Colorado boasts some of the best skiing in North America. Its high altitude environment means superb snow conditions, as well as a long ski season. In fact, some resorts
will open as early as November, and close as late as June. With so many great ski areas, choosing the five best is quite a task, especially since people may have conflicting ideas about what makes a great ski area. For example, some people might love the meticulously groomed slopes of the ski areas owned by Vail Resorts, whereas others might enjoy the more natural terrain offered by Loveland. The following ski areas were chosen for their varied terrain, snow conditions, ski school, lodging at a wide price range, customer service and unique activities.
Aspen is actually composed of four mountains, which include Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands. Although it's Colorado's most expensive resort, the attention to detail makes it worth the money. Delicious food at on-mountain restaurants, an excellent ski school and elegant accommodations make for a wonderful ski vacation. Each of Aspen's mountains has its unique appeal. Snowmass is a family-oriented mountain, which is famous for its superb grooming, wide open cruisers and efficient gondola (a blessing in the cold). Aspen Mountain, also known as Ajax, is famous for its steeps and bumps. If you enjoy bowl skiing, you'll love the wide open bowls in Aspen Highlands. While Buttermilk is home to the ESPN Games, beginners should not be intimidated. Buttermilk has some excellent beginner terrain. Although lodging can be expensive, the St Moritz Lodge offers dormitory style lodging at great prices.
P.O. Box 1248
Aspen, CO 81612
This former Victorian mining town has preserved its historic integrity, offering a variety of educational and entertaining off-slope activities. The Breckenridge Ski Area spans four connected mountains, which they call "peaks." Although Breckenridge was once considered to be primarily a beginner/intermediate mountain, recent developments have changed that perception. For example, the new Imperial Express lift is North America's highest chairlift. It is one of the only ski lifts that give skiers access to backcountry terrain. This is ideal for skiers who want to try off-piste skiing, but lack the necessary equipment for hiking up the slopes. Peak 9 is perfect for beginners and low intermediates, who can gain confidence on the Silverthorne and Lower Lehman trails. These trails are served by the Quicksilver lift, whose six-person capacity is perfect for big groups or families. Breckenridge is a member of the Vail Resorts family, which is known for their superb grooming. Most Breckenridge multi-day tickets include the option of spending a day at Keystone or Arapahoe Basin. You can also opt for a more expensive multi-day ticket, which allows for a day at Vail or Beaver Creek. Although staying on mountain can be expensive, the town boasts a variety of charming and affordable bed and breakfasts. There's a free bus that will take you right to the gondola.
Breckenridge Ski Resort
PO Box 1058
Breckenridge, CO 80424
Beaver Creek is another member of the Vail Resorts Family. It is located in close proximity to Vail. Although Vail is perhaps more popular, Beaver Creek is actually a better resort. While Vail has some great terrain, you need to ski through an intolerable number of cat tracks (narrow trails) to get to it. In contrast, Beaver Creek is characterized by its glorious wide open terrain. They do something quite interesting with many of the trails. One side is meticulously groomed, and the other side will be a bump run. This is perfect for people of mixed abilities who want to ski together. Additionally, the Beaver Creek staff has raised customer service to an art form. As soon as you get off the lift, a staff member greets you and ask if you need help finding the best terrain for your ability. Beaver Creek is at a base elevation of 8,100 feet. This is a slightly lower elevation than many of the Summit County resorts, which makes it a good choice for anyone with a tendency towards altitude sickness.
Beaver Creek Resort
Copper Mountain boasts some of the most varied terrain in Summit County. The trails are completely separate according to your skiing ability. For example, the Union Creek area is a separated section for new skiers. The terrain is so basic that intermediate and advanced skiers never visit this part of the mountain. As such, you can learn new skills without worrying about advanced skiers rushing past you. Advanced beginners and intermediates will enjoy the long runs off the American Flyer lift. If it's crowded, get off at the top of the flyer, and turn right. You'll be in the Timberline section, where the snow is much softer and the lift lines are shorter. Advanced intermediate skiers can try the runs off the Eagle Lift. If you're comfortable with steeper terrain, avoid the crowds by taking the Excelerator Lift, which is located near the top of the Eagle if you feel like testing your speed, there's a NASTAR course on Copperopolis, which runs off the Excelerator Lift. Slope lodging is expensive, but extremely affordable lodging can be found in the neighboring town of Frisco. A free bus goes from Frisco to the Copper Mountain entrance.
Copper Mountain Resort
PO Box 3001
209 Ten Mile Circle
Copper Mountain, CO 80443
The Steamboat Ski Resort has over 19 lifts, which include the Silver Bullet Gondola. The resort boasts 128 runs and almost 3,000 skiable acres of terrain. Steamboat is blessed with an average of 350 inches of snow per year. It is famous for its tree skiing and light, "champagne powder" snow. The resort has terrain suitable for all levels of skiers. Many of the trails at Steamboat wind around the mountain, instead of going straight down. As a result, you are spending more time on the slopes and less time on the lift line. Cheap lodging can be found in the Town of Steamboat Springs, which has a unique, western cowboy ambiance.
Steamboat Springs Ski Resort
2305 Mt. Werner Circle
Steamboat, CO 80487
Lisa Marie Mercer is the author of "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness," "101 Fitness Tips for Women," "Breckenridge: A Guide to the Sights and Slopes of Summit County" and a novel, "Reflections in the Snow." She's been a fitness professional since the '70s, and has lived in New York City, Boston and Italy.