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A college student’s guide to skiing and riding during the holiday break

Telluride Skiing Santa

The tests are over, the papers turned in, there’s no more notecards and late night study sessions. The semester has drawn to a close and the holiday break is greeted with wide open arms. For many college students, the holidays represent a great opportunity to head up to the mountains and spend some much needed time on the slopes.

As there is no school, it is easier than ever to make it up to the mountains without worrying about doing homework or going to class early the next morning. The more intrepid of student skiers can plan their days around the storm cycle, making sure to always be in the right place at the right time, getting those sweet first tracks. And of course we can’t forget that the holiday break, save for maybe Spring Break, is probably the best time for après-ski, as Colorado’s resorts fill to the brim with a myriad of tourists and locals.

But, the popularity of skiing during holiday break can create a problem of numbers, when there’s that many people visiting our favorite resorts—combined with all the locals also on winter break. But fear not, the holiday break can be navigated, and it can be an absolutely amazing time to ski. Trust me, I have spent every winter break in college trying to ski as much as possible, and I know many others who have as well.

The first and probably most important way to have a great holiday break skiing experience is to choose the right place to ski. View the winter break as a time to explore Colorado Gems ski areas and resorts that you maybe haven’t had the chance to before. These areas, such as A-Basin and Loveland, are more tuned towards local riders. But that doesn’t mean they don’t offer just as good skiing and riding as the larger resorts, and at times maybe even better partying (looking at you, the Beach at A-bay).

Another step you can take to get the most out of holiday skiing is to ski only on weekdays, and preferably Tuesday through Thursday. Of course, during the school year this can be difficult, but during holiday break you can have the slopes to yourself by skiing and riding on the days when everyone else is stuck at work. 

Sometimes, it can also be worth waiting till later in the day to head up to the hills. If there’s no fresh snow to be had and you don’t mind driving home in the dark, heading up to the mountains around midday can be a worthwhile excursion, as the areas clear out in the afternoon. Many ski areas also offer half-day passes which can make the afternoon trip not only better, but cheaper than a regular scheduled day on the slopes.

Another trick during the holidays is to literally ski on the holidays. Christmas Eve can be busy in the morning, but the afternoon is usually quiet. Christmas Day is even better, and if you are up to it, skipping the typical Christmas morning activities in favor of hitting the slopes is a sure-fire way to have a lovely, quiet day on the mountain, and in my opinion is the best way to spend the holiday. New Years Eve can also be busy during the day but quieter in the afternoon, and early New Years Day is always a good bet.

Skiing during the holiday break, especially for students that haven’t stayed in Colorado for the December break before can be a little intimidating. But as the season of joy, it also is one of the best times to explore Colorado’s mountains and bag some great days on the slopes.  


Justin Cygan is a fourth-year student at the University of Denver, where he studies International Relations and Journalism. Born and raised in Colorado, he learned to ski and snowboard at his home mountain of Loveland, where he still regularly rides today. When not chasing pow he can be found skateboarding, writing, reading, cooking and taking pictures in Denver and throughout the state. Justin is the proud father of a year-old aloe plant. Read more of Justin’s stories here.