The Best Ski Resorts in the Rockies
The top spots to get your Rocky Mountain high
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The American Rockies are home to the greatest density of world-class skiing anywhere in the world—and these resorts are the cream of the crop.
The 50 Best Ski Resorts in North AmericaCheck out the rest of our comprehensive guide.
Ajax, Buttermilk, and Highlands
Vertical Rise: 3,267 feet (Ajax); 2,030 feet (Buttermilk); 3,635 feet (Highlands)
Acres of Terrain: 675 (Ajax); 470 (Buttermilk); 1,040 (Highlands)
Average Snowfall: 300 inches
Aspen offers something for everyone: come for the skiing, stay for the sommeliers and art museums. Intermediate and expert skiers head to downtown’s Aspen Mountain (known to locals as Ajax) for fall-line bumps and top-to-bottom groomers off the Silver Queen gondola. Rip perfect corduroy on Ruthie’s, slash steeps through Jackpot, and end the day with a high-speed chase down Little Nell straight into après-ski truffle fries at the Ajax Tavern. Highlands has ample terrain for intermediates, but the place is really known for its steep tree-skiing off the Deep Temerity lift and untracked powder in the legendary 12,392-foot Highland Bowl, which requires a 45-minute bootpack to the skyscraping summit. The mid-mountain Cloud Nine Bistro is a taste of Europe with fondue, champagne, and dance parties. Buttermilk is a small, family-friendly hill. But while it’s great for beginners, Buttermilk has hosted the X Games the past 14 years, and it’s the perfect place for rippers who want to air it out on huge jumps and a full-size halfpipe. —Megan Michelson
Must-Ski Run: If you’re up for the challenge, the hike out to Highland Bowl is truly worth it. You’ll be rewarded with views of the Maroon Bells and untouched steeps.
Best Après: The Limelight Hotel downtown has live music, hot tub, and flatbread pizzas topped with fig and arugula.
Local Tip: Don’t drive anywhere. Parking at the ski hills is expensive and minimal. Use the free bus that crosses town and drops you right near the lifts.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Vertical Rise: 2,020 feet
Acres of Terrain: 2,200
Average Snowfall: 551 inches
Alta feels like a ski area of the past, a place where old-school lodges reign and snowboarders still aren’t allowed. It’s a core skier’s mecca—fat skis and backcountry packs are the norm—but the place does have a decent amount of beginner and intermediate terrain if that’s what you’re after. Mainly, though, you’ll come for the powder: an average of more than 550 inches of fresh sticks to steep slopes like Bearpaw and Eagle’s Nest. Or hit up the gladed chutes off the Supreme lift, a slow triple where nobody ever seems to be in a rush. Stay slopeside in a wooden bunk at the Peruvian Lodge, or in a suite at the Rustler Lodge, which comes with a breakfast spread and gourmet dinner. —M.M.
Must-Ski Run: High Rustler—High Boy to locals—offers a consistent fall-line face off the ridge. It’s usually filled with either powder or perfect chalky snow.
Best Après: The Sitzmark Club in the Alta Lodge is a historic and cozy upstairs bar. Get a hot toddy (trust us) and sit by the fire.
Local Tip: On the oft-traveled High Traverse from the Collins lift, watch out for massive bumps and skiers rocketing by you at high speeds. Getting bucked off the traverse is like wearing a sign that says, “I’m from out of town.”
Vertical Rise: 3,340 feet
Acres of Terrain: 1,832
Average Snowfall: 325 inches
It’s easy to think of B.C. as Vail’s little brother, but shorter lines and a World Cup downhill course make it well worth a visit. Experts love the steeps under the Birds of Prey and Grouse Mountain lifts, but immaculately groomed blues and greens form a good chunk of the mountain’s 150 runs and keep beginners and intermediate skiers happy. Beaver Creek is great for families with children: the instruction is top-notch, there are extracurricular activities like Disco Skate Night on the ice rink, and there’s a nursery for those too young to shred. For lodging, try St. James Place, which has cozy midrange condominiums, or splurge for the four-bedroom Trapper’s Cabin, which sleeps ten and comes with views of the Gore Range, ski-in/ski-out access, and a personal chef. —Nick Davidson
Must-Ski Run: Golden Eagle traces the Birds of Prey downhill course. You’ll come away with new respect for the spandex set.
Best Après: The Minturn Saloon, 15 minutes down the valley, has an authentic Colorado vibe in a 115-year-old building.
Local Tip: Catch a show at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, which features everything from the Nutcracker to Warren Miller ski porn.
Big Sky, Montana
Vertical Rise: 4,350 feet
Acres of Terrain: 5,800
Average Snowfall: 400 inches
With 5,800 acres spread across four peaks and double the vertical drop of most ski areas, Big Sky isn’t messing around. The longest run from the top of Liberty Bowl to the base area is a whopping six miles of undulating, bring-your-A-game terrain. Because the mountain is a bit remote—45 minutes from Bozeman—it doesn’t have the lift lines of some destination resorts. Plus, there’s plenty of room for everyone, from beginners to hard-chargers. Lone Peak is the mountain’s crown jewel. A 15-person tram whisks you to the point’s pinnacle, where you’ll have views of three states and two national parks. The mellowest way down from is via Liberty Bowl; otherwise, it’s all steep gullies and megabowls that thrill even the most advanced riders. Stay in Bozeman for an in-town feel, or grab a condo at the base of the Big Sky for seamless logistics. —M.M.
Must-Ski Run: To ski Big Couloir, the rowdiest shot off Lone Peak, first check in with ski patrol and carry avy gear, then take a deep breath and drop in.
Best Après: Scissorbills Saloon, at the base of the hill, is the spot for Montana microbrews, nacho platters, and live music on weekends.
Local Tip: Asian noodles in Montana? Yup. Follow the locals to Lotus Pad in Meadow Village for drunken noodles and Vietnamese fried rice.
Vertical Rise: 3,398 feet
Acres of Terrain: 2,908
Average Snowfall: 300 inches
Breck’s sheer size—34 lifts and 187 trails spread over five peaks—means it has plenty for everyone. There’s deep powder and aggressive expert terrain high on the mountain, including more than 1,000 acres of pristine bowls, but the whole lower and middle mountain is threaded with entertaining greens and blues. The Peak 6 terrain, a fairly new addition to the resort, is a rare above-the-treeline blue bowl that lets intermediate skiers explore the upper mountain and pick their way down long, cruisy lines with big views. And Breck, an early adopter of snowboarding, has long been a favorite for riders and freestyle skiers, who can play on four terrain parks and a superpipe. Lodging options have improved over the past several years, too: stay slopeside in a condo at the Grand Timber Lodge, or try one of several B&Bs in town, like Little Mountain Lodge, a 13-bedroom log cabin with a hot tub, waterfall, pool table, jukebox, wet bar, and a mean french toast. —N.D.
Must-Ski Run: Four O’ Clock, the mountain’s longest run (3.5 miles), goes from the black diamond at the top into a long green cruise.
Best Après: The Broken Compass Brewing Company slings excellent beer out of a dog-friendly tap room a few minutes outside of town.
Local Tip: Wake up early to earn your turn—Breck allows uphill traffic before lifts open.
Vertical Rise: 1,875 feet
Acres of Terrain: 1,050
Average Snowfall: 500 inches
Brighton isn’t huge, but the skiing is. The mountain sits at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, which means it bears the brunt of frequent storms that roll in and dump the light snow that spoils Utah skiers. One hundred percent of the terrain is accessible by high-speed quad, and though much of it is for advanced skiers only, one of the things that sets Brighton apart is the ease with which groups of mixed ability levels can ride the same lift, peel off to different terrain at the top, then meet back at the bottom for another go. Much of the expert terrain is left ungroomed: a mix of trees, 50-degree chutes, and natural-terrain parks sure make you pucker. The mountain also has some of the best night skiing around—22 runs lit up over 200 acres every day except Sunday. There are three slopeside options: a simple cafeteria; Molly Green’s pub, a full-service bar with a fireplace and great views; and Blind Miner Coffee (try the warming chai). You can stay at the resort’s Brighton Lodge, a modest, rustic hotel with a continental breakfast, or five miles away at Silver Fork Lodge, a log-cabin-style B&B with a full-scale restaurant that uses a 50-year-old sourdough pancake starter for morning flapjacks. —N.D.
Must-Ski Run: The cliffs, chutes, and groomers of Milly Bowl.
Best Après: Molly Green’s, or tailgate in the parking lot.
Local Tip: Brighton offers single-ride lift tickets for $15, so grab your beacon and shovel and hitch a ride to the Wasatch backcountry.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Vertical Rise: 2,775 feet
Acres of Terrain: 1,547
Average Snowfall: 300 inches
Crested Butte is a little harder to reach than Colorado’s Front Range resorts—it’s a four-hour drive from Denver—but that just thins out the crowds. The remote location also give it a strong local flavor, with big-mountain competitions, rugged back bowls, and a thriving après-ski scene. Start your day with coffee at Camp 4, then head up the Silver Queen Express and rocket over to the North Face T-bar to tackle the snow-choked bowls that the Butte has become famous for. For something mellower, fun uninterrupted groomers stretch down to East River. There’s good lodging at the resort’s base—opt for the slopeside Grand Lodge—or stay at a B&B in town and ride the free bus up to the mountain. —M.M.
Must-Ski Run: Rambo, at 55 degrees, is one of the steepest in-bounds runs in North America.
Best Après: The Avalanche Bar and Grill at the base of the mountain is the go-to spot for beer, pizza, and camaraderie.
Local Tip: Believe it or not, breakfast at the Gas Cafe, a gas station in town, is surprisingly delicious. Grab a McStop breakfast sandwich on your way to the hill.
Park City, Utah
Vertical Rise: 3,000 feet
Acres of Terrain: 2,026
Average Snowfall: 350 inches
Deer Valley caps lift tickets at 7,500 per day, bans snowboarders, and offers some of the best on-mountain dining you’ll find anywhere. It should go without saying that there are no terrain parks. But all the upscale touches don’t mean there’s no terrain worth shredding—the mountain gets generous helpings of legendary Wasatch powder, and the trees are all yours. The plan for advanced skiers: take the trek out to Empire, where you can slice through Empire Bowl, then pick off each of the double black Daly chutes. Migrate to Lady Morgan Express and plow trenches through the Centennial trees. If you need a break, grab some grub at the Empire Canyon Lodge, where locals scarf up french fries smothered in Deer Valley’s famous turkey chili. Then head over to the runs on Bald Mountain, where you’ll find plenty of fresh snow, even at the end of the day. —Frederick Reimers
Must-Ski Run: Pay tribute to 1952 giant slalom Olympic gold medalist Stein Ericksen by ripping high-speed GS turns on the eponymous Stein’s Way.
Best Après: The Bloody Mary was invented by a bartender at the original St. Regis Hotel in New York; the Deer Valley outpost offers 7,452 variations in tribute to the bar’s elevation.
Local Tip: Triangle Trees at the base of Bald Mountain retains powder stashes the longest.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Vertical Rise: 4,139 feet
Acres of Terrain: 2,500
Average Snowfall: 459 inches
Atop Jackson’s famous tram is a sign that warns visitors to be careful. The resort is “like nothing you have skied before,” it warns. “You could make a mistake and suffer personal injury or death.” And that’s no bluff. Jackson Hole’s reputation as the country’s hardest ski resort is well earned. Runs like Alta 1 and the Expert Chutes will challenge any skier, and Corbet’s Couloir, a 50-degree plunge between rock walls, is North America’s most famous testing ground. (Riders will need to bring avalanche safety equipment and know how to use it.) For the rest of us, Jackson Hole is working hard to add more intermediate terrain. The new-for-2015 Teton Quad lift brings two long groomers, and recent improvements under the Casper chair have smoothed out runs there. Tired? Unbuckle your ski boots and tuck into nachos and microbrews at the famous Mangy Moose, or huddle around the outdoor hearths at the Four Seasons’ Handle Bar and order an elk burger with balsamic onions. Need a rest day? (You will.) Cross-country ski under the Cathedral Group in Grand Teton National Park, or tour the National Elk Refuge by horse-drawn sleigh. —F.R.
Must-Ski Run: Tower 3 Chute isn’t as famous at Corbet’s, but that means it’s slower to get tracked out.
Best Après: The Mangy Moose, which has been around since 1967, is an all-time classic.
Local Tip: Experts should hire a guide on a big powder day. With tramline priority, you can log more vertical feet than most heli-ski operations at a fraction of the price ($920 for a group of five).
Vertical Rise: 3,128 feet
Acres of Terrain: 3,148
Average Snowfall: 235 inches
The friendly staff, laid-back vibe, and fun-as-hell terrain make Keystone the ideal spot for a no-nonsense day on the slopes. Its three lift-accessed mountains are a fun network of blues for intermediate skiers, but experts can still find a good selection of tree-studded black terrain. If that’s not enough, snowcats will take advanced skiers up to the higher peaks above treeline for wide-open bowls that feed into the lower trails for quad-wrecking runs as long as 3.5 miles. Keystone’s A51 Terrain Park is considered one of the best rail, jump, and pipe playgrounds in the country. Kick off your boots and splurge on a three-course lunch at the Alpenglow Stube, and try to save some energy for later in the day, since Keystone boasts Colorado’s longest ski day—the lifts keep spinning until 8 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. When you’re finally done, crash at the Trappers Crossing Condominiums near the White River National Forest in East Keystone for a quieter stay away from the bustle, or stay out all night in River Run Village and crash at the ski-in/ski-out Lone Eagle Condominiums. —N.D.
Must-Ski Run: The legendary glades of the Windows.
Best Après: Kickapoo Tavern in River Run Village has a huge deck for bluebird afternoons.
Local Tip: Balance your chakras with an après hot-stone massage at Serenity Spa and Salon.
Park City, Utah
Vertical Rise: 3,200 feet
Acres of Terrain: 7,300
Average Snowfall: 355 inches
Park City merged with Canyons for the 2015 season, making it the country’s largest resort, featuring 7,300 acres, 38 lifts, and more than 300 runs. That includes the brand-new Quicksilver gondola, which connects the two areas. The terrain Quicksilver accesses is relatively flat and low in elevation, so plan on using it to traverse the megaresort rather than to access the goods. That’s okay, since both resort’s fantastic core terrain, like Park City’s Jupiter Bowls and the Canyons’ expert Ninety-Nine 90, is unchanged. More in the mood for flips and spins? The resort now boasts seven terrain parks, including the legendary King’s Crown, a big reason so many freestyle Olympians call Park City home. And despite Utah’s teetotaling reputation, downtown Park City’s nightlife is impressive. There’s everything from top-notch dining at Reef’s and Riverhorse on Main to dive bars like the No Name Saloon and O’Shucks. Word to the wise: some of the best skiing can be found during the Sundance Festival in January, when lodging is full of Hollywood gapers and the slopes are surprisingly empty. —F.R.
Must-Ski Run: Payday is the quintessential Park City cruiser.
Best Après: No Name Saloon on Main Street has been in business since 1903 and is a great place to grab a buffalo burger and a PBR.
Local Tip: On a powder day, ski the long, steep runs off of the Crescent lift rather than jetting right to the back bowls, which might take a couple of hours for patrol to open.
Vertical Rise: 1,900 feet
Acres of Terrain: 1,819
Average Snowfall: 400 inches
Groomed runs, beginner slopes, and fancy hotels do not exist at Silverton Mountain. If you’re looking for lattes or wine bars or kids’ lessons, better look elsewhere. But if you’re in search of steep skiing, deep powder, and a guide to show you the goods, it can’t be beat. Stay in the old mining town of Silverton, a few miles away—the newly revamped Benson Hotel is the place you want. The mountain's one and only chair lift, a creaky hand-me-down double, delivers you to 12,300 feet in elevation, and there’s no easy way down. So hike out the ridge, ski 3,000 vertical feet of untracked bowls and chutes, then hop aboard a converted bread truck back to the lift. For most of the season, you have to ski with a guide—avy gear is available for rent if you don’t have your own, as are fat skis—and you’ll want to make a reservation ahead of time. You’ll tackle runs with names like Mandatory Air, Nightmare, and Concussion Woods, but don’t worry, the terrain is doable if you’re a confident expert skier or rider. You’ll end your day around a keg in the yurt that makes up the mountain’s base lodge. —M.M.
Must-Ski Run: Don’t miss the hike out to Billboard, the top of the west-facing cirque. It’s a haul to get there, but the powder-filled chutes make it all worth it.
Best Après: Everyone congregates around the yurt at the end of the day, then heads into town to grab a locally brewed IPA at the Avalanche Brewing Company.
Local Tip: Early and late season, Silverton Mountain offers unguided skiing. If you’re confident navigating dicey terrain and want to save some money, plan a trip for December or April.
Ski Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Vertical Rise: 1,750 feet
Acres of Terrain: 660
Average Snowfall: 225 inches
There are two big advantages to skiing at the southern terminus of the Rocky Mountains: you get to ski in bluebird sun more often than not, and you get to look across 100 miles of mountains and high desert at the same time. Ski Santa Fe is very beginner friendly, with plenty of easy blue runs like Gayway and an overall mellow vibe that makes it a good pick for families and beginners. But experts will be challenged by the glades under the Millennium chair and the long bump runs under the quad. Locals and visitors alike are charmed by the resort’s laid-back, old-school feel. There are no hotels at the base—just a dive bar called Totemoff’s that serves decent drinks, spicy green chile stew, and fuel-intense Frito pies, and a bigger lodge with a small ski shop and cafeteria-style food—so plan to stay 18 miles down the mountain at one of dozens of good hotels in the town of Santa Fe. Try the Hotel St. Francis on the Plaza for swanky cocktails at the in-house bar. Garrett’s Desert Inn is cheapish and attached to Santa Fe Bite, which serves one of the best green chile cheeseburgers on earth. —Jonah Ogles
Must-Ski Run: The aptly named Big Rocks Glade lets you put on a show for everyone riding the Millennium chair.
Best Après: Totemoff’s on the mountain is great. In town, get a Silver Coin margarita and loaded nachos at the Cowgirl.
Local Tip: Book a private outdoor hot tub at the Ten Thousand Waves Spa, located between the mountain and downtown, for a soak after a long ski day.
Vertical Rise: 3,000 feet
Acres of Terrain: 3,000
Average Snowfall: 400 inches
Most Salt Lake City skiers stick to the closer, big-name resorts like Park City, Deer Valley, or Alta. Good for them. Because that means the powder at Snowbasin, just a little farther from town, is relatively wide open. It gets a little less depth on average than some nearby resorts, but you’ll still find the famously dry Utah snow after storms roll through, and the lighter traffic means virgin stashes can stay untouched for days. There are plenty of ways to play: four terrain parks with 65 rails and small or medium jumps for newbies, 26 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails through meadows and glades, or a lift-assisted four-lane tubing hill. And a surprising number of dining options fuel ski sessions, like the coffee and street tacos at Strawberry Deli & Cafe, or the John Paul Lodge, which serves wood-fired pizza, sandwiches, and majestic views of Mount Ogden. Snowbasin has no on-mountain lodging, so try any of a handful of nearby hotels, like the Lakeside Resort condos, ten minutes away, or downtown Ogden’s historic Ben Lomond Suites, which offers Snowbasin ski packages for two that include breakfast and lift tickets. —N.D.
Must-Ski Run: Any of the runs off the John Paul Express (we like Snow King), which yield some 2,400 feet of vert to the bottom of the lift.
Best Après: On-mountain, the Cinnabar inside Earl’s Lodge; in Ogden, the Shooting Star.
Local Tip: Gawk at aircraft from around the world and learn some aviation history at Ogden’s free 30-acre Hill Aerospace Museum.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Vertical Rise: 2,900 feet
Acres of Terrain: 2,500
Average Snowfall: 500 inches
Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon—home to Alta and Snowbird—is known for its abundance of light, dry snow. Snowbird’s average 500 inches of annual snow is considerably more than most resorts in Utah—or anywhere else in the country, for that matter. The tram will make you feel like you’re in the heart of the Alps: skiers and snowboarders squeeze in shoulder to shoulder for the ride to the top of 11,000-foot Hidden Peak. The rocky, chute-filled Cirque Traverse drops away underneath and lures in the hardiest riders on the mountain. Intermediates will enjoy the perfect groomers off Gadzoom and the open back bowls of Mineral Basin. Powder hounds will head toward the Thunder and Boundary Bowls off Gad 2, which feels as remote as the backcountry, and the steeps of Mount Baldy, the site of many big-mountain competitions. Start with breakfast at the Forklift (try the brioche french toast). For lunch, General Gritts in the tram building has made-to-order deli sandwiches that will power you through the day. —M.M.
Must-Ski Run: Great Scott, a bony, expert-only chute off the Cirque Traverse, is steep, scary, and awesome.
Best Après: Grab a can of cheap beer from the Birdfeeder window and soak up the sun on the tram deck.
Local Tip: Stay at the base of Snowbird—we like the slopeside rooms at the Cliff Lodge for its top-floor sushi and outdoor hot tubs—and if you’re lucky, a big storm will shut down the canyon access road and you’ll be “interlodged,” meaning the mountain is open only for those staying in the canyon.
Vertical Rise: 4,406 feet
Acres of Terrain: 3,332
Average Snowfall: 300 inches
Snowmass is a sprawling resort—Aspen’s biggest at 3,332 acres—with all the high-end amenities you would expect: excellent instruction, quality grooming, and plenty of spots to sip a martini at the end of the day. More than half of the mountain’s terrain is suitable for intermediates, with plenty of low-angle cut trails through the trees. Sheer Bliss might be one of the most fun groomed runs you’ll find anywhere—point it downhill and let it rip. Experts will head to the Cirque for above-treeline bowls and the Hanging Valley Glades for short but steep tree shots. Hit up Gwyn’s, a cozy, mid-mountain lodge, for a midday break. You can ride the free bus to Snowmass from Aspen, but you won’t regret booking a ski-in/ski-out suite at the Viceroy Snowmass. —M.M.
Must-Ski Run: Take the short hike up to Long Shot for a winding five-mile descent through the trees to the base.
Best Après: Venga Venga at the base area serves upscale Mexican cuisine—get guacamole prepared at your table and a salted margarita on the rocks.
Local Tip: Looking for a different kind of après-ski? Visit Slopeside Lanes, the bowling alley at the base of Snowmass, for pizza, beer, and gutterballs.
Vertical Rise: 2,047 feet
Acres of Terrain: 1,200
Average Snowfall: 500 inches
Solitude, as the name suggests, isn’t choked with the fanfare of big resorts. Frequent storms roll by to dump big, fluffy powder stashes in the canyon. In terms of terrain, there’s little separating Solitude from nearby Brighton, but a bigger vertical drop translates to more expert terrain, which accounts for 50 percent of the mountain. Another 40 percent goes to intermediate runs. (It’s not the best pick for beginners.) Honeycomb Ridge marks the ski area’s southern boundary and delivers a healthy serving of cliffs and no-fall slopes (avy beacons recommended). There’s also an excellent Nordic center with 20 kilometers of classic and skate-ski trails and ten more kilometers of well-marked, meandering snowshoe trails near the village. Fuel up on curry and naan bread at the yurt-like Roundhouse on the mountain, or grab appetizers like wild mushroom flatbread and marble fries at the Honeycomb Grill in the Village. Our favorite spot for lodging in the village is the Bavarian-style Inn at Solitude, just steps from the Apex Express. —N.D.
Must-Ski Run: The long, quad-burning Woodlawn threading Honeycomb Canyon right down to the base.
Best Après: The Library Bar in the Inn at Solitude.
Local Tip: Get a ski performance sports massage at the Solitude Mountain Spa. It’s designed to aid recovery, increase flexibility, and avoid injury.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Vertical Rise: 3,668 feet
Acres of Terrain: 2,965
Average Snowfall: 349 inches
Powder hounds flock to Steamboat for the smooth, dry, fluffy snow they’ve dubbed Champagne Powder. There’s also some of the best tree-skiing in the world—the mountain isn’t the steepest, but it makes up for it with endless glades of perfectly spaced aspen and spruce. That said, there’s plenty more moderate skiing for skiers who don’t consider dodging timber a good time. The Sunshine lift serves a whole network of moderate blues, perfect for low-key cruising. (Locals call the zone “Wally World.”) On-mountain food options range from warming hut baked potatoes to snowcat dinners at Four Points Lodge, which serves five-course meals with entrees like the locally sourced spinach mushroom ravioli. The Ski Inn (get it?) condos are a low-key option right on the slopes. For something a little more upscale, opt for the Victorian Luxury Bed & Breakfast, which features a hot tub, pool table, theater, and free après appetizers. —N.D.
Must-Ski Run: Shadows, off Sunshine Peak, is quintessential Steamboat—an uninterrupted 1,300 vertical-foot pitch of expertly gladed aspens.
Best Après: The Slopeside Grill takes over a huge section of the base area on warm days for an on-snow party.
Local Tip: The sprawling Strawberry Park hot springs put all other mountain-town pools to shame. The road up there is 4×4-mandatory during the winter, but the Hot Springs Shuttle will grab you from your hotel.
Vertical Rise: 3,400 feet
Acres of Terrain: 2,054
Average Snowfall: 220 inches
Sun Valley was the first resort in the country to get a lift, and parts of the 1936-vintage single chair still adorn various establishments around town. These days, the resort continues to lead the way technologically: its grooming and snowmaking are widely considered the best in North America, with snow guns capable of subtly shifting their output to craft different layers of snowpack. Because Sun Valley is so far from a major metro area—nearly three hours driving from Boise—there is never a line for any of the resort’s 21 lifts, and you can find fresh, cruisey corduroy all day long. For speedsters, that also means you can set an edge and open it up without fear of collision. Check out wide-open north-side cruisers like Limelight and Warm Springs, which plunge a continuous leg-burning 3,400-feet from the summit to the Warm Springs Day Lodge. When it snows, hit up the vast pow fields under the Mayday lift. Sun Valley’s day lodges are notably grand, but be sure to stop in for a leisurely lunch at the resort’s oldest structure, the Roundhouse, built in 1939 and halfway up the sunny side of the mountain. The interior is renovated, but the seating on the deck is what you are after. —F.R.
Must-Ski Run: Warm Springs is the perfect cruiser.
Best Après: Grumpy’s serves chili dogs and 32-ounce schooners of icy microbrews.
Local Tip: Instead of flying to Ketchum, where flights are frequently delayed, book a cheaper fare to Boise, a three-hour drive away.
Taos Ski Valley
Taos, New Mexico
Vertical Rise: 3,281
Acres of Terrain: 1,294
Average Snowfall: 305 inches
Taos is sunny: 300 days of sunshine means endless views of New Mexico’s high desert 5,500 feet below. But when the hill does get snow, the mountain becomes even more world-class and goes off, especially for rippers. More than half of the terrain is expert-only, and the new lift to the 12,481-foot summit of formerly hike-to-only Kachina Peak makes lapping those steeps easier than ever. Purists need not worry, though: untold acres of steeps on the Highline and West Basin ridges still require a bootpack, and fresh powder can be found on 45-degree runs plunging from the ridges of Stauffenberg and Spitfire even days after a storm. The base area has always been spartan, but new owner Louis Bacon is redeveloping it with a new hotel and retail space. Be sure to spend some time in the town of Taos, 30 minutes down the mountain. Go for the green chile beer at Eske’s Brew Pub, run by a Taos Ski Valley patroller, then get the boar tenderloin at the Love Apple, a 19th-century adobe chapel turned cozy farm-to-table joint. —F.R.
Must-Ski Run: Charge straight down Lift 1 on the sustained and steep Al’s Run.
Best Après: At the Bavarian near Chair 4, dirndl-clad servers sling käsespätzle, schnitzel, and mugs of fine German pilsner on a sunny slopeside deck.
Local Tip: Over the past few summers, the resort has been thinning the trees near the runs called Ernie’s and North American, on the mountain’s steep lower flanks. On windy days, hit them in late morning after they’ve been loaded up with fresh snow.
Vertical Rise: 4,425 feet
Acres of Terrain: 2,000
Average Snowfall: 309 inches
The best thing about Telluride—aside from its huge vert and penchant for powder days—is its blend of terrain that suits all abilities. Some 60 percent of the mountain is great for intermediates and beginners, who can bomb runs from the highest lift-served peaks and glimpse the sort of views typically reserved for experts. (Telluride is perched among the highest concentration of fourteeners in North America.) The more intrepid can hike past the upper reaches of the lifts to the powder stashes of Bald Mountain, Black Iron Bowl, Gold Hill Chutes, or Palmyra Peak, whose north face contains an additional 200 acres and 2,000 vertical feet of some of the country’s most spectacular in-bounds terrain. At lunchtime, head to Tomboy Tavern in Mountain Village for the stellar house-made veggie burger and any of 30 craft beers, or ski down See Forever from the Gold Hill Express lift for an on-mountain glass of wine. There are plenty of lodging options in Mountain Village or in town; try Mountainside Inn, a mere 100 yards from Lift 7, or the swankier Lumiere in Mountain Village. —N.D.
Must-Ski Run: Spiral Stairs, for quad-burning moguls.
Best Après: The bar at the New Sheridan Hotel gets started in the afternoon and doesn’t shut down until two in the morning.
Local Tip: Head to the Telluride Adventure Center to book a guided ice climb up Bridal Veil Falls.
Vertical Rise: 3,450 feet
Acres of Terrain: 5,289
Average Snowfall: 354 inches
The snow-slathered resort towering over Interstate 70 is composed of multiple connecting peaks strung across a broad 5,200 acres. Even though all of Denver skis here on weekends, they barely make a dent in a resort with this much awesome terrain. Start at the Lionshead base with a croissant breakfast sandwich at Les Delices De France, then link Chair 8 to Chair 2 and head toward Game Creek Bowl via Ouzo Glade—you’ll dodge the lift lines with that route. From the top of Game Creek Express, you can drop into a creamy Sundown Bowl on the backside. At the top of Chair 5, patrol headquarters at 11,250-feet, locals call it the top of the world. For low-angle groomers and mid-mountain cappuccinos, the front side is where it’s at. For the more adventurous, migrate to the wide-open Back Bowls, then escape the crowds in the far-out Blue Sky Basin. —M.M.
Must-Ski Run: Prima Cornice off the Northwoods chair is the steepest shot on the mountain. The upper gate accesses a risky no-fall zone. Slide into the second gate for an easier way into a sustained thousand-vertical-foot drop of northeast-facing powder.
Best Après: Vendetta’s in Vail Village has pizza slices and drink specials, and you can pet the ski patrol dogs that hang out there.
Local Tip: Belle’s Camp, the warming hut atop Blue Sky Basin, is a killer spot for spring barbecue sessions. BYO meat and cook up an outdoor picnic on a gas grill with views of the Sawatch Range.
Vertical Rise: 2,305 feet
Acres of Terrain: 3,000
Average Snowfall: 300 inches
Whitefish is all about diversity: there are long groomers, bowls, cliffs, and chutes to please every type of skier. In summer 2015, the resort literally moved mountains to widen the beginner-friendly area accessed by the Easy Rider lift, creating a perfect zone for adult lessons. Intermediates can try out the new Flower Point lift, which offers views of the North Fork of Glacier National Park, and experts will love the steeps in the North Bowl. At the end of the day, head to the Great Northern Brewery—it’s the tallest building in town, you can’t miss it. Check out views of Whitefish Mountain from the brewery’s upstairs bar with a pint. The town has a laid-back vibe, and locals in the area are often willing to share insights about their favorite runs or off-mountain hangouts. If you’re visiting from out of town, the Hibernation House Hotel is a good, low-priced option for ski-in/ski-out access.
Must-Ski Run: Inspiration is a sustained ridge cruiser with great views.
Best Après: The Bierstube in Mountain Village is a classic, wood-paneled ski-hill dive.
Local Tip: Take a day off and drive a few hours down the road to Glacier National Park. Consider hiring a local guide for a backcountry ski tour.