Taos, The Canyons, Vail – just the mention of these names brings to mind epic Rocky Mountain skiing. But there are plenty of other ski areas sprinkled throughout the Southwestern United States where the skiing and snowboarding are every bit as good as their larger counterparts, only the lift lines and ticket prices are far less.
Here are just 10 ski areas in the Four Corner states – New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado – that snow lovers should consider if they’re looking to shake the crowds without sacrificing shredding.
1. Pajarito Mountain, New Mexico
Pajarito Mountain, New Mexico — Photo courtesy of Pajarito Mountain
Los Alamos is better known as the birthplace of the atomic bomb than a ski destination, but it also is just five miles from the slopes at Pajarito Mountain Ski Area. Originally built and operated as a private ski area in the 1950s for Los Alamos National Lab employees, Pajarito is now open to skiers and snowboarders in the winter and mountain bikers and hikers in the summer. The slopes top out at 10,440 feet, and 40 trails cross 300 skiable acres. Nearest major airport: Albuquerque (ABQ), about two hours away.
2. Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, New Mexico
Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, New Mexico — Photo courtesy of Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort
Family-owned Sipapu offers some of the best ticket and lodging deals in New Mexico and the entire Southwest. This ski area is known for its money-saving specials, including free tickets for active duty members of the military, kids under 6, fourth- and fifth-graders (with a report card) and 40-, 60- and 70-year-olds and older. Try the ski biking and organic terrain park here that is made entirely of natural materials. Nearest major airport: Albuquerque (ABQ), about two and a half hours away.
3. Red River, New Mexico
Red River Ski Area, New Mexico — Photo courtesy of Red River Ski Area
Red River often gets overlooked for destinations like Taos or Angel Fire, but this intermediate, family-friendly northern New Mexico ski area offers bang for the buck with 57 trails serviced by seven lifts on 290 skiable acres. The lifts reach 10,350 feet, and with the town of Red River literally at the bottom of the slopes, it’s ski-in, ski-out. Also enjoy a fantastic New Mexico, Texas-tinged nightlife with plenty of barbecue and live music. Nearest major airport: Albuquerque (ABQ), about three hours away.
4. Eldora Mountain Resort, Colorado
Eldora Mountain Resort, Colorado — Photo courtesy of Eldora Mountain Resort
Just 21 miles north of Boulder and 49 miles from Denver, Eldora Mountain Resort (the closest ski area to the Mile High City) is a favorite of Colorado locals. But the 300-plus inches of snow here are reason enough to skip the larger and more-expensive resorts Colorado is known for. It’s longest run is three miles long, and its 680-acres of skiable terrain top out at 10,800 feet. Nearest airport is Denver (DIA), an hour and 20 minutes away.
5. Ski Cooper, Colorado
Ski Cooper, Colorado — Photo courtesy of Ski Cooper
Located above Leadville, small Ski Cooper has five lifts, in addition to Colorado’s longest Magic Carpet. With a base at 10,500 and going to 11,700, its 39 trails see an average of 275 inches a year. The ski area itself has 400 skiable acres, but if you’re craving more, snow cats will take you to the top of Chicago Ridge where you can drop in off-piste at 12,600 feet and have 2,400 acres of powder all to yourself, so don’t let the small stats fool you. Nearest major airport: Denver (DIA), two and a half hours away.
6. Sunrise Park Resort, Arizona
Sunrise Park Resort, Arizona — Photo courtesy of Sunrise Park Resort
The Grand Canyon State may not be known for winter sports, but Sunrise Park in the White Mountains near the Arizona/New Mexico border doesn’t disappoint. Owned by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the ski area has three peaks, the highest of which reaches 11,000 feet. Sunrise Park has 65 runs on 800 skiable acres. Nearest major airport is Phoenix (PHX), nearly four hours away, with Albuquerque (ABQ) just slightly farther.
7. Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, Arizona
Mt. Lemmon trail map — Photo courtesy of Mt. Lemmon
Mount Lemmon in the Coronado National Forest is tiny, with only 22 trails and two double chairs on 200 acres, but it still attracts snow lovers as the southernmost ski area in the United States, just north of Tucson. Its summit reaches 9,150 feet, and its slopes see 180 inches of snow on average. Most of the trails are advanced and expert runs, with its challenge making up for its size. Nearest major airport: Tucson (TUS), about an hour and a half away.
8. Arizona Snowbowl, Arizona
Arizona Snowbowl, Arizona — Photo courtesy of Arizona Snowbowl
Ride in the morning and catch the sunset at the Grand Canyon 70 miles away? You can at Flagstaff’s Arizona Snowbowl. Nestled in the San Francisco Peaks, the ski area climbs to 11,500 feet with 40 runs and a base average of 260 inches. Six lifts service its 777 skiable acres. Nearest major airport: Phoenix (PHX), two hours and 40 minutes away.
9. Brian Head Resort, Utah
Utah’s southernmost ski area is also its highest base at 9,600 feet (reaching 11,000 feet), and just a three-hour drive from Las Vegas. With $54 adult all-day lift tickets, Brian Head Resort is also one of the least expensive ski areas in this state known for some of the best skiing in the world. Seventy-one runs cross 650 skiable acres with 360 inches of snow annually. Night skiing and tubing keep the fun going after sundown. Brian Head Resort also has Utah’s only bag jump (a freestyle airbag). Nearest major airport: Las Vegas (LAS), just over three hours away.
10. Cherry Peak, Utah
Cherry Peak, Utah — Photo courtesy of Cherry Peak
Cherry Peak is only under the radar because it is brand new, scheduled to open this year and bringing the number of ski areas in Utah to 15. It’s a small park, with three chairs and 20 runs on 200 skiable acres. But at $42 for an all-day adult pass, the price is right. And with a tubing hill, ice skating, beginner ski programs and a Nordic loop all 20 minutes from Logan, Cherry Peak is sure to be a good choice for families of all skill levels. Nearest major airport: Salt Lake City (SLC), about two hours away.