Top 10 Ski-Town Golf Deals

Ski towns are called ski towns for a reason. I get that. I realize that when people think of towns like Aspen, Vail and Telluride, they think of places where the golf courses are disguised as cross-country ski areas. But you'd be surprised by just how many golf addicts live in those towns and can't wait for those courses to melt each spring and show their true colors. Because the truth is that there are plenty of great ski-town courses, and most of them won't cost you an arm and a leg to play.

I also get that this is supposed to be a "Top 10" list, but this one is unranked. Here, in no particular order, are the best ski-town golf deals in Colorado:

1. Aspen - Aspen Golf Club. A winner by default, as the next closest public course is 40 minutes away, this efficient layout on the western edge of town is a longtime locals' favorite. It's deceptively challenging, with tricky greens and water on almost every hole. It's also immaculately maintained and easily walkable, and the views of the Elk Mountains and Independence Pass are magnificent. Expect to pay Aspen prices in the high season, but play in the spring or fall and Aspen Golf Club is quite affordable and well worth the price. 18-hole rates: $29-$159.99

Alternate option: River Valley Ranch Golf Club, Carbondale

2. Vail - Vail Golf Club. Another locals' favorite with great deals in the shoulder seasons, this venerable track occupies the valley floor between Vail and East Vail, bringing Gore Creek into play on a number of holes. Views of the jagged Gore Range dominate the skyline, and the nicely maintained course is a playable challenge for golfers of all abilities. Vail Golf Club is mostly flat and can be walked easily, but for a change of pace, get there early and take one of the four Golf Bikes around the course. 18-hole rates: $25-$109

Alternate option: Gypsum Creek Golf Course, Gypsum

3. Glenwood Springs - Ironbridge Golf Club. It's been a tumultuous couple of years for this Arthur Hills design. First it was purchased out of bankruptcy and nearly had its name changed. Then the new owners acknowledged complaints that the course was too hard by bringing in 1996 British Open champion Tom Lehman to take out some bunkers and "soften" the course. The result is a still-demanding but more forgiving layout that has four of the most incredible holes you will ever play. 18-hole rates: $73-$79

Alternate option: Battlement Mesa Golf Club, Parachute

4. Grand County - Granby Ranch. Located at the base of Ski Granby Ranch, this scenic gem has outstanding views looking north toward Rocky Mountain National Park and two distinct nines. The front nine plays across flat terrain alongside the Fraser River while the back nine runs up the narrow valley to the ski area and back, with some impressive changes in elevation. If you want to bring the kids, there's even a two-hole family golf course that's perfect for teaching youngsters the game. 18-hole rates: $40-$90

Alternate option: Grand Lake Golf Course, Grand Lake

5. Steamboat Springs - Haymaker Golf Course. Designed by Keith Foster on 233 acres of open space just south of town, this links-style course has few trees and is refreshingly free of any residential development. In fact, Haymaker was the first course in Colorado to achieve Audubon International Signature certification. Wide fairways wind through the native grass and wetlands, and clever bunkers and contouring reward well-thought-out shots. 18-hole rates: $55-$115

Alternate option: Rollingstone Ranch Golf Club, Steamboat Springs

6. Telluride - Telluride Golf Club. Almost all Colorado golf courses have incredible views, but few can hold a candle to this layout in Telluride's Mountain Village. The surrounding peaks of the San Juan Mountains and 9,500-foot elevation will literally take your breath away. You'll pay a bit of a premium since this course is the only one for miles around, but your drives, aided by the thin air, will travel farther than they ever have before. That's got to be worth something. 18-hole rates: $75-$190

Alternate option: Divide Ranch & Club, Ridgway

7. Keystone - Keystone Ranch Golf Course. With two courses to choose from, Keystone Ranch gives visiting golfers an enviable choice. The Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed Keystone Ranch Course winds through lodgepole pines and sage meadows, with two forced carries over a nine-acre lake. The River Course, a Hurdzan-Fry collaboration, features a front nine along the Snake River and a 194-foot drop from tee to fairway on the 16th hole. 18-hole rates: $55-$150

Alternate option: Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks, Silverthorne

8. Breckenridge - Breckenridge Golf Club. As its website proclaims, "The Town of Breckenridge can boast that it is the only municipality in the world to own a Jack Nicklaus-designed, 27-hole golf course." The original Bear and Beaver nines, opened in 1985, were joined in 2001 by the hillier Elk nine. All three offer a sufficient challenge to all levels of golfers in a pastoral setting just north of downtown. 18-hole rates: $30-$114

Alternate option: Copper Creek Golf Course, Copper Mountain

9. Durango - Dalton Ranch Golf Club. This well-planned residential layout sits on the valley floor six miles north of town. Water is a factor throughout, with numerous ponds and four holes set right along the Animas River. Another four holes sit right next to the tracks of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, one of the country's most scenic train rides. 18-hole rates: $55-$105

Alternate option: Hillcrest Golf Club, Durango

10. Crested Butte - The Club at Crested Butte. A windswept, links-style layout, this semi-private course offers a challenging Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design and a beautiful setting beneath the towering south face of Crested Butte itself. Elevation changes, a handful of trout ponds and plenty of traps challenge even seasoned golfers while the gorgeous views distract all but the most hard-hearted. 18-hole rates: $95-$149

Alternate option: Dos Rios Golf Club, Gunnison