Fall has ended and like a child waiting for Santa, the winter sports enthusiasts wait for the big snow to fall. While the skis and snowboards are freshly waxed, the cold reality of the snow season is the promise of the painful I-70 traffic. On most winter weekends, travelers hurry to pack up only to end up waiting on their long trek up the very crowded interstate to access their favorite resorts. The good news is that there are some fabulous ski areas that can be reached by taking other routes and therefore avoiding the I-70 morning and afternoon traffic meltdowns.
Eldora Mountain Resort
2861 Eldora Ski Road #140
Nederland, CO 80466
Skiers and riders can find themselves blazing through the powder with less than an hour drive from Denver. A favorite among locals, Eldora Mountain is just up the hill from beautiful Boulder. It boasts a fabulous ski and ride school for all ages, and plenty of fresh as well as man-made snow. With plenty of groomed runs for all levels, and spectacular tree skiing for those who dare, it is no secret why locals flock to Eldora. The Denver Metro area directions are a piece of cake. Simply take I-25 north to 36 west and head into Boulder. Take Canyon Blvd. west or Highway 119 and follow it to Nederland.
23715 W. Highway 50
Monarch, CO 81227
Known by locals as some of the best powder in Colorado, Monarch Mountain is not only off the beaten I-70 path, it is one of Colorado’s most affordable ski secrets. With its steep terrain, black diamond runs and tree skiing, it attracts many advanced skiers. Although quite small, it is the perfect getaway for locals who are looking for a great deal for a mountain feel. Kiss the long lift lines goodbye and skim the deep powder. For those in need to honing their skills, Monarch has a learn-to-ski program, children’s daycare programs and adult lessons. Onsite ski rentals and a very friendly staff will make getting in and out a breeze. Although a bit of a drive from Denver, the directions are simple. Take Highway 285 south to Highway 50 and travel west for about 13 miles.
Breckenridge Ski Resort
1599 Saw Mill Run Road
Breckenridge, CO 80424
Most everyone knows that the Breckenridge Ski Resort is bar none one of the best ski resorts in Colorado. However, what many skiers don’t realize is that the famous resort can be accessed by traveling up Highway 285 instead of the insanely crowded Interstate 70. Especially in good weather, this alternate route is a smart way to go. This gorgeous and charming mountain town promises hospitality without the snobby prices of other world-class resorts. With vast ski terrain to satisfy every level of skier and rider, and an incredible ski school, visitors will never run out of snow to enjoy. Simply take Highway 285 to Fairplay and take Colorado Nine all the way to find a beautiful backcountry trip to one of Colorado’s favorite ski resorts.
12 Snowmass Road
Crested Butte, CO 81224
A visit to Crested Butte is like vacationing in another country. With no chain stores and unique shops and restaurants both in the resort and the town, this getaway is well worth the longer trip. The resort area is nestled below the most spectacular mountaintop capped with fresh snow. Just by the jaw-dropping appearance of Gothic Mountain, one can see why this resort has a reputation for extreme skiing. For those seeking luxury, the resort rooms are heaven sent, while just down the road in Gunnison you can find very affordable accommodations. In good weather, the drive time from Denver is about four hours by taking Highway 285 south to Fairplay, then to Highway 50 west to Gunnison, then Highway 135 north into Crested Butte. Friendly and patient ski instruction will make your ski day memorable.
1101 Poplar St.
Leadville, CO 80461
Ski Cooper is a great out-of-the-way resort that offers both beginning and advanced runs for a steal of a price. This hidden secret offers wide runs with no crowds or lift lines. It is the ideal place for beginners to find their balance without having to spend a pretty penny. Ski Cooper offers a ski school for both the first timers and those looking to brush up on their skills. Although it is easily reached via I-70, the traffic can put a damper on the day. To avoid I-70, take Highway 285 to 24 then on to Leadville.
Colleen Bement is a freelance writer covering all things Denver. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.