Best ski resorts in Colorado, for beginners to black-diamond experts


There’s nothing quite like skiing the Colorado Rockies, home to some of the best ski resorts in America.

Whether you are a black-diamond expert skier or a beginner starting out, there’s a mountain for everyone. All the ski towns in Colorado have their own unique personalities – some that cater to singles and others that rank among the best family ski resorts. And for those who get season ski passes, there are plenty of opportunities to hop from one mountain to another.

Many of these ski towns are actually old mining establishments and still keep a certain rustic character, even if they also have some of the state’s best restaurants and shopping — plus, the actual ski slopes themselves. Whatever your vacation preferences or your level of skiing ability, there’s a great ski resort in Colorado for you. Here are some of the best.


If you are seeking an iconic Colorado ski experience, look no further. Vail is the quintessential Colorado ski resort – now celebrating 60 years – that others have been modeled on. The resort traces its roots back to a group of skiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division who would eventually go on to open the resort as a vacation destination in 1962.

Today, Vail’s 195 trails offer a little bit of everything for all types of skiers – beginner runs off the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola to black-diamond expert runs in its legendary Back Bowls. And the surrounding town has a handful of dive bars mixed in with all the upscale dining.

For a detailed look at this posh ski town (it even has heated sidewalks), check out our comprehensive guide to Vail. Or look below for some of the highlights.

Where to eat

Apres-ski has long centered around The Red Lion, steps from the base of the mountain. But there’s more to this town than just beer and nachos. Sweet Basil has helped set the standard for high-end dining in Vail since 1977 and is now joined by many other great restaurants. One of the trendier entries is The Slope Room at one of the town’s newest hotels, Gravity Haus Vail.

Where to stay

There’s no shortage of hotel and home rental options here. Some are steps from the slopes and others, like the Highline Vail – a DoubleTree by Hilton, are great uses of points but require a shuttle bus. There are plenty of World of Hyatt properties, but points availability can be a challenge and many, under the Destination by Hyatt brand, are closer to individual timeshare units for rent than a full-service hotel. The Grand Hyatt Vail is a great value but note that the ski-in, ski-out feature only works if the chairlift near the hotel is operating — something that doesn’t happen either early or late in the season when there isn’t enough snow. Here are our top Vail hotel picks.

Sonnenalp Vail


Rates from $599 per night during ski season, $450 per night during summer and $319 during spring.

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Four Seasons Vail


Rates from $575 per night during spring and topping $2,000 per night during prime ski dates.

The Hythe, a Luxury Collection Resort, Vail


Rates from $300 or 70,000-100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, plus a $50 nightly resort fee.

Related: TPG’s review of The Hythe

The Arrabelle at Vail Square


Rates from $500 per night.

Beaver Creek

Just a few miles down the road from Vail sits its sister resort, Beaver Creek. This is a more modern, posher version of Vail – if you can believe it. Take those heated outdoor sidewalks and add an escalator to help you get up to the slopes. Like we said, posh.

The beauty of being slightly newer (its first ski season was in 1980) is that more true ski-in, ski-out hotel options exist here. Plus, there are plenty of luxurious extras, such as the free, warm cookies handed out at 3 p.m. every day at the bottom of the Haymeadow and Centennial Express lifts.

The mountain was intentionally designed to get new-to-skiing learners up the hill faster to enjoy the real thrill of the mountains, so the beginner-friendly runs are not all clustered around the base area. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of challenging trails. The resort is known for its Birds of Prey World Cup downhill ski course, which should be an adventure even for the most experienced skiers.

Where to eat

There are plenty of fine dining options here but for a truly unique experience, snag a reservation at Beano’s Cabin. This spot is set high up on the mountain within the White River National Forest. In winter, guests arrive via sleigh, making the cabin a destination in itself. And if you want a dinner on the mountain with just a la carte instead of fixed-price menus, opt for Allie’s Cabin instead.

Where to stay

Here are our top picks for the best hotels in Beaver Creek for your next ski vacation.

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa


Rates from $750 per night during ski season; $300 per night off-peak, plus a $50 nightly resort fee. World of Hyatt members can redeem 25,000-35,000 points per night with waived resort fees.

Related: TPG’s review of the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek

The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch

Bachelor Gulch, Colorado


Rates from $1,000 per night during ski season; $225 per night during off-peak times, with a $50 nightly resort fee. Marriott Bonvoy members can use points starting at 70,000 a night and quickly climbing over 100,000 for peak ski season dates.

Related: TPG’s review of The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch

The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Avon, Vail Valley

Avon, Colorado


Rates from $500 per night during ski season or $300 night off-peak, or award nights starting at 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, with a $35 nightly resort fee.

Aspen Snowmass

Nothing quite evokes the idea of a fancy, over-the-top ski vacation like Aspen. And while there is tons of wealth in this ski town, there are also some more relaxed spots that make this a great destination for all skiers.

The first thing to know about Aspen Snowmass is that it is actually four unique ski areas – totaling over 5,500 acres – all connected with a single lift ticket. They are all linked by a bus system, too, but travel times can be 30 minutes or more. So think a bit about which particular part of the resort you want to ski in when mapping out accommodations.

In the heart of town is Aspen Mountain, often referred to by locals as Ajax Mountain. Nowhere else can you have a gourmet lunch, get in a run or two and then walk to some of the best ski-town shopping. Be warned: This mountain is not for beginners and has limited intermediate trails.

Aspen Highlands is away from the action but is a destination upon itself. The area is famous for its Highland Bowl, a hike-to ski area with epic runs and amazing views. Beginners, this isn’t the spot for you. Buttermilk Mountain is the best place for novices. It’s got plenty of gentle runs and a great ski school to help you make the perfect turn.

Snowmass Mountain is the largest of the four ski areas in Aspen. In fact, it has more terrain than the other three combined. The mountain has its own little village, plenty of ski-in, ski-out hotels and trails for all levels of skiers. It’s a great base for those who want to ski often and don’t mind the ride into town for dinner or shopping.

Where to eat

In the town of Aspen itself, enjoy the Swiss-skewing French fare at French Alpine Bistro, light nouvelle Japanese cuisine at Matsuhisa, or sizzling steaks at Steak House No. 316. For a true gourmet experience featuring seasonal Colorado ingredients, head to The Little Nell’s Element 47.

Where to stay

Travelers to Aspen have plenty of lodging options but generally gravitate toward the Snowmass area or the town of Aspen itself, within walking distance of Ajax.

W Aspen


Rates from $800 per night during ski season and $600 per night off-peak, or from 80,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, all plus a $50-per-night resort fee.

Related: TPG’s review of the W Aspen

Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection 


Rates from $1,200 per night.

The Little Nell


Rates from $2,000 per night during ski season; $600 per night off-peak.

The St. Regis Aspen Resort

Aspen, Colorado


Rates from $1,300 per night during ski season, $600 per night off-peak, or 90,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. There’s no resort fee.

Related: TPG’s review of The St. Regis Aspen

Viceroy Snowmass


Rates from $1,000 per night during ski season, or $400 per night off-peak.

Viewline Resort Snowmass, Autograph Collection

Aspen, Colorado


Rates from $550 per night during ski season, $250 off-peak, or 55,000 points per night during ski season plus a $50 daily resort fee.

Related: TPG’s review of the Viewline Resort when it was known as the Westin Snowmass


If you want to get away from it all, look no further than Telluride. This remote ski town in western Colorado offers an escape from the crowds that can overrun other resorts. But be warned: Getting here isn’t easy. Most people fly into Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ) but that’s still 65 miles away from the resort.

Once there, you will be rewarded with the charms of a Victorian mining town that has all the modern comforts but embraces a slower way of life. In fact, the entire town was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

The historic town and the “Mountain Village” at the base of the ski resort are separated by a mountain ridge. Luckily, a free gondola can transport skiers and non-skiers between the two throughout the day. It opens at 6:30 a.m. daily and closes at midnight, staying open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays during the ski season. The ride takes about 13 minutes.

This is a more intermediate and advanced mountain, known for some of Colorado’s best in-bounds and hike-to skiing. But there are enough beginner runs to keep the whole family entertained, too. Here’s how we’d plan a perfect ski day in Telluride.

Where to eat

You’re going to work up an appetite on the slopes, so when it comes time to eat, 221 South Oak is perfect for a hearty meal with plenty of options for vegetarians, too. Pick Siam for spicy Thai options to help you warm up. Baked in Telluride serves delicious morning pastries while There is the spot for a happy hour that runs from 4-5 p.m. and includes wagyu smash burgers and $3 beers, a steal for Telluride.

Where to stay

The first decision any group needs to make is where to stay: in town or in the Mountain Village.

Dunton Town House


Rates start at $550 per night.

Related: TPG’s review of the Dunton Town House

Madeline Hotel & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection


Rates from $1,300 per night during ski season.

Lumière Hotel


Rates from $1,000 per night during ski season.


This is the ski resort for those who don’t want the over-the-top luxury of Aspen or Vail and are seeking something more authentic. People come to Breckenridge to let loose, have a good time and enjoy one of the highest ski areas in Colorado. In fact, that can be a challenge for those who get altitude sickness, given the base area is 9,600 feet above sea level and the summit of the ski area is 12,998 feet above sea level.

Breck – as most people call it – covers five peaks with mostly intermediate and expert terrain. About 40% of the mountain is above the tree line, creating wide-open trails and amazing views. But this isn’t the place to take the family to learn to ski for the first time, given the difficulty of some of the terrain.

Another factor in its favor? The town is one of the closest big ski towns when driving from Denver and offers plenty of low-key restaurants, bars and stores.

Where to eat

Start off with hamburgers that are routinely voted the best in the county at Empire Burger. For something more upscale, check out Hearthstone Restaurant, which has been serving up Rocky Mountain specials in a Victorian-era home since 1989. This is the place to go for steak, elk or Colorado lamb. Another downtown mainstay is Giampietro Pasta & Pizzeria, which has been helping skiers carb up since 1963. And for something completely different, try one of the newer spots in town, the Breckenridge Distillery Restaurant – come for the cocktails but stay for the food.

Breckenridge doesn’t have the same caliber of ski-in, ski-out lodging as other resorts. But that’s fine since hotel prices here tend to be much more affordable than at neighboring resorts.

One Ski Hill Place, A RockResort


Rates from $1,000 per night during ski season.

Gravity Haus Breckenridge


Rates from $300 per night during ski season.

Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge at Breckenridge


Rates from $350 per night during ski season, or 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (though it can be a challenge finding availability).

Residence Inn by Marriott Breckenridge


Rates from $400 per night during ski season, or 45,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

Steamboat Springs

Dubbed “Ski Town USA,” Steamboat offers a little of something for everybody. The town, like so many others in Colorado, can trace its roots back to the Old West and has maintained some of that architecture. It’s about a three-hour drive from Denver (in good weather) or you can fly into Yampa Valley Regional Airport (HDN), which is about 40 miles away and gaining more nonstop flights each year.

One of the great things about Steamboat is its relatively low elevation: The base of the slopes is just 6,900 feet above sea level, making it much easier to ski for those prone to altitude sickness.

Steamboat is also known for snow with lower water content than on some other mountains, creating light, fluffy powder you don’t have to fight with. In fact, the resort has trademarked the phrase “Champagne Powder.” Read more about Steamboat in our full review.

Where to eat

Steamboat Springs is a relatively tiny city, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fill up on good grub. Stop by Aurum for happy hour deals and fresh, seasonal American cuisine. Chef Kate Rench creates fanciful feasts where the menus change according to the season at the aptly named Cafe Diva, which also boasts an impressive wine list. Sauvage serves contemporary French-fusion fare, while those who just want some great Mexican food should book a table at Salt & Lime.

Where to stay

There are a handful of great hotel options for a Steamboat Springs ski trip.

Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas


Rates from $300 per night during ski season, or 63,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

The Steamboat Grand


Rates from $560 per night during ski season.

Residence Inn by Marriott Steamboat Springs


Rates from $300 per night during ski season, or 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.


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