The sensations of skiing and snowboarding can be relaxing and rejuvenating, exhilarating and even scary in ways that never fail to make us feel profoundly, intensely alive. But in Colorado, skiing and riding also take us to breathtaking panoramas.
A comprehensive catalog of great views at Colorado ski areas would number in the dozens, and the list would grow into the hundreds if backcountry touring and alpine mountaineering vantage points were included. So here are five of our favorite views at Colorado ski resorts. (Readers are welcome to contribute their own photos of what they believe to be the best view for a chance to be featured on The Know Outdoors.)
Aspen Highlands, Picnic Point
There is no more iconic image in Colorado than that of the Maroon Bells, 12 miles southwest of Aspen. Aspen Highlands offers spectacular views of the Bells and their majestic neighbor, Pyramid Peak. All three peaks top out in excess of 14,000 feet and are made up of beautiful reddish rock, but they become even more magical in the winter when draped with white frosting. One of the best ways to take in this view at Highlands is to ride the Exhibition chairlift and the Cloud Nine chair, then ski Upper Robinson’s down to Picnic Point. The view from the top of nearby Aspen Mountain also is awe-inspiring, but the Maroon Bells are blocked from view by Highland Bowl, which is part of Aspen Highlands.
Breckenridge, Imperial Ridge
Just getting here is a trip because you will be riding the highest chairlift in North America. The Imperial Express chair whisks you to an elevation of 12,840, some 1,000 feet above timberline, and deposits you only 100 feet below the Peak 8 summit. A short traverse north gives you an overview of the saddle between Peak 8 and Peak 7. You will want to pause on the traverse before dropping down to the saddle and the bowl below so you can admire the spectacular Gore Range to the north, which is the best part of this panorama. The views in other directions are stunning as well — Copper Mountain to the west, Keystone and twin fourteeners Grays and Torreys to the east.
Telluride, See Forever trail
The view from the top of Telluride looking north to the Sneffels Range is one of the best in Colorado skiing. Photo credit Brett Schreckengost, Telluride Ski Resort
This spot is guaranteed to make you stop in awe. Accessible by Lifts 6, 9 or 14, the aptly named See Forever takes you to 12,000 feet with a stunning view to the north of the jagged San Sophia Ridge and the Sneffels Range. That vista alone would put See Forever on this list, but the view to the west takes in two of Colorado’s most beautiful fourteeners, Mount Wilson and Wilson Peak. Telluride is 300 miles from Denver, but every Colorado skier and rider needs to make the trip at least once. Here’s a warning, though: If you go, you might not want to leave.
Copper Mountain, Rendezvous Deck
Bring a sack lunch and drink in the view from the saddle between Copper Peak and Union Peak while gazing at the two most beautiful peaks in the Tenmile Range, Crystal and Pacific. The pointy one is Pacific (elev. 13,950 feet). To the left is Crystal (13,850). This is a place you will want to linger. To get there, take the American Flyer lift out of the Center Village base area and ski down to hop on the Rendezvous lift. After lunch, you can continue to ski Copper’s front side or drop off the other side to ski its back bowls.
Vail, Eagles Nest overlook
Photographs seldom capture the grandeur of this spot, which offers a view of the Mount of the Holy Cross (elev. 14,009 feet), because that majestic peak always appears larger to the naked eye. Photographs tend to diminish the way it dominates the panorama from an observation deck located here. The deck has informational diagrams that identify Holy Cross and its imposing neighbors, which include Notch Mountain, Mount Jackson and Gold Dust Peak. In 1873, noted expedition photographer William Henry Jackson took a famous picture of the Mount of the Holy Cross from Notch Mountain that was widely published. There are other views of Holy Cross at Vail, but this is the best. To get here, take the Eagle Bahn gondola to Eagles Nest and look for the observation deck.