When you think of Colorado skiing, known for its natural splendor and world-class slopes, Vail and Breckenridge are often the names that come to mind. While these resorts boast an impressive amount of terrain and notable ski-culture, sometimes it’s the more tucked-away ski hills that can offer the most culture, challenge, and bang for your buck.
The crown jewels of Colorado skiing—Telluride, Aspen, and Steamboat—not only offer versatile terrain and killer culture, but they also offer a small-town feel, where the locals will ski circles around you, but still invite you to après afterward.
Telluride Ski Resort
One of the most picturesque towns in the world, Telluride is rich in mining and skiing history. It’s no wonder that pro-skiers train here and celebrities make their homes among the dazzling vistas that encircle the town. The population is small, a mere 2,426 folks, but the town’s personality is big. Stay at the Victorian Inn for an affordable but quaint experience, and walk to the free Gondola that takes you directly to the mountain.
For beginners and intermediate skiers, Prospect Bowl and See-Forever trail are musts. For expert skiers, Telluride’s steep and deep Revolution Bowl will make you scream as you rip down black diamonds that hover above vertigo-inducing Bear Creek Canyon. For hike-to-terrain fanatics, Black Iron Bowl, Gold Hill Chutes, and Palmyra Peaks are legendary and not for the faint of heart.
Want good eats, live music, and epic views between runs? From high-class dining to laid-back, Telluride has it all. Bon Vivant is located at the top of the Polar Queen Express, and delights the senses with spectacular views of the surrounding peaks along with exquisite French cuisine. If you’re looking for something less fancy without sacrificing the taste or experience, Giuseppe’s offers New Orleans soul food, outdoor seating, and prices fit for families all at the top of the Plunge Lift.
For an extra treat, ride the Gondola over to Mountain Village, open until midnight throughout the week and until 2 a.m. on the weekend.
Quirky, rustic, and ready to party, Steamboat Resort is known for its world-class tree skiing, the annual Cowboy Downhill, and a whole lotta character.
For beginner and intermediate skiers, the Christie Peak Express and Preview lifts offer long rolling greens and blues. For expert and advanced, anything off of Pony Express or Sunshine Express will get you your kicks. Dip over to Morningside Bowl for versatile tree skiing.
For an afternoon bite, stop in at TBar, known for its lively atmosphere, outdoor seating, and Americana-inspired food. Located at the bottom of the Pony Express, you can hop right back on the lift and ski until your legs are jelly.
After a day on the mountain, take your four-wheel drive to the hidden oasis of Strawberry Park Hot Springs to soak in one of Colorado’s most scenic and intimate natural hot springs. Strawberry Park offers unique on-site lodging; however, if you want something closer to town with a pet-friendly policy, check out The Rabbit Ears Motel.
Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, Buttermilk, and Beyond
If you’ve never been to Aspen, you may not know that instead of one ski territory, there are several with different vibes and personalities.
For the beginners and more laid-back skiers, Buttermilk is a dream with rolling greens and blues, amazing scenery, and an outstanding local crowd. For the all-around skier who wants epic groomers, steeps, and trees, Snowmass is where it’s at. And for the expert skier intent on double blacks for days, hike-to-terrain, and moguls that will turn your legs to mush, Aspen Highlands is on the menu.
If you’re interested in skiing the mountains but not paying the crazy prices to stay in Aspen-proper, consider staying down the road in Carbondale. This tight-knit community offers excellent food, shopping, and entertainment opportunities without the hefty Aspen price-tag. Getting to Snowmass is also cheap and easy when you hop on the Park and Ride.
Even more, this area of Colorado is a winter-wonderland where skiers can turn to snowshoeing and fat tire biking for a change of pace. Be sure to check out the trails outside of the resorts for a better look at Aspen’s natural beauty.