Since ski season is just beginning in Colorado and many resorts open or are opening soon, it’s time to plan your family Colorado ski vacation for the 2020/2021 season! With most lift tickets at well-known ski resorts in Colorado often costing over $150 per day, skiing can be a sport that is not affordable for many families. But, Colorado does offer many lesser-known mountainside gems that can make skiing more affordable for families. With this in mind, we have compiled a list of the most affordable ski resorts in Colorado for families. These lesser-known ski resorts in Colorado are packed with classic Colorado ski experiences that many locals quietly rave about. With that, here are the 11 Best Small Ski Resorts in Colorado for Families!
The Colorado GEMS
Have you heard of the GEMS Card? I hadn’t either until a fellow Families Love Travel member shared this information with me. After learning about it, I did some research, and I am so glad I did. Not only did I learn about the discounts that the GEMS Card offers, but I also learned about many of the lesser-known ski resorts in Colorado on this list. The GEMS Card, for just $35/person, offers families the choice to “use your GEMS Card for either two 2-for-1, two 30% discounts, or one of each at all 11 Gems resorts. Choose the deal that works for you! Discount prices based on the current window price for a full-day adult lift ticket.”
The GEMS are truly the best and most affordable ski resorts in Colorado for families. You are sure to find a few hidden treasures on this list, as well. Small crowds, no lift lines, no-frills, and therefore no hassles, make these resorts ideal for families. The prices and world-class terrain make it a combination you can’t beat.
The 6 Best Small Ski Resorts in Colorado Near Denver
When looking for the most affordable ski resorts in Colorado for families, you also want them to be conveniently located and easily accessible. These 6 ski resorts are close to Denver. All 6 are within approximately 2 hours of Denver International Airport, making them ideal for a great Colorado ski vacation with kids. Additionally, all 6 are included in the GEMS Card. Finally, COVID-19 has changed how each resort is operating this season, so be sure to check out each website before making your plans for reservation needs, food and beverage service changes, and any precautions taken at each resort.
Loveland Ski Area
Already open for the season, Loveland Ski Area is a family-owned ski resort just over 50 miles west of Denver. Featuring wonderful terrain for all ages and abilities, the Loveland Valley portion is best suited for beginners. The Loveland Basin, on the east side of the Continental Divide, offers “smooth groomers and mellow cruisers, wide-open bowls, deep powder, moguls and glades.” With ski and ride lessons, FREE snowcat skiing (closed this season), and a terrain park, everyone in your family can find something they enjoy. Loveland is known to get loads of snow, allowing you to enjoy the powder and not the crowds. Perhaps the biggest benefit, Loveland is also the first ski area on the I-70 corridor. Avoid the traffic and hassle of moving through the Eisenhower tunnel. While there is no lodging and few amenities on-mountain, you will enjoy a smaller, more intimate feeling while skiing here.
Located 2 hours from Denver International Airport, Arapahoe Basin (known locally as A-Basin) is well-known for its long ski and ride season and one of the best small ski resorts in Colorado for families. A-Basin is already open this 2020/2021 season! Oftentimes, because the summit elevation of over 13,000, A-Basin opens in November and has even run its season into June. It is perfect for a family. Situated on the Continental Divide, it provides both beginner and intermediate runs, not to mention, steep areas for more experienced skiers. As the 2020/2021 season is just beginning, no beginner runs are currently open, so be sure to check out their terrain status for up to date information. With capacity restrictions, it is recommended to visit during the weekdays or afternoons on weekend days to ensure fewer guests.
Due to COVID-19, take-out is the only option for the 6th Alley Bar & Grill at the base area, as well as Black Mountain Lodge, which offers a mid-mountain dining experience. According to their website, “all full-season and Any Day passes have SOLD OUT. Click here to see what’s still available.” Please note, A-Basin has limited family amenities and you will have to find accommodations outside of the ski area. Or, you can make it a day trip if you are staying in the area! No matter how you get there, you are sure to discover that A-Basin is one of the best small ski resorts in Colorado!
If you are looking for an authentic Colorado ski experience, add Cooper to your list of ski resorts to visit! With terrain for all ability levels and a very family-friendly atmosphere, your family will surely find it to be one of the best small ski resorts in Colorado for kids. Just under 2 hours from Denver, Cooper provides easy access skiing for families. Plus, it is only 32 miles southwest of the larger, more popular Copper Mountain Ski Resort. Perfect for skiing both during a long weekend visit. Unique to Cooper is the Chicago Ridge SnowCat Ski Tours, which are unfortunately not open for the 2020/2021 ski season. However, it is a must-add for a future visit!
Ridgeview Cafe is an ideal meeting place for families off the slopes. This mountain yurt is located between the main ski lifts at Cooper. Choose to dine here, or at one of the other 2 options at Cooper. There is no shortage of places to eat here, even for the pickiest of eaters! If you are staying in Leadville, the closest town for lodging and additional dining options, be sure to check out some of the historic sites this old mining town is known for.
Just 50 miles outside of downtown Denver, Echo Mountain is the closest and one of the most affordable ski resorts in Colorado. With a small beginner area and mostly intermediate runs, this is the perfect ski area for a quick trip with your family. Or, choose to spend the day with your beginner skier or snowboarder. With very reasonable prices, you can really get your money’s worth by staying into the evening for some night skiing. This is sure to be a hit with teens! Be prepared for only a few runs, which are all serviced by 1 chairlift. However, you can also expect fewer crowds and lift lines. For non-skiers and snowboarders in your family, make a reservation for snow tubing instead!
While there is no lodging at Echo Mountain, you can find a few unique areas for food and drink on-mountain. You can get an annual or day pass.
Eldora Mountain Resort
Just outside of Boulder, you’ll find Eldora Mountain Resort, a mountain offering adventure for all ability and age levels. As it is only 20 miles southwest of Boulder and within 1.5 hours from Denver International Airport, Eldora is the only Colorado ski resort served by Denver’s RTD public transportation. Additionally, parking is free if you choose to drive. Eldora is already open for the 2020/2021 ski season and is a nice alternative to ski resorts along the I70 corridor. Eldora has 9 ski lifts and 680 acres of skiable terrain and the Woodward Mountain Park zone. Here, kids can enhance their skills in a specially designed terrain park!
After you’ve worked up an appetite after a day on the slopes, be sure to check out their 6 restaurants, featuring a variety of foods and drinks.
Granby Ranch opened on December 11th for the 2020/2021 winter season. With lodging on-site and many winter activities to enjoy beyond skiing and snowboarding, this hidden gem is the perfect setting for an enjoyable Colorado ski vacation. At this lesser-known ski resort in Colorado, you are invited to slow down and enjoy the atmosphere of this ranch. Located just 90 minutes west of Denver, it is an easy ski resort to access from Denver International Airport. Due to its affordability, your family can also take ski or ride lessons, as well as simply experiencing the terrain on the East and West Mountain. Finally, cross-country tours, snowshoeing, and even night skiing can be crossed off your winter bucket list while visiting Granby Ranch.
Here, your family can ski some of the most family-friendly slopes in Colorado or soak up the sun on the Granby Ranch Grill patio. As you sit, sip, and munch, enjoy the panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains.
The 5 Best Small Ski Resorts in Colorado Outside of the Denver Area
For families looking to get away from the Denver area, there are many choices for affordable ski resorts in Colorado that offer a remote location to unwind. You are sure to find something that suits your whole family at these 5 GEMS, all over 3 hours west of Denver.
Hesperus, a small ski area located near Durango, is perfect for families looking to ski in one of the best small ski resorts in Colorado for kids. In fact, kids aged 10 and under ski free during the 2020/2021 season! Discover 26 beautiful trails lining the mountainside. Night skiing is a big hit here too. Hesperus hosts the largest night skiing area in the southwest region of Colorado. There is a lodge, rental shop, and a ski and ride school on-site. Unique to Hesperus is the only all-volunteer patrol team in Colorado! Additionally, families can go tubing at Marmot Hill – ideal for non-skiers. As one of the most affordable ski resorts in Colorado, tubing is only $5-10/person. With prices under $40/adult lift ticket and seniors over 75 skis FREE every day, you can also bring your extended family along on your Colorado ski vacation here! What a deal!
Before visiting Hesperus, call 970-385-2199 for their COVID-19 health and safety information.
Kendall Mountain, Silverton
In the heart of the high country, you can find the small town of Silverton. Within walking distance of this historic downtown is Kendall Mountain. Offering winter enthusiasts a plethora of winter activities, Kendall Mountain is one of Colorado’s best small ski resorts. This family-friendly ski area includes prices so low your whole family can enjoy winter activities for far more days than at one of the big-name resorts. Your family can also enjoy activities such as ice skating, tubing, sledding, skiing, riding, and snowshoeing (the ice skating rink and sledding hill are free). With 16 acres of slopes, Kendall Mountain is ideal for beginners and families with small kids. With just a handful of runs, this is a perfect weekend getaway with kids, especially since it is only open on Friday – Sunday. Tickets are up to $26/person, and kids 5 and under ski free.
Sunlight Mountain Resort, Glenwood Springs
Looking for a ski, swim, stay vacation? Sunlight Mountain Resort is located just outside Glenwood Springs! Here, you can soak in the hot springs after a long day on the slopes. What more could you want? Then, find 67 stunning trails, all leading to the lodge, where you’ll find little hassle or hype – perfect for a low-key family trip. With daily lift tickets about $65/person and no crowds, you can truly enjoy yourself here! Stay in Glenwood Springs at one of the various hotels, many of which offer access to pools or hot springs. If you’re looking for ski-in/ski-out accommodation, stay at Brettelberg, located right on the slopes! Families seeking a little more adventure can also book a family snowmobile tour! No matter what fills your itinerary, enjoy one of the best small ski resorts in Colorado for kids and then hit the hot springs to rejuvenate.
Monarch Mountain, Monarch
Located just under 3 hours from Denver, Monarch Mountain is just outside of Salida, Colorado. A down-to-earth, lesser-known ski resort in Colorado, Monarch Mountain offers a single base area and free parking. Pack up the kids for a day on the slopes with ease, as this is one of the best small ski resorts in colorado for families. The variety of terrain makes this small ski area great for beginners and advanced skiers and riders alike. With tickets up to $89 depending on your chosen day, Monarch Mountain is an affordable option for families looking for a ski vacation in Colorado. Additionally, you can use your GEMS card and get an even better deal! Add to your family-fun by enjoying their on-site tubing hill! Finally, plan to stay in the town of Monarch for close proximity to the ski area. You can also stay in Poncha Springs or Salida.
Powderhorn Mountain Resort, Mesa
The farthest affordable ski resort in Colorado included in the GEMS Card is Powderhorn Mountain Resort. Over 4 hours from Denver, Powderhorn is nestled deep in the heart of the Grand Mesa. With a few lodging options in the area, the most memorable option is to stay in a tiny home at the base of the mountain. This way, you can conveniently access the 4 lifts when the resort opens at 9:00 a.m. Order food online with current COVID-19 restrictions to satisfy your hunger following a long day on the slopes. Prices under $80/person for lift tickets mean your family can enjoy a lovely weekend here! For a truly memorable trip, take Amtrak from Denver’s Union Station to Grand Junction. Then, rent a car and drive the rest of the way to Powderhorn. Your kids will be sure to remember this magical winter getaway with a train ride!
We hope this list of the 11 Best Small Ski Resorts in Colorado for Families helps to make planning for your Colorado ski vacation simple and affordable. Be mindful of the opening and closing dates of the ski resorts listed here, as they are dependent on each season’s weather and snow conditions, as well as other factors. Additionally, check each resort’s website for information about snow conditions and COVID-19 related information you need for your trip. The ski season in Colorado typically begins around November. As winter continues and snow accumulates, January, February, and March see the most snow. February is usually the best month for skiing, and spring skiing can run all the way into April! With many months to enjoy the snow, Colorado has superb, family-friendly ski resorts that cater to all needs; new skiers, veteran skiers, and non-skiers alike. Enjoy your Colorado ski vacation!
If you are looking for a larger ski resort with more amenities on-site or in town, be sure to check out my article featuring the 9 Best Ski Resorts in Colorado for Families.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
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