Which Colorado Ski Town Is Right for You?
There's a lot to love about ski towns in Colorado. Whether you're looking for a flourishing food scene or the best aprés ski in the state, we've got the scoop on where to go this season.
As ski resorts across the country gear up for a new season, many of us are already pulling our gear out of storage and adding to our cold weather wardrobe. For those eager to ski Colorado this season, it may be a question of which of the more than 20 Colorado ski towns is for you. Whether in search of a scorching culinary scene, vibrant nightlife or plenty to do for families and non-skiers, we've got you covered. Here are the powdery Colorado ski towns to put on your radar this season.
Colorado has a mountain for everyone, but for those eager to take their skills up a notch (or five), look to Copper Mountain. Well-known for the ski resort of the same name, this ski town has a decidedly adventurous vibe, due largely to more than 70 ski runs for advanced level skiers, as well as multiple terrain parks. Spend a few hours at Woodward Copper, a massive indoor ski barn filled with mini ramps, foam pits, trampolines and pipes to let skiers and boarders work on their tricks before showing them off on the slopes. Need more adrenaline-pumping activities? Look to the alpine coaster and five-lane snow tubing hill.
There's no question that today's ski towns have ramped up their games considerably to reel in discerning food lovers. Telluride boasts one of the most sophisticated foodie scenes in all of Colorado that goes well beyond slopeside burgers and brats. Here you'll find flavorful on-mountain and ski-in/ski-out dining options for every palate. All of that skiing will definitely work up an appetite. For the highest elevation dining in North America (at 11,966 feet), take a seat at Alpino Vino for a prix fixe five-course Italian meal and a notable wine list. In downtown Telluride, 221 South Oak is a favorite for Rocky Mountain elk T-bone steaks and saffron braised octopus.
Aspen may be best-known for world-class skiing and celebrity spotting (the Kardashians, Demi Lovato, Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom have all called on Aspen), but this Colorado ski town is all about shopping. Whether you want to upgrade your ski gear, pick up some logo wear (to let everyone know you were in Aspen, of course) or shop the big fashion houses, you can do it in Aspen. Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, they're all in here. You'll also find plenty of stylish boutiques, like Nina McLemore and Loro Piana. On a budget? Stop in The Little Bird, a high-end consignment shop known to sell Carolina Herrera handbags and Jimmy Choo heels with (reasonably) affordable price tags.
Let's be honest, skiing can be an expensive hobby, particularly in Colorado. However, for a relaxed vibe and reliable ski areas that don't put a dent in your family budget, look to Winter Park. This charming Colorado ski town offers a variety of affordable restaurants and lodging options, as well as loads of economical home rentals on sites like Airbnb and VRBO. Tap into reduced-price lift tickets too from Liftopia, a third-party that extends the greatest discounts to those who purchase in advance. For more savings, ride the gondola for free after 4 p.m. to enjoy a colorful (and also free) sunset from 10,700 feet.
Known as Ski Town USA, Steamboat Springs has trained dozens of Olympic athletes, including medalists Johnny Spillane and Travis Mayer. It's also the home mountain for multiple members of the Colorado and National Ski Halls of Fame. On any given day, you may find yourself skiing alongside athletes and hopefuls on training runs at Howelsen Hill, the nation's oldest ski area and home to North America's largest ski jumping complex. Stroll the "Walk of Fame" along Yampa Street for a look at bronze plaques set into the sidewalk for each hometown Olympian. Take a break from ski culture with a three-hour food tour that includes tastings at local restaurants. At the Tread of Pioneers Museum, the "Ski Town USA" exhibit shares why Steamboat Springs is home to more Olympic athletes than any other town in the country.
Now a popular ski town, Crested Butte was once a thriving mining town during Colorado's Gold Rush in the 1800's when precious metals lured prospectors from near and far in hopes of riches. Off the slopes, explore the town's rich (no pun intended) history at the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum, which has multiple exhibits on display that range from "Coal Mining in Crested Butte" to "History of Skiing in the Butte." The museum also leads historic walking tours along the streets of this colorful, old-fashioned Western town. With both historical significance and modern amenities, like locally-owned boutiques and cozy restaurants, Crested Butte offers much more than just good skiing.
The ski town of Breckenridge may be equally known for its ski and its aprés ski. Visitors like to ski and board on world-class peaks, then revel in the vibrant nightlife off the slopes. There are plenty of buzzy options in Breck too, whether you want an unfussy dive bar for beers (The Mine Breck) or an upscale bistro for hand-crafted cocktails (Blue River Bistro). You'd be hard pressed to walk down Main Street without popping into one of dozens of aprés spots touting happy hour specials. Bars, bistros, clubs, pubs, taverns — Breckenridge has them all.
Let's be honest, not everyone wants to ski, or at least not every day. Today's ski towns and mountain villages go the extra mile for non-skiers and winter travelers. This is especially true of Colorado's Beaver Creek. From ice skating in the middle of Beaver Creek Village to guided snowshoe tours at McCoy Park, there's plenty for non-skiers to do (decisions, decisions). There's even a renowned performing arts center. If you do, however, decide to hit the slopes, the resort has added 250 acres of new ski terrain for novice and intermediate level skiers.
After a full day spent navigating the powdery white ski trails at Vail Mountain, head inside to refresh, renew and prepare for a new day on the slopes. A peppermint schnapps hot chocolate is a welcome treat, but so is a hot stone massage or body polish at a luxurious spa, like top-rated Sonnenalp Spa (inside Vail's Sonnenalp Hotel). Whether in Vail Village or Lionshead, there are plenty of wellness options, like RockResorts Spa and Bloom Spa. Round out spa time in Vail with a vitality-restoring facial treatment or hydrating wrap.
Many of Colorado's ski towns and resorts cater to children and families, enticing moms and dads with "kids ski free" promotions, day camps and ski lessons for littles as young as three. In Keystone, children's programs go to the next level thanks to Kidtopia, a resort program that wows with the world's largest snow fort, ice cream parties, hands-on activities, like crafts and "snow science," fireworks and parades. Ice skate on magical Keystone Lake or in the center of River Run Village. Snow biking, snow tubing and scenic sleigh rides (yes, dashing through the snow) also gain high marks with snow-loving kiddos.