Guide to Skiing Colorado in 2020/21: Updates, tips and COVID precautions for a memorable family vacation
posted by: Mile High Mamas
As snow blankets Colorado’s high-country, Vail Resorts and Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) member ski areas are excited to welcome guests back to the slopes for the 2020-21 winter season. While many things in our lives are different, what guests have come to love about skiing and snowboarding will be refreshingly the same this season. The fresh, crisp mountain air and stunning scenery as well as the world-class terrain and world-class guest service Colorado is known for will be ready for guests to enjoy on a pair of skis or snowboard this winter.
Over the summer and fall, Colorado’s ski areas have been tirelessly working with local and state officials to prepare for the 2020-21 winter season. Guests should visit ski area websites, social media and other channels to ensure they have the most up-to-date information on any COVID-19 protocols and understand what is expected during their visit.
Many ski areas will be requiring the prepurchase of lift tickets, ski school reservations, rentals and other activities and guests should check with the ski area they plan to visit before and leading up to their arrival. Ski parties will be allowed to load lifts and gondolas together at full capacity. Parties that are not together will have at least one seat between them on lifts. Up to two unrelated parties can load a gondola together up to 50 percent capacity. Parties that are uncomfortable riding with other parties will be allowed to ride as a single party.
Ski school classes will be limited to under 10 and most ski areas will limit classes sizes to between four and six and offer half-day lessons. Ski areas will be following state and local guidance for indoor spaces, lodging, transportation and other activities where appropriate. Guests who are experiencing symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 are asked to self-isolate and delay their trip.
Below is a summary of Vail Resorts and CSCUSA member ski areas announced plans for the winter and the many resort improvements for the 2020-21 winter season. Check with each individual resort regarding purchasing tickets and COVID restrictions.
Arapahoe Basin will not require reservations for season pass holders and will have contactless skiosks in the base area where guests can pick up pre-purchased daily lift tickets, which will be required. To go food and beverage options will be the norm and the Beach will remain closed until further notice. Indoor facilities are open for bathroom use or to purchase food only. Guests should plan to boot and gear up at their car with no personal locker use available. Guests are encouraged to avoid weekends when possible, enjoy afternoon skiing and avoid historically busy days. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here. New for the 2020-21 season, Arapahoe Basin replaced two of its lifts: Molly Hogan, serving the learning area, and Pallavicini, serving some of A-Basin’s most famous, expert terrain. A-Basin also added RFID pass scanning technology. For additional information, visit www.arapahoebasin.com.
Aspen Snowmass will sell tickets onsite at lift ticket windows, but pre-purchasing online is highly suggested to guarantee access. Rental, retail stores and restaurants will have capacity limitations to maintain social distancing in accordance with state and local guidelines. Additional outdoor dining and grab and go options will be available across all four mountains and guests can use the Aspen Snowmass app to order food to go. Aspen Snowmass passholders do not need a reservation at this time, but Ikon pass holders will need to make a reservation before their visit. The Aspen Highlands snowcat will not be operating this winter. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here.
New for winter 2020-21, Aspen Snowmass has replaced the quad Big Burn lift at Snowmass with a new $10.8 million high-speed six-passenger lift. At Aspen Mountain, 28 new state-of-the art energy-efficient snowmaking guns will allow for top-to-bottom snowmaking for the first time this winter. Snowmass will also welcome snowmaking to 28 acres, offering more reliable early season skiing and riding conditions. Two new restaurants, High Alpine and Alpin Room, replace longtime Snowmass favorite Gwyn’s offering market-style options at High Alpine and sit-down dining, including breakfast, at Alpin Room. For additional information, visit www.aspensnowmass.com.
Beaver Creek might be best known for its World Cup pedigree and stellar children’s ski and snowboard school, but the most adventurous guests will delight in the seemingly endless glade skiing to be found. While locals may argue there are plenty of secret spots on main mountain, Bachelor Gulch is where the real fun begins. The tree skiing both off of Overshot as well as Aspen Alley (just to name a few) is where powder stashes can be found for days following a storm cycle. Rather than give them all away here, they truly must be explored, and experienced, in-person. For additional information, visit www.beavercreek.com.
Escape it all at Breck by trekking to the resort’s highest peaks where unobstructed views and untracked turns often await atop Peaks 6, 7 and 8. Ride the Imperial Express, North America’s highest chairlift, and follow the boot pack up to nearly 13,000 feet above sea level to the famed Lake Chutes where the views, steeps and altitude will literally take your breath away. Or, hike out and up to the top of Peak 7 Bowl. While it may be hard to pass the allure of dropping into Whale’s Tail, travel a little further and you’ll be rewarded with steep, wide-open turns on runs like Y Chutes, CJ’s and Magic Carpet. If you’re up for a slightly longer hike, don’t miss Peak 6’s Beyond Bowl, Serenity Bowl and Six Senses. For additional information, visit www.breckenridge.com.
Cooper will feature several new food and beverage outlets for winter 2020-21 including a pizzeria at Katie O’Rourke’s, a new grill on the base area deck, the Shamrock Snack Shack and the revamped Base Camp Cafeteria offering grab and go options. These new options will help lunchtime flow more smoothly. Also new this year is streamlined access with the Cooper Port of Entry, which all daily guests will need to enter for mountain access. Once a guest has entered, they will rarely need to scan tickets again, reducing contact and improving mountain access. For more information, visit www.skicooper.com.
Copper Mountain will be implementing a parking reservation system this winter to help manage volume at the resort. Guests can book up to seven advanced reservation days throughout the season beginning November 9 and once the season begins make an unlimited number of reservations within a rolling 7-day window. As advance days are used, guests will be able to book additional advance days. Copper will open on November 30, to ensure that more acreage and lifts will be available on opening day. Copper’s three villages and naturally divided terrain will allow guests to spread out on the mountain and in base areas. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here.
A new 127-room, four-story hotel will open at Copper in late 2020. Element 29 is located in Center Village allowing guests optimal access to the slopes, activities and dining outlets in the Village. The hotel will also feature an outdoor patio nestled along West Ten Mile Creek complete with fire pits and hot tubs. This season, Copper has also installed additional snowmaking compressors which will allow more snow-guns to be used during early season snowmaking operations. For additional information, visit www.coppercolorado.com.
Traveling to Crested Butte in itself is an exercise in getting off the beaten path, but CBMR also lets you spread far and wide across the mountain’s 1,547 acres. Want to escape from others or explore the natural environment? It’s easy. Bask in the views of the surrounding Elk Mountains from the top of Painter Boy Lift, but to venture even farther from the front side, take a cruise to Gold Link Lift. Not only can you soak in the scenery, but you might find a couple powder of stashes remaining near the trees along the side of Elko Park or Panion’s Run. Or get a taste for some of Crested Butte’s less traveled signature steeps by taking a lap through Teocalli Bowl off the High Lift. But for the ultimate Crested Butte experience, hike to the peak for 360-degree views from 12,162 feet above sea level before descending 3,062 vertical feet from the summit. For more information, visit www.skicb.com.
Echo Mountain Resort
Echo Mountain does not have a reservation system planned for this winter, but online ticket purchases will be required in advance of a visit. Parking will be staggered to provide adequate space for guests and rentals will require a reservation online in advance. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here. For additional information, visit www.echomountainresort.com.
Eldora will be implementing a parking reservation system this season to help manage access at the ski area. Guests can make up to seven reservations throughout the season beginning November 9 and once a day has been used an additional day can be booked for the upcoming seven-day period. Touchless transactions will be available for all food, beverage and retail purchases. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here. For additional information, visit www.eldora.com.
New this winter, the Granby Ranch Patriot Pass offers all active duty US military members complimentary skiing and snowboarding at Granby Ranch. Granby Ranch will be making improvements to the guest experience with a major overhaul of the snowmaking system to ensure a better early-season experience. Also new this year is overhauled pass pricing with season passes priced at $344 and the new 3-Day Pack for $88. For more information, visit www.granbyranch.com.
Hesperus will announce additional COVID-19 specific policies closer to its expected opening date in mid-to-late December weather permitting. For more information, visit www.ski-hesperus.com.
Howelsen’s lodge will be open for food and ticket purchases, but guests will not be allowed to consume food, hang out or congregate inside the lodge this season. Howelsen will have several outdoor warming huts this winter for guests to utilize and an outside lift ticket window to ensure social distancing. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here. Howelsen Hill is the oldest continually operating ski area in North America and will be celebrating its 105th year of operation this season. Howelsen Hill will continue its popular Ski Free Sunday program again this season, with free skiing/riding every Sunday beginning November 29. For additional information, visit www.steamboatsprings.net/ski.
At Keystone Resort, kids have no age limit. It is a place where play is the root of all good, and play is for everyone. Keystone is a family playground where kids of all ages can discover the magic of playing in the mountains. Located in Summit County, Colo. and just 75 miles west of Denver, the resort boasts more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain including three incredible peaks, five above-tree-line bowls, night skiing, snow tubing, ice skating and more. Home to the industry’s-leading Kids Ski Free offer, kids 12 and younger can ski and ride for free every day, all season long with just two or more nights of lodging booked through the resort beginning December 8. Convenient touches like a Family Ski Trail, designated free family parking, and complimentary red wagons for carrying gear and excited kiddos, makes playing as a family easier.
Loveland will offer one of the longest seasons in the state, an average of 400 inches of snow and affordable ticket, rental and lesson options, but there will be operational changes. Guests will be required to prepurchase lift tickets, rental equipment and Ski & Ride School lessons online prior to arrival. The Ridge Cat, Loveland’s free snowcat service, will not operate this winter, but the terrain served by the cat will be open with hike-to access. On-mountain cabins and the Loveland Child Care Center will be closed. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here. For additional information, visit www.skiloveland.com.
At Monarch, in-person lift ticket sales will not be available on weekends or from December 19, 2020 through January 3, 2021 and guests are encouraged to prepurchase tickets online. Guests are asked to avoid weekends, historically busy peak times and be a weekday warrior. Childcare services and locker access will not be available this winter. The Gunbarrel Cafeteria will have grab and go options available and a new food truck, Fly-by Burritos, is available for outdoor food service. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here. For additional information, visit www.skimonarch.com.
This winter Powderhorn will be prioritizing pass holders and may limit the number of daily lift ticket sales dependent on local county restrictions. Rentals and lessons will need to be reserved online in advance. Food and beverage services will include online ordering, grab-and-go and outdoor dining. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here. New for winter 2020-21, Powderhorn will welcome a new gravity-fed snowmaking system that will offer top-to-bottom snowmaking for the first time in the ski area’s history. Since it is gravity driven, it will be one of the most energy-efficient snowmaking operations in North America. For more information, visit www.powderhorn.com.
Purgatory will feature additional drop off areas and a general admission plaza where guests will need to be scanned once upon entry and not in each lift line for guest convenience and guest and employee safety. There will also be online food and beverage ordering options. Additional specific COVID-19 information can be found here. This winter Purgatory will have three new snowcats to maintain groomed terrain reliably as well as new energy-efficient snowmaking guns that will give snowmaking operations nearly double the snow production power during the early season. For more information, visit www.purgatory.ski.
Silverton Mountain will welcome a new reservations platform for 2020-21 reservations and will continue its daily reservation system that guests are accustomed to using. The new platform will help further streamline the reservation process and help provide the most elbow room on the slopes with more than 26,000 acres of skiable terrain. For more information, visit www.silvertonmountain.com.
Steamboat is not requiring reservations for pass holders at this time. Advanced purchase lift tickets, packages, and season pass products are the only way to access the mountain currently. Lift tickets will not be available for purchase at the resort ticket office. Stand-alone lift tickets will not be available for purchase between December 23 and January 2. Reservations for ski and ride school, rentals, some restaurants and free clinics are required. Night skiing will only be available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Steamboat will also feature two unique outdoor dining options, welcoming back the roaming Taco Beast as well as the brand-new Pizza Ranger, which will offer a pizza delivery option in the Bashor area. First tracks will also start earlier this year at 7:45 am to help spread guests out and additional skier drop off locations will be available. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here. For additional information, visit www.steamboat.com.
Sunlight will feature new grab and go dining options as well as reconfigured base food stations to maintain physical distancing. Sunlight suggests that your car become ‘base camp’ for you and your family. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here. New this season, a fresh coat of paint inside and out will greet guests at the base lodge. For additional information, visit www.sunlightmtn.com.
Telluride will feature 20 refurbished gondolas offering dining options in Mountain Village as well as an expanded yurt and outdoor dining services across the mountain. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here. Telluride will welcome new air service this winter with Southwest Airlines and Jet Blue adding flights into Montrose Regional Airport (MJT) starting in mid-December. Southwest will fly 2-3 times daily from Denver (DEN) and Saturdays and Sundays from Dallas Love Field (DAL). Jet Blue will operate from Boston Logan Airport (BOS) on Saturdays and select Wednesdays during the season. For additional information, visit www.tellurideskiresort.com.
No other resort will allow you to escape from reality like Vail Mountain, where with 5,317 acres of skiable terrain, skiers can truly feel worlds away and completely immersed in nature. In Vail’s expansive Back Bowls, the views (and the powder!) are absolutely limitless. Want to go the extra distance to find your own secret stash? Make the trek out to Outer Mongolia Bowl, at the very Eastern edge of Vail’s vast terrain. Not many skiers make the traverse, so you’ll often have the rolling fields of snow and stunning quiet all to yourself. Beyond the legendary Back Bowls, Blue Sky Basin is no less than 7 miles away from Vail’s base area, and thus feels like a true remote backcountry ski experience. Enjoy the huge outdoor space at Belle’s Camp, where skiers can take a break and relax under bluebird skies with stunning views of the nearby Mount of the Holy Cross, one of Colorado’s tallest peaks. For beginner skiers, take a moment to relax on the peaceful Timberline Catwalk in Northwoods, where the glistening snow on the trees surrounds skiers like a magical wood. To allow for physical distancing, access to the mountain will be managed through a reservation system that prioritizes pass holders and limits the sale of lift tickets. For additional information, visit www.vail.com.
New this winter is a mid-week pass that gives guests unlimited access on non-holiday Mondays-Fridays through the season starting at $539 for adults and $299 for children. Winter Park is not requiring reservations at this time. All rentals, lessons, activities and tours will need to be pre-booked in advance of arrival. Winter Park is also working to create as many contactless options as possible in all restaurants and retail areas. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here. For additional information, visit www.winterparkresort.com.