Monarch is a smaller place where you'll get more bang for your buck - the big resorts cost 3x what they do, and they are cool with you bringing food and whatnot. It isn't as local to Denver, tho.
I grew up at Loveland and A-Basin. A-Basin tends to be a little more difficult in terms of terrain. I spent a lot of time at Vail/BC, and yeah, it's nice or whatever, but it's full of tourists and is hella expensive. I wouldn't go to Vail to ski if you're a real skiier (which, if you have kids, you probably aren't), there are just too many people. I've never been to Aspen.
I like Copper Mountain or Breck as a half-way between fancy resort and local resort, but I have no idea what the ticket prices are for them anymore.
Look for places that have a good deal on a multi-day pass, and if you buy it either very early, or very late, you will probably save some cash. You might also find a pass that gives you two days at Copper or Breck, and one day at Vail/BC, or similar. I don't know if those are available to out-of-staters.
As for the condos, everything depends on your price range. You better have lots of cash if you want ski-in at a large resort.