Loveland Ski Area. Photo by Jay Bouchard

The Best Ski Run at (Almost) Every Mountain in Colorado

From double blacks to bunny slopes, we tracked down some of the state’s most iconic inbounds ski runs. You’re welcome.

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You’ve checked the weather report (fresh snow). You’re monitoring the traffic (well, there are ways around that logjam). Your skis are waxed. Yes, you are ready to head up to Colorado’s high country to bump, carve, and rip.

And when you’ve finally made it to your favorite powder stash, you want to make every trip down the slopes worthwhile. To make your powder day a little bit better, we asked industry giants, professional athletes, and local experts for the best inbounds ski runs on every mountain in Colorado, from the biggest drops to the perfect spots to take it easy. We also relied on our own experience (the 5280 staff has spent countless collective hours on the slopes) in order to select some of these. For mountains where we couldn’t pick just one route, we’ve added an honorable mention, because there’s no way you’re skiing the same path all day. But you could—because these runs are epic.

ARAPAHOE BASIN SKI AREA | Pallavicini

Photo courtesy of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Difficulty: Double black (expert)
The Draw: The “true” greatest run at A-Basin is probably an obscure secret guarded by locals, but Pallavicini certainly ranks among the best. It’s technical (bumps, anyone?), long, wide, and offers access to the oft-sought-after spine and alleys, as well. “It’s quite literally a playground of infinite possibility,” says Riley Campbell, a moguls coach for the U.S. Ski Team.
Honorable Mention: The Steep Gullies for gnarly chutes that make bootpacking back to the base (mostly) worth it

ASPEN HIGHLANDS | Highland Bowl 

Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands. Photo by Lindsy Fortier

Difficulty: Double black (expert)
The Draw: It might be the most iconic terrain in Colorado—but it’s almost among the hardest to reach. A 45-minute hike from the Loge Peak area, though, offers access to some of the steepest and deepest skiing around. “It reminds me of the days when I had to hike for a turn,” says 100-year-old skiing legend Klaus Obermeyer (yes, that Obermeyer).

ASPEN MOUNTAIN | Walsh’s 

Walsh’s at Aspen. Photo by Lindsy Fortier

Difficulty: Double black (expert)
The Draw: Right off the gondola, Walsh’s offers steep terrain with epic views of Independence Pass. “Good skiers make perfect bumps in between powder days,” says Kim Beekman, former editor of Skiing. “And it’s worth the runout at the bottom because you can lap the Gent’s Ridge chair.” Or, even better, catch some air at the end. “There is a killer little jump that is perfect for backflips,” says Aspen-based Folsom Custom Skis chief of operations Mike McCabe.

BEAVER CREEK RESORT | Gold Dust 
Difficulty: Blue (moderate) and green (easy)
The Draw: Gold Dust is not the most difficult run on the mountain, but it offers sweeping views of the valley and fresh snow. “There are powder stashes tucked into the trees,” says Kelly Cummings, director of marketing communications and media at CorePower Yoga and frequent Beaver Creek skier. “[And] little log slides that can still make me feel cool (or humiliated).” Plus, it dumps out into Haymeadow, a fun groomer that delivers skiers to the base.
Honorable Mention: Birds of Prey, because there’s a reason the world’s fastest World Cup skiers race here

BRECKENRIDGE SKI RESORT | Whale’s Tail
Difficulty: Double black (expert)
The Draw: The short hike from the top of the Imperial Express (the highest chair in North America) is worth it to access this gem, a wide-open bowl that packs powder all day long. Scott Rappold, a freelance ski journalist, recommends riding out Whale’s Tale to the base of the Independence SuperChair for one of the longest continuous runs in Colorado.

BUTTERMILK | Klaus’ Way (formerly known as Tiehack Parkway)
Difficulty: Black (advanced)
The Draw: Off the top of the Tiehack Express lift, you’ll find one of the most beloved trails amongst locals at Buttermilk at what was known as the Tiehack Parkway, a steep run on the ridge overlooking Maroon Creek valley. When fresh snow falls, the run becomes, perhaps, the most sought-after on the mountain. But if you head up that direction this winter, don’t be alarmed if you don’t recognize the trail’s name: It was recently renamed Klaus’ Way in honor of skiing pioneer Klaus Obermeyer for his 100th birthday.

COPPER MOUNTAIN RESORT | Andy’s Encore 
Difficulty: Blue (moderate)
The Draw: The east side at Copper offers a satisfying blend of moderate and expert terrain with a few blue runs—particularly off the Super Bee lift—that are long and steep at some sections. There, Andy’s Encore is among the best. It’s perfect for a warm-up run before hitting more intense ground, but you can also lap it throughout the day and stay entertained.
Honorable Mention: Upper Enchanted Forest, where you’ll find some of the best untracked snow late in the day

CRESTED BUTTE MOUNTAIN RESORT | Spellbound Bowl 
Difficulty: Double black (expert)
The Draw: If you’re up for a 10-minute traverse, the Spellbound Bowl is the epitome of Crested Butte’s terrain: ridiculously steep and home to some wild rock features. Plus, because it requires extra work to access, in some places the snow remains untouched late in the day.
Honorable Mention: Rambo, the steepest inbounds run (55-degree pitch) in North America

ECHO MOUNTAIN | Cougar Crossing
Difficulty: Green (easy)
The Draw: Echo is known as one of the best beginner hills in the state (plus, it is super close to Denver), and once skiers graduate from the magic carpet, Cougar Crossing should be at the top of their list. The meandering green trail offers a great view and connects with other runs (including intermediate trails like Hollywood and Full-Send). Think of it as a gateway run and the perfect compromise for groups with varying levels of expertise.

ELDORA MOUNTAIN RESORT | Moose Glades 

Eldora patroller Sam Seward skis the Moose Glades. Photo by Mark Griffin

Difficulty: Double black (expert)
The Draw: Eldora doesn’t boast as much vertical as other Colorado mountains, but that doesn’t mean it lacks intense terrain—especially in the trees. From the Corona lift, head toward the Salto Glades and hang left into the Chutes, which funnel into the Moose Glades—some of the most technical tree skiing around.
Honorable Mention: Bunnyfair for being one of the best beginner trails on the Front Range

GRANBY RANCH | Buckhorn
Difficulty: Green (easy)
The Draw: This uber popular green is quintessential Granby Ranch. Smooth, easy, and with views for days. “It’s not too steep and not too wide,” says the resort’s CEO Greg Finch. You can see who’s in front of you and tell who’s in back of you.” Ski with the family, ski with your friend who’s still learning to turn their skis into a pizza plow, or just enjoy a day where you can savor the snow.

HESPERUS SKI AREA | Upper Face
Difficulty: Blue (moderate)
The Draw: “When it’s snowing at night and other southwest Colorado ski areas are closed, Durango locals know to head to Hesperus, the only night skiing in the region,” Rappold says. The Upper Face is a great groomer off the top of the mountain that skiers can lap all day—or night.

HOWELSEN HILL SKI AREA | Face
Difficulty: Black (advanced)
The Draw: Although small, Howelsen Hill is legendary: Its jumps and runs have helped prep more than 80 athletes for the Olympics. The jump area is closed to mere mortals (non-ski jumpers), but the hill’s other runs deserve more than a little attention. In particular, Face—a black diamond split into upper and lower sections—is unique because it has three distinct pitches, making it perfect for alpine ski racers (or anyone else looking to ramp up their technique). “The run averages 31 percent grade and is one of the toughest homologated slalom courses in the nation,” says Brad Setter, Howelsen Ski and Rodeo Complex manager.

KEYSTONE RESORT | Bushwhacker 
Difficulty: Black (advanced)
The Draw:The Outback boasts some of Keystone’s highest terrain and plenty of advanced runs, which means ample space to schuss in peace. Bushwhacker, accessed from the Outback Express lift, is one such trail that we return to time and again. “I love all the advanced runs in the Outback at Keystone, but especially Bushwhacker, which is steep, isolated, and has awesome access to trees,” says Geoff Van Dyke, 5280’s editorial director.

LOVELAND SKI AREA | Chet’s Run 
Difficulty: Blue (moderate)
The Draw: If you can make it to Chair 8 early in the day, you’ll often be rewarded with fresh snow above the Ginny Lee Cabin. Chet’s, named after one of the longtime owners, provides wide-open skiing that isn’t too steep—perfect for intermediates looking for deep powder.
Honorable Mention: Wild Child for being an intense double-black dropping off the Continental Divide

MONARCH MOUNTAIN | Turbo
Difficulty: Blue (moderate)
The Draw: Off the top of the Panorama chair, Turbo is an ultimate bomber, if you’re craving speed. It’s certainly not the mountain’s most technical run, but it does offer some off-piste terrain before delivering skiers to Freeway (also blue) and down to the base.

POWDERHORN MOUNTAIN RESORT | Bill’s Run

Photo courtesy of Powderhorn Mountain Resort

Difficulty: Blue (moderate)
The Draw: Named after one of Powderhorn’s founders, Bill Foster, this universally appreciated groomer offers a little bit of everything. While it’s mostly wide open, it features varying pitches, and the trees on the side offer glade skiing as well as boulder fields that pack good snow days after a storm. Plus, Ryan Robinson, Powderhorn’s marketing and sales director, says that as you drop off the Grand Mesa and make your way down, you can enjoy stunning views of the Plateau Valley and its high desert vistas.

PURGATORY RESORT | Styx
Difficulty: Black (advanced)
The Draw: Take the Needles Lift up, up, up to Styx, a black that other skiers might overlook—to their detriment. There’s a lot to love on this run, from cliff features to knockout views of the Twilight Peaks. And it conveniently meets up with Lower Hades to carry you back to the lift so you can do it all over again. But don’t just take our word for it: Styx is one of owner James Coleman’s favorite runs.

SILVERTON MOUNTAIN | Cabin
Difficulty: Expert Only
The Draw: Let’s be real: if you’re lucky enough to ski Silverton, you’re not going to find a bad run. And trying to choose the best of the best seems a bit futile—especially since the mountain offers helicopter drops and world-class guided outings. If we have to choose one, Cabin (named after a nearby, you guessed it, cabin) is an obvious choice. It’s wide, and typically features deep wind-loaded snow. “I like to hit it first thing in the morning,” says Klem Branner of Silverton-based Venture Snowboards. “And I can usually still find a fresh line at the end of the day.”

SKI COOPER | Trail’s End
Difficulty: Blue (moderate)
The Draw: Ski Cooper offers mostly intermediate terrain (take note, though, as new expert options, including 19 new trails will open in December 2019), and the most classic example is Trail’s End. This long blue—1.4 miles, to be exact—drops from the top of the Piney Basin chair down to the base area. It’s a relatively easy trail, and Dana Tyler Johnson, Ski Cooper’s director of marketing and sales, says that views of Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive (Colorado’s two highest peaks) are amazing. All of which might implore you to stop and savor your time rather than racing down from the top.

SNOWMASS | Long Shot
Difficulty: Blue (moderate)
The Draw: Sometimes there’s nothing better than a run that is both technical and somewhat mellow. Longshot is such a blue, as it weaves through patches of trees and small growth. However, what the run lacks in steeps, it more than makes up for in length and consistent views. It’s said to be 5.3 miles long (though it might be shorter) and is consistently touted as one of Colorado’s longest continuous inbounds runs. It’s no wonder that skiers come from all over, hike up to the top, and test their endurance on this trail.

STEAMBOAT SKI RESORT | White Out 
Difficulty: Black (expert)
The Draw: If you like bumps, White Out is for you. So it’s no surprise Avital Shimko, a mogul skier for the U.S. Ski Team, calls this classic a favorite run on a powder day. “It’s full of bumps and just a hoot and a holler with friends!” she says. If you stick to the Burgess Creek lift, you can lap this thigh-burner all day long.

SUNLIGHT MOUNTAIN RESORT | Ute
Difficulty: Green (easy)
The Draw: Don’t be fooled by this super long green—it basically traces the ski area’s boundary line—which can be fast and furious or slow and steady. Just know that this classic run attracts both types of skiers, but everyone is going to get along just fine. It’s Sunlight, after all.

TELLURIDE SKI RESORT | See Forever 

Photo Courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort

Difficulty: Blue (moderate)
The Draw: From the top of this groomer, it actually does appear you can see forever. The view of the surrounding region, including Mt. Wilson, Wilson Peak, and Mt. Sneffels, is striking—and the run itself is a blast. It’s mellow enough for intermediates, but experts will have fun accelerating down the steeper sections. Heck, even Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy says it’s his favorite run at Telluride when he’s not in the terrain park.
Honorable Mention: Roy Boy, off the top of Palmyra Peak, is the favorite of sisters Tia and Sadie Schenk; the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club athletes both enjoy the steep, untracked snow and cliff features.

VAIL SKI RESORT | Inner Mongolia Bowl
Difficulty: Black (advanced)
The Draw: It’s hard to select just one run at Vail. After all, the area is downright huge and goes on seemingly forever. But if you’re willing to make a trek out to the back bowls and beyond, the Inner Mongolia Bowl offers some of the best terrain at the resort. Thomas Walsh, a Paralympian, has plenty of favorite runs on his home mountain, but says that this spot stands out. “There is a bit of a traverse in and out of this area, but I find the less than [a] minute pole push worth the stellar powder turns,” Walsh says. “As a kid, my buddies and I would build jumps into the fresh snow out there!”
Honorable Mention: Lover’s Leap for cornices and large boulders to launch off (as Jill Thomas from Backbone Media puts it: “It’s a total playground back there.”)

WINTER PARK RESORT | The Cirque

The Cirque. Photo courtesy of Winter Park Resort

Difficulty: Double black (expert)
The Draw: If you’re looking for extreme terrain, take the Panoramic Express and drop off the backside into the Cirque territory, which features a selection of tight shoots and bowls. It’s some of the steepest skiing you’ll find at the resort, and even though the chutes aren’t too long, you’ll get your best turns of the day if you make the trek. Getting there isn’t easy, but for $20 you can hitch a ride on a snowcat to the drop-in area all season.
Honorable Mention: Parsenn Bowl for high-alpine skiing with some mellow options.

WOLF CREEK SKI AREA | Alberta Peak 
Difficulty: Double black (expert)
The Draw: One of the best spots to find Wolf Creek’s legendary, deep snow—untracked—is off of Alberta Peak. Hike from the top of the Treasure Stoke chair and drop off the mountain’s high point into a field of powder with a variety of options ranging from mellow to downright insane. Rappold, who lives in nearby Del Norte, recommends dipping into the trees afterwards for a long run to the Alberta lift.

Editors’ Note: For this article, we’ve focused on larger ski areas, which means that some local hills (we see you Cranor Ski Area) aren’t included. By all means, don’t forget to schuss on these slopes—add Lake City Ski Hill, Kendall Mountain, and Chapman Ski Hill Area to the list—too. There’s plenty of powder for everyone.

Jay Bouchard, Digital Associate Editor

Natasha Gardner, Articles Editor

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