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6 Colorado ski gems

Skiing in Colorado gets attention from massive resort complexes like Aspen and Vail. However, skiing in Colorado started with small ski operations scattered around the state. And while they are overshadowed many times by the big expanses, they have exciting and historical experiences that should be in your ski-trip mix.

Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek gets legendary snowfall if you want powder and are willing to drive a bit to the southwest. For most storms, the total snowfall can be measured in feet. The 1600 acres of terrain are serviced by ten lifts, so there are plenty of options on your ride up. The Lynx and Pup learning operations separate adult and child-specific teaching methods if you are just starting alpine skiing. The scenery is king with a gourmet expresso bar at the top of the Continental divide. Wolf Creek includes a complimentary Nordic loop in the Alberta Lake area, just in case you didn’t expend enough calories shredding the fresh fluff.

Frisco Nordic Center

This complex features Nordic skiing trails for beginners to the racer. The trails start quickly in a meadow with picking your level of difficulty assured fascinating scenery and twists and turns you ski into the surrounding terrain. The center is part of the Frisco Adventure Park. Everyone can find an activity even if they don’t Nordic ski. Snowshoeing and a beginner alpine ski/ride area let you get your sliding legs without heading to an enormous ski area. The tubing hill is thrill-a-second fun. Something for everyone, with each activity, stellar in its own right.


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Loveland Ski Area

Just at the entrance of the Eisenhower Tunnel, you don’t get much of a view of the high alpine skiing at Loveland Ski Area as you pass into the tunnel. Over 46% of the 1800-plus skiable acres are above the tree line, with much of that right up the Continental Divide. The ski area comprises the Valley, with beginner/intermediate options. The Basin offers everything from green slopes to double black diamonds. Loveland has two snow cat options to get you where the lifts don’t service the terrain. So, you can get that powder/back country experience without an airlift. At less than an hour’s drive from Denver, this is also a ski experience you can include if in the area for other purposes.

Tennessee Pass Nordic Center

Leadville has been a mining town that has a rich ski history, including being the training area for the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army in WWII. At the base of that alpine ski area is the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center. The skiing is good, yet the real draw is you can stay in the Yurts overnight for a high-altitude rejuvenation experience, complete with room service. Another must-chomp is dinner at the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse. In the evening, you ski or snowshoe one mile to the cookhouse, then partake in a four-course gourmet dinner complete with wine. How about elk, bison, and wild boar dishes at 11,000 feet?

Ski Sunlight

Just outside Glenwood Springs on the western slope, Ski Sunlight has been a comfortable alpine skiing experience for decades. While the town draws people for the famous hot springs, the skiing is excellent in this family-friendly area. Park for free and walk to the base area and the lifts. No shuttle is required. The 72 trails all return to the base area and lodge, so misplacing a family member at the end of the day is tricky. They offer packages combining skiing with a stay & soaking in the hot springs.

Breckenridge Nordic Center

Tucked in the trees bordering the Breckenridge ski area, this Nordic center is a skinny-ski mecca virtually up the hill from the main town. All trails are dual purpose with both classic and skate sections. Proximity does not mean bustle, as the Nordic center ski and snowshoe trails go around and through the Cucumber Gulch wilderness area. One of the best Nordic ski shops, courses, and vistas. Lunch includes hearty food and drinks, and you get alpine entertainment with an accordion at lunch. The Dayton family, the founders, are legendary Nordic competitors and ski pioneers.

Neil Wolkodoff

Neil Wolkodoff is a golf and travel writer from Denver, Colorado. He covers golf, dining, activities and accommodations from the luxury and unique perspective. He has even been golfing with goats.

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  1. We’ve been skiing to Aspen a couple of times – it could be time to give some of Colorado’s other ski spots a try.

    1. Leo, the one way to do this is to take a break from the big resorts for day. In the case of Aspen, Ski Sunlight is a short trip.

    1. Skiing is definitely more expensive post-Covid. Yes, these smaller areas are less expensive and an option if that is a prime consideration.

  2. A lot of the appeal of skiing is going round trying out different places. Going to new places is great as you meet new people and get to hear different skiing stories at the bars.

    1. Deb, especially true with the smaller areas that are family owned and operated. Local color always adds to the experience!

    2. Glad that other people feel that way too. I thought it was just me being mean when I looked at the costs.

  3. Frisco Nordic Center could work for us. I anticipate that our teenage boys will have different abilities and interests as ever. Having a variety of challenges on hand could be just what they’ll need.

    1. Steve, the FNC is quite broad it its’ activities and offerings, something for everyone. It is a place that will fit interests from 8 to 80!

  4. A niggling ankle injury kept me off the slopes for the start of 2023.

    There are some great ideas here for a comeback towards the end of the year. You’re inspiring me to do my physio.

    1. Jen, one idea is to alternate forms of skiing on a holiday. Say one or two days of alpine, then a day of Nordic. The boots fit differently as well as the different motion, so it gets a bit of rest plus exercise. Just a thought and those smaller areas let you come and go, and mix it up as you like it.

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