Preparing for Ski Season in Colorado: Essential Gear and Ski Pass Information



What you’ll need to get started skiing or snowboarding in Colorado

It’s no secret that Coloradans take their winter recreation seriously. There are countless mountains to ski and snowboard, but getting started can feel overwhelming. Don’t let that deter you, though! With the right gear and a good season pass, you’ll be speeding down the slopes before you know it.

The gear you’ll need to start skiing or snowboarding

If you’re new to the sport, it’s always best to rent or borrow most of your gear first to see if you like the gear and the sport, and then buy used. Every resort will have rentals available, and many outdoor gear stores also have rentals available (and the prices in cities are cheaper than at the resorts.).   Once you are ready to buy, Craigslist is a great place to look for gear, and you can also try to find a used gear consignment shop in your area. In a state like Colorado, there are tons of people selling gear in good condition every year, so finding affordable gear shouldn’t be too difficult.

Here are the basics:

  • Skis or snowboard
  • Boots
  • Bindings
  • Snow pants
  • Jacket
  • Base layers (top, bottoms, and warm socks – invest in good quality that will keep you warm and able to move easily!)
  • Gloves
  • Helmet
  • A hat that fits under your helmet
  • Goggles
  • Poles, if skiing
It might seem like a lot, however, keep in mind that a good jacket, hat, gloves, base layers, and snow pants can be used for other winter activities. Always remember that a helmet is absolutely necessary. Sure, there are people that ski without them, but just like biking, it’s not worth the risk for serious injury. It’s also important to wax your skis or snowboard if you have purchased your own. This can be done at a local ski shop, or ask an experienced friend to help you out.

Choose your Colorado ski pass

There’s no shortage of ski pass options to choose from in Colorado. If you aren’t sure whether you’ll like skiing or snowboarding, it’s probably best to buy a day pass first to make sure you’ll enjoy yourself. Season passes aren’t cheap, but they are worth it if you hit the slopes regularly. Do some research, find out where your friends or family are buying their passes, and get ready to ride. If you decide early enough, you can usually snag a discount on the price of a pass, and the prices of the passes will change as the winter season gets closer.

Epic Pass

The Epic Pass is one of the most popular ski pass options in Colorado. A full-on Epic Pass will grant skiers and snowboarders access to popular Summit County resorts like Arapahoe Basin, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone, along with out of state (and country) resorts such as Park City, Canyons, Heavenly, Northstar California, Kirkwood, Afton Alps, and others.

If you want to have unlimited skiing at the Colorado resorts, or like having the option of going to Utah, California, Michigan, or even abroad, the standard Epic Pass is a good choice. For those willing to work with a few more restrictions, the Epic Local pass grants unlimited access to certain mountains, like Keystone and Breckenridge, with limited restrictions at the other resorts. There are also passes that only grant access to Arapahoe Basin and Keystone, with limited restrictions at Breckenridge.

Rocky Mountain Super Pass

After the Epic Pass, the Rocky Mountain Super Pass is another favorite. The “Plus” pass grants unlimited access to Copper Mountain, Winter Park, and Eldora, with restricted access at Steamboat, Crested Butte, and Mt. Ruapehu (in New Zealand.) The standard pass gives you unlimited access to Copper Mountain and Winter Park, with limited access to Mt. Ruapehu. The inclusion of Eldora on the Plus pass is great for Front Range residents who don’t want to battle the infamous I-70 traffic on weekends, too.

Other ski passes in Colorado

The Epic Pass and the Rocky Mountain Super Pass are hardly the only options. There are ski resorts scattered throughout the state and getting a pass at a less popular mountain can mean less expense and more manageable crowds, which is good news for beginners and experts alike.

Aspen offers several different passes for its four mountains, ranging from very expensive to very affordable depending on when you buy and when you ride. Like Aspen, Telluride also offers season passes and daily lift tickets. Buy online early in the fall to avoid price increases.  Other options include, but certainly aren’t limited to, Powderhorn in Mesa, Monarch Mountain near Salida (which also includes a few days at Durango, Loveland, and other ski areas throughout the state), and Loveland Ski Area in Georgetown. Each pass has it’s own perks and inclusions, so be sure to do your research before committing.

Learning how to ski or snowboard

Once you have your gear and your pass, it’s time to get on the mountain! If it’s your first time, or if you haven’t been skiing/boarding in a while, invest in a half-day lesson. Friends might be willing to help you learn, but a trained instructor will make sure you learn safely and effectively. Once you master the basics and easier slopes in your lesson, you can progress to more difficult terrain.You’ll be able to join your friends in no time!