When it comes to Colorado ski resorts, you’ve undoubtedly heard of internationally renown resorts like Aspen and Vail. You may also be acquainted with Steamboat Springs, Keystone, and Telluride. But with over 25 ski areas currently in operation, there are plenty of other options if you’re looking for something less touristy, and more off the beaten path. Here are five resorts to consider if you’re looking for a “hidden gem” in the Colorado ski landscape:
Copper Mountain – The Best Resort if You Want to Blend With the Locals
If you were limited to a single adjective to describe Copper Mountain, “unpretentious” would be a fitting choice. Overshadowed by its bigger and more nationally known Summit County neighbors, Keystone and Breckenridge, Copper Mountain remains a popular resort among locals. The mountain is expansive and offers some truly excellent intermediate terrain. Copper Mountain doesn’t offer much of a village and “apres ski” atmosphere is virtually non existent here. But if you’re after a good day’s skiing at a fair price, Copper is hard to beat.
Crested Butte – The Best Resort for a Quirky Experience
Crested Butte is a hidden gym in Colorado’s ski landscape. Location can make it a challenge for vacationers; it’s much closer to Grand Junction and the western slope than Denver. But if you want to choose a resort that’s a bit off the beaten track and known for its eccentricity, then Crested Butte is the choice for you.
What else can you say about a resort that gained fame for featuring a nude ski day every year on the last day of the season? Sadly, the nude ski day is a thing of the past, but Crested Butte’s quirky reputation lingers. The town of Crested Butte is also a bustling little mountain burgh of roughly 2,000 people, and well worth exploring. You’ll find a great skating rink and a network of cross country trails that allow you to move around town even when the snow base is heavy.
Wolf Creek – The Best Snow
When it comes to Colorado ski resorts, Wolf Creek is just about as remote as it gets. The closest town is Pagosa Springs, roughly 20 miles to the southewst. That can make for some logistical difficulty. But Wolf Creek’s location is also what bestows it some of the best snow conditions in all of North America. If you want your ski vacation to be defined by epic conditions, Wolf Creek is undoubtedly the best resort option. The resort routinely boasts a 100+ inch base by the time the biggest Colorado snows hit in March and April. Individual snow storms can often bring powder that can be measured in feet, not just inches.
You can check out Wolf Creek resort here, and read all about the legendary snowfalls at this small, tucked away Colorado ski resort.
Durango Mountain Resort – Fantastic Snow in a Breathtaking Setting
If you like the idea of Wolf Creek, but are a bit wary of its remoteness, then you’ll want to take a long look at Durango Mountain Resort (you may have known it by its former name, Purgatory). Durango Mountain is a bit smaller than Wolf Creek, offering 1,200 acres of skiing as compared to 1,600 for Wolf Creek. Don’t expect a bustling village at the base of Durango Mountain either, but unlike Wolf Creek, lodging is available at the base. Visitors are also just over a half hour north of the city of Durango, which at 14,000 people, offers an extensive array of hotel options.
If you opt to ski at Durango Mountain, you’ll be treated to one of the most breathtaking panoramas from the top of the mountain. Durango Mountain is located in the San Juan range, one of the most photogenic branches of the Rockies. You can learn more about Durango Mountain Resort here.
Arapahoe Basin – The Best Spring Skiing Experience
As is the case with Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin is another Summit County resort that is overshadowed by the larger, ritzier neighbors of Keystone and Breckenridge. Located just 15 minutes from Keystone at the back side of Loveland Pass, Arapahoe Basin paradoxically seems both accessible and remote. Expect just an hour and forty five minute drive from the Denver metro area.
As is the case with Wolf Creek, Arapahoe Basin doesn’t offer lodging at the base. However, convenience is not lost altogether due to the close proximity to Keystone, which offers a vast assortment of condo and house rentals. Cheaper accomodations could also be found slightly further away in the towns of Dillon and Silverthorne.
Arapahoe Basin is definitely a smaller resort, offering just 900 skiable acres. It’s likely to have appeal to more advanced skiers. There’s an expansive bowl of black runs on the back side of the mountain, and over half of the front side of the mountain is devoted to blacks or advanced blue runs.
What makes Arapahoe Basin unique from other resorts is its great spring skiing. The location of the mountain blesses the area with frequent late snows, and it’s not uncommon for the mountain to stay open until the 4th of July (albeit on a very limited basis). Check out Arapahoe Basin Ski Area here.
This list represents a very diverse assortment of resorts, and not every resort will appeal to every variety of skier. But if you’re looking for a ski resort that’s less pretentious or simply off the beaten track, then you’ll want to spend some time research these five areas. And while downhilll skiing isn’t a cheap hobby by any standard, you’ll find that the lift ticket prices for resorts on this list tend to be cheaper than the average peak price for Vail or Aspen.
Copper Mountain Resort. http://www.coppercolorado.com/winter/index.html. Accessed 12/6/2010.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort. http://www.skicb.com/cbmr/index.aspx. Accessed 12/6/2010.
Wolf Creek Ski Resort. http://www.wolfcreekski.com/. Accessed 12/6/2010.
Durango Mountain Resort. http://www.durangomountainresort.com/. Accessed 12/6/2010.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. http://arapahoebasin.com/abasin/Default.aspx. Accessed 12/6/2010.