The enchanting scene created by the first snowflakes swirling from the sky in late fall signals the start of another sensational winter in Colorado's ski towns — on and off the slopes. If you have any doubts about there being enough wonder in Colorado’s winterland, one trip will forever put them to rest.
1. There’s No Gettin’ Around It, Colorado's Got the Best Snow
We’ll spare you false modesty and just come right out and say it: Colorado’s snow is the lightest and fluffiest around. Think powder. Think soft landings. Think knee-deep adventures from October to April (or even May and June for a few lucky mountains). Our high altitude, low humidity and high frequency of super-sunshiny days make the perfect conditions for getting caught smiling while skiing. With 25 ski areas and more than 40,000 acres of skiable terrain — the most in North America — everyone from daredevil carvers to cautious first-timers will find a winter vacation in Colorado worth bragging about.
2. Ski-Town Culture Lingers Longer
Exactly what makes Colorado’s ski towns stay on your mind long after you’ve left is hard to define. It’s probably the what’s-the-rush? attitude, the happy glow that hovers over Main Street when the powder’s coming down, the lack of 12-lane highways and the comfort of going to a chic restaurant in ski pants and with a goggle-induced cowlick in your hair. These are the sorts of things that will have you looking at your watch once you’re back home, knowing you’d be trying to squeeze in one more run before the sun slowly dips behind the peaks or taking your first sip of an amber-hued craft beer at a slopeside bar…if only you were back in Colorado’s high country right now.
3. We've Got All Sizes of Ski Resorts
Because we’ve got so many excellent ski areas, you don’t have to decide between a polished, high-tech, well-groomed ski resort or the old-school, it’s-only-about-the-snow ski area. Colorado offers you the chance to spend a day in either world or find somewhere that includes the best of both. Visit a resort that offers valet parking and warm cookies at the base or one where “après ski” means lawn chairs in the parking lot. With award-winning terrain parks and wide and deep bowls, groomed trails that go for miles and limitless immaculate backcountry acres, gentle beginner-friendly runs and expert-style steeps at almost every mountain, you can have it all.
4. No-Guilt Vacations: It’s Easy Being Green
Colorado’s resorts are leading the green revolution with award-winning conservation programs to help ensure their slopes stay healthy for generations of snow-seeking vacationers to come. In fact, several of the state’s ski areas offset not just a little, but every single kilowatt of their energy use through the purchase of renewable energy (wind, solar and water). Indeed, many of the state’s other ski areas offset portions of their energy this way, and the number doing so — and the amount they’re saving — increases every year. Colorado ski areas are also thinking of creative ways to ensure they’re doing their part to preserve our natural playground. Of course, they all recycle, work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, use energy-efficient lightbulbs where possible and encourage alternative transportation. But they don’t stop there, and here are a few examples:
5. While Everyone Else is on the Slopes, Non-Skiers Can Be…
For those who prefer their vacations spent by a fire in the lodge instead of schussing downhill, Colorado’s ski towns offer pedestrian-friendly lanes filled with art galleries, boutiques with everything from fleece jackets to evening gowns, cozy coffee shops and plenty of places to savor a leisurely lunch while the snowflakes fall outside cafe windows. Hot springs pools, indulgent only-in-Colorado spa treatments, historic museums, peaceful snowshoetrails and festivals celebrating the season round out the perfect off-slope afternoon.
6. Après Ski
As the lifts start to close and skiers and riders get in one last run, it may look like the finale to a thrilling day on the slopes. But for many of Colorado’s ski resort towns, it’s just halftime. The night is young, and there is still plenty to do! Following the European tradition of skiing well and then eating well, the ski towns make it a priority to offer exceptional dining at the base of their slopes. And when dinner’s done, saloons, brewpubs, cantinas and other warm watering holes cater to those wanting to share their day’s snow stories.
Photo: Courtesy of Winter Park Resort.