Planning Your First Ski Vacation in Colorado

First time planning a ski vacation in Colorado? Feeling a little overwhelmed by all the options? This primer will have you headed in the right direction with your planning, first!

1. Where to go

Choosing the right resort for your ski or snowboarding vacation can be a little overwhelming. There are literally hundreds of amazing mountains to choose from. First, determine what time of year you want to go. Resorts on the East Coast do not open as early as those out west due to warmer seasonal temperatures. Even in the mountains, smaller resorts are likely to open later because of minimal snowmaking ability.

If you have a family, small resorts are the way to go, look at places like Eldora, Monarch, Powderhorn, and Sunlight in Colorado. These are beautiful places with a great variety of terrain, but they are not the immense, mazelike construction of some of the mega-resorts. They also come at a great price point for someone just learning the sport who is not ready to take advantage of extreme terrain.

If you are looking for the big drops, tough terrain, and major name recognition, places like Telluride, Aspen, Vail, and Winter Park will not disappoint. All of these resorts offer many lodging options and a lively social scene.

2. Where to stay

Once you have chosen your destination, narrow down your lodging options by choosing your preferred amenities. Is ‘slopeside’ lift access important to you? Do you love ‘rustic charm’ or ‘luxury’? How about ‘economy’? Do you need it to be family or pet-friendly? Carefully evaluate how far you are willing to travel from your door to the slope. Often the more affordable options involve shuttles, which can be easy to use and convenient if you are prepared for that extra bit of travel. Look through our last minute deals page as well as the resort you choose lodging page to find ways to keep more money in your pocket.

3. What to bring

The reservations are made and the packing begins. If you have never skied before, look up a local gear rental shop associated with the mountain, and plan to make that your first stop. Boot and ski techs will fit you with the right sized gear and you will save space and cost on the luggage by picking up your equipment slopeside. Every mountain has at least one rental shop at its base. Some rental companies will even come to your lodging for a private fitting session!

Clothing should be layered. Start with a waterproof ‘hardshell’ for the wind and snow, but then make sure everyone has a fleece or synthetic layers below to add or remove as needed. The most uncomfortable people on the slopes are the ones who only brought Arctic level down coats on a day when the temps climb just a little higher than expected. Gloves or mittens are essential of course, as is a helmet. Many equipment rental shops also rent ski clothing.

Insider’s tip: Locals wear helmets.

4. What to do

Lessons make it happen. Although ski and snowboard lessons come at an extra cost, they are worth it. Not only will the friendly instructors make you feel safe and comfortable in your gear, you will get invaluable insider information about where to go. Whether you learn about the best runs on the mountain or the best apres ski scene, plan on at least a half-day lessons for the whole family to get you on the right track!

Enhance your visit with after-the-slopes activities like sleigh rides, tubing, wine tasting, and even dog sledding to make sure the fun isn’t only happening while the lifts are running.