Loveland Ski Area
Exit 216 Interstate 70
Loveland is only a 50 minute drive from downtown Denver in light traffic up Interstate 70 to the east side of the Eisenhower Tunnel. It is easy to be on the road at 8 a.m. and on the slopes by 9 a.m. when the lifts start running. While there isn’t as much terrain or parking at Loveland, it is great if you want to spend more time skiing and less time driving. Plus, the lift tickets are cheaper than the resort ski areas. While there are ski rentals, ski shops, ski schools and a good hot food cafeteria, there is not an on-site lodging area for longer vacations. While the area visitors can ski is smaller than on larger resorts, there is terrain available for every skill level, but be aware, what’s called a hard blue run at Loveland may be more of what you see labeled as a black run at some of the more popular resort areas. Remember that Loveland is also usually one of the first ski areas to open and the last to close every season.
Keystone & Breckenridge Resorts
Keystone: (800) 344-8878
Breckenridge: (800) 789-SNOW (7669)
Vail Resorts runs the ski areas at Keystone and Breckenridge in Summit County. Both are easily accessible from Interstate 70 on the west side of the Eisenhower Tunnel (look for the signs around Dillon and Frisco). Budget about 90 minutes to reach either of these resorts in light weekday traffic from downtown Denver. (Much more time will be needed on a weekend or holidays.) The lift tickets at these resorts will be a lot more than Loveland, but there is a lot more terrain and you won’t find yourself having to do the same run over and over again. Plus, the lift tickets here are also good at the nearby Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. These ski resorts offer great amenities and lodging is available for longer vacations. If you’re not staying at a resort or lodge, be prepared to pay for parking and possibly have to take a shuttle or walk to the base area. There are some free parking areas with shuttle service that are even further from the base areas.
Copper Mountain Ski Resort
Interstate 70 @ Exit 195
Copper Mountain Ski Resort is also in Summit County and is about a 90 minute drive from downtown Denver. Instead of heading south from I-70 in the Lake Dillon area to Breckenridge or Keystone, just keep heading west toward Vail Pass. A few minutes after passing Frisco, you’ll see the signs for Copper Mountain. There is a large free parking lot right off the Interstate with shuttle service to the various base areas at the resort. There is parking closer in but you’ll be paying $15 to $20 a day if you go that route. If you’re staying longer at Copper Mountain, consult with your lodging facility about parking options. The resort has a variety of lodging facilities, eateries and shopping. Lift tickets here are a little cheaper than Keystone and Breckenridge, but not as cheap as Loveland. Copper Mountain also features Woodward at Copper, a year round ski & snowboard training camp, dedicated park and pipe progression. It has an amazing indoor training facility to teach aerial tricks for bikers, skiers and boarders.
Winter Park Ski Resort
I-70 to U.S. 40 over Berthoud Pass
Winter Park is about 80 minutes from downtown Denver and located over Berthoud Pass in Grand County. Take the U.S. 40 exit at Empire before you even get to Georgetown and head over the pass. After winding down the other side, you’ll drive right by Winter Park. Lift ticket prices here are comparable to Breckenridge and Keystone. They also offer free and pay parking options. Winter Park includes the infamous Mary Jane Mountain and boasts itself as one of the largest ski resorts in Colorado. There is plenty of lodging, shopping and eating available in the recently improved Village at Winter Park. The nearby town of Fraser also has a wide range of places to stay and shop. While the resort used to be accessible by a Ski Train from Union Station in downtown Denver, the train service was shut down in December 2009.
Eldora Mountain Ski Resort
U.S. 36 to Boulder, Hwy. 119 west to Nederland
Often forgotten is Eldora Mountain Ski Resort west of Boulder just outside Nederland. It is a quick getaway for people who live in Boulder itself (only 30 minutes) or even 75 minutes for people driving up from central Denver. Improvements over the years have made Eldora a more popular destination for skiing, although there isn’t any onsite lodging. (The resort promotes staying in Boulder.) Eldora has 680 acres of skiable terrain. There are a handful of green runs, but most of the terrain is intermediate and advanced. The resort also has a Nordic center for cross-country skiers. Like the bigger resorts, Eldora now has on-mountain eateries to go along with the ski school and rental options for both downhill and Nordic skiers. Lift ticket prices at Eldora are comparable to Loveland. Just remember that once you get to Boulder, you’ll be driving on a state highway with only one lane in each direction up Boulder Canyon to Nederland. It’s the same thing on the last leg from Nederland to the parking lot which is free at the main and lower lots.
– By Michael Choy for CBSDenver.com