I'm often asked which is the best ski resort in Colorado, USA? Everyone has their favourites of course and some resorts are much better known by people in Europe, Australia and New Zealand than others. But here is a summary of the major Colorado resorts for those who are either new to skiing holidays in the USA or may want to try somewhere they haven't been or haven't heard much about before.
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Breckenridge is a picturesque, Victorian style town with its historic main street being well known for its nightlife. Everything is close together in Breckenridge, the slopes & lifts at Peak 9 are just off main street and give skiers access to many green & blue runs and the ski school is just there.
The gondola comes down from Peak 7 and 8 right into the centre of town. Peak 7 is known for its cruisy blue runs and tends to be a quieter area of the mountain. The base area at Peak 8 is newly built and accesses a variety of green, blue & black runs. There are also skiways leading from the Snowflake and 4 O'clock runs to many of the properties near the town centre. Breckenridge ski resort used to be seen as an intermediates paradise, but with the addition of the Imperial Superchair now has some fantastic advanced / expert terrain. Breckenridge ski resort has been expanded with the opening of Peak 6, a beautiful new area with a mixture of gladed intermediate runs & a short hike to bowl for those who like a challenge!
The restaurants in Breckenridge range from the more affordable to fine dining, depending on what you're in the mood for. There is a great free bus system running into the wee hours for getting around Breckenridge.
Vail is designed in an alpine style with its 2 pedestrian villages of "Vail Village" and "Lionshead Village". There are gondolas rising up from each of the villages allowing easy access to the slopes. There are a plethora of shops, art galleries, restaurants & bars within each village (although Vail village is a little more lively at night), plus the obligatory fur coat boutiques. The complimentary shuttle bus connects the 2 villages, which are about 5 minutes apart.
Golden Peak in Vail is close to Vail Village and is where the main children's ski school is. Vail also comprises "East Vail", about 15 minutes bus ride from the slopes. It's a residential area with one convenience store with the accommodation being on the less expensive side. "West Vail" has some larger homes and some restaurants & bars. The town of Avon is also within a 15-20 minute bus ride with more affordable accommodation. Although Vail is famous for its back bowls on a powder day, there is so much terrain in Vail, it's hard to ski it all and mid-Vail is not to be missed.
Aspen / Snowmass actually comprises the 4 mountains of Aspen, Snowmass, Buttermilk & Aspen Highlands. Most of the accommodation can be found in either the town of Aspen or Snowmass. The fantastic ski buses connect the 4 resorts which 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 is a very lively town with infamous nightlife, many amazing restaurants, bars & designer shops, art galleries, a skating rink and people watching galore! Aspen mountain is quite a bit smaller than Snowmass and not really for beginners, but for intermediates and above. The gondola goes up the mountain from the town centre, so everything is very convenient when staying in Aspen itself.
Snowmass is on the quieter side, great for families and has mostly ski in, ski out accommodation, plus a new ski school & childcare centre called "The Treehouse". Snowmass is the largest of the 4 Aspen ski areas and many people spend quite a bit of time skiing in Snowmass, no matter where they are staying.
There's something rather special about Beaver Creek, which is located around 15-20 minutes from Vail and is on the same lift pass. Beaver Creek really spoils its guests with escalators to take you up to the base area, so you don't have to walk up the steps and complimentary freshly baked chocolate chip cookies handed out each afternoon at 3pm.
With its subtle sophistication, Beaver Creek is more reserved than the slightly flashier Vail, but certainly has a similar high standard of restaurants, boutique shops & galleries. Beaver Creek village is designed around the ice rink and is on the quieter side, with some good ski in, ski out accommodation including The Osprey, Beaver Creek, which is the closest hotel to a chairlift in North America.
As well as Beaver Creek village there is another base area called Bachelor Gulch, home to the Ritz Carlton hotel with its outdoor pool at the bottom of the slopes and other ski in, ski out accommodation. The third area of Beaver Creek ski resort is Arrowhead.
Guests staying in Beaver Creek can take advantage of the complimentary dial-a-ride on call taxi service to take them around the various areas of Beaver Creek.
The town of Avon has a gondola which goes up to Beaver Creek Landing, from where skiers can take another lift to access the Beaver Creek ski area.
Steamboat Springs' original historic town and the main ski area are about 10 minutes drive from each other. The town certainly still has a cowboy feel to it with shops selling cowboy boots & hats as a central stay. The town has some really lovely fine dining restaurants along its one main street.
The Strawberry hot springs are just outside Steamboat are not to be missed natural mineral springs, perfect for soaking those tired muscles, after some strenuous skiing. The town of Steamboat also has hot springs, which are more family orientated with water slides, pool & gym.
The ski area itself is pretty sophisticated and is developing more & more each year. The resort has its main base area by the gondola and just a little way along is Ski Times Square where a lot of the recent development has taken place. There are some top notch new apartments at the Steamboat ski area with all the bells & whistles you could dream of. Steamboat also encourages families with free children's lift passes (with an adult pass).
Winter Park Resort is where many Coloradan's learnt to ski and is still a favourite amongst the Colorado residents. Winter Park is a down to earth, good value resort with some fantastic skiing, but more mellow nightlife. The base area is about 10 minutes drive from the town of Winter Park and has recently added some shops, bars & restaurants, but most of the entertainment is still in town. Winter Park has a range of restaurants from cheap & cheerful family friendly places to more sophisticated cuisine and some bars although only a couple of late night ones.
Winter Park Resort consists of the main base area at Winter Park, Mary Jane, famous for its epic moguls, Vasquez Ridge a quieter area, 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.
|Average snowfall||762 cm||300"||889 cm||350"||762 cm||300"|
|Number of runs||187||195||336|
|Number of lifts||34||31||42|
|Base elevation||9600 ft||2926 m||8120 ft||2476 m||7870 ft||2399 m|
|Summit elevation||12998 ft||3936 m||11570 ft||3527 m||11675 ft||3559 m|
|Resort||Beaver Creek||Winter Park||Steamboat Springs|
|Average snowfall||787 cm||325 "||884 cm||348"||886 cm||349"|
|Number of runs||150||143||165|
|Number of lifts||25||25||16|
|Base elevation||8100 ft||2469 m||9000 ft||2743 m||6900 ft||2103 m|
|Summit elevation||11440 ft||3488 m||12060 ft||3676 m||10568 ft||3224 m|
We live in the USA, know the ski resorts & accommodation and visit them regularly.
We can give you expert advice and save you time & effort finding the right USA ski holiday for you.
Helen & Rob Brown
UK Tel 01223 655642
US Tel 303 482 1961