In Travel

The Ultimate Ski Trip Guide To Colorado

With more than 30 winter resorts each averaging 7.5 metres of snow per season, there’s plenty to consider before deciding which Colorado ski resort to book for. Whatever you decide though, you won’t be disappointed.

Best Ski Town: Crested Butte

Skier on Crested Butte’s Prospector ski slope Photo: Mark Daffey

Often branded as Colorado’s Last Great Ski Town, this former coal mining settlement in the Elk Mountains is as authentic as any US ski resort. The Butte’s homely downtown area is recognised as a National Historic District where you won’t find traffic lights, chain stores or corporate meddling. Anonymity is a prized commodity for people who come here.

And those who invest in real estate do so on the understanding that they won’t tamper with the community’s grounded identity. On the mountain, twice-daily grooming translates into Colorado’s best corduroy. Then there’s the added advantage of zero lift queues. And on top of all that, there’s Rambo – the nation’s steepest run.

Best Scenery: Telluride

Town of Telluride beneath the San Juan Mountains Photo: Mark Daffey

Nestled inside a box canyon at the end of the San Miguel Valley, where the highest concentration of 3000- and 4000-metre peaks in the US lord over it, Telluride has been described as “hard to get to and harder to leave”. A free gondola – the only one of its kind in North America – connects the charming old mining town with the modern, slopeside Mountain Village, ferrying skiers, boarders and pedestrians up and down the mountain from the early hours until late at night, seven days a week.

While expert skiers are well catered for right across the mountain, intermediates will want to hurtle down the appropriately named See Forever, with beginners able to tackle the Galloping Goose – a 7km-long green run to the base of the mountain.

Best Variety: Aspen-Snowmass

Aspen Mountain ski run Photo: Mark Daffey

In 1993, when Jim Crown’s Aspen Skiing Company added Aspen Highlands to its investment portfolio, four neighbouring ski mountains, each offering something different for every skier and snowboarder, became linked together by the one lift ticket. The original Aspen Mountain – better known by the name of Ajax by locals – is now joined by the beginner’s mountain of Buttermilk (X-Games venue), family-friendly Snowmass (Colorado’s highest mountain resort) and Aspen Highlands (some of the best inbounds skiing in Colorado). Together, the four resorts contain more than 5200 acres of skiable terrain above a glitzy mountain town acting as a honeypot to the rich and famous.

Best Powder: Steamboat

Skiers on Buddy’s Run, Steamboat Springs Photo: Mark Daffey

Where better to ski in fresh powder than the place where ‘Champagne Powder’ was trademarked? This genuine cowboy town is often called Ski Town USA due its enviable boast of producing more Olympic skiers than any other zip code in the United States.

Most of them earned their stripes on Howelsen Hill, Colorado’s oldest ski hill, before graduating to Mt Werner’s 3000 skiable acres, where you’ll find arguably the best glade skiing in the US. At the end of a hard day’s skiing, you’ll want to soak those weary limbs in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs outside town.

Best Accessibility: Winter Park

Colorado’s longest continually operated ski resort is also one of its easiest to get to – a definite advantage after a long flight from Australia. As well as being the closest major resort to Denver’s international airport, from January to March it’s also serviced by a weekend Winter Park Express ski train from Denver Union Station. Expect to find groomers, terrain parks, deeps, steeps, trees, chutes, bowls, bumps and Colorado’s most consistent snowfalls across more than 3000 skiable acres.

Best Luxury Experience: Beaver Creek

Not exactly roughing it Photo: Beaver Creek Mountain

Referred to by a former state governor as the ‘Tiffany’s’ of ski resorts, and with a motto stating: ‘Not exactly roughing it’, Beaver Creek is the one Colorado resort where luxury comes as standard. It’s all about the little things: slopeside ski valets, white-glove service, members-only clubs and restaurants, private chef services, free cookies, round-the-clock grooming, and escalators to the slopes to save you from having to walk around in your boots.

Unlike its sister resort, Vail, BC is geared towards guests seeking sophistication and privacy. As for the skiing, there’s more than 1800 acres of ski terrain, almost half of which is graded intermediate level. If you love cruising down wide, groomed trails and sipping champagne cocktails, this is the resort for you.

Best Family Resort: Copper Mountain

Close to 50 percent of Copper Mountain’s 140 ski trails are classified as suitable for beginners and intermediates, with the terrain naturally divided between beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of ability. How that affects skiers and boarders is that beginners won’t need to worry about stumbling onto a black run that they can’t then escape from, and advanced skiers won’t forever be dodging stumbling novices.

A shuttle bus service connects three pedestrian-friendly village areas within walking distance of the lifts. And the kids – big and small – will chuckle once they learn about the ski scenes in the cult comedy Dumb & Dumber being filmed on Copper Mountain, including one where Harry’s tongue sticks to a lift.

Published 23 August, 2018