With so much terrain and views that never end, it would be a shame to not visit Colorado’s ski resorts in the summer months. While most of them offer the requisite hiking and mountain biking, so many have added innovative, family-friendly activities over the last few summers, from treetop zip line tours and mountain coasters to gem panning at bungee rides in the base village.
Whether you’re coming to the mountains seeking adrenaline-fueled adventure or just wanting to entertain the tots, these six ski areas transform into veritable summer hotspots where there’s more to do than you can shake a golf club at.
Think Vail is big in the winter? Try it out in the summer and its size will probably blow your mind (again). The mountain bike trails are endless, and family fun is just an Epic Discovery Pass away. Summertime at Vail is packed with all kinds of activities thanks largely to the Epic Discovery experience, an all-inclusive summer adventure pass for the whole family. If you can imagine it, you can probably do it at Vail.
Hot Ticket: Vail Oktoberfest takes place over two weekends between Sept. 10 and 19, 2021, and serves up Bavarian ambience complete with mountain views, music, family activities, wienerschnitzel and other German specialties and, of course, plenty of brews.
Vail Summer Checklist
• Get an Epic Discovery pass and get access to all of the attractions: a bungee trampoline, adventure ropes courses, mini golf, climbing tower, Nature Discovery Center, summer tubing, and mountain coaster.
• For great Vail Valley views, ride the gondola from the base to the summit 10,350 feet.
• Better yet, thrill seekers can fly over the valley via zip line tour—seven connected lines and aerial bridges.
• Hiking is plentiful for all ability levels, accessible by gondola or from the base. On guided tours, many of them free, guests can learn about the natural ecology of the Vail areas and spot wildlife.
• Mountain bikers will rejoice at the extensive trail network—miles of scenic trails are open to riders of all levels by riding the gondola, chairlift or ascending from the base.
• Get out on the water with some fly fishing, river rafting, or kayaking, all accessible near the resort on Gore Creek and the Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas rivers.
• Choose your tee time at the Vail Golf Club’s 18-hole course.
Winter Park, Colo.
Escape the heat of the city and explore hiking trails, views, and more at Denver’s closest ski resort. Plus, with 600 miles of trails, most of which are lift-served, mountain bikers will be anything but bored. Although the town and its surroundings offer plenty of off-season fun in itself, Winter Park Resort keeps its world-class operation pumping to provide for guests all summer long.
Hot Ticket: Winter Park Jazz Festival, July 17-18, 2021. The Winter Park Jazz Festival is back this summer with a world-class, Grammy nominated lineup including Bel Biv DeVoe and En Vogue, plus many other solo and ensemble performance at the open-air Rendezvous Event Center.
Winter Park Summer Checklist
• WP is one of the state’s mountain biking meccas. Over 600 miles of mountain bike trails extend around the resort and surrounding areas, offering prime riding of both the downhill and cross-country variety. Trestle Bike Park is Colorado’s premier downhill mountain bike park, with over 45 lift-accessed trails complete with jumps, berms and technical options. First-timers can get their wheels under them on gentle green trails at the bottom of the bike park.
• Families with kids will want to spend time at the base, packed with a climbing wall, putting course, bouncy house, maze, bungee, mineral panning course, and 3,000-foot alpine slide (accessed by riding up the face of the mountain via lift.)
• Hiking is free—all trails are accessed from the base and give visitors the opportunity to truly hike the whole mountain.
• Scenic lift rides drop folks at 10,700 feet, showing off the majestic beauty of the Colorado Rockies.
• A 20-hole disc golf course meanders up the lower slopes, accessed via the Arrow Chairlift.
• Whitewater rafting, world-class fishing, zip lines, horseback riding, and ATV tours are plentiful in the area and operate right outside the resort.
Purgatory Resort, Colo.
Reader beware: You’ll likely fall in love with Southwestern Colorado if it’s your first time there. Our favorite spot for fun in the sun? Purgatory Resort, which sits just north of Durango and offers stunning views of the San Juan Mountains. Purgatory is at the top of its class for summer diversions—accompanied by amazing views in every direction. Take a lift to get a better view.
Hot Ticket: Carve Wars, July 30-Aug. 1, 2021, is a three-day chainsaw carving competition that challenges artists to create often life-sized works from various mediums. There’s also an auction after the competition is judged, in case you’re looking to add an incredibly unique piece of art to your collection.
Purgatory Summer Checklist
• Adrenaline junkies can get their fixes with the Inferno Mountain Coaster, a 4,000-foot alpine rollercoaster twisting steeply around the mountain face. Alternately, there is a lift-accessed alpine slide that sends riders soaring down a half-mile descent.
• Board a chairlift to access hiking trails, or just to breathe in the fresh mountain air with stunning views of the San Juans.
• The same lifts provide access to miles of singletrack mountain biking for all ability levels in the mountain bike park.
• Looking to cool off? Purgatory partners with Durango Board & Boat to offer paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboating on Twilight Lake.
• Get your kiddos behind the wheel of their own mini off-road go-kart on Purgatory’s dirt track.
Crested Butte, Colo.
As the snow melts and days get longer, Crested Butte comes alive for the summer. The resort keeps its lift operations running, offering views, hikes, and plenty of mountain biking trails for the adventurous visitor. And CB’s authentic town jams all summer long with shopping, a farmer’s market, great dining, and more—icing on an already tasty cake.
Hot Ticket: Crested Butte Arts Festival, Aug. 2-4, 2019. This 49-year-old festival features a juried art show in downtown Crested Butte, plus artist demos, an art auction, live music, and activities for the kiddos.
Crested Butte Summer Checklist
• There’s hiking for days thanks to the miles of trails accessible for guided or unguided hikes, where guests can explore the slopes while the Elk Mountain Range towers in the distance.
• You don’t want to miss the mountain biking scene here; Crested Butte is renowned as one of the sport’s birthplaces. The Evolution Bike Park features over 30 miles of singletrack for every level of rider.
• Channel your inner Katniss and check out CB’s lift-accessed 20-target archery course for archers of all levels to practice their skills.
• Frisbee fanatics can take on an 18-hole disc golf course on the mountainside.
• For extra thrills, guests can fly high above the resort on a zip line tour, featuring five zip lines ranging 120-400 feet.
• At the base, the resort’s Adventure Park is a hit for adventure-seeking children.
• Families can spend the day playing between a mini-golf course, climbing wall, bungee trampoline, airbag jump, and prospecting course for young miners. Kids also have the option to join summer camps on and around the mountain while parents are out exploring.
• On Wednesday and Friday evenings, the Red Lady Express lift stays open for the twilight hours, so that guests can take in the scenery, ride the Evolution Bike Park, or play disc golf until 7 p.m.
• World-class fishing, rafting, and horseback riding are available near the resort and throughout the Gunnison Valley—bookings are made easy at the Evolution Bike Shop at the base.
No one complains about the views in the winter, but Telluride summer scenics are mind-blowingly epic. Its off-season offerings, heavy on festivals and strenuous but rewarding hiking and biking, don’t disappoint. While getting there isn’t easy, at least during the summer you can enjoy the journey itself. Road trip time? We think so.
Hot Ticket: Telluride Film Festival, Sept. 3-6, 2021, is a Labor Day weekend celebration of the most exciting and innovative independent films from around the globe. Screenings take place all around the historic town of the Telluride.
Telluride Summer Checklist
• T-Ride’s Mountain Village Bike Park serves up difficult to expert singletrack trails. Cross-country-style options are on tap from the valley floor with guided and unguided offerings.
• The base is rife with family-friendly attractions, from a bungee-trampoline to gem panning.
• Adventurous types won’t want to miss Telluride Mountain’s Via Ferrata course—a technical climbing route where participants climb with the help of steel cables and harnesses.
• If the Via Ferrata is too intense, consider the Telluride Canopy Adventure, a series of five zip lines, two bridges, and two rappels at heights of up to 140 feet from the ground that fly people over and through the trees.
• Join a guided rafting trip on Class II and III-plus whitewater or take a tube down the gentler flowing San Miguel River.
• Take a swing at one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, located at the Telluride Golf Club; the 18-hole, par-70 course is nestled between the highest concentration of 13,000- and 14,000-foot peaks in the United States.
• Horseback riding, fly fishing, paragliding, paddle boarding, mountaineering, and off-roading tours in Telluride’s pristine surroundings are also made accessible through the resort.
Aspen Snowmass, Colo.
When the snow melts and the town’s namesake trees dress in emerald, Aspen becomes a different kind of mountain playground: the ski areas morph into miles of perfect trails for hiking and mountain biking. Roads to the high country open, allowing easier access to Rocky Mountain vistas and to nearby 14,000-foot peaks. And, perhaps most importantly, the town still maintains its world-class dining, lodging, and nightlife scene all summer long.
Hot Ticket: The Summer 2021 Snowmass Concert Series features new artists every Thursday evening on the grass at Snowmass’ Fanny Hill. Bring a picnic spread and settle for some great—free—tunes.
Aspen Snowmass Summer Checklist
• Explore the Lost Forest, a family-friendly collection of activities and attractions located at Elk Camp at Snowmass, including an alpine coaster, ropes challenges and a climbing wall.
• The Snowmass Bike Park offers 25 miles of downhill riding with a 3,000-vertical-foot drop. Sound too intimidating? There’s a good breadth of variety, from gentle and winding beginner routes to playful adventure terrain with features and jumps.
• Between the four ski areas, three offer summer lift-served hiking and sightseeing. Choose between riding Buttermilk’s Summit Express, Aspen Mountain’s Silver Queen Gondola or Snowmass’s Elk Camp Gondola and Chair. Or don’t choose and ride all three!
• You’d be remiss not to take in the majestic views of the Maroons Bells, and get into the backcountry for some of Colorado’s best hiking.