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Colorado Ski Towns…Without the Skiing

Spread the love to our mountain towns year-round.

Looking for a way to scratch that big mountain itch? Summer means patio brews, music festivals, and long summer day hikes and bikes. As skiers though, we still want to spend as much time as possible in the mountains, so we go looking back to our favorite spots. Ski towns offer most of the same things we love about them in the winter, just with a slightly different flavor. Whether it’s for a quick weekend getaway, or a longer vacation a little closer to home, there’s plenty to dig into. We’re highlighting some of the best Colorado ski towns to visit during the summer to help you escape the heat in the lowlands and break up those long summer days.

Telluride bike park
Telluride, a steep skier’s paradise, offers equally fun mountain bike trails. PHOTO: City of Telluride

The Outdoors-y One: Crested Butte

There’s a lot to love about skiing in Crested Butte. There’s equally as much to love in the summertime, making it one of the best ski towns to visit in the summer. The story goes CB didn’t have paved roads until the 1980s, so locals navigated their pot hole ridden, dirt roads with mountain bikes. As such, locals became experts, and Crested Butte is now dubbed the birthplace of modern mountain biking.

With hundreds of miles of gravel and single track trails for all ability levels, there’s plenty of variety to explore for a few days. Classic rides include (but are not limited to) the 401 Trail Loop, the new Lupine trail, and Teocalli Ridge. Be prepared for big time views and plenty of wildflowers.

If bikes aren’t your thing, there’s a lot to do on two feet instead of two wheels. Check out the infamous hike from CB to Aspen. The West Maroon Trailhead in CB takes you over West Maroon Pass, down to Crater Lake, and eventually down to the Aspen area. Even if you don’t go all the way, the trail serves up killer views of Maroon Peak and the Maroon Bells.

To top it all off, if water sports are more your thing, you’ll find many alpine lakes and reservoirs to take the paddleboard out on. Check out Long Lake, Emerald Lake, and Lost Lake for some popular spots.

crested butte mtb
No matter the time of day, you’ll find good views anywhere around CB. PHOTO: Sarah Beabout

The Foodie: Vail

Most towns host a farmer’s market on the weekends, but none rival the Vail Farmer’s Market & Art Show throughout the summer. Started 20+ years ago with a handful of tents, there are now nearly 150 vendors sharing their food and art every weekend in the summer and early fall. 40+ food vendors provide plenty of options for eating on the spot, or taking fresh produce home with you. It doesn’t stop with just groceries though. The Vail market features everything from ceramics and paintings to jewelry and dog collars.

To make it a full day in the mountains, be sure to check out the hiking trails in Vail and neighboring Minturn. Just outside of Minturn (and literally minutes from I-70) lies the Holy Cross Wilderness area. This specially designated U.S. Forest Service area provides extra solitude with a variety of trails to choose from, including my personal favorite 14er, Mt. of the Holy Cross. Trails in the morning and then shopping for artisanal honey and art? Sounds like an ideal summer day to me.

The Arts-y One: Telluride

A trick to get to from the Front Range, but well worth it. Telluride offers up loads of different activities for everyone, all with spectacular views. The historic downtown offers up cool bookstores and coffee shops, hip restaurants, and galleries. You’ll find plenty of trails, with easy river walks and a huge town park, to trailheads for challenging hikes that start right downtown.

Telluride puts on plenty of music events throughout the summer. The Telluride Jazz Festival approaches its 42nd annual event this August, and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival was just this month. There’s countless other concerts and art walks throughout the summer, so you’re bound to stumble on something if you’re around.

You also may have heard of a little thing called the Telluride Film Festival. Telluride presents the fest every Labor Day weekend, remains a popular hit on the film festival circuit. The Telluride Film Festival in particular has premiered several big hits throughout the years (remember Juno, Slumdog Millionare, and Brokeback Mountain?). The main passes are sold out, but you can still buy individual movie tickets, see panel discussions, and even volunteer.

telluride colorado ski town summer
Lizard Head Pass outside of Telluride serves up incredible views. PHOTO: Alex Stettner

The Cowboy: Steamboat Springs

Closer to Wyoming than Denver, Steamboat Springs has a different vibe than the other mountain towns right next to I-70. Just rolling into town, you can tell that the Wild West heritage still runs through those who call Steamboat home. You can tell from rolling into town, because of the plethora of yellow signs letting you know that F.M. Light & Sons is just a short distance away. These signs are my favorite part about making a trip to Steamboat, and the shop itself is pretty rad. Legit Western gear can be hard to find, but leave it to the experts to have what you need.

So after you get outfitted by the best of the best, head over to the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series. They’re known for their classic, authentic rodeo events and is complete with live music, barbeque, and events for the kiddos. You can catch the rodeo every Friday and Saturday from late June to late August.

As with all these other towns we’ve mentioned, Steamboat of course offers stellar mountain biking. But something uniquely Steamboat? Floating the Yampa. One of the last undammed rivers in Colorado, the Yampa flows from the Flattops down to meet the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument. Before it makes it down there, it runs through downtown Steamboat. The Yampa is easily floatable alongside locals with tubes and paddleboards in town, or you can take on some bigger lines rafting it further down river.

Still wishing it was winter after all? Dream about next year’s gear and check out our 2023 brand previews.

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