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Colorado is blessed with some of the best ski areas in the world and if you plan to live there, it’s a rite of passage to strap on a pair of skis or a snowboard and find some powder in those Rockies.  While most people head up I-70 toward Summit County where Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, and Vail can all be found in 75-100 minutes of driving, there are 28 ski areas in the state and we’re betting a few of those are unknown to you but shouldn’t be.  This is a list of Colorado’s best ski areas you haven’t been to.

 

Wolf Creek

Consistently boasting the highest snowfall year after year in Colorado is Wolf Creek.  It’s a small resort with a measly five chairlifts you can easily just point to the other side of the mountain to determine your next run.  The bad news is that there really isn’t anywhere to stay at the resort and you’ll surely need to make this an overnight trip.  The good news, however, is that the nearest town is Pagosa Springs (30 minutes) which is a charming town centered around beautiful hot springs and affordable accommodations.  In fact, Airbnb has two units that share residence with two town staples: The Pagosa Baking Co. (comes with breakfast); and a studio above Riff-Raff Brewery (great happy hour just a few stairs away).

 

Purgatory (Now Durango Mountain Resort)

Known to the locals as simply “Purg” is the, under new ownership, Durango Mountain Resort.  Similar to its neighbors in Telluride (to the West) and Wolf Creek (to the East) Purg enjoys regularly high average snowfall per year.  The layout of the mountain is unique to the point that you must make a real commitment to get to other sides as distinct ridges separate each side of the mountain and if you’re rocking a snowboard you may enjoy the fresh powder under that wide board more than two skis can, but be ready to unstrap and hike a few far-too-long cat trails that will surely slow you down.  Local recommendation: after carving up the mountain, carve yourself some time to visit a local favorite in the Olde Schoolhouse Café & Saloon for a calzone bigger than your face.

 

Ski Granby Ranch

Located just North of Winter Park Resort is what was formerly SolVista Basin, and formerly Silver Creek Ski Resort but is now called Ski Granby Ranch.  There are a few reasons why this is a top contender on this list for you to check out.  First, it’s still under two hours from Denver so the drive is comparatively an easy commitment.  Second, there are very few resorts with ski in/ski out condos that average under $100/nt but Ski Granby Ranch is one that does which allows you to feel like a baller without breaking the bank.  Finally, if you are going up in a group or you’re bringing kids it’s an ideal mountain to let people do their own thing and ski the runs that are within their skillset as the mountain offers varied skill level runs (beginner to advanced options) yet it’s so small that you will undoubtedly see one another from the lift above or at the bottom where every run filters.

 

Silverton Mountain

Use caution when planning a trip to this unique mountain as it advertises “100% Expert Runs.”  The resort is limited to one two-person lift, with open terrain accessible to riders via hiking and helicopter (how often are you given only two options: we can walk, or we can take a helicopter?).  On top of that, the mountain is restricted to 475 or fewer guests per day which means that while you’ll have slow lift rides, the lift lines will be absent.  The town of Silverton is charming but closes early so be sure to eat early, pack food, or plan on a short trip to nearby towns for activity.

 

Monarch

OK, you’ve probably heard of Monarch because it’s a local favorite to many surrounding cities South of Denver, but chances are you haven’t been.  Located only 20 miles West of the adorable Salida, CO and nearly at the top of a mountain pass is where the base of Monarch sits.  Along the treacherous drive are tunnels built not to go through the mountain, but as an effort to beg the mountain to go over the road as there are so many avalanches and rockslides the locals decided to stop fighting it and, instead, just adjust to it, by building, essentially, a slide for the snow to effortlessly bypass the road.  This makes it far easier to attach pieces of fiber glass to your feet and ride down those same avalanche-prone slopes: sounds responsible.

 

Ski Cooper

If you’ve ever skied in Colorado you’ve likely seen a sign for Ski Cooper.  Additionally, you likely assumed it was a typo for the area Copper Mountain.  Ski Cooper is located just outside of Leadville which, consequently, is the same exit you take from I-70 to go to Copper Mountain.  While it’s still only about a 2hr drive from Denver you may want to make a weekend of your visit because Leadville is such a cool town.  There’s Turquoise Lake nearby (though in the winter it looks more white than turquoise because, you know, winter), and if you time your trip right then you can be there for the famous tradition of Ski Joring which is when a horse drags a skier waterski style down Main St.  It’s a 70-year tradition occurring the first weekend of March every year so book it now.  As for Ski Cooper, it’s super affordable at around $50/day and has some fascinating history as it served as the training site for the 10th Mountain Division during World War II.

 

Have you been to any of these ski areas?  Let us know what your experience was like.