A Quick and Dirty Guide to Skiing and Snowboarding Near Boulder

Alina Hokanson
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Boulder isn’t technically a ski town, but with eight world-class ski resorts within two hours, it’s a suitable launching point for getting out and ripping lift-accessed turns. Eldora is a short drive away and holds a special place in Boulderites’ hearts as the local ski hill. Farther afield, world-class resorts line the I-70 corridor and are within reach for a day trip—just beware of traffic and try to avoid peak travel times. Better yet, make a weekend of it so you can relax into the mountain lifestyle—including drinking in the après scene.

Inspired to hit the slopes? Here's all you need to know about skiing and snowboarding near Boulder.

Eldora Mountain Resort

Robert Tadlock

A quick 40-minute drive up Boulder Canyon and through Nederland, Eldora Mountain Resort is Boulder’s backyard ski hill—perfect for a last-minute powder day or knocking out a few runs before work. Eldora’s terrain keeps all levels of skiers and snowboarders grinning, from tiny tots making turns for the first time to rad rippers who charge down steeps and through tight trees. Best of all, Eldora is one of the few ski resorts in Colorado that maintains a homespun feel. Lunch in the lodge is about chowing down calories rather than watching people flaunt flashy furs.

Eldora has 600 acres of terrain, topping out at 10,800 feet. It can be a bit gusty, so bring plenty of layers. Head to Eldora Mountain Sports to pick up anything you forgot, from hand warmers to an energy bar.

With plenty of gentle beginner terrain, Eldora is the perfect place to learn to ski. Many Boulder youngsters cut their teeth in Eldorables, a five-week program specially designed to introduce kids ages 4-6 to skiing and snowboarding.

The mountain has four restaurants: the Lodge and Indian Peaks Lodge at the base, drinks and bar food at the Corona Bowl Bar above the Lodge, and light sandwiches and soup at The Lookout on top of the mountain. There is no overnight lodging at the resort. For those who prefer cross country or skate skiing, the Eldora Nordic Center welcomes you to the woods with 25 miles of trails.

Arapahoe Basin

Just over an hour and a half from Boulder, Arapahoe Basin (or A-Basin) shoots up to a peak elevation of 13,050 feet, offering some of the highest skiable terrain in North America. This place is legendary—for its steeps, its Beach (more on that below), and its long season. More than half of the mountain is advanced and expert terrain, challenging skiers and riders with jump turns and other advanced moves. But A-Basin also has plenty of beginner terrain and a learning area for newbies.

A-Basin likes to be first out of the gate when the ropes drop for the season. The resort blasts snow guns to build its base in a neck-and-neck race with other resorts for the earliest opening day. It’s also usually the last to close. In years when the snow gods refuse to quit, skiers have celebrated the Fourth of July on A-Basin’s slopes, riding in shorts or bikinis.

When the sun shines, regulars know to make a run for the Beach—the slope-front parking area where everyone from pinheads to partiers likes to fire up a grill and down burgers and beers in between runs. The lot opens at 6:00 am; plan on an early arrival to snag a beachfront spot.

The front of the mountain caters more to beginners and intermediates. Head to Pallavicini and the Montezuma bowl for steeps and chutes. For freestyle action, A-Basin has two terrain parks. High Divide has small and medium-size features and is usually the first terrain park in Summit County to open for the season. Treeline has medium-to-large jumps, boxes, rails, and other features, catering to more advanced skiers and riders. And if you’d rather grunt to the top than ride a lift, you’re welcome to travel uphill at A-Basin.

For extra adventure, check out moonlight dinners, where you can ski, hike, or snowshoe up the mountain to dine.

Arapahoe Sports, located at the mountain, is the place to go for any last-minute needs; rentals and lessons are available too. Before you bonk, fill your belly at one of several restaurants in the A-frame building at the base, or stop in mid-mountain at the Black Mountain Lodge. For a Bloody Mary that mimics a meal, complete with bacon, the 6th Alley bar and Grill at the base is the place.

There’s no lodging at the mountain, but you can bunk down the road near Keystone Mountain or elsewhere in Summit County.

Loveland Ski Area

Skiers and snowboarders who blast past Loveland on their way to resorts farther afield are missing out. Less than 70 miles from Boulder, this locals’ favorite is one of the best-kept secrets in Colorado, without the headache of a crowded resort. Due to Loveland’s lack of on-site lodging, it often has shorter lift lines and less-expensive lift tickets than other resorts, especially midweek.

Don’t expect to find anything extravagant on this mountain; Loveland sticks to its roots with simplicity. Grab grub on the mountain during the day, or head into the quaint town of Georgetown, just 13 miles away, for fine dining or a place to stay.

Loveland offers a wide range of terrain, from beginner to expert, much above treeline. As one of Colorado’s highest ski areas with a summit of 13,010 feet, the resort is blanketed with snow early and is one of the first to open and last to close. Loveland Valley offers beginner terrain and lessons for newbies, while Loveland Basin offers everything from easy green runs to a bounty of accessible expert terrain. (The two are linked with a short shuttle ride that runs until 4:15 pm.)

The Loveland Terrain Park at the top of Roulette rotates features throughout the season. For those seeking gnarly terrain, Loveland runs a free cat to the North Side of the Ridge. Grab a free Loveland Ridge Cat Access Pass (and sign a waiver) at the season pass office, then catch a ride at Gate 1 North off chair 9. The ridge cat typically runs Wednesday through Sunday (weather permitting) from 10 am-2:30 pm. You can ride uphill at Loveland as long as you have an Uphill Access Card, available for free at the season pass office. Other pluses: great rental shops and reasonable rates on lessons, as well as childcare.

Breckenridge

Snow Snow

Breckenridge is vast and grand, with nearly 3,000 acres of terrain, five distinct peaks, 187 runs, and the highest chairlift in North America—the Imperial Express—at 12,840 feet. Four terrain parks cater to any level of boarder or skier. The longest run, Four O'Clock, stretches 3.5 miles.

Breckenridge has plenty of terrain for every ability; head to the T-Bar for black and double-black diamond terrain. The mountain also offers a large selection of bowls for advanced skiers, while the Nordic center is the spot for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

And don’t let its nickname “Breckenfridge” deter you. While Breck can be cold and windy at the highest reaches, these same sky-scraping peaks literally suck snow out of the clouds and deliver bountiful powder. The only downside is that sometimes the highest lifts have to close for safety.

Breckenridge oozes with the charm of a historic mining town full of cozy bars and restaurants, coffee shops, gift shops, and sporting goods stores. You’ll find a wide range of lodging options—from motels and hotels to condo rentals—both downtown and on the mountain.

Keystone Resort

Vox Efx

Whether or not you can ski with the best of them, Keystone has something for everyone and is especially popular with families. The Outback area features long intermediate and black diamond runs with plenty of bumps and secret stashes of powder. North Peak delivers bumps, along with more challenging blue runs and black diamonds. For gentler slopes, Dercum Mountain is the place to go.

The A51 Terrain Park is one of the best out there, with plenty of jumps and pipes to keep you busy. Those seeking a challenge can take a full-day CAT Ski tour, which explores the Independence Bowl, above the treeline. Keystone also features night skiing on specific days.

Just down the road is the Keystone Nordic Center, with tubing, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Warm up with a hot bowl at the Soup Bistro while you’re there.

Rentals and lessons are available at the resort, as well as a wealth of shopping and lodging options, from condo rentals to no-frills motels. Restaurants abound both on the mountain, in the base village, and throughout the surrounding area.

Ski Resorts within Two Hours of Boulder
Arapahoe Basin – 1.5 hours
Breckenridge – 1.5 hours
Copper Mountain – 1 hour 40 minutes
Eldora Mountain Resort– 40 minutes
Keystone Resort – 1 hour 40 minutes
Loveland Ski Area – 1 hour 20 minutes
Vail – 2 hours
Winter Park – 1 hour 40 minutes

Resources
Colorado Ski Country
Coloradoinfo.com
Vail Valley Vacation Guide

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