Affordable Colorado Ski & Snowboard Vacation Planning
Three hundred days of sunshine and 300 inches of snow a year, coupled with more skiing area than Utah, Vermont and New York combined, it's understandable why Colorado is the top choice for more than 12 million winter vacationers. Colorado accounts for more than 20 percent of the ski and snowboard business in the US, which means one out of every five winter travelers select Colorado as their winter destination to ski and ride.
Even in the face of today's lackluster economy and the rising costs of gas and fuel, Colorado remains a very attainable and affordable winter getaway destination. Below are some suggestions for an easy, economic, effortless, and exciting ski vacation this winter.
Knowing When To Go Can Save Some Dough
Colorado has the longest ski season in North America with resorts like Loveland and Arapahoe Basin known for opening as early as October. The bases of these resorts are more than 10,000 feet above sea level making them prime targets for early season, high altitude flurries.
Additionally, today's modern snow making machines combine with cold Colorado night temperatures to create the perfect conditions for powerful snow making capabilities. Early season in Colorado typically extends into the first part of December. During this time, resorts offer extremely affordable lift ticket prices, hotel prices and fewer crowds.
Stepping off the plane in Colorado in late December is much like stepping into a snow globe with white covered peaks and ski towns oozing holiday charm. Colorado's resorts celebrate the holidays with many events and activities like Copper Mountain's torchlight parade, Vail's Holidaze celebration, Steamboat's Cowboy Downhill, and it's not uncommon to catch St. Nick himself making some turns down one of Colorado's pristine snow covered slopes.
After the holidays, many bargains can be found throughout Colorado Ski Country, which is why January is considered value season in Colorado. Prices for lift tickets come down and many lodging properties offer reduced rates during this mid-winter month. Holiday crowds dissipate, but Colorado's signature snow still lays thick over the Rockies. January is also Colorado's Learn to Ski and Snowboard month, which means resorts across the state have great lift, rental and lesson packages for beginners. January is a great time to take advantage of all that Colorado Ski Country has to offer.
With February comes President's Day and Valentine's Day weekends and with March comes the big snow. There is no better place to be on Valentine's Day than Loveland Ski Area where couples are joined in matrimony and married couples renew their vows in a mass wedding at The Ptarmigan Roost Cabin, elevation 12,440 feet.
March is typically Colorado's snowiest month. Spring breakers from across the nation flock to Colorado to partake in fraternal festivities like Winter Park's King of the Grommets, Crested Butte's Skitown Breakdown, and Aspen/Snowmass' Kick Aspen Big Air Contest. Also in the spring, Copper Mountain hosts Colorado's largest Easter Egg hunt and skiers and riders have a chance to take a run with the Easter Bunny.
April is the time of year when a slew of end of season deals can be had on everything from lift tickets and lodging to lessons and lunch. Resorts have very few lift lines, great spring snow conditions and even more events like Copper Mountain's Sunsation, Telluride's Closing Day Pond Skim, Monarch Mountain's annual Kayaks on Snow Boatercross, and Silverton's Sisters in the Steeps.
Colorado's ski season can be enjoyed well into June. Arapahoe Basin rounds out the season with their Shakin' at the Basin concert series, Festival of the Brewpubs and Memorial Weekend Beach Party.
Skiers Catch Big Air with Denver's International Airport
With seamless air service, an airport designed for skiers, and eight easily connectable regional airports, getting to Colorado resorts has never been easier; it's leaving that's difficult.
Denver International Airport (DIA) is the largest airport in the state and is the primary portal for most in-bound Colorado skiers and snowboarders. Home to 30 airlines, DIA offers nonstop service to more than 150 destinations worldwide. Flight time to Denver is roughly four hours from every major city within the contiguous United States, Mexico and most Canadian cities including Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
DIA supports low-cost air carriers, including Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Frontier has grown to be the second largest carrier out of DIA, with an average of 350 daily system-wide departures and arrivals, providing low-fare air service to 24 cities all over the US plus international destinations in Mexico, Canada and Costa Rica.
Southwest Airlines also flies out of DIA and has direct non-stop service to more than 30 cities in the US.
Upon arrival, guests land at an airport designed with traveling skiers and riders in mind. Thanks to its unique runway design and $30 million snow removal system, DIA is the most efficient cold weather airport in the country and often runs at 100 percent capacity even during the most inclement winter weather. Even the $10 million baggage system was designed with skiers in mind. The state-of-the-art system is complete with a seperate ski and snowboard conveyor system that makes gathering ski gear quick and easy.
If one of Colorado's eight regional mountain airports is the final destination, skiers and riders quickly discover unparalleled access to the pristine slopes of Colorado. More than half of Colorado's ski areas are located within 35 miles of an airport. Although they are small in size, Colorado's regional airports boast nearly 1,000 direct, non-stop and one-stop flights from all major cities across the country, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Phoenix and San Francisco.
DIA services international skiers and snowboarders as well. With non-stop service to Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom and Germany, and one-stop connections to the rest of the world, DIA provides easy access to a snow holiday.
The Lowdown on Ground Transportation
Upon arrival in Colorado, skiers and snowboarders have several options for getting to their favorite resorts. They may choose from major rental car operations, bus services, limos or charter shuttles to meet their ground transportation needs.
Airport based charter shuttle services take skiers and riders directly to Aspen/Snowmass, Copper Mountain, Steamboat Springs and Winter Park.
Denver International Airport (DIA) is home to all major rental car operations that provide skier and mountain friendly vehicles complete with sport roof racks, snow tires, and four-wheel-drive options.
The number one airport car rental brand in the U.S., Hertz, will not only provide guests with a winter driving specific car, complete with ski racks and snow tires, but they will also be there if service is needed. Hertz can provide emergency roadside assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is only a phone call away.
And to help ease the sting of gas prices, Hertz offers two refueling options. Both the Hertz Fuel & Service Charge (FSC) and the Fuel Purchase Options (FPO) reflect lower pricing based upon the average price per gallon in the geographical area where the car is rented.
One at the resort, skiers and snowboarders are encouraged to take advantage of both wallet friendly and environmentally friendly options of transportation. In addition to transporting guests to and from ski resorts, resort shuttle systems, gondolas, trains and carpooling play major roles in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel demand, traffic congestion and vacation costs.
In Winter Park, nearly 32,000 employees and 700,000 visitors take advantage of the free community shuttle system that connects the mountain with the town and lodging properties throughout. With a ridership topping more than four million passengers, the Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA) in Aspen is continually adding hybrid buses to its fleet and is working to increase the percentage of biodiesel used in all buses. At Steamboat, the resort shuttles also run on biodiesel and serve more than 1.2 million guests and employees.
Powderhorn Ski Area is continually expanding its shuttle service from Grand Junction to the resort with more and more people riding the shuttle each season.
Gondolas, once used to transport people from within ski area boundaries are now playing a new role in transporting guests to the ski resorts. With newer gondolas able to transport up to 3,000 people or more per hour directly from the parking lot to base areas, these gondolas provide a clean and quiet connection from the mountain communities to the resorts.
At Telluride, the gondola has eliminated the need for people to drive their vehicles while visiting the pristine community. Known throughout Colorado as one of the most scenic rides in ski country, the Telluride Gondola serves approximately three million guests per year.
Located near Boulder, Eldora Mountain Resort is the only Colorado resort serviced by the Denver Regional Transportation District bus system.