To the uninitiated, the image of skiing and snowboarding can easily become dwarfed by the high-octane images from the X Games, the Olympics and the seasonal releases of the latest ski porn movies. But oftentimes the experience of simply being on top of a snow-covered mountain, and breathing in panoramic views of all that surrounds you, means so much more than whether or not you braved a double-black diamond run.
These 10 resorts deliver the visual reassurance that, no matter what runs you ski or snowboard, you’re in the right.
Telluride Ski Resort | Telluride, Colo.
The epic views from the top of Telluride Resort are a sight to behold, but you can easily grasp the staggering beauty of southern Colorado without getting a lift ticket. The free town gondola rises from Oak Street in the small burg of Telluride and carves through gobsmacking mountain scenery for 13 too-short minutes before reaching its final stop at the resort’s Mountain Village, which sits at 9,500 feet.
From here, take in views of the San Miguel and San Juan ranges. Or go higher by getting a lift ticket and exploring the expansive 2,000 skiable acres, with views that top out at 13,320 feet. Either way, don’t miss Allred’s Restaurant at the top of the gondola for handmade cocktails, tasty happy hour treats and unforgettable views of alpenglow over 14,000-foot Mt. Wilson as the sun sets, with the lights of Telluride sparkling several thousand feet below.
Grand Targhee Resort | Alta, Wyo.
Nothing against well-heeled Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, but this lesser-known resorts boasts the best views of the Grand Tetons. From the top of Targhee’s lone peak, you can see four states and two national parks. On a clear day, you can witness climbing parties on the 13,776-foot Grand Teton and the impossibly steep rocky peaks of the Middle Teton, Mt. Owen and Mt. Moran.
Located on the western slope of the Tetons in Alta, Wyo., the resort is accessible by driving through the Teton Valley, one of the most ruggedly wild stretches in the continental United States. And a word of advice if you’re itching to really see all Grand Targhee has to offer: ask guest services about the resort’s snowcat skiing. In one word, awesome.
Mt. Bachelor | Bend, Ore.
Just 22 miles from the outdoor sports and brewpub hub of Bend sits Mt. Bachelor, a resort that seems to rise out from the high-desert terrain as if by magic. From the summit of the dormant volcano, you feel like you’re at the top of the world, with panoramic views stretching north past Mount Hood, across the Washington border to Mt. Adams.
On a clear day, you see the impossibly steep Mt. Thielsen to the south, and even California’s Mt. Shasta. But the real beauty is found up close. The resort’s 4,318 acres are located entirely within the Deschutes National Forest and surrounded by 2 million acres of forested wilderness.
Riding the Pine Marten Chair, you look into the craggy volcanic crater of Broken Top, with bird’s-eye views of the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson. Enjoy Sunset Dinners at Pine Marten Lodge, the highest-elevation restaurant in Oregon at 7,800 feet.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort | Sandpoint, Idaho
With 300 inches of snow annually, Schweitzer Mountain Resort sits above treeline in the remote Selkirk Mountains of Idaho’s northern panhandle. With 2,400 vertical feet and a summit at 6,400 feet, this is big-mountain skiing within minutes of fine dining and comfortable lodging.
Views from the top include three mountain ranges, three states, a massive stretch of Canada and 65-mile-long Lake Pend Oreille with its tiny island chains and jigsaw coastline. Schweitzer also maintains an open gate policy for out-of-bounds access, with some of the best big-drop skiing in the world and the kind of unfettered views for which backcountry exploration is famous.
Les Grands Montets | Chamonix, France
Liberte, egalite, fraternite (liberty, equality and fraternity) – France’s national slogan applies to much of this rarefied country, and it also typifies skiing here. In Chamonix, you have absolute freedom to ski the wildest chutes, glaciers and high bowls in the world.
The ski crowd at Chamonix spans the social spectrum, from world-class mountain climbers and guides to Europe’s rich and famous. It makes for great people-watching, and if you ask ‘em, they’d all agree that the resort boasts some of the most scenically impressive mountains in Europe. Starting with 15,771-foot Mont Blanc (the highest peak in the Alps) and 12-mile Vallee Blanche and Mer de Glace, there’s 10,000 vertical feet of skiing. Not to mention, killer views of the Argentiere Wall, The Dru, Vallée Blanche and Aiguille du Chamonix.
Tremblant Resort | Mont-Tremblant, Quebec
Tremblant sits at nearly 3,000 feet and offers magnificent views of the heavily-forested Laurentians Mountains; an Alps-like experience without leaving North America. The resort has one of the most sophisticated snowmaking systems in the world, with more than 1,000 snow guns, so you’re certain to see that snow-covered mountainous paradise.
The open-style gondola Cabriolet connects the upper and lower parts of the village, giving you unencumbered views. From the top of this lift, the main gondola sweeps skiers to the summit of the mountain, with the lights of the elegant, cobblestone resort village of Mont-Tremblant sparkling below.
Alyeska Ski Resort | Girdwood, Alaska
Famous for its steep lines and abundant snowfall, Alyeska Resort lets you experience big Alaskan mountains with the civilized comfort of high-speed quads and an incredibly scenic tram ride. Nestled against the awe-inspiring Chugach Mountains, the resort gets a whopping 650 inches of snowfall annually, plus Alaska’s ample daylight hours.
Alyeska Resort sits in the heart of Girdwood, a glacier-carved valley. To the west and north, the mountains of the massive, 495,000-acre Chugach State Park provide a stunning backdrop.
Heavenly Mountain Resort | South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
From the top of the Sky Express at Heavenly, you gaze down on the brilliant blue of Lake Tahoe, surrounded by the steep, snowy granite peaks of the Sierras. On some runs, the white powder blends into the cobalt blue of the lake – nature’s own infinity pool. And though the resort itself has some of the biggest skiable acreage in the country, the views of the lake are practically ubiquitous, and certainly the best of all the Tahoe-area ski resorts.
And, for more adult-oriented views, head up to the Tamarack Lodge for the "Unbuckle" party at the top of the gondola. Each afternoon, DJs play rocking tunes to a hearty crowd enjoying half-priced drinks. Afterwards, the views of the moonlit lake and sparkling lights from the town of South Lake Tahoe should perfectly complement your buzz on the gondola ride back down.
Simply put, ski or ride here and you’ll be cutting lines in the shadows of the highest mountains in Europe. The alpine landscape is naturally dominated by the iconic 14,692-foot Matterhorn, but there are 29 other peaks over 12,000 feet to wrest your focus from one mountain the next.
The gondolas are the best way to really appreciate this visual opulence; from the inside of the heated cars, you soar across deep valleys and up sheer cliff faces, gazing at the glaciers, cirques and steep slopes in comfortable warmth. Many soar silently across chasms and up cliff faces suspended thousands of feet above the snow. Then, clip into your skis and ski some of the most beautiful terrain in the world.
Lake Louise Ski Resort | Lake Louise, A.B.
This iconic ski resort is the second-largest in Canada and unsurpassed with postcard perfect beauty. Stay at Chateau Lake Louise, a castle-like lodge with spectacular views of mountains, glaciers, lakes and forests across magnificent Banff National Park. The resort sprawls across four mountain faces and sits opposite the famous Lake Louise.
You can take a sleigh ride across the frozen lake to a quaint tea house, passing the frozen Louise Falls, which sparkles like a frozen chandelier. The view across the valley to the Victoria Glacier is equally awe-inspiring. And, at the resort, there is a green or a blue run from every chair, so guests of different abilities can enjoy the scenery without getting too separated.