Winter is here to stay. This season you can huddle in your home and wait out the latest incarnation of the polar vortex, or you can take advantage of the massive storms that have been hitting the entire country and get out on your skis or board. Sure, you could book a week at one of the mega-resorts and spend your entire vacation wandering around a pre-packaged ski town, but you’re a smarter adventure junkie than that. We’ve got a short list of the very best ski resorts that should be on your radar for some really adrenaline fueled winter travel.
Alta, Utah: Skier’s Paradise
Founded in 1938, Alta is one of three remaining resorts in America that ban snowboarders. The first thing you’ll notice about skiing at Alta is the snow. They average 500 inches of world renowned Utah powder. Whether you’re spinning laps on the famed Mt. Baldy chutes, or in a for mellow day riding some of the easier runs with family, Alta has a terrain balance perfect for skiers of all abilities. At the end of the day though, you need to find a local to help you navigate the tricky traverse for a quad burning run down “High Rustler”, one of the steepest in-bounds runs in the country. After a full day of chasing untracked powder, you’ll have earned those apres-ski beers.
Whitefish, Montana: Adventure Skiing
If you’re looking for a destination resort with a small town feel, Whitefish Resort in Montana is about as far from the big city as you can get. Sitting just outside of Glacier National Park, Whitefish’s 3,000 acres of lift-served terrain are a pristine backdrop for your hunt for fresh tracks. With 300 inches of snow on average, and a balance of almost 80% intermediate and advanced terrain, Whitefish is the resort for you if you want a unique experience off the beaten track. One lap down The North Face Bowl or Schmidt’s Chute, and you’ll be hooked.
Wateville Valley, New Hampshire: East Coast Stoke
Sitting on New Hampshire’s Mount Tecumseh, Waterville Valley is a small gem of a resort, perfect for the weekend getaway crowd from New York and Boston. At only 500 acres, it doesn’t quite compete with the sprawling Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character. A good balance of beginner and intermediate terrain make it the perfect place for a long weekend with the kids, or as a tune-up for your spring break trip to Alaska or British Columbia. A handful of terrain parks will keep your little ones entertained while you work on your mountain legs – the longest run is nearly two miles and has more than 2,000 feet of vertical drop. You’ll be surprised how that can sneak up on your weary quads at the end of the day.
Telluride, Colorado: For the Adrenaline Junkie
Telluride Resort sits at nearly 9,000 feet, and with lifts that push up above 12,000, and the surrounding San Juan range towering even higher, Telluride is almost a pilgrimage for many extreme skiers. Known for its backcountry terrain – only accessible on foot after a few lift rides – Telluride boasts some of the steepest drops in North America, and one fo the few places you can ski off a 13,000 foot peak while still in resort boundaries. When the sun sets, a quick gondola ride down the mainstreet will get you to some of the best ski town bars you’ll ever find, as well as more ski shops (including a huge Patagonia gear outlet) than you’ll be able to visit in a week. Don’t be surprised when your next few vacations get planned according to the next big storm to hit Telluride.
Photos Courtesy of Alta, Whitefish, Waterville Valley, and Austin Parker