Colorado’s slopes aren’t just for the upper crust. There are plenty of resorts across this Rocky Mountain playground that let you experience the bluebird powder days, diversity of runs and vertical drop that the region is known for – all without ponying up nearly as much cash.
Here we spill the tea on three Colorado resorts where you can ski, stay and eat for around $200 per person per day – you will eat better at some than others.
Consider the Gems Card
Depending on whether you are local or not and how much you plan to ski, one of the best deals for discounts is the Colorado Gems Card. The card costs $30 and works at 11 of the lesser-known ski resorts across the state (including the three listed here) providing either two for the price of one adult full-day lift ticket (must be used on the same day) or 30% off the price of a single adult full-day lift ticket. The card can be used at each of the resorts twice during the season and must be purchased before February 28, 2020.
Our favorite budget Colorado ski resorts
Lift Ticket: $64 to $84
Accommodation: $50 to $75 per person
Leftover for Food: between $41 and $86
Just outside Salida, Colorado, Monarch Mountain is proudly independently owned and known for its abundance of natural snow and affordable lift tickets. Monarch allows you to purchase lift tickets online for 40% less than what you would pay at the ticket window.
Monarch’s ticket prices vary depending on the month and whether you are skiing a weekend or weekday, but for a weekday in January a 1-Day Adult Lift ticket is as low as $64 – compare this to Vail and Beaver Creek Resorts, which are the state’s most expensive at $209 for a single day. The most you’ll pay when purchasing online at Monarch is $84 per day. And if you have two people it may be cheaper to purchase the Gem Card and get the 2-for-1 special.
Monarch also offers free parking at its base and a variety of terrain to offer something for all levels of riders. There is just one base area, but there is enough diversity to ski for a few days without getting bored on a total of 66 trails with 1162ft of vertical drop.
For lodging, you’ll head to the town of Salida, just 30 minutes away. This atmospheric mountain town has a number of hotels with room rates averaging around $150 per night for a double with all taxes and fees, so $75 per person. If you book an Airbnb you can bring that cost down to around $50 per person on the cheaper end.
After lodging and lift tickets, you’ll have around $50 to $75 left per person to spend on food. Monarch has a number of restaurants on mountain and as long as you choose your entrees carefully you should be able to afford to eat lunch here and still stay within budget. For dinner, Salida has a number of affordable restaurants including Currents and Amicas Pizza.
Eldora Mountain Resort
Lift Ticket: $75 – $129 (with Gem Card from $64.50)
Accommodation: from $42
Remaining Food Budget: between $29 and $94
This is a resort where the $30 purchase of the Gem Card really counts. If you’re skiing as a duo, you’ll pay $80 per person for the first day (factoring in the cost of the card) and then just $64.50 for the second day.
Just 21 miles from Boulder and 47 miles from Denver, Eldora Mountain Resort is one of the most accessible ski resorts in the state — you can ride a city bus from Denver or Boulder to get here, which makes is super convenient and affordable from a transportation perspective. The mountain has 680 acres of skiable terrain for all levels including challenging runs on Corona Bowl and a great area for beginners. There are also two terrain parks to play in.
If you plan to ski four days, then buy the Eldora 4-Pass online for $299, which breaks down to just $75 per day. It doesn’t need to be used consecutively, so if you live in Colorado and want to just ski a day at a time it also makes sense. A single day adult lift ticket at the window costs $129.
For apres-ski, Boulder is a fun college town filled with restaurants and nightlife. It also has a number of affordable Airbnb options with rates as low as $42 per person per night in late January. As long as you have the Gem Card, this will leave you with nearly $100 a day to spend on food. You will be able to eat on mountain for lunch and also grab dinner a few drinks at a mid-range Boulder restaurant. Favorites include Rincón Argentino for Argentinian in a low-key setting and the Rayback Collective, a food truck park where you can cozy up to the outdoor fire pit.
Lift Ticket: around $53 to $77
Accommodation: from $75
Remaining Food Budget: $48 to $72
Just 68 miles west of Denver and right on the Continental Divide at an elevation of X, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area boasts the longest ski and ride season in Colorado and some seriously sizzling lift ticket deals when purchased online in advance. Depending on what day you plan to ski – mid-week is always cheaper – we saw ticket prices in January for as low as $53 for an adult full-day. On the higher side, an advance purchase lift ticket was $77. A-Basin is also part of the Gem program, so should you get stuck paying full price for a last minute lift ticket, you can still get the 2-for-1 deal here.
The resort is known for its rocky steeps and chutes including 468 acres of new lift-serviced intermediate and expert terrain at The Beavers, but it also has some wide open, rolling groomers that are perfect for beginners. A long time locals favorite – it’s nickname is “The Legend,” A-Basin has a fun vibe and food and drinks on the mountain are affordable for Summit County. The resort is also famous for its parking lot scene around The Beach – the part of the lot that backs up to the lower mountain chairlifts. Reminiscent of a football tailgating party, expect music, dogs, brews and full-on cookouts.
For lodging, prices are definitely a bit higher as you are in the heart of Summit County, which is home to mega resorts like Breckenridge and Keystone. There are a number of small towns that service all these resorts including Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne. Hotels start at about $125 per person per night, but Airbnbs can go for around $75 per person per night. All of these towns have fast casual or straight up fast food dining options as well as affordable restaurants and some good craft breweries that also serve food.