower score are easier than those with a higher one. However, a high score does not mean that the resort does not have any easy slopes, or vice versa. This is just an overall score given to the resort based on all its metrics grouped together.
The Most Difficult Colorado Ski Resorts
Silverton is actually the most difficult ski mountain (can’t really call it a resort) in the entire North America. This massive mountain has none of the frills that you’d typically see. Silverton boasts that its average total snowfall actually exceeds its amount of daily visitors. This mountain is only for advanced skiers, and has exclusively expert trails. It also has no groomers, and no clear-cut runs.
The top “normal” ski resort in terms of difficulty is Telluride in Colorado. Telluride has over 50% of its trails rated as expert-only, and sports a vertical drop of well over 4,400 feet.
Next up is Winter Park, which has some of the most black trails of anywhere in the country.
The Easiest Ski Areas in Colorado
The easiest ski area in Colorado is Kendall Mountain. However, because of Colorado’s terrain, this resort could easily be the most difficult in many other states. Kendall has 50% of its trails listed as beginner-friendly, and it also has the smallest vertical drop in the state.
The Largest Ski Resorts in Colorado
Choosing the largest ski resorts is a bit of a tricky proposition. Do you look at just the summit elevation? How about the total acreage, most trails, or steepest vertical drop?
Well, we decided to combine all four of those metrics into one ranking to get the best idea, although we fully admit this is completely subjective. We’ve given you all the data in the following table to make your own decision.
Aspen Snowmass is the largest ski resort in Colorado. It has the most skiable acres by far in the state, as well as the most trails, but that is because it has 4 mountains combined into one. Vail has the second most trails in Colorado, but a much smaller vertical drop than Aspen.