Big, well-known resorts have high-speed lifts, stellar terrain, and flashy base area amenities like slopeside hotels and vibrant après bars. They also tend to be crowded, hyped up, and crazy expensive. So why not plan your next ski trip to a lesser-known mountain? At these smaller, off-the-radar places, you’ll still be treated to quality terrain, soft snow, and, with any luck, empty slopes.
North Creek, New York
There are no village wine bars or slopeside condos at Gore Mountain, but what the place lacks in base-area luxuries, it more than makes up for in vast, rugged terrain. Gore has the most space—439 acres—of any ski area in New York, plus 14 lifts and a stout 2,537 vertical feet. For those who care about après, the resort just completed renovations to all three of its on-mountain lodges for this winter. Don’t miss French toast with peanut butter, banana, and bacon at local favorite Chrissy’s Café. You’ll find the closest rooms to the lifts at Gore Mountain Lodge. Rooms from $199.
When it dumps in Idaho, Brundage is the place to be, with endless inbounds glades and a lift-accessed backcountry zone where the powder lasts for days. It’s not a huge resort by any means—just five lifts spread across 1,920 acres—but it’s the quality and quantity of snow here that matters most. You can sign up for guided cat skiing into an expansive 18,000-acre plot of neighboring backcountry terrain, or ride a snowcat to a four-course dinner at the Bear’s Den mid-mountain cabin. Stay at Hotel McCall and you’ll get lift tickets plus milk and cookies before bed. Rooms $109 per person per night.
At Monarch Mountain, the cellphone service is poor, but the skiing is great. And who needs Instagram when you’ve got 800 acres of high-elevation terrain off the Continental Divide and guided cat skiing in 1,635 powder-filled backcountry acres? Monarch is the kind of place where the ski patrollers know your name and you can still bring a bag lunch into the lodge and get fresh tracks well after a storm. Book a one-, two-, or three-bedroom cabin at the Creekside Chalets, ten minutes from the mountain. Rooms from $129 per night.
June Lake, California
June Mountain lives in the shadow of its big sister, Mammoth Mountain, 27 miles to the south. Though the 1,500-acre June is considerably smaller than Mammoth and has just seven chairlifts, it offers some of the greatest backcountry access of any ski area in the Sierra, with access to famous zones like San Joaquin Ridge and the Negatives. Sierra Mountain Guides offers guided tours from June into the nearby backcountry. The nearby Double Eagle Resort has cabins, lodge rooms, and spa services on site. From from $199 per night.
Mission Ridge is bigger than it looks—2,000 acres and 2,250 vertical feet, with only four chairlifts. The mountain, located on the sleepy eastern side of Washington’s Cascades, gets superbly high-quality snow—some 200 inches of light, dry fluff a year. From the top of Chair 2, you can hike into limitless backcountry terrain. Stay in nearby Wenatchee—a few hotels offer ski-and-stay packages—or skip the drive to the hill and bring your van or RV to the ski resort parking lot instead, where a whole camp village pops up on weekends.