The Top Three Cheapest Places to Ski in Colorado
by Emily Krempholtz
Maybe you’re counting your pennies and couldn’t justify splashing out on a season pass this year, or your friends are out of buddy passes for the season. Truth is, you don’t really need a reason—skiing and snowboarding are expensive, and kudos to you for trying to save a buck while still enjoying your favorite winter sport. Besides the big ski giants like Aspen and Vail, Colorado is also home to a number of smaller ski resorts frequented by locals, and with that smaller size comes shorter lines, fewer crowds, and a much more affordable price tag. We’ve done a little digging so you don’t have to, and here are three of the cheapest places to ski in Colorado:
3. Loveland Ski Area - Dillon, CO
Located right off I-70 and at just over fifty miles from Denver, Loveland Ski Area is a popular ski destination for Front Range locals looking to avoid the lines and crowds of tourists at the bigger resorts. All Mountain Lift Tickets at Loveland cost $89 for adults, with discounts if you buy online at least three days in advance. They also offer a half-day (4.5 hrs) lift pass starting at 11:30am, or a four-hour FLEX pass, which both cost $75, making it easy to get out for the day and enjoy the slopes, and for beginners, Loveland Ski Area offers Lift 7 tickets at $30 for adults and $25 for kids, which will allow you to access some of the more gentle slopes in the ski area so you can learn and hone your skills. Loveland is easily accessible via the I-70 corridor, both by car and by CDOT’s new Snowstang bus service, which offers discounted $60 lift passes with purchase of a bus ticket for $12.50 each way, making it both a great deal and eliminating the frustration of being behind the wheel in I-70 traffic! Loveland’s easy location from the big Front Range cities of Colorado means that a lot of people head there for day trips, but the nearby towns of Dillon, Silverthorne, Georgetown, and more mean there’s a lot of fun to be had in the bars, restaurants, and other businesses in the area.
2. Ski Cooper - Leadville, CO
Ski Cooper has the rather unfortunate coincidence of having a name that’s extremely close to Copper Mountain, a much bigger resort that’s quite close by, meaning it often gets overlooked, but for locals who love Ski Cooper, this works to their advantage in a major way. Cooper is one of the most historic ski areas in Colorado, and was originally used as a training site during World War II. Located in Leadville, the highest incorporated city in North America (at over ten thousand feet elevation), Cooper has the same incredible views and surroundings as some of the big glitzy resorts in the area, and features some great, basic slopes with two lifts. There is also Chicago Ridge, a 2600 acre open powder bowl that is accessible via Snowcat for more advanced skiers. It’s mostly frequented by locals, so there is rarely a line for the lifts, and it’s a great place to bring the whole family without breaking the bank. For adults over 15, half day lift tickets cost only $49, and full day passes are only $62. Rates for kids, seniors, and military service members are even cheaper, and if you buy online a few days in advance, you’ll get a few dollars more discounted.
When the day is done, you’ll be able to explore Leadville, home to gorgeous Victorian architecture, an illustrious past filled with names you’ll recognize like the Unsinkable Molly Brown, Oscar Wilde, and Susan B. Anthony, and in modern day, home to plenty of great restaurants, museums, and lodging where you can warm up and spend time with your fellow ski bums.
1. Howelson Hill Ski Area - Steamboat Springs, CO
Howelson Hill Ski Area is the oldest operating ski area in North America. For more than one hundred years, Howelson Hill has served as a great place to ski for locals and visitors alike, and during that time, it has produced 89 Olympic skiers who used it as a training ground, more than any other ski area in North America. Howelson Hill has four ski lifts and over 13 miles of Nordic ski trails combined amongst its 17 trails. The resort also has a unique selection of ski jumps, the tallest of which is nearly four hundred feet high. Lift tickets at Howelson Hill have practically unbeatable prices; adults can ski for $30, with special deals for events like night skiing for $15, and kids and seniors cost even less. Perhaps most notable, Howelson Hill is home to Ski Free Sunday, which, yep, is exactly as good as it sounds. All throughout the winter season, visitors can hit the slopes and the Nordic trails entirely for free on Sundays, with the exception of days when special events are being held.
Howelson Hill Ski Area is owned and operated by the city of Steamboat Springs, so after a fun and exhausting day of skiing, snowboarding, and heart-pumping ski jumping, be sure to check out what the city has to offer. Downtown Steamboat looks like a picturesque Wild West town, with a lot of cool architectural flair and some unique shops for antiques, sporting equipment, art, and more. To relax some of those sore muscles from a day on the slopes, also be sure to check out the Old Town Hot Springs or nearby Strawberry Hot Springs for a relaxing and restorative soak.
Not Just for the Wealthy
Skiing and snowboarding have reputations out there as being one of the most expensive sports there is. We can’t help you with the equipment—though there are plenty of great sports retailers in Colorado who can—but with the help of resorts and ski areas like the ones above, you can cross “expensive lift tickets” off the list of things holding you back.