Chosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best
Arguably the king of Colorado Skiing, the famed alpine town of Aspen is surrounded by four distinct mountains. Aspen is also blessed with countless high-end restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. But it offers more than haute cuisine and fur coats. Skiers and snowboarders can spend days exploring more than 5,300 skiable acres, including superpipes, double black diamond runs, and the Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center before retiring to a fireplace-lit lodge for hot toddies with the rest of the beautiful people.
It’s a simple truth: every serious skier and snowboarder will ski, has skied, or will ski again at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. From the disclaimer at the base of the aerial tram, which includes the line “You could make a mistake and suffer personal injury or death," to such famed chutes as Corbet’s Couloir, the 2,500-acre resort lives up to its daunting reputation. The extreme terrain is matched by equally-imposing views of the granite spires that dominate Grand Teton National Park, while the mellow town just 12 miles from the resort delivers the western saloon-and-elk-horn vibe you expect from Wyoming. Add Grand Targhee—a mellow resort accessible by driving through Teton Pass—and it almost doesn’t seem fair to measure Jackson against the rest of North America.
What started as a sleepy coal mining town has evolved into what’s sometimes described as the last great ski town in Colorado. That may be a stretch, but its geographical isolation from the more centrally located (and more crowded) resorts and a kind-hearted, free-wheeling vibe argue that this description may be true. The place averages 25 feet of snow each year, and offers more lift access to extreme terrain than any other resort in the state—heady stats that pair nicely with a convivial spirit found both on the mountain and in the quaint town. Spend one day there and you feel as if you’ve discovered one of skiing’s best-kept secret. Soon, skiing anywhere else seems like betraying a lifelong friend.
To think of this famed British Columbia merely must-ski spot as a resort does it a disservice. Whistler/Blackcomb is an experience: 462 inches of snow falls here annually, covering more than 200 runs, 16 alpine bowls, three glaciers, and a lively pedestrian village choc-a-block with great restaurants and thumping night clubs. The 8,171 skiable acres spread across two distinct mountains, conveniently linked together by the glass-floor Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which traverses 2.7 miles between the summits of Whistler and Blackcomb. Vancouver, the typical gateway city, lies two hours to the south, and makes for a killer urban overnight option to round out your trek north.
6thBend / Mount Bachelor
Mount Bachelor’s volcanic origin lends itself to a wide variety of terrain. Its 3,700 acres range from higher-elevation hike-in runs to fun, rolling routes that weave down to its base, as well as other on-mountain activities like dog-sledding and cross-country skiing. But its proximity to the charming town of Bend—a mere 21 miles—and a ski season that can last up to eight months mean you can ski throughout the day, then hop in a car and drive back to town to grab a patio chair before sunset at one of a dozen award-winning microbrew pubs.
5thSalt Lake City
The Cottonwood canyons that branch off the southwestern edge of this major metropolis offer easy access to four world-class ski resorts within 30 minutes of the airport. The big boys on the block—Snowbird and ski-only Alta—reside on the ridges of Little Cottonwood, offering epic lines and a much heralded place in ski lore. But the other two resorts in Big Cottonwood, Solitude and family-friendly Brighton, deliver equally big thrills and less crowds. Variable weather patterns deliver different amounts of snow to each canyon, and the close proximity to Salt Lake means you can target the resort that got the biggest dump each day, plan accordingly, and then après at your pick of downtown restaurants and pubs.
Three resorts with three distinct personalities define skiing and snowboarding in Park City. Haute Deer Valley offers valet parking, legitimately delicious on-mountain dining, and a lot of groomed runs (even on powder days). Snowboarders typically congregate at Park City Mountain Resort, which boasts a massive half pipe, some serious upper-mountain tree skiing, and the ease of riding a ski lift into the postcard-perfect mountain town. And slightly north of downtown Park City, rises the Canyons, the state’s largest ski resort. Expect fewer crowds, a sprawling variety of terrain, and a comforting ski village vibe typified by a glass-walled bar and a chill après “beach” set up at the base of the slopes. It’s an easy-access dealer’s choice.
This region is the skiing equivalent of a cluster bomb, with more than 11 resorts and towns. It’s hard to decide which to choose, and just as hard to go wrong. Alpine Meadows proffers the best lake views (along with 2,400 skiable acres), while Sugar Bowl keeps things modest by California standards, with 102 different runs and the only dedicated, season-long ski- and snowboarder-cross training course. Northstar California Resort turns the luxe elements up a notch, with refined on-mountain dining, a chill pedestrian village, and a ski-in/ski-out Ritz Carlton. But Squaw Valley may be the biggest draw to the region. This king of California resorts hosted the 1960 Olympics, starred in countless snow porn videos, and has generated some of the country’s most talented extreme skiers. You could spend a whole week at Squaw alone without thinking of another resort.
2ndSun Valley, Idaho
The birthplace of U.S. skiing, Sun Valley—the oldest resort in the country, first founded in 1936—has aged shockingly well. The village is decidedly top-end, with an intoxicating European vibe and a price tag to match. But scratch the surface (or just hop on a lift) and you’ll forget all the mink coats as you traverse across 92 runs spread across Baldy and Dollar mountains. This veteran winter hotspot has also curated together a host of non-ski distractions, from ice shows and ice skating to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and the endless distractions of the nearby town of Ketchum.
Gob-smacking scenery, vast and varied terrain, and gambling typify the draw to the resorts around the southern stretch of Lake Tahoe. Heavenly straddles the CA/NV state line, with in-your-face lake views, a massive 4,800 skiable acres, and easy access to the town of casino-rich South Tahoe. Further afield, kids and families flock to Sierra-at-Tahoe, which offers a Star Wars-themed learn-to-snowboard day camp. The more experienced, meanwhile, test their mettle in the exposed peaks of Kirkwood, whose skull-and-crossbones warning signs speak to the daunting challenges ahead.
Sun Valley, North Tahoe, Park City, Salt Lake round out Top Five
Voters skied in and out of the polls for four weeks and the results are in! Our readers' top pick for Best Ski Destination is South Tahoe, with its beautiful views and fantastic skiing.
This contest was a hot one, with Sun Valley loyalists making a real run at the prize. Sun Valley swooshed to a second place finish. Nipping at its heels was North Tahoe, emphasizing the popularity of the U.S. ski area at the California-Nevada line.
Rounding out the top five were neighboring Park City in 4th and Salt Lake City, in 5th. Park City hosted the Olympic Trials for Sochi, at its amazing Utah Olympic Center, so we're proud and happy to see it on the list. Salt Lake City is only 20 minutes away, so - as with Tahoe - skiers can get a two-for-one destination by flying into this metro area.
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