Vermont Vs Colorado For Skiing, What’s Best? (Surprising Differences)

by Travis McCullough | Posted On: July 11th, 2022
Vail Colorado

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Few states get as much praise as Colorado does when it comes to the quality and amount of snow it gets on an average season.  That being said, Vermont has plenty of terrains that can rival Colorado’s, so which one is better?

Both of these states offer the best of the best in their respective areas, but it depends on your skill level and preferred terrain.  Though the mountains out west are larger and get much more annual snowfall, the east has plenty of exciting ski runs that will keep you challenged for many seasons to come.

Beaver Colorado
Photo by Robert Tadlock licensed under CC BY 2.0

Consider The Differences In Climate And Topography

When deciding which state is better to ski in, it is important to take into account the differences in topography.  Most notably, the western United States has much larger mountains while the east consists of more rolling hills.

Colorado’s Climate

Though Colorado doesn’t get much rain, it still receives large snowstorms that are capable of dropping multiple feet of snow at a time.  It is not unheard of for resorts in Colorado to receive upwards of 400 inches of snowfall in a given year, with many resorts averaging at least 250 inches per year.

Even though Colorado is considered to be a semi-arid climate, it is this low relative humidity that produces a special type of snow that is unlike any other to ski.  The state can get huge dumps of perfect snow anytime between September and May, the snowiest months being March and April. 

It should be noted, that it is possible to ski year-round on certain peaks in Colorado, although access to these areas is limited and the conditions diminish greatly as the summer drags on.

Colorado’s Snow

Berthoud Skiing
Photo by Owen Richard licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Resorts like Steamboat are known for their famous “champagne powder”, which refers to the light and fluffy nature of the snow.  Since the air is much drier in Colorado, the snow that falls is much lighter and less sticky than snow that falls on either coast.

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This type of snow is sought after by powder hounds from around the world because it is much easier to ski and doesn’t turn into a sheet of ice overnight compared to wetter snow.  The floating feeling that it provides, coupled with the endless face shots it produces will leave all skiers wanting more.

Even though skiing powder is one of the best feelings in the world for an experienced skier, it is not quite celebrated as much by those who are new to the sport.  Effectively skiing deeper snowpacks takes practice and can be frustrating for beginners who get stuck in it.

Colorado’s Landscape

Vail Skiing 2
Photo by jrm353 licensed under CC BY 2.0

Colorado is most known for its abundance of mountains because it lies within the Rocky Mountain range,  these peaks are notorious for being tall and steep.  Colorado contains a whopping 58 peaks at or above 14,000 feet, making it one of the best backcountry skiing destinations in the world.

Elevation

Even the resorts in Colorado sit at a higher elevation than those in the rest of the United States.  Most ski areas sit at an elevation of at least 7,000 feet, and some have peaks that top 13,000 feet.

A common mistake that skiers make when coming from lower elevations is assuming that they will be able to handle the high elevation conditions in Colorado. 

There is significantly less oxygen at these elevations which can lead to getting fatigued very quickly as well as altitude sickness.

If you are someone that has trouble exercising at higher elevations then Colorado may not be a great choice.  Proper physical health and hydration are key components to being able to ski higher peaks. 

Some popular lower elevation resorts in Colorado include:

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Colorado’s Fame

Colorado ski

Because Colorado is known as a hotspot for skiers of all abilities, it can get quite crowded during snowstorms and holidays.  Large crowds of people aren’t great for anyone, but this is especially true for beginners who want to book a lesson or enjoy a slower-paced day on the mountain.

Benefits Of Skiing In Colorado

  • Receives tons of natural snow every year
  • Receives drier powder
  • Contains more resorts
  • Contains more backcountry opportunities
  • Has a long ski season

Drawbacks Of Skiing In Colorado

  • Resorts are expensive
  • Popularity leads to crowded slopes and longer lift lines
  • High elevation can be more strenuous to breathe in
  • Large snowstorms make runs harder to groom for beginners
  • Travel from metropolitan areas during storms and holidays is a nightmare

View Map Colorado for Skiing

Vermont’s Climate

Vermont
Photo by specialolympicsusa licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Vermont’s location in relation to the coast is a big reason why it has such a wetter climate than Colorado.  This makes it a prime candidate for heavy dumps throughout the year, with most of its resorts receiving upwards of 200 inches of snowfall per year.  While this may not be quite as much as Colorado, it is certainly nothing to overlook.  

The combination of wetter snowpacks in a lower elevation creates an opportunity for resorts to hold their snow longer, as opposed to dry snow in high elevations that are prone to get blown away by high winds.  This is a double-edged sword though because wet snow leads to ice, hence the name “ice coast”.

This is advantageous for skiers because they don’t have to drop what they are doing and rush to the mountain to sample the fresh snow before it disappears.  Pair this with Vermont’s resorts being much closer to metropolitan areas, and it makes for an infinitely more laid-back skiing experience.

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Snowiest Resorts In Vermont

Vermont’s Landscape

Spring Skiing at Sugarbush
Photo by sf-dvs licensed under CC BY 2.0

The landscape of Vermont can be described as a series of long rolling hills which doesn’t contain any large mountains compared to states in the western part of the country.  The highest skiable peak in the state maxes out at just under 5,000 feet.

This may not sound enticing to most thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies, but this type of topography is great for those who want to enjoy a more relaxing day of skiing to take in the sights.  Skiing at a lower elevation is much less physically taxing since there is more available oxygen in the air, ensuring that you will get your fill of as many runs as possible.

This is not to say that Vermont doesn’t have any large resorts with steep slopes.  Killington Mountain Resort, also known as the beast in the east, is the biggest resort on the east coast and provides an abundance of terrain for advanced skiers.

Benefits Of Skiing In Vermont

  • Receives ample natural snowfall each year
  • Low elevation resorts for those who aren’t necessarily in great shape
  • Proximity to airports and metropolitan areas makes travel easier than in Colorado

Drawbacks Of Skiing In Vermont

  • Wetter snows lead to icier conditions
  • Less extreme/steep terrain than Colorado

View Map Vermont for Skiing

Final Thoughts

skiing in Beaver Creek
Photo by Snow Snow licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

It’s no secret why each of these states is considered the best in their respective areas within the country.  Though they each have their own advantages and shortcomings, they both offer a little bit of everything for people of all skill levels.

Colorado is definitely the place to go for those looking to push their abilities to the max, springtime powderhounds, and those who want to get into backcountry skiing. 

Vermont is a better choice for those who want an all-around easier skiing experience that won’t leave them shaking in their boots but expose them to the best that the east coast has to offer.

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