When winter arrives in the northern hemisphere, most people are faced with two alternatives for their holidays: to embrace the cold or flee somewhere south in search of warmer temperatures. Nowadays, though, many winter destinations – with the charm and comfort of ski resorts – have been winning tourists over, who choose to spend their winter holidays in the icy mountains as opposed to the beach. The best of all is that the options are numerous and meet the expectations of everyone, skiers or not.
In the United States, the state of Colorado is a much sought-after destination among mountain lovers. The geography of the state is marked by the Rocky Mountains, or the Rockies – an extensive mountain range that cuts across the US and extends to Canada. In Colorado, the terrain is very rugged and with great precipitation during the winter, which makes the place suitable for practising winter sports. Among the many mountains and resorts Aspen, Snowmass, Vail Mountain, Breckenridge, Keystone, Telluride and Steamboat are the most renowned winter getaways. In all of them, at the base of the mountains, you can still find an array of world-class restaurants, bars, nightclubs, designer shops, spas, children’s recreation centers and ski schools. Despite being close to the capital Denver, each of these mountains has their peculiarities – another trait that makes Colorado such a coveted mountain retreat.
Here is a rundown of the best mountains in Colorado.
In the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Vail Mountain is the largest ski resort in the US, with 193 slopes and novelties ranging from gourmet restaurants to a spectacular gondola. Aside from skiing and snowboarding aficionados, the town often welcomes celebrities from all over the world who come to enjoy its restaurants, nightclubs, and shops. This is a very versatile winter destination and is ideal for visitors of the most varied profiles, with the infrastructure to cater for children, the elderly, first-time skiers and even sports professionals. The main activities include skiing, snowboarding, tubing and ski-biking. In an area of 21.4 km², it features tracks for all levels, with the option of more radical circuits, too. During winter the temperature can reach minus 20 degrees Celsius, so you better come prepared. Also in high-season, some hotels and resorts offer luxurious spas, ideal for the relaxing the muscles after an intense day of activities.
The Aspen ski resort is one of the most traditional destinations for those seeking a “snow vacation” per se. Aspen is a city of just 7,000 people, retaining the Victorian charm and an old west feel. At an average elevation of 8,000 feet (2,500 meters), the city has plenty of history and culture, as well as international designer shops, art galleries and more than a hundred cozy cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs and nightclubs. This mountain town also hosts the annual Aspen Music Festival and School during summertime.
Located next to the village of the same name, the Snowmass is part of the Aspen/Snowmass ski resort complex and has 237 km of slopes. The mountains are perfect for all ages and ideal for family getaways, featuring both skiing and snowboarding slopes, snowparks, and even half pipes. The resort has a variety of accommodations, among condominiums and luxury resorts. The peak of this huge mountain is 3,800 meters and features the longest vertical ski lift in the USA.
Keystone is famous for providing the unique night skiing experience, with 17 lighted lanes that only close at 8PM, allowing up to 12 hours of action per day. The mountain is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and the station boasts 3,100 acres of skiing, 20 ski lifts, and 3 peaks with one of the largest snow activities in the US. At Keystone, you can choose to indulge in skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, snowshoeing, gondola rides, sledding, cycling or snowmobiling. Plus, an international-quality spa ensures relaxation after a day of fun.
Telluride is part of the majestic San Juan Mountains in Colorado, nestled in a glacially dug canyon. The town is internationally recognized as one of the top destinations for skiing, as it provides a friendly atmosphere as well as the ideal conditions for practicing winter sports at all levels. There are 127 ski slopes and two mountain villages connected in an area of approximately 647 km². A key feature of Telluride is the Helitrax – a helicopter assisted skiing operation.
Set along the banks of the Yampa River in Colorado and active for more than 100 years, the hospitable Steamboat remains one of the most modern ski resorts in the United States. With 165 slopes, cable cars and state-of-the-art snow machines, it offers many fun options for the whole family. The wide variety of ski areas allows for cross-country skiing, bumps and even extreme skiing, all in over a thousand acres.
Considered one of Colorado’s most popular ski resorts, Breckenridge offers skiing and snowboarding at around 3,000 meters of altitude. There are four mountains, called Peaks 7, 8, 9 and 10. The Peak 7 has most of the advanced runways; the 8 covers almost half of the station’s entire terrain, with intermediate and advanced runways; while peak 9 offers easier tracks, ideal for beginners and intermediate levels. Finally, peak 10 has several challenging tracks for the more experienced skiers.