In Colorado, people have been skiing for over 150 years, beginning with the miners who figured out it was the best way to get around in a place where snow covered the ground most of the year. In fact, until the railroads arrived, even the mail was delivered on skis. It’s no surprise that Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are a skier’s (and boarder’s) dream. Why? The mountains get a lot of snow and the high altitude combined with dry air create great conditions. Add almost 300 sunny days a year and you have ski Nirvana.
The Rockies are perfect for both day-skiing and lengthier getaways. Lodging choices run the gamut from casual to all out luxury with state of the art facilities and top notch service. If you want space and enjoy cooking in, consider renting a condo, home or condotel (a hybrid of condo benefits and hotel service). Whether you come for one day or a few, you’ll find great skiing.
Here are five world class Colorado ski resorts to consider for a winter getaway, each with its own distinct character.
Why go: If you’re looking for great skiing and want to hang with A-list folks, Aspen is for you. It’s the only ski town in the U.S. where you’ll find designer boutiques like Gucci and Louis Vuitton ensconced in pristinely restored Victorian buildings. Add posh hotels and sophisticated restaurants and you have a luxurious ski vacation. Plus, between Aspen and neighboring Snowmass there are four mountains to ski.
Must do: There’s lots of cultural resources on offer with a winter schedule featuring classical ballet, theater and concerts spanning music genres from classical to contemporary.
You can also hire a guide and tour some of the shrines on Aspen’s four mountains. These pay homage to iconic figures such as Marilyn Monroe, Snoopy, the Beatles, Liberace, Hunter S. Thompson and scores more. Shrines are as small as a plaque, photo or license plate and as large as a cabin with lots in between. Some are serious and some, high kitsch.
If you have a little cash to burn, stroll the restored downtown and shop till you drop.
Where to Stay: The Little Nell, is the only ski-in, ski-out hotel and offers five star and five diamond luxury. Treat yourself to a room with a panoramic mountain view. Après-ski, visit their spa. Want to get away from it all? The Bauhaus-inspired Aspen Meadows Resort, home to the prestigious think tank, The Aspen Institute, is set on 40 peaceful acres close to town.
If a house or condo appeals to you, Frias Properties of Aspen specializes in luxury rentals.
Where to dine: Montagna at The Little Nell, for one of Aspen’s premier dining experiences, specializing in fresh, local Colorado foods prepared with global flair.
CP Burger, Aspen’s answer to fast food, is a hot spot with juicy homemade Colorado-beef burgers, hot dogs and interesting salads. If you’re over 21, try the spiked shakes. Order at the counter and they’ll deliver your food to the table.
Poppycock’s Café, with a retro diner feel, serves breakfast all day.
Why Go: This resort community consists of hotels (owned and managed by an assortment of companies), condos and homes in a self-contained world with shops, restaurants and more. Beaver Creek’s motto is “Not Exactly Roughing It.” From the moment you pass the gatehouse into this luxurious enclave, you know that pampering awaits. Perfect for a romantic getaway, a wedding or just about anything else you can think of, the resort also prides itself on being family-friendly.
Must Do: Lace up your skates and take a few turns around the ice rink in the middle of town or try snow tubing on Haymaker Tubing Hill. Rent snowshoes and get out on the trails.
Don’t miss the resort’s popular “Cookie Time” daily at 3pm. Chefs walk around with trays of free, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies creating a mid-afternoon feeding frenzy.
Where to Stay: The Osprey, if you want the ultimate in ski-in, ski-out convenience and chic, contemporary surroundings. This boutique property has the distinction of being the closest hotel to a ski lift in North America with a convenient location, directly across from the Resort Village and easy access to lifts, shops and restaurants. Their comfortable rooms feature granite baths, some with soaking tubs and double sinks.
If you prefer a rental property, East-West Resorts specializes in “premier luxury lodging.” Beaver Creek Resorts offers one-stop booking for all types of lodging.
Where to Dine: Toscanini’s offers contemporary northern Italian cuisine in a stylish setting with a great view of the ice rink in winter. Parents can have a relaxing meal while the kids skate.
Beano’s Cabin is truly a destination restaurant. The only way to get to the mountainside log cabin is in a sleigh pulled by a snowcat. Snuggle under blankets and enjoy the 20-minute ride through the glistening woods. Look up; the sky is magical. The restaurant’s casual ambience and sophisticated price-fixed, five course dinner has made it a favorite.
Why Go: Like Aspen, another old mining town, Breckenridge has a sense of history and oozes charm. Breck, as it’s affectionately called, is a short two hours from Denver so obviously great for day skiers.
Must Do: dog sledding. Good Times Adventures will even let you drive the sled. Mush!
Stroll the charming town, explore the exquisite shops and galleries, then warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.
Where to Stay: Breckenridge, like many of the area’s resorts, has few hotels. Most accommodations here are condos, condotels or home rentals.
If you want complete ski-in, ski-out convenience in a luxury setting, One Ski Hill Place at bottom of Peak 8 is a perfect choice. They offer a range of condominium accommodations from studios to four-bedrooms with luxury hotel amenities.
Summit Mountain Rentals is an excellent source for rental accommodations with a knowledgeable and friendly staff that assists clients throughout their stay to ensure a perfect Breck experience.
Where to Dine: For breakfast, try the popular Blue Moose or the Columbine Café. Empire Burger, with house ground Harris Ranch beef, is a local favorite. If you’re eating on the go, grab a bit of France at Crepes a la Carte.
Giampietro Pasta and Pizza, a small, bustling place, is great for lunch or dinner. Their bruschetta is the deal of the day, enough for a whole meal. Check the specials board to see what’s inspiring coming from the kitchen that day.
The sleek, contemporary dining room at Relish offers diners superb mountain views. Chef/owner Matt Fackler’s “Colorado inspired cuisine” follows an ABC (Always Buy Colorado) philosophy using fresh, organic ingredients whenever possible. If you’re looking for something more casual, Twist, their new restaurant, offers new takes on traditional comfort foods.
Why Go: If Breckenridge and Beaver Creek had a baby, it would be Telluride. This old mining town is surrounded by mountains on three sides. The Victorian town, painted ladies all restored, has a sense of history. The contemporary Mountain Village, at the top of the Gondola, offers all the amenities of a contemporary world class ski resort.
Must Do: ride the gondola, even if you’re not a skier, as the views are superb. Stroll around the restored town with a camera, or better yet, take a guided historic walking tour. Take the gondola up for a drink and an appetizer at Allred’s. Located part way up the mountain, at St. Sophia gondola station, the views are unforgettable.
Where to Stay:
Hotel Telluride, at the western end of town, offers Colorado mountain lodge ambience and comfortable, cozy rooms. Service at the boutique property is friendly and attentive and if you aren’t happy with your pillow, consult their Pillow Menu for the one that’s right for you.
Hotel Madeline Telluride, located at the base of the slope in Mountain Village, offers luxury coupled with ski-in, ski-out convenience. The well-appointed rooms feature Pratesi Linens and bathrooms with walk-in showers and soaking tubs. To soothe away those après ski aches or just because, there’s a full service spa on site.
The Telluride Tourism Board is a great resource for one stop accommodation information. They can book hotel stays and condo and home rentals.
Where to Dine: 221 South Oak, a modern bistro, serves contemporary American cuisine infused with French and Creole influences, in a restored historic home steps from the gondola.
Siam offers authentic Thai cuisine from centuries old family recipes with some contemporary additions. This contemporary eatery with an ethnic flair uses fresh, local and organic ingredients when possible.
Why Go: Vail is the realization of two men with a vision. Pete Seibert and Colorado native Earl Eaton saw the potential in this undeveloped valley. Vail, opened with four houses in 1962 and is now a world-class ski resort. Located three hours from Denver, it’s both a day and getaway destination.
Must Do: Visit bōl, the chic bowling alley in the new Shops at Solaris at the exclusive new Solaris Residences. Concentrate on your spares and strikes while nibbling from an interesting menu of small plates and drinking good wine. Or try dinner and a movie at the Cine Bistro, also in the Solaris Building.
Enjoy the great outdoors on a dogsled or sleigh ride or go up, up and away in a beautiful balloon.
Where to stay: the AAA Four Diamond, Arrabelle, at Vail Square, offers luxury in the heart of town. Designed to invoke a grand hotel in an alpine village, expect fantastic service and attention to detail. For pampering after a day on the slopes, relax in your spacious soaking tub (the bathrooms have heated floors) or have a treatment at the on-site spa.
Vail Cascade Resort & Spa, located just steps from a lift with ski-in, ski-out convenience, offers impeccable service and warm surroundings. The library, opposite the front-desk, was furnished by one of their frequent guests. He wanted to feel at home and you will, too. Request a room overlooking Gore Creek and the mountain.
Triumph Mountain Properties has an inventory of luxury condos and home rentals. The icing on the cake: excellent customer service from caring staff.
Where to Dine: Vail has two hot newcomers. Matsuhisa, perhaps the most famous sushi chef in the world, opened his offspring of Nobu in the new Solaris Building, an enclave of upscale shops and restaurants. The contemporary mountain décor features lots of stone and wood, soaring ceilings and glass walls. Along with sushi the menu’s focus is small plates that fuse Japanese foods and flavors with other influences. Omakase, translated as creations from the chef’s heart, are “The most complete way to experience the essence of Nobu Matsuhisa’s dishes. Reservations are accepted one month in advance and they book up early in season, so plan ahead.
Another popular newbie is Elway’s at The Lodge at Vail. The legendary Denver Bronco’s quarterback has lent his name to this small steakhouse chain also with two spots in Denver. They specialize in aged prime beef and the a la carte menu is committed to a fresh, seasonal approach.
At Moe’s Original BBQ, started by some “Bama boys” in Vail, they’re serving up Alabama-style pork, ribs and chicken and more. Ever had north Alabama style white BBQ sauce? It’s great with chicken or turkey. Order the side of the day, rotating southern favorites like collards, mac and cheese and sweet potato casserole.
Getting there: The best way to get to Colorado’s ski areas is through Denver with most major airlines servicing. From there, you can take a connecting flight, rent a car, grab a shuttle or hire a car. Colorado Mountain Express supplies shuttles to all the ski areas mentioned, except Telluride, and in season (December 15th until around April 1st), there are direct flights into some mountain airports. The towns all have good public transportation and a car isn’t necessary if you’re staying in town. There’s shuttle service from many hotels.
Aspen: United, American and Frontier (from Denver only) serve the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE).
Beaver Creek/Vail: Eagle Airport (EGE) is served by American, Continental, Delta and United, through direct flights or connections.
Breckenridge: Fly to Denver (DIA) and then either rent or hire a car or take a shuttle.
Telluride: a number of airlines fly to Montrose, then it’s a 90 minute drive to Telluride by car or Telluride Express van. You can also fly into the small Telluride Regional Airport (TEX). At 9,070 feet above sea level, it’s the highest commercial airport in the U.S.
Whether you choose one of these five resorts or one of the other 21 Colorado ski resorts, a fabulous Rocky Mountain getaway is guaranteed.