There are so many great ski slopes/resorts out there that you can literally cater your choice down to any crazy detail or whim. For us, we’re looking for a spot that allows us access to killer snow during the day and laidback festivities at night. Getting away from the biggest names packed with tourists isn’t always possible, but we gave it a shot. Looking across North America, here are our top five destinations for a chill ski trip.
Waitsfield is a small town (2,000 residents) in northern Vermont that is the quintessential pick for this list, located next to two great ski resorts. Mad River Glen has that more exclusive, hardcore reputation as it is owned by skiers, bans snowboards, and is known for steep moguls and glades. Sugarbush, on the other hand, likewise has great skiing but is a huge resort (by East Coast standards) that is much more tourist-friendly. Either one of them will draw jeers for your bump form as you go under the chairlifts. The town itself has surprisingly great food choices for its size. A perfect night would consist of dinner at American Flatbread followed by a pitcher or two of Road 2 Ruin at Shepherd’s Pub.
Lake Placid, New York
Whiteface Mountain has the greatest vertical in the Northeast and features its 2.1-mile Wilmington Trail for intermediates. There are great food options all over the mountain, including the Waffle Cabin (need we say more?) but no visit here would be complete without stopping at Cloudspin Bar & Grill for a beer and one of its signature Bloody Marys. The town is most famous for hosting the 1980 Winter Olympics and features fun attractions for all ages, including a bobsled experience and extreme tubing. Finish off the night by heading to Smoke Signals down by the lake for hot wings, cold brew, and truly excellent barbecue.
North Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows used to be competing resorts but have had the same ownership for eight years now, which means you can ski both using one ticket. Not only is the skiing phenomenal (with both drawing pro skiers every day), but the two very different vibes you get make this a must for our list. Squaw Valley is the rowdier of the two, with hot tubs and parties that run all night. Alpine is much more chill and doesn’t have the lodging of its big brother but makes the perfect setting if you need to take it down a notch one evening. Surviving KT-22 during the day and enjoying a 10 ounce filet and bottle of local wine at Six Peaks Grille at night would make an ideal pairing.
Big Sky, Montana
With 5,800 acres and four peaks, Big Sky is huge. If you take the 15-person tram to the top of Lone Peak, you’ll be able to see three states and have a six-mile run back to the base. With 36 lifts (they claim to have the most state-of-the-art system in the industry) and more than 300 runs, you’ll almost never run into a lift line. Located about an hour from Bozeman and Yellowstone National Park, you’ll be away from the crowds for sure, but four hotels and assorted condos allow just enough options, and the local cuisine offers everything from inexpensive burritos sold out of a shack (Black Kettle Burritos) to upscale bistros. Grabbing a spicy margarita and barbecue at the Gallatin Riverhouse Grill will never disappoint.
Sun Valley calls itself “Idaho’s alternative to Aspen” and is “less fur, more fleece, and 100 percent original.” Ketchum has a small airport, and Boise is a three hour drive away, so you won’t find hoards of tourists here. You will find, however, accommodations that cater to everyone from adventure seekers that just need a spot to store their gear to A-list celebrities looking for luxury as well as from families with pets to Olympians in training. On the mountain, you’ll find open terrain with about two acres per skier and what are widely considered the best grooming and snowmaking capabilities in the country. The area has great chefs and pushes the “local, organic, and sustainable” aspect. Check out Lefty’s Bar & Grill for a killer burger and solid draught beer selection.
Best of the Best
Everybody has their own rankings for ski resorts based on whatever criteria they find important. We combined the rankings from eight varied yet trusted sources to come up with our composite rankings for the best ski resorts in North America.
- Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Vertical: 4,139, Acres: 2,500
- Telluride, Colorado – Vertical: 4,425, Acres: 2,000
- Vail, Colorado – Vertical: 3,450, Acres: 5,289
- Whistler, British Columbia, Canada – Vertical: 5,020, Acres: 4,757
- Snowbird Salt Lake City, Utah – Vertical: 2,900, Acres: 2,500
- Aspen* Aspen, Colorado – Vertical: 3,635, Acres: 2,185
- Park City, Utah – Vertical: 3,200, Acres: 7,300
- Alta Salt Lake City, Utah – Vertical: 2,020, Acres: 2,200
- Sun Valley Ketchum, Idaho – Vertical: 3,400, Acres: 2,054
- Taos Ski Valley Taos, New Mexico – Vertical: 3,281, Acres: 1,294
*Aspen consists of Ajax, Buttermilk, and Highlands resorts.
Rankings compiled from Forbes, Men’s Journal, Ski magazine, SnowBrains, SnowPak, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, and ZRankings.
For more, check out Europe’s best ski resorts!