The Shameless Tourist Guide to The Rockies

I receive almost as many inquiries about where to enjoy the Mountains in the US as I do about beach destinations. With so many options to choose from and most friends having very strong opinions about “the best” place– how do you choose which option might be best for your family?

Before I list a little on each destination, I wanted to point out a few key factors I think everyone should consider before choosing their Mountain Getaway!

  • Location– Generally speaking, the easier the location is to get to, the more crowded it will be. The Colorado resorts closest to Denver, CO will certainly see more traffic than those farther away. I always like to use the saying “You can’t get to paradise on a 747.”
  • Price Point- Price is always a deciding factor in any vacation. There are definitely value, moderate, and luxury price point ski resorts and typically speaking the moderate and luxury ski resorts will have much more to offer guests outside of skiing. Luxury ski resorts will certainly have more hotel options, while most moderate resorts guests will rent homes or condos.
  • Ski Level- While most ski resorts will have a variety of ski terrain, it is important to consider the difficulty level of terrain when matching a ski resort to your vacation.
  • Time of Year- When are you visiting? There are certainly some ski resorts that have as much or more to offer in the summer than the winter. Conversely, if you are planning to visit in “early season” for skiing (i.e., mainly before Christmas), you might want to choose a destination with more average snowfall to make sure and avoid the early season conditions as much as possible (generally speaking, the further north, the more snowfall).
  • Vibe- What are you looking for? Great restaurants? A town with history? A great hotel at a great price point? A family friendly destination? An active summer scene? There is so much to consider when finding your perfect resort!

Let’s get to it! For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to focus on my favorite Moderate and Luxury Ski Resort towns and break them down into those two categories.

Moderate Resort Towns

Breckinridge- Only an hour and a half from Denver and with so much skiable terrain, Breckinridge, a historic charming mining town, is a favorite among local Coloradans and visitors. The lift lines and crowds, especially during peak weekends can be intense, but being able to fly in and out of Denver is very convenient for most families, especially during the winter months. Most guests will rent condos or homes in this quaint town with almost 3,000 skiable acres of various difficulty levels.

Copper Mountain- Being right off I-70 and also only an hour and a half from Denver, Copper Mountain is certainly heavily trafficked by “weekend warriors” looking for a quick getaway from Denver. But, with almost 2,500 skiable acres and a variety of terrain, there is something for everyone at Copper Mountain. The town itself is quite small; having the resort mostly focused on skiing.

Crested Butte- CB is located 5 hours from Denver and is surrounded by 1.7 million acres of National Forest, offering lots of outdoor activities like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hiking, biking and more. Unlike the two resorts I’ve previously mentioned, it’s distance from Denver provides for shorter lift lines and a more “off the beaten path” experience. Worried about the drive? Fly into Gunnison airport for a quick 30 minute drive to this ski town.

Keystone- Another resort very close to Denver, Keystone has something for everyone and for more hours of the day. If you can brave the frigid winter nights, Keystone has the best night skiing program in Colorado! Little known fact: Keystone also has more skiable acreage that its close-to-Denver neighbors.

Steamboat Springs- For those looking for a moderate resort town with the most skiable terrain, lower crowds, and some of the best snowfall in the state, Steamboat Springs is the place. With over 3,000 acres to ski, an average snowfall of over 330 inches per year and lower crowds (being over 4 hours from Denver), it is a great destination. If you are into country music, the Texas Country Music Festival is held here every January. Worried about the drive? Fly into Hayden Airport nearby instead!

Taos- With the most skiable acreage of any ski resort in New Mexico (by almost double), Taos is my pick for best New Mexico Ski Resort. Need more than the 1,200 acres Taos has to offer? Taos is situated on the “Enchanted Circle” — an 83 mile loop that connects Taos with Angel Fire and Red River, offering skiers lots of variety.

Winter Park- The fourth of the great ski resorts near Denver, Winter Park is an excellent option for those looking to stay close to the convenience of DIA, while having a great ski experience. With over, 3,000 acres of skiable terrain at a variety of difficulty levels, what’s not to love?

Luxury Resort Towns

The below are my top picks for visitors looking for a Mountain getaway with great hotel and resort options, fine dining, spas, and more. Note that more moderate priced accommodations will be available in all of these resort towns, if you are looking for an amazing experience that doesn’t break the bank!

Aspen Snowmass

The city of Aspen, Colorado has a reputation that precedes itself– it is usually one of glamour and celebrities but I would venture to say that the reason it has such a reputation is because of the immense amount of activities to enjoy and the beauty of this area. With four mountains to enjoy for skiing, hiking, biking, and more, some of the best restaurants in the Rockies (in the country really), amazing shopping, Gold Medal fly fishing waters, paddle boarding, white water rafting, Art & Culture, you could never be bored (and the list goes on from here). Indeed, Aspen is actually one of only two Rocky Mountain towns in the US seeing more tourism in the summer than the winter. Just a short 20 minute drive down the road, Snowmass Village is the very family friendly neighbor, with the largest of the four ski mountains, a mountain adventure park, more restaurants, an ice skating rink, and a more affordable price point for families looking for larger spaces. Another perk of this area is the small ASE airport located just 10 minutes from town, making for an easy arrival/departure experience but still far enough from Denver (4 hours) to keep the crowds at bay. I have never had a client disappointed with their choice when they decided to visit Aspen.

  • Favorite Hotel Options in Aspen/Snowmass:
    • The Little Nell- For visitors looking for the very best in service and location, the Little Nell is the place. This Ski in/Ski Out property has exclusive access to some unique experiences on Aspen Mountain like the ability to get “first tracks” on the slopes, watch the New Year ring in from a Snow Cat with Champagne in hand, and more. This Relais & Chateaux Property has the best wine cellar in town and for those looking for a unique and unforgettable dining experience, try booking a private tasting in their cellar.
    • Hotel Jerome- For visitors looking for a unique hotel experience immersed in History, Hotel Jerome is the place. The first hotel in town was built in 1889 and has changed hand several times before it’s most recent ownership, Auberge Hotels and Resorts, making it one of the premier luxury properties in town. I love the elegant, but distinctly Western vibe of the property, nodding to the town’s rich history. Local’s love J-Bar, the casual dining option on site.
    • The St. Regis Aspen- The St. Regis is the largest of the luxury resorts in town, which creates more opportunities for onsite activities and family amenities. This resort is known as one of the best spas in the Rockies (make sure to block time to spend an afternoon here and if you are getting a massage, make sure to ask for the CBD Oil to be added to soothe sore muscles). During the Festive season, this resort offers so many amazing activities for families such as gift making, gingerbread house decorating, sleigh rides with Santa, and a favorite of mine– the reading of the Night Before Christmas by the “Big Man” Himself, on Christmas Eve. Because of the size of this property, it is more likely to offer promotions to those looking to travel this way from time to time, especially if you are staying 4 or 5 nights!
    • The W Hotel Aspen- Looking for a Girls Getaway or just a lively vibe? The W Hotel Aspen is distinctly W, with a very 70s color palette and decor along with rooms that have 4 queen bunk beds and a presidential suite that it out of this world. Right next to the Little Nell, and the only other Ski-in/Ski-Out Property in town, the W is the best priced luxury hotel in Aspen.
    • The Viceroy Snowmass- If you want to stay Ski In/Ski Out and have more of a beginner/intermediate ski level, the Viceroy Snowmass is the perfect option. I love this hotel for families as all of the accommodations are larger, most being residential style. This property is also the best priced luxury property in the Rockies, it is my #1 pick for the best value!

Beaver Creek

Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch

For those looking for family friendly ski resort, Beaver Creek is a great option. Nestled back a bit away from I-70, but still with very easy access to the highway and Vail ski area, Beaver Creek offers a ski in/ski out small village with almost 2,000 acres of skiable terrain. For families, I love their tradition of complimentary Cookies and Milk on the slopes. Airport: Vail/Eagle is a 30 minute drive, or about 2 hours from Denver International.

  • Favorite Hotel Options in Beaver Creek:
    • Park Hyatt Beaver Creek- The Park Hyatt is certainly the best option in the town of Beaver Creek. Ski In/Ski Out right in the village with easy access to all that Beaver Creek has to offer.
    • Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch- If you are looking for a larger family resort (that you might never want to leave!), the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch is located on the Western Side of the Beaver Creek Resort Mountains with it’s own ski lift, right out the back door. This resort has multiple restaurants on site, a pool and hot tub, a kid’s club, a spa, and lots of onsite activities as well as room sizes and suites to accommodate any family size.

Jackson Hole, WY

At the edge of Yellowstone National Park and just minutes from Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole has so much to offer. As I mentioned previously, there are only two ski resorts in the US that typically see more traffic during the summer months, one is Aspen, the other is Jackson Hole. With wonderful skiing, a great town, and of course one of the most famous National Parks in the world nearby, Jackson Hole should be on everyone’s list. Pro Tip: Jackson Hole is about 80 miles from the entrance of Yellowstone National Park, so I recommend splitting your stay if you are open to glamping or camping inside the National Park to really be able to enjoy your time.

  • Favorite Hotel Options in Jackson Hole:
    • Amangani- If you are looking for the Ultimate in Luxury and Seclusion, Amangani is the place. There are only two Aman hotels in the US and visitors to Jackson Hole are quite lucky to have such an amazing property in their vicinity!
    • Four Seasons Jackson Hole- What’s not to love about a Four Seasons? This ski-in/ski-out property is certainly a favorite for those looking to stay in luxury in the heart of the ski area.
    • The Caldera House- If you are looking for a boutique ski-in/ski-out property with larger accommodations for your family, the Caldera House is amazing! This property only offers 8 rooms, so they can offer finest in attention to detail while also having the wonderful location.
    • Hotel Jackson- For those looking to stay in the town of Jackson (as opposed to the ski area), Hotel Jackson is a wonderful luxury option. I especially like this option for guests visiting in the summer months who may not be accessing the mountains quite as often!
    • Under Canvas Yellowstone- For those looking to extend their vacation into the National Park and want an amazing glamping experience, check out Under Canvas Yellowstone. Located in West Yellowstone, Montana, this property is just 10 minutes from the west entrance of the park and allows guests to “camp” in comfort and luxury, with private bathrooms, fireplaces, and more.

Park City/Deer Valley, Utah

If you are looking for a luxury ski resort that is super easy to access, Park City is the spot. Located just 30 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport (a Delta Hub), this area has wonderful snowfall, lots of luxury properties where you can warm your ski boots, a charming town, and more. Park City and Deer Valley are just 20 minutes or less apart. In Park City you will find a charming village (more of a very long street!) with lots of great restaurants and shops. Deer Valley is where most staying in luxury properties will stay to ski, although both Park City and Deer Valley have lots of skiing nearby (however, lift tickets do not reciprocate between the two ski resorts).

  • Favorite Hotel Options for Park City/Deer Valley:
    • Waldorf Astoria Park City- the only luxury ski resort in Park City and one of the other best values for a luxury ski hotel in the US. The Waldorf Astoria was recently renovated and offers luxurious accommodations, a wonderful pool, and a great location just minutes walk from the Canyons area of Park City’s ski runs.
    • St. Regis Deer Valley- I love this option for families looking to be super convenient to ski school as you can simply whiz right down to Deer Vally Plaza/Snow Park Lodge via the Funicular. This hotel is ski in/ski out and has some wonderful commons spaces, a great spa, and more.
    • Montage Deer Valley- If you are looking for a “Winter Escape” with lots to do on property and away from the crowds, the Montage is the place for you.
    • Stein Erikson Lodge- If you are looking for the ultimate in luxury, attention to service and detail and the best location on the Mountain, the Stein Erikson is the place! Located in the Silver Lake Lodge area of the ski resort, you are perfectly situated to get anywhere you would like on the Mountain.

Vail, Colorado

Vail Village

Vail is world renowned for its European Chalet village charm, amazing back bowls for expert skiers, and the most skiable terrain in Colorado (over 5,000 acres). Located just about 2 hours from Denver International Airport (or 30 minutes from Vail/Eagle Airport), it sees heavy traffic during the winter due to it’s convenient location, but thankfully there are 3 distinct villages and mountain areas to “spread the love”.

  • Favorite Hotels options for Vail:
    • Four Seasons Vail- This is my number one top choice for Vail, because again, what’s not to love about a Four Seasons? This hotel is located right in Vail Village, in the heart of the town. This hotel has a modern, clean, “Four Seasons feel”.
    • The Sebastian Vail- Another great option at a bit better price in Vail Village, this option has several onsite restaurants, a spa, and more. This hotel has a very Colorado/Mountain Feel.
    • The Sonnenalp Vail- The last of the luxury resorts in Vail Village has excellent service and more of the Swiss Chalet feel that Vail is known for.
    • The Arrabelle at Vail Square- in the “Square” area of Vail, this is definitely a winner when it comes to service. Located just steps to the gondola, it is a perfect location in the Square area. The Arrabelle also has many multi-bedroom residences for families looking to enjoy space together.
    • Grand Hyatt Vail- If you are okay being a little further from the Square or the Village, the Grand Hyatt is an excellent choice for guests looking for luxury with budget in mind. This hotel has changed ownership several times in the past few years, but was also very recently renovated and has lots of onsite amenities.

Telluride, Colorado

The West meets Luxury Ski. For those looking for a Ski Town that resembles the “Old West”, Telluride is the place. This town is known for it’s “colorful history” following the mining boom as many outlaws passed through or called it home for a while. Located in Southwest Colorado, you would not want to attempt to fly into Denver and drive– I would recommend Montrose Airport, which is 45 minutes away or Grand Junction Airport, for a longer 2.5 hour drive. Telluride has also become a hot spot for summer travel with it’s numerous festivals and activities.

  • Favorite Hotels in Telluride:
    • Inn at Lost Creek- for someone looking for a boutique hotel (only 32 rooms) in the heart of Telluride, this is the best!
    • The Madeline Hotel & Residences- if you are looking for a resort with a little more to do in Telluride with all of the luxury, the Madeline is the perfect place.
    • Dunton Hot Springs– about 45 minutes outside of Telluride, Dunton Hot Springs is a romantic ghost town perfect for anyone looking for a secluded and unique mountain experience. Dunton Hot Springs is a collection of historic cabins turned into luxury accommodations. Onsite you will find three natural hot springs, a community house/bar with some of the most amazing food you will ever eat (and all inclusive!), a yoga studio, a library, and all of the mountain activities you can enjoy.

As a reminder, booking most any of the properties listed in this blog will put you at the top of the room upgrade list, complimentary breakfast, resort credits, VIP status, and more; and at the same rate as you would pay by booking directly with the hotel.

Do you have a favorite mountain town?

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