Southwest Colorado might not have the size of ski resorts to compare with the giant winter operations further north around Vail Resort and Summit County, but the ski areas in the less-frequented region of the San Juan mountains offer plenty of variety for those willing to travel the extra miles.
Telluride ski resort
Telluride is a former mining town but the ski resort operations have transformed its atmosphere into a trendy winter destination. Situated at the end of a canyon in stunning scenery, the ski slopes above the historic town have been rated as the ‘best ski resort in the USA’ by both specialist magazines and websites.
The skiable terrain may not be as extensive as Breckenridge or Vail and the prices are not as steep, but the biggest winter resort in the San Juan mountains offers a variety of options for all level of skier and snowboarder.
Telluride has two base areas: one in the historic town and one over at the much higher Mountain Village where much of the beginner skiing is located. The two areas are linked by a free gondola service which runs from early in the morning through to midnight and which extends through to the Market Plaza area to serve more accommodation and parking.
The main beginner and intermediate-level skiing is above the Mountain Village and Market Plaza area, with an interlinking network of long unchallenging runs, many of them descending from the mountain restaurants.
Advanced and expert skiers who like on-piste challenges will find them on plenty of steep bump runs above the town lifts on either side of the Oak Street and Plunge chairlifts. Even more testing terrain is available in the ‘hike-to’ terrain of the high bowls, ranging from bump runs to chutes and, as the ski resort website says, “some of the steepest, most challenging terrain found anywhere in the world”.
Telluride ski stats
Lifts: Telluride ski resort has a total of 19 lifts, which include two gondolas and seven high-speed quad chairlifts.
Terrain: The skiable terrain covers 2000 acres.
Vertical drop: The difference between the historic town of Telluride and the top station is just over 4400 feet.
Longest run: The longest ski run at Telluride is Galloping Goose at around four and a half miles in length.
Telluride ski video
Telluride ski resort accommodation
Accommodation is available to suit all preferences. Those looking for action and nightlife might like to stay in the historic downtown, while those wanting easy access to the slopes, especially beginner or early intermediate skiers, may prefer the Mountain Village.
But, as mentioned above, both areas of Telluride are connected by the free gondola service.
Downtown Telluride hotels and resorts
Camel’s Garden Hotel is located in historic Telluride just a few steps away from the free gondola connection to Mountain Village and the ski slopes. The boutique hotel offers rooms, suites and condos and the main building also has spa, restaurant and ski rental facilities.
The New Sheridan Hotel is a fixture in the historic downtown of Telluride. The three-storey hotel can trace its history back to the late 1800s and offers 26 rooms and suites, as well as a renowned chophouse restaurant and traditional bar.
The Hotel Telluride is located just off Main Street close to the entrance to downtown Telluride. It offers pet-friendly accommodation in rooms of various sizes as well as a gym and hot tub. It has its own restaurant serving breakfast and dinner menus.
Hotels and resorts in Telluride Mountain Village
The Peaks Resort & Spa is a true ski-in ski-out residence on the beginner slopes at Telluride Mountain Village. It offers luxury rooms and suites and has an extensive spa and wellness area as well as a number of restaurants and bars.
The Inn at Lost Creek is a sister property to The Peaks Resort and guests can use the spa and wellness facilities there. The resort is located at the heart of Mountain Village and the ski lift connections and offers studios, suites and condos.
The luxury hotel Madeline is part of the Auberge Resorts collection and is located at the top of the beginners’ ski area in the Mountain Village. It offers accommodation in suites, apartments and penthouses as well as a heated outdoor pool, spa, salon and fitness area.
Other ski accommodation at Telluride
Accommodation in Telluride is not limited to hotels and luxury resorts. Check the map below for other accommodation availability in downtown Telluride and the Mountain Village area. Enter the proposed dates of travel and then hover over the prices to see the accommodation. Zoom in or out using the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons to see more accommodation or a greater area. Click on the price to check availability.
Ski area website: tellurideskiresort.com
Purgatory Resort is located 30 minutes’ drive to the north of the college town of Durango in southwestern Colorado. Purgatory has a reputation as a relatively uncrowded and value-for-money Colorado ski resort when compared to some of the larger and glitzier neighbours in the state.
Founded back in the Sixties as Durango Mountain Resort, Purgatory Resort offers a good range of ski runs suited to all levels of skier, although the slightly lower elevation means that there is little skiing above the tree line and that many of the tougher runs are full of bumps, as opposed to being steep fall-line trails covered in powder snow.
Purgatory Resort is part of the Power Pass lift ticket association, which covers eight ski resorts in Colorado and neighbouring states in the southwest.
Accommodation is available at the ski resort itself, although cheaper options and a wider variety nightlife choices are also on offer in Durango.
Purgatory ski stats
Lifts: Purgatory Resort has a total of 12 ski lifts, including nine chairlifts.
Terrain: The skiable terrain covers 1605 acres.
Vertical drop: The difference between Purgatory Resort village and the top station is just over 2000 feet.
Longest run: The longest ski run is just under three and a half miles in length.
Purgatory Resort ski video
Purgatory ski resort accommodation
Purgatory Resort offers a range of accommodation near the base of the lifts including hotel rooms and condos. A wider range of price points is available 25 miles to the south in the lively town of Durango.
Ski accommodation in Durango
Ski area website: www.purgatory.ski
Wolf Creek Ski Area
Wolf Creek ski area is renowned for its consistent depth of snow, with an average fall of more than 400 inches – more than any other Colorado resort. It is located on Wolf Creek pass between the small towns of Pagosa Springs and South Fork.
The size of the terrain is comparable to Purgatory above but whereas that resort is more for those who prefer on-piste runs, Wolf Creek is better suited to the skier or boarder who is aiming for deep powder snow runs (or to improve their skills in that area).
It would be wrong however to ignore the area for beginners and intermediate skiers as there are a number of green and blue runs above the main base parking area.
Wolf Creek is far from the archetypal ski resort with typical upmarket glamour as there is no accommodation at the base area. There are however restaurants and bars both on the slopes and in the base area.
Wolf Creek ski stats
Lifts: Wolf Creek ski area has a total of 10 ski lifts, including seven chairlifts.
Terrain: The skiable terrain covers 1600 acres.
Vertical drop: The difference between Wolf Creek Pass and the top station is just over 1600 feet.
Longest run: The longest ski run – Navajo – is around two miles in length.
Wolf Creek ski video
Ski accommodation in the Wolf Creek area
Lodging can be found on the western side of the pass at Pagosa Springs or on the eastern side at South Fork, both around 20 miles away from the skiing.
Ski area website: wolfcreekski.com
Hesperus Ski Area
Hesperus is a small locals’ mountain just 11 miles to the west of Durango. The ski hill is open Thursday through Sunday and offers night skiing.
The one double chairlift offers 700 feet of vertical and serves 60 acres of terrain and 26 marked ski runs. Hesperus also has a snow-tubing area on Marmot Hill. The ski area here also belongs to the Power Pass lift ticket association.
Accommodation can be found in nearby Durango (see accommodation map in the Purgatory Resort section above).
Hesperus ski video
Ski area website: www.ski-hesperus.com
Kendall Mountain Ski Area
Kendall Mountain is a small ski area in the town of Silverton to the north of Durango. The sole chairlift covers just under 300 feet of vertical and serves 16 acres of terrain. The family ski area is open from Friday to Sunday.
Kendall Mountain ski video
Ski area website: www.skikendall.com
Silverton Mountain is a ski area with a big difference. Located to the north of Silverton it has just a single chairlift and very little in the way of facilities.
Numbers of skiers are limited and, for most of the winter season, it is obligatory to ski in guided groups because of avalanche risk. There is no skiing or boarding available for beginners or intermediate skiers.
Silverton Mountain is however a magnet for advanced and expert skiers drawn to the powder snow (400 inches in a season) and the tough skiing accessible either by the lift and subsequent hiking or by a heli-ski operation.
The skiing is open from Thursday to Sunday.
Silverton Mountain ski video
Ski area website: silvertonmountain.com
Ski accommodation at Silverton
Although Silverton is a remote former mining town tucked away in the San Juan mountains, there is a good choice of accommodation for those looking to access the skiing at Silverton Mountain (or Kendall Mountain).
Check the map below for accommodation availability. Enter the proposed dates of travel and then hover over the prices to see the accommodation. Zoom in or out using the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons to see more accommodation or a greater area. Click on the price to check availability.