If you are on a budget and looking for a cheap ski resort in Colorado, then look no further. Colorado offers an amazing assortment of ski and snowboard resorts at an affordable price. Whether you like the small mountain feel with endless runs and big views, or the hustle and bustle of ski village life, you can find the right experience and fit for you, your friends, and your family.
This last winter season was unbelievable! Snow-falls across the state of Colorado were well above average. And it continued long after lifts stopped turning. Dumping feet of snow throughout May with snow-packs lasting well into June and July making for great summer turns.
Everyone who was someone made it out to the slopes. However, some of us knew the right places to be: away from the crowds and with days of well preserved freshies at a great price!
The following is a list of our top 10 picks for Colorado’s cheapest ski and snowboard resorts.
1. Monarch Mountain: $54
Monarch Mountain is a Colorado favorite. They offer cat skiing and riding, are affordable, and easily accessible from Denver. The mountain prides itself on its natural snowfall and great tree skiing.
- Location: Monarch, Colorado (near Salida, Colorado)
- Village/Lodging: Monarch does not have base area village or lodging but has partnered with local lodgers along the mountain pass road and in the town of Salida to provide discounted accommodations.
- Restaurants: Monarch Mountain’s various lodges offer bars, cafeteria, and a coffee shop.
- Size of Ski Area: 800 skiable acres
- Number of Trails: 64
- Longest Run: 1 mile
- Base elevation: 10,790 ft
- Summit Elevation: 11,952 ft
- Annual Snowfall: 350 inches
- Terrain Type: 22% easiest (green circle), 27% more difficult (blue square), 37% most difficult (black diamond), 11% expert (double black diamond)
More info: skimonarch.com
2. Echo Mountain: $55
Echo is convenient for city bumpkins to get turns after work or school. It offers night skiing and riding 5 nights per week.
- Location: Idaho Springs, Colorado (50 minutes from downtown Denver along I-70)
- Village/Lodging: No village or lodging at the base area.
- Restaurants: Echo has a restaurant and bar overlooking the Continental Divide.
- Size of Ski Area: 226 acres, 60 acres of skiable area
- Number of Trails: 9
- Base elevation: 10,050 ft
- Summit Elevation: 10,650 ft
- Annual Snowfall: 275 inches
- Terrain Type: Mostly intermediate terrain
More info: echomntn.com
3. Ski Cooper: $56 (Top Pick For Size/Skiable Acreage)
Ski Cooper prides itself on its authentic skiing and riding. Ski Cooper offers lift access, summit access, and bowl skiing and riding terrain. During the ski season, Ski Cooper offers family fun activities, discount days, and holiday celebrations.
Founded in 1942, Ski Cooper is one of the oldest ski resorts in the United States. It was created to support the 10th Mountain Division, a team of individuals who cut Ski Cooper’s first trails for mountaineer training exercises.
- Location: Leadville, Colorado (north of town along Highway 24)
- Village/Lodging: Ski Cooper has a variety of lodging options in its village as well nearby lodging options in other towns, all a short drive from Leadville.
- Restaurants: Ski Copper’s base area has a variety of food options. They have a main base lodge with an affordable cafeteria, pub fare at Katie O’Rourke’s Irish Pub, and a Mountaintop Yurt café.
- Size of Ski Area: 400 in-bounds acres and 2,600 skiable terrain served by snowcats.
- Number of Trails: 41
- Base elevation: 10,500 ft
- Summit Elevation: 11,700 ft
- Annual Snowfall: 260 inches
- Terrain Type: All terrain types, beginner, intermediate, and expert.
More info: skicooper.com
4. Sunlight Mountain Resort: $65 (Top Pick For Families)
Sunlight mountain is located just outside of the largest mineral hot springs pool in the world, which makes for a great après ski and ride soak. Sunlight Mountain Resort is home to the longest trails in ski country and one of the steepest runs in the state.
- Location: Glenwood Springs, Colorado (12 miles south of town)
- Village/Lodging: Sunlight Mountain’s village has a slope side lodge and condos. There are also plenty of lodging options in and around the historical town of Glenwood Springs.
- Restaurants: Sunlight Mountain’s village has the Outer Bounds Grill offering patio seating as well. Glenwood Springs also offers plenty of dining options.
- Size of Ski Area: 700 skiable acres
- Number of Trails: 67
- Longest Run: 2.5 miles
- Base elevation: 7,880 ft
- Summit Elevation: 9,895 ft
- Annual Snowfall: 250 inches
- Terrain Type: 20% easiest (green circle), 55% more difficult (blue square), 20% most difficult (black diamond), 5% expert (double black diamond)
More info: sunlightmtn.com
5. Powderhorn: $71
Powderhorn is in the heart of the Grand Mesa on the Western Slope of Colorado. It is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world. This scenic resort offers family-friendly fun on a variety of terrain.
- Location: Mesa, Colorado
- Village/Lodging: Powderhorn village has slope side resort lodging, modern tiny home rentals, and in town lodging in Grand Junction, Mesa, or Palisade.
- Restaurants: The base area offers the Powderhorn Pub with pizza, salads, and wraps, and a full bar.
- Size of Ski Area: 1,600 skiable acres
- Number of Trails: 42
- Longest Run: 1.8 miles
- Base elevation: 8,200 ft
- Summit Elevation: 9,850 ft
- Annual Snowfall: 250 inches
- Terrain Type: 20% easiest (green circle), 50% more difficult (blue square), 30% most difficult (black diamond)
More info: powderhorn.com
6. Wolf Creek Ski Area: $72
Wolf Creek stretches across a high alpine ridge in the San Juan and Rio Grande national forests.
- Location: Pagosa Springs, Colorado (Highway 160 on Wolf Creek Pass, 80 miles east of Durango, Colorado)
- Village/Lodging: Wolf Creek does not have a village or slope side lodging but both can be found in Pagosa Springs, South Fork, and Creede. All of which are a short drive from the resort area. Wilderness Journeys is a fee shuttle service that offers a round-trip going to and from Wolf Creek from Pagosa Springs.
- Restaurants: Wolf Creek Lodge has a cafeteria-style restaurant, a bar, and close by at the base area is the Prospect Grill with a sundeck. Additional eateries are located lift side: The Raven’s Grill and Raven’s Roost are at the top of the Raven Chairlift, The Continental sits along the Continental Divide (complete with a coffee shop), and the Alberta Grill, ski while you wait burger service.
- Size of Ski Area:1,600 skiable acres
- Number of Trails: 120
- Longest Run: 2 miles
- Base elevation: 10,300 ft
- Summit Elevation: 11.904 ft
- Annual Snowfall: 430 inches (said to be the most in Colorado)
- Terrain Type: 20% easiest (green circle), 35% more difficult (blue square), 25% most difficult (black diamond), 20% expert (double black diamond)
More info: wolfcreekski.com
7. Silverton Mountain: $84 (Top Pick For Advanced Terrain)
Now, here is an experience! Silverton Mountain is the highest and steepest ski area in North America. Throughout the winter, Silverton Mountain has guided seasons and unguided seasons. During the winter season, Silverton Mountain operates only Thursday-Sunday. Silverton Mountain offers helicopter access skiing and riding runs. The mountain caps the number of unguided skiers to less than 475 people a day and on most days they only have 80 skiers on the mountain.
There is only one lift that drops guests off at 12,300 ft. Either make you way down from the lift back to the base or start hiking to find your perfect turns. There are no trails, only an open mountain canvas waiting to be painted. The mountain is still in its natural state with no cut runs.
During a guided day at Silverton, guests can expect anywhere from 3-6 runs totaling 10,000 vertical feet of skiing and riding. It provides for access that can total 3,000 vertical feet in a single run.
It is mandatory to have backcountry avalanche gear to ski this resort (beacon, shovel, and probe) because of the nature of the mountain. Be sure to know how to use you gear before you go.
- Location: Silverton, Colorado
- Village/Lodging: Silverton Mountain does not have a village or lodging. The town of Silverton has lodging options and is about 6 miles away from Silverton Mountain.
- Restaurants: Silverton Mountain does not have restaurants. However, the town of Silverton does and is about 6 miles away from Silverton Mountain.
- Size of Ski Area: 26,819 skiable acres
- Number of Trails: Infinite
- Base elevation: 10,400 ft
- Summit Elevation: 13,487 ft
- Annual Snowfall: 400+ inches
- Terrain Type: advanced and expert only
More info: silvertonmountain.com
8. Loveland Ski Area: $79
Loveland is a family friendly resort along the Continental Divide. Loveland offers free snowcat skiing and riding. It also offers special events throughout the season from family fun races, live music entertainment, to women specific demo days. Loveland Valley is a separate ski area at Loveland which offers terrain specifically for beginners.
- Location: Dillion, Colorado (53 miles west of Denver along I-70)
- Village/Lodging: Loveland Ski Area does not have a village, nor any lodging, but is not far from the many options within 12-20 miles.
- Restaurants: Loveland Ski Area has multiple places to eat and dine mountain side. It offers a grill, cafes, a deli, a cafeteria, and bar.
- Size of Ski Area: 1,800 skiable acres
- Number of Trails: 94
- Longest Run: 2 miles
- Base elevation: 10,800 ft
- Summit Elevation: 13,010 ft
- Annual Snowfall: 422 inches
- Terrain Type: 13% easiest (green circle), 41% more difficult (blue square), 46% most difficult (black diamond)
More info: skiloveland.com
9. Granby Ranch: $84
Granby Ranch is known for its western charm and small-town friendliness. The resort is two mountains offering different types of terrain. Granby Ranch also offers night skiing and riding. Granby Ranch offers year-round resort activities including live music, yoga, and summer mountain biking.
- Location: Granby, Colorado (90 miles west of Denver)
- Village/Lodging: Granby Ranch has a small village with slope-side condos, townhomes, and cabins.
- Restaurants: The base of the ski area has two eateries. Granby Ranch Grill has dinning indoors and patio seating. The 8250 Bar & Bistro serves breakfast, lunch, and a happy hour while hosting live music.
- Size of Ski Area: 460 skiable acres
- Number of Trails: 38
- Base elevation: 8,202 ft
- Summit Elevation: 9,202 ft
- Annual Snowfall: 120 inches
- Terrain Type: 36% easiest (green circle), 36% more difficult (blue square), 4% most difficult (black diamond), 24% expert (double black diamond)
More info: granbyranch.com
10. Arapahoe Basin Ski Area (A-Basin): $85
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area has the longest Colorado winter season and one of the longest in North America. The season runs from mid-October until early June, and when like this past year, even July. Nestled in the mountains along the Continental Divide, it bears breath taking views of its surrounding high peaks. Throughout the year, Arapahoe Basin hosts a variety of events from concerts, to yoga classes, to ski events.
- Location: Dillon, Colorado (68 miles west of Denver)
- Village/Lodging: Arapahoe Basin village has your mom and pop feel to it. The base area has a lodge. It is well known for its laid-back local vibe and sports. It does not have lodging, but there are options nearby in Summit County. The resort has a complimentary Summit Stage bus available from lodging locations to and from the base area. The base area offers free, public access wireless internet at select lodges.
- Restaurants: Arapahoe Basin has an assortment of places to grab breakfast, lunch, or an après ski beverage. The base area has several typical ski restaurants eateries, coffee bars, mid-mountain and summit eatery options, as well as a resident taco truck.
- Size of Ski Area: 1,428 acres of skiable terrain,
- Number of Trails: 145
- Longest Run: 1.5 miles
- Base elevation: 10,780 ft
- Summit Elevation: 13,050 ft
- Annual Snowfall: 350 inches
- Terrain Type: 7% easiest (green circle), 20% more difficult (blue square), 49% most difficult (black diamond), 24% expert (double black diamond)
More info: arapahoebasin.com
Colorado Gem Pass Helps You Save Even More
The Colorado Gem Pass is a discount pass to select Colorado mountain resorts. These gems are the resorts considered Colorado’s best hidden ski treasures. They are free of crowds, free of lift lines, free of hassles, and offer a down to earth experience at affordable prices.
The listed resorts offer a more at home locals feel and their employees genuine about their guests enjoying their skiing and riding experience, whether a day trip or a week vacation.
The Colorado Gem Pass has evolved over the past several years. It has more participating resorts, the cost of the pass has only increased in small increments, in the benefits and discounts offered by the pass have become sweeter. The Colorado Gem Pass truly is well worth its value.
With this pass, people can see different parts of the state they may otherwise never venture to if they have a season pass to only one mountain resort.
This is a great excuse to experience different western communities, see grand sites off different parts of the Continental Divide, and make priceless memories road tripping and participating in Colorado’s most well-known attribute – authentic western powder shredding.
The Colorado Gem Pass pays for itself, even after just once use. It offers a great discount for a day pass at a single one-time cost for the card. The card can be used multiple times during the season at multiple resorts.
The commitment is low, and the savings are high. Cater your winter adventures to the affordable ski area of your choice to get the best turns throughout the season without stressing about the costs. Skiing and riding powder is priceless.
How The Pass Works
The Colorado Gem Pass provides a discounted lift ticket at each of the eleven participating resorts. The discounts are good for two uses at each of the participating Gems resorts. The Colorado Gem Pass is a laminated card that you need to have with you at participating resorts when you buy your day lift tickets for the discounts to be applied. There are three ways to use the Colorado Gem Pass:
- The first allows a Gem Pass cardholder (the purchaser) to get 2-for-1 (buy-one-get-one free) priced adult day lift ticket at each resort, both day tickets need to be used that same day.
For example, if you and your friend want to ski Monarch Mountain, using your Colorado Gem Pass, you both will receive an adult day pass for the single price of $54, split two ways, that ends up being $27 each for two adult day lift tickets at Monarch Mountain.
- The second way to use the Colorado Gem Pass discount card allows a cardholder to get 30% off of a single adult day lift ticket.
For example, if you want to spend a weekend skiing at Arapahoe Basin, you will receive 30% off of the $85 adult day pass. That ends up being $59.50 for each weekend day you spend skiing or riding at Arapahoe Basin (remember, the Colorado Gem Pass can only be used twice at each participating resort though).
So, 30% off a day pass is saving you $25.50, which is more than what the Colorado Gem Pass itself costs you. Therefore, within one use, you will have saved $.50, and after the second use you will have saved $25.50 and have fully paid back the cost of the Colorado Gem Pass.
- The third way to use the Colorado Gem Pass is to use one of each method at each resort.
For example, on day one of your weekend at Sunlight Mountain with your friend you use your 2-for-1 Colorado Gem Pass option. On day two, your friend decides to spend the day soaking at the Glenwood Springs Hot Spring Resort, but you decide to shred the slopes. The Colorado Gem Pass allows you to use the 30% discount on your single adult day lift ticket. Win!
Skiers and riders do not have to commit to one mountain. Explore the different slopes Colorado has to offer!
- Arapahoe Basin
- Echo Mountain
- Eldora Mountain Resort
- Granby Ranch
- Kendall Mountain Ski Area
- Loveland Ski Area
- Monarch Mountain
- Sunlight Mountain Resort
An Option For All Skiing and Snowboarding Abilities
All skill levels have the ability to explore a variety of different resorts at an affordable price and have the option to do it with a friend! Families can benefit by pairing the Colorado Gem Pass discounted adult day lift ticket with a companion product, like the 5th and 6th Grade Passport and join their kids on the slopes.
The flexibility also allows skiers and riders to storm chase and shred the freshest powder around the state all season.
How to Use the Gem Pass
Present the Colorado Gem Pass along with a matching photo identification at the lift ticket window of one of the participating eleven resorts to receive the discount on their full-day adult lift ticket. The cardholder must be present at the time of purchase.
How to Purchase the Gem Card
Colorado Gem Passes go on sale during August each year and the sale closes typically in February. Go to the Colorado Gem Pass website and follow prompts for purchasing the card. There are a limited number of cards sold during the season, so buy one early if you are interested.
During the 2018/2019 season, Colorado Gem Pass cards were $25. Price for the 2019/2020 season have not been released yet.
Gem Card Restrictions and Blackout Dates
The Colorado Gem Pass has blackout dates during the December winter holiday season (December 21, 2019-January 1, 2020) and the card expires after the end of the season (April 19, 2020). The Colorado Gem Pass can only be used by one cardholder per a day. Meaning you cannot use both of your two uses in one day, they must be used on separate days.
The Colorado Gem Pass benefit applies only to the day to which it is bought. There is no cash value for the card, it is not transferable, and all rates and dates are subject to change. The discount is not valid with any other discount tickets, pass products, offers or promotions. Lost, stolen, or cards eaten by dogs will not be reissued.
Related content: Dreaming Of Moving To A Colorado Ski Town? Here’s What I Discovered
Nadine enjoys writing about her love for wild places. As an environmental attorney and adventure writer, she is passionate about combining her legal and political expertise with her personal experiences to protect our constantly changing environment. Find her in the backcountry with her life partner and their dog running, mountain biking, skiing, and climbing.
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