Tyler Peterson dropping into Patsy Marley at Alta
Tyler Peterson dropping into Patsy Marley at Alta (Lee Cohen)
2020 Winter Buyers Guide

Where to Ski This Season

Eager to find the perfect resort? Read on.

Tyler Peterson dropping into Patsy Marley at Alta
Megan Michelson

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Planning a ski trip can be tricky. With so many enticing alternatives—California or Colorado? Utah or Quebec? Vermont or British Columbia?—it’s tough to know which resort to commit to. And given today’s collective deals, chances are your season pass works at a whole range of really cool places.

Caite Zeliff on the Headwall in Jackson Hole
Caite Zeliff on the Headwall in Jackson Hole (Wade McKoy/Focus Productions)

Q. Where can I go skiing with my family without emptying our savings?

A. Stevens Pass, Washington.

Less than two hours east of Seattle, Stevens—Vail Resorts purchased it in 2018—is getting two updated chairlifts this winter. It’s a great family destination, with extensive children’s ski programs and ample terrain for everyone. (You’ll be in powder off the 7th Heaven chair while your teens hit the jumps in the Top Phlight Terrain Park.) Bonus: kids ages six and under ski free. There’s no lodging on the mountain, so you stay a mere 35 miles away in the Bavarian-esque village of Leavenworth. Loge has cozy rental cabins (from $150; logecamps.com), or get a room with bunk beds for the kids at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort (from $232; sleepinglady.com).

Info: Day tickets from $94; unlimited access with Epic Pass, from $699.

Q. Full disclosure: I’m in this for the après. Which resort has the best bars?

A. Aspen Snowmass, Colorado.

Each of Aspen’s four mountains has its own unique après scene. After tree-skiing the Hanging Valley Glades at Snowmass, order margaritas and guacamole at the slopeside Venga Venga Cantina. At Aspen Mountain, head to Ajax Tavern for cocktails and truffle fries after blowing out your quads with 3,267-foot gondola laps. Boot-pack Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands and you’ll earn the killer pizza and craft beer at the Highlands Ale House. Or hit the groomers and terrain park at Buttermilk, followed by pulled-pork nachos at Home Team BBQ. Stay at the new Limelight Hotel Snowmass (from $300; limelight hotels.com) for its bustling lounge. 

Info: Day tickets from $139; five free days with Ikon Pass, from $749.

Home Team BBQ in Aspen
Home Team BBQ in Aspen (Green Olive Media)

Q. Which ski area consistently has the most deep powder? 

A. Alta, Utah.

We can’t guarantee you a powder day at Alta, but last winter this low-key Utah gem got over 625 inches of snow, and its 34-year average is 80 inches per month. In other words, the chances of face shots are high. When the snow is deep, make a beeline for the High Traverse or anywhere off the Supreme lift. Stay on the mountain—we like the Rustler Lodge (from $300; rustlerlodge.com), where dinner and breakfast are included—and you’ll snag first chair while everyone else is stuck in traffic. Crowd averse? Utah Mountain Adventures leads backcountry tours out of the gates. 

Info: Day tickets from $116; two free days each at Alta and Snowbird with Mountain Collective Pass, from $489.

Q. Which resort has the best early-season snow?

A. Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Jackson Hole has received more than 500 inches of snowfall in each of the past three years, and December and January tend to be good months in the Tetons, thanks to cold temperatures and an abundance of early-season storms. Plus, the resort offers discounted ski-and-stay packages and reduced ticket prices before mid-December. Want an insurance policy? The Antler Inn (from $80; townsquareinns.com) gives full refunds on rooms if more than half of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is closed for lack of snow. 

Info: Early-season tickets from $99; five free days with Ikon Pass, from $749.

Ski lessons on Ambush at Big Sky Resort
Ski lessons on Ambush at Big Sky Resort (Jon Resnick)

Q. I’d love a nice hotel near the lifts, maybe a spa. Where should I go? 

A. Stowe, Vermont.

Book a stay at the Lodge at Spruce Peak (from $229; sprucepeak.com), Stowe’s premier slopeside hotel, and you’ll get a penthouse with a gas fireplace, a kitchen, and a fantastic view of the mountain. And yes, there’s a fabulous spa on the premises. (Try the CBD-oil massage to get the kinks out after a day of skiing.) You’re also steps from the village’s ice-­skating rink, restaurants, and of course some of the Northeast’s finest tree skiing and gondola laps. Topnotch Resort (from $189; topnotchresort.com), a few miles down the road, has a great spa as well—it even offers in-room massages for your dog—and a free shuttle to the hill.

Info: Day tickets from $106; access with Epic Pass (blackout days apply), from $699.

Q. What’s the most accessible ski area that still feels remote? 

A. Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Steamboat isn’t the closest resort to Denver (head for Echo Mountain if that’s what you’re after), but it’s a beautiful three-hour drive from the capital, and there are plenty of airport shuttles that’ll take you there. Or you can hop on one of 14 direct flights into Yampa Valley Airport, 28 miles from Steamboat’s perfect glades and cold-smoke powder. Once you arrive, you’ll have the resort’s 2,965 acres and 18 lifts virtually to yourself—crowds don’t exist here. Stay slopeside at the Steamboat Grand hotel (from $139; steamboatgrand.com), or grab a room at the Rabbit Ears Motel downtown (from $119; rabbitearsmotel.com), and a free bus will drop you at the hill.

Info: Day tickets from $115; five free days with Ikon Pass, from $749.

Choux Gras, Mont Tremblant
Choux Gras, Mont Tremblant (Stephane Groleau)

Q. I want an international experience but can’t make it to Europe. Where should I go instead? 

A. Mont Tremblant, Quebec.

This resort in a charming French-Canadian village feels like the Alps, but it’s easier to get to—just a seven-hour drive from Boston or New York City. Ski impeccable groomers with views of the Laurentian Range, or sneak through the trees on Versant Soleil and stop for fondue at the midmountain Le Refuge du Trappeur. Afterward, have dinner at Choux Gras and dance to a DJ until 3 a.m. at Le P’tit Caribou. The on-mountain Lodge de la Montagne (from $115; lessuitestremblant.com) has renovated rooms and a sauna.

Info: Day tickets from $75; unlimited access with Ikon Pass, from $749.

Q. Where can I ski steep lines and scare myself a little? 

A. Big Sky, Montana.

We dare you to drop into Big Couloir, a nearly vertical chute that descends from the Lone Peak summit. Take note that you’re required to carry avalanche safety gear, check in with ski patrol beforehand, and ski with a partner. Or boot-pack the knife-edge ridge above the Headwaters lift and drop into Hellroaring or Firehole—steep, rocky shafts unlike anything you’ll find in-bounds at other resorts. That’s not to say there isn’t beginner and intermediate terrain: the lower mountain is chock-full of it. In town, Horn and Cantle has cocktails and a patio with blankets and heaters.

Info: Day tickets from $155; five free days with Ikon Pass, from $749.

Après on the patio of the Chomois
Après on the patio of the Chomois (Ben Arnst/Squaw Valley Alpine Me)

Q. Where should I go if I don’t have a ski pass and want to get away from the crowds? 

A. Sun Peaks, British Columbia.

Mega-passes like Epic and Ikon are great, but they’re also popular, which can mean long lift lines and rapidly skied-out terrain at member resorts. To escape the masses, head to Sun Peaks in interior British Columbia. It’s still easy to get to—a 4.5-hour drive from Vancouver, or 50 minutes from the Kamloops Airport—and the place is massive, with 4,270 skiable acres across three mountains. Find powder stashes off Juniper Ridge, or sign up for a private tour of Gil’s, a backcountry-like zone that, along with other areas, became in-bounds terrain a few years back.

Info: Day tickets from $85. 

Q. I’m new to backcountry skiing and want to get more into it. Where should I go?

A. Kirkwood, California.

Even in-bounds skiing at Kirkwood can feel like the backcountry, thanks to the resort’s empty slopes, remote location south of Lake Tahoe, and rugged, powder-filled terrain. But if you want to get guided out of the gates or educated in avalanche awareness, sign up for a course with Expedition: Kirkwood (half-day guided trips from $460; avalanche courses from $400). The Forest Service’s Robbs Hut ($65; recreation.gov), a cabin three miles into the backcountry near South Lake Tahoe, is a good first-timer’s hut-trip destination, with mountaintop views out the door.

Info: Day tickets from $106; unlimited access with Epic Pass, from $699.

The slopes at Squaw Valley
The slopes at Squaw Valley (Ben Arnst/Squaw Valley Alpine Me)

Q. Where should I go If I love epic sidecountry and my sweetheart loves groomers?

A. Park City, Utah.

No need for an annulment. As the largest ski area in the United States, with 7,300 acres, Park City Mountain has no shortage of high-quality groomed runs for the carving devotee (there are more than 120, in fact)and gates into the Wasatch backcountry for you. Join an Interconnect Tour with Ski Utah ($430; skiutah.com) to get guided from resort to resort, or hire a backcountry guide from Inspired Summit Adventures ($450; ­inspiredsummit.com). Afterward, reconvene at Twisted Fern in town for confit chicken wings and full-strength beer, and trade tales of the day’s escapades. 

Info: Day tickets from $106; access with Epic Pass (blackout dates apply), from $699.

Q. What’s the best choice for a spring ski trip?

A. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, California.

Thanks to heavy snowfall, Squaw offered skiing all the way into July in two of the past three seasons. But that’s not all that makes this place a veritable spring-skiing mecca. Events like the hilarious Pain McShlonkey Classic and the annual Cushing Crossing pond-skimming competition bring a festive vibe to springtime in Tahoe. Plus, Alpine Meadows’ ski patrollers employ what they call “cornology” to open and close terrain based on sun, wind, and temperature, preserving the best corn snow in the back bowls. Don’t miss après pizza and beer on the patio of the Chamois at Squaw. 

Info: Day tickets from $89; two free days with Mountain Collective Pass, from $489.

From Winter 2020 Buyer’s Guide Lead Photo: Lee Cohen

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