Eldora Ski Area
It’s a myth that going skiing and snowboarding in Colorado has to involve an early morning wake-up call and a full day on the mountain. Sure, the 6 a.m. alarm is worth it on some days, like holiday weekends, when there’s fresh powder or new terrain opening. But is it possible to just sleep in on the weekends every once in a while?
Yes, it is. If you’re recovering from a long week at work, have breakfast or brunch plans, or just generally don’t want to sacrifice a full day of your weekend to the mountain, you have options. Many Colorado ski areas offer a half-day ticket for what we like to call the “second shift” - arriving as the morning skiers depart and setting yourself up for a glorious afternoon on the slopes.
I swear by the second shift for a few reasons. Half-day lift tickets are less expensive, leaving some money left over for après ski at the bar. It’s easy to find parking right near the lifts as the first-chair chasers and families start to vacate the parking lot in search of lunch. And afternoon skiing offers optimal conditions when the sun warms the snow and you can sometimes get away with light layers.
If you’re a Denverite ready to give second shift skiing a try, I recommend these five Front Range ski areas.
Loveland Ski Area
Loveland Ski Area - Dustin Schaeffer
Loveland tops the list of half-day ski destinations for a few reasons. First, location. Loveland is one of the closest ski areas to Denver, giving you less time in the car and more time on the mountain. It’s also one of the more affordable half-day tickets, only $75 during the regular season, and grants access at 11:30 a.m., offering 4.5 hours of lift access at a discounted rate.
Loveland also wins on flexibility with the Flex Ticket, which provides skiers and riders lift access for any 4 consecutive hours at the half-day rate of $75. Guests can ask for Flex Ticket at any ticket window and will initially be charged the full-day rate. If guests return the Flex Ticket within 4 hours, they will receive a $17 refund.
View from Cooper|Chicago Ridge - Scott Rappold
At Cooper, an adult half-day ticket for access from 12 p.m. - 4 p.m. is $49, while a half-day ticket for a child costs $33. Cooper is a great family-friendly mountain near Leadville, and while it might be a little bit of a stretch for a day trip, it’s easy to fill a weekend in Leadville with great family-friendly activities and still hit Cooper for a half day. Plus, you can’t beat that price.
Copper Mountain Sunrise
Copper Mountain is another great choice for a half-day adventure, with naturally divided terrain that appeals to beginners and experts alike. Whether you’re planning to stick to groomed blues or you want to ski the steeps, Copper has something for everyone.
Copper’s half-day tickets offer skiing and riding beginning at noon. For the 2018-19 season, the maximum adult half-day ticket rate was $120, but considerable discounts are available if guests purchase online in advance.
Winter Park Resort
Winter Park Resort - Karen Mahar
Another great mountain close to the Front Range, Winter Park offers a half-day ticket which grants lift access starting at 12 p.m. Prices vary throughout the season, so you’ll want to call ahead for more information.
Winter Park is a great choice for skiers and riders who are eager to leave I-70 behind, and with its seven territories, you can find runs for any type of skier here. Don’t forget about Mountaintop Après before you leave for live music, food, drinks and breathtaking views every Thursday through Saturday.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
Arapahoe Basin, a fan favorite among Front Range skiers, offers a half-day ticket called the Afternoon Delight. A-Basin is well-known for its location perched high on the Continental Divide, which brings great snow conditions and helps the ski area stay open from October through June most seasons, and sometimes all the way through the Fourth of July. Arapahoe Basin is your best bet for a half-day ticket in the early or late season, hands down.
The Afternoon Delight is good for an afternoon (1 p.m. - 4 p.m.) of skiing or riding. The cost of the lift ticket varies throughout the season and starts at $32.99. Guests can save money by purchasing lift tickets in advance online.
Bonus – Echo Mountain
Rather than an afternoon half-day ticket, Echo Mountain offers a separate ticket for night skiing, which is available four nights a week Wednesday – Saturday. Echo Mountain is the closest ski area to downtown Denver, making night skiing accessible as an after-school or after-work activity.
A night skiing ticket grants lift access from 4:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. and cost $30 for an adult or $19 for a child.
Kathryn Robinson is a native Floridian who transplanted to Colorado for graduate school and never looked back. She learned to ski for the first time in her early twenties and now she counts down the days until winter. When she’s not on the slopes, she’s working full-time in Denver, hiking, kayaking, or playing with her dog Riley.