Top Five States To Visit For An Unforgettable Ski Vacation
The snow is beginning to fall across most of the United States. While for some this signifies approaching holidays and general merriment, for others it only means one thing: ski season has arrived.
Whether you prefer to click into a pair of skis or strap onto a snowboard, you know there’s nothing quite like flying down a fresh powder run. There’s something indescribable about the wind in your face and the sound of snow rushing beneath your feet.
As a winter sports lover, you sure picked a pastime that takes you to some of the most beautiful places in the United States. From the Rocky Mountains to the Sierra Nevadas, few things compare to hitting the slopes under a bright blue sky surrounded by nature’s wonders.
For a truly unforgettable ski vacation, there are five states to choose from to visit. These are the best places to ski and snowboard in the States, and arguably some of the best in the world. Read on and find out where your next winter vacation will take you!
Top 5 States for Ski Vacations
Wyoming might not be your first thought for an awesome ski adventure, but it certainly deserves consideration. Regardless of where you stay in Wyoming, you’re within a day’s drive of some legendary resorts. Two resorts are constantly vying for the role of top ski and snowboard spot in the state: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Resort.
Jackson Hole boasts the largest lift-accessed vertical drop in the country, at a whopping 4,139 feet. If that doesn’t get your adrenaline pumping, then toss in the dozens of cliffs, chutes, peaks, and bowls to really get your engine firing. Once you’re done flying down the mountain side, perfect your park skills in one of two terrain parks and a superpipe with a rope tow. If the thought of a over 4,000 foot vertical drop and a superpipe is a bit too daunting for the whole family, Jackson Hole also has a second, more accommodating-to-beginners mountain: Apres Vous.
Grand Targhee was made for adventurers who like to stray from the beaten path. If the lift lines of Jackson Hole prove to be a bit too time consuming, Grand Targhee provides a welcome escape. Many of the resorts features are ungroomed, so intermediate and advanced riders will be much more comfortable here. Back-country lovers will also rejoice at the challenge of tackling the backside of Grand Targhee Resort.
Utah prides itself on having “the best snow on earth”–it’s even on the state’s license plate! The snow is special here because of the Great Salt Lake, whose high levels of salt create special, dryer snow. While it isn’t the “driest” on the planet, the “unique blend of consistency and abundance” is what really makes it the best snow on earth.
Regardless of whether or not the snow in Utah is “the best,” one thing about the state is crystal clear. It’s the proximity and accessibility of Utah’s many ski-able mountains that sets this state far apart from the rest. If you stay in Salt Lake City, you’re less than an hour away in 3 directions from over a half dozen world-class ski resorts. Compare that to traveling to Colorado for a ski vacation, where you’ll have to drive at least 3 hours from the Denver airport to arrive at a ski hill.
Travel 33 miles north of Salt Lake City and you’ll find one of the oldest continually operating ski resorts in the United States: Snowbasin. The mountain even hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic alpine skiing races. Head east 34 miles from Salt Lake City and you’ll find The Canyons, Park City Mountain Resort, and Deer Valley, all of which are recognized globally for their general excellence. If you travel 30 miles to the south of the city, you’ll find another treasure trove of resorts. These include Brighton Ski Resort, Alta, Solitude Mountain Resort, and Snowbird. Clearly, if you’re looking for options on your next ski vacation, you have to go with Utah.
You may only think of visiting California just for the beaches, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice. Whether you travel to the coast of NorCal or SoCal, you’re just a few hours away from world-class skiing. In fact, California is one of the rare places in the world where you can surf and ski in the very same day.
In the northern portion of the state, the bulk of the resorts are located around the California-Nevada border near Lake Tahoe. The ski resorts here are referred to as the “big six.” Not only does this give breath-taking scenery, but it provides miles and miles of skiing to boot. The big six consists of Heavenly Ski Resort, Kirkwood, Northstar, Sierra at Tahoe, Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley.
Southern California’s skiing might not be what you’d expect from a place renowned for tepid temperatures, but it’ll certainly keep you coming back for more. Snow-making is clearly necessary in these parts, and the mountains located here are well-versed in the art of creating snow. If you’re a fan of park riding, you have to go to Bear Mountain. Bear’s park has been declared one of the best parks in the country on several occasions, and even has a plaza built by action-aficionados Red Bull. If high peaks are more your thing than a day in the park, head over to Mount San Antonio, more commonly referred to as Mount Baldy. Mount Baldy is the highest peak in all of Los Angeles County and dominates the backdrop to the city skyline.
You can’t talk about ski vacations in the United States without talking about Colorado. The state has over a dozen ski destinations for every skill level of skier and snowboarder. Essentially, there are two regions you can visit in Colorado where ski resorts are located, to the west of Denver and in the south-west portion of the state.
The heart of the state, west of Denver, is where you’ll find a handful of legendary resorts. The first you’ll encounter as you drive west from Denver is Loveland Ski Area, which is very popular with Colorado natives. Just south of Loveland is Keystone, one of the few resorts in the country that has night skiing. Yep, some of their ski runs are lit like a Christmas tree, which makes for a truly unforgettable vacation. South of Keystone lies Breckenridge Ski Resort, which offers world-class skiing and snowboarding. That term “world-class” is used frequently, but Breck’ really lives up to that distinction, as it is one of the most visited ski resorts in the entire western hemisphere. If you’re looking for a more luxurious ski vacation, you have to check out either Vail Ski Resort or Aspen Mountain. Vail Ski Resort is the second largest single-mountain ski resort in the United States. In contrast, Aspen Mountain actually includes the entirety of the Aspen Snowmass complex, which includes four ski areas. Why luxury you say? Aspen and Vail have been long-standing destinations for the who’s who of Hollywood for over a decade.
In the Colorado’s southwest, you’ll find 5 more incredible vacation destinations: Telluride, Wolf Creek, Purgatory at Durango, Crested Butte, and Silverton Mountain. If you want the Colorado-quality ski vacation, without the crowds, you’re best bet his sticking to the southwest. Telluride Ski Resort is widely considered to have the best terrain in all of Colorado. Even better, the free gondola is the main source of transportation in the entire town, which means no lift lines and no traffic. Wolf Creek is a family-owned mountain, and you’ll feel that closeness the second you arrive on the mountain. It’s the perfect resort for powder-lovers, as it gets an abundance of snow each year. Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort is the perfect destination for families. Along with over 1,500 skiable acres, it boasts a kids’ play area, too. Visiting Crested Butte Mountain Resort is like visiting another world. The ski town has no stop lights and no chain stores. What it does have is residents who warmly welcome everyone that visits the pristine mountain village. Only expert and advance riders need visit Silverton Mountain, as it is challenging as well as breathtaking. The resort offers unmatched big-mountain powder with no groomers. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, book a heli skiing trip by the run or for the entire day.
For an absolutely unique ski vacation with scenery that is difficult to picture unless you’ve seen it with your own eyes, visit Alaska. What makes Alaskan skiing so unique is that its high mountaintops are situated at sea-level, creating Mother Nature’s perfect snow-making conditions. In Alaska, you can choose to stick near Anchorage for skiing, or venture out to uncharted territory.
Within an hour of Anchorage are three incredible resorts to visit: Hilltop Ski Area, Arctic Valley Ski Area, and Alyeska Resort. Hilltop Ski Area is a stone’s throw from downtown Anchorage, at just a 15 minute drive. The runs are fairly mellow, and for park-lovers there’s a permanent halfpipe. Arctic Valley Ski Area has just 2 lifts, but its 1,214 vertical feet don’t leave much to be desired. Now, the title of the “premier” ski destination in Alaska has to go to Alyeska Resort. Alyeska’s steep terrain and deep snowpack keep locals and visitors coming back year after year.
Ready to venture out into uncharted territory? Head out into Alaska’s backcountry with a heliskiing trip. There are numerous heliskiing companies throughout Alaska, and the one you choose will be heavily based on what location you wish to explore. In the region of Haines, Alaska, the unrivaled choice is Alaska Heliskiing. The no-frills operations is not only safe, but the price is such that you can have several days of adventures. Valdez Heli-Ski Guides is another provider of Alaskan heliskiing adventures. Valdez also offers cat skiing operations on days when it’s unsafe to fly.
Unforgettable memories await you no matter where you choose to embark on your ski vacation. Be sure check if the spot that most interests you features the IHG® property of your choice. From the midland mountains of Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, to the coastal mountains of California, all the way up north to the towering mountains of Alaska, the snow is calling you. When will you answer?