Native Secrets: Inside Scoop on Skiing in Colorado

Skiing in Colorado
The rugged slopes of the Rocky Mountains are blanketed with snow, and once again, the world has begun to invade Colorado. Drawn by world-class ski resorts, visitors come from around the globe to swish down the slopes of the Rockies.

But often they miss the “real” Colorado.

In my mind, there are two sides to my native state. There is the Colorado in which I was born — friendly, down-to-earth, in love with the outdoors, filled with the gorgeous scenery of the Rocky Mountains, and most of all, bargain-conscious.

And there is the Colorado that the rest of the world knows.

Favorite Colorado Ski Resorts

The “other” Colorado, found in chic ski towns like Vail, Aspen and Beaver Creek, is filled with expensive resorts, Hollywood stars, high-end restaurants and, of course, gorgeous scenery.

This widely advertised version of my home state is lovely and well worth the visit. However, it can be expensive for those looking for a bargain. Sure, there is a lot to see and experience in places like Aspen and Vail, but if that’s all you saw on your visit to Colorado’s ski slopes, then you would be missing out — and your wallet would feel a whole lot lighter.

There is a whole other Colorado to be discovered.

First, though, there are some things you should know about your skiing vacation.

Regardless of whether you drive or fly into Colorado, don’t immediately head for the hills. Keep our elevation in mind, and consider acclimating in Denver for a day or two. Colorado’s capital is at 5,280 feet (1609 m) — it’s not called the “ Mile-High City” for nothing — but it’s a lot lower than the 10,000-foot (3048 m) elevations of the ski resorts.

Every year, mountain clinics see hundreds of cases of altitude sickness. This malady is characterized by headache, fatigue and dizziness, and frankly, it’s not a fun way to spend your holiday. Doctors recommend that you take a day or two to acclimate to our thin air before heading up into the high county, so why not take a day or two to explore Denver?

Shopping along the 16th Street Mall in Denver. Photo by Steve Crecelius/Visit Denver
Shopping along the 16th Street Mall in Denver. Photo by Steve Crecelius/Visit Denver

As the capital of Colorado, Denver is the state’s biggest city. Our lifestyle is a curious blend of the state’s western roots, easy-going manner and love of the outdoors. The metro-area has more than 2.5 million residents, so you’re likely to find whatever suits your fancy. The population is young and sporty, and the streets are wide and clean.

Although the region is known for its great skiing, few know that Denver receives more than 300 days of sunshine each year. So, chances are, the sun will be shining in a deep blue Colorado sky during your visit. The hottest spot in town is LoDo (lower downtown). You’ll find the place hopping with micro-breweries, cafés, restaurants and pubs. My favorite all-time place for people watching is “The Market” on Larimer Street. All types of folks come in here for coffee and dessert.

After a day or two in Denver, your body is ready to head to the slopes. We have more than 20 words to describe our snow, and ski conditions are tracked religiously. (“Champagne powder” is the crème de la crème of snow conditions.)

A fresh foot of powder at Winter Park Ski Resort in Colorado. Flickr/Greg Younger
A fresh foot of powder at Winter Park Ski Resort in Colorado. Flickr/Greg Younger

Winter Park Ski Resort

There are dozens of ski resorts from which to choose. Winter Park is one of the most popular resorts with Coloradans, as it’s just  66 miles from Denver. If Winter Park is crowded, ski over to Mary Jane, which is included in the price of your Winter Park ticket. This mountain, named for a popular “lady of the evening” who lived here a century ago, rarely has long lift lines and offers excellent skiing for those above beginner levels.

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