Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. Some programs may be closed or providing modified offerings. We strongly recommend researching any programs prior to your visit.
Skiers and snowboarders prefer to experience the season by playing in the snow during the day and other diversions après. Although nearly all ski/snowboard resorts cater to a wide variety of enthusiasts, some are simply better than others for a particular type of traveler. Here are the destinations recommended for you, no matter what type of skier or snowboarder you are!
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The Snow Bunny: Big Sky, MT
One of the largest resorts in the U.S., Big Sky offers two daily free guided tours, tailored to the ability level of the participant. Snow bunnies will be happy on Little Calf, a long, easy groomer, or Chet’s Knob, named for legendary NBC newsman and Montana native Chet Huntley, who founded Big Sky. There’s also Tippy’s Tumble, named for his wife who took a spill here. For beginners who need a break after a couple of days, there’s a memorable day-off destination one hour away—Yellowstone National Park. Take a snowcoach excursion to marvel at Old Faithful, bison herds, and mineral pools.
Where to stay: Huntley Lodge, the largest accommodation at the base area, is also named for him.
The Adventurer: Powder Mountain in Eden, UT
Powder Mountain is one of those secret stashes that prompts diehards to boast, “What? You never skied here?” Non-existent lift lines serve nearly 8,500 acres—one of the largest in the U.S.—at a mountain that gets some 100 inches of snow annually. Take a snowcat tour into waist-deep power ($25 per ride with a lift pass), and enjoy the old-fashioned locals’ vibe.
Where to stay: The closest accommodations are 20 minutes away in Ogden, or you could trek an hour or more from Salt Lake City.
The Big Spender: Aspen, CO
Founded in the Gold Rush days of the 1880s, Aspen has shed all memory of being rugged and gritty. Downtown is lined with tony boutiques and art galleries and expensive restaurants with world-class wine cellars. The skiing is luxurious, too, with creamy groomed slopes. Take the free shuttle to less-crowded Snowmass, ten minutes away (ski both areas on the same lift ticket), and do laps on Sheer Bliss, an aptly named huge open snowfield dotted with widely-spaced trees.
Where to stay: Mountain Chalet Aspen is a Bavarian-style lodge just two blocks from the main lift.
Ladies Only: Alta, UT
Alta is famous for its deep snow and challenging terrain, and the best way to conquer it while improving your skills to tackle even more is during one of the Alta Lodge Women’s Camps. These small-group sessions are led by top instructors and back-country guides and include daily video reviews and a camaraderie that leads to long-term friendships. Sessions are throughout the season, and you can tell your friends you got down High Rustler without a yard sale.
Where to stay: Alta Women’s Camps are hosted by Alta Lodge, but Alta boasts several other solid options.
The Junior Skier: Deer Valley in Park City, UT
One of the last remaining U.S. resorts that do not allow snowboarders, Deer Valley also is known for its impeccable grooming and children’s ski school program, regarded as one of the best in the world. There are special programs for kids 7-12 and for teens, including the chance to learn from Olympians Phil and Steve Mahre.
Where to Stay: Named for the legendary ski icon, stay at the award-winning Stein Erickson Lodge and ski right out the front door. Be sure to check the lobby display of his many medals.
The Nightlife Enthusiast: Vail, CO
Vail has more varied terrain and more varied après activities than any U.S. resort. Spend the day in on one of the sprawling back bowls, including Sun Down and Siberia. Try to ski Blue Ox right after it’s been groomed before it turns into a treacherous mogul field. After the lifts close, walk the pedestrian malls at Vail or West Vail and take your pick of the many bars and nightclubs. Don’t stay out until the wee hours, or you’ll be late for tomorrow’s runs.
Where to stay: Sonnenalp is a Bavarian-style lodge in the heart of the main village, where you can walk to the lifts in the morning and the clubs at night.
The Secret Cowboy or Cowgirl: Jackson Hole, WY
Jackson Hole is still surrounded by working cattle ranches, and downtown has wisely kept its old-fashioned wooden sidewalks and cowboy-themed restaurants and shops. The ski terrain here is laid out naturally—steeps on one side, including the super-gonzo Corbett’s Couloir, beginner and intermediate groomers on the other, and a mix in the middle. Take top-to-bottom runs off the Bridger Gondola, learn tree skiing in the wide-open spaces of Moran Woods, or take an experienced backcountry guide into the incredible snowfields between the resort and Teton National Park.
Where to stay: Stay downtown at The Lodge at Jackson Hole, which offers a free shuttle to the slopes. Or, stay at the Teton Village base area, at the luxury Four Seasons, and walk across the plaza to the famous Jackson Hole Gondola.
The Shutterbug: Heavenly in Lake Tahoe, CA/NV
Heavenly in Lake Tahoe is well-named, for its seemingly endless and varied terrain, half in California, half in Nevada. There’s usually a selfie bottleneck at one spot on the top half of Ridge Run when all of Lake Tahoe pops into view. Skyline Trail offers similar knock-out views of endless snow-covered peaks. Both are long intermediate groomers, both are accessible off the Skyline Express chair.
Where to stay: South Lake Tahoe is peppered with casino hotels on the Nevada side of the line, and accommodations without slot machines on the California side.
Evelyn Kanter is an experienced skier with first-hand knowledge of every resort and every trail mentioned in this article. Follow her adventures on www.ecoxplorer.com.