It's no secret that Colorado offers some of the finest skiing in the U.S. With the highest altitude lift terrain in the country, the state offers plentiful snowfall and spectacular views! (It also offers some of the most varied and challenging terrain.) With COVID-19 cutting the very end of our spring ski season short in 2020, we are hopping to get back to the fresh mountain air for fall and winter of the 2020-2021 ski season.
We have ribbiting news that may affect crowds at certain Colorado ski resorts in 2020-2021. Vail Resorts has implemented a reservation system to limit capacity at its ski resorts this season. As theme park frogs, we have been enjoying the limited capacity at Orlando theme parks this summer because it means shorter waits times and keeps us all physically distant while preventing the spread of COVID-19. We expect those positive changes to affect ski resorts too! But as with theme parks with reservations systems, at ski resorts we might find the dates we want to travel filling up faster, especially during holiday periods. Note that not all Colorado ski resorts will necessarily have a reservations system. So far, just Vail-owned resorts are implementing this. We bring this up because you will want to plan early this season for those resorts so that you can snag the dates you'd like to visit.
It's safe to say that you should approach the 2020-2021 ski season with an open mind and ability to roll with the new procedures, such as a new reservations system. It's especially important to know which months you want to ski in Colorado this season. Why is that? This year, Epic Pass holders gain exclusive early season benefits to some of the best Colorado ski resorts and will need to plan early to get the best availability of dates. Put these important dates on your calendar:
- Exclusive Early Season Access: Ski from resort opening through Dec. 7 before lift tickets go on sale.
- Priority Reservations Days: Nov. 6 through Dec. 7, Epic Pass holders can reserve up to seven ski days for the core season during Priority Reservation Days. Only after that will regular lift tickets go on sale. (Epic Pass holders can also reserve dates after the designated Priority Reservation Days.) Then, all you need to do is bring your pass to the mountain and it will be automatically valid for any reserved days.
- Week-of Reservations: As of Dec. 8, lift tickets go on sale to everyone. Pass holders can book week-of reservations in addition to the seven dates booked during the priority period all season long based on the particular pass type benefits.
This year, Epic Pass Holders also save 20 percent on food, beverage, ski school, Epic Mountain Express, activities and other mountain services. We love saving money! Another way to save on your Colorado trip this season is on flights. If you are flying to Colorado, be sure to check your airline's policy for making changes before you book. You have to prepare for anything when traveling these days, and having flexibility may save you money later if you have to make changes. We have several other hopping ways to save when flying to Colorado. Let's hop to it and get to what you came for: our month-by-month guide to the best time to ski in Colorado.
Our Month-by-Month Guide to the Best Time to Ski in Colorado
We love skiing in Colorado! There are plenty of blue-sky ski days and terrific conditions that make even us newbie ski frogs hoppy. (My wife, Flora, is our resident ski expert. She has stopped saying "hit the slopes," because she thinks I take it literally. I'm almost afraid to tell her it's not intentional.) Factor all that in with Colorado's central location and abundant airport options, and you've got one of the most popular ski destinations in the world!
While we've written about the best and worst times to ski in general, this post addresses Colorado ski resorts specifically. Use this month-by-month guide to help your family plan the best time to ski in Colorado. Keep in mind that the situation in 2020-2021 may be more fluid than other years in terms of open dates and crowd levels. We expect to encounter fewer international travelers this season, and online school could mean that families have more flexibility to travel and take school with them, rather than waiting for school breaks to head to the mountains.
While many of the ski resorts open in mid- to late-November, some resorts, such as Arapahoe Basin, often open in October (in fact, they are estimated to open Oct. 19, 2020)! Usually in November, you'll typically find only a handful of lifts open. Snowfall at this time is sporadic, and while most all of the resorts have snow-making capabilities, skiing is still fairly limited. Although sometimes early snowfall brings early openings!
As we mentioned briefly above, there is frogtastic news this November. Vail Resorts (including Colorado resorts such as Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge and Crested Butte) are offering Epic Pass holders (including Epic Day Pass holders) exclusive early season access to their resorts in November and early December before lift tickets go on sale. This might have you rethinking an early season trip — especially if your season got cut short last spring due to COVID-19 and you are hopping to hit the slopes.
For the 2020-2021 season, Keystone plans to lead the way by reopening Nov. 6, 2020. Breckenridge plans to follow Nov. 13, with Vail close behind Nov. 20. Steamboat (not on the Epic Pass) plans to reopen Nov. 22, while Beaver Creek and Crested Butte are both set to open Nov. 25. (BTW, did you hear that Crested Butte has joined the Epic Pass? Toadally cool!) The Aspen Snowmass ski resorts (not on Epic Pass) have varying opening dates that are still subject to change. Aspen Mountain plans to reopen Nov. 21, and Snowmass opens Nov. 23. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk will among some of the last Colorado ski resorts to open on Dec. 10.
November is a nice time for an early winter getaway, especially a last-minute getaway if you're OK with there perhaps not being very much snow. Prices are very good on both hotels and lift tickets. Keep in mind that, try as people might, nobody can predict the weather (and in 2020, the pandemic), but with all of the new safety precautions being implemented and capacity limits in place, the 2020-2021 season is going to be uncrowded and, well, epic. The good news for people who purchase Epic Passes for Vail resorts is exclusive access to the ski hills before the season officially kicks off on December 8, 2020.
December skiing in Colorado can also be quite hit or miss, especially in the first half of the month. But with the exclusive access for Epic Pass holders through Dec. 7, 2020, you won't have too much competition for the snow. Snowfall can vary significantly from year to year. If there isn't a ton of snowfall, the resorts may still be operating with a limited number of runs and lifts open. It is a great way to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, because the ski towns and villages — plus all of the hotels — are decked out for the holidays. Most families should still expect limited snow or skiing at this time, but you can certainly make memorable winter ski memories and enjoy holiday events!
Limited crowds may make this holiday season the least crowded we've seen. Be sure to book your Epic Pass dates for the holidays as soon as reservations open up on Nov. 6, so you do not miss out.
By and large, the masses think January and February are the best times to ski in Colorado. These months are the "best bets" in terms of snowfall. Most of the ski resorts' trails should be open by mid-month at the latest. And aside from the days when the kids are out of school and weekends (for those resorts closest in driving distance from Denver), these are the least-crowded months to hit the slopes. Do keep in mind that January is typically the coldest month for skiing in Colorado, so it requires extra bundling! If you plan to ski during MLK weekend, be sure to reserve those days in advance.
Typically, February is the best time to ski in Colorado. The base depth of snow on the mountains is at its deepest, and there is plenty of powder still pouring in! By February, the mountains are fully open, so there is a ton of terrain to cover. While the days around Presidents' Day are some of the busiest on the slopes, the rest of the month sees lower crowds. If you have your sights on skiing Presidents' Day weekend, book those days in November before they fill up.
This is another popular month for skiers. It's true that the crowds are high, especially mid-month with spring break, but it's still a good time to go because of the warmer temps and sunnier days. The mountains are fully operational! If you can, go early enough in the month for lower crowds on the slopes. If you visit during spring break, consider the larger resorts such as Vail and Keystone since they can handle larger crowds and have so much terrain to explore. Of course, this year, capacity limits may mean less competition for fresh powder!
The resorts typically close in early to mid-April as wetter conditions arrive. If you want to ski in April, definitely go early in the month. You can also find discounts at this time. Occasionally, the snow gods smile on Colorado, and good ski conditions continue on until May. At some of the highest-elevation resorts, snowing can continue even into May and June. Breckenridge hosted skiiers until June 9, 2019!
I have a few more tips to save on a Colorado ski trip so that you're outfitted for success (and savings) on the mountain. We frogs are always excited to save some “green” and pass the tips to you, so if you need to book lodging at ski resort hotels or purchase lift tickets that don’t have blockout dates, be sure to check out our hoppin’ deals.