Planning a ski trip to Colorado and its many ski resorts is a bucket list adventure for any true fan of the sport of skiing and snowboarding. This state in the central United States is home to a large number of world-class ski resorts for you to explore, and the region is known for high-quality snow – and lots of it! And while I would definitely recommend every skier plan a trip to Colorado at some point, there are a few tips you should know about to help you make the most of the experience.
Tip #1 – Acclimate and Prepare for the Altitude
Even the world’s best athletes are not immune to the effects of high altitude on the body. The Rocky Mountains, where most of Colorado’s amazing skiing is to be had, boast some impressive peaks with some reaching over 14,000ft/4267m above sea level. While you’re not going to be skiing or snowboarding at a resort quite this high, there are a few famous locations where a ski lift will get you to 10,000ft/3048m -12,000ft/3658m.
You need to be prepared for this high altitude when planning a ski trip to Colorado if you are visiting from a location outside of the state that is not high in elevation. Altitude sickness can easily occur if you head straight from the airport to the slopes. This could quickly put a damper on your excitement. Be sure to drink plenty of water and try to acclimate for at least a day if you can. This will help limit the potential for altitude sickness and make your trip more enjoyable.
Tip #2 – Be Prepared for All Types of weather
Colorado is well-known for having plenty of sunny days, even in the winter. But it’s also known for weather that can change rapidly, especially in the mountains during the winter. It can literally go from a beautiful warm bluebird day to a full-on winter blizzard in a matter of minutes. That means you really need to be prepared for anything and everything that comes your way.
You will want to pack enough layers in your bag to stay warm through the harshest of conditions but also be able to shed these layers when the weather, or your body, heats up. I would recommend a solid shell of ski pants and a jacket alongside a good base and mid-layer as well. You should also pack a few different lenses for your goggles (or two pairs of goggles) to accommodate for changing visibilities when the weather changes.
Tip #3 – Know the Code and Ski Safely
Safety is an important aspect of any ski trip and definitely comes into play when you are skiing on the amazing terrain that Colorado has to offer. Safety considerations need to be adhered to not only for yourself but also for other skiers and snowboarders on the mountain who might not have the skill set you do. You will see signs up at many Colorado resorts that tell you to ‘Know the Code’ and ski and snowboard safely.
Many of these tips in the code seem obvious, but they can actually serve as a legal precedent if you get into an unfortunate accident. You need to know such things like the downhill skier always has the right of way and ski brakes need to be in good operating condition. If you have never heard of this code before, go through the steps to familiarize yourself before your trip.
Tip #4 – Be Extra Safe in the Backcountry
Every year skiers and snowboarders die in the Colorado backcountry. While many others have amazing experiences and get to ski on some truly unique terrain, backcountry skiing, in general, comes with inherent risks that you need to be aware of before you venture outside of any resort boundaries. If you have no experience in the backcountry, you need to educate yourself on the proper safety considerations or else you very literally put your life in danger.
Avalanches are the biggest concern for backcountry skiing and snowboarding safety. You should also always be prepared by having an avalanche beacon on your person as well as a probe and shovel to help you dig your fellow skiers or snowboarders out of a slide. And it should go without saying, never be in the backcountry alone.
Tip #5 – Support Local businesses
A ski trip to Colorado can get quite expensive, but you should always remember that there are many other businesses, not just the major resorts, that rely on tourist money to drive their success in the winter months. Be sure to try to explore some dining options in town or rent your skis from the local ski shop instead of the resort. A little goes a long way here and you can help to keep local ski communities thriving. And if you go with a family, you can easily spend twice as much time compared to a personal one, getting to know local business and facilities will definitely help make your trip smoother.
My biggest tip for planning a ski trip to Colorado is to just go for it! It can easily be the trip of a lifetime and you are sure to make snow-filled memories that will make for great stories down the road. Plus, you’ll be skiing or snowboarding on some of the best snow on earth.
Christine is the founder of TheSkiGirl, a blog dedicated to all things skiing with tips, tricks, and gear reviews to help you enjoy your time on the snow.