Skiing near Boulder
Boulder is a great "gateway" to Colorado ski areas. Eldora Mountain Resort is nearby, and the world-class mountains of Summit and Vail Counties are only a few hours away. Opportunities for cross-country skiing also abound in the area. Below we've listed some of the most accessible ski sites.
Eldora Mountain Resort is the nearest ski area to Boulder. Located just past Nederland at the top of Boulder Canyon, Eldora is a 35-minute drive away from downtown Boulder. In terms of size, Eldora is far more modest than the huge resorts of Summit County. However, it offers 53 trails and 12 lifts for downhill skiers, as well as a Nordic Center with 40 kilometers of cross-country trails.
Rising from 9200 feet to over 10,000 feet, Eldora usually has excellent snow conditions. The resort is snowboard-friendly, and offers a variety of rental options. To get to Eldora, take Boulder's Canyon Boulevard up to Nederland. At the town of Nederland, turn left on Route 119, then right on Route 130. You'll see signs to the resort (map).
The Colorado RTD also offers "ski-and-ride" bus service between Boulder and Eldora. Beginning at around 7:00 am, the N bus leaves every few hours until 4:00 pm. The one-way fare is $3.75, and skis and snowboards are accommodated. (schedules)
Summit County Destinations
The mountains of Summit County are a 1.5 hour drive from Boulder — though high-traffic conditions can increase travel time enormously. These resorts are among the most popular ski destinations in Colorado.
Breckenridge is one of Colorado's most visited ski resorts. Featuring 155 trails and 29 lifts (including an 8-person gondola), Breckenridge keeps most visitors busy for the duration of their stay. A vertical rise of nearly 3400 feet allows for long runs. Over a third of the downhill trails at Breckenridge receive an Expert rating — especially those on Peaks 7 through 10. The town of Breckenridge itself is an authentic Colorado mountain town, and is fun to explore. Breckenridge is on Highway 9, south of Dillon (map)
Keystone is run by the same corporation that owns Breckenridge (and, for that matter, Vail). Because of this, you can buy a single pass to all of these destinations. Known for its night skiing and smaller crowds, Keystone has attracted a core group of devoted fans. 121 trails and 20 lifts span three separate peaks — Dercum Mountain (11,640 feet), North Peak (11,660 feet), and The Outback (11,980 feet). You can reach Keystone by taking Highway 6 from I-70 (map).
Copper Mountain is a pleasant place to ski. Because it is overshadowed in reputation by nearby Breckenridge and Vail, Copper tends to avoid the packed crowds of those sites. Therefore, it's a local favorite for Colorado residents. The lack of a "town" restricts apres-ski activities; visitors who are seeking a bustling nightlife may find Copper a bit too tame for their tastes. However, families and those who are seeking a quieter experience may enjoy the pace. Copper is directly off of I-70 at exit 195 (map). If you're a fan of backcountry skiing, make sure to take advantage of Copper's free snowcat service.
Arapahoe Basin is known for being small, friendly — and very high. Because of its elevation, A-Basin is one of the first mountains to open each year and one of the last to close. Some years, you can ski A-Basin in July. The soon-to-open Montezuma Bowl will add 36 runs to Arapahoe Basin's original 69 trails — though even with the expansion, Arapahoe will preserve its close-knit, laid-back feel. Snowboarders and wilderness skiers consider A-Basin one of the best of the Summit County popular spots. The exposure on the mountain can feel intense at times. You can reach the mountain via Route 6, near Keystone (map).
Vail is one of the most famous ski resorts in the world. Located past Summit County — approximately 2 hours from Boulder — Vail attracts over 1.5 million visitors each year. Some folks love Vail; others find it overpriced and Disney-ish. However, it is unquestionably a "destination" in every sense of the word. With its famous back bowls, crisp service, and bustling nightlife, Vail is (as its marketing literature attests) a "no comparison" experience. Vail is located directly off I-70 at exit 176 (map).
Steamboat Springs, located farther north than most other Colorado resorts, is known for its unique, dry "champagne powder." Steamboat is a more secluded spot than most other resorts. The drive from Boulder — while long, at approximately three hours — is scenic. The town of Steamboat Springs is cozy, and people are cordial. Steamboat is a pleasant contrast to the more-touristy Vail and Aspen. To reach Steamboat, take I-70 to exit 205 at Silverthorne. From Silverthorne, take Route 9 to Kremling. Highway 40 will lead you from Kremling to Steamboat (map).
Aspen-Snowmass is known more for its culture than its trails. However, the area is a popular destination for those who are seeking a luxurious ski vacation experience. The four peaks of the area — Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk — offer a wide variety of terrain. Located 3.5 hours from Boulder, Aspen is worth a trip for the town alone.
Cross-Country Ski Locations
Many summer hiking trails become excellent XC ski trails in the winter. The Brainard Lake and Rollins Pass areas in the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Nederland offer scenic cross-country trails. Rocky Mountain National Park also offers XC opportunities. The Wild Basin section of the park is approximately one hour away from Boulder (map).
For those seeking groomed trails, hilly Eldora offers an extensive Nordic center, as do several of the Summit County mountains. The Breckenridge Nordic Ski Center, the Gold Run Nordic Center, and the Keystone Nordic Center are among the options in Summit County.
Devil's Thumb Ranch is another wonderful destination for XC skiers. Located near Winter Park, Colorado (map), Devil's Thumb features 5000 acres of forested and open-meadow trails. Full rentals are available on-site. Just past Devil's Thumb is Snow Mountain Ranch (map), part of the YMCA of the Rockies system. Snow Mountain offers over 1000 kilometers of trails on 5200 acres, with affordable trail passes and rentals.