There’s no better bonding time for me and my daughters than skiing in the Colorado Rockies. We spend the drive up talking and listening to music (I’m still trying to convince them that ’80s music is the best), and when we get to the slopes it’s equal parts adventure, fun, and friendly competition. Like most people, we love to ski the big-name resorts, but they can come with a hefty price tag. A walk-up day pass might set you back nearly $300, and that doesn’t take into account the costs of parking, meals, or equipment rentals. A day trip for a family of four can easily cost well over a thousand dollars!
There are alternatives that balance an excellent skiing experience and a more affordable cost. The Centennial State has 28 ski resorts, offering something for everyone — easy green runs, long blue groomers, bumps, freestyle terrain, steeps, and backcountry bowls. Single-day adult lift tickets at some of Colorado’s smaller resorts — often referred to as the “gems” — cost anywhere between $69 and $150, though advance ticket purchases may cost even less.
Want to explore a gem this winter? Here are a few to consider:
Loveland (skiloveland.com) is hidden in plain sight, located on the eastern end of the Eisenhower Tunnel just off I-70. Loveland features 1,800 skiable acres served by nine lifts, with snow cat service along the Continental Divide taking skiers to the highest run in the state at 13,010 feet above sea level. The 360-degree views from the top of the divide are stunning. Uphill access is also available. Parking is limited, which helps to keep the crowds and lift lines to a minimum.
Granby Ranch (granbyranch.com) is a family-owned ski resort located just outside Granby off Highway 40. The resort features approximately 500 skiable acres with four lifts and a vertical drop of nearly 1,000 feet. The resort includes two mountains: East Mountain with beginner and intermediate terrain, and West Mountain with mostly expert terrain and a few intermediate runs, featuring long, easy runs, bumps, steeps, and freestyle terrain. The resort offers uphill access and night skiing on weekends for those who can’t get enough runs in during the daylight hours.
Located approximately 20 miles from Salida off Highway 50, Monarch (skimonarch.com) offers roughly 800 skiable acres served by five lifts and two beginner lifts. Unlike most resorts, Monarch does not use snow-making equipment. With a base elevation near 11,000 feet, Mother Nature amply provides an average of 350 inches of snow annually. While most of the runs are fairly short in comparison to other Colorado ski mountains, adrenaline junkies can ride the snow cat or take a short hike to the top of the mountain and experience double black diamond skiing through the trees at the Mirkwood Bowl.
Skiers have enjoyed skiing in the Roaring Fork Valley at Sunlight Mountain Resort (sunlightmtn.com) since 1966. Visitors to Sunlight can take in the incredible vistas of Mount Sopris and the Elk Mountain Range while enjoying nearly 730 acres of skiable terrain with a vertical drop of almost 2,000 feet. About half of the runs at Sunlight are rated beginner or intermediate, which makes it a great option for new skiers. Sunlight is only 20 minutes from Glenwood Springs, where visitors can find reasonably priced lodging and a variety of shops and restaurants. Glenwood Springs is also home to the world’s largest hot springs pool, ideal for relaxation after a day on the slopes.
With all of these great options, there’s no excuse not to get out and enjoy the Colorado slopes this winter.
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