When it comes to mountainside activities, winter brings an embarrassment of riches to the Rockies — so Colorado ski resorts have simply extended the fun well into the evening. From sunrise to sunset, here are some of our favorite places (and ways) to play.
Easygoing Eldora, just 21 miles from Boulder, boasts an incredible variety of groomed terrain within its modest 620 acres — including everything from blue cruisers to double-black diamonds.
Day: Eldora Nordic Center
Eldora’s Nordic Center has exclusive bragging rights to “40 kilometers of freedom”: an extensive network of trails that begin just a few steps beyond the lift lines. From rentals and lessons for absolute beginners to secluded expert-level escapes, the center is a haven of expansive alpine meadows with dedicated trails for cross-country skiing, skate skiing or snowshoeing.
Night: Eldora Nighthawks
Six dark winter nights a year, you can live out your Olympic dreams — even if you only dream of being a spectator — with the annual Eldora Nighthawks racing league. On courses lit by floodlights or headlamps, amateur alpine, uphill, cross-country and snowshoe racers brave single-digit temps to grab that glory.
Tucked away in the rugged San Juan Mountains, Purgatory near Durango is more than 2 miles high at its summit, with an annual snowfall of more than 21 feet and terrain that skews heavily toward intermediate and advanced.
Day: Dog Sledding
Friends, here’s the thing about dog sledding: Though your groundspeed will likely top out at around 12 miles per hour, it feels really fast when your view is fluffy tails and flying snow. Purgatory partners with Durango Dog Ranch to offer daily peak-season mushing tours with scenic Engineer Mountain views.
Night: Twilight Snowshoe Tour
Instagram … or alpenglow? An optical phenomenon that bathes the mountains in a spectacular rosy glow, alpenglow is an exceptionally ’grammable real-life occurrence that mere filters can’t match. Feast your eyes and fill your feed with a guided snowshoe tour through Purgatory’s backcountry; you’ll learn about local geology, flora and fauna while surrounded by pink-hued peaks.
Snowmass likes to say it’s “never the same mountain twice,” and with nearly 3,500 acres of skiable terrain and 150 miles of trails — the longest clocking in at 5.3 miles — they might be right.
A snowbike is basically a simplified bicycle frame fitted with short ski blades instead of traditional tires. The rider also wears shortie skis, and it’s a good thing, too — it’s the bike’s only braking system. Daily snowbike tours depart twice a day from Snowmass Base Village; your instructor will show you the ropes before taking you up the Elk Camp Gondola for two exciting top-to-bottom runs.
Night: Ullr Nights at Elk Camp
The Norse god of snow takes center stage on peak-season Friday nights, transforming Elk Camp into a legit winter wonderland — with live music, gourmet cuisine, tubing and riding the new Breathtaker Alpine Coaster. Get your fill of chill, then cozy up to the bonfire for s’mores.
With more than 300 days of sunshine and 370 inches of snow annually (not to mention majestic views of the surrounding Gore and Sawatch mountain ranges), Vail is indeed “like nothing on Earth.”
Day: Vail’s Back Bowls
Vail’s seven epic back bowls alone comprise more skiable acres (3,017) than the majority of North American ski resorts. Roughly 6 miles of unbounded powder stretch from Ptarmigan Ridge to the farthest edges of Outer Mongolia Bowl, and it’s possible to ski them all in a single day. If you dare, bring a friend and consult the experts before hitting these ultra-remote slopes.
Night: Adventure Ridge
You wouldn’t turn your little ones loose on the NASCAR track, but that’s exactly how they’ll feel on the Blizzard Speedway at Vail’s Adventure Ridge. When the kids feel the need for speed (and when don’t they?), specially made mini-snowmobiles help them keep steering and velocity in check for fun times under the stars.
A quick drive from Denver in Summit County, Keystone is the ultimate family playground. Kids 12 and under ski free with lodging; daily offerings include crafts, scavenger hunts and snow forts.
Day: Keystone Snowcat Tour
Sometimes, you like your mountain majesty with a side of enclosed transportation. And for those days, the Mountaintop Family Adventure Tour is clutch: After a scenic gondola ride to the top of Keystone’s Dercum Mountain, you and the crew will board a heated snowcat to Erickson and Bergman bowls for panoramic views and snowy shenanigans.
Night: Night Skiing
Keystone is home to the longest ski day in all of Colorado, with select lifts and lighted trails open ’til 8pm on weekends and select holidays. For a peak night-skiing experience, watch the sunset from the summit and warm up between runs with hot cocoa at the Summit House.
If Colorado’s ski resorts were people, Copper would be your friend who’s super fun at parties — fizzing with a sun’s out, fun’s out vibe even during the darkest days of winter.
Day: Rocky Mountain Coaster
Gravity’s on your side here, no matter how you prefer to get down. Choose the tubing hill to careen gleefully down one of four meticulously groomed freestyle tubing tracks. Or ride the Rocky Mountain Coaster to take the fast track to high-speed thrills — with a mile-long, gravity-powered descent through the forests surrounding the American Flyer lift.
Night: Moonlight Dine + Ski
Don’t get us wrong: Your friend who’s fun at parties also cleans up nicely. Copper’s captivating Moonlight Dine + Ski experience starts with a private twilight ski session. A gourmet candlelit dinner and live music follow inside Solitude Station, then it’s back into those boots for your final run — with only the stars (and your headlamp) to guide you.
For about half the price of a mega-resort lift ticket, you can enjoy a no-frills day exploring Sunlight’s uncrowded trails in Glenwood Springs … before warming up in the nearby hot springs.
Day: Uphill Skiing
Like to do things the hard way? Colorado makes it easy. Uphill skiing, also known as skinning, alpine touring or ski mountaineering, involves skipping the ski lift in favor of climbing to the top of each run. It’s called earning your turns, and Sunlight allows you to do it for free — provided you wrap up your last run before lifts open. Early birds … get after it!
Night: Glenwood Hot Springs
If you were up with the chickens uphill skiing, we think you’ve also earned an epic wind-down. Nearby Glenwood Hot Springs Resort has a natural hot pool that’s nearly two city blocks long, brimming with healthy minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Enjoy a soak, schedule a spa treatment or book a room in the lodge — and start all over tomorrow.
Though its skiable acreage seems modest by most standards, Crested Butte is home to some of the most adventurous terrain in North America — with a thrill-seeking clientele to match.
Day: Crested Butte Terrain Park
With five different terrain parks to play in, Crested Butte is a great place to nail that gnarly Double McTwist (a daredevil trick made famous by Olympian Shaun White). Start with the small, simple features of Ten Peaks Progression Park and work your way up to expert-level Cascade Park, a wonderland of hybrid rails, technical jibs and big air.
Night: Nordic Magic Meadows Yurt Dinner Experience
To fully embrace Crested Butte, you’ll have to venture off the beaten path — and there’s no better way to do it than the Nordic Magic Meadows Yurt Dinner Experience. Enjoy a guided, groomed snowshoe or Nordic ski jaunt to a secluded backcountry yurt for an artisan-crafted meal featuring small-batch local spirits and the delicious creations of acclaimed local chefs.
Photo credits: Night skiing at Keystone, Keystone Resort/Jack Affleck; Urll Night, Snowmass; tubing, Copper Mountain