Why ski anywhere else? Colorado has it all!

By | Category: Travel destinations

Vail

Vail © Jenna Bartosz/Vail Powder Guide

Here in Colorado, we are hoping for a cold winter full of snow, snow and more snow. If the forecasters are correct, we will get it, along with plenty of great skiing on the powder for which we are famous. If we end up not getting that natural snowfall, no worries – our 25 ski resorts have all invested in state-of-the-art snowmaking equipment! Whether you seek the glitz and glamour of Vail, Beaver Creek and Aspen, the family friendly ambiance of Winter Park, the historic villages of Crested Butte and Breckenridge or the independent, private feel of Sunlight and Loveland, to name but a few, you’ll find it here in the beautiful state of Colorado. From London you can fly into Denver on British Airways and then drive, take a shuttle bus, or even connect to mountain airports. Best of all, you’ll most likely go home with a hint of some sun on your cheeks – Colorado is one of the sunniest spots in the U.S.

Here are some of our favorites:

Glitz and Glamour (and lift ticket prices to match):

Snowmass ©Aspen Powder Tours

Aspen is actually composed of four resorts (Aspen Mountain (affectionately known as Ajax,) Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. You can ski all four on one pass. Buttermilk has two terrain parks, while Snowmass has three – Aspen Mountain and Highlands have none. The city of Aspen is a beaut, with lovely restored Victorian homes from the mining days, tiny shops and bistros and plenty of celeb sightings. This is the spot for showing off the posh ski gear you just bought.
Aspen is about a four hour drive from Denver, but does have an international airport. Don’t miss the après ski scene – it’s amazing. www.aspen-snowmass.com/aspen-mountain.

Beaver Creek, just past Vail on Highway I-70, is a planned resort that hosts a delightful plaza, replete with ice skating rink, plenty of shops and restaurants, and various elegant hotels, rental condos and mini (and not so mini) mansions to rent, many with ski-in and ski-out access. About 1,283 acres, it features 38 percent expert terrain, 43 percent intermediate and 19 percent beginner, with the summit at a whopping 11,440 feet. Check the Epic Pass program for special pricing. About three hours from Denver by car or shuttle bus, or a short drive from the Eagle Vail Airport. www.beavercreek.com.

Vail is where you’ll find, to your surprise, vast numbers of wealthy South Americans and Mexicans, replete with nannies, maids and all of the relatives. But you’ll also find hard core skiers and boarders from all over who love this enormous area (5,289 acres!, second in size in North America only to Whistler in Canada.) More than half of the terrain here is dedicated to advanced and expert skiers – ahh, those back bowls of which you may have heard others reminisce. Vail was created in the late ‘60’s by a group of Austrians and Americans, but has become a true city in the mountains – sporting everything from uber-posh hotels and spas to yes, a McDonalds. There’s plenty of nightlife and fine dining here and yes, paparazzi to show off those famous faces you just might see. www.vail.com

Family Friendly:

Winter Park Resort

©Winter Park Resort

Winter Park began operating in 1940 as part of Denver’s park system, and some 72 years later, families are still making the trip 67 miles from Denver, over Berthoud Pass, to experience one of the largest family-friendly ski resorts in Colorado. This is the place where many locals learned to ski – and while it’s not required to have children to ski here, they are all over the place.
This enormous, but easy to navigate complex, consists of five separate, yet connected areas, has 3,081 total skiable acres, including 143 designated trails and 1,212 acres of off-piste terrain, including Vasquez Cirque and glade skiing. Winter Park has 25 lifts and 3 Magic Carpets for beginners, as well as an 18-foot superpipe (listening, parents of teens?) You can avoid I-70 for some of the trip, since you’ll be driving over the dramatic Berthoud Pass, and the trip from Denver typically takes less than two hours. Naturally, there is a cute REAL town here and you’ll find plenty of accommodations ranging from B&B’s to sumptuous mountain lodges to rent. www.winterparkresort.com

Small, intimate and great deal:
Sunlight Mountain Resort is just outside of the delightful historic small city of Glenwood Springs, about 2 ½ hours from Denver, between Vail and Aspen on I-70. Glenwood is famous for its fabulous hot springs pool – the largest in the world, surrounded by historic sandstone buildings and mountain views. Just imagine a dunk after a hard day skiing! Sunlight is one of the most family-friendly ski and snowboard areas in the country, one of those rare spots where all trails lead to the bottom and you would have a hard time losing your people. We let our kids ski alone here for a while when they were preteens –not something we’d ever have done at most resorts. The resort offers 470 blissfully un-crowded acres and 67 trails of all levels, even several double black diamonds. Much less expensive than nearby Aspen and Vail, Sunlight’s lift tickets max out at $55 for adults, $45 for kids (five and under free) but most take advantage of Glenwood’s unique Ski, Swim and Stay package – Ski or ride at Sunlight Mountain Resort, swim at the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, and stay in Glenwood Springs in a package deal that starts at $99 per person. Kids 12 and under receive a free lift ticket with the purchase of an adult full-day lift ticket when you stay at one of the participating hotels. (offer not valid during holiday season*.) www.sunlightmtn.com.

History and Charm:
Breckenridge is a great ski area in another gem of a town, which still sports lovingly restored homes from its mining days back in the 1800’s. You can stay in a Victorian B&B or in a lodge, or in a swank hotel – it’s all here, but you won’t miss a stroll or two to gaze at the homes. Breck, as it’s called by Coloradans, is a big area, with 2,358 acres, five terrain parks (yes, lots of boarders here – and lots of “dude” talk) along with one pipe. Nightlife is very active here – some might miss that morning powder, but it’s their choice! An easy ride from Denver on I-70, the trip takes about 2 hours. www.breckenridge.com.

Telluride

Telluride ©Mathew Inden/Miles

Telluride, down in the southern part of the state, is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth, any time of the year. No wonder so many, including some celebrities, have moved here. An artistic, historic town full of gingerbread Victorians and eclectic shops and dining options, the ski area is a winner – with 2,000+ acres, 41 percent of the 127 trails for experts and three terrain parks. Telluride is some 330 miles from Denver (a LONG seven-hour drive, but several airlines fly there. www.tellurideresort.com

Hot Doggers’ and Boarders’ Heaven:

Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells in Aspen © Snowmass

Steamboat Springs could fit into various categories – it’s family-friendly, it’s charming and historic AND it offers big time aggressive black expert runs. Steamboat is an old Western town, where you will see ranchers and cowboys and plenty of horses driving in, and some might just be sitting next to you on the chairlift. It’s a long 3-4 hour drive from Denver, but has an international airport. You won’t miss the lines you find closer to the city, and on the 2,965 acres and 165 trails, there is plenty of room for everyone. Steamboat is famed for spectacular snow, views, and a friendly, comfortable feel. Those hot doggers (trick skiers or snowboarders) will love the four terrain parks and the 44 percent expert/advanced terrain to show off their daring. But 42 percent is devoted to intermediates and 14 to beginners – so everyone can have a good time. www.steamboat.com.

*Typically the US holiday season would be Dec. 24, 2012-Jan 2, 2013; Jan 19-21, 2013; Feb 16-18, 2013 and March 9 – 24, 2013

For more about Colorado, click here.

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