Families seeking affordable lift tickets, shorter lift lines and stunning terrain need look no further than Colorado’s Gems, the hidden-gem ski areas scattered throughout the state. As you plan some of the final weekends of the skiing and snowboarding season, or organize a Spring Break ski extravaganza, here is a rundown of five gems resorts to consider for your family’s next getaway.
Located in South Central Colorado just 20 miles west of Salida on U.S. Highway 50 (roughly 155 miles southwest of Denver), Monarch Mountain is ideal for families seeking respite from busier resorts. Situated on the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass—resulting in about 350 inches annually—the area features 54 trails, two terrain parks, and an extreme terrain area called Mirkwood. Kids ages seven to 12 can sign up for a 3-hour, half-day junior lesson for $79; include rentals and a lift ticket for $119. New this season, the Monarch Tubing park is open to all ages—tubers must stand 36 inches tall—and tickets are sold by the hour. If you’re a more skilled skier or rider, Monarch’s Snowcat Tours can help you find great powder and 1,200 acres of expert terrain. SkiMonarch.com.
Located along the northern edge of the world’s largest flattop mountain, Western Colorado’s Grand Mesa, Powderhorn Resort offers 1,600 acres of terrain (233 miles southwest of Denver via Interstate 70). Boasting some 250 inches of annual powder, and 70 percent of its trails designated as “beginner” or “intermediate,” the resort is perfect for any family of skiers or snowboarders. And a recent upgrade to a high-speed quad lift, the Flat Top Flyer, means you can get to the top in just six minutes. For first-time skiers and riders, Powderhorn is offering three free lessons, rentals, and lift tickets throughout the season (available on Sunday, ages 8 and older). Once the participant “graduates” the Free-Learn to Program, they are eligible for exclusive offers, including a season pass for the remainder of the season for $69. Powderhorn.com.
Sunlight Mountain Resort
Few ski resorts in the country can claim to be more kid-friendly than Sunlight. Not only does this gem resort set 12 miles south of Glenwood Springs (and 30 miles northwest of Aspen) offer free parking within walking distance of lifts; 67 trails (700 skiable acres) leading directly to the lodge; and a full day of skiing for about half the cost of bigger resorts, according to the resort’s site. It’s also the only resort that launches an annual campaign to elect a Mini-Mayor (kids 12 and under), where the winner receives a complimentary season pass, a new pair of skis or snowboard, and a seat at Sunlight’s Executive Table. Try the Slope-n-Soak 4-pack, which includes four lift tickets to Sunlight and four day passes to Iron Mountain Hot Springs or Glenwood Hot Springs. SunlightMtn.com.
Hesperus Ski Area
A quick drive from downtown Durango, 11 miles west on Highway 160, Hesperus Ski Area is an affordable option for families. With 26 trails and a terrain park on 60 skiable acres—and some 150 inches of annual snowfall—there’s something for all skill levels. The ski area offers a day lodge, rental shop, ski and ride school, and a tubing hill—even night skiing. Available every day, Hesperus also offers beginners (7 and older) up to three free lessons with the purchase of a full-day, full-price lift ticket ($39). Every child age 10 and under receives a free season pass to Hesperus, Purgatory Resort and several other resorts in the area, no strings attached! Additionally, every Friday night, Hesperus offers $19 lift tickets to students currently enrolled in any Colorado or New Mexico college. Ski-Hesperus.com.
Kendall Mountain Ski Area
Perched nearly 10,000 feet high in the historic mining town of Silverton, a federally designated National Historic Landmark District where miners once pulled silver from its mountains “by the ton,” Kendall Mountain Ski Area offers plenty of winter activity for families trekking to Southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Located about an hour’s drive northeast of Durango, the resort is great for beginners and families with small kids, offering skiing, snowboarding and sledding, as well as access to an ice-skating rink, snowshoe/cross-country trails, ice-climbing spots and more (rentals available). Kids 5 and under ski free. The resort also hosts night skiing several nights per season—complete with food vendors, beer and wine, a bonfire and a DJ—the last one for 2018/2019 on Sat., March 23, from 5 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults; $17 for kids/seniors. (Day tickets, discount passes and season passes are not valid for night skiing.) Kendall Mountain.
Freelance writer Heather Mundt is a Colorado native from Longmont who didn't learn to ski until her late 20s. Now she spends ski season barely keeping up with her husband and two boys. Read more about her family's travel adventures at or read more of Heather's skiing stories .