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Western States | Travel Inspiration
How to Find the Best Colorado Ski Resorts


There are more than two dozen ski resorts in Colorado, ranging from the world famous to those that fly well under the radar—and there is a resort for everyone.
Ski Lift. Tyler Wilkinson-Ray and Aspen Snow MassSki Lift. Photo by Tyler Wilkinson-Ray and Aspen Snow Mass


“It's not the destination, it's the journey” is a quote often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but Emerson was almost certainly not stuck in traffic on his way to a ski resort. So if you can get to a ski resort and not drive at all, why wouldn’t you? Enter Winter Park.

Just under 70 miles from Denver, Winter Park Resort is served by the Winter Park Express. The seasonal Amtrak direct train takes skiers, and their gear, from Denver’s beautiful Union Station to the base of the resort—on weekends, January through March. Departures are at 7am on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. No car, no fuss.

Sunlight Mountain Resort is one of the less-crowded resorts in the state. It’s also about 12 miles from Glenwood Springs, which is a stop for Amtrak's California Zephyr as it journeys between Chicago and San Francisco. With the resort offering an inexpensive shuttle from Glenwood, Sunlight is a great option for a car-free ski vacation.


The next best thing to a no-drive vacation is a short-drive vacation. Echo Mountain is the closest ski resort to Denver, at just 36 miles from downtown. With a single aerial chairlift that services their handful of trails (eight in total), one magic carpet conveyor belt that services the beginner’s area, and one conveyor for the tubing hill, Echo is a bona fide haven for snow sports.

Echo Mountain’s “welcome-all” approach and the fact there is no ski school, results in a fun, laid-back vibe, with between 35% – 50% of guests being Black and Latino. In place of a ski school, Echo Mountain Ambassadors are there to give advice on technique and other pointers. They’ll also help you get that perfect shot for Instagram or TikTok.  

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If you venture a little deeper into the Rocky Mountains toward the Continental Divide, you’ll find independently owned Monarch Mountain. Monarch is one of only three resorts in Colorado that doesn’t own snow making equipment, so while Monarch can only open when there is enough snow, you can avoid early season ice runs that can happen at other resorts. Like Echo, Monarch prides itself on a relaxed vibe. Oh, and parking is free and (mostly) close to the base area.

Heading west toward Colorado wine country, Powderhorn Mountain Resort sits proudly atop the Grand Mesa, the world's largest flat-top mountain. The resort has double the terrain of Monarch at 1,600 acres with 54 runs, 70% of which are beginner or intermediate. Powderhorn also has several quaint, stylish, sustainable, tiny homes that are within easy walking distance of the base area and primary chairlift. Powderhorn has a reciprocal relationship with both Monarch and Sunlight.
Elk Camp Restaurant party closing party, closing days, live DJ music, spring apres, pond skim. Photo by Sam Ferguson and Aspen Snow MassLynn Britt Cabin apres, outdoor dining, diversity, Food & Beverage, F&B. Photo by Dan Bayer and Aspen Snow Mass


Vail is one of Colorado’s most well-known resorts, and one that attracts those who love to ski and be seen skiing. Undoubtedly world class, Vail is the largest ski resort in the state at 5,317 acres with 32 lifts, and a good mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced terrains. Also close by are Keystone and Breckenridge, both of which are particularly good for families.

The other name—arguably THE name—that is synonymous with skiing in the United states is Aspen. This year Aspen Mountain will open 153 acres of new terrain, but Aspen Mountain (and nearby Aspen Highlands) do not have any beginner terrain. Aspen is also home to Bosq, Colorado’s only Michelin-starred restaurant outside of Denver and the Front Range. Mawa’s Kitchen and Element 47 are also excellent choices.

A little further south are Telluride and Crested Butte. These world-class resorts are both served by Montrose Regional Airport, which offers an impressive winter flight schedule, with direct flights from Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Austin, Houston, and Phoenix, as well as lots of flights to and from Denver.
Scenic View of Colorado. Photo by Jack Affleck, Eric Dunn and Vail ResortsScenic View of Colorado. Photo by Jack Affleck, Eric Dunn and Vail Resorts 


Colorado in winter is as beautiful as it is unpredictable. Snowfall can, and likely will, cause issues. Plus, mountain passes close regularly, so if you choose to drive, roadside assistance is all but imperative. Similarly, trip insurance is always a good idea to mitigate against travel delays and lost luggage, among other things that are out of your control. If you do choose to drive, be sure to rent a vehicle that is appropriate for the conditions, and if you aren’t used to driving larger, four-wheel drive vehicles, car rental insurance is a very good idea.

And finally, ski resorts can be dangerous places and even though you can take all possible precautions, you can't legislate for other people, so travel insurance is a must.