Skiing the Colorado Gems 8

Great Deals and Low-Key Atmospheres Make These Smaller Resorts a Fantastic Option

It’s the time of year many Coloradans long for: ski season.

The state offers some of the best resorts in the nation, but if you’re looking for a more affordable, intimate experience this season, you might want to head out to the “Colorado Gems” – eight resorts that are promoted as being free of crowds, free of lift lines and free of hassle.

With “down-to-earth prices” and free parking, these lesser-known resorts offer a great alternative to the more pricey and crowded ski resorts. And if you purchase a $20 Gems Card by February 29, 2016, you’ll get some even better deals, including 2-for-1 lift tickets at each of the eight Gem resorts.

Information about these facilities can be found at, which also was the source for much of the following information about these eight treasures:

Arapahoe Basin

Known for having one of the longest ski seasons in North America, Arapahoe Basin offers a laid-back, family-friendly ski experience. Most of A-Basin’s skiing is above treeline, offering the highest in-bounds skiable terrain in North America and sweeping 360-degree views of the Continental Divide. While A-Basin provides terrain worthy of expert skiers, it also has learning areas for beginners of all ages, including a Kids Center. This season’s additions include the Black Mountain Express, a high-speed quad chairlift that provides access to the upper mountain in less than three minutes. Info:


One of the oldest ski resorts, Cooper is located at the top of Tennessee Pass, just outside of Leadville in an area that was the training ground for the 10th Mountain Division during World War II.  The terrain accommodates all skills levels, ranging from beginner areas to epic powder, glades and bumps. Cooper offers some of the softest snow around, thanks to its natural snow base and grooming strategy, as well as short lines, long runs and friendly staff. Info:

Eldora Mountain Resort

One of the best-kept secrets for families and among the shortest drives from the metro area is Eldora Mountain Resort. With sensational snow just 47 miles from Denver, Eldora offers diverse terrain, a cross-country center and an outstanding children’s SnowSports school. With its Eldorables and Ski & Snowboard Trek programs, Eldora is a great place to teach young ones to ski and snowboard. Its varied terrain also provides adventure and challenge for just about every skill level. It’s a quick drive for a full day of fun.  Info:

Loveland Ski Area

Loveland is located 53 miles from Denver, just off Interstate 70, spanning around and over the Eisenhower Tunnel. Loveland has almost 1,800 acres of remarkable terrain and an average snowfall of 400 inches, more than any other Front Range or Summit County resort. It is a local favorite with free close-in parking, low-key atmosphere and free snowcat skiing on the Continental Divide. Loveland Valley provides beginners with a separate base area with gentle slopes, while The Ridge offers intermediate and advanced snow-riders terrain that is open, steep and deep. Info:

Monarch Mountain

Located in the San Isabel National Forest in South Central Colorado, Monarch Mountain is about a three hour drive from Denver. Monarch offers varied terrain to accommodate skiers of all abilities and relies on natural snowfall for its 800 skiable acres. There are 130 acres of extreme skiing on Mirkwood Basin, and advanced guests can book a cat skiing tour – the land version of heli skiing – with up to six hours of skiing or boarding off the trail map and 8,000 to 10,000 total vertical feet. Info:

Powderhorn Mountain Resort

Scheduled to open on December 17, Powderhorn Mountain Resort offers 1,600 acres of mountain terrain and a new high-speed quad, the Flat Top Flyer. Located alongside the northern edge of the beautiful Grand Mesa, 45 minutes from Grand Junction, Powderhorn has breathtaking views and some of the best treed skiing in the Rocky Mountains. Skiers will probably want to take a weekend for this getaway, so they can enjoy all the skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and wintery tours Powderhorn has to offer in a relaxing atmosphere. Info:

Ski Granby Ranch

Ski Granby Ranch considers itself a long-time family favorite, offering fun lesson programs, convenient access and affordable prices. Located 90 miles west of Denver and 20 miles west of Winter Park, Ski Granby Ranch is family owned and offers wide-open terrain that includes beginner, intermediate and advanced runs. Scheduled to open December 17, it’s a great place for families with experienced skiers who want their children to learn in a safe, friendly environment. As its promotions say, it offers “all of the amenities without the crowds.” Info:

Sunlight Mountain Resort

Located 12 miles south of Glenwood Springs, Sunlight Mountain Resort is said to offer some of the best tree skiing in the state with many aspen groves remaining untracked for days after a snowfall. Sunlight bills itself as a unique winter playground that is affordable and family oriented. Its 67 trails on 470 acres lead right back to the lodge, where brown-bag lunches are welcome. Sunlight’s East Ridge has one of the steepest runs in Colorado – the Heathen clocks in at a breathtaking 52 degrees.