This Lesser-Known Colorado Ski Mountain Is FREE On Sundays

Mike & Laura Travel Disclaimer

What if we told you that there’s a mountain in Colorado where you can ski for free? It’s true! This hill in Steamboat Springs offers completely free lift tickets on Sundays.

Mike and I are avid skiers and snowboarders, respectively, and we love to check out ski resorts and mountains around the world. For us, it’s all about the powder and the associated ski town. A perfect winter day is one spent on the slopes, followed by some apres skiing with friends. 

Ski towns are quirky and full of personality, making them the perfect destination when we plan our travel itineraries. Of all the ski towns we’ve visited, Steamboat Springs always stands out because it’s where we first met. In fact, we loved it so much that we moved here a few years ago. 

As locals in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, I wanted to let you in on a local secret: there’s a mountain near us where you can ski for free.

Yes, you read that right. Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs offers visitors the chance to ski for free on Sundays throughout the season. Just bring your skis (or snowboard) and check in at the ticket office for your free lift ticket.

This Colorado Mountain Has Ski-Free Sunday

Ready to hit the slopes? Plan to head to Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This small ski mountain in downtown Steamboat Springs is the oldest operating ski mountain in the state and has sent 89 skiers to the Olympic games. 

We want to be clear: Howelsen Hill is not to be confused with the much larger and better known Steamboat Resort. They’re completely separate mountains. 

As locals, we always tell visitors that the best time to visit Steamboat is to come over a weekend.

A night view of Mount Werner from the top of Emerald Mountain.

That way, they can spend one of the days that they’re in town skiing for free at Howelsen Hill. Not only is skiing at Howelsen a great way to save on lift tickets, but it’s also an opportunity to experience Colorado skiing outside of the mega-popular resorts. 

Our favorite part, as lovers of ski towns? After a long day skiing on Howelsen Hill, you can head to a local Steamboat Springs restaurant for happy hour. We call this apres skiing, and it’s a time-honored tradition in Colorado’s ski towns. 

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    One of my favorite spots is Backdoor Grill, a beloved local burger joint that made a list of the best burgers in the US a few years ago.

    Their signature burger is the Dirty Harry, which is served on a glazed donut with peanut butter, hashbrown, fried egg, and bacon. You can pair your Dirty Harry or other burger with happy hour drinks from 3:30 to 5:30pm daily.

    When is Howelsen Hill open for skiing?

    Howelsen Hill is open for skiing Monday through Friday from 11am to 8pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm. The ski area is closed on December 25 for Christmas Day.

    The ski season in Steamboat Springs is always dependent upon what the conditions permit. This year, Howelsen Hill is open from November 25, 2023 to March 24, 2024. Howelsen Hill is not one of the Colorado ski areas that occasionally opens before Halloween

    All Sundays during the ski season are free days at Howelsen Hill. In order to ski for free on Sundays, you simply need to visit the ticket office to pick up your free lift ticket.

    The impressive history of Howelsen Hill

    Howelsen Hill is the oldest operating ski area in Colorado and has been welcoming skiers since 1915. It is named after Carl Howelsen, a Norwegian circus star who transformed the way that locals thought about skiing.

    Prior to Howelsen’s arrival in Steamboat Springs, skiing was simply a means of transportation in the snowy mountain conditions. 

    Steamboat Springs has some of the best skiing in the world.

    Mr. Howelsen introduced locals to the thrill of European ski jumping, eventually building a permanent ski jump on Elk Park. A few years later, Elk Park was renamed Howelsen Hill. The mountain has produced more Olympians than any other mountain in the United States. 

    Today, Howelsen Hill is owned and operated by the City of Steamboat Springs. The city started funding Howelsen Hill’s free days on Sundays as a way to celebrate the community’s Olympian spirit and pay homage to the ski area’s historic significance.


    Planning your visit to Steamboat Springs and still wondering if Howelsen Hill is a good choice for your trip? Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Colorado’s oldest operating ski resort. 

    Is Howelsen Hill good for beginners?

    Howelsen Hill is a good ski resort for people of all ability levels. Beginners will love the opportunity to ski cheaply or for free, with long runs that offer plenty of practice. This is especially good news for new snowboarders, who often struggle to get off the lift when they’re starting out. 

    Howelsen also has a small bunny hill, perfect for absolute beginners who want to try their hand at skiing or snowboarding. The bunny hill also has its own lift. 

    How many chairlifts does Howelsen Hill have?

    Howelsen Hill has one chairlift, one carpet lift, and a Poma lift. In total, Howelsen Hill has 19 trails, including 7 black diamond runs, 8 intermediate trails, and 4 easy trails. One of the runs connects to a terrain park. 

    View from under a chair lift with peoples skis

    There is a separate lift for the tubing hill. Note that the tubing hill does not have a free day.

    Who owns Howelsen Hill?

    Howelsen Hill is a local, lesser-known ski area in Colorado. It is owned and operated by the City of Steamboat Springs, and the city provides free lift tickets on Sundays to the public. The ski area was most recently renovated in 2001.

    What are other things to do in Steamboat Springs in winter?

    There’s no mistaking it; skiing (and snowboarding) is one of the top things to do in Steamboat Springs in the winter.

    Mount Werner and Howelsen Hill are our two favorite places to ski in the area. The well-known Steamboat Ski Resort is located on Mount Werner and has a whopping 170 total runs and 21 lifts, so you definitely won’t get bored. 

    Rabbit Ears Pass near Steamboat Springs is one of the best places for snowshoeing. This is me snowshoeing on Rabbit Ears.

    If you’re ready to try something new, you can go tubing, snowshoeing, hiking, or even snowmobiling in Steamboat Springs. Tubing is especially fun for groups and older children because it offers a lot of fun and thrill of downhill skiing but without the skills needed. 

    When you’re ready to unwind, spend a little time soaking in one of the local hot springs. There’s nothing quite like sitting in a warm hot spring while the snow gently falls around you.

    The Wrap-Up: Ski Free Sundays At Howelsen Hill In Steamboat

    Skiing at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is one of the most unique experiences you can have in the area.

    This historic ski area has long been a training ground for Olympic athletes and was part of the force to popularize recreational skiing in the state. Today, it is the oldest operating ski area in Colorado and welcomes skiers of all levels. 

    As locals in Steamboat Springs, Mike and I love to send visitors to this historic ski hill where they can ski for completely free on Sundays.

    We always encourage visitors to come for a full weekend, where they can experience the mammoth runs on Mount Werner and then ski for free the next day at Howelsen Hill. 

    So, if you’re planning your trip to Steamboat Springs or just looking for a more budget-friendly way to ski in Colorado, keep Howelsen Hill on your radar.

    After a long day of skiing, don’t forget to head into town for some apres skiing, or happy hour after a day on the slopes, at a local restaurant. 

    Steamboat Springs is also one of the most magical Rocky Mountain Christmas towns so consider a visit during the holidays.

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    person in red hoodie standing on snowy mountain during daytime
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