Breck. Vail. Aspen. Telluride. These big names in Colorado are well known, and each one is fantastic in their own way. However, if you are trying to find something new to explore, or more specifically to ski, there are several smaller, lesser-known ski hills in Colorado. They are just as well-rounded however not nearly as visited, or commercialized, as the aforesaid big names. This winter, here are 5 places to contemplate when looking to ski in Colorado.
Crested Butte has gained attention in recent years as a summer destination because of its prestigious mountain biking terrain. What’s usually forgotten is that the town features a major ski hill and is, as the crow flies, simply twelve miles from Aspen.
In other words, it has worthy terrain, but, due to the mountains and also the road, the trip in a car between the two towns is over a hundred miles. This is an example of why Crested Butte remains authentic as it’s not really an easy destination to go through by chance.
But folks who do trek there are going to be more than happy. Also, the time to go to is now because, despite the remoteness, a lot of attention is coming to this remote town. Crested Butte Mountain Resort was added to the Vail Epic pass last year which is nice news, however, it’s additionally a signal that a lot of folks, both in the state and from afar, are going to be making the trip to this respectable ski town.
Located on the Grand Mesa adjacent to Grand Junction, Powderhorn is a tiny, four-lift resort that caters virtually entirely to locals. By locals, we don’t mean state residents, we mean locals who live right there in the valley, at the bottom of the Mesa.
With sweeping valley views, the mountain has enough terrain to keep you busy with very little to no elegance. There’s one main lodge at the bottom of the lift and one bar and restaurant where everybody gather. No flash, nothing fancy, it’s an excellent reminder of what several other ski areas were once like before being commercialized.
That said, there are some fascinating new ventures to check out, like the tiny houses that are available to rent on the mountain. Off the slopes, look into nearby Palisade for a taste of Colorado wine country and also the refurbished downtown area of Grand Junction for food, drinks, and lodging.
Two things have happened in recent years that have upped Winter Park’s game. First, in 2017, the ski train came back after close to a ten-year absence and once more began providing weekend service from Denver to Winter Park, making it the sole ski mountain with direct access via train from Denver. Then, in 2018, the resort was purchased by Alterra Mountain Company and underwent $28 million dollars’ worth of enhancements, including a replacement gondola.
The main attraction, of course, remains the terrain. The front facet of the mountain, referred to as Winter Park, contains the groomed runs and learn-to-ski programs. The rear facet, known as Mary Jane, is famous for its tree skiing and moguls. The quality of the latter can impress even the foremost experienced mogul skiers. The previous are so well-spaced that beginners will feel comfy, while experts will want to tackle the wonder of the Eagle Wind sector.
Despite the enhancements and investment to the mountain, there’s still a powerful local atmosphere that you’ll experience at places like Pepperoni’s, a basement bar where pizza slices are only $3 and beers aren’t marked up like crazy.
Located 30 minutes from Salida, most of the people outside the state haven’t heard of Monarch, or Salida for that matter. Prepare to ditch the I-70 crowds and experience something totally different in Central Colorado. Monarch Mountain is located on the continental divide within the Sawatch range. It receives a walloping 350 inches of snow a year, filling up alpine bowls, long tree runs, and loads of intermediate groomed runs.
One of the best deals in all the State, Monarch offers what it calls the Migration Ticket, whereas you can show up with a season pass from another resort, and obtain a reduced daily lift ticket for just $57. The hope is that you just may be stunned by what you discover, and migrate over to Monarch in the future.
Visitors should use Salida as their home base and take some time to walk along the Arkansas River and explore the downtown area. Once you are done skiing and want to relax and refresh, check out one of the four hot springs situated nearby of Cottonwood, Joyful Journey, Valley View, and Mount Princeton.
Steamboat’s location within the northern part of the state, far from the other resort, leaves it entirely on its own. Nobody who makes the trip does so unintentionally, or by coincidence, or by convenience.
In Steamboat, two things that jump out are the massive aspen groves and a different kind of snow. The resort is well-regarded for its evenly-spaced tree runs, and also the quality of its snow which is so light and dry that it’s been branded as “Champagne powder”.
Also, don’t miss the cowboy ambiance of downtown, and make certain to check out Strawberry Hot Springs, widely thought of as one of the best hot springs within the state.