Best ski resorts in Colorado for everyone from beginners to experts

There’s nothing quite like skiing the Colorado Rockies, home to some of the best ski resorts in Colorado, and arguably North America as a whole.

Whether you are an expert skier or just starting out, there’s a mountain for everyone. All the ski towns in Colorado have their own unique personalities — some that cater to singles and others that rank among the best family ski resorts. And for those who get multimountain season ski passes like the Epic, Ikon or Indy, there are plenty of opportunities to hop from one mountain to another.

Many of Colorado’s ski towns are actually old mining towns and still have a certain rustic character, even if they also have some of the state’s best restaurants and shopping — plus the actual ski slopes themselves. Whatever your vacation preferences or your level of skiing ability, there’s a great ski resort in Colorado for you. Here are some of the best.

Recommended: The best travel credit cards

Vail

If you are seeking an iconic Colorado ski experience, look no further. Vail is the quintessential Colorado ski resort that others have been modeled on. The resort traces its roots back to a group of skiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division who would eventually go on to open the resort as a vacation destination in 1962.

Today, Vail’s 195 trails on a whopping 5,000 acres offer a little bit of everything for all types of skiers — beginner runs off the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola to black-diamond expert runs in its legendary Back Bowls. And the surrounding town has a handful of dive bars mixed in with all the upscale dining.

For a detailed look at this posh ski town (it even has heated sidewalks), check out our comprehensive guide to Vail. Or look below for some of the highlights.

Where to eat

Apres-ski has long centered around The Red Lion, steps from the base of the mountain. But there’s more to this town than just beer and nachos. Sweet Basil has helped set the standard for high-end dining in Vail since 1977 and is now joined by many other great restaurants. One of the trendier entries is The Slope Room at one of the town’s newest hotels, Gravity Haus Vail.

Where to stay

There’s no shortage of hotel and home rental options here. Some are steps from the slopes and others, like the Highline Vail – a DoubleTree by Hilton, are great uses of points but require a shuttle bus. There are plenty of World of Hyatt properties, but points availability can be a challenge and many, under the Destination by Hyatt brand, are closer to individual timeshare units for rent than a full-service hotel.

The Grand Hyatt Vail is a great value but note that the ski-in, ski-out feature only works if the chairlift near the hotel is operating — something that doesn’t happen early or late in the season when there isn’t enough snow. Another consideration is that Epic Pass holders receive an additional 20% off Vail-owned properties — not to mention passholders have the flexibility to go where the snow is!

Whether you’re looking for the convenience of a ski-in, ski-out hotel or to be centrally located in town, here are our top Vail hotel picks.

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Rates at Sonnenalp Vail start at $649 per night in January, based on double occupancy.

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Rates at Four Seasons start at $1,240 per night during ski season, based on double occupancy. 

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Rates at The Hythe start at $582 or 89,500 Marriott Bonvoy points per night during ski season, based on double occupancy. 

Related: TPG’s review of The Hythe

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Rates at The Arrabelle start at $899 per night in January, based on double occupancy. 

Beaver Creek

Just a few miles down the road from Vail sits its sister resort, Beaver Creek. This is a more modern, posher version of Vail — if you can believe it. Take those heated outdoor sidewalks and add an escalator to help you get up to the slopes. Like we said, posh.

The beauty of being slightly newer (its first ski season was in 1980) is that more true ski-in, ski-out hotel options exist here. Plus, there are plenty of luxurious extras, such as the free, warm cookies handed out at 3 p.m. every day at the bottom of the Haymeadow and Centennial Express lifts.

The mountain was intentionally designed to get new-to-skiing learners up the hill faster to enjoy the real thrill of the mountains, so the beginner-friendly runs are not all clustered around the base area. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of challenging trails. The resort is known for its Birds of Prey World Cup downhill ski course, which should be an adventure even for the most experienced skiers.

Where to eat

There are plenty of fine dining options here, but for a truly unique experience, snag a reservation at Beano’s Cabin. This spot is set high up on the mountain within the White River National Forest. In winter, guests arrive via sleigh, making the cabin a destination in itself. And if you want a dinner on the mountain with just a la carte instead of fixed-price menus, opt for Allie’s Cabin instead.

Where to stay

Like in nearby Vail, Beaver Creek has a myriad of high-end accommodations to choose from that are within walking distance or a quick shuttle ride from the slopes. Of course, for many, proximity to shops and restaurants is also a key factor when deciding where to stay during a ski vacation.

While Beaver Creek’s reputation is a more luxurious alternative to the nearby (and already luxurious) Vail, the village is smaller, which makes getting around by foot or shuttle easy, regardless of where you’re staying.

Here are our top picks for the best hotels in Beaver Creek for your next ski vacation.

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Rates at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek start at $1,095 or 45,000 points per night during ski season, based on double occupancy.

Related: TPG’s review of the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek

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Rates at the Ritz-Carlton start at $842 or 95,000 points per night in January (although typical prices exceed $1,000), based on double occupancy. 

Related: TPG’s review of The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch

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Rates at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa typically start at $449 or 88,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night — which is quite reasonable by Beaver Creek standards — based on double occupancy.

Aspen Snowmass

Nothing quite evokes the idea of a fancy, over-the-top ski vacation like Aspen. And while there is tons of wealth in this ski town, there are also some more relaxed spots that make this a great destination for all skiers.

The first thing to know about Aspen Snowmass is that it is actually four unique ski areas currently totaling over 5,500 acres, all connected with a single lift ticket. But this season, thanks to the installation of a new high-speed quad and a major terrain expansion, this number will increase by 20%, and the number of skiers that can access the terrain will also increase. And while all four mountains are linked by a bus system, travel times can still be 30 minutes or more. So it’s important to think a bit about which particular part of the resort you want to ski in when mapping out accommodations.

In the heart of town is Aspen Mountain, often referred to by locals as Ajax Mountain. Nowhere else can you have a gourmet lunch, get in a run or two and then walk to some of the best ski-town shopping. Be warned: This mountain is not for beginners and has limited intermediate trails.

Aspen Highlands is away from the action but is a destination in itself. The area is famous for its Highland Bowl, a hike-to ski area with epic runs and amazing views. Beginners, this isn’t the spot for you. Buttermilk Mountain is the best place for novices. It’s got plenty of gentle runs and a great ski school to help you make the perfect turn.

Snowmass Mountain is the largest of the four ski areas in Aspen. In fact, it has more terrain than the other three combined. The mountain has its own little village, plenty of ski-in, ski-out hotels and trails for all levels of skiers. It’s a great base for those who want to ski often and don’t mind the ride into town for dinner or shopping.

Where to eat

In the town of Aspen itself, enjoy the Swiss-skewing French fare at French Alpine Bistro, light nouvelle Japanese cuisine at Matsuhisa or sizzling steaks at Steak House No. 316. For a true gourmet experience featuring seasonal Colorado ingredients, head to The Little Nell’s Element 47.

Where to stay

Travelers to Aspen have plenty of lodging options but generally gravitate toward the Snowmass area or the town of Aspen itself, within walking distance of Ajax. For those who like to keep tabs on new happenings in ski country, Aspen will be debuting a new boutique hotel — the Mollie Aspen — ahead of the 2023-24 ski season.

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Rates at W Aspen start at $1,273 or 89,500 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, plus a $50-per-night resort fee.

Related: TPG’s review of the W Aspen

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Rates start at $1,328 per night, although rates in January reach $16,000 on certain dates.

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Rates start at around $1,800 per night during ski season, but are often closer to $2,700.

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Rates start at $1,567 or 116,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night during ski season on select midweek dates.

Related: TPG’s review of The St. Regis Aspen

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Rates start at $750 per night during ski season.

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Rates start at $692 per night during ski season on select mid-week days.

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Rates start at around $775 per night during ski season on select mid-week days.

Telluride

If you want to get away from it all, look no further than Telluride. This remote ski town in western Colorado offers an escape from the crowds that can overrun other resorts. But be warned: Getting here isn’t easy. Most people fly into Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ), but that’s still 65 miles away from the resort.

Once there, you will be rewarded with the charms of a Victorian mining town that has all the modern comforts but embraces a slower way of life. In fact, the entire town was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

The historic town and the “Mountain Village” at the base of the ski resort are separated by a mountain ridge. Luckily, a free gondola can transport skiers and non-skiers between the two throughout the day. It opens at 6:30 a.m. daily and closes at midnight. The ride takes about 13 minutes.

This is a more intermediate and advanced mountain, known for some of Colorado’s best in-bounds and hike-to skiing. But there are enough beginner runs to keep the whole family entertained, too. Here’s how we’d plan a perfect ski day in Telluride.

Where to eat

You’re going to work up an appetite on the slopes, so when it comes time to eat, 221 South Oak is perfect for a hearty meal with plenty of options for vegetarians. Pick Siam for spicy Thai options to help you warm up. Baked in Telluride serves delicious morning pastries while There is the spot for a casual atmosphere with a great cocktail selection.

Where to stay

The first decision any group needs to make is where to stay: in town or in the Mountain Village. The Mountain Village has more of a ski-resort feel, with large hotels and luxury condos surrounded by the ski area, while Telluride itself is an old mining town with a small-town vibe, complete with plenty of restaurants and lodging options.

The ski resort can still be accessed directly from town, and there is a free gondola that connects the two. Telluride is a better option for those who want to be close to a lot of bars and restaurants.

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Rates typically start at $703 per night midweek in January.

Related: TPG’s review of the Dunton Town House

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Rates start at $990 per night, based on double occupancy.

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Rates typically start at $1,685 for two nights, which is the minimum stay that can be booked at Lumiere.

Breckenridge

This is the ski resort for those who don’t want the over-the-top luxury of Aspen or Vail and are seeking something more authentic. People come to Breckenridge to let loose, have a good time and enjoy one of the highest-elevation ski areas in Colorado. In fact, that can be a challenge for those who get altitude sickness, given the base area is 9,600 feet above sea level and the summit of the ski area is 12,998 feet above sea level.

Breck — as most people call it — covers five peaks with mostly intermediate and expert terrain. About 40% of the mountain is above the tree line, offering skiers free reign on wide-open bowls and snowfields against a backdrop of Colorado’s stunning snowcapped peaks. But just because there is a lot of big mountain terrain at Breck doesn’t mean there aren’t also beginner-friendly options. Both peaks 8 and 9 at the resort offer great terrain for learning to ski and ride, and at Peak 8 the resort has recently upgraded two lifts to high-speed quads and added a new ski and snowboard school learning area.

The resort has been undergoing some additional changes in recent years. In fact, new for the 2023-24 ski season, Breck will be replacing the 5-Chair at the base of the famed Peak 8 with a new, high-speed quad, increasing uphill capacity.

Another factor in its favor? The town is one of the closest big ski towns when driving from Denver and offers plenty of low-key restaurants, bars and stores.

Where to eat

Start off with hamburgers that are routinely voted the best in the county at Empire Burger. For something more upscale, check out Hearthstone Restaurant, which has been serving up Rocky Mountain specials in a Victorian-era home since 1989. This is the place to go for steak, elk or Colorado lamb. Another downtown mainstay is Giampietro Pasta & Pizzeria, which has been helping skiers carb up since 1963. And for something completely different, try one of the newer spots in town, the Breckenridge Distillery Restaurant — come for the cocktails and stay for the food.

Where to stay

Breckenridge doesn’t have the same caliber of ski-in, ski-out lodging as other resorts. But that’s fine since hotels here tend to be more affordable than at neighboring resorts but are still easily accessible from the slopes, with many within walking distance of a lift or a free bus or gondola ride away.

Of course, this comparison is to the most elite resorts in the state, like Vail and Beaver Creek. There are still several options, like the Gravity Haus, that are either within a few minutes’ walk of the lift or a quick (free) shuttle ride away.

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Rates vary, but rooms can be booked at around $700 per night midweek in January (some dates exceed $800), based on double occupancy.

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Rooms can be booked for as low as $390 per night midweek during ski season, although many nights exceed $550, based on double occupancy.

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Rates start at $452 per night, based on double occupancy. At the time of publishing, the hotel was not accepting Bonvoy point redemptions. 

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Rooms start at $376 or 54,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, based on double occupancy.

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Rates start at around $600 per night during ski season with a two-night minimum, plus a $150 cleaning fee.

Steamboat Springs

Dubbed “Ski Town USA,” Steamboat offers a little of something for everybody. The town, like so many others in Colorado, can trace its roots back to the Old West and has maintained some of that architecture. It’s about a three-hour drive from Denver (in good weather), or you can fly into Yampa Valley Regional Airport (HDN), which is about 40 miles away and gaining more nonstop flights each year.

This winter, Steamboat is set to complete a three-year, $220 million redevelopment project — the largest in the resort’s recent history. Not only does the redevelopment include a 655-acre terrain expansion, making the resort the second largest in the state, but it also includes the installation of the fastest and longest 10-person gondola in North America, the Wild Blue Gondola.

One of the great things about Steamboat is its relatively low elevation: The base of the slopes is just 6,900 feet above sea level, making it much easier to ski for those prone to altitude sickness.

Steamboat is also known for snow with lower water content than on some other mountains, creating light, fluffy powder you don’t have to fight with. In fact, the resort has trademarked the phrase “Champagne Powder.”

Where to eat

Steamboat Springs is a relatively tiny city, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fill up on good grub. Stop by Aurum for happy hour deals and fresh, seasonal American cuisine. Chef Kate Rench creates fanciful feasts where the menus change according to the season at Cafe Diva, which also boasts an impressive wine list. Sauvage serves contemporary French-fusion fare, while those who just want some great Mexican food should book a table at Salt & Lime.

Where to stay

There are a handful of great hotel options for a Steamboat Springs ski trip. Like most Colorado ski towns, there are free ski equipment-friendly shuttles that run around town and to the resort from most of the hotels, making the hotel’s exact location less of a factor.

Of course, ski-in, ski-out hotels like the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas have the benefit of not having to deal with transportation, but there’s something to say about hotels, like the Residence Inn by Marriott, that are nestled in the heart of Steamboat Springs, steps away from shops and restaurants.

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Rooms start at $615 per night during ski season, based on double occupancy. 

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A studio typically starts at around $575 per night, although lower rates can be found if dates are flexible.

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Rates at the Residence Inn by Marriott start at $251 or 46,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, based on double occupancy.

Best credit cards for booking ski hotels and resorts

There are more than a dozen excellent travel rewards credit cards out there for hotel stays. The right one(s) for you will depend on if you’re loyal to a particular program or chain, whether you want premium perks and if you value benefits like annual free nights, automatic elite status and lucrative earning rates.

Here are three great credit cards to use for booking stays across a variety of hotel chains and independent properties while still enjoying money-saving features and high-end benefits.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earning rates: This card earns 5 points per dollar on airfare purchased directly with the airlines or through the Amex Travel portal (on up to $500,000 of airfare purchases per calendar year). Plus, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar. Remember, Amex points transfer to Hilton Honors at a 1:2 ratio, to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1 ratio and to Choice Privileges at a 1:1 ratio, and there are sometimes transfer bonuses.

Benefits: This card is absolutely packed with perks, but among the travel-related ones you’ll want to maximize, including some hotel-specific benefits, are:

*Enrollment is required for select benefits.

Annual fee: $695 (see rates and fees). 

Read our review of the Amex Platinum card

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Earning rates: Earn an unlimited 10 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5 miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel and an unlimited 2 miles per dollar on all other purchases.

Benefits: Cardholders get up to $300 annually for bookings made through Capital One Travel, plus 10,000 bonus miles every account anniversary, starting on your first anniversary (worth $100 toward travel). Through the Capital One Premier Collection, cardmembers can enjoy free breakfast, on-property credits and room upgrades (if available) on stays at participating properties booked through Capital One Travel. They also receive up to $100 in statement credits for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

Annual fee: $395 (see rates and fees).

Read our review of the Capital One Venture X.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Earning rates: This card accrues 5 points per dollar on travel booked through the Chase travel portal, on Lyft purchases (through March 2025) and on Peloton equipment and accessory purchases of $150 or more (through March 2025, with a limit of 25,000 bonus points). It also racks up 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services and online grocery store purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs); 2 points per dollar on all travel not booked through the Chase travel portal; and 1 point per dollar on everything else. 

Benefits: Cardholders receive a $50 statement credit on hotel stays purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal upon opening the card and each following cardmember anniversary. They also receive a 10% bonus based on their total spending during the account anniversary year at a rate of 1 point for each $10 spent. This card also has some of the best travel protections in the industry, including trip cancellation insurance, trip delay insurance and primary rental car coverage, among other policies. 

Annual fee: $95.

Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Related reading:

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.