Buying a season ski pass can feel a little like committing to a relationship: You’re locked into riding certain mountains, obligated to ski them (because you already paid to) and generally bound the choice you made at the beginning of the season.
But, even if you already made that commitment to Vail or Alterra, there are a lot of local mountains you can still sneak away to visit, for relatively cheap — just to mix things up and get a little extra action on the side. 

So, for those of you who aren’t above cheating on your season pass and are seeking more virgin powder pastures, we present: Rooster’s guide to fooling around on your ski pass. Because life’s too short to get tied down to a single pass…

Bluebird Backcountry

# of lifts: 0
Skiable acres: 1,200
Day pass price: $50
Gnar rating: 5/10

Bluebird Backcountry opened in 2020 and it’s a playground for backcountry shredding — so don’t forget your skins — here skiers and boarders must earn their turns, as there’s not a single lift on the entire mountain. The ski area offers avalanche courses, backcountry touring lessons and, of course, equipment rentals. And their day passes are some of the cheapest in the state.

Make a day of it:

Bluebird Backcountry is just a half hour from Steamboat Springs, home to the one and only Strawberry Hotsprings. Relax those backcountry-weary muscles with a good hot soak in an extraordinarily beautiful alpine nook. 

Did you know? When Bluebird Backcountry opened up last year, it was the first new ski resort in Colorado in over 20 years. 


Ski Cooper

# of lifts: 5
Skiable acres: 470
Day pass price: Start at $40
Gnar rating: 3/10

High on the crest of Tennessee pass at 10,500 sits Ski Cooper, one of the most endearing, least-known little mountains in Colorado. Just a ten-minute drive from Leadville-proper, the mountain has a cross-country course, they offer snowcat ski tours and the bar at the base serves extremely dank bloodies.

Make a day of it: 

Hit up Two Mile Brewing in Leadville (“America’s Highest Brewery”) to grab some apres beers — or stop into Treeline Diner for some unpretentious and totally delicious plates and cocktails. 

Did you know? This ski area served as the training grounds for the legendary 10th Mountain Division ski soldiers, who fought Nazi’s in WWII while ripping gnar. 



# of lifts: 7
Skiable acres: 1,635
Day pass price: $99
Gnar rating: 4/10

Overlooking the Arkansas River Valley and the town of Salida, Monarch Mountain is one of ski country’s shining gems. There are never lift lines and great runs all over the front side. But the real ace up Monarch’s sleeve is Mirkwood basin: 130 square acres of black-diamond backcountry bowls where skiers and riders can claim legendary hero lines and find endless stashes of fresh powder. 

Make a day of it:

Soulcraft Brewing is slinging fantastic beer and bites on the edge of Salida — and downtown along F Street you’ll find a ton of other great restaurants like Amica’s or Currents, peppered in with a diversity of art galleries, distilleries and local boutiques. 

Did you know? There are 15 peaks surrounding Monarch Ski Area that are all over 14,000 feet — and people are summiting them all year round.


Wolf Creek

# of lifts: 8
Skiable acres: 1,600
Day pass price: $80
Gnar rating: 6/10

No mountain in Colorado gets snow like Wolf Creek does. This place gets hammered with upwards of 480 inches annually. However, if you want to experience it as the “local’s mountain” it’s always been, you better visit soon — a Texas billionaire is fighting to build a huge resort village at its base, which is likely to kill it’s authentic ski country vibes. 

Make a day of it:

On Wolf Creek’s “Local Appreciation Days” lift tickets are just $58 for anyone with a Colorado driver’s license. This month there are two: Feb 7th and 17th. It’s the perfect excuse to plan a ski trip, stay in Durango and get your fix of fresh powder.

Did you know? Wolf Creek’s first “lift”  — a simple rope toe system — was installed in 1938. Making this one of the oldest resorts in the state. 


Silverton Mountain

# of lifts: 1
Skiable acres: 1,819
Day pass price: $89 (unguided); $189 (guided); $1,190 (6 run heli ski)
Gnar rating: 9.5/10

If there’s a ski area in Colorado that’s known for it’s insanely gnarly and steep terrain, it’s Silverton Mountain. There is only one lift and it only accesses expert terrain and certain days guests are required to have a guide with them. With an average of 400 inches of snowfall annually, Silverton mountain can be absolutely mythologically radical. 

Make a day of it:

Ouray, a town just north of Silverton Mountain, is one of the most uniquely “Colorado” places anywhere in the state. They’ve got an ice-climbing park in the winter, box canyons, hot springs, and a robust smattering of pubs, saloons, breweries and bars slinging local drink and vibes. 

Did you know? Silverton Mountain is the only ski resort in Colorado that offers heli-skiing — just $1,190 for six runs you’ll never forget.