Considering a December trip to Colorado and need some help planning? We’ve got you covered!
December in Colorado is the beginning of winter fun like skiing and anything else that requires snow. Temperatures are low and snowfall improves throughout the month. Prices are typically moderate during this month since the busiest part of ski season is yet to come.
Colorado in December is extremely hard to beat if you love to travel during Christmas and during the holiday season in general.
Whether you’re skiing or just looking for some wintery relaxation, this guide will cover everything you need to know to plan the best trip possible.
This article is part of Roundtript’s series of expert Colorado travel guides for every month of the year.
Spring in Colorado
Summer in Colorado
Fall in Colorado
Winter in Colorado
For a summary of each Colorado month & season all in one place, check out our big guide to the Best Times of the Year to Visit Colorado.
Colorado Weather In December
The weather in Colorado in December brings some of the coldest temperatures for some areas. The average daily December highs are around 43°F (6°C) and the lows drop to 17°F (-8°C) in the evening. December is considered Denver’s coldest month, while temps are just starting to drop in other regions of the state.
December doesn’t bring much rain, rather there will be decent snowfall throughout the month, blanketing almost every inch of the state in fresh, dry powder. Despite Colorado’s arid weather, December tends to have higher humidity levels – though these levels will not compare to the Southeast United States. Rather, they will be slightly high for Colorado’s normal levels.
No matter the time of year, altitude will always be a factor when traveling to Colorado. Some towns like Alma have an elevation of 10,300′ and others like Wray have an elevation of over 3,000′. As a matter of fact, altitude sickness affects nearly 10% of all visitors. You can prepare your body by drinking plenty of water, eating healthy foods, sleeping well, resting frequently and avoiding too much alcohol.
Colorado Affordability & Crowds in December
Colorado in December is surprisingly affordable, as it’s not an extremely busy month for the state. There will be more visitors than you’d see in November or October, but not nearly as many as you’ll see later in the ski season. This is a perfect time to vacation for the holidays, experience the start of ski season and score more favorable traveling rates for hotels.
Hotel rates will vary by city, with most ski towns offering a wide range of rates, small towns being the cheapest and the capitol city of Denver averaging around $150 – $250 per night for the best hotels during Christmas. Booking hotels, restaurant reservations, excursions and tours shouldn’t be a challenge this month, but it’s best to plan ahead for holiday themed events and experiences.
Colorado Snow & Skiing in December
Colorado snowfall in December is very common, with regular flurries and some storms rolling over the entire state on a daily basis. Some areas will definitely see more snowfall than others, especially if they are located at higher altitudes. For example, ski towns like Steamboat will see snowfall levels of about 38″ this month, while the capitol city of Denver will only receive about 8″ of snow.
Skiing conditions will steadily improve at almost every resort throughout December. Ski resorts across the state are now open and will have decent levels of snow each day to accommodate skiers of every ability. December is still early in the ski season, so this is a great time for beginners to get out on the slopes before they get too crowded.
Best Colorado Ski Resorts in December
Steamboat Resort is one of the best family-friendly vacation destinations in Colorado. There’s so much for parents with kids to enjoy, ski classes for beginners and lots of greens for novice skiers. It’s also got a great holiday season atmosphere for travelers to enjoy. The ski season has been open for several weeks drawing visitors of all ages and abilities to it’s nearly 3,000 acres of skiable terrain.
Beginners will have fun on the open green runs at the top of the summit, with an elevation of 10,568′, which features smooth terrain and intermediate tree runs for more adventurous types. Expert level skiers will appreciate the bump runs with moguls and many blue-black slopes on the mountain. The resort is often referred to as “Ski Town, USA” as there are many Olympians that practice here during the ski season.
Vail is considered one of the classiest, most upscale ski resorts in Colorado, drawing thousands from all over the world to it’s beautiful slopes. The December ski season in Vail during has been open for a few weeks and the snows have had time to build up on the over 5,000 acres of skiable terrain.
Skiers will love the various terrain that accommodates all levels, as well as the 7 miles of back bowls to explore. Non-skiers will appreciate the two main base areas with heated walkways, excellent shopping and dining options, along with beautiful luxury resort accommodations.
Breckenridge Ski Resort boasts one of Colorado’s biggest ski areas with 2,908 acres of skiable terrain, a summit elevation of 12,998′, and the longest run at 3.5 miles long (most resorts have 2 mile long runs). There are suitable runs for all levels of skiers, including a 3,398 vertical drop, a 22′ superpipe and 187 different trails to experience.
December is the optimal time to go before the crowds pour in, since Breckenridge is one of the most visited ski resorts in the state. With 11 on-mountain restaurants to choose from, the Gold Runner Alpine Coaster and over 150 boutiques in the shopping area, there’s plenty of entertainment to fuel your vacation. It’s also a fantastic Christmas destination for families.
P.S. – If you happen on the fence between Breckenridge and Vail, we created a comprehensive comparison of these two popular resorts!
Wolf Creek Ski Resort is located between Pagosa Springs and South Fork, CO. It’s got some of the highest snowfall stats in the state on an annual basis, reaching about 480 inches every year. It comes with 1,600 acres of skiable terrain and a summit elevation of 11,904′. Wolf Creek has multiple runs with varying terrain, including steep and rocky glades, and a limited access set of runs for experts only.
Pagosa Springs is the best base for visitors coming to Wolf Creek in December. The town has a variety of Christmas season specialties for skiers to take part in. The Pagosa Hot Springs is a great place to relax after a busy day on the slopes, plus there are Majestic Sleigh Rides and local craft breweries to indulge in.
Beaver Creek, right down the road from its sister resort Vail, is one of the world’s most luxurious, upscale ski resorts. It’s built for vacationers who love to ski but enjoy loads of entertainment, dining experiences and other excursions throughout their trip. In December, Beaver Creek has been open for at least a week. This month is great not only for good snow conditions, but also for lower crowds and subsequently lower rates.
It’s got 1,815 skiable acres with a summit elevation of 11,440′. There are also plenty of ski-in/ski-out homes and base camp hotels to choose from. Beaver Creek Ski Resort is equipped with four different village areas with their own lodging, restaurants and shopping districts, giving visitors lots of options for a stellar ski vacation.
Aspen is a great destination for families looking to spend time skiing for the holidays in a place with great accommodations and amenities for non-skiers. It boasts 5,300 acres of skiable terrain with an elevation of 12,510′. The skiing acres span between several mountains, including Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands, giving all abilities many slope choices.
Aspen Mountain is perfect for experts, offering black diamond runs just above the resort, while Snowmass will be best for families. Throughout December, visitors can experience the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Little Nell, get free hot chocolate and refreshments, and celebrate 12 Days of Aspen Christmas.
Keystone is located in the high country of Colorado and is often one of the first resorts to open each ski season, usually in late October. The resort comes with six different areas for expert jumps, moguls and rails with a summit of 11,980′. Skiers of all levels will find a sweet spot inside the 3,180 acres of terrain at this resort.
Best Things to Do in Colorado in December
Below are some of the best places to visit in the month of December. In addition to these places, other winter activities available this time of year include cross-country skiing, dogsledding, horseback riding, ice climbing, ice fishing, ice skating, sledding, sleigh rides, sight-seeing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, spa retreats and tubing.
December Holiday Towns
Georgetown is the quintessential holiday town in Colorado, best known for it’s Christmas railroad experience. The Georgetown Loop Railroad is one of many historic trains built in the Gold Rush days of early Colorado civilization and gets transformed for the holiday season. The two tours available each year include Santa’s Lighted Forest and Santa’s North Pole Adventure. Lovers of the movie North Pole Express will love this thrilling experience.
Georgetown is very European in nature, with Victorian-era storefronts and homes lining the main thoroughfare. This charming little town is located very near to Arapaho National Forest, making it a great base for avid skiers looking for excellent backcountry skiing on their trip. Families will also love the Georgetown Christmas Market this month.
Breckenridge is one of the most popular ski destinations in Colorado, and while the skiing is good and the slopes are less crowded in December, there’s so much more to enjoy. There are various activities throughout the season including Victorian-era Christmas decoration viewing, special holiday treats to enjoy and carriage rides around town.
Breck opens December up with a bang, featuring the Lighting of the Christmas Tree and the Running of the Santas for everyone to enjoy. One of the most intriguing parts of Breckenridge in December is their Ullr Fest. The event lasts 10 days and pays tribute to the Norse god Ullr, who controls the snow. Residents invite visitors to participate in dressing for the occasion in order to please the snow god, resulting in a great ski season of fresh powder.
Steamboat has lots to offer guests during the month of December. It’s ski slopes are open and the town is filled with festivities. This is the ultimate time for relaxation in Steamboat Springs, while the crowds are low and the winter chill is blowing in, taking advantage of the hot springs.
The Christmas festivities are kicked off with Santa himself riding down the ski slopes in a horse-drawn carriage for the Steamboat Holiday Festival. Night skiing is a popular activity in December and experts show off on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in the annual Torchlight Parade, lighting up the slopes for the occasion.
Telluride is considered one of the most beautiful ski towns in the United States, complete with Victorian-era storefronts beautifully decorated for Christmas, fresh powder blanketing the town and great slopes for all to enjoy. The annual Holiday Prelude is Telluride’s best start to the holidays. Visitors can see the North Pole, taking in the holiday decorations and lights while visiting with Santa and his elves on a free train ride.
Telluride hosts it’s own Torchlight Parades on both Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve with a crowd gathered at the base of Coonskin run at Telluride Ski Resort for this magical display. Skiers and snowboarders will carry torches in a line as they zigzag down the mountain, illuminating the run from the top to the bottom. The parade concludes with fireworks set off at the top for all to see.
Durango & Silverton Railroad
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a popular historic adventure aboard the original train and tracks built in the Gold Rush age of early Colorado civilization. In December, the train turns into a “Polar Express” of sorts, treating guests to a winter Wonderland experience.
The Polar Express train ride takes riders on a journey to the North Pole and guests are encouraged to wear their favorite Christmas pajamas or matching outfits for the occasion. Upon arrival, you’ll meet Santa’s real-life reindeer and the big man himself. The North Pole also features several characters from the movie and a tour of Santa’s workshop.
Families will also love the Cascade Canyon Train, featuring heated seats and refreshments on a 26-mile journey. The train winds through the snowy San Juan Mountains, giving riders a blissful wintery view of the Colorado’s mountain country. If you want to make a real trip out of Durango, you can also get some great skiing in at the town’s Purgatory Resort.
In addition to the breathtaking scenery through the San Juan Mountains, the Cascade Canyon also includes a scheduled stop to cut down your very own Christmas tree for the season. The train will haul your chosen tree back to the original loading point for you to take home. The best part is that guests are aiding the forest by trimming designated trees each year – a special permit is required, of course.
See the North Pole
If a train ride won’t fit into your plans or you feel your small children won’t enjoy the journey, you can drive straight to Cascade, CO to see the North Pole on your own time. The town is a marvel for adults and children alike and people of all ages will find an event or experience to enjoy here.
Some of the most notable features include a mini train ride fit for children with parents to tour the village, a seated zip line ride, a sky ride (like a scenic ski lift) and Santa’s very own house. Guests can catch a glimpse of home life for Santa while waiting their turn to snap a picture with him.
The North Pole also include several attractions to occupy your time, including a professional glassblower elf who makes custom ornaments and gifts for the holidays, as well as Elmer the Elf – an animatronic elf who plays the guitar for children. There’s also a full arcade area located in the Enchanted Forest. It’s equipped with skee ball, knock down games and other old-timey favorites.
Don’t forget your souvenirs from this once-in-a-lifetime trip! The North Pole has three different gift shops to accommodate any need – a Toy Shop with games and play items for kids, a Christmas Shop filled with ornaments and seasonal items and a Souvenir shop with collectibles and unique gifts from the North Pole and the Pike’s Peak region of Colorado.
The Mile High City is best known for being the capital of Colorado; a true metropolis that began humbly as a frontier town that boomed in the Gold Rush. If you’re not looking to hike, climb or bike your way through the mountains, Denver is a great place to be in December for Christmastime.
There are many other things to do and experience in Denver, like the historic tours and Old West attractions. In addition to the many attractions all over the city, like Denver Union Station and other historical sites (a lot of these experiences are included in the $30 Mile High Culture Pass – three days of admission and discounts on transportation), you can easily escape to more secluded areas right outside the capitol – like Red Rocks Park or Dinosaur Ridge.
There are also lots of Christmas events that tourists will enjoy. The Denver Botanical Gardens hosts it’s annual Blossoms of Light nighttime festivities, for example. There’s also the Denver Parade of Lights, which is an enormous parade of extravagant floats put on by local businesses.
One of the main events in Denver each December is the celebration of New Year’s Eve. Downtown Denver is filled with people coming to see the live concerts and take part in various family-friendly events. Denver Union Station hosts a big party open to the public and the city sets off a huge display of fireworks to ring in the New Year.
December Events in Colorado
There are many events to experience in Colorado all throughout the year. December’s most notable holidays are Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and many cities in Colorado will be hosting events in celebration of both. Below we’ve listed the biggest and most popular long term events that appeal to most travelers in December.
Denver Christkindl Market
This artisan marketplace replicates the grand Christmas markets of Europe. Taking inspiration from Germany and other markets around the continent, the Denver Christkinkl Market is a fun experience for families. It starts before Thanksgiving and runs up until Christmas Eve, offering European Christmas goodies and drinks, as well as handcrafted gift items for purchase.
Georgetown Christmas Market
The Georgetown Christmas Market seeks to bring the Christmas season to life as it was over one hundred years ago. The town is known for it’s beautiful Victorian-era architecture and European inspired-decor, therefore Georgetown is one of the most festive places to be for Christmas. In addition to the shopping available, the market has several holiday attractions like the Victorian carolers and dancers, Old Saint Nicholas, hot cocoa and roasted chestnuts.
Dillon Ice Castles
The Ice Castles in Dillon, CO are some of the most unique, partially naturally-occurring attractions in Colorado. Visitors will get the chance to walk through ice-carved tunnels, see bubbling water features and use the ice slides on their icy adventure. The castles are lit from outside and inside by colorful lights to make the experience even more enchanting. This event will typically run through March while the weather permits.
12 Days of Aspen
On the twelve days leading up to New Year’s Eve, Aspen hosts holiday events and activities for families to enjoy on each day. They have a variety of holiday-themed activities like cookie decorating, free ice skating, live concerts and carolers, free movie showings and of course, meeting Santa himself.
Colorado in December: Week by Week
The first week of December in Colorado will not be too different in crowd levels from the last week in November. However, it does mark the start of the holiday season so there will be many wintery festivities happening in cities and towns all over the state. Denver, in particular, is a great place to be this week to experience the capitol before Christmas crowds roll in.
Denver Christkindl Market is just finishing up, treating attendees to a Christmas market with European flair. Similar to the German, French and Scandinavian cities in Europe, the Denver Christkindl Market imitates the over-the-top decorations, emphasizes local artisans and serves up deliciously crafted treats and drinks.
Blossoms of Light is going on at Denver Botanical Gardens this week, running through the end of December. It hosts many guests for this nighttime event, where you’ll see the gardens lit up by Christmas lights with a unique display of colors and shapes.
The second week of December in Colorado is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, with some of the best events happening all over the state. Tourists will enjoy the lower travel rates and crowds, while taking part in these annual experiences. Skiing is also a great activity to enjoy, with all of the resorts open to skiers and snowboarders.
Ullr Fest has begun in Breckenridge, which is a very unique event you won’t find anywhere else in Colorado. The 10 day festival pays tribute to the Norse god Ullr, who controls the snow. Residents invite visitors to participate in wearing Viking garb, visiting the open-air art installations, perform the scavenger hunt and more in order to have a bountiful snow for the ski season.
Meanwhile in Georgetown, the Christmas Market is underway. This Victorian-era town seeks to bring the Christmas season to life as it was over one hundred years ago. In addition to the market shopping, there are several holiday attractions like the Victorian carolers and dancers, Old Saint Nicholas, hot cocoa and roasted chestnuts.
The third week of December in Colorado is often Christmas week, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations all around. It’s best to get to your destination days in advance of these holidays so you don’t risk missing a flight or opportunity too close to Christmas.
The holiday towns of Breckenridge, Georgetown, Steamboat Springs and Telluride are all wonderful destinations for experiencing a true Winter Wonderland during Christmas week. There are plenty of other experiences around Colorado, but these will have the most to do to fill a weeklong vacation.
In addition to these towns, Aspen is another good destination, hosting its 12 Days of Aspen this week. The town hosts varied events and experiences for families to participate in every single day leading up to New Year’s Eve.
The fourth week of December in Colorado is New Year’s Eve week and it’s best for tourists to plan well in advance. The days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve can be extremely hectic no matter where you go, and it’s probably best to choose one destination for your stay.
This week, the Dillon Ice Castles begins for the winter season. Visitors will get the chance to walk through ice-carved tunnels, see bubbling water features and use the ice slides on their icy adventure. The castles are lit from outside and inside by colorful lights to make the experience even more enchanting; residents suggest going to see this attraction at night.
New Year’s Eve festivities are going on across the entire world and Colorado has three notable experiences to consider. Steamboat Springs and Telluride will both have Torchlight Parades on the ski slopes for people to view from the base of the mountain, featuring a firework show. Denver will have it’s own celebration downtown with a bustling event and fireworks of its own.
From visiting the North Pole to shredding on the slopes, Colorado in December has a great selection of holiday activities to make your vacation the best ever. December offers so many delightful events and outdoor experiences to get you up close and personal with the snow covered mountains, while celebrating the season in it’s purest form.
December in Colorado will be most ideal for visitors looking to plan a full week vacation for Christmas or New Year’s Eve celebrations, while also getting in some of the first ski runs of the season before crowds start to come in and rates go up.