As the northern hemisphere’s winter approaches and Colorado’s premier ski resorts ready for a season without their beloved visitors from New Zealand, the state continues to welcome enhancements and openings that can be experienced once we’re able to travel. With another park recently awarded International Dark Sky status, a newly designated state park expected in November and the highly anticipated reopening of Pikes Peak Cog Railway in 2021, planning for the perfect Colorado getaway can begin now.
As we learn to appreciate travel more than ever before, Colorado’s abundance of ski and winter activities can form the perfect snow road trip to take in more powder and adventures that will make the 2021 snowcation worth waiting for – whether travellers prefer to head back to their favourite resorts, explore the lesser known tracks without the crowds, plan the perfect après or choose to chill out and enjoy the scenery.
Jackson Lake State Park, Fort Morgan, has been named Colorado’s newest International Dark Sky Park. This officially makes it Colorado’s first state park to receive the certification, joining three other Dark Sky Parks in the state with this accolade. With its large, glassy surface, the lake in this northeastern Colorado park acts as the perfect mirror for the Milky Way. To be labelled an International Dark Sky Park the area must have an exceptional quality of natural darkness, with efforts to protect and enjoy the dark skies.
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is set to reopen in 2021 after undergoing a $100 million USD renovation for the past few years. America’s highest railway has been one of the top attractions in the Colorado Springs region since it opened in 1891. Thousands of people have taken the tracks to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak, a journey that lasts just over 3 hours.
Powderhorn Mountain resort’s snowmaking project is set to be one of North America’s most energy efficient snowmaking operations. The resort’s commitment to being environmentally conscious will reduce its carbon footprint by utilising gravity-fed water supply, as opposed to other parks that rely on power to pump water from the base to the top. The benefits of the project will be seen in the increased amount of snowfall for trails, and the pipeline creating a Rim View Connector Bike Trail that will connect to existing bike and hiking trails.
Denver will welcome Santa Fe’s acclaimed art and entertainment collective Meow Wolf, in 2021. This group is comprised of 300 employees, working together to create a unique immersive artistic experience through a range of entertainment mediums. Their work includes architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, video production, cross-reality (AR/VR/MR), music, audio engineering, narrative writing, costuming and performance. Prepare to be thoroughly entertained!
Colorado Gets a New State Park. In November 2020, Colorado’s 42nd state park and the second largest will open to the public on a limited basis near Trinidad. The 30-square-mile park includes the 9,633-foot-high Fishers Peak, towering volcanic cliffs, forests, grasslands, wetlands, streams and important wildlife migration corridors.
Top Road Trips To Scope Out Colorado’s Slopes
Colorado is renowned internationally for its range of top ski resorts scattered across the beautiful Rockies, with 28 in operation during peak winter season. Most visitors find travelling along the I-70 a great way to hit a number of the big resorts, with many of these now sharing the same season passes to offer a great value multi-location ski trip. Travellers can make the most of the ski season by checking out these trip suggestions below. For even more inspiration, Colorado.com/colorado-ski-resorts has all the best spots covered.
Ski Road Trip One: The Epic Route
Starting Location – Vail Mountain:
Driving from Denver International Airport, take the Interstate 70. As Colorado’s largest ski resort there is plenty to see and do. With over 5,200 acres of terrain, 7 Back Bowls and well groomed trails suitable for all skill levels it is clear why this location is renowned for it’s world class skiing experience. Visitors can kick back at Four Seasons Resort & Residences or Manor Vail Lodge if they’re seeking a luxury stay. But if it’s a family affair Lion Square Lodge is the perfect place.
Destination Two – Beaver Creek:
Only 20 minutes’ drive from Vail Village is the next stop, Beaver Creek. Here it is all about experiencing the snow season in style. If skiers are interested in pampering sessions, luxury and sophistication, Beaver Creek has their name all over it. Families too can enjoy this with a kid-friendly ice rink and complimentary cookies served at 3pm each day throughout the village. Travellers might recognise this as the location for World Cup Ski Racing, thanks to the well manicured Aspen trees. Looking for a place to stay? Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa is a great place to spend a night by the fire.
Final Stop – Breckenridge:
From Beaver Creek, drive east on I-70 before exiting in Frisco and taking Highway 9 south towards the town. Breckenridge is loved for its beautiful above the treeline views of the terrain. This is one of the most popular ski resorts in the area as it also has a historic mining town to explore for days away from the slopes. Stay at Village at Breckenridge to be just steps away from the Quicksilver lift.
Travellers who are interested in skiing at these three world class locations should be aware that the Vail Resorts Epic Pass allows them access to all three areas when purchasing one season pass.
Off The Slopes Adventure
When in Vail make sure to take some time off the slopes too by exploring the three beautiful base villages. Another great resort attraction is the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster. Here visitors can fly through the mountain side on tracks that mimic the natural flow of the landscape.
Best Après Spot
Visiting Beaver Creek Village is like stepping into a European ski town. As far as the eye can see are excellent views of the rolling slopes, four star restaurants and even crepe stands. If there was a prize for the perfect spot to wrap up an eventful day of skiing Beano’s Cabin would take the gold. The perfect blend of upscale dining and picturesque views to enjoy the sunset. In Breckenridge, check out Breckenridge Distillery, one of the highest distilleries in the USA – serving award winning Bourbon and cocktails at altitude!
Ski Road Trip Two – The South West Snowventure
Starting Location – Telluride:
For more experienced skiers, start your trip off with some steep and deep slopes in Colorado’s lesser explored south west corner. The remote – yet majestic – location comes with smaller crowds and shorter lines at the lifts, making it the perfect place to keep socially distanced! Arguably the most visually appealing ski resort in Colorado and chosen as the snow-covered filming location for Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, it can also be considered one of the most satisfying should visitors have the skill to tackle the tricky mountain terrain. With Peaks Resort and Spa, Bear Creek Lodge and Franz Klammer Lodge to name a few, booking a great place to stay will be easy.
Destination Two – Silverton Mountain:
Just under two hours’ drive from Telluride, those seeking more off-track snowventures should take the CO-62 E/State Hwy 62 then turn onto the US-550 south to Silverton for some backcountry skiing or heli-skiing. Similar to Telluride, a great bonus is the minimal crowds and laidback attitudes. But be prepared to get a serious hike in to reach the good spots. Wondering where to stay? The Avon Hotel: Silverton is a great spot close to the quaint Victorian mining town.
Final Stop – Wolf Creek:
A scenic drive through San Juan National Forest will lead travellers to Wolf Creek. Well known for receiving more average annual snowfall than any other resort in Colorado, about 480 inches per year, self-proclaimed powderhounds love these slopes. Perfect for affordable tree skiing through backcountry. Stay at Pagosa Springs Inn & Suites for a spot with breath-taking views and hot springs to soak in.
Off The Slopes Adventure
Take the Telluride Mountain Village Gondola. This 13 minute trip from the village to the mountain is a scenic way to cut transport time! Not to mention it is free to ride year-round.
Best Après Spot
At Tomboy Tavern, Telluride, head straight to the beer garden for a Flatliner, the unofficial cocktail of Telluride. Sip away watching skiers rocketing down Misty Maiden from the best view in the house.
Ski Road Trip Three – The Ikonic Mix of Local and World-Famous
Starting Location – Arapahoe Basin:
There’s no better way to start a journey through some of Colorado’s ski season gems than with ‘The Legend’. This name is thanks to the area’s extended season (often the first resort to open as the snow hits) and reputation for steep but stunning terrain. At an elevation of 13,050 ft the Arapahoe Basin ski area has the highest skiable terrain in North America. When skiers are ready to call it a day they should book a room at Keystone Hotels or accommodation in a neighbouring town, as there are none in the base area, which is one reason its a favourite with locals.
Destination Two – Copper Mountain:
A short 30-minute drive will have skiers arriving at their second location, Copper Mountain. Travellers should check out the professional grade terrain by zipping down Andy’s Encore, Oh No, and Rosi’s Run – all these slopes being part of the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center. For an affordable stay near lots of great restaurants, Timber Creek Condos is ideal.
Final Stop – Aspen Snowmass:
Finish a winter road trip at Colorado’s best-known Aspen Snowmass, which comprises four skiing areas on four adjacent mountains in the vicinity of the towns of Aspen and Snowmass Village. The four areas collectively form one of the most famous winter resorts in the world. Choose from Aspen Mountain (the oldest of the four areas), Aspen Highlands (just north of Aspen), Buttermilk (a low altitude family-oriented ski area which hosts the X Games), and Snowmass (the largest of the four areas). When finding a place to rest visitors can opt to stay in Aspen or Snowmass Village. If Aspen is what skiers are after, check into Aspen Meadows Resort or Hotel Jerome. But if Snowmass Village sounds more appealing, Snowmass Mountain Chalet, conveniently located near a ski shuttle, is a serious contender.
Loving the sound of a trip exploring this trio of ski resorts? Pick up Alterra’s Ikon Pass and ski them all.
Off The Slopes Adventure
Take a ride through a mile of Alpine forest on the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster in Snowmass, dog-sled through Colorado’s backcountry or hit the boutique and designer shops in Aspen.
Best Après Spot
The atmosphere at A-Basin is lively all day long so when it comes time to order their signature Bacon Bloody Mary and a bite to eat there’s no shortage on options. Why not make your way over to The 6th Alley Bar? They have some new additions to the menu too with crispy brussels sprouts and truffle tots that are too good to pass up.