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4 of the most affordable ski resorts in Colorado (and where to stay)

Colorado skiing doesn’t have to empty your pockets.

Photo of Brittany Anas
Visit the Eldora Mountain Resort in Colorado.

Visit the Eldora Mountain Resort in Colorado.

Getty Images

Now that Ullr, the Norse god of snow, has orchestrated the wintertime magic that makes skiing so great in the Rockies, it’s time to plan your long-awaited Colorado ski or snowboard vacation. Colorado's ski season runs well into April (though some resorts get enough spring snow to keep the lifts running until May), so you still have time to hit the slopes this season.  

The state is known for some posh ski resorts, with celebrities clip-clopping around Aspen in their fur-lined boots. But there are also resorts that offer fun ski trips on a more realistic budget. 

A lot layers into affordability when planning your ski vacation, from lift tickets to parking, gear rentals and hotel stays. Here are some of the most affordable ski resorts in Colorado, as well as some nearby lodging options.

Editor's note: COVID-19 protocols for ski areas are current as of the time of publication. However, due to the evolving nature of COVID-19, check with the state and county public health websites and individual ski resorts for the latest on case rates and policies before you travel. You should also stay abreast of any COVID-19 travel restrictions your home state, city or county may have in place.

Monarch Mountain

A lone skier enjoys an empty ski run on top of Monarch Mountain.

A lone skier enjoys an empty ski run on top of Monarch Mountain.

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The beauty of skiing at Monarch Mountain is you get to trade the hustle and bustle of a busy resort for a seamless skiing experience with wide open bowls, steep chutes and some beginner-friendly greens. You can park your rental car at the base of the mountain and walk straight to the lifts, which appeals to anyone who has ever tried to lug equipment and a ski school-bound child through a snowy abyss. 

Monarch is an all-natural snowfall mountain, which means opening day is determined by Mother Nature. Once the powder starts falling, though, the area racks up some impressive snow totals, with an average of 350 inches a year. Monarch also has a tubing park, with groomed lanes to glide down. 

Same-day adult tickets start at $99. But pro tip: Monarch entices with a $59 “migration” lift ticket to those who have season passes at other mountains. 

Note: Chaffee County, the home of Monarch Mountain, currently recommends wearing masks in public and requires them for people ages 2 and older in county buildings.

Where to stay near Monarch Mountain

Renovated roadside motels have made a mighty comeback and there’s no better example than the Instagram-friendly Amigo Motor Lodge (nightly rates start at $85). The well-designed Salida hotel that’s near Monarch Mountain has snappy messages on its roadside sign, traditional rooms as well as Airstream stays, plus lots of succulents, rattan swing chairs, faux fur throws and Southwestern splashes on decorative pillows.

The Amigo Motor Lodge - Book
hotels.com

Eldora Mountain Resort 

Snowboarders Ride a ski lift at Eldora Ski Resort near Boulder, Colorado.

Snowboarders Ride a ski lift at Eldora Ski Resort near Boulder, Colorado.

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If your vacation doesn’t completely revolve around skiing, but you want a solid day or two on the slopes, consider Eldora, which has 680 acres of skiable terrain and is located about 20 miles outside of Boulder. 

With smaller crowds and less traffic on the way in, Eldora (which opened in November this season) has a laid-back vibe. Advanced skiers can enjoy a challenge off the Corona lift, where they’ll be met with double black diamonds. As an alternative to downhill skiing, Eldora’s Nordic Center offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with separate passes required. 

Adult tickets start at $99. Eldora is on the Ikon pass.

Note: Boulder County currently has a universal masking policy. which requires people ages 2 and older to wear masks in public indoor spaces. Eldora has a vaccine requirement for all employees.

Where to stay near Eldora

Retreat to nearby Boulder and stay at the St Julien Hotel and Spa (nightly rates start at $395), a hotel that’s just off the Pearl Street pedestrian mall. Give those leg muscles some TLC at the spa, which offers a “Colorado Bliss” CBD massage that includes lavender and sage. 

St. Julien Hotel & Spa
tripadvisor.com

Or, for a budget-friendly stay, check into the Hilton Garden Inn Boulder (nightly rates start at $129), which has a boutique feel with local art, Boulder-made snacks and playful pops of color.  

Hilton Garden Inn Boulder
hilton.com

Vail Ski Resort 

A back-lit skier flies through the trees in Vail, Colorado.

A back-lit skier flies through the trees in Vail, Colorado.

Rich Crowder/Getty Images

Do Vail and affordable belong in the same sentence? Probably not. But the loophole here is if you’re an Epic Pass holder. This golden ticket gives you all-season access to Vail, which is the fourth-largest ski area in the United States and an absolute Colorado classic that’s worth planning a vacation around if you’re coming to ski or snowboard. (The Epic Pass is $879, which includes this year’s 20% price reduction). 

Vail boasts 195 runs spread out over 5,317 skiable acres. Daring powderhounds like the ungroomed surprises that the Siberia & Mongolia Bowl offer while the Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls offer some spectacular views. There’s lots to discover here and even Colorado natives feel like Vail, which opened for the 2021-22 season in November, has endless routes to explore.

Note: Eagle County, where Vail is located, has a countywide mask mandate for indoor spaces. Vail Ski Resort requires face coverings on gondolas and proof of vaccination for visitors 12 and older is required to eat indoors at restaurants on the mountain.

Where to stay in Vail

The Highline Vail - a Doubletree by Hilton (rates start at $333 a night) has a shuttle that will be your powder day chauffeur to the lift access points. The hotel also has a patio fireplace, hot tub as well as ski and bike rentals. The hotel’s Pivot62 restaurant serves shareable plates, local beers and cocktails and has spacious windows to show off those snow-kissed mountains.

Highline Vail - a DoubleTree by Hilton
tripadvisor.com

Purgatory Resort

A skier on a ski lift ascending through snow covered pine trees at Purgatory Resort. 

A skier on a ski lift ascending through snow covered pine trees at Purgatory Resort. 

Kara Grubis/Getty Images

Known for its value skiing, you can get early-season weekday lift tickets for as low as $39 a day at Purgatory Resort, which is in the San Juan Mountains near Durango and opened for the season in November. By January, those weekday prices go up to around $71, but that’s still a steal. 

Purgatory has 1,600 skiable acres, multiple terrain parks and lots of fun activities to round out your ski trip. You can ride the Inferno Mountain Coaster, which you control with handbrakes for either a slow, scenic ride or a fast, adrenaline-pumping adventure. The coaster carts can zoom along at up to 25 miles per hour, and the 4,000-foot long track has plenty of twists and turns.

Note: While a mask mandate is not in place, San Juan Basin Public Health recommends people mask while in businesses and public indoor spaces.

Where to stay near Purgatory

Nearby Durango has several lodging options. The Strater Hotel (nightly rates start at $147) is a restored historic hotel that doubles as a living history museum, relaying mining tales of the area. This downtown Durango spot has an old West saloon where you can belly up to the bar as well as a steady line-up of live music that you can enjoy after you’ve clicked out of your ski boots for the day. 

Historic Strater Hotel
hotels.com

Or for a contemporary stay, the Springhill Suites by Marriott (nightly rates start at $87) has spacious suites, an outdoor firepit, and an indoor pool and whirlpool. 

Springhill Suites by Marriott Durango
hotels.com