It takes more than good terrain to be a truly great ski town. When you’re walking in ski boots and lugging your equipment around, a town that sits at the base of the ski area or has a great bus system will make all the difference. And while you’re probably booking the trip to make some turns, some would argue that a bustling après-ski scene, good eats, and non-ski-related activities — from shopping and spas to snowshoeing and sleigh rides — are just as important as a reliable snow base, spacious groomers, and powder days.
Chances are you want it all (and who wouldn’t?), so we narrowed things down from the state’s 32 ski resorts into a select and superior few that offer up ski town charm in addition to excellent skiing. These Colorado ski towns will keep you entertained from sunup to sundown, while offering easy access, beautiful views, and, of course, great skiing.
Here are seven of the best Colorado ski towns for your next winter vacation.
Related: More ski trip ideas
Best for: Soaking and skiing
You can’t leave the place nicknamed “Ski Town USA” off a list like this. Steamboat Springs has not one, but two ski resorts — the larger, more established Steamboat Ski Resort (with 18 lifts, 169 trails) and Howelsen Hill Ski Area, a tiny ski area in downtown Steamboat that holds the title as the oldest ski area in continuous use in Colorado.
If you’re not into skiing, rent a pair of snowshoes and explore one of the local trails, book a sleigh ride ending with a five-course meal, or explore the downtown area. The town itself has an Old West feel, a handful of natural hot springs, and over 100 restaurants and bars. Our advice: ski, soak, repeat.
Best for: Glitz and glamour
You knew Aspen had to be somewhere on this list. It’s a destination that’s just as appealing to die-hard skiers as it is to those who come for high-end shopping, glitzy après, and five-star hotels. And then there are the views.
For easy ski access, book a hotel in Aspen proper (we love The St. Regis Aspen Resort) and throw your skis over your shoulder and make your way to Aspen Mountain, one of four mountains you can ski with a single lift ticket purchase. When you’ve mastered Aspen Mountain, check out Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, or Snowmass, which are all a short drive or free bus ride from Aspen proper.
Best for: Small-town charm
Crested Butte has a smaller population than most of the ski towns on this list, but you’ll find everything you need (and then some) in this die-hard ski community. From downtown, it’s a 10 minute drive or 25 minute shuttle ride to the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, a ski area with an impressive 15 lifts and 121 runs — including one that’s a heavenly 2.6 miles long.
If you’re in town to ski, you can save yourself the drive to the resort and book a stay in the resort’s mountainside accommodations, but if you want to experience the best of Crested Butte’s eats and bar scene, bite the bullet and book a stay in downtown Crested Butte (we recommend the eye-catching Scarp Ridge Lodge).
Best for: Easy access from Denver
It should be said that most of the ski towns on this list are a serious drive from Denver, so if you have your heart set on hanging in Denver one day and getting in some turns the next, head to Breckenridge, which is a 1.5 hour drive from the city.
The ski town of Breckenridge offers more than just easy access from the state capital — the historic downtown is lined with colorful buildings, boutiques, and restaurants. Booking a room at Crystal Peak Lodge (base of Peak 7) or One Ski Hill Place (base of Peak 8) makes skiing Breckenridge Ski Resort a breeze — and don’t miss a well-deserved post-ski beer at Robbie’s Tavern.
Best for: A family ski trip
This European-style ski town sits at the base of Snowmass ski area (one of four mountains that make up Aspen-Snowmass) just west of Aspen. While often overshadowed by Aspen, Snowmass Village offers skiers walkability and ski-in, ski-out access that’s hard to top — especially when you’re skiing with a kiddo or two. The ski area has plenty of family-friendly intermediate terrain and a great ski school, while Snowmass Village has an ice rink, climbing wall, and several hot chocolate spots perfect for a midday break.
To keep things easy, book a room at the ski-in, ski-out Limelight Hotel Snowmass and grab a bite at Base Camp Bar & Grill.
Best for: Views and steep terrain
Telluride isn’t easy to get to (it’s a full seven hours by car from Denver), but the views as you pull into town are well worth the drive. And then there’s the skiing. Telluride Ski Resort boasts 19 lifts and 148 runs — including plenty of hike-to and extreme terrain. When your ski legs need a break, book a sleigh ride dinner on the historic family ranch west of town or shop your way down Telluride’s unbelievably picturesque main street.
For residential-style lodging right at the base of the ski area, check out the Fairmont Heritage Place Franz Klammer Lodge, or stay downtown at the New Sheridan Hotel (also home to a popular restaurant and bar).
Best for: Tons of terrain
The town of Vail runs along a major interstate (it’s under two hours from Denver), but don’t think it’s devoid of a proper ski village. In fact, there are three separate, but connected, ski villages at the base of the expansive Vail Ski Resort (which has 195 trails and 31 lifts). You can walk or hop on the free shuttle to get around, but we recommend booking your stay at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences in Vail Village or the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort in the quieter village of Lionshead.
Thanks to Vail’s size, you’ll also find plenty to do off the slopes — go Nordic skiing east of Vail Village, hit the spa, or spend the day shopping and eating your way through the three villages.