The Snow Must Go On: Colorado Ski Resorts Open for Season

Loveland is now open for the season.
Loveland is now open for the season.
Loveland/Casey Day
Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

This year’s ski season will look and feel very different for visitors to Colorado’s mountains. COVID-19 has required resorts to revamp their health and safety standards in order to create an environment that will allow guests to have fun while keeping everyone safe. As a result, everything from food service to lift lines to the number of tickets issued each day has changed...and the changes will continue to adapt to current realities.

Still, the snow must go on!

Here are the latest updates on safety protocols implemented this season, as well as some inside information on essential spots for skiing and riding.

Arapahoe Basin will not require reservations for season pass holders, and daily lift tickets will be sold online and on site at contactless skiosks, with a limited quantity available each day. Reservations will be required for IKON pass holders. The Beach will remain closed until further notice, and groups at the base area will be limited to ten people or fewer. Indoor facilities are open for bathroom use or to purchase food only. Guests should plan to boot and gear up at their vehicles, as no personal lockers will be available. Arapahoe Basin is encouraging visitors to avoid weekends and historically busy days when possible, and to take advantage of afternoon skiing.

New for the 2020-21 season, A-Basin has replaced two of its lifts: Molly Hogan, which serves the learning area, and Pallavicini, which serves some of the ski area’s most expert terrain. Arapahoe has also added RFID pass scanning.

A-Basin, aka “The Legend,” is known for its steep and difficult terrain with amazing views of the Continental Divide. But there are plenty of easier runs, too. When asked about this year’s offerings, A-Basin staff says: “Face Shot Gully back in the Beavers will be your new favorite run, and Sundance is the best (dark) green run in ski country.”

For each of the four Aspen Snowmass mountains — Aspen Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Aspen Mountain — ticket sales will be possible on-site, but online purchasing is highly suggested. Rental facilities, retail stores and restaurants will have capacity limitations to promote social distancing. Aspen Snowmass pass holders will not need a reservation at this time. Reservations are required for IKON pass holders.

Aspen Snowmass has replaced its Big Burn quad lift with a high-speed detachable lift with chairs for six passengers. And just in time: The new lift will be able to haul more guests uphill while maintaining social distancing. Additionally, 28 snowmaking guns and associated infrastructure have been installed on the Silver Bell trail at the top of Aspen Mountain.

With four mountains to ski and ride, there’s plenty of terrain to choose from — but if you’ve never tried the underrated Bingo Glades run at Aspen Mountain, you should. At Aspen Highlands, Boomerang Woods and No Name are the runs to try. Buttermilk, home to the X Games, boasts a number of stellar runs, but we recommend the Tiehack Parkway. Finally, at Snowmass, wide-open spaces and untracked powder can almost always be found on the Campground run.


Reservations will be required for all pass holders at Beaver Creek and other Vail Resorts properties this year, with EPIC Pass holders taking priority. The number of daily lift tickets sold will be dependent on how many reservations have been made. Daily lift tickets can only be purchased online or through the Vail Resorts call center.

This season, Beaver Creek Resort is celebrating its fortieth anniversary. Guests can celebrate all season long with endless groomers, powder stashes and signature runs such as Centennial and Gold Dust (or Golden Eagle, if you’re feeling brave). Debuting this December, Beaver Creek Wonder is an artistic playground of photo-friendly, oversized sculptures scattered throughout the property.

Beaver Creek might be best known for its World Cup pedigree and stellar children’s ski and snowboard school, but adventurous guests will delight in the area’s seemingly endless glade skiing. While locals will argue that there are plenty of secret spots on the main mountain, Bachelor Gulch is where the real fun begins. And after a storm cycle, you’ll find powder stashes for days in the tree skiing off of Overshot and Aspen Alley, for starters.


Reservations will be required for all pass holders at Breckenridge and other Vail Resorts properties this year, with EPIC Pass holders taking priority. The number of daily lift tickets sold will be dependent on how many reservations have been made. Daily lift tickets can only be purchased online or through the Vail Resorts call center.

Breckenridge offers a serious dose of high-alpine adventure, natural beauty and historic ski-town charm. Rather than just one run, the entire mountain should be experienced. Peak 6 will give advanced intermediates a taste of above-treeline thrills, while experts can hike to wide-open expanses, cliffs and technical chutes.

If you’re looking to notch some bragging rights, ride the Imperial Express, North America’s highest chairlift, then follow the boot pack up to nearly 13,000 feet, to the famed Lake Chutes, where the views, steeps and altitude will literally take your breath away.

The current plan at Cooper is to sell a limited number of daily lift tickets and give priority to pass holders; reservations are not required. Once you’re inside, ticket scanning will be kept to a minimum in order to reduce contact.

Cooper underwent a lift and terrain expansion during the 2019-20 season; among the highlights were a new surface lift and seventy acres of new intermediate and advanced skiing terrain — including the first truly expert terrain in the ski area’s history. Cooper also incorporated RFID technology last winter, allowing for a more seamless guest experience.

If you’re looking for unobstructed views of 14,000-foot mountains, try Trail’s End at Cooper. But be sure to keep your focus on the activity at hand; those views can be downright distracting.

Opening Day: November 30

Copper Mountain is implementing a parking reservation system this year to track and manage volume at the resort. Opening day will be a little later than in years past in order to ensure that more acreage and lifts are available for appropriate social distancing. Restaurants and others facilities will abide by capacity limitations, and signage will be posted to encourage social distancing indoors.

Copper has installed additional snowmaking compressors so that more snow guns can be used during the early and late season. Visitors can explore 273 acres of expert terrain on Tucker Mountain with the new Three Bears chairlift, which opened during the 2019-20 season. And the resort has completed construction on the 127-room, four-story Element 29 hotel, which features an outdoor patio nestled along West Ten Mile Creek.

There are many don’t-miss runs at Copper — Scooter and Easy Feelin’ quickly come to mind — but for casual yet dreamy skiing and riding, the West Ten Mile run is a fantastic saunter through the woods. Although it’s a green run, more advanced skiers can still get an adrenaline boost here, especially when there’s fresh snow.


Reservations will be required for all pass holders at Crested Butte and other Vail Resorts properties this year, with EPIC Pass holders taking priority. The number of daily lift tickets sold will be dependent on how many reservations have been made. Daily lift tickets can only be purchased online or through the Vail Resorts call center.

Crested Butte is known as the North American birthplace of in-bounds extreme skiing and riding, so you’ll find a bevy of exciting runs here. Bask in the views of the Elk Mountains from the top of Painter Boy Lift; you might also find some powder stashes near the trees along the side of Elko Park or Panion’s Run. For the ultimate Crested Butte experience, hike to the peak and enjoy 360-degree views at 12,162 feet before descending more than 3,000 vertical feet.

Echo Mountain does not have a reservation system planned for this winter. Advance online ticket purchasing will be required, however. Rentals will also require an online reservation. Face coverings will be required throughout the ski area, and parking will be staggered to provide adequate space for guests.

Located less than an hour from downtown Denver, Echo Mountain is the closest ski area to the city; it also strives to be the most affordable. This year, guests can purchase new packages such as the Night Season Pass or the Midweek Season Pass for under $100.

Along with its mostly intermediate ski and snowboard terrain, Echo offers a six-lane tubing hill (reservations required) and night skiing in most areas starting December 18. If you go, try EJ’s Glades, a less-visited area that often leaves acres of untracked powder for those who are in on the secret.

Eldora opened just in time for Thanksgiving.
Eldora opened just in time for Thanksgiving.
Tom Winter/Eldora


Eldora will require face coverings in all indoor areas this year. A parking reservation system will be implemented to monitor and control the number of guests, and lift lines will be set up to allow for social distancing. Touchless transactions will be available for all food, beverage and retail purchases.

The self-proclaimed “locals’ mountain,” Eldora lives up to it nickname with its low-key atmosphere and proximity to the Front Range (hence its other description: “Boulder’s backyard mountain”). And after the perfect upslope snow event, Eldora comes out on top, with stellar pow days.

Skiing at Eldora is awesome whether you choose an alpine or Nordic experience, but if you really want to get your blood flowing, the Corona Bowl is where it’s at.


Reservations will not be required for Granby Ranch season pass holders. Face masks will be required in all indoor locations and in all parking lots, on chairlifts and in areas of congregation outside. Daily lift tickets will be sold at the ticket office unless it becomes necessary to use a lottery system.

Granby Ranch is under new management, which has invested well over $1 million in snowmaking systems, lift maintenance, digital systems, guest-facing technology, rental equipment and more. The base area will be open for socially distanced activities and to-go food and beverage options.

If you go, try Gettles Glade, an intermediate skier’s secret powder stash, with no crowds and fresh tracks to be grooved after a snowstorm.


Face coverings must be worn when guests are indoors, in lift lines, and when a minimum distance of six feet is not possible. Howelsen’s lodge will be open for food and ticket purchases, but guests will not be able to consume food or congregate inside.

Howelsen Hill, the oldest continually operating ski area in North America, will celebrate its 105th year of operation this season. Howelsen is excited to offer A-frame-style warming huts on the mountain for guests to reserve this winter.


Advance purchase of lift tickets will be required at Kendall Mountain this year; a limited number of daily lift tickets will be sold. Those with season passes will have direct access to the mountain, no reservations needed.

The ski hill is part of the Kendall Mountain Recreation Area, which has worked since 2017 to create an expanded ski area and make use of the recreation area year-round to provide visitors to Silverton with plenty of good old-fashioned family fun.

It’s possible to explore all of Kendall’s sixteen acres in one visit, but the terrain is varied; with several green, blue and black runs, there’s a little bit of something for everyone here. The Glades trail is one of the area’s more challenging runs; it’s sure to get your heart pumping before you make your way back to the top to do it all over again.


Reservations are required for all pass holders at Keystone and other Vail Resorts properties this year, with EPIC Pass holders taking priority. The number of daily lift tickets sold will depend on how many reservations have been made. Daily lift tickets can only be purchased online or through the Vail Resorts call center.

Keystone turns fifty years young this season, so put on your party (snow) pants! The resort is planning an abundance of socially distanced events to celebrate.

The Outback, Keystone’s tallest peak at 11,980 feet, is an oasis for skiers and riders looking to find secret powder stashes and remote tree runs. The North and South Bowls offer skiers and riders access to secret stashes, tree runs and exclusive laps across Wapiti Peak. On the front side of the mountain, the well-known Schoolmarm is a long, meandering green run with stunning views of the mountains and the valley below — great for newbies as well as intermediate and advanced skiers and riders.


Loveland ski area will require pre-purchased daily lift tickets. Reservations will be required for all rentals and lessons. Capacity will be limited inside all buildings — plan accordingly — especially on bad weather days. On-mountain warming cabins will not be open this season. Chairlift capacities will be decreased, and only parties will be permitted to load together.

Loveland is known for having one of the longest ski seasons in the state. Its perfect placement atop the Continental Divide practically guarantees healthy snow at all times. Loveland Valley and Loveland Basin comprise terrain for all levels with amazing views, all at family-friendly prices.

A lesser-known but still incredible trail at Loveland is In the Mood, off Lift 8. Although it’s not hard to get to, it does take a few lift rides — and because of its less-trafficked location on the mountain, the snow stays good for a long time after a storm.


Daily lift tickets at Monarch will not be available for weekend or peak-period dates (December 19 to January 3), and tickets purchased online will only be honored for the day specified. Face coverings will be required at all indoor locations. Capacity will be limited in all dining and retail areas. Child care has been suspended for the season. Only half-day lessons are available at the ski or ride school. Guests are asked to avoid weekends and busy peak times.

Monarch has plenty of amazing runs, including the Gunbarrel and Mirkwood Basin, but elsewhere on the mountain, savvy skiers and riders can find underrated conditions at the Curecanti Power Line cut.


Powderhorn will prioritize pass holders and limit daily lift ticket sales. If needed, a reservation system will be implemented. Advance online reservations will be required for rentals and for lessons, which will be limited by group size. Food and beverage services will include online ordering, grab-and-go and outdoor dining. Face coverings will be required in all areas.

Powderhorn has installed a new gravity-fed snowmaking system, creating one of the most energy-efficient operations of its kind in North America. A key benefit is top-to-bottom snowmaking, which will result in improved snow quality in early and late ski seasons.

A little off the beaten path at Powderhorn, the Mad Dog Glade run stashes powder for days after a storm. The steep grove of widely spaced aspen trees makes for a spectacular run that will have you going back again and again to stack your turns.


Purgatory plans to cap the number of daily guests to the mountain and provide as many contactless options as possible throughout its operation. Pass holders will have priority this year.

Three new snowcats will help to maintain groomed terrain, and the purchase of energy-efficient TechnoAlpin fan guns will provide almost double the snow production power, allowing for more coverage during the early season.

Deadspike is a long run that starts out as an intermediate trail with incredible fall-line skiing and finishes at the bottom of Lift 5 as a black diamond with moguls. There’s always consistent snow coverage, and very few people ski and ride the trail, so you can find powder stashes even after a storm has passed.


Silverton Mountain is revising its already-in-place reservation system this year; the new platform will help streamline the reservation process and ensure adequate elbow room on the slopes.

Silverton offers intense, high-energy skiing; its steep slopes will challenge you like nothing else. While there are varying levels of difficulty, the whole mountain is advanced or expert skiing only.

Waterfall is the must-do run at Silverton Mountain. Although it’s just off the only lift and doesn’t require a significant hike, it’s still steep, boasting a 1,762-foot vertical rise. To avoid the frozen waterfall at the exit, skiers and riders have the choice of super-steep pitches like Skid Mark, Waterfall Ramp or TBS. All of the exits from Waterfall are exciting terrain challenges, even for the most expert of skiers or snowboarders.


Advanced-purchase packages and season-pass products are the only way to access Steamboat at this time; single-day and standalone lift tickets are not being offered. Reservations are required for ski and ride school and rentals, as well as at some restaurants. Masks are required inside all buildings. Night skiing will be available Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights only.

Guests visiting Steamboat this season will enjoy the gondola that was installed last winter, which offers expanded uphill capacity and a ride time of under ten minutes. They can also enjoy a full season of the Taco Beast, Steamboat’s roaming snowcat turned food truck.

On almost any day of the year, guests can board the Pony Express lift without a line and access a variety of advanced-terrain options on Pioneer Ridge. It’s a great spot to hit on a powder day — when most advanced skiers and riders are headed for hike-to terrain on Mount Werner — and on busy days during the holidays.


Season-pass holders will be not be restricted this season at Sunlight Mountain. Daily lift tickets will be sold, but guests are encouraged to purchase them online. In keeping with state COVID-19 guidelines, reduced capacities will be in place for restaurants, bars and retail stores. Sunlight suggests that visitors use their vehicle as a base camp.

A fresh coat of paint inside and out will greet visitors to Sunlight this season. Meanwhile, a three-phase, $4 million expansion is under way that will include a new lift and 100 acres of new terrain when completed.

Sunlight’s 2.5-mile Ute Trail, named as one of America’s Top 10 Scenic Green Runs by Liftopia in 2017, is the most iconic run at Sunlight. Skiers and riders from around the globe rave about its terrain and panoramic views.


Lift tickets and season passes will be available through advance purchase only this season at Telluride; same-day lift tickets will not be available. Advance reservations and pre-payment are required for ski school, as well. Food and beverage and retail locations will be limited in capacity, and face masks must be worn indoors and outdoors at all times at the base areas.

Visitors to Telluride will experience forty acres of north-facing gladed terrain around Lift 9 that opened last winter. This new tree skiing is for advanced and expert skiers, and includes natural features such as steep chutes and rock drops. Guests can also download the resort’s new app, which includes up-to-the-minute lift status information, snow reporting, trail status, an interactive trail map, push notifications and more.

Telluride is filled with iconic runs, but The Plunge — which starred in a 1993 Visa commercial — is probably the most famous of them. See Forever is the resort’s best-known run, while Double Cabin is the run you’re most likely to have to yourself.


Reservations will be required for all pass holders at Vail Resorts properties this year, with EPIC Pass holders taking priority. The number of daily lift tickets sold will be dependent on how many reservations have been made. Daily lift tickets can only be purchased online or through the Vail Resorts call center.

This year, Vail will debut the completion of its massive snowmaking expansion project — the largest in Vail Mountain’s history — which will allow more diverse terrain to be open earlier, creating more reliable early- and late-season conditions with high-quality snow; it will also make existing snowmaking technology more energy- and water-efficient.

No resort lets you escape reality like Vail, whose 5,317 acres of skiable terrain (the most of any ski area in Colorado) lets skiers feel worlds away and completely immersed in nature. In Vail’s expansive Back Bowls, the views (and the powder!) are absolutely limitless.

The four-mile Riva Ridge, Vail’s longest run, is named for the Battle of Riva Ridge in World War II, in honor of the 10th Mountain Division soldiers who fought in the mountains of Europe and then returned to the U.S. to found much of the American ski industry. This February marked the 75th anniversary of the battle, during which 10th Mountain soldiers used their alpine training to scale a mountain face and surprise German forces from above.


Face coverings are required everywhere at Winter Park this season. All rentals, lessons, activities and tours must be booked in advance. The resort is working to create as many contactless options as possible in restaurants and retail areas; however, access to inside areas will be limited. Guests should plan to “gear up, warm up and eat” in their vehicles or their own lodging, and must stay with their own group once they are inside the ski area.

A new six-person Sunnyside chair was installed for the 2019-20 season, replacing the old three-person fixed-grip chair in one of the most popular areas of the resort. The $6 million upgrade will reduce ride time to under four minutes and reduce lift lines at the bottom of Parsenn Bowl.

Eagle Wind is tucked into the backside of Mary Jane at Winter Park, and is well off the beaten path, providing some of the resort’s most persistent powder stashes. It also provides some of the best tree skiing on the mountain — which is saying something, given the famed tree-skiing at Mary Jane.


Season pass holders will not need a reservation at this time at Wolf Creek. Daily lift tickets will be sold when available; advance purchase is suggested, especially during normally busy times.

This is Wolf Creek’s 81st year of operation, its third anniversary of going solar, and the fifteenth straight year that the ski area has used some form of renewable energy year-round for 100 percent of the mountain. Wolf Creek debuted a new trail called Orion’s Beltway last winter; recommended for strong beginners and intermediates, the trail can be accessed using Pitch’s Gate or Serendipity and continues down to the Charity Jane Express bottom terminal.

Visitors to Wolf Creek should try Powder Puff, located off the top of Bonanza Lift. Despite its name, the run offers excellent intermediate pitches and skiable trees on either side. For advanced and expert skiers, the Numbered Chutes are some of the most underrated terrain in the Alberta Peak area. The highlight of the Numbered Chutes is how little the terrain is accessed, leaving fresh tracks a couple days after a storm cycle.

Because of both snow and COVID conditions, rules could change at Colorado's resorts. Find more information at Colorado Ski Country USA, or contact the individual resort.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.