Colorado South West Ski Safari 

Breckenridge – Monarch – Crested Butte – Telluride – Purgatory Durango – Wolf Creek

A Colorado Ski Safari visiting the “South West” ski areas is really cool, plenty of great ski terrain, a super scenic drive, flying in and out of Denver and doing a circuit. You’ll likely visit ski country you have not skied or experienced before, most are a bit less busy than the major resorts too. The length and pace of your ski trip at each of the 6 ski resorts depends on your skiing ability, plus the off-slope things to do in each resort or ski town. Here’s our recommended ski tour and itinerary:

A Colorado Ski Safari visiting the “South West” ski areas is really cool, plenty of great ski terrain, a super scenic drive, flying in and out of Denver and doing a circuit. You’ll likely visit ski country you have not skied or experienced before, most are a bit less busy than the major resorts too. The length and pace of your ski trip at each of the 6 ski resorts depends on your skiing ability, plus the off-slope things to do in each resort or ski town. Here’s our recommended ski tour and itinerary:

South West Colorado Safari
Denver – *Breckenridge – Monarch – Crested Butte – Telluride – Durango – Wolf Creek
Denver – *Breckenridge – Just under 2 Hours
*Breckenridge – Salida – 1:35 stay in Salida. Ski Monarch Mountain – 30 Min from Salida
Monarch Mountain – Crested Butte – 1:26
Crested Butte – Telluride – 3:15
Telluride – Purgatory (at Durango) – 2:20
Purgatory – Durango – 35 Minutes
Durango – Wolf Creek – 1:50
Wolf Creek – Denver – 4:45

DEN – Breckenridge – Monarch – Crested Butte – Telluride – Purgatory Durango – Wolf Creek – DEN

This Ski Safari we recommend driving, renting a car, preferably four-wheel drive for the snowy roads and mountain pass.

We suggest you bring your own skis, snowboard, since renting ski equipment at each resort is time consuming and expensive.

Breckenridge  is two hours from Denver (DEN), you can even ski on your arrival day with a morning flight arrival, and clear roads on the I-70. Breckenridge is a big ski area, the busiest in North America. But with 5 peaks, #10-6, there’s plenty to ski from long mellow boulevards near the base areas, to upper high-alpine above-tree line adventures. Breckenridge offers Colorado’s highest elevation lift-served skiing in North America at 12,840′ and from there you can climb another 200’vert to 13k!

Breck also has great terrain parks and lots of groomed cruisers served by high-speed big-capacity lifts. Breck is home to a super fun western-style downtown for après ski and shopping. Review of Breckenridge where you can easily spend a few days skiing on your safari before heading 1:30 hours south toward Monarch – through Colorado’s highest town of Alma at 10,578’.

Monarch Mountain is a fun family-friendly ski area many have never heard of. The butterflies know it’s a beautiful place- hence the name. Monarch has 800 acres of terrain in the Sawatch Range on the Continental Divide, plus another 1200 acres of cat ski terrain – for about $500 a day for guided cat skiing. Monarch is high elevation – good snow – with an 11,952′ summit and 1,162′ vertical. Review of Monarch Mountain skiing. There is no on mountain lodging at Monarch, so stay a half-hour away in the cool cowboy town of Salida for fun affordable aprés ski and amazing views of the Arkansas River valley.

Crested Butte is 1:30 hours drive, to this legendary ski resort – now Vail owned. The “Butte” at 12,162′ dominates the ski view, resembling the Matterhorn or Big Sky’s Lone Peak. Modern lifts shoot off in multiple directions from the Mount Crested Butte Village, where you can stay slopeside in this basic base village. Crested Butte offers skiing on 121 trails, 1,167-acres served by 15 lifts with a worthy 2,787′ vertical. The out of bounds skiing, on the “Banana,” is popular with pow-hound locals.

Crested Butte’s historic downtown is fun to stroll aprés ski, great shops and saloons. Crested Butte review

Telluride is next up, just over three hours drive west and south, up into a dramatic boxwood canyon to one of the most beautiful ski resorts in the U.S. An 1878 historic mining town at the base is served by gondola up to the mountain village and some amazingly scenic fun ski terrain – 127 trails served by 18 lifts plus extensive bowls and backcountry. Telluride has its glitz and glam among the wealthy set, but also some real-deal skiing. Review of Telluride.

Purgatory at Durango is just over 2 hours south from Telluride, through Silverton – home to a rustic ski area. Purgatory sounds wild, but its actually a “helluva lot of fun” family ski resort, high elevation 11,822’, 1,525 acres with 11 lifts flanking the Front and Back sides. There’s a compact skiers village at Purgatory’s base, and the humble happy western town of Durango is a half hour drive south – worth it! Review of Purgatory at Durango

Wolf Creek is just under two hours east, another high-elevation -11,904′, snow-bountiful ski area. This is where ethe US Ski Team trains early season. With 1,600 Acres of skiing served by 9 Lifts, 77 Trails, plus some hearty side-country skiing, The Wolf is kind’a wild and very fun. Its also humble compared to most Top Colorado Ski Resort – which is another reason to love it. Since there’s no on mountain lodging, stay in nearby Pagosa Springs or Del Norte, on your way back to Denver (4:45 hours north east) or fly out of Gunnison near Crested Butte 2:30 hours away. Wolf Creek ski review

See more Ski Safaris
and our Guide to Top Ski Destinations
Top New England Ski Resorts for Families
Top Western Ski Resorts for Families
Top Family Ski Resorts in Utah
Top Canada Ski Resorts for Families
Top European Ski Resorts for Families