2020 has not been easy, but the good news is ski resorts in the Rockies are ready to open—with some modifications for safety. You may have to re-envision your idea of “perfect” this year, but some things, like fresh powder and the promise of the mountains, never change. So dig into our guide to the best resorts to bring you back to yourself this season.
Cover Photo: Eldora has plenty of terrain to keep you happy and COVID-18 precautions to keep you safe. Photo courtesy of Eldora Mountain Resort.
Grand Targhee, Wyoming
Take a much-needed break and soak up the good vibes that permeate every aspect of this legendary gem.
Each year, over 500 inches of pristine powder paint the slopes of Grand Targhee, sending out the call to adventure seekers from across the world. But, it’s the unique ski culture and mountain lifestyle that keeps them coming back to this legendary gem year after year.
Over 50 years ago, the resort was carved into the Tetons’ western side by locals looking for a place to build their home mountain. That can-do vibe still extends across all of its 2,602 acres where you can find amazing powder stashes, minimal lift lines, ample hike-to terrain, and the only cat-skiing operation in all of Wyoming.
This year, to ensure everyone’s safety, Targhee will be expanding its outdoor experiences and creatively remodeling daily operations to promote social distancing practices.
You can still drop the little ones off at the Kid’s Adventure Zone, where they will spend the day learning how to ski and ride in an intuitive learning environment, while you make some memorable turns on your own! And the colossal Nordic, Snowshoe, and Fat Bike trail system offers an alternate way to enjoy some social-distanced fun before heading to your affordable slopeside lodgings.
Eldora Mountain Resort, Colorado
When to come and what to expect this winter at Colorado’s favorite locals’ mountain.
While so much has changed in the world recently, two things have not: One, winter weekdays at Boulder County’s backyard mountain are pure bliss; and, two, sliding on snow in the mountains is a healthy and naturally socially distant way to have fun.
Why weekdays? As Boulder County skiers and riders know, traffic to their beloved local winter playground, just 20 miles west of downtown Boulder, is scarce Monday through Friday. The place feels a lot like a private ski area, with plenty of parking, zero lift lines, and wide-open slopes.
And given Eldora’s close proximity to Boulder and Colorado’s Northern Front Range communities, it’s entirely possible for locals to grab a couple hours on-snow and then have the rest of the day to get back to work or home.
Like mountain resorts across the country, Eldora has been busy preparing a thorough and adaptable operations plan that prioritizes the things that matter most during these dynamic and unprecedented times: keeping guests and employees healthy and safe and staying open for skiing and riding all winter long.
Maintaining social distance is the key, and while it’s easy to stay apart on the slopes, Eldora is implementing measures to enable appropriate distancing across the guest experience this winter. A few highlights include:
A Later Opening Day: By starting the season slightly later than usual, Eldora plans to open with more acreage and lifts, which will help guests spread out and provide a high- quality on-snow experience from day one.
Parking Reservations: A new online parking-reservation system will help reduce crowding on peak days. Whether you’re a season passholder coming for a few powder-day laps or a family looking to enjoy time on snow together, you will need to let Eldora know you’re coming.
Modified Lift Experience: Due to the length of skis and snowboards, it’s easy to stay distant within lift queues, but guests will notice additional spacing measures including extended maze designs and more lateral spacing. Guests will self-group and load chairlifts with their traveling party.
While things will look a little different at Eldora this winter, local skiers and riders can still look forward to a banner season and feel confident that the mountain is working hard to offer a safe, fun experience. To stay updated on Eldora’s evolving operations plan for Winter 2020-21, please visit eldora.com.
Loveland Ski Area, Colorado
Some of the best snow in the Rockies is only one short car ride away. time to head to Loveland Ski Area.
Let’s not kid ourselves, Loveland Ski Area is mythical for so many good reasons. The snowfall is epic with 422 inches of fresh powder every year; it’s just 53 miles from downtown Denver; and, best of all, nothing is better than ripping turns while watching the unfortunate souls below you battle the traffic on I-70. But this storied hill has even more to offer. Proudly independent, Loveland is an integral part of Colorado’s skiing history. It has been welcoming riders since it opened back in 1936 and still retains a nostalgic vibe that’s becoming increasingly harder to find at the crowded corporate resorts nearby. Perched on the Continental Divide, Loveland offers you the chance to shred one of the highest ski areas in the U.S. and it rarely has long lift lines. Plus, Loveland is one of the first areas to open every year. On the mountain, you get 1,800 acres of terrain, one of the best ski and ride schools in the state, and the core cred of riding an indie legend.
COVID-19: Like everyone else Loveland has had to adapt this season to ensure that the area is offering all visitors a safe experience. Some significant changes for this season include advance reservations will be required for all rental gear, lessons and lift tickets, face coverings will be required pretty much everywhere, and lift capacities will be lowered to ensure social distancing. Unfortunately, the Ridge Cat will be out of operation this year and all on mountain warming cabins, including Ptarmigan food service will be closed. The Basin and Valley lodges will be open but at limited capacities, so plan accordingly, especially on bad weather days. Visit Loveland’s website before coming up to ensure you have the latest details.
Family Friendly: The Loveland Valley area, tucked into its own separate nook away from the crowds, is the ideal spot to head for beginners or little ones. Geared towards beginners the Valley is home to Loveland’s Ski and Ride school, two chair lifts, a magic carpet, and enough terrain to keep any beginner busy for the day.
Season Passes: Loveland recognizes that everyone is anxiously awaiting the chance to hit the slopes this year after last season ended prematurely, so the area is guaranteeing you 130 days of operation this season. If Loveland is forced to close due to COVID-19 it will offer a prorated credit for next season. Couple that with Loveland’s partnership with the Powder Alliance and several other areas and you get a whopping 96 more days at several other skis areas in Colorado and beyond. If that does not fulfill your socially distant snow needs nothing will.
Tickets: As part of its commitment to its customers, Loveland has always strove to offer some of the most affordable day passes in the state. You can grab an adult day pass here for $89 and kids can ski for just $35. Discounted adult tickets will be available if you purchase in advance. But the real deal is Loveland’s Unrestricted 4-Pak. For just $169 you get four lift tickets good for any day all season, plus you can share them with friends and family. 4-Paks are only available through November 22, so act fast to take advantage of Colorado’s best lift ticket deal.
Lessons: Loveland’s Ski and Ride School will help everyone fall in love with the sport. Consistently recognized as one of the best in the state, it’s the perfect environment for beginners to learn or to help intermediates ski the trees and navigate the bumps like a pro. Note that this season, Loveland will be requiring advance reservations to ensure everyone can keep socially distant and safe during a fun day learning on the slopes.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Return to the wild by heading north to find adventure and solitude at this legendary mountain.
Let’s not kid ourselves, anyone who loves billowing through fresh powder deserves unlimited snow days after all we have been through this last year. So go ahead and treat yourself with an extended visit to Jackson Hole. Tucked into the heart of Wyoming’s Teton Range, this is the place where legends are born. So make some of your own. Inside the resort’s expansive boundaries you can find couloirs to get your heart pounding, beautiful bumps, and plentiiful pockets of powder, all thanks to over 450 inches of annual snowfall. When you are not tearing it up on the hill, you can soak up the cowboy-country vibe that permeates Jackson’s DNA while enjoying the resort’s world class amenities.
Lessons: The Solitude Station Learning Center, located mid-mountain, is the place to take the kids when you visit. It offers you a much-needed break while your little ones learn how to carve turns and porpoise through fresh powder from some of the best instructors in the business. Plus, you can rent all your gear here, grab a bit to eat, and relax while soaking up the beauty of the mountain. Even better, book a lesson for yourself and spend the day touring the mountain with your own guide while skiing hidden powder stashes.
Lodging: Teton Village is the perfect place to stay when you visit. It provides a large selection of hotels, lodges, and cabins to choose from, all just minutes from the lifts. If you are looking to stay in the town of Jackson just up the road, you can access the resort from the free shuttle that runs all season long. Once again, Jackson Hole will be offering its stellar Kids Ski and Rent Free program: A four-night stay at the resort earns you huge discounts as well as free lift tickets and gear for all kids under 14.
Getting There: Three different airlines offer daily flights into Jackson Hole throughout the season. If you book your airfare, lodging, and lift tickets through the resort’s website you will get a $300 per person airline credit.
Backcountry: Heading outside the ropes has always been a tradition for expert skiers at Jackson Hole. Unlimited hucks and untracked lines await just outside marked gates. Just make sure you have avalanche gear, proper training, and obey all closures. Or do it the best way this year by hiring one of the resort’s professional guides to ensure a safe and memorable day.
YMCA of the Rockies, Colorado
Family fun and adventure for everyone are close to home and easy to book.
With gorgeous snow-tipped vistas in every direction, both YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch and Estes Park Center provide the perfect outdoor playgrounds for your winter getaway. Pick your destination this season, get out of the house, and rack up the memories at these socially distanced open spaces.
YMCA of the Rockies – Snow Mountain Ranch is the perfect getaway for families looking for adventure and relaxation. Quality time happens at its own pace out here. With over 5,000 acres to explore, there’s something for everyone in the family. Glide across the snow on the award-winning Nordic ski tracks, or find peace in the frosted pines on a self-guided snowshoe excursion. Feel the power of being pulled behind a team of huskies on a dog-sledding experience. View the property from a horse-drawn sleigh, then warm your toes by the campfire.
If it gets too chilly outdoors, take things inside! The craft shop is the perfect place to express your creativity with a wide array of crafts. If you’d rather snuggle up by the fire in your cozy cabin or relax in your lodge room, grab a take-n-make craft from the craft shop and create at your own pace.
YMCA of the Rockies – Estes Park Center is where you can take inspiration from nature in the quiet season and your whole family will have the chance to explore, rest, and reset in a safe environment. Located next to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park Center helps you get outside and find adventure at your own pace. Grab a sled and glide down the hill after a winter storm. Set out on a snowshoe adventure around the property, or venture out into Rocky Mountain National Park for a big day of wonder. Or just strap on your skates and glide around the outdoor ice-skating pond.
If the weather outside is too frightful, head indoors and experience the nostalgia of the roller skating rink or check a book out at the library. You can create the perfect keepsake at the craft and design center, visit the museum, hit the climbing wall, or test your mental skills in the fun and challenging escape room.
Lodging: YMCA of the Rockies offers a wide variety of lodging options to fit the needs of your family. Choose a private family cabin or a cozy lodge room with a mountain view. Lodging covers all price ranges to ensure you spend less time planning and more time playing.