Frost has begun to make its dawn appearance on these chilly August mornings and in the blink of an eye the mountain peaks will be sprinkled with snowfall. Winter is just around the corner in the Colorado Rockies and as the anticipation grows, so do our plans for the upcoming season. Summit County and the Vail Valley offer a plethora of activities and great events throughout the snowy months of the year. People flock from all over the world to the mountains of Colorado for their ski slopes, but don’t let that fool you. There’s still plenty of fun to be had in Colorado’s mountain towns without skis or a snowboard strapped to your feet. The first step to take for the ultimate Colorado winter vacation is begin your planning now. You’ll get the best deals on your travels and you’ll have your choice of lodging, transportation options, and much more. Here’s where to start.
Transportation in the Winter
First things first, book your transportation. Driving yourself through the mountains is a process in itself already, so once you add traffic and snowy weather it can get a bit stressful. Scheduling a ride to the Rockies knocks one more thing off of your to-do list when you’re planning your vacation, and you’ll be glad you tackled this step in advance.
Avoid driving through the mountains in a snow storm.
Maybe you’re from somewhere warm, or maybe you’ve never cruised through the mountains before. Either way, you’ll be a lot more comfortable with someone who has hundreds of times. You’ll get to sit back and relax once your plane lands in Colorado versus white knuckling your way along I-70 through the mountains.
Holidays and weekends will book up.
Those planning to visit the Colorado Rockies will book up transportation options sooner than later so they can solidify their travel plans. The holidays in Colorado are jam packed with events and activities as much as they are people. You won’t want to be stuck at the airport with a $200+ Uber as your only option to get to Summit County or Vail Valley when all the shuttle service companies are booked to the brim.
We know how to get around the madness.
Sure, it doesn’t always go as smooth as possible. However, we have dispatch in our driver’s ears watching the roads and the weather to get you to your destination in a safe and timely manner. Believe it or not, there are a few alternate routes to get off of the congested lanes on I-70 and we have plans A, B, and C that will help us attempt to skip the traffic.
Winter Lodging in Colorado’s Ski Towns
Just like transportation, the early bird gets the worm when booking their hotel stay for the winter. Check out the lodging in your ski town of choice. The likelihood of them promoting an awesome deal on rooms for the upcoming season right now is high and you won’t have to settle with that $300+ a night room as a last resort.
Ski Resort Lodging
There’s something incredible about walking along the snowy streets of Vail on a winter evening under the twinkling string lights that are scattered through the village.
It’s also quite awesome to wake up, gear up, and head out your front door for a short jaunt to the chair lift. Each Colorado ski town has an incredible amount of lodging at the base of their ski slopes, so as long as you book your rooms early you’ll be set for your vacation.
Beaver Creek Hotels
- You’re literally a few feet from the slopes, great restaurants, cozy little coffee shops and a surplus of merchandise stops.
- Lots of hotels and lodges offer breakfast to fuel up for your day in the mountains, a nice bubbly hot tub after a day of skiing, lounges, and plenty of other activities.
- You’re not going to be spending much time in your room anyway, so who cares how big it is?
- If you’re traveling with a good amount of people, organizing meals or trying to make reservations at restaurants every night might be more of a headache than you think. Unless you have a full kitchen in your hotel room, you’ll probably come across this issue.
- There’s not much of an escape from the busy ski resort.
- You won’t have that cabin-in-the-woods type of feel.
Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway
Not keen on staying at a hotel or in the heart of the ski resort? The amount of short-term condo and home rentals in the Rocky Mountains has spiked drastically over the past few years. These types of rentals can be a game changer for your Colorado vacation in many ways.
Find Your Vacation Rental
- Great for large groups or families that want to stick together.
- May end up saving you money by not eating out every meal and instead cooking at your rental.
- There are plenty of rentals tucked into the wooded mountain vistas outside of the ski resorts. If you’re looking for those relaxing nights by the fireplace as you watch the snow fall onto the pine trees outside the window, this is your solution.
- If you don’t have a rental car or your own personal vehicle, getting to your lodging may be a bit more difficult. A multitude of ski towns offer good public transportation, but that may not always be reliable.
- For smaller groups, this type of rental may not be the most affordable option.
- Continental breakfast? Heated pool? Steps from the ski lifts? The answer is most likely no.
Colorado Winter Activities that Aren’t Skiing or Snowboarding
Colorado is known for skiing with some of the best slopes and world-class ski resorts right in Summit County and the Vail Valley. However, Colorado winters aren’t just good for some turns on fresh powder. Here’s everything else the Colorado Rockies have to offer throughout the winter season.
One of Colorado’s favorite winter past times is snowmobiling. You’ll get to cruise at faster speeds through feet of powdery snow and make your way to the mountain peaks in a quick and efficient way. With tours optional all over the Rocky Mountains, you can choose between just a few hours in the backcountry to an entire day of exploring.
ACTIVITY HIGHLIGHT: Half Day Tours with Vail Backcountry Tours
This tour in Vail includes lunch at a yurt in the heart of the White River National Forest in between navigating your way through this breathtaking area of Colorado.
Location: Vail, Colorado
Trip Length: 3 hours
Trip Cost: $275/single or $340/double
Sledding & Tubing
Traveling with younger children that won’t last a whole week on skis? The popular winter activity of sledding is available in plenty areas of the high country in Colorado. Slide down a snowy slope via tube or sled for a fun-filled day without the intense exertion that skiing or snowboarding requires.
ACTIVITY HIGHLIGHT: Tubing Hill at Frisco Adventure Park
1,200-foot tubing lanes await you at the Frisco Adventure Park in Summit County, Colorado. The best part about our version of sledding is there’s a magic carpet to carry you back up the hill instead of plowing through the snow with your own two feet.
Location: Frisco, Colorado
Trip Length: You decide! You pay hourly at the Frisco Adventure Park.
Trip Cost: Varies from $26/hour to $30/hour depending on the time of year you are visiting.
If you’re not from a mountainous area, mushing is most likely not a common means of fun or transportation. Though we aren’t aware of anyone who’s daily commute involves a pack of pups and a sled out here, you can explore the Rockies via dog sled for a fun afternoon during your stay.
ACTIVITY HIGHLIGHT: Dog Sledding Trip with Good Times Adventures
Explore the Swan River Valley on a 6-mile tour with Good Times Adventures out of Breckenridge, Colorado. If you’re on the tour, you’ll even get a chance to take charge of the dog sled and get a feel of what mushing is really all about.
Location: Breckenridge, Colorado
Trip Length: Just over an hour
Trip Cost: $90/adult and $50/child (5 – 8 years old)
Still looking for a workout but maybe without the downhill cruising that snowboard and skiing entail? Snowshoeing is great for those hikers who can’t stay off their own two feet throughout the winter season. The benefit of having snowshoes on is you won’t be romping through feet of snow but instead gliding closer to the surface of it. Though it will still get your heart pumping, it won’t be as exhausting as venturing out with just some boots on.
ACTIVITY HIGHLIGHT: Mamie’s All Day Snowshoe and Lunch Tour
Head out from the Beaver Creek Nordic Center on this all-day excursion in the Rocky Mountains and McCoy Park. You’ll get to stop at Mamie’s Mountain Grill at the top of the Bachelor Gulch Express Lift for lunch halfway through and warm up before setting out for the rest of your adventure.
Location: Beaver Creek, Colorado
Trip Length: 6 hours
Trip Cost: Varies, but reservations are required so call to book!
The Best Winter Events for Non Skiers
Whether you’re heading to Summit County or Vail Valley, there is definitely not a shortage of incredible snow-loving events through the Colorado Rockies. Want to see some of the best snowboarder’s battle head to head on a halfpipe? Or maybe you prefer to dance through the streets of Breckenridge while drinking a delicious craft brew? Events in the high country of Colorado cover a wide span of activities and welcome those of all ages to enjoy.
One of Vail’s signature events is a four-day festival in mid-December with plenty of music, great food, and fun winter activities. One of the best parts of this annual celebration of the snowy season is that it’s free to attend.
Date: December 13th – 16th, 2018
Location: Vail Ski Resort
It’s the 11th year this pro classic will make its appearance in Breckenridge, Colorado again. You’ll watch some amazing athletics break out their skills at the halfpipe and slopestyle competitions, jib, jump and pipe team challenges, and streetstyle competition. You’ll also get to enjoy the lovely vibes of The Floozies live.
Date: December 13th – 16th, 2018
Location: Breckenridge Ski Resort
This celebration of the snow god, Ullr, brings all Colorado ski towns together each winter. Snow lovers dressed in Viking attire will riddle the street of Breckenridge and a parade through downtown filled with unique floats will take place. You can even participate in trying to break the world record for the longest shot ski – a current crown Ullr Fest holds to date.
Date: January 9th – 13th, 2018
Location: Breckenridge, Colorado
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championship
It all starts with 25-ton blocks of snow and you can watch them transform into breathtaking works of art throughout the week. 16 teams are participating in the competition this year and the catch? They can only use hand tools to carve their masterpieces. Head to Breckenridge in January for the 29th year of this incredible event.
Date: January 21st – 30th, 2019
Location: Breckenridge, Colorado
Burton U.S. Open
Four nights of free concerts, daily food and drink specials, activities for all ages, and the best of the best snowboarders make their way to Vail this winter for the 36th Annual Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships. Being one of the first competitive events for snowboarding each year, you’ll see the village of Vail fill to its brim for the week.
Date: February 25th – March 2nd, 2019
Location: Golden Peak in Vail, Colorado
Holidays in the Rocky Mountains
How could we not mention the way the twinkling lights and blankets of snow along the main streets of these small mountain towns make us feel on the holidays? When you close your eyes and picture the perfect Christmas Eve, you’re either thinking of the beach (we can’t help you there) or an image similar to Breckenridge or Vail. We heard Santa has it on the top of his priority list to visit the ski towns of Colorado on Christmas Eve each year, and you may even wake up to some fresh snow to ski on Christmas morning.
The Best Colorado Ski Resorts for Non Skiers
Who says you have to ski or snowboard when you’re staying at Breckenridge or Beaver Creek? We promise, there are plenty of other fun things at the majority of Colorado mountain towns besides skiing. Take a look at our top three ski resorts for the non skiers visiting the Rockies over the winter.
Breckenridge Ski Resort
Arguably one of the most popular ski vacation destinations in the country, Breckenridge, Colorado doesn’t just yield some amazing slopes. Head out on a winter weekend and the likelihood of you stumbling upon some great live music or an event on Main Street is high. Try out the award-winning bourbon at the Breckenridge Distillery or just ride the gondola for some great people watching at the base of the ski resort.
Beaver Creek Ski Resort
Enjoy the falling snow in another way than skiing by skating out on the ice under a blanket of twinkling string lights. Beaver Creek‘s outdoor ice rink is one of it’s many gems, as well as an awesome amount of snowshoe trails, it’s proximity to Avon and Vail, and the infamous “cookie time” every afternoon.
Vail Ski Resort
Though Vail’s town area was built around the ski resort initially, it’s not the only thing this amazing area of Colorado has to offer. Looking to do some great shopping, indulge in a relaxing day at the spa, or try some different outdoor activities? Head to Vail for your winter vacation this year.
Plan your winter vacation in Colorado today.
The winter transportation schedule with Peak 1 Express is up and running, meaning you can book your travels all through the upcoming ski season. Get a jump on your winter vacation planning today so you aren’t scrambling once it gets down to the wire here in just a month or two.