Where to Find Affordable Skiing Less Than an Hour from Downtown Denver

Early season skiing conditions didn’t stop us from hitting the slopes in Idaho Springs, Colorado

Early season skiing conditions didn’t stop us from hitting the slopes in Idaho Springs, Colorado

Winter is here (for the most part) and that means it’s time to break out all the good stuff — the snowshoes, skis, snowboards, sleds, and sleighs that have been tucked away since last season, waiting patiently for their day in the sun …er, snow. With the cold weather finally, truly upon us, the slopes, the slopes are calling, and what better way to answer that call than by heading to what is arguably the winter sports mecca of the West: Colorado.

In case you didn’t realize, skiing and snowboarding are pretty popular activities in the Centennial State, and, among the gorgeous, snow-covered Rocky Mountains, your options for hitting the slopes are practically boundless. The only issue? A lot of Colorado’s ski resorts and areas, especially the larger ones, are not exactly friendly to those of us who are out here ballin’ on a budget.

According to getoutskiing.com, adult single-day passes at most resorts range from about $50 up to $150. Factor in the cost of equipment rentals, should you need them, at somewhere between $25 and $50 per day and things can add up quickly. Now, of course, there are deals to be had for those seeking to purchase multiple-day passes, but then you’ve also got to consider costs for lodging and meals.

In October 2017, Out There Colorado did a little digging into what it would cost a hypothetical family of four traveling from out of state to spend three days skiing in Breckenridge. While their analysis included airfare, lodging, ski lessons, food, and other costs, the amount of money set aside for lift tickets alone was nearly $1,500, with the three-day adult lift tickets coming in at $435 apiece (based on March pricing). Though Breckenridge might be on the higher end of things — their single-day adult lift tickets are right around $150 — I think it’s fairly safe to say they’re not an anomaly.

That is not to take anything away from Breckenridge, which I’m sure is a fantastic resort, but if you’re objective is to hit the slopes while spending as little money as possible, the ski area you need to head to is Echo Mountain. Located just a skip, a hop, and a jump from Denver — or about 37 miles to the west — Echo Mountain doesn’t have an overwhelming number of runs or any particular frills that will knock you off your feet (unless you’re particularly terrible at keeping your balance, I suppose).

The view from inside Brothers’ Grille at Echo Mountain

The view from inside Brothers’ Grille at Echo Mountain

What it does have, however, is a budget-friendly approach to skiing and snowboarding, with single-day adult lift tickets coming in at just $55 and three-day adult lift tickets clocking in at just $129. With equipment rentals, including your skis/snowboard, boots, bindings, poles, and helmet, or, in other words, the whole kit and caboodle, checking out at $35 (per day, I’d assume), it’s probably safe to say you won’t find a better deal. The ski area’s proximity to Denver also means you can enjoy the best of both worlds, spending that all-important time out in Mother Nature while also getting a taste of city life.

Only four of Echo Mountain’s 12 runs were open when my girlfriend and I visited in early December, but even that small slice of the ski area was enough for us to make an entire afternoon/evening of it. In between our jaunts down Full-Send and Traveler’s Traverse, we grabbed a bite to eat at Brothers’ Grille, where you can fuel up with a menu featuring snacks, sammies, soups, salads, burgers, and more while taking in the awesome views outside the window, and spent some time in the lodge, which feels like the perfect place to be trapped in a blizzard.

Did I mention Echo Mountain stays open late? In looking up different ski resorts and areas prior to our trip out to Colorado, I noticed that many places didn’t stay open after dark, which, as we all know, comes fairly early in the wintertime. Echo Mountain, however, stays open until 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Come at or after 4:30 p.m. on one of those days and the lift tickets drop to just $34 a pop, too.

After personally spending a grand total of $105 for a day on the slopes (including my lift ticket, ski rental, and a mid-afternoon meal), I can say with ease that Echo Mountain was the perfect choice to knock skiing in Colorado off my bucket list. If you’re looking for an affordable Colorado skiing experience of your own, I’d definitely point you here.