Considering a trip to Colorado in January and need some planning help? We’ve got you covered!
January in Colorado is one of the best times of year to get some of the first great skiing conditions while saving a bit of money. The weather is snowy and cold, so it’s the perfect time to take full advantage of fresh powder. Since the holidays are over, crowds are thinner, leaving the slopes open for locals and tourists.
January is not only a great time to hit the ski slopes, it’s also the perfect time to indulge in other Winter recreation that the Centennial State is known for.
If you’re looking not only to ski, but also to experience lots of incredible winter fun, January is one of the most ideal times to be in Colorado.
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 January
Colorado weather in January is cold and snowy, often seeing some of the highest snowfall across the state. January is one of the most reliably snowy months of the year, so trips scheduled in this month are sure to be a Winter delight full of fresh powder. Most of the state will have a nice blanket of snow, with the deepest snow seen at the highest altitudes.
The average highs for the month of January will typically be in the mid 40’s°F (6.7°C) and lows will drop to the high teens about 17°F (-8.3°C) at night. This is an average estimate for the state in January, but some of the high altitude locations will see lows around 0°F (-17°C).
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 eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, sleeping well, resting frequently and avoiding alcohol.
Colorado Snow & Skiing in January
Colorado in January, as mentioned before, is one of the best months for fresh powder. Snowfall occurs almost everyday in most parts of the state, with gusts of wind and overcast skies dominating the better part of the day. Average snowfall for the month of January is about 8 inches in most parts of the state. Of course, the ski slopes will receive more than this on average.
Skiing in Colorado in January is exceptional for multiple reasons. First, the slopes won’t be too crowded, making lift tickets slightly cheaper than peak season and lines shorter. It’s also possible that the ski resorts could have lower rates this time of year. Second, the snow is guaranteed to be consistent in January, making the ski conditions the best they’ve been all season.
If the snow happens not to be quite as good as anticipated for the month of January, most every location will blow in snow to make the slopes ideal for all skier levels. The only other potential downside to skiing in January is the shorter days with less sun.
Colorado Affordability & Crowds in January
January crowds in Colorado can experience a lull state-wide since the holidays are over and most people took their vacations away from work over Thanksgiving or Christmas. This makes it an optimal time for taking a less crowded vacation in most Colorado cities. The ski towns will be buzzing a little more than the other destinations this time of year.
While the main attraction will definitely be the ski resorts and Winter outdoor activities, this is a great time to take advantage of lower audiences in some of Colorado’s most popular attractions.
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 $130 – $240 per night for the best hotels. Booking hotels, restaurant reservations, excursions and tours will be pretty easy this month, although some of the smaller towns could have hotel and restaurant closures before the ski season begins.
Best Colorado Ski Resorts in January
Wolf Creek Ski Resort is recommended for avid skiers who want pure skiing fun. It’s located between Pagosa Springs and South Fork, CO and has some of the highest snowfall stats in the state on an annual basis, so January is going to be a fresh powder dream.
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 January, featuring Pagosa Hot Springs (which is a great place to relax after a busy day on the slopes), Majestic Sleigh Rides and lots of craft breweries and restaurants.
Aspen is another great destination for avid skiers, but has better 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 three different mountains, giving all abilities many slope choices.
Aspen Mountain is perfect for experts, especially in January, offering black diamond runs just above the resort. Snowmass Mountain will be best for families who require more green runs. The great part about Aspen is that it includes all of these mountain experiences under one lift pass. Visitors love it’s impeccable nightlife atmosphere after a full day skiing, as well as the varied accommodations at two high-class resorts.
Steamboat Resort is one of the best family-friendly vacation destinations in Colorado. There’s ski classes for beginners and plenty of greens for young skiers. In January, expect some great snowpack and additional snowfall to suit all ages and abilities on 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′. There are also intermediate tree runs for more adventurous types. Expert level skiers will appreciate the fun 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 and tourists love it for the slope’s fluffy “champagne” powder.
Winter Park Ski Resort is beloved by Coloradans and considered one of the most family-friendly ski resorts in the state. It’s known for being a haven for locals, but visitors will enjoy the remote and intimate setting just as much as the residents. Winter Park has over 3,000 skiable acres with a summit elevation of 12,060′.
All ability levels will enjoy the varied slopes and terrain, including tree runs, moguls and obstacles, alpine bowls and an extensive trail system. The Winter Park town itself is quite secluded and very casual, perfect for families with young kids who want to have some adventures together. The resort not only offers world-class downhill skiing, but also has tubing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
Vail is known for it’s European flair alongside it’s storied skiing. It draws thousands from all over the world to it’s beautiful slopes, but January won’t be too incredibly busy. Visitors will love the room to spread out over the 5,000 acres of skiable terrain on the mountain, while others can shop and dine to their hearts content in the cozy village areas.
Vail is one of the best places for both skiers and non-skiers to enjoy. Skiers will love both smooth and steep terrain that suits 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 is another popular choice with 2,908 acres of skiable terrain, a summit elevation of 12,998′, and the longest run at 3.5 miles long. There are nice runs for all levels of skiers, including a 3,398 vertical drop, a 22′ superpipe and 187 different trails to experience. It’s regarded as one of the best all-around ski towns for it’s excellent slopes and great entertainment value.
January is another perfect time to go before the peak season occurs, 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.
Crested Butte is a little more lowkey and best for expert skiers. The main town is nothing fancy, but will have fun activities and great recreation and amenities throughout the year, located three miles from the ski resort. It’s a great location to consider for a quick trip or casual vacation where skiing is the main goal.
The terrain is marked with rocky cliffs, steep terrain, bowls and glades. During the season, Crested Butte will hold freestyle championships and expert skiers will get their thrills on North America’s most advanced inbound terrain. January will offer a peaceful town with good lodging options and eateries to please a variety of travelers.
Copper Mountain is not quite as famous as the other resorts previously listed, but it’s a great one to consider for families to enjoy together. It’s got a lot of naturally divided terrain that allows skiers of all ability levels to feel comfortable on the mountain with many designated runs for each type. It’s equipped with 2,500 acres of skiable terrain with a summit elevation of 12,315′.
Telluride is a popular ski destination but won’t be very crowded in January. Skiers can spread out over more than 2,000 skiable acres, which includes mixed terrain for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers. The summit at Telluride reaches 13,150′ elevation.
Telluride is just what you’d expect from a famous ski destination in the Rockies – with bowls, chutes, cliffs, and glades. The resort is well known for its varied expert terrain, from double blacks to chutes – and if you want “hike-to terrains”, they are accessed by metal stairs and rails.
Best Things to Do in Colorado in January
Below are some of the best places to visit in the month of January. 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.
January is the perfect time to visit Steamboat Springs. Families will enjoy this vacation together as there is not only great skiing to be had this month, but also fewer people and loads of activities for non-skiers in a beautiful resort. As far as outdoor activities goes this Winter, some popular choices include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking the mountainside.
Steamboat Springs has some of the most highly rated hot springs in Colorado. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is an excellent choice, but the remote dirt road may be difficult to navigate in the Winter. In town you’ll have access to Old Town Hot Springs. It’s a nice option for families, including slides and water features for children to play in, as well as more peaceful areas for adults.
One of the most unique things happening in Steamboat Springs in January is the night skiing, where visitors can access specific slopes through the evening. The city encourages tourists to make the most of it by reserving dinner at the base and skiing to your heart’s content. Another year-round activity unique to Steamboat is the hot-air balloon rides. MusicFest is another great event that provides all-inclusive ticket packages for skiing, lodging and transportation.
Breckenridge is one of Colorado’s most popular ski towns, accommodating travel parties of all sizes with great ski conditions, large mountain landscapes and luxury shopping and hotels. The average snowfall in Breck is over 20 inches in January, making the powder perfect for a ski trip. In addition to the great weather, there are loads of activities going on in town this month.
One of the biggest events is the International Snow Sculpture Competitions. Ice sculptors from around the world come to compete against each other for one week in January, creating monstrous artworks on display for the whole town. The artists are only allowed to use hand tools to make these creations, which makes the competition final results more intriguing.
Of course, skiing is the number one draw to Breckenridge and skiers will enjoy the fabulous snow conditions this month across the mountains expanse of nearly 3,000 acres. Breckenridge is also considered one of the sunniest parts of Colorado, seeing more “blue bird” days than most other resorts around the state.
Explore Copper Mountain
Copper Mountain is a great short stay destination for weekend travelers or three to four day trips for adult groups. While skiing is offered and there’s a fun Rocky Mountain Coaster open each Winter, one of the best activities for seeing the mountainside is snowshoeing.
Copper Mountain has beautiful tree areas and gorgeous terrain, but often the snow conditions aren’t favorable for skiing until February and March. That’s why January is the perfect time to get out for snowshoeing or even cross-country skiing. There are a wide variety of trails you can take, including groomed cross country trails and backcountry ski trails.
The best part is – Copper Mountain offers snowshoeing tours for FREE during the ski season. Take advantage of these ambassador guided tours Friday – Sunday between 10am and 1pm. Snow shoe rentals are not included, however, so prepare for about a $20 fee for those and enjoy the full beauty of the pine and spruce forests on the mountain.
Aspen is a breathtakingly gorgeous place to be most times of the year, but January is a less busy month that’s highly worth considering for a Winter vacation. In early January, the snow has packed in well enough to make skiing enjoyable for all ability levels and the slopes have fewer people than you’ll see later in the month and early February.
Aspen is far from a hidden gem, being one of Colorado’s most choice ski destinations, but families will not be fighting the crowds for the best runs and attractions this month. Aside from skiing, Aspen has lots to offer guests you are looking for a break from the mountain. For instance, there are many events going on all month long from Winter X Games to Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings.
Since Aspen is so popular for skiing, many don’t realize the full spectrum of outdoor activities to enjoy. One great example is the Winter fly-fishing – most Colorado towns have halted fishing of any type in the Winter, but Aspen has two great rivers to choose from. The Roaring Fork River and the Fryingpan River are perfect spots for fly-fishing this time of year, which can be accomplished on your own or with a guide from the local outfitters.
Free Days at National Parks
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
MLK Day is free at all the National Parks across the state of Colorado. This is a great time to plan a day of sightseeing and hiking at one of these beloved parks while the crowds are low and access is free.
Rocky Mountain National Park is best for hiking and seeing possible elk and bighorn sheep in the valleys of the park. If you feel a hiking excursion may be too cold in January, you can experience the full glory of the Rockies from your car while driving on Trail Ridge Road, if it’s still open. For the true western experience, try out one of the Horseback Riding excursions, led by trained horsemen who guide you through the National Park’s lower regions.
Mesa Verde National Park is the perfect destination for hiking enthusiasts and athletes who love a challenge. The National Park is filled with over 600 cliff-dwellings dating back to 600AD and has some of the most well-preserved archeological sites in the country. Not only will you get an educational history lesson of the area, you’ll get a serious workout just trying to get to these sites.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is considered Colorado’s least visited National Park, therefore crowd levels should never be a problem when visiting any time of year. But January is a great time to plan on hiking this area and even skiing the backcountry here. There are many activities to take part in while visiting, including hiking, fishing, stargazing and skiing in select areas.
Great Sand Dunes is the ultimate outdoor adventure that thrill-seekers can take part in. This unique stretch of landscape in southern Colorado offers hiking, fat biking, sand sledding, camping and horseback riding, just to name a few. Though it’s open year-round, January is a great month to visit with lower crowds. At night, the Dunes come to life with a brilliant starry sky. You can see the Milky Way, the bright Moon and even planets very clearly. You’re also encouraged to take nighttime walks, but use extreme precaution to find your way back.
Free Denver Experiences in January
Denver has a plethora of local attractions that tourists can see for free an select days in January. The first Saturdays of the month are always free admission at Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens is free on MLK Day and both Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature & Science have random days free, so it’s worth researching before your trip.
Others like Denver Children’s Museum, Colorado Railroad Museum and Clyfford Still Museum will issue free days at random, as well.
January Events in Colorado
There are many events to experience in Colorado all throughout the year. January may have fewer events going on, but almost all will be centered around the abundance of snow for the Winter. Below we’ve listed the biggest and most popular long term events that appeal to most travelers.
Winter X Games
This highly anticipated event is hosted by ESPN each January in Aspen. Talented professional skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers compete in various events and competitions with the chance to win trophies and even money in some cases. Guests can participate in competition viewing and also take advantage of the amenities at the festival villages.
MusicFest at Steamboat
MusicFest draws crowds of people to Steamboat Springs for one week of shredding guitars, budding artists and legendary celebrities. Guests will enjoy not only 200 plus hours of live music this week, but the ticket package also includes ski lift passes, lodging, welcome goodies, free transit and discounts on ski rentals, activities and airport shuttles.
Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships
For one week in January, Breckenridge invites ice sculptors from around the world to go head to head in an intense artistic competition. Teams are only allowed to use hand tools (no power tools) for this event and the end result is amazing. These works of art are displayed downtown for visitors and judges to see, often standing close to 10 feet tall and themed for various mythical or real life creatures.
Winterskol is a “toast to winter” and Aspen’s unique Nordic lifestyle inspiration. There are several events hosted one long weekend in January to celebrate a great ski season, with music, competitions and fireworks.
Estes Park Winter Festival hosts an annual celebration of beer, barbecue and fun for families. Local vendors provide drinks, food and items to purchase for attendees to browse and several competitions and live music concerts are also included in the weekend.
Ouray Ice Festival celebrates the mecca of ice climbing in the small town of Ouray, CO. Every ability from beginner to expert is welcome on the mountain to experience ice climbing educational classes, see the latest tools and accessories and compete in various events throughout the long weekend.
Rio Frio Ice Fest is held annually in the town of Alamosa, CO and is the self-proclaimed “coldest place in the nation *sometimes*”. The major event at Ice Fest is the Winter 5k on ice followed by an awards ceremony and party.
Colorado in January: Week by Week
The first week of January in Colorado, as with the rest of the world, is finishing up their New Year’s celebrations. Most of the visitors are leaving to resume normal life again, so this is a great time to catch one of the lowest attended weeks in the state. Hotel rates should be fairly low no matter where you go and the crowds should be almost non-existent.
Skiing this week will be good, but not as great as it will be at the end of the month. There are some resorts like Steamboat or Wolf Creek that will experience some of their best snowfalls early this month, so it’s a good idea to check those out when planning a ski trip this week.
Speaking of Steamboat, MusicFest will be going on this week most years where the audience is treated to over 200 hours of live concerts. The event has all-inclusive packages that combine skiing, lodging and transport. Winterskol is also happening in Aspen, celebrating the ski season and great snow.
The second week of January in Colorado might pick up in some places, but will mostly be comparable to the first week. For the most part, January won’t be extremely busy, but the ski crowds will begin to pick up later in the month for those great snow conditions in peak ski season.
Visitors will enjoy all outdoor Winter activities as long as the weather allows. While snowstorms will roll in this month, they are not so often or fierce that you can’t have fun snowshoeing, snowmobiling or ice climbing this month. As a matter of fact, this is the time when those activities start to ramp up for the season.
In Breckenridge, the International Snow Sculpture Championships are under way, hosting ice sculptors from around the world. These artists compete in an intense sculpting competition using only hand tools for their creations, which get displayed downtown for everyone to see. Estes Park Winter Festival is also going on, entertaining crowds with great food and drinks.
The third week of January in Colorado is starting to pick up with skiers coming in for peak ski season. Most resorts around Colorado are beginning to experience their best snow conditions now through early March, so visitors in this week will be catching the start of it.
National parks are hosting free days this week for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Even if you’re planning a ski trip, this is the perfect opportunity to plan a day to see one of these great National Parks without paying. Visitors can see Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde, the Black Canyon and the Great Sand Dunes free of charge.
Aspen is hosting its Winter X Games this week, presented by ESPN. This highly anticipated event has talented professional skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers competing in various events that attendees can watch. Guests can participate in competition viewing and also take advantage of the amenities at the festival villages. The Ouray Ice Festival is also under way, encouraging ice climbers to experience the towns frozen waterfalls, learn about the sport and test new gadgets and climbing accessories.
The fourth week of January in Colorado is beginning to feel the excitement of peak ski season. With February on the way, skiers are starting to pile into the ski towns to experience the best snow conditions, warmer weather and that dry, fresh powder that Colorado is famous for.
Great fun can be had outside of skiing, as well. Many of the ski resorts host events throughout the month and also offer loads of activities fit for any style. Dog sledding and horseback riding are two activities that are offered in towns around the state, along with ice skating rinks and tubing and sledding hills.
Rio Frio Ice Fest is an intriguing event for runners. The town of Alamosa, CO holds this 5k running event on ice and is the self-proclaimed “coldest place in the nation *sometimes*”. The town and the event are fairly small, but they make a good 2-day vacation if you compete in the race, see the town and make plans to see other parts of Colorado.
Colorado in January is a skier’s dream, with lower crowds and great snow conditions. It’s most ideal for those looking to make a ski trip where you’ll be on the mountain multiple days, but also experience the individual town of your choice or multiple landmarks or historic areas of Colorado.
While skiing is the main attraction in January, visitors will love the wintery landscape and activities you can do outside. In addition to the outdoor fun, lower travel rates make January the perfect month for experiencing the great outdoors under a thick layer of powder while also saving some money on your vacation.