Happy Colorado Day! August 1st marks the anniversary of Colorado’s statehood. In honor of my home state, I’ve rounded up the top 5 independent ski resorts that will give you the Rocky Mountain High. By independent, I mean resorts that aren’t on the Epic or Ikon passes (sorry Vail Resorts and Alterra, though I’m still a glutton for your resorts). Here are those top 5, in alphabetical order, based on a combination of my experience and their reputation:


Skiable Acres: 1,800

Vertical Drop: 2,210 ft

Number of Lifts: 9

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting in traffic on I-70 at the Eisenhower Tunnel, then you’ve seen Loveland Ski Area. Loveland sits right on top of this tunnel with many runs crossing over it, and it even has a walk-out tunnel beneath I-70. This ski area has one of the highest elevations in the country, which allows for sweeping views of its mega pass neighbors. Loveland’s size, free cat skiing, and relatively close distance to Denver make it an appealing option for locals who want to skip the crowds.


Skiable Acres: 800

Vertical Drop: 1,162 ft

Number of Lifts: 7

You might be surprised to learn that Monarch Mountain is the closest ski area to the city of Colorado Springs. Monarch sits just outside of the small town of Salida, though many people might be only be aware of this ski area since it’s on the way to Crested Butte. Monarch is known for having exceptionally affordable lift tickets and season passes. Monarch experiences different weather patterns compared to the popular I-70 corridor, allowing it to have powder days when these other resorts are bone dry.


Skiable Acres: 1,500

Vertical Drop: 2,029 ft

Number of Lifts: 12

Purgatory Resort (formerly known as Durango Mountain Resort) is perhaps the least independent on this list, as it is one of 11 resorts on the Power Pass. However, it’s location and sizable distance from I-70 keep this resort feeling exceptionally local (especially in comparison to its super famous neighbor, Telluride). Although Purgatory is known for its incredible mountain biking in the summer, winter visitors can expect the excellent snow conditions of the San Juan mountains.


Skiable Acres: 26,819 (via touring/heli)

Vertical Drop: 3,887 ft (via hiking)

Number of Lifts: 1

Silverton Mountain is just up the road from Purgatory. It wins the award for the highest ski area in the United States with an average elevation of 11,943 ft. Silverton is essentially a backcountry paradise for truly expert skiers. Although they have one double chairlift, Silverton is known as the place for touring, hiking, or an occasional helicopter ride. If paying for a day of heli-skiing isn’t in your budget, they offer single heli rides for under $200.

Wolf Creek

Skiable Acres: 1,600

Vertical Drop: 1,604 ft

Number of Lifts: 10

Wolf Creek Ski Area is one of the first ski resorts in the country to open every year, thanks to their title as the snowiest resort in Colorado. October openings are almost the norm here, and the season only gets better with each passing month. Wolf Creek’s closest major town is Durango, yet the distance from here allows it to keep crowding at a minimum (even with all of their sweet powder). Wolf Creek has a sizable footprint for a local spot, and the planned expansion could make this ski area even more appealing to experts.

Photos Courtesy of skiingsolo at Monarch, Loveland, and Wolf Creek