Skiing Summit County, CO is not impossible: 5 tips

I think we’ve found a way to ski Summit County, Colorado from the Midwest at a (relatively) low cost and without the traffic and crowding headaches you can normally expect from the reason.

Low cost flights, I-70 tips, cheap housing and passes can help you keep costs low for a quick trip.

Gorgeous Loveland Ski Area on a bluebird day in January. (Midwest Ski Journal)

Once there, you have Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper, Vail and Beaver Creek all within 35 minutes of one another.

Here are five tips for maximizing your trip and minimizing its effect on your wallet.

Timing

Due to its proximity to Denver, Summit County is sometimes tough to navigate on weekends.

I would recommend going during the week if it’s possible. That will ensure low crowds and cheaper lift tickets. If you must do a weekend, pick a random one that doesn’t coincide with a holiday and plan to ski early in the day.

A Vail lift line on a powder day in January. I cannot emphasize this enough: SKI VAIL DURING THE WEEK. (Midwest Ski Journal)

In addition, when driving out and back from Denver, avoid Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings. If you have to, get going before 6 a.m. (We did this two weeks ago and made it to Frisco in 1:15. If we left after 6 a.m. it would have been closer to 3:30.)

I found this great site called Go I-70 that forecasts the traffic on the tricky interstate each weekend. I found it invaluable when planning our trip because we needed to drive out there on a Saturday morning from Denver.

Low airfares

Especially if you’re flying from Minneapolis-St. Paul, flights to Denver are obscenely cheap through the rest of the ski season.

Recently, we wrote about how unbelievable it is that this deal still exists. You can fly to Denver round trip for $96. If you have a Delta credit card, you get a free ski and boot bag, too.

Car rental (or not)

Once you arrive, grab yourself a shuttle to the car rental shop of your choice. Depending on the length of your stay, these cars are pretty cheap.

Keep in mind, however, that you will need something all-wheel or four-wheel drive to navigate I-70.

Also, if you are traveling light or with someone adventurous, consider getting a car to sleep in. If you spring an extra $100 for a big, spacious car, that’s however many nights of lodging that you don’t have to pay.

If you are just going to a few localized ski areas, consider taking a shuttle or bus. They tend to run a little expensive, but it’s surely less than a car. You, of course, miss the convenience of having your own ride, but you also save on egregious parking fees at most of these areas. Epic runs its own shuttle as do other private companies.

Lodging

Don’t stay at the hill if you want to stay affordably. Staying at a budget hotel in Frisco or Dillon will save you hundreds of dollars. Plus, there are shuttles to each resort from there and they are a maximum of 40 minutes away each.

A quick search showed a few Frisco and Dillon hotels around $100 a night. There’s even a Super 8 in Dillon that runs $84 a night. You aren’t getting much at these places, but they’re safe, warm beds for the night. If you need more than that, look at the slope side options. You’ll pay for it, though.

Skiing

Oh right! Skiing! The reason we’re here.

In order to save money on passes, I’d recommend getting one of the two major passes: Epic or Ikon. On Epic, you can ski Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail or Beaver Creek. On the Ikon, you can ski Arapahoe Basin and Copper.

A soft, but not deep January day at Breckenridge. (Midwest Ski Journal)

Then, the other days you ski, I suggest going during the week when rates are lower.

Ultimately, if you play your cards right, skiing should be the greatest expense of the trip.

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