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've been hopping with excitement about being back on the slopes this ski season. This post will walk you through the best time to ski in Colorado by month!
Before we hop into the main topic, there is a new factor to consider in determining the best time to ski in Colorado, and that's a reservation system. At least if you're headed to Vail Resorts and some Ikon resorts, you'll need to make reservations for lift access. As theme park frogs, we have been enjoyed the limited capacity at Orlando parks since reopening because it means shorter wait times and less crowds so we stay safer and physically distant. The same is true with the ski resorts using reservation systems. But those ski resorts using reservation systems are filling faster, especially during holiday periods and weekends. We bring this up because you will want to plan early for those resorts so that you can snag the dates you'd like to visit. Don't wait until the last minute! Hop over to our post on what to expect when the Vail Resorts reopen for skiing 2020-2021 for details on how to make a reservation. Head over to our post on what to expect when the Ikon Pass destinations reopen for skiing in 2020-2021 for all the important details (including which resorts require reservations).
Now 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
As you can probably tell, 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 is 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 means that families have more flexibility to travel and take school with them, rather than waiting for school breaks to head to the mountains. You can also use this guide if you have your sights on the 2021-2022 season to get a general sense of the weather and conditions each month.
Colorado Ski Resort Reopening Dates
Before we explore Colorado skiing, month by month, let's talk about reopening dates. If you are looking ahead to the 2021-2022 season, you can use the below dates as a guide for planning. Hop back in November for the updated opening dates. in 2020, Keystone led the way by reopening Nov. 6, 2020. Breckenridge followed Nov. 13, with Vail close behind Nov. 20., while Beaver Creek and Crested Butte both opened 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, but are on the Ikon Pass) also had varying opening dates. Aspen Mountain and Snowmass reopened Nov. 26. Aspen Highlands reopened Dec. 12. and Buttermilk was among some of the last Colorado ski resorts to open Dec. 18. Steamboat (also on the Ikon Pass) reopened Nov. 22.
While many of the ski resorts open in mid- to late-November, some resorts, such as Arapahoe Basin, often open in October (although not the 2020-2021 season)! 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 was frogtastic news this past November. Vail Resorts (including Colorado resorts such as Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge and Crested Butte) offered Epic Pass holders (including Epic Day Pass holders) exclusive early season access to their resorts in November and early December before lift tickets went on sale. This might have you rethinking an early-season trip, and we'll have to see if this early season access returns in future years.
November is a nice time for an early winter getaway, especially a last-minute getaway, but you have to be 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 overall should be less crowded and, well, epic.
December skiing in Colorado can also be quite hit or miss, especially in the first half of the month. But the nice part is that 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! We hopped over to Beaver Creek the week before Christmas this year and found the conditions were toadally awesome, with a good mix of runs open, thanks to a few recent snowstorms.
Limited crowds and decreased travel due to COVID-19 made this holiday season the least crowded we've seen. If reservations return for 2021-2022, be sure to book your Epic Pass dates for the holidays as soon as reservations open up, 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 before they fill up.
With reduced capacity, this February will mean more powder for you! It also means having to plan out those meals with decreased lodge capacity and outdoor dining. You'll want to stake out a spot next to the heater to warm up in between runs.
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! If you are looking at the ski reservation calendar for Vail Resorts, you may notice that the core season ends April 4, 2021. That means reservations are not open part that point. Keep hopping back for updates, as the ski closing dates do vary by resort based on weather and snow quality.
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.