K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
Read full bio
Whether you are a beginner clinging to the bunny slopes or a seasoned expert skier, America’s top ski and snowboard resorts offer a little something for everyone. With lessons available for beginners, and prime spots for adrenaline junkies to put their skills to the test, these luxurious lodges and adorable ski towns have just what you’re looking for. What better way to get some exercise during the cold winter months?
The following list of America’s top resorts can be compared based on their terrain, mountain stats, number of lifts, and proximity of accommodations and overall value.
Many snow sports enthusiasts choose Breckenridge over resorts like Aspen, due to its more laid-back atmosphere. A top vacation spot for families in Colorado, Breckenridge is home to five distinct peaks and North America’s highest chairlift, the Imperial Express SuperChair which carries riders up to a peak of 12,840 feet, providing some of the most stunning views in the entire state. It truly has it all, with a ton of terrain and world-class slopes catered to skiers of all levels. Plus, its downtown area offers a wide variety of shopping and dining experiences.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, located in Wyoming’s spectacular Jackson Hole valley, is one of the most popular destinations for extreme skiers and home to the legendary Corbet’s Couloir, an expert run that starts out with a 30-foot drop. While as many as half of its trails are considered expert runs, it’s been working on attracting more families as well as casual skiers as of late. There are few if any ski resorts that offer more variety and challenging terrain than Jackson Hole. Of course, skiers also appreciate the breathtaking scenery and the nearby town of Jackson, known for its outstanding array of culinary delights and cultural attractions.
Snowbasin is one of the oldest and most professionally run ski resorts in the world. Locals call it the “last best mountain in the U.S.” Despite its age, there’s been a significant investment into its lift infrastructure which includes a tram, gondolas, high-speed chairlifts, and magic carpets. Snowbasin is renowned for its high alpine bowls, steep chutes, perfectly groomed cruisers, and deep-powder glades, so there are runs for all levels from “never-evers” to experts. Skiers often remark that its quality matches the other resorts along the Wasatch Front while avoiding the big crowds.
Snowmass is part of Aspen Snowmass, with many ski enthusiasts frequently noting that it’s one of the best mountains in the Rockies in an area filled with premier runs. It has the most vertical skiing of any other area in the entire country, with 4,406 vertical feet as well as 3,339 acres of terrain, 94 trails, 21 chairlifts and access to your choice of cruisers, glades, steeps, terrain parks and halfpipes. It’s also beginner-friendly yet still offers challenges for the more experienced. It’s also a popular snowboarding destination in Colorado.
With 5,850 skiable acres, Big Sky Resort is one of the biggest ski areas in North America and receives an average of 400 inches of snowfall every year. Although very popular, it still manages to be one of the least crowded ski resorts in the country, so you won’t to be bumping elbows with fellow riders. Located just north of Yellowstone on Lone Mountain, with its triangular peak rising up to 11,166 feet, it’s known for some of the best inbounds big mountain skiing on the planet. Experts can ride the Lone Peak Tram all the way to the top to enjoy monster cliff and chute action, but if you prefer something a bit tamer, the bottom half of the mountain is perfect for intermediate level skiers.
Copper Mountain not only played host to the 1976 World Cup alpine ski races, but it’s also a one-of-a-kind sanctuary with all the amenities of a premier, modern ski resort. Its backside terrain is among the best, offering a variety of challenges for expert skiers, including incredible bumps in Resolution and Union bowls. The north-facing peaks of Copper Mountain also offer great variety for expert, intermediate and beginner skiers. One of the most exciting parts of the resort is Woodward Copper, which is an action sports oasis offering year-round skiing and snowboarding and a nearly 20,000 square-foot indoor training facility with skateparks, trampolines, foam pits, and more.
Sun Valley offers more of a “friendly small-town feel,” as compared to ritzier resorts that you’ll find in places like Aspen. Opened back in 1936, it’s considered to be the first-ever destination winter resort in the U.S., and nearly 80 years later, it’s still regarded as one of the top ski resorts in the country. Bald Mountain offers a consistent vertical drop with slopes for skiers of all levels, while Dollar Mountain features a diverse variety of terrain along with many terrain parks ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced. The area also features stunning ski lodges, a great arts scene, and fantastic restaurants – and, it’s aptly named, with 80 percent of the ski season boasting bright blue skies.
Heavenly isn’t known for its budget-friendly lift tickets, but the view alone is worth paying a bit more. From here, you can take in jaw-dropping vistas of Lake Tahoe’s glistening blue waters encompassed by the magnificent Sierra Nevada. It also offers some of the best tree skiing in the state, particularly the backcountry terrain through gates like Raley’s Bowl and Firebreak. Not only that but after a long day on the slopes, you can enjoy a wealth of entertainment or try your luck at the slots.
Park City Mountain Resort is famous for hosting the snowboarding and men’s and women’s alpine giant slalom events in the 2002 Winter Olympics, and also for being featured in the Xbox 360 Shaun White Snowboarding game. There’s a good reason it was chosen. You’ll find some of the best powder as well as some of the most outstanding skiing on the planet. With a variety of mountain zones, this family-friendly resort is great for skiers of all ages and abilities. It also offers a number of other fun options other than skiing, like riding toboggan-style cars on its Alpine Coaster and learning about the history of Park City on the Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour.
Whitefish Mountain Resort, sitting atop The Big Mountain roughly 30 miles southwest of Glacier National Park, is often called one of the most underrated ski resorts. You’ll find 3,000 acres of terrain covered with incredibly powdery snow, reasonable lift ticket prices, night skiing, and amazing scenery. There are virtually no lines, 105 different trails, and all types of terrain for skiers of all levels in addition to quite an array of activities other than skiing, like guided hikes through Glacier National Park and dog sledding tours. Though as the name alludes, the mountain is definitely big but even novice skiers and boarders will feel comfortable here.
Sugarbush is one of the top ski resorts on the east coast with experienced skiers frequently drawn to its expert-level slopes. You’ll find two mountain areas as well as six distinct peaks, including Mt. Ellen which peaks at more than 4,000 feet and boasts one of the largest continual vertical drops in the region at 2,600 feet. Castlerock Peak is also renowned for Rumble Woods, its steep, wooded route with cliff-drops and rocky terrain. In addition to the expanse of challenging topography, novice to intermediate skiers will find plenty of idyllic terrain with more than 100 trails to choose from.
Sunday River is home to the second-largest vertical drop in Maine and the Northeast’s second biggest ski resort with 870 trail acres. You’ll find 135 trails running across eight interconnected peaks as well as a distinctive Maine mountain experience that is subtly different from skiing or riding in Vermont, New York, or New Hampshire. Due to its remote location, roughly 400 miles from the Big Apple and 50 back-country miles from the nearest highway, it’s also uncrowded. The resort is even willing to guarantee good snow – if it fails to meet your expectations you can trade in that lift ticket to try again on another day. Just keep in mind that is has an advanced snowmaking operation capable of covering 95 percent of its terrain, so that’s unlikely to happen.
One of the largest ski resorts in the U.S. is also one of America’s most popular, often referred to as a “ski nirvana” with its wide variety of terrain enough to satisfy skiers and snowboarders of all levels. There are practically endless miles of groomed runs on the face of the mountain, while expert skiers can enjoy the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin. The three base areas are filled with hot nightlife spots as well as an impressive array of dining and shopping options.
Stowe is often considered the crème de la crème of East Coast ski resorts with this well-manicured mountain boasting some of the best cross-country skiing. High-speed gondolas and quads whisk skiers up two separate mountains. On Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in the state, adventurous snowboarders and skiers will find lots to choose from the like “front four” – four double-black diamond runs known to be some of the most challenging in the east. Spruce Peak is the place for beginners, offering a ski school as well as gentle blue and green runs. In the charming town of Stowe, visitors will find lots of great local shops as well as small, unassuming eateries with fantastic food.
Crested Butte is not only one of Colorado’s most charming mountain towns, but it’s also home to one of the best ski resorts for serious skiers, though there is plenty of variation to meet the needs of skiers of all abilities. This gorgeous Rocky Mountain resort has somehow managed to maintain its original character and avoid becoming a tourist trap like some of the others. It’s all about skiing here, with some of the best cliffs and tree skiing around. It offers 542 acres dedicated to insane vertical, double-black-diamond runs and was the very first resort in the country to host an extreme freeskiing competition, which it’s done for more than two decades now. Beginners and intermediate skiers will be happy to know that 69 percent of its trails were designed for them – and, most are separated from the extreme runs by their own lifts.
Crystal Mountain is Washington State’s largest ski resort. Located on the northeast corner of Mt. Rainier National Park, it features 2,600 skiable acres from gentle groomers for beginners to challenging steeps, glades, chutes and bowls for the more advanced in addition to a variety of other entertaining activities to choose from. The mountain’s spectacular views include that of the state’s famous mountain, Mount Rainier, a 14,400-foot volcano.
Whiteface Mountain is sometimes referred to as New York’s best-kept secret. It’s one of the high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains with the ski area offering plenty of terrain for all types of skiers from the novice to experts. Home of the 1980 Winter Olympics’ alpine skiing events, the mountain features a more than 3,200-foot vertical drop, the tallest in the east. The advanced will appreciate an area near its peak called The Slides, a double-black delight for shredders. The bottom offers a dedicated ski learning center for children.
Steamboat Ski Resort offers incredibly gorgeous powder skiing just outside the charming mountain town of Steamboat Springs, known for its rich western heritage and awe-inspiring scenery. With seven peaks on and around Mount Werner, Steamboat bills itself as a “complete mountain range” featuring 169 named trails and over 2,900 acres overlooking Yampa Valley. There is never a shortage of smooth, dry Champagne-like powder. Steamboat Springs has been dubbed “Ski Town, USA” due to the fact that more Olympians call it home than any other ski resort area. Other than getting out on the slopes, visitors can enjoy soaking in the downtown hot springs pool at or taking a dip at Strawberry Park Hot Springs just a few miles away.
Northstar California, located near Lake Tahoe’s north shore, offers more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain. It’s great for beginners as well as low- to mid-intermediate skiers with lots of variety including progressive slopes and trees, helping to introduce skiers to areas outside of groomed runs. Known for its laid back atmosphere along with upscale accommodations, shopping and dining, it also contains world-class terrain parks.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is the biggest resort in the Tahoe area with 6,000 skiable acres featuring world-class steeps and terrain for all abilities. It’s also a freeskiing mecca and has been the home resort for many of the sports’ biggest names like Tim Dutton, J.T. Holmes and Jeremy Jones. Air lovers line up at daybreak on powder days and weekends to take the KT-22 lift to some of the best expert terrain out there. Beginners and intermediate skiers will enjoy greens and blues that are high up on the mountain providing magnificent lake views. A scenic aerial tramway rising 2,000 feet up to High Camp with an elevation of 8,200 feet above sea level, provides access to Squaw Valley’s other facilities like dining, shopping, a heated swimming pool, skating and more.
Deer Valley Resort, located just outside of Park City along the Wasatch Range offers immaculately groomed, uncrowded runs, with the establishment limiting the number of lift tickets sold as well as forbidding snowboarding. The resort is home to great powder, steeps, groomers, and moguls, along with a 3,000-foot vertical drop and over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain for skiers of all types. Though Deer Valley is often associated with luxury, you’ll find dining options for all tastes and budgets from cafes to elegant restaurants, often featuring freshly prepared dishes with local ingredients.
Telluride is one of Colorado’s most picturesque towns, with a fairytale storybook feel. Serene and secluded, its ski resort is known for its uncrowded trails and famed terrain like Gold Hill Chutes, Revelation Bowl and Palmyra Peak. Skiers will find everything from well-groomed beginner runs to challenging downhill slopes and over 2,000 skiable acres. It’s so uncrowded, there’s a good chance you’ll find untracked powder at the end of a day after a storm. In addition to the slopes, visitors can enjoy snowshoeing on guided hikes, free mountain tours as well as plenty of shopping and dining options.
This luxury ski resort is just ten miles west of Vail near the town of Avon. With 23 lifts and 150 trails for all levels of skiers, this world-class, family-friendly resort is a popular choice for snow enthusiasts across the globe. The ski area has an upscale atmosphere spanning across three villages, including Beaver Creek Village where visitors will find a wide variety of world-class restaurants, bars, art galleries, and shops connected by heated walkways and escalators. “Cookie time” is a popular feature of this resort. Every day, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies are passed out at the base of Centennial Express Lift.
This internationally renowned resort is famous for its excellent snowfall combined with some of the most diverse and challenging terrain on the continent. It’s also one of the oldest and most storied ski resorts in the nation. Alta was designated a ski area in 1938, after a group of local businessmen raised $10,000 to build the second ski chairlift in the western U.S. Located at the end of Little Cottonwood Canyon near Snowbird, it features 2,614 acres of skiable terrain and an average of 545 inches of low-moisture, high-volume snow each season. The resort prides itself on its exceptional beginner and intermediate slopes, but you’ll find a wide variety of terrain that includes a number of advanced gradients too. This is one of the few ski areas in the country where you won’t find any snowboarders riding because it’s a skiers-only mountain.
Mammoth Mountain, named after its location in Mammoth Lake, California, is massive. Everything about it is big, including its impressive 400 inches of annual snowfall and the highest summit elevation in the state at 11,053 feet. Skiers can also enjoy more than 3,500 skiable acres and a 3,100-foot vertical drop. It also happens to have one of the longest ski seasons on the continent including a record ’94 – ’95 season that lasted for more than ten months from October 8 to August 13. The resort is also famous for its attraction, including the Unbound Main terrain park, where a number of elites practice and compete.