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5 Best Ski Resorts in Colorado For Beginners

Best Ski Resort in Colorado for beginners

A day skiing is no inexpensive experience so it is important to get the right fit, especially as a new skier. Here are our recommendations for the best ski resorts in Colorado for beginners, including what makes for a good beginning resort and some tips for new skiers.

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Matthew and I both learned to ski in Colorado. Even as Idaho has become our homebase, we’ve returned with our son, O, to many of the Colorado resorts where we grew up skiing.  

While we mostly focus on how to ski on a budget, we recognize that Colorado, while not necessarily budget, is the first destination many families think of when they think of skiing.

So we are sharing insights from our decades of skiing together in Colorado to help your family find their best skiing fit. 

Getting to Colorado Ski Resorts

All of the ski resorts on this list are on Colorado’s front range. Which means the best airport to access all of these resorts, with the exception of Steamboat, is Denver International Airport (DIA – airport code DEN).

While most families will rent a car at DIA, you really, really don’t have to. There is extensive public transit to access the the ski resorts on this list.

Many of the public transit options to the mountain pick up at Denver’s iconic and beautifully restored, Union Station, located in the heart of downtown. 

And getting to Union Station from DIA is a breeze. One of our favorite things about flying in and out of Denver is the train that takes you directly from the airport to Downtown Denver.

The A line commuter train is 23 miles of track from DIA to Denver’s downtown Union Station. The trip takes 37 minutes and costs under $11 per person.

Denver's Union Station at Christmas time
Union Station at the holidays

Okay, so many of you will rent a car. But if you don’t-as a part of each resort discussion, we will give details on how to use public transit to access the mountain. 

What Makes for a Good Beginning Ski Resort

Colorado has some of the most beautiful and iconic ski resorts. But in those early days of learning to ski, you may not even make it up to the top of the “big hill” to see those epic views. 

What a beginning skier needs from their ski resort is pretty different from skiers who feel confident with most of the mountain. In considering our list of what makes for a good beginning ski resort, we have considered the following: 

High Percentage of Green Runs

A ski resort is not a good fit if you can’t access most of the terrain.

While first day skiers may not make it off the learner hill (which we called the bunny hill when we were little), once you do, you want to be sure that there are some nice, easy runs to give you early confidence.

The Black, Blue, Green Color System for Rating Difficulties

Ski runs are given a rating by the resort. Green is the easiest and double black is the most challenging. However, given that it is up to the resort to apply the ranking system, you will notice that a green at one ski area isn’t necessarily a green everywhere. 

Our favorite green runs for beginners are really wide. The wider the run the more time to turn, which can be a challenge when learning. 

Great Lessons

We can not emphasize this enough. Take the lesson.

Even though Matthew and I have been skiing for decades, when O was little we put him in lessons. 

Lessons not only start you with the right instruction, some resorts offer you a package deal where a discounted lift ticket and sometimes rental equipment is included with your ski lessons. 

Other Winter Related Activities

Those that are new to skiing are not going to be able to ski from first to last chair every day. Heck, we have been skiing together as a family for over 13 years. And we almost never make it from first to last chair. 

So any good ski resort for beginners is going to have other ski related activities.

Taking a break from the hard work of learning to ski to tube or ice skate or snowshoe will give any first time ski trip the right balance of work to fun. 

Best Time to Ski In Colorado

In general, February is the best time to ski in Colorado. The base (the amount of snow that has accumulated) is high and the chance to get a nice bluebird day with the sun shining is more likely. 

While the Christmas holiday is when most people have both the time and the idea to ski (I mean who doesn’t love a white Christmas) it is also the most expensive time to ski. 

The holidays are also the most packed. As season pass holders in Idaho, we actually often skip skiing during the holidays because the lodges and lift lines are super busy. Just some food for thought.

Best Ski Resorts in Colorado for Beginners

Steamboat: Best Resorts for Lessons

Steamboat-best Colorado resort for beginners

Steamboat’s world class ski school makes it the perfect place to learn to ski. With one of the highest professional instructor return rates, there really is no better ski school in all of Colorado.

Faith learned to ski here over 40 years ago. And still has such fond memories of the ski program.

However, even more than great lessons, Steamboat has a full snow school program that even involves a day program for your littlest ones.

Beginning at age 3, your kiddo can enjoy gondola rides, hot chocolate, and play time in the snow. They even get your little one an afternoon nap.

In addition to their great school, Steamboat has so many other snow activities, including a tubing hill, snowy horseback rides, snowshoeing, and snowmobile tours. 

At the base of the mountain is Howelsen Ice Complex where there is also an Olympic-sized skating rink. On the rink you can do some traditional ice skating or rent a bumper car for a 20-minute bump fest full of laughs.

At Steamboat, 15% of the runs are designated green. While not as high a percentage as some of the other resorts, the sheer size of Steamboat will give any new skier plenty to explore.

Getting to Steamboat Springs Ski Resort

Steamboat Springs is 3 hours from DIA. There are daily flights from DIA to Steamboat’s local airport, Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Yampa Valley Regional Airport also has flights from 15 US cities.

You can also use public transit to reach Steamboat Springs. Through the Colorado Department of Transportation, skiers can take Snowstang. The service leaves from Denver’s Union Station on Saturday mornings from early December-late March. 

Snowstang can also take you to two other resorts on our list: Loveland and Copper Mountain. 

Because of the distance to Steamboat, the return trip on Snowstang from Steamboat Springs to Denver is Sunday afternoon. In other words, there is no way to day trip to Steamboat, which makes sense given the distance.

On Sundays, the Snowstang bus departs at 3:30 p.m. and returns you to Denver’s Union Station at 8 p.m. However, those who are planning a week-long trip can certainly take it to Steamboat on Saturday and then return the following Sunday, eight days later.

Steamboat Springs Tickets for 2022-2023

While the price of Steamboat lift tickets changes slightly based on the popularity of the week, a typical weekend lift ticket for adults is around $175. Children’s tickets are $133. 

One idea to lower the cost of your daily lift is to buy a late arrival ticket.

Skiing half day can be a great strategy, especially after a full day of lessons the day before. Because as we said, it is rare for a beginner skier to be able to ski all day. 

Late arrival tickets, which save you 20% of the overall cost, are purchased the day of use. These tickets can only be purchased onsite at the ticket window and can be used from 12:15-4 p.m. 

Winter Park: Best Family Resort with Easy Train Access

view of winter park resort from downtown

With over 24% of its mountain dedicated to green runs, we think Winter Park has enough variety to keep any new skier happy. 

Winter Park is divided into 7 zones or areas. And while there are beginning runs scattered all over the mountain, the best spot for beginning skiers at Winter Park is Discovery Park.

At Discovery Park, you will find long green runs with little elevation. Perfect for gaining confidence. 

Winter Park also has a ton of things to do that are not skiing including a tube hill, snowshoe and snow cat tours, and ice skating. 

We also love their unique way to package lessons. At Winter Park, you buy a pack of lessons — either a kid pack or an adult pack — that you can split between members of your family.

Got a big family? You can split the 5 amongst your 5 kids. Or your 2 kids can split a 5 pack. Or a single can have them all. We love the flexibility.

Getting to Winter Park Ski Resort

But our favorite thing about Winter Park is the ski train. The Winter Park Express is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Through a partnership between Amtrak and Winter Park, you can literally have a seamless travel experience from DIA to the doorstep of the resort. 

Departures on the Winter Park Express on are available on weekends, typically from January through April. You can make your day trip to the resort using the train. Or you can make it a weekend or week-long trip, heading up on Friday and back to Denver on Sunday. 

Winter Park Tickets for the 2022-2023

But let me clear, we are not picking this resort because it is on a budget. Single day tickets at Winter Park during  the peak weeks in December around Christmas can be upwards of $200 a day. The best prices are in early November before the base is at its peak. 

You can also use flex tickets to save some money. Flex tickets, which you buy in advance, can save you a significant amount on the mountain.

But the sale for flex tickets is only through early-November. A package of 4 Flex tickets is $400 for adults and $279 for children. But be mindful of black out dates. 

Eldora: Closest Ski Resort To Denver

At just 48 miles from Denver, Eldora is the closest ski resort to Denver. 

But even more important than the miles, Eldora is the only ski resort on this list that is not along the Interstate-70 corridor. 

If you’ve ever skied the front range, you know that traffic up the I-70 corridor can be a nightmare. It can literally stop and go on any given ski weekend. Since Eldora is not on this corridor it has a distinct advantage on travel time to the ski area from Denver.

While Eldora is much smaller than our other recommended resorts, it has dedicated 17% of its runs to those green, beginner slopes. 

Eldora does have a Nordic area for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. But you will not find the other snow activities like at Winter Park or Steamboat. 

However, with the short drive, your time at Eldora is less about experiencing an “all-inclusive” mountain resort, and more about trying out some great skiing at a great locals ski area. 

Getting to Eldora

Eldora is the only resort serviced by RTD, Colorado’s Public Transit system. However, unlike the rest of the resorts, the public transit leaves from Downtown Boulder and not Union Station in Denver. And the shuttle literally drops you just yards from the Alpenglow chair.

And here is the best part, as a part of Boulder’s sustainability efforts, the weekend shuttle from Boulder to Eldora is absolutely free. Now that is something we can get behind! 

Single Car Tax at Eldora

As a part of the same sustainability efforts, single-passenger vehicles will have to pay a $10 tax during weekends and peak holiday times. Parking is free for any vehicle with two or more occupants.

Eldora Park Tickets for 2022-2023

Lift tickets at Eldora range from $139 for adults on the weekdays to $174 on the weekends. Junior tickets for skiers under 16 range from $109-$134.

Loveland Ski Area: Best Budget Ski Resort

Skiing on a budget almost feels like a oxymoron. And yet, One of the best things about Loveland is its budget lift tickets. At just under $100 and wait for it….$37 for kids ages 5-14, Loveland is a great place to learn to ski without breaking the bank.

In addition to its nice ticket price, we really love Loveland’s beginning area. Loveland Valley is a separate area just for beginning skiers. With gentle, wide slopes it is perfect for families just starting out. 

And once you’ve mastered the beginner hill, the Fire Bowl off Ptarmigan Lift offers the wide, long greens that are perfect for confidence building. That said, one of the few downsides of Loveland is that only 6% of their mountain is designated green.

While the resort says you can “walk up” for lessons, group lessons often sell out, so book in advance. Half-day lessons include your lift ticket, equipment rental, and the lesson. Half day lessons are $169.

However, parent lesson pro-tip: Most resorts allow you to drop off your kiddos an hour or more before the official lesson start time. So, for example, morning lessons start at 10 a.m., but morning drop off starts at 8:15.  And the lesson ends at 12:30. Giving parents over 4 hours to ski.

We loved the early drop off at our local ski resort, Bogus Basin, when O was little. The four hour window was the perfect time for us to get in some good skiing while he was in the trusted hands of trained ski instructors. 

Getting to Loveland Ski Area

Like Steamboat, skiers can use Snowstang for round trip public transit to get to Loveland on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Tickets must be purchased in advance and cost around $25.00 for adults (ages 12+). Kids up to 11 years of age are free. 

The bus leaves Union Station around 6:30 a.m. and arrives at the resort at 8:30. The return trip leaves the mountain at 4 p.m. and gets you back into Downtown Denver by 6 pm.

Loveland Ski Area Tickets for the 2022-2023 Year

Loveland prices their tickets for early, mid, and late season. Skiing in the early season, which is open until mid-Decemer, is the best deal. Tickets for the 2022-2023 early season are only $99 for adults and here is the big deal, just $37 for junior tickets.

Copper Mountain: Best On and Off-Slope Activities

Copper Mountain-view of the 3 skiable areas

Copper Mountain is divided into 3 sections based on ability levels. Which is great for beginner skiers who are leary of accidently ending up on a black. The beginning section with the magic carpet is between East and Center Village. 

And speaking of beginners. If your whole family is learning to ski (and you have a fairly big family to make the cost worth it), Copper offers family lessons where up to 6 members of your family can learn together. 

Depending on the time of year, family lessons range in price from $799-$999. Family lessons do not include your rentals or lift tickets.

But once skiers feel more comfortable, the resort offers 25% of its terrain as green slopes. Once you get the hang of a chairlift, there are tons of greens just off the Kokomo lift.

And while we think the beginning skiing is great, one of the things that sets Copper Mountain apart is its off-slope activities.

In addition to a tubing hill, ice skating, and free ice slide, Copper Mountain has a 19,500 square-foot indoor facility called Woodward Copper Barn.

Inside Woodward Barn  there are skateparks, foam pit jumps, Olympic-size trampolines, and indoor ski and snowboard training. Ages 7+ are welcome, but you must book 48 hours in advance. 

Getting to Copper Mountain

Copper Mountain is just 75 miles from Denver on that all too traveled I-70. 

If you don’t want to rent a car, Copper offers Summit Express, a daily shuttle to and from Denver International Airport. Once you reach the mountain, the resort also has frequent shuttles to move you between the three areas of the mountain.

Like Steamboat and Loveland, you can also take the Snowstang bus

Copper Mountain Tickets for the 2022-2023 year

Prices for Copper Mountain daily lift tickets are based on demand. For example, for an adult lift ticket during a random Thursday in January, you will only pay $99. But for an adult  lift ticket during the Christmas holiday season, you will pay up to $179/day. 

Child’s lift tickets (ages 5-12) range from $99-$119. 

Colorado is home to iconic skiing. And with so many resorts in such close proximity to an international airport, it is a great place to begin the sport. Just remember to start slow, enjoy the beauty, and schedule time for extra hot chocolate and rest breaks. And your first time skiing in Colorado, is sure to not be your last. 

FAQs: Best Ski Resorts in Colorado

How many ski resorts are there in Colorado?

Colorado has a whopping 32 ski resorts. While all of our recommendations for ski resorts for beginners are on the front range. There are definitely notable ski resorts on the Western Slope, including Crested Butte, Telluride and Purgatory in Durango, Colorado

What ski resorts have night skiing in Colorado?

Six of Colorado’s ski resorts have night skiing: Keystone, Steamboat, Howelsen (which is the local hill at Steamboat, Ski Hesperes in Durango, Granby Ranch and Echo.

Which ski resort in Colorado gets the most snow?

Wolf Creek which is north of Pagosa Springs on the Western slope of Colorado gets the most report snow.

Just ask Faith. She once skied into a snowdrift and it took 2 people to get her out. However, if you are sticking to front range resorts from this list, Steamboat Springs gets the second largest amount of snowfall. One more reason why it is first on our list.

Can you ski in Colorado as a beginner?

Yes. Absolutely. Only 2 of the 32 Colorado resorts (Aspen Mountain and Silverton) do not offer beginner terrain.
Colorado is a great state to learn to ski.

Are Colorado ski resorts closing?

A typically ski season in Colorado begins in November and runs until April. However, a particularly good season of snow may keep resorts open until May. And a crazy good year until June.

Best Ski Resort in Colorado for beginners

Looking for other places to ski in the West? We have ideas for budget skiing in Idaho, Montana, as well as some epic skiing near Bend, Oregon.

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