With hundreds of ski destination options across North America, choosing the perfect one for yourself, your family or group of friends that fit your budget and preferences can be daunting. That’s where we come in with our handy roundup, comprised by our well-traveled staff and Mountain Travel Experts, who average 26 years in the ski-travel industry. Based on our deep knowledge, we’ve matched each skier or group type to several ski resorts that will accommodate them best.
Jump to what you want to discover:
Park City, Utah
The largest ski area in North America provides varied terrain from groomed runs to terrain parks, but boasts 60 percent dedicated to beginner or intermediate skiers and riders. “Park City Mountain is great for families because there is more to do than just ski, says Ski.com Mountain Vacation Expert Jamie Bangerter, “Park City actually has a charming Main Street with lots of history and things to see.” Downtown Park City has over 100 restaurants sure to please every palate, while nearby Gorgoza Tubing Park is great for an off-hill activity, the historic town features an old mining history and museums, and the nearby Utah Olympic Park from the 2002 games hosts many activities for families. In addition, the resort has a mountain coaster, nighttime sleigh rides and world-class terrain parks where the pros are busy training for the Olympics. The “proximity to Salt Lake City airport makes vacations at Park City ultra-convenient, you can get to the resort in just around a half an hour,” says Ski.com’s Dan Sherman. The convenience of which lessens the schlep factor that comes with family ski trips and a lot of gear.
“Snowmass is one of the ultimate destination for family trips,” says Dan Sherman, CMO of Ski.com. “From the world-class ski school to the 25,000 square foot Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Facility – Snowmass goes above and beyond expectations.” The Treehouse Adventure Facility Sherman refers to, for example, was built by the same people who built Universal Studios. The learning area is located at the top of the gondola, which will feature a new mountain coaster in December. While many of the runs are groomed nightly, a handful are also groomed mid-day for a pleasurable skiing and riding experience. In addition, 95% of Snowmass’ accommodations are ski-in, ski-out, meaning it’s easier to get the kids on the slopes in the morning, home for lunch and all without schlepping gear back and forth. Family-friendly activities include tubing, dog sledding and an Ice Age Discovery Center. Finally, kids get a free lift ticket with qualifying rentals.
Pedestrian-friendly villages and the big, yet easy-to-navigate mountain make Vail a great family destination, with terrain and activities for everyone. With a free in-town bus system, shuttles to and from the airport, and pedestrian-friendly villages – you won’t need to rent a car for a ski trip to Vail. The huge back bowls and front-side terrain offer something for everyone in the family. Game Creek Bowl, for example, is family-friendly and has astounding views of the surrounding peaks. Off-hill activities include the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, shopping, ice skating in Lionshead Square, tubing and ski biking at Adventure Ridge (top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola).
Learn about more top family resorts→
The newly renovated Spruce Peak base area at Stowe caters to beginner skiers and riders. The ski-in, ski-out Spruce Peak Hotel makes easy work of schlepping gear, while the conveniently located Adventure Center hosts the Children’s Ski and Ride Center. The base area offers access to a magic carpet and two lifts that only service green runs, making it ideal for those just starting out. The Easy Street and Meadows runs progress beginners offering slightly more challenging terrain. The Forerunner Quad provides access from the Mansfield Base to the longest green run on the mountain, Toll Road, which is 3.7 miles. In addition, from children, to teens, to adults, Stowe’s Ski & Snowboard School has been teaching lessons for almost 80 years and offers a variety of lessons to those just starting out.
Sun Peaks, British Columbia
There’s nothing worse than suffering through learning a new sport when it’s cold, dark and unfriendly outside. Sun Peaks, British Columbia offers ample sunshine (approximately 2,000 hours of sunshine per year!) and beautiful views. Natural terrain divisions separate more advanced runs from beginner runs – ensuring that guests wont accidentally get in over their heads. Beginners have plenty of terrain to choose from, especially at the Sundance area. Mount Morrisey, which is accessed via a long green run from Sundance, also has several ideal gentle green groomers to master skills and take in views. In addition, Sun Peaks is conveniently located only 45 minutes from the Kamloops International Airport and less than two hours from the Kelowna International Airport- making it a breeze to access so travelers can spend more time on the slopes, and less in the car navigating traffic and winter road conditions.
Copper Mountain, Colorado
“Copper Mountain is naturally divided into sections based on difficulty of terrain,” says Dan Sherman. Those just starting out don’t have to worry about sharing the slopes with experts whizzing by. Almost the entire looker’s right—West Village area—of the mountain is for beginner skiers. Beginners, especially first time skiers, have terrain that allows for perfect progression from surface lift (magic carpet), and relatively flat slopes, to small chairlifts with slightly longer and more inclined trails, and so on and so forth, all the way to green trails from the top of Union Peak to the base area. Ski lessons range from ages 3 to adult, with options that include limited or private group sizes for personalized attention. Equipment rental programs are also available with lessons.
Learn more about top beginner resorts→
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
“Steamboat is an intermediate-skiers playground,” says Ski.com’s Dan Sherman, “famous for it’s gladed tree skiing, the pitch is perfect – you’ll feel like a hero.” More than 40 percent of Steamboat’s 2,965 acres of terrain labeled as “intermediate,” making options feel endless. In addition, state-of-the-art grooming capabilities make the groomers at Steamboat some of the world’s best. The terrain is well dispersed, allowing skiers of all abilities to explore the mountain, progress, and even ski together.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
“Beaver Creek is a big mountain offering intermediate terrain that includes everything from steep pitches that serve as World Cup race courses to wide-open cruisers. Combined with world-class grooming, Beaver Creek is an intermediate skier’s heaven” says Ski.com’s Dan Sherman. Those looking for long, sustained runs on meticulously groomed snow will find it in abundance at Beaver Creek. There are more than 805 acres of groomed runs at Beaver Creek, and every single inch is manicured to perfection every single morning. Intermediate skiers, ex-racers with a penchant for corduroy, and visiting skiers flock to the base of Beaver Creek for first chair in the morning, not searching for powder stashes but because the promise of untouched, pristine groomers is too good to sleep in.
One of the most popular resorts in the country, Breckenridge offers groomed runs off each of the resorts five peaks. From bowl-skiing on Peak 6 to perfectly manicured groomers pretty much everywhere, intermediate terrain at Breckenridge is endless. A state-of-the-art ski school is available for those looking to take their skills to the next level. In addition, Guest Service volunteers offer free tours of the resort for intermediates (and advanced skiers) to orient first time visitors.
Learn more about top intermediate resorts→
Top Resorts for Advanced Skiers & Riders
Big Sky, Montana
There’s a lot of exposed, steep and technical skiing and snowboarding to be done at Big Sky Resort. Big Sky boasts 5,750 acres of ski and rideable terrain and tops out at 11,164 feet at the top of Lone Peak. Hosting extreme skiing competitions year after year, the Headwaters area of Moonlight Basin is an exposed, hike-to area that challenges even the best around. From the top of the tram on Lone Peak, advanced skiers and riders with backcountry experience and equipment can ski the famed Big Coulouir, with sheer cliffs on both sides and a solid 50 degree pitch. While challenging terrain abounds even lower on the mountain (check out the area under the Challenger lift), the resort flies under the radar, with little to no crowds and great snowfall.
Squaw boasts some of the most iconic lines in North America, many of which have been made famous by ski movie heroes. Experts have options ranging from the fun, groomed steeps of the Women’s Downhill trail to a multitude of chutes, couloirs, huge cliffs and cornices that litter the resort’s ridge-line boundary between KT-22 peak and Granite Thief. All of these legendary lines are right below the chairlifts, so everyone can experience the “Squallywood” show. If you’re looking to get extreme, there are few resorts that can offer challenge-seekers what Squaw can.
With 41 percent of the terrain marked as “expert,” advanced skiers and riders will feel right at home on the steeps of Telluride. With stunning views of the San Juan mountains in every direction, challenging runs are easily accessed from the chairlifts. Telluride boasts thousands of vertical feet of bumps for mogul-lovers and hike-to terrain for thrill seekers. Hike all the way to the top of Palmyra Peak for a stunning and literally breath-taking steep descent littered with terrain reminiscent of the Alps.
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For Nightlife & Après-Ski
“There are more than 100 bars and restaurants in the historic mining town, known as some of the ‘best of the best’ for dining and drinking,” says Ski.com’s Dan Sherman. “The Belly Up is disputably the best music venue in the mountains,” he adds, “there’s definitely a party vibe in Aspen.” In addition to the restaurant and music scene, Aspen boasts world-class après-ski options on mountain and in-town. From the Veuve Clicquot fueled champagne showers that happen every day, on-mountain at the Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro to the sun-basking and dance parties at the Ajax Tavern, lively joints abound.
“A mining town with more restaurants and bars than you can visit in one trip, Breckenridge has the longest standing liquor license west of the Mississippi at the Gold Pan” says Dan Sherman. Nightclubs like Cecelia’s and the famed Breckenridge Brewery are just two of the 30 plus establishments that line Main Street. Après-ski scenes, such as the discounted tacos and margaritas at Mi Casa and two-for-one martinis at the Blue River Bistro, keep you fueled and ready to take on the night with specials between 4 p.m.–6 p.m. Historic locales, such as the Brown Hotel and Briar Rose are rumored to be haunted or once served as a brothel. Breckenridge is an ultimate resort for bachelor parties to spring break escapes.
Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler Village is renowned for it’s nightlife. From sushi to nightclubs, the party vibe is strong at this Canadian resort. Dan Sherman suggests checking out the Bearfoot Bistro’s Ice Room, “one of the world’s coldest places to taste vodka.” An upscale nightlife spot, the Ice Room has more than 50 vodkas from around the world, stored in a sub-zero room that makes the vodka ideal for tasting. Puffy coats are provided. Merlin’s is also well-known for offering some of the town’s best live music with cold, cheap beers! For those seeking the late-night night club experience, Tommy Africa’s and Maxx Fish Nightclub are the places to be.
Learn more about top resorts for après-ski→
For Luxury Seekers
Beaver Creek, Colorado
With fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies served daily at the base of the Centennial Express Chairlift, what’s not to love at Beaver Creek? Heated walkways and escalators make walking in ski boots easy while skier bridges connect the mountain to all base lodging. Like a VIP airline club, the mountain’s White Carpet Club offers an elegant lounge with Wi-Fi and fresh coffee and pastries, private lockers, boot dryers, preferred parking, slope side ski valet, personal assistance with lift tickets and dinner reservations. Enjoy a private cookie chef at 3 p.m. One can also enjoy White Glove First Tracks for early ups, followed by five-star gourmet breakfast in an on-mountain cabin (all before the mountain opens). Mountain dinging is also top of the line. Take an open-air sleigh to the top and Allie’s Cabin where you can enjoy wine dinners that feature celebrated wineries. Beano’s Cabin also offers sleigh rides to mountain top dining. There enjoy a five-course meal, featuring local and seasonal ingredients and Colorado proteins. There’s live guitar, a warm fireplace, and floor to ceiling windows offering glimpses of the White River National Forest surrounding you.
Deer Valley, Utah
There are many, many reasons to name Deer Valley one of the most luxurious resorts in North America. To start, the resort boasts lavish bathrooms, countless floor to ceiling fireplaces to warm your fingers and toes, a chic lodge atmosphere and an incredible list of services and amenities such as: free ski valet, free parking and shuttle and complimentary tissue handouts in the lift line. I’m not sure it adds to luxury, but snowboarders are not allowed at Deer Valley. The resort limits the number of lift ticket sold daily to just over 7,000, while its actual uphill capacity tops out near 50,000. So you can bet that crowded slopes and long lift lines won’t be an issue as you explore 2,000 skiable acres of bowls, glades and wide-open meticulous groomers. For midday après or an afternoon pick up, visit the Après Lounge, a cozy atmosphere decorated by Gorsuch featuring exclusively Veuve Clicquot champagnes. Enjoy caviar pairings, local cheeses and charcuterie. Fireside Dining, open during the holidays, features four courses inspired by the European Alps, served from stone fireplaces at the Empire Canyon Lodge in the upper mountain area. Dining at Stein Eriksen or St. Regis is highly recommended as well.
The town of Aspen hosts four incredible ski mountains, award-winning fine dining, high-end shopping and was once named the most expensive town in America by Fox News. Wi-Fi is available on the gondolas, and with a handful of red gondolas having music jacks, you can plug in your phone and listen to your own music on the way up to ski. Aspen Mountain offers private Powder Tours to untracked glades and runs on the backside of the mountain. A gourmet lunch is included. Après-ski is taken very seriously at Aspen and can be very glamorous. The Oasis is a pop-up mobile Champagne bar towed around Aspen Mountain on a snowcat and the very essence of Aspen après-ski. Cloud Nine on Aspen Highlands is also of note. If you’re looking to combine après with luxury, book a reservation at 2 p.m. seating. You can also book snowcat dinners there. The Lynn Britt Cabin on Snowmass has an incredible wine list and is a popular, high-end on-mountain après-ski spot, especially in the spring. Stay at the Little Nell in Aspen, a Five-Star, Five-Diamond hotel, known for it’s customer service and elegance. Amenities include personal grocery shopping, luggage shipping, packing and unpacking services, on-call physicians and pet-friendly accommodations that will make you jealous. The Little Nell even offers its own cat skiing package.
Learn more about top luxury resorts→
For the Powder Hungry
Revelstoke, British Columbia
Part of Canada’s Powder Highway, “Revy” was formerly a cat-skiing and heli-skiing zone. This British Columbia resort receives anywhere from 480 to 720 inches of snow annually. With 5,620 vertical feet, which is 300 feet more than Whistler Blackcomb, Revelstoke offers among some of North America’s longest lift-served vertical. Its longest run, Last Spike, is 9.5 miles long. Thanks to its close proximity to the resort and downtown Revelstoke, it’s also among the world’s most convenient and affordable places to base your cat-skiing or heli-skiing trip out of. With outfits like Selkirk Tangiers, heli-skiing in Revelstoke provides virtually unlimited terrain.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
World-renowned for its steeps, tight couloirs and big drops, Jackson Hole also boasts whopping average of 459” of snowfall per year. Last year, Jackson had it’s snowiest winter on record, receiving almost 600 inches. With breathtaking views of the Tetons, Jackson is also conveniently located near Yellowstone National Park, accessible in the winter view snowmobile or snow coach. Tram laps offer skiers and riders 4,000 vertical feet each run, with plenty of powder and terrain to satisfy all levels of skiers. Powder seekers with backcountry skills and equipment will love the hike-to terrain, while options inbounds include powder-filled bowls, bumps and steeps. Add a heli day at High Mountain Heli to your ski trip for the ultimate powder experience. Take up to six runs in a day on their over 300,000 acres of powder-filled terrain.
Quickly becoming a bucket list destination for those seeking deep powder-filled days on the mountain, Japan is one of Ski.com s most popular international destinations. “Niseko, Japan is one of the most unique and wonderful ski resorts I have ever been to,” says Ski.com Mountain Vacation specialist, Tracy Clemens. “From glade skiing to world-class powder, the adventures, cuisine and culture of Niseko should be on everyone’s world bucket list of ski adventures.” With an average of around 600 inches of snowfall per year, Niseko is the largest and easily most famous ski destination in Japan. While backcountry skiing is most popular here, the resort also offers on-piste blues and green. This winter, Ski.com is offering a guided trip to the area—meaning all you have to do is show up, the trip leader and guides will take care of the rest (lodging, transportation, some meals and activities).
Learn more about top powder resorts→
For those on a Budget
For travelers on a budget, Ski.com suggests flying into Reno on budget carrier, Southwest for an inexpensive flight. There, casino hotels offer off-hill excitement and start at around $115/night. Save money on lift tickets and purchase Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass as well, which works at Heavenly and Kirkwood. As long as you don’t spend all your money at the casinos, this destination is wallet-friendly and packed with awe-inspiring views and terrain.
Conveniently located close to the airport hub of Denver, traveling to Keystone is easier and more budget-friendly than other hard-to reach locations. Keystone offers moderately priced condos such as The Lodge at Keystone as well as condos with kitchens to save money by not eating out or on the hill. Kids ski free at Keystone with a qualifying two-night stay and night skiing is free the day you arrive. An added bonus, your Keystone lift ticket will also work at Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin and provides limited access to Vail and Beaver Creek (and so is night skiing, in case you’r itching for more).
Winter Park, Colorado
Just like Keystone, Winter Park is located within driving distance of the major airline hub, Denver international Airport. Accessible by most major carriers, as well as budget-carrier, Frontier Airlines, travelers can save money with flight deals and by avoiding peak time (such as the holidays). Lodging in Winter Park in mid-January comes in at under $125/night, with some of the nicest and best-selling properties ranging from $170-$300/night. These rates are a far cry from normal ski resort properties.
Learn more about budget-friendly resorts→
For Off the Beaten Path Seekers
Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley started as a playground for European nobility and Hollywood stars in 1936, when it opened the world’s first chairlift. Today it is home to a handful of Olympians and remains under the radar. Bright, sunny days with comfortable temperatures combined with long, wide-open groomed runs and awesome scenery are the many reasons to add Sun Valley to your bucket list of ski resorts. The resort offers a laid-back atmosphere with the highest standards of service as well as over 70 runs, a 3,400-foot vertical drop and more uphill capacity, per skier, than any other ski area. “The best part about Sun Valley,” says Dan Sherman, “ is that you can still drive to and park at the base of the mountain for free. You’ll never have worry about standing in lift lines, not even on a powder day.” Characteristics you’d be hard-pressed to find at the majority of North American ski resorts.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Nestled far away from major cities, Crested Butte lacks the convenience of other Colorado ski resorts located off I-170. But for that, this unique and beautiful ski experience is worth the extra travel and known as “the last great Colorado ski town.” Truly one-of-a-kind, the charming old mining town with a Victorian flair offers character and great dining options, while the mountain serves up some of the most extreme terrain in Colorado (check out Spellbound Bowl and Teocali Bowl). Beginners and Intermediates will also enjoy the lower half of the mountain, home to long sustained groomers with little to no crowds. Few resorts offer up this type of world-class terrain to all levels of skiers.
Red Mountain, British Columbia
For amazing skiing and three-bedroom condos with private hot tubs on the cheap, Red Mountain is the affordable luxury resort you’ve been dreaming of but maybe never heard of. The ski area is considered by some as one of the last great undiscovered resorts. Located in the low-key town of Rossland, B.C., Red Mountain is two hours from Spokane International Airport. Since its beginning back in 1896, Red Mountain has retained the charm on which its reputation was built. With terrain for all abilities, from wide-open groomers to steep tree skiing, Red Mountain offers up something for everyone. Take advantage of the Canadian exchange rate for additional savings and put this resort on your bucket list.
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com managing the website and blog content, I couldn't be happier. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.