Thinking of trying the USA for your next wintersports break? Helen of Chalets USA has provided a useful lowdown on the top Colorado resorts to help you decide where to go.
Which is the best ski resort in Colorado?
As I live in Colorado and spent quite a bit of time skiing the various ski resorts, people often ask me which is the best ski resort in Colorado? Well I certainly have my favourites, but of course the answer is it depends on what you like… Here are some key points about the flavour of each ski resort & the skiing so you can choose which might suit you best:
Breckenridge Ski Resort
Breckenridge is a picturesque Victorian mountain town with Main Street lined with boutique shops, independent coffee shops, bars & restaurants.
The resort is well known for its nightlife & offers a range of restaurants from affordable to fine dining of every genre.
Everything is close together in Breckenridge & you can walk nearly everywhere or take the free shuttle if it’s chilly or uphill!
- The slopes, lifts & ski school at Peak 9 come right down into town just by Main Street.
- The gondola runs from the centre of town up to Peak & 7 and onto Peak 8.
- Peak 7 has mostly cruisy blue runs, perfect for intermediates.
- Peak 8 has a newly built base area & is home to a variety of green, blue & black runs.
- Peak 9 has some good beginner runs, plus other terrain.
- Peak 10 has some fantastic tree & mogul skiing.
- The Imperial Superchair is the highest chairlift in North America and accesses some fantastic black diamond and double black runs.
- Peak 6 is being opened this year with new runs & 2 new lifts.
Vail Ski ResortDesigned in an alpine style Vail has 2 main pedestrian base villages “Vail Village” & “Lionshead Village” with gondolas rising up from each. The pedestrian villages have a large variety of shops (including the obligatory fur coats), restaurants & bars to stroll around, plus ice rink & fountains, although Vail village is livelier at night.
- Golden Peak base area is 5-7 minute’s walk from Vail Village and is home to the main children’s ski school (there is ski school in Lionshead too).
- There is also some accommodation in East Vail, a less expensive residential area about 15 mins bus ride from the slopes. West Vail also has some larger homes.
- Vail is the largest single resort in the USA and is famous for its 7 legendary back bowls with fantastic powder after a snowstorm. There is so much terrain though in Vail it takes a while to cover it all and mid-Vail is an area which shouldn’t be overlooked.
Aspen / Snowmass Ski Resort
All 4 resorts are on the same lift pass and Aspen being Aspen you can even arrange for your skis to be transferred to a different mountain for the next day's skiing so they're ready & waiting for you.
Aspen town itself is well known for its sophisticated, lively & varied nightlife and has a plethora of restaurants, bars, designer shops, art galleries to choose from, plus an ice skating rink & even a rugby field right in the middle.
- The rich & famous often frequent Aspen, so people watching is a sport in itself here.
- Aspen mountain has a gondola from the middle of town and consists of blue runs and above but is not really for beginners.
- Snowmass has the most skiing of the 4 areas, but is a little quieter especially at night.
- Snowmass is great for families with its new ski school & childcare centre “The Treehouse” & has tons of ski in, ski out accommodation, making getting to the skiing very convenient.
- Snowmass is a huge ski area, covering every type of terrain. It even has a people mover lift which the locals call the “skittles” to take you from the base area to the mall area part way up the mountain
- Buttermilk is the beginner mountain and home to the X-games, Aspen Highland has advanced & expert including hike to terrain.
Beaver Creek Ski Resort
"Not exactly roughing it” is their slogan and that pretty much says it all. Guests skiing in Beaver Creek are spoilt by the escalators taking you up to the slopes so you don’t have to walk up the steps, the chaps unloading your skis from the ski bus and the complimentary freshly baked cookies at 3pm each afternoon.
On the same lift pass as Vail, Beaver Creek is only about 20 minutes away and has a quiet sophistication. It is slightly more reserved than the flashier Vail. It is home to the rich & famous and ex-presidents and celebrities have their homes here.
- Beaver Creek Village is compact and designed around the ice rink and has a high standard of restaurants, boutique shops, galleries & bars.
- It has some good ski in, ski out accommodation including The Osprey, Beaver Creek, which is the closest hotel to a chairlift in North America.
- Bachelor Gulch is the second base area at Beaver Creek with the Ritz Carlton Hotel and its outdoor pool at the bottom of the slopes & other ski in, ski out accommodation.
- The third area of Beaver Creek ski resort is Arrowhead. The town of Avon 10 minutes outside Beaver Creek has more affordable accommodation and has a gondola which goes up to Beaver Creek Landing, from where skiers can take another lift to access the Beaver Creek ski area.
- Beaver Creek seems to groom its intermediate slopes non-stop, plus is host to the “Birds of Prey” world cup race, which is skiable but not for the faint-hearted!
Steamboat Springs Ski ResortThe historic town of Steamboat is about 10 minutes drive from the main ski area. The town has a western feel to it with shops selling cowboy boots & hats, amongst the sophisticated restaurants. The strawberry hot springs are natural mineral springs, just a few minute’s drive from Steamboat and are a must after some strenuous skiing.
- The ski area has 6 peaks of world class skiing, including some fantastic glade skiing.
- Steamboat coined the name “Champagne powder” and is incredible on a powder day
- The base of the ski area is developing more and more each year and there is now the main area around the gondola and Ski Times Square just a little further along.
- There are some top notch ski in, ski out places to stay at the base with every amenity you could imagine.
- Steamboat is pretty family friendly & offers free children’s lift passes with an adult pass, a nice touch.
Winter Park Ski Resort
Winter Park is a down to earth town, more low key than many of the other ski resorts and thus good value for money. They say that the only time you see a fur coat in Winter Park is when it’s on the animals!
The town is where most of the shops, bars & restaurants are, set along its main street and has quieter nightlife, some late night bars, but no clubs as such. The base area is about 10 minutes drive or bus from town and is the closest resort to Denver.
Winter Park Resort is known as Colorado’s favourite, is where many Coloradans learnt to ski and is still very popular with local residents
- A skiers mountain Winter Park has the most consistent snow year after year, 30 feet or so.
- Winter Park Resort consists of the main base area at Winter Park with its beginner area, intermediate & advanced runs, Mary Jane, famous for its epic moguls, Vasquez Ridge a quieter area, with blue & black runs, Parsenn Bowl, above treeline with intermediate & advanced skiing & the Cirque for expert skiers. If you're into tree skiing, there is some fantastic natural, gladed terrain on Eagle Wind.