Top 5 Colorado ski resorts for the ultimate Rocky Mountain spring break

Mar 8, 2022

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There’s nothing I love more than spring skiing in Colorado. Historically my home state gets its heaviest snowfall in March, which means a high probability of fresh powder days during spring break. Also, spring storms are fast-moving, so if it dumps one day, you’ll likely see bright sunshine and cloudless blue skies the next. Best of all are the temperatures, which often hover above freezing and have much less of a windy bite than in January or February.

Most guests at the 25 ski resorts scattered across Colorado exude an overall good vibe. Maybe it’s due to the ability to drink beer in a tank top on the outdoor patio despite the ground being covered in feet of snow (thank you, high altitude and bright sunshine). Perhaps it’s because the days are getting longer — you don’t get hit with icy slopes before the lifts close. Whatever the reason, Colorado ski resorts have great energy in March and April, making them a fantastic spring break destination for families, couples or groups of friends. Here are five of our favorite places to ride.

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Copper Mountain and Frisco for families

Copper Mountain in Colorado
Copper Mountain in Colorado. (Photo by rodclementphotography/Getty Images)

If you’re a fan of Team USA athletes, book Copper Mountain Resort for your spring break ski vacation. The resort is a known training ground for Olympic athletes, including those who just finished competing in Beijing.

Last December, Copper hosted the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix and the Dew Tour, which served as Olympic qualifying events for hundreds of skiers and snowboarders. Also, many future Olympic athletes train here all season for downhill, slalom, slopestyle, halfpipe and snowboardcross.

Just 75 miles west of Denver, Copper Mountain is perfect for families. The resort’s naturally divided terrain starts with beginner trails and a ski school at the resort’s West Village side, then progresses to expert terrain the farther east you continue. For a good mix, ski the lifts from the Center Village where the halfpipe is also located.

If you don’t ski, Copper Mountain Resort provides other winter outdoor activities to keep you entertained. Ride the “magic carpet” (basically a snow escalator without steps that tows you up the mountain) to the top of the tubing hill and then speed down a luge-style run. Or check out the 5,800-foot-long Rocky Mountain Coaster. The longest of its kind in North America, it descends 430 vertical feet through trees and mountain terrain on its way to the village.

Just a 10-minute drive from Copper, and accessible by a free shuttle service, the town of Frisco makes a great base camp for your vacation. The town dates back to the silver rush of the late 1800s and many of the brick buildings lining its main street are historic.

For condo-style lodging try Summit Mountain Rentals, offering affordably priced rentals ranging from studios to multiple-bedroom homes with full kitchens. The properties are well maintained. The Frisco Inn on Galena is a good option for a hotel-style stay.

In the morning grab breakfast at the Butterhorn Bakery & Cafe, which has been open for more than 40 years. The breakfast burrito is massive and comes smothered in pork or veggie green chili. Other top choices include biscuits and gravy, and any of the fresh baked goods.

The 5th Avenue Grille is the best spot in town for happy hour, which runs daily from 3 to 6 p.m. You’ll find cheap drink specials as well as food deals on everything from flatbreads to fish tacos. If you don’t make it for happy hour, it’s still a good spot for dinner with a lively pub-style ambiance and tasty fare.

Aspen and Snowmass for all-around variety

Aspen, Colorado
Aspen, Colorado. (Photo by Kristin Braga Wright/Getty Images)

Aspen and Snowmass mountains are just under a four-hour drive west of Denver and accessible via flights into Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE). Direct flights are available from five hub cities across the U.S.

Aspen is where to stay for steep slopes, and to see and be seen. The Little Nell, located at the base of Aspen Mountain, is the center of the action. It’s the only five-star and AAA Five Diamond-rated hotel in town. It’s also the only resort with ski-in/ski-out access, adding to its exclusive allure. The Little Nell attracts its share of celebrities and crypto-millionaires each season.

For a more affordable sleep, check out Aspen Meadows Resort (also pup-friendly). It’s tucked away on 40 acres in Aspen’s quieter West End neighborhood, just a 2-mile drive from the mountain.

The Little Nell is usually front and center for Aspen’s apres-ski scene. However, this spring break you can also book a cabana at Snow Beach. Atop Aspen Mountain, this distinct pop-up club experience is a collaboration between fine art photographer Gray Malin and Aspen Skiing Company. Book a beach-inspired cabana with chaise lounges, chairs and decor inspired by Malin’s photography. Inside, you’ll partake in bottle service and multicourse food pairings. Bookings are available until March 27.

Just 20 minutes away and skiable on the same lift ticket, Snowmass is more of a low-key ski experience with its own lodging, dining and drinking options that won’t break the bank. It’s also home to one of the largest free groomed cross-country ski trail systems in North America, with more than 60 miles of Nordic terrain.

For downhill, Snowmass offers more diverse terrain than Aspen Mountain, which has zero beginner runs. There are plenty of easy green runs as well as heart-racing double blacks at the largest of the four Aspen Skiing Company resorts.

At the village base, the Viceroy Snowmass is a top lodging choice. It offers ski-in/ski-out access, a ski valet and on-site rentals. The two-bedroom corner suites are huge and boast large, furnished balconies that face the slopes. They’re a top choice for families. Amenities include a spa, a heated saltwater swimming pool, hot tubs and a stylish Latin contemporary restaurant, Toro Kitchen & Lounge.

Telluride for ski heaven on earth

Telluride, Colorado
Telluride, Colorado. (Photo by DOUGBERRY/Getty Images)

If it didn’t take seven hours to drive from Denver to Telluride, this wild and remote destination would fast become my favorite Colorado ski resort. Its location is stunning — within a rock-walled box canyon in the rugged San Juan Mountains. Add to that a Victorian-era mining town and a mountain that sees about 300 inches of snow per year and you fast learn Telluride is ski heaven on earth.

If you’re flying out for spring break, you don’t have to fly into Denver International Airport (DEN) and then drive. Instead, look for flights into Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ), which is just 65 miles from the city. There’s nonstop service from 10 regional hubs in the winter. Several transportation companies provide shuttle or private car service from the airport to Telluride.

Hiring a car is also an option. However, a car isn’t necessary once you arrive in Telluride unless you plan to explore outside town and the ski resort — these are connected by a free gondola that doesn’t require a lift ticket.

Telluride’s main street is lined with buildings that date back to the late 1800s. Today they’re filled with quirky shops and designer boutiques, as well as plenty of bars and restaurants. Enjoy dinner at 221 South Oak, with an eclectic New American menu that incorporates Southern, Creole and classic French and Californian flavors and preparation.

Telluride Ski Resort features a good mix of beginner and expert terrain, as well as plenty of groomed blue runs for those in the middle. There’s also a decent amount of hike-to terrain for fans of extreme skiing. In the resort village, Madeline Hotel & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection provides direct access to the slopes. Rooms and suites are appointed in a rustic mountain-chic style and are very comfortable.

The suites can be quite massive with two-bedroom options featuring bedrooms on each side of a living and dining area. They’re an ideal choice for two couples vacationing together. The resort boasts an excellent spa, multiple restaurants and a heated outdoor pool with two hot tubs — it’s also dog-friendly. A ski valet takes care of you each morning and afternoon.

Wolf Creek Ski Area for Colorado’s best powder

Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado.
Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado. (Photo by MCCAIG/Getty Images)

If you want to get off the grid and away from the crowds this spring break, you can’t beat Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado’s southwest corner. Boasting 430 inches of snowfall a year, it takes the cake when it comes to powder skiing — and March snow dumps can be legendary. Best of all, Wolf Creek is family-owned and -operated, with a very chill vibe. Lift tickets are more affordable here than at other Colorado resorts and you’ll never wait in line to ride the lifts.

Book a hotel in Pagosa Springs, about 30 minutes away. It’s the closest main town to Wolf Creek. The town is also home to a number of natural hot springs, which make sore muscles melt in a matter of minutes. We recommend a stay at The Springs Resort & Spa — both a hotel and a hot springs resort open to day visitors. There are 23 hot spring pools spread out along the San Juan River that are all heated to differing temperatures. The hottest is 114 degrees. Guests of the resort receive 24-hour access to the hot spring pools. A night soak under a starry velvet ski is the perfect way to end a ski day.

Grab breakfast at Pagosa Baking Company. Pair an espresso drink with a house-made muffin or pastry. A solid fine dining option, the Alley House Grill serves New American fare in a restored 1912 bungalow.

Vail for iconic luxury and Bavarian charm

Vail, Colorado
Vail, Colorado. (Photo by Kruck20/Getty Images)

You may feel confused as you step out of the hotel and into Vail Village on your first morning. Were you somehow transported to Bavaria as you slept? Nope, it’s just Vail. It was designed to resemble an alpine village in Switzerland, Germany or Austria. Situated about 2 1/2 hours west of Denver on Interstate 70, Vail (like Aspen) has long been synonymous with luxury — a playground for celebrities and billionaire entrepreneurs. The terrain here is equally legendary. With 5,317 skiable acres, it’s the largest ski resort in Colorado. The morning after a snow, Vail’s Back Bowls are unlike anywhere else. Dipping over the rim into the treeless bowl filled with knee-deep powder under a bright blue sky is about as classically perfect as Colorado skiing gets.

Offering ski-in/ski-out access, the Grand Hyatt Vail is an excellent choice that can be booked with World of Hyatt points. You can earn them on everyday spending with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Don’t have Hyatt points (or the Chase Ultimate Rewards points to transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio from cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card) available? You can book via American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts with The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. Booking via that method will confer free daily breakfast for two, a $100 property credit, late checkout and a shot at a room upgrade (based on availability).

Rooms and suites in this stylish luxe hotel reflect a mountain-elegant design and showcase direct mountain views. Spring breaking with your dog? The Grand Hyatt loves pups and even hosts “yappy hours” for canine socialization throughout the year.

At the end of the day head to the alpine-inspired spa for a massage to work out all the muscle kinks. There’s also a heated, outdoor saltwater pool and two hot tubs. The house restaurant serves international fare and the lounge offers a lively apres-ski scene daily.

Read more: 8 tips for planning a fun-filled family ski trip

Featured photo by Jakob Helbig/Getty Images.

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