To qualify as a proper ski town, a destination needs a few things. For starters, a decent ski hill. It doesn’t have to be a big, flashy resort—just a good-sized mountain and ample snowfall (and a lively bar at the base lodge always helps). Beyond that, it’s nice if there’s a downtown with some shops, cafés slinging quality food, and housing and lodging that real people with normal jobs can afford. If a town has those things, then chances are a close-knit community of mountain dwellers has formed. Read on to discover the next great affordable ski towns.
Revelstoke, British Columbia
The ski area that towers above the quaint mountain town of Revelstoke is relatively new by ski-resort standards. Revelstoke Mountain Resort (day tickets from $109), which now boasts the most vertical in North America—5,620 feet from the top of Mount Mackenzie—opened in 2007. Since then the town’s population has boomed to 7,500. With an average of over 400 inches of snowfall a year, you’ll find reliably good skiing, whether you’re backcountry touring on Rogers Pass, riding the gondola at the resort, or heli-skiing with Selkirk Tangiers. Access to the mountains is this town’s biggest asset, thanks to its location smack in between the Monashees to the west and the Selkirks to the east. The closest airport is Kelowna, two hours away, but that keeps the crowds low. Don’t miss La Baguette for fresh croissants and the best breakfast in town, and stay at Sutton Place Hotel (from $274) for ski-in, ski-out access.
There’s a reason ski-industry brands like Atomic, Salomon, and Scott have moved their U.S. headquarters to Ogden, population 87,000, over the last few decades. The city is affordable—average homes go for around $250,000—and close to ski areas like Powder Mountain (from $95) and Snowbasin (from $105). You’re 30 minutes from Salt Lake City, but it feels far from the hustle. This historic railway town has rebooted itself in recent years, offering a thriving food scene, a growing number of craft breweries and distilleries, and the new arts-centric Nine Rails Creative District, the latest home for galleries and murals. Check out the recently opened Roosters Brewing Company taproom, and stay in one of 15 rooms at the Compass Rose Lodge (from $229), a boutique inn in nearby Huntsville that has an in-house observatory for stargazing.
June Lake, California
Just 30 minutes northwest of Mammoth Mountain, June Lake is Mammoth’s much sleepier sister town, with some 700 year-round residents. The family-friendly ski hill of June Mountain (from $87) is the local spot, and while the resort itself is small—just 1,500 skiable acres and seven lifts—the backcountry access is unparalleled. You can hit eastern Sierra gems like the Negatives or Devil’s Slide from the resort’s backcountry-access gate, and Sierra Mountain Guides offers guided tours into nearby zones. A new wave of entrepreneurs has arrived in the town of June Lake, opening up shops and après spots like the T-Bar Social Club, a music venue, and the coffeehouse Lift. Double Eagle Resort (from $199) has lodge rooms, cabins, and an indoor pool with views of the mountains, while the June Lake Villager (from $95) is a no-frills motel that’s centrally located and allows dogs.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Not traditionally thought of as a ski destination, the artsy city of Santa Fe, population 83,000, is surprisingly close to world-class skiing. Ski Santa Fe (from $84) is a local’s hill just 30 minutes from downtown’s historic plaza, and with a base elevation of 10,350 feet, it’ll have snow even when lower-elevation spots get warm and melt. You can ski-tour uphill in-bounds while the resort is open, if that’s your thing. Otherwise enjoy powder after a storm, burgers smothered in green chile, and a post-ski soak in the hot springs at Ten Thousand Waves, where you can stay in an adobe house featuring Japanese decor just down the hill from the ski area (from $255). If you need a bigger mountain, Taos Ski Valley (from $110), with its notorious steeps and backcountry runs, is just two hours north.
Bethel is a small town, with around 2,600 living there full-time, but it’s a vibrant community. In 2016, the town raised $35,000 on Kickstarter to help reopen the local movie theater as a hip community cinema, and a new bowling alley called River Lanes recently opened next door. You’ll ski Sunday River (from $109), a sprawling resort that includes eight neighboring peaks. Midmountain, at the Peak Lodge’s restaurant, a new chef is now preparing dishes like whipped-ricotta toast and egg and pork belly buns. The Snow Cap Inn near the base of Sunday River has some of the most affordable rooms in town (from $99). Grab a beer at Sunday River Brewing Company once you’re off the hill. For a smaller, throwback ski area, the cooperatively owned Mount Abram (from $29) is 15 minutes away and now on the new Indy Pass.
Just over Teton Pass from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, you’ll find the low-key ranching communities of Teton Valley, which include the towns of Victor and Driggs, Idaho. Housing prices are spiking here, too, but the Teton Valley remains considerably more affordable than Jackson, and the access to skiing is nearly as good. Grand Targhee Resort (from $98), 30 minutes down the road, has the region’s only cat-skiing operation and gets more than 500 inches of snow a year. You could also just do backcountry laps off Teton Pass or drop down to world-famous Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The small but growing town of Victor, with a population of 2,200, is home to not one but two microbreweries. Start your day with the two-course home-cooked breakfast at Dreamcatcher Bed and Breakfast (from $149).
Lake Placid, New York
It’s been exactly 40 years since Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics. The town has changed a lot since then, but winter sports are still a priority. Take part in its Olympic heritage by visiting the Olympic Museum, bobsled down a high-speed track at the Olympic Training Center, or ski Whiteface Mountain (from $49), a half-hour away, which claims the most vertical in the East. The town itself, with its 2,300 residents, is situated on scenic Mirror Lake, with Adirondack peaks spiking up in every direction. The Lake Placid Inn (from $99) recently renovated its apartment-style lodging, which is close to town and steps from the tasty sandwiches of Saranac Sourdough. Don’t miss riding a toboggan down a 30-foot-high former ski jump onto frozen Mirror Lake.