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Plan a Colorado road trip: The ultimate routes for Ikon pass, Epic ski pass holders

Hit the best slopes across Colorado

Toy car on map of United States
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So, you’re looking to rip up the Rocky Mountain on a ski road trip, huh? Well, lucky for you, I’ve got the inside scoop to help you travel around these Colorado mountains with ease and avoid common road trip mistakes. Keep reading for the best routes to take for this winter road trip.

SUV driving down snowy road
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Traveling from point A to B and so on …

Assuming you’re flying into the Mile High State, you’re going to need some sort of transportation. Check out these Colorado-based RVs and campervan rentals for cruising the Rockies in style and comfort. They offer tons of space and onboard amenities like cooking essentials, inverters for charging devices, and campsite gear to make your trip as comfortable and stress-free as possible. All you’ll need to bring is yourself, some buds, your skis or snowboard, and snow gear.

If you’re planning to sleep the nights in your camper, make sure to do some research on where to go for overnight parking. A good rule of thumb is to stick to hiking trailheads and highway pull-offs. But if you’re planning to stay on-site or at a hotel, and don’t need something as extravagant, Denver International’s long list of rental agencies has a wide variety of high-performing, snow-chomping SUVs with tons of cargo space.

Man skiing downhill
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Epic pass route

For those of you who own an Epic ski pass, get ready to rip some killer resorts across the Rocky Mountains, as well as some top-notch apres. Altogether, the trip will cover four resorts spread across five days.

Day 1: Denver International to Keystone Mountain Resort – 93 miles

The first day will be a monster of a day. Preferably, you get into Denver International around early morning and wrap up the rental car process by 9 or 10 a.m.

On a perfect day, the trip from Denver International to Keystone takes 1 hour and 45 minutes, but be warned, I-70 is its own beast, and weather conditions, wildlife, road closures, and traffic pileups can drastically affect travel time. Once you’ve arrived, feel free to take it easy and soak in those afternoon turns. Keystone has a wonderful variety of beginner, intermediate, and advanced terrain, from soft groomers to technical bowl sections.

Once your legs have had enough, take your choice at Kickapoo Tavern, Last LiftBar, or Snakeriver Saloon for some post-sesh après.

Day 2: Keystone to Breckenridge – 14.6 miles

You can breathe a sigh of relief; this next drive is only a short half hour. Hopefully, you slept well, because today will be the first full day of skiing or snowboarding.

A piece of advice: Don’t try and do all of Breck in one day. The mountain is huge, so pick out certain sections you want to hit and stick to the plan. Personally, I enjoy the E Chair and Windows section of the mountain.

After you’ve had your fill, there are plenty of options for grub both on and off the mountain.

Day 3: Breck to Vail – 35.6 miles

Just a 45-minute drive from Breck sits Vail. Those who’ve ripped Vail say they absolutely love it, and it’s definitely a spot you should look forward to shredding.

Vail offers a bunch of challenging terrain like The Pump House, Cheetah Gully, Lover’s Leap, and the Frontside Chutes, while also providing a space for beginner-friendly and intermediate terrain like Eagles Nest, the Back Bowls, and pretty much every run on the Western-facing slopes.

For the best après, look anywhere around Vail Village. For the best slope-side view hit Los Amigos, for the best live music scene, pop into The Red Lion, and for the best sangria, swing into El Segundo.

Day 4: Vail to Beaver Creek – 11 miles

While it may be the last ski day of the trip, it’s also the shortest commute. Just another 15-to-20-minute drive further west sits Beaver Creek.

For beginners, you will probably want to stick to Bachelor Gulch Express Lift, while intermediate skiers and snowboarders will want to hit Larkspur Express Lift and Centennial Express Lift if you’re feeling a little saucy. For my advanced skiers and riders, do yourself a favor and go rip the Royal Elk Glades and Beaver’s famous Stone Creek Chutes.

After your legs have had enough, take your choice of après at Beano’s Cabin for legendary on-mountain dining, Hooked in Beaver Village for some casual bites, and Toscanini, located just right of the ice rink, for some expensive Italian bites.

Day 5: Beaver Creek to Denver International – 126 miles

Today is the day to sleep in and take it easy (unless you have a flight at the crack of dawn). The drive from Beaver to Denver International is roughly two to three hours depending on weather, traffic, and the rest of it, so kick back and relax.

Snowboarder spraying a cloud of snow
StockSnap / Pixabay

Ikon pass route

OK, so you’re an Ikon pass holder. Picture your route like an ocean wave. You’ll start at Denver International, drive all the way out west to Copper, and work your way back east to Denver.

Altogether, the trip will cover four mountains over five days.

Day 1: Denver International to Copper Mountain – 99.2 miles

The driving for this trip is spread out pretty evenly across the four days. The goal is to get into Copper by early afternoon and get in some late-day turns.

Copper’s back bowls will provide endless lines and natural features for you advanced adrenaline junkies. For beginners and intermediates, make sure to check out the American Eagle chairlift for terrain that ranges from corduroy groomers to beginner glade runs.

Afterward, head to any of Copper’s restaurants like JJ’s Rocky Mountain Tavern, Jack’s, and Ten Mile Tavern for some post-shred dinner and drinks.

Day 2: Copper Mountain to Arapahoe Basin – 23.7 miles

Just 30 minutes away, Arapahoe Basin, more commonly referred to as A-Basin, has seven distinct sections: Frontside, Pallavicini, The Beavers, Montezuma Bowl, The Steep Gullies, The East Wall, and Molly Hogan.

The Frontside offers a little bit of everything from mogul runs and long sweeping groomers to tree trails and tight glades. The East Wall is considered A-Basin’s expert-only area. It’s a must-peep for those who want to spend the day boot-packing and exploring the gnarly terrain — just don’t duck any ropes!

While A-Basin doesn’t offer a ton of options for après, feel free to cook up a meal and down some brews in the parking lot with your buds (arguably the best après you can get).

Day 3: Aparapoe Basin to Winter Park – 49.6 miles

Just a short hour’s drive from A-Basin sits Winter Park. For beginner and intermediate skiers and riders, stick to Sundance, Stagecoach, and Buckaroo. The terrain is awesome for getting your adrenaline pumping without wigging you out too much. For experts, you’re not going to want to miss Vazquez Cirque, which you can access via the Panoramic Express chair. It has steep chutes, cliffs, and a ton of technical tree skiing.

After all is said and done, make sure you save enough time to get to Sunspot Mountaintop Lodge for some unforgettable après. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m., this mountaintop lodge off of Parry Peak provides a festive end to the day with cocktails and live music.

Day 4: Winter Park to Eldora – 68.3 miles

Eldora offers some awesome skiing for all skill levels. If you are an expert skier and lucky enough to hit Eldora on a powder day, take the Corona chairlift up and head skier’s left to the gates of Salto and West Ridge — the two double blacks will get the heart racing. For beginners and intermediates, make sure to rip Around the Horn to Upper Ambush, and once back up top, follow signs for Corona Bowl and Brain’s Glades to Muleshoe.

There isn’t too much around in terms of nightlife around Eldora, so pack in with your buds and cook up a nice final meal along with some tasty drinks to seal the trip.

Day 5: Eldora to Denver International – 60.3 miles

Relax, recline, and recoup. The return journey to Denver International is only an hour and some change.

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Louis Cinquanto
Writing for all of the adventurers out there! Ski the East! #getoutside
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