Here’s how to Avoid I-70 During Ski Season this Year

Here’s how to Avoid I-70 During Ski Season this Year

The Interstate 70 corridor in Colorado is home to eight of the state’s largest ski resorts. It may be the greatest concentration of ski lifts this side of the Alps. From the foothills west of Denver to the Eisenhower Tunnel to the Vail Valley, Front Range skiers regularly use the highway to access Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek, Copper Mountain and Winter Park. There’s no good way around it and little public transit during ski season.

Not surprisingly, the I-70 corridor also has some of the worst ski traffic in the known universe in the prime of ski season. Every metro-area skier has a story about sitting for hours on the snowy highway no matter how early they set the alarm on Saturday morning or what time they left a ski area to head home on Sunday afternoon.

But rather than hanging up your skis in frustration, there’s a better option: Head off the beaten interstate path to some of the more out-of-the-way ski areas. Our team at Corken + Company has compiled a list for you to avoid I-70 and still make the most out of ski season. If you have a season pass, check the fine print: You might get a discount or even free days at these smaller resorts!


Monarch Mountain

The secret is out about this small ski area on the Continental Divide in central Colorado. Once the domain of Salida locals and Colorado Springs day trippers, more and more Denver-area skiers are finding their way here. It doesn’t have the 3,000 vertical feet of larger ski hills, but it also rarely has lift lines or traffic jams. Nor hard, machine-made snow (it’s all natural.) The drive on U.S. 285 from Morrison will seem like a delight if you’ve ever spent two hours moving 2 miles on I-70.

  • Location: Monarch Pass, U.S. 50
  • Distance from Denver: 160 miles
  • Where to stay: The Monarch Mountain Lodge is just minutes from the resort, or stay in Salida for a greater selection of restaurants and nightlife.
  • Skiable acres: 800
  • Colorado pass partners: Arapahoe Basin, Cooper, Copper Mountain, Loveland, Purgatory, Sunlight


Wolf Creek

If you’ve ever skied on 23 inches of snow that fell in one night, it just might have been at this southern Colorado ski area. When storms come out of the Southwest, it gets pounded — to the tune of 430 inches a year. Powder hounds know: When it’s pouring in Southern California and the winds are right, it’s time to head to Wolf Creek. There’s no base village, posh boutiques or ski-in, ski-out condos, just good old-fashioned skiing, the way it used to be.

  • Location: Wolf Creek Pass, U.S. 160, between South Fork and Pagosa Springs
  • Distance from Denver: 250 miles
  • Where to stay: South Fork has numerous hotels and cabin rentals and is more affordable (and closer to Denver) than the Pagosa Springs side of the pass.
  • Skiable acres: 1,600
  • Colorado pass partners: None



Sitting just 21 miles west of Boulder, this small ski area has become the go-to for metro residents. You can even take a bus there, which is a good idea if you’re a solo weekend warrior. The mountain also benefits from upslope storms, so if there’s snow on your lawn in Denver there’s probably a lot more on the hill.

  • Location: West of Boulder on Colorado 72 (Peak to Peak Highway)
  • Distance from Denver: 50 miles
  • Skiable acres: 680
  • Colorado pass partners: Ikon Passholders get unlimited access


Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Steep and deep with jaw-dropping views. That about sums it up for this central Colorado resort. With some of the steepest terrain in the industry, this is a mountain where you put it all on the line. Of course, you’ll want good snow for a 55-degree pitch, such as on Rambo, the steepest cut run in North America. Add to the experience the dining and nightlife of delightful Crested Butte and you have a perfect ski weekend without setting a tire on I-70.

  • Location: Crested Butte
  • Distance from Denver: 230 miles
  • Where to stay: For a modern resort experience you can’t beat the base village.
  • Skiable acres: 1,547
  • Colorado pass partners: Epic Pass holders get unlimited access




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Rachel Sartin

Lori Corken