Colorado Skiing & Snowboarding: Ski Like a Local

Wanting to beat the crowds and maximize your snow time during your Colorado ski and snowboard vacation?

A skier shoots down a slope under a blue sky with a bright sun lighting up the scene.
Colorado skiing on the slopes of Granby Ranch

Several mini ski areas dot Colorado’s lesser-known mountainsides, many operated by local governments and all offering that back-to-basics love of snow and sport. For a classic Colorado ski experience, head to these off-the-radar hills and see what the locals are (quietly) raving about.

Lake City Ski Hill

Lake City
For a true taste of old-fashioned skiing — we’re talking World War II era — visit Lake City’s tiny rural hill in southwest Colorado and hop on the state’s oldest operating ski lift. A single Poma disc lift carries 10 skiers at a time 1,000 feet to the top of the hill’s four runs.

Howelsen Hill Ski Area

Steamboat Springs
Open since 1915, Colorado’s oldest ski area in continuous use also features the most complete natural-ski-jumping complex in North America. Ski the same hometown training hill has sent 69 athletes (and counting!) to the Winter Olympics. The area's four chairlifts will have you swooshing over that light, fluffy Champagne Powder® the area is famous for.

Ski Cooper

Short lift lines and long runs are this Leadville resort’s claim to fame. Great for groups skiing at various levels, Ski Cooper boasts wide, cruise-able intermediate runs, challenging moguls and welcoming backcountry.


Near Grand Junction in Mesa
Set on the world’s largest flat-top mountain — western Colorado’s Grand Mesa — Powderhorn naturally presents an exciting and diverse landscape. Four lifts lead to 46 trails, impeccable tree skiing and tons of intermediate runs.

Granby Ranch

A renowned learners’ mountain in Granby, around half of Granby Ranch’s terrain is rated as beginner. Gentle slopes, constant trail grooming, a free sledding hill and snow play area for the kids make it a family favorite. There’s also night skiing and lift-served tubing on select Saturdays.

Silverton Mountain

Silverton Mountain is the state’s highest and steepest ski mountain, serving up un-groomed expert terrain for those who prefer skiing the old-school way. One chairlift serves an average annual snowfall of 400 amazing inches.

Kendall Mountain

Silverton's ski hill, Kendall Mountain, has just a handful of runs and is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. This budget-friendly ski area has lift tickets ranging from free to $25, and for the non-skiers in your party, there's a free ice rink and sledding hill on site. No equipment? No problem — a rental shop will get you set up with everything from ski/snowboard gear to ice skates, snowshoes and hockey gear. 

Ski Hesperus

One of the best-loved features of Durango's family-friendly Ski Hesperus is that 80 percent of its runs are lighted and prepped for night skiing. In addition to its 13 trails and plentiful snow, there's also a tubing hill and ski school.

Lee's Ski Hill

Just steps from Ouray's charming downtown, Lee's Ski Hill is open all week (snow permitting) mid-December through February. The tow-rope-served hill points beginner skiers and snowboarders to 75 vertical feet of winter fun in the San Juan Mountains.

Hidden Valley

Near Estes Park
A do-it-yourself experience, Rocky Mountain National Park’s former ski resort provides a base camp for hike-to backcountry skiing around the popular sledding area. Be sure to pack appropriate avalanche gear — no lifts or rope tows means no ski patrol or avalanche control.

Wolf Creek Ski Area

Pagosa Springs
Blessed with one of the state’s snowiest locations, in the San Juan Mountain town of Pagosa Springs, those who live for waist-deep powder dumps have been flocking here since 1939. The area receives more snow than any other Colorado resort (averaging 465 inches a year) and features mostly advanced and expert terrain.

Chapman Hill

A pair of rope tows pulls skiers 775 feet to the top of this Durango slope. Typically open January to March, weather permitting, Chapman also offers ski school, night skiing, a skating rink and warming hut.

Cranor Hill

Operated by the city of Gunnison, this rustic resort was built in 1962 as a private ski ranch and opened to the public in 1966. Four runs, spanning from beginner to advanced, are open Friday through Sunday, January to March.

Echo Mountain Resort

Idaho Springs
Just south of Idaho Springs you'll find 60 acres of skiable terrain, making it the closest ski resort to Denver. Though quite cozy compared to its neighbors farther west, Echo Mountain offers a small-scale yet friendly day on the slopes. Open six days a week, the mountain even keeps night-skiing hours.

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Photo: Courtesy of Granby Ranch.