With 480 ski resorts in the U.S. alone, deciding on where to go for your next vacation can feel overwhelming. Even narrowing it down to a state still leaves you with several options to weed through. If it’s your first time or the first of many, read on to find our top 10 picks on the country’s best ski resorts.
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Break a sweat in Breckenridge (CO)
Breckenridge may be a year-round destination, but nothing compares to the sheer beauty of those winter months. Based just below the Tenmile Range connected to the famous Rockies, everything about this valley town is cosy. Luxury lodgings glisten like gold at night, but in the daytime you’ll find fresh air and sunshine despite the inches of snow.
Compared to the likes of Aspen and Vail, Breckenridge is as cost-friendly as it gets in Colorado. Daily lift tickets are marked up on the weekends, but children from ages 5 to 12 can get in for $50–60 less than adults. An adult ticket (ages 13 to 64) costs $149 on a weekday, and $179 on the weekends.
You’re hardly ever alone on the slopes, but the resort’s popularity is for good reason. Whether you’ve never skied a day in your life or are looking for the next slope up, you’ll find a suitable summit here. In other words, the resort is accessible to people of varying abilities.
Escape to the East for a taste of Jay Peak (VT)
The East Coast is renowned for many things… but skiing is not really one of them. Between the turbulent weather, hard snow and flatter terrain, the crop up resorts leave a little something to be desired.
There’s an exception to the rule — and it’s called Vermont. When Ski Magazine released their definitive list on the U.S.’ best ski resorts, four out of the 16 were from this state alone. While locally operated Smugglers’ Notch Resort deserves its second place, we want to shine a light on somewhere a little more ambitious: Jay Peak.
Closer to the Canadian border than its own capital, Jay Peak is a favourite among experienced skiers. Epic terrain, fresh powder and tree runs make you work harder than most ski resorts. But scaling that already breath-taking landscape is worth getting exhausted for… so long as you make use of the spa treatments after.
Ski with professionals at Aspen (CO)
As an annual host for the action-sport X Games, Aspen proves its reputation through grit and determination. The four mountains that define this resort are intimidating — but the good news is that you don’t have to go it alone.
Even experienced casual skiers are encouraged to take a private lesson here. Aspen’s teaching goes beyond the basics and caters to every level, making it one of the best ski resorts in the world in the teaching department.
Your ski ticket includes all four mountains, and the activities aren’t all skiing related. So you can still visit the Aspen Highlands, but dressed up for dinner at the Cloud Nine Bistro instead of extreme sports.
Get cosy at America’s first ski resort, Sun Valley (ID)
Before there was Vail, there was Sun Valley. As the birthplace of destination skiing in the United States, its history alone makes Sun Valley a worthy contender on our list.
Nostalgia is rampant, but the original resort doesn’t seem desperate to keep up with trends. Sun Valley today is far from being the world’s most luxurious or daredevil ski resort. Instead, the milestone destination excels across a number of categories: whether you’re judging it on variety of slopes, activities outside of skiing, its town and more. Being able to say that you rode the world’s first chairlift, or stayed in the same resort as Old Hollywood icons in their hey-day is pretty cool, too.
Celebrate the Big Sky Resort’s 50th anniversary (MT)
The Big Sky Resort is easily one of the largest ski resorts in the country — but its sparseness can be attributed to different factors. Its lift tickets start at over $200, and a glimpse of Lone Peak is enough to deter casual skiers.
It’s a financial and physical challenge — but the costs involved keep this destination relatively off the beaten path. The Big Sky Resort attracts 15,000 visitors in peak season, meaning that you have all the space you could ever need skiing in this already great stretch of land.
2023 marks the Big Sky Resort’s 50th anniversary. To celebrate this monumental achievement, the resort will unveil a brand new Lone Peak Tram. Maybe the big-budget, budding skiers will come back after all.
“Start from Skratch” at Palisades Tahoe (CA)
Stop groaning at the pun — you’ll want to read this next bit. If you’re a total beginner or struggling in confidence while skiing, we recommend researching into Palisades Tahoe’s Perfect Progression Program.
For $699, you receive 3 half-day beginner ski lessons with lift tickets, rentals and lunch vouchers included. After completing the course, you’re rewarded with a complimentary season pass and 50% off any additional group classes. The best part is that lessons will move at your own pace and are designed to make you feel as comfortable as possible while skiing.
As the host of the 1960 Winter Olympic games, you’re in steady hands here at Palisades Tahoe. No matter what level you’re at, you’ll find suitable terrain to build up your skillset and self-esteem.
Let’s Settle the Alta vs Snowbird debate (UT)
Despite neighbouring each other, there are a couple of key differences between Alta and Snowbird. Alta eases you into the area with simpler navigation logistics and a more approachable terrain. The wide, rolling slopes shouldn’t be underestimated — but they are easier to manage than Snowbird.
If you like a challenge, you’ll love Snowbird. It’s terrain is slightly more narrow, but extremely steep in parts. There are plenty of trails here, but none more thrilling than black diamond run: Regulator Johnson.
So why narrow it down to one? With the Alta-Bird Season Pass, you can experience the best of both. With this pass comes an extensive list of exclusive discounts — but keep in mind that it has to be bought several months in advance.
Ski under the stars at Alyeska Ski Resort (AK)
Despite being a top winter destination, Alaska’s ski scene flies under the radar. The Final Frontier’s snow-capped peaks may be one summit too high for the majority of people. Guided skiing at Denali (the highest point in North America) is now a possibility, but are there are any easier obstacles?
Fortunately, the Alyeska Resort was built with these concerns in mind. While the resort describes its terrain as “steep and deep”, there are over 70 named trails to choose from — several of which are beginner friendly.
Night skiing is not unique to Alaska — but the views are a league ahead of the crowd. From Thursday through to Saturday, night skiing starts at 4pm and continues until 8pm. The transition from sunset to starry night is something you’ll want to remember. Spotting the Aurora Borealis while skiing is highly unlikely — but you can always set up a Northern Lights wake-up call in your hotel room.
Ride the Rendezvous Peak at Jackson Hole (WY)
Multi-millionaires cannot resisting vacationing in this “rustic-chic” mountain town. The cowboy persona may be more of an act these days, but it gets played exceptionally. Lodgings are natural but sophisticated at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Spa treatments draw inspiration from the Wyoming breeze.
The resort’s aerial tram is particularly impressive because it can carry 100 people to the top of Rendezvous Peak in 12 minutes’ time. The ski run is tough but satisfying, featuring a vertical 4,100 feet and a flawless 35 degree glide.
Grab drinks after a long ski session in Vail (CO)
If you want a little bit of everything, consider vacationing in Vail. As one of the most popular ski resorts in the U.S., crowds are inevitable — but not as big as you think. Vail proudly advertises itself as the second largest single mountain resort in North America.
Vail Village has more in common with Disneyworld than an UNESCO Bavarian Old Town — but this works in Vail’s favour. From shopping sprees to an exciting nightlife, Vail knows how to keep its guests entertained. Although the resort is popular with couples and families, plenty of young adults and single people come here also. If you’re a solo traveller or looking to make new travel buddies, it’s easy to do so.