Updated October 2021
With its river canyons and Rocky Mountains, the state of Colorado is truly a winter wonderland. Whether you're wanting to perfect your skiing or snowboarding abilities or have a relaxing après ski moment, there is a ski town for everyone on this list. Plan your next trip to one of these ski towns with top notch resorts and amenities, each with a unique downtown area with shops and restaurants to experience after a long day on the slopes.
In Southwest Colorado, lies an adorable mountain town called Crested Butte that some say is the last real small ski town. This hidden gem can't help but charm you with its quaint downtown area and not a single traffic light or chain store in sight. The Crested Butte Mountain Resort is very family friendly with slopes that range from beginner level on smooth green runs, to a more advanced level with expert terrain. If you are not an avid skier, try snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or ride on a fat bike in the snow. Some of the best local spots to eat in town are Montanya Distillery, Bonez, and Secret Stash Pizza for a casual lunch, or Soupçon for a fine dining experience.
As the largest ski resort in Colorado, Vail has over 195 ski runs. This beautiful ski town is modeled after Zermatt, Switzerland, with cobblestone roads and Swiss architecture that makes you feel like you're in a real life storybook. The charming restaurants look as though they are set in Europe, such as Vintage, a French Brasserie that looks like a Parisian Cafe, and Alpenrose, which is an upscale German restaurant that resembles a Bavarian cottage. Vail has it all with its extensive ski terrain and posh downtown area that truly feels like you took a trip to Europe.
Settled in Northern Colorado's Yampa Valley, Steamboat Springs is a small mountain town known for its "champagne" powdery snow. Try out the fluffy snow on the slopes at the Steamboat Ski Resort then take a break at the Grand Hotel to sip on some hot chocolate. After a long chilly day in the snow, take a dip in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, which is a natural hot springs about thirty minutes outside the town center. For dinner in this adorable town, go to Laundry for tapas, Back Door Grill for a bomb burger, or Aurum for upscale dining with riverside views.
One of the most well known ski resorts in Colorado, Breckenridge has some of the best skiing in the state. If you're feeling brave, ride the Imperial Express all the way to the top of the mountain, since it is the largest ski lift in North America. Breck is known for its food, shopping scene and vibrant nightlife. Some hot food spots downtown are Blue River Bistro for rustic American cuisine, Sauce on the Maggie for authentic Italian, and Hearthstone for upscale experience and mountain views. Stroll down Main Street and take advantage of the great ski shops and local breweries that Breck has to offer!
Owned by Vail Resorts, Beaver Creek has a similar luxurious feel on a smaller scale. With well groomed runs, this is the perfect place for beginners to learn how to ski, while also providing advanced terrain options for highly skilled skiers. Every day at 3pm at the bottom of lift 6, chefs hand out free chocolate chip cookies to all guests around and call the tradition "cookie time". After a fun day of skiing at Beaver Creek Resort, head down to the Beaver Creek Village where there is a variety of shops and restaurants that all revolve around the ice skating rink in the center. For dinner, try the Golden Eagle Inn or the Grouse Mountain Grill inside the Pines Lodge.
If you are looking for a luxurious ski town, you have come to the right place. But don't let all the glam fool you, Aspen skiing is no joke. There are a plethora of slopes to conquer with four different mountains in the Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort, including Buttermilk, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, and Aspen Mountain. Aspen's Buttermilk Mountain hosts the X Games every January, which is a music festival combines with a full skiing weekend. Head downtown to shop around the designer stores and enjoy exquisite restaurants such as Betula, then stop by the Wine Bar at The Little Nell to wind down for the night.
About two hours outside of Denver, is a charming ski village called Keystone. With the largest nighttime skiing operation in the state, the Keystone Resort is the place to test your ski or snowboard abilities and expand your limits. Keystone Lake is the focal point of the village, with ice skating on the largest natural rink in Colorado. At Christmas, The Keystone Lodge has a chocolate train village with intricate detail from white chocolate Christmas Trees to dark chocolate nutcrackers. An activity that is unique to Keystone is skiing Arapahoe Basin, which is over 1400 acres of terrain and you can even ski down certain parts during the summer!
Nestled deep in a box canyon, Telluride is a hidden lush mountain town. The Telluride Ski Resort is a free gondola ride away to Mountain Village, only 13 minutes from the town center. At the east end of the town is Bridal Veil Falls, which is Colorado's tallest free falling waterfall at 365 feet. For the ultimate fine dining experience in Telluride, check out Allred's and Alpino Vino. Alpino Vino has a European feel and is the highest elevation fine dining in all of North American. Take the gondola up to Allred's Restaurant and enjoy your elegant dinner while taking in panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains.
To watch the best free skiers and snowboarders out there, visit in early December for the Toyota Grand Prix, where the athletes compete at Copper's legendary 22-foot Superpipe in Center Village. Before you head to the slopes, have a nice and hearty sit down breakfast at Toast & Co in the village. For some local food spots, check out CB Grille for date night and Downhill Duke's for a open concept bar with a lively vibe and a DJ. Once you're all skied out, take a ride on the Rocky Mountain Roller Coaster or hit the tubing mountain for some fun playing in the snow.
The town of Durango has so much to offer from skiing and snowboarding to National Historic Landmarks. Plan a ski day with the family at the Purgatory Ski Resort, then go out in downtown Durango, which is a Nationally Registered Historic District. Ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad that travels through the San Juan Mountains to beautiful Cascade Canyon. Take a step back in time and visit Mesa Verde National Park to see the cliff dwellings and learn about Ancestral Pueblo history.
Winter Park Resort is the longest continually operated resort in the state. The ski resort has seven different territories, with slopes that cater to every skill level. To branch out, try some fun snow activities, such as learning how to uphill ski or going on a sundown snowshoe or snowcat tour. For the ultimate après ski moment, take the gondola up to Sunspot Mountaintop Lodge for a drink and mid-day snack with panoramic views of the Continental Divide.
Photo courtesy of Winter Park