Top 6 Closest Ski Resorts Near Denver - UPDATED 2017/18
Written by Kylie Dingman • Sep 20, 2017
Denver is the gateway to some of the best skiing in the US but many of the popular resorts are actually quite far from the city. If you’ve found yourself in Denver desperate for snow but short on time, anything longer than a three hour round trip is going to be a tough sell – especially if you have to brave the notorious I-70 traffic! Thankfully, there are a handful of ski areas that are roughly an hour’s drive from downtown which will satisfy your powder addiction. I’ve put together a quick primer on the closest resorts to Denver so you can get the most snow out of your time! Without further ado, here’s the list based on drive time:
Echo Mountain (1 hr drive)
- Under an hour's drive away from Denver!
- Your cheapest ski option near Denver
- Recent renovations to the base area thanks to new ownership
- Night-skiing available on the whole mountain
- Kids under 5 ski free!
- Very short vertical drop — only 600 feet
- Easily bored by the low number of runs
- Squaw Pass off the I-70 can get slippery and treacherous during winter weather
This is the closest resort to Denver and you won't have to cross any major mountain passes to get to the hill, so if the I-70 is snowed in, Echo Mountain might very well be the only place that you can reach! Just make sure your car has all-wheel drive, as the winding mountain roads can get ‘interesting’ during the winter time.
Echo Mountain's second claim to fame is its freestyle terrain park and natural freestyle features. It was actually never intended to be a regular ski resort; the mountain was originally opened as a massive terrain park full of jumps, rails, and other features. It’s been open to the public for a couple of years now, and with the change of owners last year, the place is moving to broaden its appeal with the casual skiers.
What Echo Mountain gains in terms of proximity to Denver, it loses in terms of height. Coming in at only 600 feet of vertical drop, all runs are a top-to-bottom affair, and all serviced by a single triple chair. The only expert terrain is found in EJ's Glades and the natural terrain park and even then, the glades are only sometimes skiable, depending on the snow.
For me, this resort has two things going for it – proximity from Denver and cheap pricing. It’s a great place for a quick morning or afternoon ski, and that’s all the time you really need to thoroughly explore this hill. I’ve skied it a couple times with my sister because we received a 2-for-1 coupons for lift passes; otherwise, I would make the effort and drive out further!
In short: if you're a beginner skier or traveling on a budget, Echo Mountain may be a best place to try out the sport in a low-commitment setting. But if you’re a powderhound at heart, Echo Mountain will disappoint.
Known For: Closest resort to Denver, cheapest tickets in Colorado!
Cost: Adult Day Pass: $49, Kids Day Pass: $29.
Loveland Ski Resort (1 hr drive)
- A locals' mountain which doesn't get too busy
- Enjoys a long season (often opens in mid-October and closes mid-May)
- Just before the Eisenhower Tunnel, avoiding major mountain passes
- FREE CAT SKIING!
- Very limited amenities
- Can be windy due to much of the resort being above the tree-line
- Sun can be blinding at the end of the day, given the direction of the hill
Often overlooked by destination skiers because it lacks the amenities of its rival resorts to the west, locals seek out Loveland because it is all about the skiing. Here, you'll find that classic mid-West ski experience – a small base lodge serving up inexpensive hot cocoa and comfort food, filled with locals who seem to all know one another and are stoked to get out and rip.
Given its high elevation, Loveland enjoys a longer season than most other resorts in the US and averages about 422 inches of snow annually. The resort is located about 53 miles from Denver, and although you may hit some traffic along I-70 with skiers heading through the Eisenhower Tunnel to resorts further west, you'll be one of the first to turn out of the traffic and be zipping down runs before the others even have their boots on!
There’s a lot going on at Loveland – but the standout for me is free cat skiing along the Continental Divide in the 18-passenger Ridge Cat (yes, you read that right: free snowcat skiing!). The mountain stats are roughly on par with other major Colorado resorts like Breck and Copper Mountain, with good variety across its 93 trails and a fun terrain park. As a kid, I used to be terrified of somehow rolling off the mountain, all the way down onto the I-70, but now that I’m all grown up, I just want to hit the in-bound bowls which give off a back-country vibe.
The downside is that there aren't many amenities at this ski area. For restaurants beyond those offered at the base area, you either need to continue along I-70 to Silverthorne or back-track to Georgetown, where you'll find a limited selection.
Known For: Its location over I-70 and on the Continental Divide, free cat-skiing, local vibe
Cost: Adult Day Pass (15+): $61, Kids Day Pass (6-14): $29, Kids 5 and under ski free.
Beginners can also buy passes to just Loveland Valley (which is limited to Chair 7 and the beginner magic carpet area): $27 for adults (15+) and $22 for kids (6-14).
Eldora Mountain (1:15 hr drive)
- Close to Denver (accessible by bus, but it stretches to a two-hour ride)
- Good variety of terrain
- Relatively inexpensive
- Snowmaking possible on all groomed runs
- Frequent wind closures
- Wind and snowmaking can create icy or hard-pack conditions
- Short vertical drop by Colorado standards (but more than double Echo Mountain’s)
Eldora Mountain is the second closest ski resort to Denver, about an hour’s drive away – It was one of my regular resorts as a teenager and is close to my heart, as my parents would drop me off at the bus stop in Boulder every weekend and pick me up at the end of the day.
The thing that stands out for Eldora is its variety in terrain. There are 11 lifts which serve everything – easy greens, cruisey blues, challenging blacks and double blacks. It’s not just nostalgia talking: in fact, this is the training ground for the University of Colorado’s ski team and various junior and recreational teams! Highlights include the amazing glades and wide bowls off the Indian Peaks and Corona chairlifts. Moose Glades on a powder day brings back especially good memories. In addition to alpine skiing, Eldora Mountain's Nordic center has roughly 25 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails.
On the flip side, I’ve experienced many wind holds which close off most of the terrain, which is very noticeable as it’s already a small resort by Colorado standards.
Big picture, it’s got a really good balance between what the mountain offers for its price and convenience.
Known For: Accessibility from Denver, good variety of terrain, ski racing programs
Cost: Adult Day Pass: $94, Kids Day Pass: $54, Kids under 5 ski for $12.
Days at Eldora are also included on the MAX Pass (5 days at Eldora in addition to 43 other resorts; $329 for adults) and the Rocky Mountain Super Pass (unlimited access to Eldora, Copper, and Winter Park, as well as limited days at Steamboat, Crested Butte, and more; $619 for adults).
Arapahoe Basin (1:30 hr drive)
- Expect lots of deep fluffy powder here
- Some of the best extreme steeps in Colorado
- Laid-back vibe and inexpensive
- Old lifts, only one is high speed
- Ski terrain area is small compared to nearby resorts
- If Loveland Pass is closed –it becomes an hour and thirty minute drive passing the Eisenhower Tunnel
They call it ‘The Legend’ so be prepared for some of the most extreme terrain available in Colorado. This is another local’s hangout where it’s all about the skiing. There is no real base village but who needs that when you’re jumping off cliffs or skiing in July?
That’s right, this resort is one of the first resorts to open, kicking off in October, and it continues on until June, and frequently July. Elevation-wise it has some of the highest skiable terrain with its 13,050 feet summit and a 2,270 feet vertical drop. Size wise, at 960 acres, it’s considered a smaller resort but that’s padded by an additional 90-100 acres in the East Wall area which isn’t included in that figure.
If you’re a beginner, this isn’t the resort for you – stick to Echo Mountain. A-Basin is a place for intermediate to advanced skiers who want to go hard – everything else is secondary. The lifts are only there to get you up the mountain, the base camp is barren, and there is no off mountain dining unless you’re there in the spring when barbecues abound on the ‘Beach’.
Important Note: If you’re thinking you can take a short cut through Loveland Pass, think again! It is a very treacherous route over 12,000 feet above and at the mercy of the weather – trust me, you’ll be driving very, very slowly. Even if with perfect conditions, large haz-mat trucks which can only take the pass will clog up the traffic.
Known For: Heart-pumping terrain, local hangout, ‘Beach’ party in the car park, longest season in Colorado
Cost: Adult Day Pass: $59 – $76, Teenager Day Pass (15-18): $47 – $64, Kids Day Pass (6-14): $34 – $38, Kids 5 and under: Free.
Winter Park Ski Resort (1:30 hr drive)
- Top mogul runs on Mary Jane
- Some of the best steep mogul runs in the country
- Reliable snowfall
- Can take a train from Denver straight into the base village!
- If you don't know where you're going, you could find yourself on a couple nasty traverses—particularly difficult if you or someone you're riding with is on a snowboard!
- For families, day tickets can get pricey, especially since children 13+ are classed as adults
There are over 3,000 acres of skiable terrain in Winter Park spread across seven different territories, each with its own unique flavor. There’s the family friendly Winter Park territory, world-renowned bumps at Mary Jane, great glades in Eagle Wind, wide open fields in Parsenn Bowl, powder stashes in Vasquez Ridge and in-bounds backcountry style skiing in the Cirque, capped off by an extensive terrain park. Check out our guide to Winter Park for an in-depth break down of the territories!
Unlike the other resorts mentioned above, Winter Park is supported by a fun base village with activities such as a spa, ice skating, tubing, and a good selection of dining options. My faves – Pepe Osaka’s Fish Taco and Fraser Valley Hot Dog continue to rack up rave reviews from visitors and locals alike! While the level of amenities isn’t close to what some of the mega-resorts like Vail and Aspen offer, it has a local charm all of its own. Overall, this is a very solid resort that’s hard to fault and is often overlooked in favor of more well-known resorts in the area.
Known For: The bumps on Mary Jane, short lift lines, the Winter Park Express train from Denver straight to the base village, Colorado's longest continually-operated ski resort.
Cost: Adult Day Pass (13+): $75-130, Kids Day Pass (6-12): $60-85, Kids 5 and under: $10.
Day pass prices vary depending on the time of season and are more expensive during peak holiday times. Days at Winter Park are also included on the:
M.A.X. Pass (5 days at Winter Park in addition to 43 other resorts; $329 for adults)
The Rocky Mountain Super Pass (unlimited access to Eldora, Copper, and Winter Park, as well as limited days at Steamboat, Crested Butte, and more; $619 for adults)
Route 40 Pass (unlimited days at Winter Park plus four days at Steamboat; $529 for adults).
Season passes for Steamboat ($1499 for adults) get unlimited access to Winter Park
Keystone Ski Resort (1:30 hr drive)
- Large resort with something for everyone
- Top notch terrain park in Area 51 which has a dedicated ski lift
- Very family-friendly (due to terrain options, daycare and snowsports school programs, kid-friendly food options)
- You'll pay a little more for everything, from parking to lift passes to on-mountain food.
- Powder dumps tend to be heavy; that, combined with the long runs and high altitude can have the casual skier's legs burning after only a few runs!
- Can get busy, especially as everyone funnels together to get down to the base at the end of the day.
- You have to battle the I-70 if Loveland Pass is closed off. My advice: leave early in the morning and aim to head home around 2 or 2:30pm.
If you’ve decided to brave the I-70, Keystone Resort might be the ticket. The expansive terrain is spread over three mountain peaks and five bowls, and it doesn’t never gets too windy like Eldora. My favorite way to ski it is to make my way towards the Outback Lift, ski there until the crowds catch on, and then slowly work my way back over to the front side as the day goes on. If you still have a little gas in the tank at the end of the day, the night-skiing at Keystone is some of the most extensive in the state. Night-skiing starts after sunset and continues as late as 9 pm, and it includes an excellent mix of green and cruisey blue terrain.
As with Loveland, Keystone operates a snowcat skiing operation, at $10 per run for the Outback Bowls (hiking distance if you're willing to do a mile in your ski boots) or $285 per day in the Independence, Bergman, and Erickson Bowls.
As with Winter Park, you'll find plenty of amenities in town, and for the non-skiers, shopping at The Outlets at Silverthorne or soaking in a spa are popular ways to while away a day. Plenty of fancy four and five star restaurants rated by the Zagat survey in the area, including the Alpenglow Stube on the mountain. Because of the variety of activities in town and the services offered on the mountain, Keystone is probably the most family-friendly resort on this list.
Known For: expansive terrain, extensive night-skiing, long sustained groomers
Cost: Adult Day Pass (13+): $75-130, Kids Day Pass (5-12): $45-75.
Cafeteria dining on the mountain tends to cost $15-20 per person at least, so you may want to pack a lunch.
And that’s the list of the top resorts closest to Denver! If you don’t mind drive out a bit further, Colorado really opens up – check out our top 10 resorts in Colorado. I would love to hear about your experiences getting to these resorts, so be sure to leave a review on our resorts page!