When you think of skiing in Colorado, you think of Vail, Breckenridge, Aspen, and all of the other big-name resorts owned by major corporations. These are amazing mountains, don't get me wrong, but if you don't want to be elbow to elbow with your fellow skiers, there are some out-of-the-way / off-the-beaten-path options to optimize your experience. In many cases, you may have the mountain to yourself! So ditch the crowds and the terrors of I-70 and check out these unique Colorado ski experiences instead.
1. TAKE THE CHICAGO RIDGE SNOWCAT at ski cooper
Ski Cooper is known as a family-friendly resort, with low prices and mostly mild terrain at a resort small enough to turn the kids loose without them getting lost. Chicago Ridge is a whole different experience. The snowcat operation, also run by Cooper, takes you high above the ski area into a sea of untouched snow. They won't run the snowcat if conditions aren't worth the price of admission, so powder hounds can feel confident booking a trip. A ride on the cat might cost you a few hundred bucks, but balance out the expense by staying in historic Leadville, where rooms are cheap and the vibe is friendly. More Info
Explore 1,200 acres of inbounds terrain at Bluebird Backcountry. Here's the catch: There are no lifts! Located about 30 minutes from Steamboat Springs and Kremmling on the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass, Colorado's newest ski area is geared toward introducing backcountry-skiing basics to beginners in a controlled environment. Bluebird also offers guided trips and backcountry-skills courses. More Info
3. Silverton Mountain Heli-Skiing
If you’re interested in doing something James Bond would do, heli-skiing at Silverton Mountain is a good option. But even if you’re not a fan of the British spy thriller franchise, heli-skiing is something that’s sure to make your life far more interesting than it currently is. As you’d expect, Silverton only allows highly experienced skiers and snowboarders to jump out of their helicopters and ski on their impressive terrain, which gets an average of over 400 inches of snow every season. Prices are reasonable for such a once in a life time opportunity. A single run is only $184 and 6 runs will cost you $1190. Click Here to Book Flights
Open since 1915, Colorado’s oldest ski area in continuous use also features the most complete natural ski-jumping complex in North America. Steamboat Springs’ hometown training hill has sent 69 athletes to the Winter Olympics. Four chairlifts will have you swooshing over that light, fluffy Champagne Powder® the area is famous for. More Info
5. POWDERHORN SKI AREA
Set on the world’s largest flat-top mountain — western Colorado’s Grand Mesa — near Grand Junction, Powderhorn naturally presents an exciting and diverse landscape. Four lifts lead to 46 trails, impeccable tree skiing, and tons of intermediate runs. Click Here for More Info
6. Jones Pass Guides
Hailing high atop the mountains outside of Winter Park, Jones Pass is a quick 45-minute drive away from Denver. This experienced snowcat tour company gives riders access to 2,600 acres of high alpine bowls, gullies, chutes, and glades. Skiers and boarders are given powder demo skis, safety gear, lunch, and two free beers provided by the local Steamworks Brewery when they explore off-piste skiing via Jones Pass Guides.
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. More Info
8. Telluride Helitrax
Family-owned and operated, Telluride Helitrax offers riders over 200 miles of winter mountain terrain in the San Juan Mountains to adventure in via helicopter. A Hellitrax trip gives expert ski and snowboarders access to some of the highest skiable elevations in North America, making it a mandatory trip for diehards. You’ll explore stunning summits, alpine basins, cirques, and couloirs in one of the most iconic mountain settings on the continent. Book Your Flight
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. More Info
10. Eleven Experience Snowcat Tours
Crested Butte and the areas that surround it comprise some of Colorado’s most beautiful and iconic scenery. Located 13 miles west of Crested Butte, a weather phenomenon makes the West Elk range a remarkable skiing and boarding destination in addition to being gorgeous. The area sees annual snowfall averages of 450 inches, which often is double the amount that nearby Crested Butte receives. Snowcats and snowmobiles are the only way visitors can access this area, and Eleven Experience has the snowcat thing covered. Expert guides lead visitors through the unadulterated, snow-packed terrain on an average of 8-10 runs a day.
Posted by Neil Walton on