Beyond the Slopes: An All-Seasons Guide to Colorado Ski Towns

An aerial view of Breckenridge, Colorado./Shutterstock

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Colorado’s ski destinations are not just for skiing in the winter. Featuring majestic mountains, deep canyons, towering plateaus, lush forests, and winding rivers, Colorado’s dynamic landscapes attract visitors worldwide – no matter the time of year.

Here is your all-seasons guide to Colorado’s ski towns.

Spring Adventures

Durango, Colorado

Known as the southern gateway to the San Juan Mountains, your first stop in Durango should be the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. Operating from the original 1882 depot on Main Avenue, the museum offers an unforgettable 5-hour voyage aboard an authentic steam locomotive through the Rocky Mountains of southwest Colorado. Snap photos of the winding Animas River and watch as Highline trestles and vast stretches of untamed wilderness fly by.

A steam locomotive making its way from Durango to Silverton, Colorado./Shutterstock

Love archaeology? Visit the cliff dwellings of the ancestral Pueblo people at the Mesa Verde National Park, just 30 miles west of Durango. On a self-guided tour, you’ll explore the massive sandstone cliffs and historic sites amidst beautiful blooming wildflowers and high-desert scrubs.

Of course, you can’t visit Durango without relaxing in its hot springs. At the Durango Hot Springs & Spa, you can find nirvana in one of the twelve spring-fed pools.

Aspen, Colorado

While Aspen is undoubtedly one of the most popular and renowned ski towns in Colorado, it’s also home to warm-weather activities.  

A hot-air balloon in Aspen, Colorado./Shutterstock

Thrill seekers should head to Independence Pass for rock climbing adventures – routes are available for both newbies and experienced climbers. Scale the massive granite walls and take in the views of the aspen groves and lush meadows stretching out for miles.

For another bird’s eye view of Aspen’s natural beauty, why not take a sunrise hot-air balloon ride? You’ll soar over the Elk Mountains with Above it all Balloon Co. and enjoy a leisurely flight through the Snowmass Brush Creek Valley before ending the morning with a champagne toast.

Spring is also the perfect time to explore Aspen by horseback. Maroon Bells Guide and Outfitters offers a variety of riding tours, from one-hour rides along a snowmelt stream to half-day lunch rides with views of Maroon Creek, wildflower fields, beaver ponds and alpine meadows. 

Summer Fun in the Sun

Telluride, Colorado

Telluride is your quintessential ski town with its Victorian homes, boutiques, and galleries in the San Juan Mountains. It’s also a great summer vacation spot.

A street in Telluride, Colorodo./Shutterstock

Immerse yourself in the beauty of the San Juan Mountains with a backpacking and camping trip. Telluride offers several camping areas, such as the Telluride Town Park, just 20 minutes outside of town and private sites in Montrose. If you pitch your tent at Telluride Town Park, you can access multiple recreational areas, from volleyball courts to a swimming pool, pickleball and two ice skating rinks.

Looking to go off-road? There are numerous mountain passes perfect for four-wheeler adventures. Whether you’re exploring routes like Bridal Veil Falls or Last Dollar Road, these off-road excursions offer up incredible views of waterfalls, alpine lakes, mining ruins and even ghost towns!

Winter Park, Colorado

Despite its namesake, Winter Park is home to many fun summer activities, including Colorado’s longest alpine slide. With over 3,000 feet of winding hillside track you can take at your own pace, the attraction offers scenic sights of the surrounding mountains and alpine forests.

A trail in Winter Park, Colorado./Shutterstock

At the mountain’s base, the Winter Park Resort has numerous activities, from frisbee golf to a climbing wall, ropes course and gondola rides.  

For ATV excursions, take a tour with Grand Adventures, where you can explore the historic Corona Pass road up to the Continental Divide. You’ll ride 15 miles through a lush, dense forest and get panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains and Fraser Valley.

Fall into Colorado’s Natural Beauty

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

When it comes to fall leaves, Steamboat Springs is the place to be, thanks to the Routt National Forest, which transforms into a kaleidoscope of colors. Take a scenic drive along Buffalo Pass, where the aspen tunnels and meadows burst into shades of vibrant reds and golds. Other scenic drives that come highly recommended include Dunckley Pass, with views of the White National Forest and the route to Steamboat Lake, where the trees glow with golden hues.

The golden leaves of fall in Steamboat Springs, Colorado./Shutterstock

A favorite local pastime in Steamboat is fly fishing. Bust out your waders and flies and head to Stagecoach Reservoir, Steamboat Lake State Park, or Pearl Lake. Schedule a guided tour to show you all the best fishing spots for rainbow trout.

Birdwatchers flock to Steamboat Springs every fall to witness the migration of hundreds of Sandhill Cranes as they fly from the Rocky Mountains seeking refuge to rest and feed on the long trek south. In addition to birdwatching, the Yampa Valley’s scenic trails are the perfect backdrop for an afternoon of horseback riding in the crisp mountain air with views of alpine tundra and sparkling lakes.

Crested Butte, Colorado

Before the ski season officially kicks off in Crested Butte, the town enjoys a few fall events and activities before the snow falls.  

Fall in Crested Butte, Colorado./Shutterstock

If you’re a seasoned mountain biker looking for a challenge, you can participate in Crested Butte’s point-to-point mountain biking races beginning in Aspen and ending in Crested Butte. However, if racing isn’t for you, there are also several mountain biking trails, like Hartman Rocks or the 403, that you can ride at your leisure with views of aspen forests and Gothic Mountain.

Love chili and beer? The annual Chili and Beer Festival welcomes food and beer fanatics every September to sample local craft brews and chili. Whether you like it spicy or mild, you’ll sample chilis from all over Colorado.

Fall is also an excellent time for salmon fishing on the Gunnison River. Lower water levels and clear visibility make it ideal for spending a day catching Kokanee salmon between September and October during their migration to spawning grounds.  

Experience Winter Wonder

Breckenridge, Colorado

Considered one of Colorado’s most popular ski towns, Breckenridge is home to five snow-covered mountain peaks. While most avid skiers visit for slopes, other adventures await on and off the mountains.

Sled dogs in Breckenridge, Colorado./Shutterstock

Explore Colorado’s backcountry by dogsled as Siberian huskies rush through the Snow River Valley. You can ride on the sled or even take turns mushing the dogs. If you’re looking for a warmer experience, take a tour along Breckenridge’s trails via a heated snowcat. They even serve hot chocolate and s’mores!

Thrill seekers should check out Breckenridge’s winter ziplining excursions. There’s nothing like zipping through a forest of spruce trees covered with snow as mountain peaks tower around you.

Vail, Colorado

One of the largest ski towns in Colorado, Vail is an Austrian-inspired village that looks like it belongs in a fairy tale with its cobblestone streets and European architecture.

The skyline of Vail, Colorado./Shutterstock

Of course, visitors can ski the day away, but beyond the slopes, most visitors love to spend an afternoon ice skating at Vail Square or Dobson Ice Rink.

Just outside of Vail, you can explore the beauty of Squaw Creek Valley via a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Bearcat Stables offers a variety of tours, from sunset sleigh rides with complimentary dinners and shorter rides throughout the day.

Other activities you can enjoy throughout the winter season in Vail include snow tubing, gondola rides and shopping in the charming Vail Village.

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