Skiing. Officially, it’s a sport, but on more profound terms, it’s a way of life. Because of this, everyone who skis has an opinion about their favorite ski slopes, towns, and resorts, which means that “the best place” to ski can be pretty subjective. Some are loved for their abundance and quality of snow, while others are adored for the challenge the slopes provide. Some are sought out because they’re located in cool cities, and others are resorts you wish you could never leave. There are places that are better for big groups, while others meant for die-hard aficionados, while others still are where beginners should, well, begin. So the “best” ski lists can be slushy messes, full of biffs, face-plants, hinges, and sitzmarks, but here, we do our best to find the all-around six best places to ski in the U.S. that offer it all.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole brings an elegant level of luxury to the American West, sans the gaudiness that can come from over-the-top amenities. First, it’s easy to get to with over 12 non stop flights from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and Dallas. Snowfall is plentiful and is among the best powder in the country for skiing, temperatures hover around a perfect 30 degrees, and lines at the lifts are rarely more than a few minutes. True, there’s more expert slopes here than beginner and intermediate combined, but the views are magnificent and the town is teaming with savory food options. Before you go, check out our complete guide to Jackson Hole.
Although it’s a relatively new ski destination, Vail has the luxury of being a ski town built for luxury. High-end shopping, restaurants, and resorts (here’s our worldwide list of our fave resorts) dot both villages (marked by Vail and Lionshead Mountains), but in a decidedly mellow fashion. Either mountain offers terrain for all abilities and excellent snowshoeing trails within a short drive of the small city. One of the best way to experiences this is to stay, then book a tour with a guide at the Sonnenalp Hotel, right on the edge of the Vail Village. You’ll get a pro to lead you into (hopefully) fresh powder; upon return, you’re only steps away from their amazing spa.
You’d think that its location, a 40-minute drive outside of Salt Lake City, would make Snowbird an overcrowded mess, but the resort has been set up perfectly to handle masses of skiers. Which means this place is a hell of a lot of fun — especially at Cliff Lodge, a handsomely appointed establishment with self-serve ski lockers that come with air tubes that dry your boots, hats, and gloves overnight. If you get achy muscles after a day on the slopes, you can check out the spa. Snowbird also has an acclaimed ski school that offers different classes for kids and adults. Over 500 inches of snow fall every ear and powder cover is often at a perfect six inches.
Time for some East Coast love. Maybe it’s not 10,000 feet in the air and surrounded by glacial peaks, but Stowe is still one of the most picturesque ski towns with its traditional New England charm. Besides, it has the biggest vertical drop in the northeast and is surrounded by over 90 shops and 60 restaurants to keep everyone busy.
Big Sky, Montana
Being a short drive from Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky is an excellent skiing option to pack in plenty of activities in a short amount of time. More than 5,800 acres of skiing await, plus accommodations for almost any budget. Be sure to check out Beehive Basin Brewery, a solid addition to Montana’s already stellar craft beer landscape.
Not just fun to say (alee-aska, uh-laska), this place is a serious snow town, located just 40 minutes up the road from Anchorage by way of the Seward Highway (one of the most scenic roads in America). Alyeska is the only true ski resort in the great state up north with a whopping 650 inches of snowfall per year. It skews towards the experienced, with some wide open bowls and steep, deep runs (North Face has our continents longest continuous double black run), but there’s space for freestylers at terrain park and a scenic, tree-lined run for those of you who prefer the bunny slope. When not skiing, check out Girdwood, originally called Glacier City, which will make sweet, passionate love to your camera.
Article originally published on December 20, 2013. Last updated by January 5, 2017 by Geoff Nudleman. Feature image courtesy of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort/Facebook.