Colorado can easily be considered one of the most popular states for winter activities and cozy retreats, so whipping up this list wasn’t too much of a challenge. There is a wide variety of ski resorts spread throughout the mountains, but you’ll also find picturesque towns without skiing that offer an infinite amount of snow fun. So maybe you want to go to a ski resort and glide over fresh fallen powder all day, while finishing up with with a frothy brew and light snacks, or maybe the city is calling—these are the top winter destinations in Colorado.
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Denver could be considered the Colorado hub, central to all the cool things to explore in both nature and city. This could be your home base for other things, but keep in mind winter roads can get dicey in this area. You can call the Department of Transportation ahead of time to see which roads are open. But you don’t have to leave Denver to experience its top attractions, including museums, art, historic sites and gourmet restaurants.
Durango has an enriching southwestern influence that is reflected in both its landscape, which has been featured in many films, and within its flavorful foods. Get out and really soak in the native wildlife and nature preserves. Relax in a designated hot spring that beats any spa experience and learn about the influence the railroad industry has had here.
Telluride is a picture-perfect mountain town that is perfect in winter with a downtown that is backed up against snow-capped mountains. You probably have heard of its world-class ski resort, which is a huge influence when it comes to attracting folks out here for the winter. But one doesn’t have to be into shredding powder to enjoy numerous snow activities. Hop aboard a dog drawn sleigh, cruise the terrain via a speeding snowmobile, or just enjoy a peaceful ice skating session.
We’re talking about a little place called “asssspen”. Have you heard of it? Just kidding. Aspen is a high-end ski town that will definitely require some splurging to experience. But you only live once right? Aspen Mountain, Snowmass Mountain, Aspen Highlands Mountain, and Buttermilk Mountain offer both straightforward and complex runs, while apres and luxe lodging await at the end of the day. But alas there are places to eat and stay on a budget. The Aspen Public House has hearty eats for budget-friendly prices, and the St. Moritz Lodge, while a hostel, offers cozy rooms for an affordable rate.
Estes Park is a magical place full of wildlife viewing opportunities, and rustic lodging fitting to the naturalistic area. Downtown is small, yet efficiently equipped. But if you are coming out to this slice of paradise, focus mostly on the nature. And a note to Stephen King fans, it may be of interest to you that the Stanley Hotel, known in The Shining film as the Overlook, resides here and is fully operational. Guests can even opt to stay in a haunted suite.
Breckenridge may be known for its ski resort mostly, but its well preserved historic buildings date back to the 1800s. Just walking this colorful town with enveloping mountains alone makes the trip special. Ride a scenic gondola to fully appreciate the beauty of this resort area, and dive into the variation of artisan eats at Relish, or Hearthstone. However, Amazing Grace is a small, snug spot to grab breakfast or lunch too.
Pagosa Springs definitely has some sweet ski spots nearby, but this town is prime for wintering because it offers hot springs, river views and ancient ruins. As far as snowy activities go, travelers can dog sled, ice skate, and zip downhills in tubes or sleds. Cozy sleigh rides are also a major trip highlight. The San Juan Mountain area has excellent fishing opportunities, and in the cold months, you can drill into the frozen waters to ice fish.
Boulder, Colorado is quaint, scenic and full of life. While lots of snow falls around here every year, indoor flavor adventures, like eating a legendary burger at the Dark Horse or warming up with a toasty beverage at Dushanbe Teahouse provide refuge from the cold. Of course with all of that white stuff, it would be a shame to miss out on prime sledding or a visually breathtaking snowshoe walk. And the Pearl Street Mall is a 4-block pedestrian mall that’s excellent for those who may need to make a quick dash out of the cold into a cute store.
Whether winter, summer fall or spring, Crested Butte has something to offer, from biking, hiking, skiing, Nordic skiing, wildflower viewing and fishing. You’ll want to spend the majority of your time in the wide-open nature of the Rocky Mountain escape. Elk Mountain Lodge is an affordable place to stay, and it’s very close to the resort and town restaurants. Soak in the hot tub to ease sore muscles after a day on the slopes, and take advantage of the free breakfast!
Fort Collins is more affordable than just about everywhere else in the state, and everything has a polished old feel to it. Folks bike through the precious downtown area, which also sees an above-average amount of snow through the winter. But the brewery scene of 20-ish local craft brands adds another level of taste bud complexity to your trip.