Yeah yeah, I bash Vail a lot. If I have to put up with Vail levels of bullshit, I'd better do it for terrain that I can't get elsewhere in Colorado, which doesn't exist at Vail, hence the bashing.
I put up with long shuttle rides and $$$ lift tickets to ski Snowmass and Highlands, and get lots of memorable days.
Anyways, back to being constructive.
This is a great way to sample what Colorado has at the smaller ski areas:
Its $10, and Monarch has done the free day in April for years (and that first weekend in April is typically as sure of a bet for a powder day that exists). Several other places will offer up free days most years, and the discounts pay for the card the first time you use it.
Speaking in general terms, Breck, Vail, Copper, Winter Park, and Steamboat offer very similar terrain experiences. All have large bowl terrain (with most of Winter Park's at a mild pitch), tons of groomed cruising runs, and very little 40*+ steeps, cliff bands, real chutes, etc. They aren't BAD, they just aren't Squaw good.
If you are a midweek skier, crowds will be MUCH better, but remember that Breck and Vail get ridiculous skier visits, and are busier than anything else in Colorado. If I had to choose between Epic and Colorado Pass, I'd go with the Colorado Pass because of crowds and not having to walk through bullshit fake swiss villages.
Loveland is very nice, and is basically a large treeless bowl. There isn't a lot of terrible steep stuff, but, there is some, and they get a LOT of snow.
Steamboat has large bowl terrain? Would love to be introduced.
Also, atNYC has it right for the OP: You're not going to get very far if all you focus on is how the terrain doesn't live up to Squaw/Tahoe. There's a reason why CO is the most popular ski state in the country; keep an open mind.