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5 Perfect Winter Road Trips

Forget airline storm delays and baggage fees. The best way to travel this winter is by hitting the open road.

Wintery highway 395 in Mono County. (Alicia Vennos)
winter

Forget airline storm delays and baggage fees. The best way to travel this winter is by hitting the open road.

Maybe you’re a skier hunting powder at the resorts on your megapass or want to escape the snow altogether in the high desert. Either way, all you need to do is grab your keys, scope a map, and start driving.

Highway 395

winter
(Courtesy Mono County)

Squaw Valley to Mammoth Lakes, California

Got an Ikon Pass? Then you have unrestricted access to some of California’s best ski resorts. Start at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for steep skiing off legendary lifts like Squaw’s KT-22 and Granite Chief. Book a night or two at Base Camp Tahoe City (from $129), and don’t miss pizzas at the newly opened Pioneer Cocktail Club just down the street. Then swing southeast to Highway 395, which runs along the east side of the Sierra Nevada. You’ll pass endless hot springs, the gold-mining ghost town of Bodie, and killer gas-station fish tacos at the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining. Finish the trip at Mammoth Mountain and neighboring June Mountain, the latter of which is small but offers world-class backcountry access with guided out-the-gate skiing. The Double Eagle Resort near the base of June Mountain has a great indoor hot tub and heated pool (from $199).

Blue Ridge Parkway

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(Courtesy ExploreAsheville.com)

Charlottesville, Virginia, to Asheville, North Carolina

You’ll score stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains on this 469-mile stretch of two-lane blacktop through the southern Appalachians. Start in Charlottesville, where the Townsman Hotel offers self-check-in to four sleekly designed suites right downtown (from $230). Along the drive, don’t miss the folk music at the historic Floyd Country Store in Floyd, Virginia, or the chance to peer into the Linville Gorge, the Grand Canyon of North Carolina, near Morganton. End your trip in Asheville, where you can fuel up at Hole Donuts, hike or bike the new 8.6-mile multi-use Weed Patch Mountain Trail to Chimney Rock State Park, and drink craft beer at some of the town’s nearly 50 breweries. Sleep in a dome tent, an Airstream trailer, or a treehouse at Asheville Glamping (from $80)—winter here brings fewer crowds and more mountain views, since the trees have lost their leaves.

Interstate 70

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(Courtesy Vail Resorts)

Denver to Crested Butte, Colorado

With an Epic Pass, a Colorado winter road trip is a must. Start in Denver and point your wheels west on Interstate 70, stopping at any number of the Vail-owned ski resorts along the way: Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek. (And don’t miss the newly expanded ski terrain at Arapahoe Basin, also on the Epic Pass, just a short detour off the interstate on Loveland Pass Road.) The Lodge at Vail (from $189), located steps from the lifts at Vail Resort, has a new float tank in its spa to help ease sore muscles after a day on the hill. Then veer off I-70 and take U.S. Route 24, better known as the Tenth Mountain Division Memorial Highway, south to Leadville, making your way over Monarch Pass on U.S. Route 50 until you reach Crested Butte, a new addition to the Epic Pass this year and about four hours south of Vail. The Public House, on downtown’s Elk Avenue, has a pub, live music, and three loft suites you can book for the night (from $350).

Route 66

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(Courtesy Flagstaff CVB)

Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Flagstaff, Arizona

You could spend weeks driving the entire 2,400-mile Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, but trust us, it’s this section of high desert that you’re thinking of when you dream of the Mother Road. In Albuquerque, book a room at El Vado Motel (from $137), a historic motor lodge that was totally renovated in 2018, and be sure to visit the rescued owls, foxes, and moose at the Wildlife West Nature Park and grab milkshakes at Model Pharmacy while you're in town. Then strike out for Arizona, camping at the world's best preserved meteorite meteor crater just across the boarder in Winslow. After arriving in Flagstaff, enjoy views of the Grand Canyon with skis on your feet as you ride the lift at Arizona Snowbowl. You can cross-country ski or snowshoe to your rental yurt or cabin at the nearby Arizona Nordic Village (from $50), or head west and pass some time at Delgadillo’s Snow Cap.  

Powder Highway

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(Courtesy Kootenay Rockies/Kari Medig)

Fernie to Golden to Nelson, British Columbia

A network of highways through British Columbia’s Kootenay region make up the famed Powder Highway. This snowy stretch of tarmac connects eight world-class mountains, including Revelstoke, Kicking Horse, Fernie, Whitewater, and Red Mountain, plus plenty of cat- and heli-skiing operations. Ski.com has new Powder Highway package deals for this winter, including lodging, lift tickets, and transportation (from $2,304 for six days). Some highlights of the route? At Kicking Horse, you can sleep atop the mountain and earn first tracks before everyone else by staying at Eagle’s Eye Suites (from $677). Retallack Lodge boasts some of the best cat-skiing terrain in North America and an 11,000-square-foot lodge to crash in overnight.

Filed To: Skiing / Road Trips / Travel / Budget Trips / DIY Trips / Snow Sports