Amid craggy peaks, bubbling hot springs, and jaw-dropping alpine wilderness, Colorado’s resort towns deliver the quintessential winter experience. The Rocky Mountains play host to all manner of snow-inspired fun, from skiing and snowmobiling to fat-tire biking and ice climbing. Whether you prefer chasing powder or cozying up for fireside après, here are five of the best places to visit in Colorado in the winter.

1. Crested Butte

Icicles hanging in front of Crested Butte, Colorado, a small colorful ski town.

Buffered by the glorious Elk Mountain Range, magical Crested Butte has managed to cling to its funky vibe despite being “discovered” in recent years. Revel in stunning, steep-and-deep ski terrain. Take a tranquil Nordic ski through vast wilderness — a.k.a. Gunnison County’s two million acres of public lands. Or soak up this former coal-mining town’s history, art, eats, and fun-loving shenanigans, including Mardi Gras festivities and high-octane freeski competitions. Whether raising a pint at a bustling watering hole on colorful Elk Avenue or heading out into the hinterlands, you’ll find that Crested Butte keeps it real.

Things to Do in Crested Butte in the Winter:

  • Explore the resort’s 1,547 acres of skiable terrain, which span groomed runs and more extreme pitches, like North Face and Headwall, and slide up to Uley’s Cabin’s ice bar
  • Given that “the Butte” proclaims itself to be mountain biking’s birthplace, consider a wintery spin on the area’s singletrack on a fat-tire bike
  • Hit the town’s cross-country trails at Crested Butte Nordic Center and warm up on Elk Ave with a “Dark & Snowy” après cocktail at Montanya Distillers

2. Estes Park

Landscape view of Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado with trees in the foreground and mountains in the background.

While some of the snowiest roads of Rocky Mountain National Park close for winter, the gateway town of Estes Park is wide open for business. In fact, the off-season may be the best time to tap into the area’s splendor. Opportunities for outdoor adventure are as vast as the town’s neighboring 265,807-acre park. Snowshoe with a park ranger or enlist a backcountry guide to ski fresh powder or climb icy expanses. Be sure to always keep an eye out for gorgeous wildlife — elk, deer, snowshoe hares, and coyotes are pretty active in winter. In town, sip some local flavor at Elkins Distilling and be sure to check out the iconic Stanley Hotel, made famous by Stephen King’s “The Shining.”

Things to Do in Estes Park in the Winter:

  • For festive fun, hit the Holiday Trail, check out the Christmas Shoppe (open year-round), or take a Santa-led tour of the wilderness
  • To experience the icy magic of Lake Haiyaha, snowshoe or hike 3.9 miles from the popular trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Ditch the ski resort for fresh tracks, with the help of a backcountry guide (and with avalanche awareness and preparation, of course)

3. Frisco

People skiing the Mayflower Gulch Trail, Frisco.

Within striking distance of a half dozen outstanding alpine ski resorts — including Copper, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Vail, and Loveland — humble Frisco is a sneaky-good basecamp all winter long. The two-square-mile downtown has an array of charming, small-town accouterments, from a glassblowing studio to craft breweries. And the 3,000 local inhabitants know how to celebrate the snowy months, kicking off the holidays with Wassail Days, Frisco’s celebration of all things winter and the holidays, followed by bonfires and fireworks in February.

Things to Do in Frisco in the Winter:

  • Hit “Breck,” Copper or Keystone for downhill — or cross-country ski, snowshoe, or skijor (dog-pulled skiing) at Frisco Nordic Center
  • Tube Frisco Adventure Park, especially if you have little ones in tow
  • Ice fish for kokanee, trout or bass at the Lake Dillon

4. Steamboat Springs

Srawberry Hot Springs in the middle of winter.

True to its ranching roots, Steamboat deftly retains a genuine, cowboy feel while catering to powder hounds from near and far. The resort itself is a family-friendly affair that stretches into National Forest land, spans a mountain range, and serves up 2,965 acres of skiable terrain. The main drag has a downhome, string light-bedecked warmth that marries country — yes, you can buy real Stetsons here — with ski town chic. If you happen to be in town for January’s MusicFest or February’s Winter Carnival, be prepared to giddy up for all manner of western-meets-ski-inspired fun.

Things to Do in Steamboat Springs in the Winter:

  • After hitting the slopes, soak in Strawberry Park Hot Springs (of note: all are welcome during the daytime, but it’s adults-only after dark)
  • Head to Fish Creek Falls to watch ice climbers in action
  • Venture to Rabbit Ears for a snowshoe adventure

5. Telluride

Colorado snow tunnel in the mountains.

The towering San Juans stand guard over this bustling, fun-loving, mining-turned-ski town. Remote Telluride — famed for its film and bluegrass fests as much as its slopes — has come a long way since Butch Cassidy’s early bank-robbing days. Today, celebrities and ski bums bask in 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, answering the call of Palmyra Peak or cruising milder terrain. In Telluride, après is as much an art as carving turns on the dramatic slopes. Be sure to ride the lofty gondola, which links the historic hub with trendy, younger sister, the Mountain Village, at an elevation of 9,545 feet. Although tucked-into-a-box-canyon Telluride no longer flies under the radar, quieter villages like Ouray — a.k.a. “America’s Switzerland” — and Silverton are well worth exploring via the Million Dollar Highway, U.S. Route 550.

Things to Do in Telluride in the Winter:

  • Venture to Ouray for the world-renowned annual ice climbing festival at Uncompahgre Gorge
  • Get airborne, kite-skiing in the meadows at Lizard Head Pass or embarking on a guided heli-ski tour of the backcountry
  • Lace up some skates at Telluride Park’s rink, followed by a pint at a local saloon on Colorado Ave or picturesque Oak Street

Plan Your Mountain Getaway to the Centennial State

As you search for the perfect Colorado stay, consider selecting hot tub and ski-in/ski-out filters. Direct-to-snow access — followed by a soak under the stars — makes for a supremely relaxing, Rocky Mountain getaway.