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Our favorite ski resorts in Colorado, ranked

Ski resorts in Colorado, ranked, and what we do (and don't) like

Snowboarder riding through the glades at Breckenridge
Snow Snow / Openverse

When you think of incredible skiing in the U.S., it’s hard not to think of ski resorts in Colorado. Bluebird skies and good vibes consume shredders in this neck of the woods daily. But which ski resorts are best and why? Well, stick around to find out.

Mustang trailhead, a famous run at Breckenridge
Louis Cinquanto / LAC Writer

1. Breckenridge

The skiing

It’s hard to miss when you’re Breckenridge. Sitting right on the shred strip, with Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, and Keystone just a stone’s toss away, “Breck” offers some of the best terrain diversity, snowpack, and extreme high alpine access anywhere on the West Coast.

With Breck’s five peaks comprising over 2,900 skiable acres, you can find pretty much whatever terrain you want to ski, whether you’re a budding snowboarder or a seasoned skier.

If you’re looking for high-alpine access, Breck has you covered. The Imperial Superchair, which is the highest chairlift in North America, takes you directly to some of Breck’s most coveted high alpine bowls. Unfortunately, this chair and the accessible terrain off of it are heavily exposed to the elements, so conditions can be extremely variable (if you can even get up there). But if you’re lucky enough to hit it on a windless powder day, it’ll be some of the best shreddin’ ya do, guaranteed.

The lodging

The lodging at Breck is super expansive, with hotels and chalets practically on every corner, and depending on how far you want to walk in ski boots, most of Breck’s accommodations are within walking distance of the mountain.

But like any ski town, especially one as popular as Breckenridge, staying near the mountain will run a pretty penny. However, if you’re looking to save some dough and possibly meet some pretty rad folks without sacrificing proximity to the mountain, there are a couple of hostels around Breckenridge as well.

The après

The skiing and lodging at Breckenridge are pretty stellar, and the après aren’t an exception. In my humble opinion, Breckenridge offers the best nightlife of any ski town in Colorado. If you’re looking for a fancy dinner and a place to grab boujee drinks after, you’re covered; if you’re just looking for a dimly-lit bar to sip a whiskey, you got it; if you’re looking to get a bit wild, there’s plenty of joints with live music packed with people lookin’ to drink and be merry.

RMU is one of my favorite spots, plus they sell their own collection of exclusive high-end skis!

Whiteout at Aspen Snowmass
Chris Ford / Openverse

2. Snowmass

The skiing

With one of the most expansive footprints on this list, Snowmass takes the number two spot for its sheer size. The total acreage of the property is a whopping 5,250 acres, with 90% of its terrain lift-serviced. It’s not just wide, it’s tall, too, with 4,406 feet of vertical drop. So, whether you’re looking to coast some groomers or rip through some steeps and tree lines, Snowmass will provide and then some. 

The only downside is that true beginners will find terrain to be a bit lacking for their skill set.

The lodging

There is a wide variety of lodging available in mountain-side Snowmass Village and the nearby town of Aspen. Lodging can be a bit pricy, but it’s all within walking distance of the mountain, and the accommodations are luxurious to the nth degree.

If you’re looking to save money, Aspen Proper offers less expensive accommodations like hotels, condos, and Airbnbs in the quiet little nearby ski town.

The après

The après are pretty hard to beat in Snowmass, with bars scattered all across the resort. The Snowmass Mall has some pretty tasty happy hour specials, while Aspen proper has anything from casual to lively.

Skier skiing downhill at Vail
jrm353's / Openverse

3. Vail

The skiing

If you thought Snowmass was big, Vail will blow you away. Split into three mountain areas, Vail covers an astounding 5,317 acres of skiable terrain with a total footprint of over 8,000 acres. Skiers and snowboarders will find tons to choose from, regardless of which mountain area you find yourself in.

Vail’s front side is where you’ll find terrain perfect for beginners.

But for the experts and intermediates who plan to hit Vail, you need to swing through the back bowls and Blue Sky Basin areas of the mountain. The back bowls span several miles and offer an extensive variety of intermediate terrain (something you don’t typically see with bowl skiing). If you go a step further and venture out to Big Sky Basin, you’ll be miles removed from Vail’s base area and even further from any local municipality. The snowpack here is unrivaled to anywhere else on the mountain due to its solitude. All it is is powder, glades, cliffs, and bowls as far as the eye can see.

The only downside with Vail is the crowds. During peak times, on-mountain traffic can be unbearable and quite hazardous, not to mention chairlift wait times. To boot, there isn’t any truly extreme terrain either – sorry, stoke fiends.

The lodging

The lodging here is A-1. In fact, Vail is probably more renowned for its accommodations and base village than the actual skiing. Staying here will likely be on the upper end of your budget. The nearby Cascade Village offers somewhat cheaper lodging, but it’s a bit removed from the base village and can only access the mountain through a single slow, fixed-grip chairlift.

For the cheapest possible, the low-priced hostel, Bunkhouse (just five minutes from the base village), is where you want to stay. You never know who you might meet!

The après

Vail is another one of those fantastic are-ski towns. Pick from whatever; it could be a lowkey dinner, could be a bar with a live DJ, or somewhere right smack in the middle – the options are endless.

Picture of Copper Mountain Back Bowls
Louis Cinquanto / LAC Writer

4. Copper Mountain

The skiing

While Copper Mountain may not offer the scale or amenities of a Breckenridge or a Vail, it is my personal favorite on this list simply due to the terrain quality. The way the mountain is designed is top-notch, too. They insulate experience levels to different parts of the mountain so that there isn’t a ton of overlapping traffic at random junctions.

The glade runs, high-alpine skiing, and, specifically, the Three Bears Bowl section is why a lot of hard-core skiers and snowboarders find themselves here.

And while the skiing is top tier, the chairlift system leaves a bit to be desired. Many of the lifts outside the base areas are slow, hard to navigate, and sometimes a bit uncomfortable at times. But if you can stick to a pre-planned route and withstand the 5-10 minutes on the way back to the top, this “downside” is gravy.

The lodging

Copper offers great lodging options around its East, Center, and West base villages. Outside of a couple in the West Village, none of the resorts are ski-on/ski-off, but they are within a five-minute walk of their respective base lifts.

If you’re looking to save on lodging, the towns of Frisco, Dillon, and Silverthorn offer a bunch of significantly cheaper options.

The après

Whether it’s mid-day music events or post-ski shenanigans, it’s safe to say that Copper loves to party. That is, however, until after dinner, at which point the villages turn into ghost towns. If you’re looking to keep the party bumpin’, the nearby towns of Dillon or Frisco offer a bit more in terms of late-night activities. Plus, Summit County provides reliable bussing into town from Copper, so everyone can get in on the fun.

Hiking A-Basin's east wall
reid.neureiter / Openverse

5. Arapahoe Basin / “A-Basin”

The skiing

A-Basin is the only skier-only mountain on the list. But if you can get past the A-Basin’s gatekeeping, the mountain offers some of the most technical and exhilarating terrain, comparable in a lot of ways to Alta in Utah.

A-Basin isn’t a huge mountain either, but its size doesn’t equate to crowded runs. It’s one of Colorado’s least crowded resorts that offers such amazing expert terrain and unbeatable snowpack. And if hiking to terrain is part of the fun for you, A-Basin is the place as most of its coveted expert terrain isn’t directly accessible by chairlift.

As a word of warning, this isn’t a beginner’s mountain by any means. Only seven percent of the terrain is considered “beginner,” but considering A-Basin’s whole expert vibe, the beginner terrain requires skills of a low intermediate.

For experts, head over to Pallavicini chair for those high-risk reward runs, which include steep mogul fields and gladed tree runs, as well as an abundance of rocks and cliffs. Much of the same also exists off of the Zuma chair as well.

In terms of late-season shredding, A-Basin is a popular destination as a ton of its snowpack remains throughout the spring and the very beginnings of summer.

The lodging

There are no on-site accommodations at A-Basin. The mountain is a strict day ripper. Summit County towns Dillon, Frisco, and Silverthorne, as well as the town of Keystone, offer some great lodging options that aren’t too far away from this Colorado jewel.

The après

The 6th Alley Bar & Grill is the only real option for après at A-Basin. It has a nice patio area that overlooks the mountain and surrounding area and offers a stellar list of beer and wine. I’ve also heard that the Bloody Marys are to die for.

A whiteout at Steamboat Springs
Greg Younger / Openverse

6. Steamboat Springs

The skiing

Combine perfect snowfall and distinctive gladed terrain, and you get Steamboat Springs. Seriously, the glades here are some of the best in the country.

Outside of the glades, Steamboat boats some fantastic terrain for no-joke beginners all the way through to adrenaline junkie experts, but accessibility to the expert terrain leaves a bit more to be desired.

Lift lines, especially during peak times, can be a bit overwhelming and make even the most patient of skiers shake their heads in discontent.

The lodging

Staying at Steamboat is actually pretty reasonable. Most of the hotels and rentals at the base won’t run you too dry, and the other options around town are economical and centrally located to maximize nightlife accessibility. Even though the off-site accommodations are more than a mile from Steamboat’s base, buses come to and from town every 20 minutes to pick up and drop off skiers.

The après

This is where Steamboat really flashes its colors as a proper ski town destination. Similar to Breckenridge, Steamboat is an actual town with locals, meaning there’s plenty to do when it comes to “what to do” once off the hill. There are a number of bars, breweries, and small clubs, which range from lively to laid back.

For on-site après, Steamboat doesn’t skimp. Choose from a variety of slope-side watering options that offer convenient holes happy hour specials on grub and drinks.

The top entrance of Highland bowl
Pablo Monteagudo / Openverse

7. Aspen Highlands

The skiing

While modest in size, Aspen Highlands boasts some truly magnificent terrain for intermediates and experts alike. The mountain dropped all of its green circle designations a couple of years back and has thrown blue square designations in its place. The rest of the resort is reserved for single-black and double-black diamond terrain.

The most iconic part of the mountain, the Highland Bowl, is a must-rip for anyone looking to get the most out of their trip to the Highlands.

And if you want to get the most out of your Highlands bowl rip, you’re gonna have to slug it a grueling 45 minutes to an hour, where you’ll top out at the top gate at roughly 12,400 feet. From there, the world is your oyster. This hike is one of the most popular in-bounds hikes anywhere in the country and rivals Park City’s hike up Jupiter Peak.

The lodging

While the feeling of isolation on the mountain is apparent, Aspen Highlands offers a few upscale on-site lodging options like luxurious rental homes and the ever-so-fancy Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Aspen proper is just a ten-minute drive away from the Highlands, but the pricing will still be on the higher end of things. Plus, if you’re staying in Aspen proper and looking to park at Aspen Highlands for the day, an all-day parking pass will run you $40.

The après

Aspen Highlands takes après-skiing to the next level. Most visitors will want to start their après while still on the hill. The mid-mountain Cloud-Nine Bistro transitions to a 21+ club, complete with an outdoor patio overlooking Aspen along with a wide variety of wine and champagne. 

If you’re looking to get started once off the mountain, the Highlands Village base area is a great starting spot, while Aspen proper is where you’ll want to go for the real party.

Louis Cinquanto
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Writing for all of the adventurers out there! Ski the East! #getoutside
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