This winter, according to the Farmers Almanac, Colorado is gearing up for one of its best snow seasons in years. This very welcome beta comes on the heels of strict Covid restrictions. As a result, thousands of people across the nation will be flocking to Colorado ski resorts this ski season. Here’s insider info on where to go to beat the crowds.
Top 7 Uncrowded Colorado Ski Resorts
Now, more than ever, having inside info to the lesser known and least crowded Colorado ski resorts is paramount to having a good ski season. Luckily I’m a Colorado snowhound and passionate snowboarder, and live in a Colorado mountain town.
Planning your ski trip this year requires much more than looking for valet service, gourmet food or luxury resort amenities. This ski season demands reliance on insider local information to ensure you get the biggest bang for your buck. Finding the least crowded ski resorts in Colorado that offer amazing terrain, huge skiable acres, untouched fresh powder, short lift lines and fast chairlifts is the name of the game. And, FYI, the best ski areas are not always the ones with the biggest name recognition, like Aspen, Steamboat and Vail.
We all want snow, really good snow…the kind that makes for an exhilarating and exhausting day. I scoff at the majority of blogs written about what makes a resort – the hotels, the nightlife, the amenities? No, no, no. It’s snow, skiable acres, family friendly, budget friendly, but mostly it’s the snow.
So, this season, after a dismal winter in 2020, the last thing I want to do is spend my days sitting in lines unable to find fresh powder. I’m looking for the least crowded ski resorts in Colorado. Where one good snowfall lasts for a good week to 10 days. And I know exactly where to look. Read on for the beta on the best and least crowded ski resorts in Colorado.
1. Sunlight Mountain Resort
Sunlight in Glenwood Springs, CO was our local ski area for 21 years. It is small, it is rugged and while it offers the bare minimum in amenities, the snow is almost always great, with an average 250″ annually. In fact, Sunlight’s famous slogan is “Where the Powder Lasts For Days.” And, really, that’s all I need to know. While admittedly, it’s no Copper Mountain or Breckenridge, and it doesn’t claim to be, it has everything you need for a really great ski trip.
Sunlight Mountain Resort is also where families can enjoy amazing terrain, everything from beginner to expert, for about half the cost of the other major resorts nearby, Aspen and Vail. And unlike both those mountains, Sunlight prides itself in having no lift lines. Sunlight, has always delivered in this realm, though I have to be honest, the 2020/21 ski season saw crowds and unprecedented lines. The fact that there are no high speed lifts at Sunlight means crowds pose a particularly unwelcome problem. But then Sunlight is the most aggressive at remaining the least expensive resort in the state.
Regarding Covid 19, Sunlight’s website states the following:
And what we’re asking our guests and employees to do:
- Wear a face covering
- Maintain physical distance from others
- Practice frequent hand washing
- Stay home if feeling ill
2. Monarch Mountain
Located halfway between Salida and Buena Vista, two of our favorite Colorado mountain towns, sits Monarch Mountain. Monarch is one of a handful of thriving smaller mountains that delivers family fun without all the hype attributed to the larger ski areas. There are no comparisons between Breckenridge, arguably the most crowded ski resort in Colorado and Monarch Mountain, easily one of the least crowded ski resorts in Colorado.
Monarch is renowned for having great snow and really fun terrain to ski and snowboard. It averages about 350″ of snow per year and the skiable terrain is 800 acres! Monarch Mountain, like all the resorts listed here, has minimal luxuries, but makes up for what it’s lacking in the lodge on the mountain. With two terrain parks, 1,635 backcountry terrain, 7 lifts and enough snow to average a 5 month season, Monarch may very well be your diamond in the rough. In addition, Monarch has the perfect combination of beginner, intermediate and expert terrain and a loyal clientele who are looking for a rugged natural experience, not an affluent extravaganza.
Regarding Covid 19, Monarch Ski Resort advises that visitors check their dedicated Covid page for any changes to their policies. At time of print, there were no restrictions or regulations to report.
3. Silverton Mountain
When I am not riding at Copper Mountain or Steamboat Springs, I would wish to be riding at Silverton Mountain. It’s raw and rugged and extraordinarily epic. And it is hands down the least crowded ski resort in Colorado.
Silverton is all thrills and absolutely no frills. There is one chairlift that takes you up the mountain where you will find yourself surrounded by amazing runs in every direction. Silverton is not a family resort unless your family consists of expert skiers and riders. This obviously contributes to its status as THE most uncrowded Colorado ski resort!
Silverton doesn’t operate like your normal resort either. At certain times of year it provides guided-only skiing with minimal numbers (8) of skiers and riders, similar to a cat or heli operation. At other times of the year, late in the season, Silverton Mountain allows unguided skiing similar to a normal ski resort. Please note that Avalanche gear is required to ride the lift at all times.
Silverton is home to bowls, chutes, cliffs and wonderfully rugged, natural terrain in every direction. The views are stunning as Silverton is the highest and steepest ski resort in all of North America. Its peak elevation is 13,487 feet!!
Aside from avalanche mitigation work, the mountain is left completely untouched and in its natural state! Check their website for scheduling.
The coolest thing about Silverton Mountain is that it is the only place to heli-ski in Colorado. Heli-skiing is at the top of our bucket list. We are just waiting until more of our kids can join us!
4. Powderhorn Mountain Resort
Powderhorn Ski Resort sits on the edge of Grand Mesa, outside of Grand Junction, CO. Grand Mesa is notably the world’s largest flat-topped mountain in the world. Due to the fact that Grand Junction has become wildly popular with mountain bikers, Powderhorn has positioned itself as a year-round resort with lift-served downhill mountain biking on Grand Mesa all summer long!
In the winter Powderhorn, has gained my respect. In fact, we are purchasing season passes here this winter. Why? Because it’s got great terrain! Powderhorn brings it home with a whopping 1600 skiable acres and the fact that 30% of the mountain is expert terrain. This makes my heart sing. In addition, Powderhorn has 3 terrain parks, 4 chair lifts, and on average, Powderhorn enjoys 250” of beautiful light and dry Colorado powder.
Powderhorn is a family resort, for sure, and definitely one of the least crowded ski resorts in Colorado. And, Powderhorn has one additional amenity that makes it popular even among those who don’t ski or ride … it has a tubing hill!
5. Ski Cooper
Cooper is definitely one of the top contenders in the least crowded ski resorts in Colorado gang. Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, close to Leadville, it offers amazing views of some of the highest peaks the state has to offer.
It is an ideal locale for families looking for a genuine Colorado ski vacation. Irregardless of the time or year, or whether Colorado is having a great snow year or not, Ski Cooper has snow that hasn’t been touched.
Ski Cooper is always uncrowded, which means the lift lines are practically non-existent. There is no pretension or haughtiness, and absolutely no marketing. Ski Cooper has reasonable lift ticket prices and it is a great family resort!
From Ski Cooper’s website:
“Here are the things that Cooper does: Soft all-natural snow, terrain variety for everyone, down-to-earth laid-back atmosphere, family-friendly vibe, smiling faces, great food & drinks, and prices that allow you to bring the whole family. It all boils down to this: Cooper brings you the very essence of the authentic skiing experience.”
There is no arguing with that. With 470 skiable acres and 260″ of snow annually, Ski Cooper is pure authentic down to earth skiing and boarding. Now, if you are looking for more adventure, Ski Cooper also offers snowcat skiing tours on Chicago Ridge Here you will enjoy long, epic runs on 2,600 acres of wide-open powder bowls and glades.
6. Loveland Ski Area
Loveland isn’t exactly small, with 1800 lift served skiable acres, nor is it unknown. In fact, it’s uber popular amongst those who live in Denver. However, the crowds are mitigated by Loveland’s fast lifts and skilled liftees. Plus with an average 422″ of snowfall each year, Loveland always delivers.
True, Loveland is a big draw for the 303’s – those living in the Denver Metro area as it’s a mere 53 miles from the sprawling urban city, it’s not the least crowded ski resort in Colorado, but it does boast the most snowfall of any Summit County or Front Range resort, including Winter Park.
The resort is comprised of two different areas. Loveland Valley serves beginners and beginners alone. With its own lift and gentle terrain, Loveland Valley allows beginners to hone their skills away from the more advanced skiers and boarders.
Loveland Basin is the main area and offers a wide range of terrain. From Loveland’s website:
“Wide-open cruisers, trees, bumps, and open bowls: whatever you like to ski or ride, you are sure to find it at Loveland Basin. And high adventure doesn’t come any higher than The Ridge. Served by Lift 9 which takes skiers and riders up to 12,700′, The Ridge provides intermediate and advanced snow-riders terrain just the way they like it – open, steep and deep. With 480 acres to choose from right off the lift, 100 hikeable acres and free snowcat rides to some of Loveland’s most exhilarating terrain, The Ridge offers an experience like no other!”
Loveland, known as one of the highest Colorado ski resorts, with a summit of 13, 010’, it crosses the Continental Divide and the views are outstanding.
7. Arapahoe Basin
Known as the Legend, Arapahoe Basin, affectionately called A-Basin by locals and visitors alike, is hands down the Colorado ski resort with the longest season. With skiing and snowboarding through late spring and early summer, it’s often the hangout for dedicated riders and skiers into June. And, not only that, A-Basin is often the first Colorado Ski Resort to open for the season, sometimes as early as mid-October, typically winning the #racetoopen battle amongst Colorado ski resorts.
A-Basin has a reputation for some gnarly runs. With only 3% of the resort serving beginners, A-Basin is more of an intermediate to expert destination. Skiers and boarders alike challenge themselves in all the resort has to offer. Open bowls, chutes and super steep moguls give visitors an experience that is hard to beat. If you get a chance to visit, be sure to check out the uber-challenging Palvinci Trail.
The terrain, the people and its status as one of the least crowded ski resorts in Colorado, all make A-Basin a destination. But there is one other little nugget that makes A-Basin a crazy fun place to ride…the day-long tailgating at the beach. I can’t explain it, trust me, though you have to experience it personally.
A-Basin has 1400 skiable acres, averages around 350″ of snow per year, and has three terrain parks that are, notably, some of the best in the state.
Additionally, A-Basin is making a name for itself as a summer destination, as it offers everything from Disc Golf and hiking to scenic chair lift rides to its aerial adventure park. Needless to say, Arapahoe Basin is a year round resort that everyone should make the opportunity to enjoy!
The Epic Pass, I think is worth mentioning here as it is a gateway to Vail Resorts, and while these admittedly are not the least crowded ski resorts in Colorado, it is a great deal if you enjoy winter traveling for skiing and riding. For $323 per pass, you have access to Keystone, Crested Butte, Beaver Creek, Vail, Breckenridge, in Colorado. As well as Steven’s Pass in Washington. Lake Tahoe resorts, Heavenly, North Star and Kirkwood in California are also included as is Whistler in Canada. Vail Resorts in PA, N, VT and NH, and more in MO, WI, MN, IN, OH, MI, even international locations.