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As ski season approaches, Colorado locals are gearing up to take their families on an excursion for their favorite snowy season pastime, skiing! But as the holidays near, we’re all trying to stay mindful of our budgets. Not to mention, tourists tend to flock to the more popular ski spots in the state of Colorado. Well, these selections of Colorado ski resorts are budget-friendly and tend to be low on crowds, so you don’t have to hesitate to hit the slopes!
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Cooper, formerly known as Ski Cooper, is one of the most affordable ski resorts in the United States. it sits at the top of Tennessee Pass, west of Vail and Cooper Mountain, near America’s highest incorporated city, Leadville, at 10,152 feet. While it may not sound as exciting as Aspen, here lodging is far less expensive and the atmosphere is less pretentious too. Cooper has remained a humble ski hill, most often used by the locals, which means there’s rarely a line for the lifts. If you want something more extreme and personal, it also offers snowcat access skiing on Chicago Ridge, that features terrain that’s similar to the back bowls of Vail.
In the town of Leadville, you’ll find a number of budget-friendly hotels, a wide range of historical attractions, and the legendary Silver Dollar Saloon, an authentic Irish pub that dates back to 1877.
Eldora Mountain Resort, Nederland
Eldora is often forgotten, but that’s what makes it ideal for those who know it’s the place to go for good affordable skiing without the long lines. Plus it’s easily accessible, just a 40-minute drive from Boulder near the town of Nederland. Eldora has 680 acres of skiable terrain, with the majority of runs for the intermediate and advanced, although there are still a number of green runs for beginners. It also has a Nordic center for cross-country skiers. While there is no lodging onsite, there are lots of options in Boulder and an increasing number of accommodation options in Nederland, including vacation rentals and inexpensive Airbnbs, located just minutes from the resort. Nederland also offers a number of outstanding restaurants and a surprisingly good nightlife, with multiple spots for enjoying live music.
Powderhorn Mountain Resort, Mesa
Powderhorn Mountain Resort is the only true ski area in the Western Slope, with the nearest more than 100 miles away in Aspen or Telluride. Situated on the world’s largest flattop mountain, Grand Mesa, it’s sometimes referred to as a “diamond in the rough.” It even has a weather system that’s practically all its own – in fact, you may enjoy a dry, sunny day in Grand Junction, and look over to see a cloud hovering over Grand Mesa, which means it’s probably getting buckets of fresh snow. The lift lines are fast, there are few skiers out on the slopes, and it also has an outstanding beginner area which features a double chair lift, allowing novices to learn new skills.
Sunlight Mountain Resort, Glenwood Springs
One of Colorado’s best-kept ski secrets, Sunlight Mountain Resort plays second fiddle to Aspen-Snowmass just above Glenwood Springs in the Roaring Fork Valley. It offers everything opposite of Aspen – no champagne bars, no glitz or glamour, but plenty of hot chocolate from the ski patrol hut and inexpensive lift tickets. It also provides a family-friendly experience with three-quarters of the terrain either beginner or intermediate, and all 67 trails lead to the lodge, making it difficult for kids to get lost. Its location also means that skiers have access to nearby Glenwood Hot Springs for soothing those sore muscles at the end of a day out on the slopes. The hot springs pool is the largest in the world, with room to soak, splash around, swim or simply relax on an inflatable.
Ski Granby Ranch
Ski Granby Ranch, formerly known as Solvista Basin, is tucked halfway between Winter Park and Steamboat Springs. This resort is famous for its affordable prices, gentle slopes and constant grooming that make it ideal for beginners. A longtime family favorite, there’s also a good lesson program, free snow play area and sledding hill for the little ones, along with lift-served tubing on select Saturdays, and night skiing. The Ranch hosts a number of dining options too, including the Granby Ranch Grill, where you can sip a drink on the sun-soaked patio while enjoying the breathtaking panoramic views. Granby also offers convenient access to the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, ideal for snowshoeing among jaw-dropping scenery in the winter.
Skiers leaving from Denver can avoid the congestion on I-70 by heading to Monarch Mountain, zipping along Highway 285 across the South Park Valley rather than being stuck in the endless traffic between Idaho Springs and Georgetown. Situated just outside of Salida, it gets a ton of fresh powder, offering the ultimate Rocky Mountain ski experience along with reasonable prices and runs that naturally return to a single base area. With a wide range of terrain, Monarch is ideal for skiers and boarders of just about every skill level. After a day of play, you may want to enjoy relaxing at the indoor Salida Hot Springs Pool nearby.
Loveland Ski Area
Just 53 miles west of Denver, Loveland hosts 1,000 acres of terrain with high alpine bowls and long bump runs as well as free snowcat skiing along the Continental Divide. it’s easily accessible to Front Range residents, making it popular with the locals, but not so much with the hordes of visitors that come to the state to ski. In fact, many drive right on by, never realizing how big or how awesome the experience really is, which means you’ll rarely have to battle crowds on the slope and you can enjoy a wonderful, more laid-back vibe. Plus, it not only offers affordable lift tickets, but it’s also close enough that there’s no need to pay an arm and a leg for pricey lodging unless you really want to – there are a number of options in nearby in Georgetown and Silver Plume.