With so few hours of daylight, winter ski vacations often feel like a race against time. How can you pack in as much skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hot tubbing and ice skating as possible before the sun goes down?
The answer? You don’t have to. At many Colorado ski areas, you can keep the fun going even after it gets dark. Here are some of our favorite nighttime activities to help you make the most of your getaways this winter.
Take your pick between two evening ice skating options after a full day of skiing or snowboarding in Vail’s legendary back bowls. Surrounded by the twinkling lights and Swiss-inspired architecture of the Arrabelle Hotel and Spa, the ice rink at Arrabelle Square in Lionshead Village offers rental skates and training aids. There’s a cozy fire pit to warm your hands and a conveniently located coffee and gelato shop, Rimini, nearby.
In Vail Village, check out the ice rink at the Solaris Center, then grab a beer at Vail Brewing Co.’s small but mighty tasting room and, if the weather is cooperating, enjoy the patio.
Howelsen Hill Ski Area
As Colorado’s oldest continuously operating ski area, Howelsen Hill has seen its fair share of trends come and go over the last 107 years. But one thing has remained constant: Skiing should be a fun, affordable activity for generations of families.
And while ripping down this Yampa Valley hill in the sunshine is, of course, a blast, there’s a special magic that happens when the sun goes down and the big lights come on at Howelsen. The city of Steamboat Springs, which owns and operates the historic ski area, includes night skiing in Howelsen’s standard lift ticket, so you can ski all day, take a dinner break, then come back for more. And when you do so, you’ll be following in the ski tracks of the 100 Olympians, 22 Colorado Ski Hall of Famers and 13 National Ski Hall of Famers who have used Howelsen as a training ground over the years.
Fireworks are great, but they disappear so quickly! At the base of the Snowmass ski area, however, you can wander through a longer-lasting display of art and light called “Luminescence.” This experience, a winter favorite of locals and visitors, features dazzling immersive installations that come alive after dark. In the past, the free exhibit has included 28-foot-tall illuminated dandelions and a tunnel programmed with festive light displays for visitors to walk through. You can expect something similar this season.
What’s more, Snowmass Base Village has a picturesque ice skating rink surrounded by colorful holiday lights and cozy outdoor fireplaces. The rink, located in front of Limelight Hotel Snowmass, offers free skate rentals and stays open until 9 p.m. so you can truly make the most of your winter getaway in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Since it’s the closest ski area to Denver, Echo already gets major points for not making us sit in Interstate 70 traffic for any longer than is absolutely necessary. And, at night, this intimate ski area turns on the charm (and the lights) for skiing and tubing after sunset.
Night skiing runs Wednesday through Sunday from 4:30 to 9 p.m. It’s included in the resort’s daytime lift tickets, so you can ski day and night if you’d like. Or, if you’re making the trip up for some evening laps, a night-time ticket will run you just $35. Keep in mind that Echo mainly keeps intermediate terrain open in the evenings, so if you consider yourself a true beginner, the night runs may be a little outside your comfort zone.
Evening snow tubing has a fun, party-like atmosphere, complete with music to jam out to while you zoom down the hill. Tubing also runs until 9 p.m. and you’ll need to reserve an hour-long time slot in advance. As you race your friends down Echo’s six tubing lanes be sure to remember to look up at the stars.
Any day spent exploring Copper’s 2,500 skiable acres is a good day. But the fun doesn’t have to stop just because the sun sinks behind the mountains. Copper offers ice skating on West Lake, located in the ski area’s Center Village, typically starting in late December or early January and ending in late March or early April, depending on weather conditions.
Though the resort’s team is still finalizing hours for this year, the skating rink has typically stayed open until 9 p.m., which means there’s plenty of time for a romantic date night or an evening out with family and friends. You can rent skates at nearby City Pop, then twirl around on the ice, try to score a hockey goal and test your broomball skills. Afterward, grab a bite to eat at nearby Ten Mile Tavern or Sawmill Pizza and Taphouse.
Keystone Ski Resort
Make the most out of your trip into the high country by sticking around for night skiing at Keystone. Offered from 4 to 8 p.m. most Fridays, Saturdays and holidays, night skiing is the perfect way to extend your visit or grab a few bonus laps after other activities in Summit County. And you’ll feel like you have the mountain to yourself as you race down crowd-free slopes with the crisp evening air on your cheeks. The views of the base village’s twinkling lights are pretty spectacular, too.
Live music and après-ski food and drinks create an upbeat atmosphere for night skiing at Granby Ranch, the family-friendly Grand County ski area with more than 400 acres of skiable terrain. The resort typically stays open for night skiing until 7 p.m. on select Friday and Saturday nights, and you may get an extra hour as the days get longer in spring. Season pass holders can ski at night for free, while day-trippers can upgrade their ticket to include night skiing, and anyone can purchase a night-only pass.
Though you’ll find delicious eateries at just about every Colorado ski area, Beaver Creek really takes dinner to a whole other level with its three fine dining cabins — Beano’s, Zach’s and Allie’s — which are only accessible via a sleigh pulled by a snowcat. For a more casual activity, Beaver Creek also has an ice rink under the stars that offers skate rentals, as well as “ice bikes” that combine a beach cruiser with an ice skate blade. There are fire pits surrounding the rink and because Beaver Creek Village has what’s known as a “common consumption area,” you can order a cocktail from any of the 14 neighboring restaurants and walk around with it until 10 p.m. From mid-December through March, you can also marvel at fireworks during Beaver Creek’s “Thursday Night Lights” events.
Explore even more of that light, fluffy “champagne powder” after dark when you stick around for night skiing at Steamboat. The resort keeps the Christie Peak Express chairlift and five trails open at night — Stampede and Lil’ Rodeo (beginner), Sitz and Vogue (intermediate) and See Me (advanced) — so there are options for skiers and riders of all ability levels. And thanks to a high-tech lighting system, the nighttime visibility at Steamboat is top-notch. steamboat.com