Six of the best: Colorado ski resorts


ASPEN

This glamorous ski resort has a reputation for Hollywood holidaymakers that distracts from just how fine, friendly and un-snobbish it really is. The skiing is legendary for champagne powder and blue skies, and four (unfortunately unlinked) mountains each offer astonishing terrain. Snowmass alone has more vertical metres than any other North American ski resort; low-key Buttermilk is perfect for boarders and beginners; Highlands is ski hard and party hard; Aspen Mountain has great variety and many ungroomed challenges. There's plenty for non-skiers, including 5000 kilometres of snowmobile trails, great dining and shopping, quirky mining and counter-culture history, and luxe spas. See aspensnowmass.com

BRECKENRIDGE

Established in 1859 as a mining town, Breckenridge looks like a set from an old western, and has an unpretentious, almost hippy vibe. The town is high (2925 metres), and North America's highest chairlift (3914 metres) summits terrain that runs down 10 peaks on the same mountainside. It can be cold, wind-exposed and oxygen-deprived; on the plus side are great views and a sunny, north-facing aspect. The 10 peaks and 155 runs supply fabulous skiing variations for all ski types, whether beginners (peak 9), speed-loving intermediates (peak10) or black-loving adrenaline junkies (peak 8). See breckenridge.com

BEAVER CREEK

Colorado's most exclusive ski resort is small, family-oriented and big on service, with on-slope ski ambassadors to provide assistance and chefs to hand out cookies at the bottom of the slopes. Skiers looking for a serious challenge aren't entirely left wanting, but the 146 superbly groomed runs across three mountains are mostly pure nirvana for beginners and intermediates who love relaxed ski days. The ski school is excellent. The purpose-built village lacks character but isn't short of fine dining, boutique shopping and glamour, and is just far enough away from Denver to deter the weekend ski hordes. See beavercreek.com

CRESTED BUTTE

Few Australians have heard of Crested Butte, a charming, former nineteenth-century silver-mining town lively with bars, cafes and restaurants that avoids big-name glitz. Yet is has plenty going for it, not least consistently good powder snow and outstanding skiing. Beginners and intermediates have ample choice, while advanced skiers can tackle some of the best in-bound extreme skiing anywhere, both on the double-black North Face and North America's steepest maintained ski run with its 55-degree pitch. All its skiing supplies wide-open views of jagged mountains. The only shortcoming is a 15-minute shuttle ride between town and mountain base. See skicb.com

VAIL

America's largest single-mountain ski resort stretches 11 kilometres across and has three main ski areas that cater abundantly to intermediate and advanced skiers, the latter especially on its famous black-diamond Back Bowls. The front mountain has nicely groomed runs that meander through trees; some are 6 kilometres long. Blue Sky Basin has more varied terrain, including an aptly named Cloud 9 run. For serious skiers, there are few better places anywhere in the world. The sprawling, concrete resort lacks history (although plenty of pseudo-chalet architecture) and sits close to Denver's weekend skiers, but has good restaurants and nightlife. See vail.com

TELLURIDE

This is another characterful mining town set in arguably the most splendid scenery of any Colorado resort; views from runs near the top of the mountain are magnificent. Telluride has 84 seldom-crowded and well-maintained runs, a quarter of which are great for beginners. The rest is half intermediate, with the likes of Gorgeous Goose run offering 7 kilometres of nonstop pleasure. Boarders will find one of Colorado's best snow parks. For advanced skiers, black runs around chairlift 9 include steep moguls, hike-in chutes and glorious, plunging groomers. A good mix of sunny and snowy days ensures generally great ski conditions. See tellurideskiresort.com

Brian Johnston travelled courtesy of Colorado Ski Country USA, Vail Resorts, Aspen Ski Company and Travelplan Ski.

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