When you think Colorado ski culture, the first thing that may come to mind is the posh resorts and luxury ski gear you see in the lift line. But one of the best aspects of skiing Colorado are the fun ways you can make it your own — including the parking lot party. Ski tailgates are particularly popular during Colorado's spring season when the need for heavy winter clothing diminishes, and the parking lot takes on the atmosphere of a sandy beach. Clothing-optional and brimming with camaraderie, these ski tailgating opportunities offer a fantastic way to enhance your season. Whether you plan to grill brats between runs or host your apre-party, we'll guide you through the best resorts in Colorado to tailgate in style. Who says you need football to tailgate?
Here are the best places to host your legendary ski tailgate:
Pass: Official Arapahoe Basin SkiPass
Arapahoe Basin, or "A-Basin," reigns supreme as the king of ski tailgating. The unique feature of this resort is "The Beach," a collection of parking spots that back directly onto the ski hill. The resort itself describes “The Beach” as "prime ski-in, ski-out real estate adjacent to the bottom of our frontside lifts." Due to its immense popularity, reservations for Beach parking spots are required and must be made through the resort's website. These spots fill up rapidly, especially on weekends, so be sure to secure your reservation before the season begins. If you'd rather not pay for a spot, there are still plenty of exceptional parking spots just steps from “The Beach”. These alternative spots offer opportunities to tailgate to your heart's content while enjoying breathtaking high country views.
Pick up some shades to keep your eyes safe on "The Beach"
Mary Jane at Winter Park:
Pass: Ikon Pass
Nestled in a forested hill at the base of Winter Park Resort, the Mary Jane parking lots provide an ideal location for your next parking lot party. Many of the spots in the MJ lot are ski-in-ski-out adjacent, just a few steps away from the slopes. You can take a quick break from skiing to enjoy a beverage between tackling those bump runs. The best part is that parking at Mary Jane is entirely free. However, since Mary Jane is one of the most visited resorts along the I-70 corridor, it's advisable to arrive well before the mountain opens at 8:30, preferably an hour in advance to secure a picturesque parking spot.
Loveland Ski Area:
Pass: Official Loveland Pass
Loveland Ski Area is an often-overlooked gem for hosting ski parties. Located just 53 miles west of Denver, it is frequently bypassed by I-70 travelers. The resort's primary parking lot is gravel, making it an ideal spot for ski tailgating. Moreover, all parking spaces are conveniently close to the base lifts, with a maximum five-minute walk. Loveland sits on the precipice of the Continental Divide, providing panoramic views while you enjoy refreshments in your ski gear.
A common thread linking these ski areas is their unpaved, gravel parking lots, which are highly conducive to popular tailgate parties. Gravel lots retain snowfall and are easier on the soles of ski boots, making them a must for your next apres-ski gathering. The most critical rule for a successful tailgate party is proximity to the lifts. While other resorts can also provide enjoyable experiences, these resorts offer the shortest distance from your party to hitting the slopes.
Honorable Mention: Eldora
Pass: Ikon Pass
Eldora, while not directly off the I-70 corridor, boasts excellent proximity to the Front Range. Although its skiing may not match the extremity or vertical of its competitors, Eldora's resort still meets our criteria for hosting an outstanding skiing tailgate party. With its proximity to the lifts and a spacious gravel lot, Eldora is an excellent choice for celebrating a birthday, Gaper Day, or simply enjoying a beautiful spring afternoon.
Plan The Best Ski Tailgate for the 2023-24 Season
Next time you're planning to host a party in a ski resort parking lot, make sure to check out these options as we believe that they're top tier. These resorts offer a perfect blend of breathtaking mountain scenery and a vibrant parking lot party atmosphere, making your skiing experience even more memorable. Whether you're a seasoned tailgater or new to the scene, you're sure to find a welcoming community of fellow snow enthusiasts at these locations. Don't forget to embrace the spirit of camaraderie, enjoy the stunning views, and most importantly, stay safe and responsible while having fun in the snow!
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