So you’re looking to ski at one of the best? Ask a hundred skiers their ten favorite resorts, and you’ll probably get a hundred different answers. We don’t always agree on the ingredients of a good resort, but even when we do, we each have our own preferences. Some of us look for hair-raising steeps or solitude in the trees, while others want wide well-groomed corduroy. At least, that’s how the conversation went here at SnowPak as we tried to figure out our top 10 US resorts.
After a few round of beers and righteous table thumping, we eventually we came up with the list you see here. It’s all subjective, of course, but at the very least, we hope to inspire you to get some epic skiing done this winter! So without further ado, here are the resorts which made our cut:
Formerly two separate resorts, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are now known as one resort as you can ski both under one lift ticket. However, since you can’t ski between the two without taking a shuttle, and because we love the terrain at Squaw Valley more, we’ve decided to include it alone in our top 10.
- Best terrain on the West Coast
- Unbeatable when it snows
- Ski Alpine Meadows with same ticket
- Free night skiing
- Snow quality and volume varies
- Potential crowds
- Not great for beginners
Situated on Tahoe’s western shore and close to Interstate 80, Squaw Valley has, in our opinion, the best terrain in the Tahoe area and arguably the entire West Coast, winning the hearts of expert skiers. On powder days you won’t be disappointed with the snow that blankets the top-notch steeps. With stunning views of Lake Tahoe while you ski, Squaw Valley is sure to impress!
Terrain: The resort covers 6 peaks with over 4,000 acres of terrain served by an efficient lift system to keep you lapping all day! Want more? Ski nearby at Alpine Meadows with the same ticket. That’s another 2,000+ acres to explore! These days, you’ll have to take a short shuttle ride to get there, but look for a gondola linking the two in the near future.
Snow quality: Weather can be a challenge in Squaw, which sometimes falls prey to the feast-or-famine nature of Sierra snowfall. It also has the lowest base area in Tahoe, so when it warms up some of the lower runs sees rain. But when the snow gods smile, you’ll find even the most extreme terrain well-covered, so you can ski all day and even the night (which is free with a full day or afternoon ticket!). Best part is, half the ski area faces north which helps preserve the snow, so some years the season can run into late May.
The accessibility can be a mixed blessing. Situated on Tahoe’s western shore and close to Interstate 80, Squaw Valley is easy to get to from Reno, Sacramento, and the San Francisco Bay Area but this also means an influx of weekend warriors from the Bay Area.
Town: The base village doesn’t compare to those in Colorado but there’s still a great selection of restaurants and bars. Alternatively, check out the town of Truckee, only 20 minutes away.
It’s not the cheapest ticket in Tahoe, but when the conditions are right, we’d argue it’s worth the cost and braving the crowds.
Known for: Top-notch steeps, stunning views
- Highest lift in North America
- Bustling historic mining town with chilled vibes
- Wide range of lodgings from modest to luxury
- Epic wind chill
- Snow can be blow-packed into a crusty shell
Breckenridge, or Breck, is the real deal. How do we know? Last season it was the most visited resort in the US! Its crown jewel is the Imperial Express Super Lift, the highest lift in North America, which drops you off at 12,480 feet. With plenty of high alpine skiing on offer and a notorious nightlife, Breck is definitely not to be missed!
Terrain & Snow quality: Breck has a nice selection of terrain that spreads out over five peaks with 2,908 acres of skiable terrain. Experts will definitely like the hair-raising chutes and expansive bowls, and there are plenty of groomers, glades and moguls to keep things interesting. The elevation and cold temperatures mean you won't have to worry about the snow getting heavy and sticky until late in the season. Although when the wind picks up, you might find yourself skiing on some crusted snow!
Town: This historic mining town is known for its nightlife with plenty of shopping, dining and drinking options (including saloons older than the ski area). After a big day on the slopes and an even bigger night in town, there’s wide variety of accommodation for you to wind down in. Whether it’s a ski-in/ski-out lodge or a simple room, Breck has something to suit every budget, big or small.
Crowds: The diverse terrain, variety of lodging and fantastic après ski brings makes it a popular ski destination, so if you’re prepared to brave the crowds, this place is a stunner!
Known For: High alpine skiing, bustling town big on character
- Skiers only
- World-class extreme terrain
- High volume of famous Utah powder
- Skiers only
- Limited dining, nightlife, and shopping
Alta is a throwback to skiing as it used to be, and not just because of its snowboarding policy. While there have been some upgrades, you can still find yourself on fixed double chairlifts – though after hitting some of these extraordinary steeps, you might look forward to the rest! Top it off with Utah’s famous powder dumps and Alta is irresistible for skiers!
Terrain & Snow quality: Alta is one of the very last resorts in the US to prohibit snowboarders, which makes it famous in some circles and infamous in others. If you’re a skier, be prepared to be buried in snow. Alta sees more snow than almost any other American resort, averaging over 550 inches of that amazing Utah powder every year. All that snow falls on incredible steeps, chutes, and tree runs for some truly amazing extreme terrain. While there is only 2,200 acres of skiable area, there are plenty of runs for every skier. If that’s not enough for you, just upgrade your ticket to ski neighboring Snowbird as well.
Town: Here, it’s all about the mountain. There are a handful of lodges at the base offering a range of lodgings and inclusive dining packages, but no nightclubs or stores; on the other hand, Salt Lake City is close enough that Alta is on the public bus route!
If you want a vacation where you can focus on a full day shredding the slopes before enjoying a hearty, convenient dinner and a couple relaxing drinks, Alta is definitely worth checking out… as long as you’re on two planks.
Known For: No frills skiing on tons of pillowy soft powder!
- Top-notch glade skiing
- “Champagne” powder
- No crowds
- Relax in their geothermal hot springs
- Authentic Western town
- Chance of poor snow quality on lower half of mountain due to low elevation
- Located further from Denver than most Colorado resorts
- Higher priced lodging and dining
Steamboat Springs is what happens when skiers meet cowboy country, so we’ll understand if you feel the need to buy a Stetson to replace your helmet. It’s the home of the oldest ski hill in Colorado and more Winter Olympians than any other place in the US! Tells you something about the skiing right?
Terrain & Snow quality: Steamboat offers 2,965 acres of diverse terrain, but its claim to fame is its glade skiing - some of the best in Colorado! What makes it special is that the tree runs aren’t just restricted to experts but are available for skiers of all abilities. If this isn’t enough, its light, dry and fluffy ‘champagne’ powder is the cherry on the cake, making it incredibly easy to blow through. On the flip side, it doesn’t always get a lot of snow, and the relatively low elevation means the snow does degrade quicker.
Town & Crowds: For all its rustic charm, the town is far from major airports and not easily accessible. This does deter the crowds, but only on weekdays. The limited lodging and dining options in this small town also means higher end pricing. But if you can afford the cost, brave the travel, and lucky enough with the snow, Steamboat Springs is definitely among the best! From experiencing some of the most incredible tree skiing around to staying in the wonderfully authentic Old West town, Steamboat Springs will amaze you. Don’t forget to try their geothermal hot springs!
Known For: World-class glade skiing
- World-class grooming
- Great snow conditions practically guaranteed
- Efficient lift system with short lines
- Free chocolate chip cookies every afternoon
- High-end pricing
- Limited bowl skiing
- No terrain above the tree line
Beaver Creek is Colorado’s newest resort, and it screams luxury both on and off the slopes. Ten minutes west of Vail, it’s a smaller resort that is often overshadowed by Vail (and its brand). Of course, that also means it sees fewer crowds than its sister resort. On the slopes, expect runs groomed to perfection. Off the slopes, pamper yourself at the base village purposely built for the resort.
Terrain: Unlike Vail, Beaver Creek lacks high-alpine terrain with nothing no runs above the tree line. The terrain it does have, however, is impeccably groomed. It’s good enough to warrant a stop on the World Cup tour (the Birds of Prey downhill, in case you were wondering), and you can bet they have the snowmaking to ensure good conditions for the racers AND you!
The majority of trails are beginner and intermediate runs and unlike many other resorts, most of their runs don’t plunge straight along the fall line but instead meander their way down, offering a scenic and unique skiing experience. You’ll get around the mountain quickly on an efficient network made up mostly of high-speed lifts, and you’ll rarely spend much time in line. There’s a decent amount of advanced terrain, though if your focus is steep chutes and gnarly bumps, you may be happier at places like Breck.
Town: The base village is compact and easy to get around with plenty of off-slope activities, including a performing arts center that hosts everything from Broadway plays to the latest Warren Miller movie. The escalators taking you from the village to the slopes prove pampering is as much a part of Beaver Creek’s identity as the skiing itself. So if you want to relax in comfortable extravagance after your day on top-notch groomed slopes, and your budget allows it, you’ll have a hard time beating Beaver Creek.
Known For: Immaculate grooming, luxurious pampering
- Tons of world-class snow
- Efficient lift system
- Epic terrain
- Long seasons
- Not suited the best resort for beginners
- Limited nightlife and shopping
Love rugged terrain? Snowbird serves up some of the best expert terrain for shredders with steeps and chutes to trees and bowls. It is home to many professional free riders and extreme skiers, and play hosts to several international free-skiing competitions over the years. Best of all, Snowbird sees dumps of that famous Utah pow on a north-facing aspect, keeping it fresh and light!
Terrain: The terrain here is truly for the adventurous with double black runs of trees, chutes, and cliffs to keep advanced and experts busy. The efficient lift system here will make exploring this extreme terrain easy. They even have a conveyor that takes you through a mountaintop tunnel and into the backside to Mineral Basin where there’s stacks of powder bowls to tackle!
Snow quality: Like its neighbor, Alta, Snowbird is graced with incredible amounts of “the greatest snow on earth” on a north-facing aspect that maintains its quality. In fact, since it’s not constrained by the Forest Service like other resorts, Snowbird keeps serving up turns well into the summer months!
Town: There’s not much of a town at Snowbird with only a handful of restaurants and bars in the small village, though there is a variety of cuisine. Nightlife and shopping is also limited here but luckily Salt Lake City is only a short drive or public bus ride away! The lodging options at Snowbird are clean and comfortable, and the resort fosters a reputation for great customer service. So this place is perfect if your focus is on the snow!
Known For: Deep powder and great terrain at a resort where it’s all about the slopes
- Four distinct ski areas, all accessible under one ticket
- Efficient lift systems
- Impeccably groomed slopes
- World-class ski town with generous après ski
- Further from airport than most destination resorts
- Need to hike to terrain above tree line
- Inconsistent snowfall
- High-end pricing
The ultimate ski destination for the rich and famous, Aspen is one of those iconic places that has been serving up the goods for over 70 years. In that time, it’s evolved into four separate ski areas: Aspen (also known as Ajax Mountain), Snowmass, Buttermilk, and Aspen Highlands. They’re all linked by a shuttle system, accessible with a single ticket, and clustered around one of the greatest ski towns in the world.
Terrain & Snow quality: There’s more than 5,550 acres of incredible skiable terrain between the four ski areas but if we had to pick one, it would be Aspen Highlands which has fewer crowds than Aspen Mountain and Snowmass. You’ll find some of Colorado’s best expert in-bounds terrain here with the Highland Bowl offering 1,040 acres of in-bounds backcountry at the high-elevation of 12,392 feet! If you’re after intermediate options, though, check out Buttermilk and Snowmass. While the terrain here at Aspen is top-notch, the snowfall can be unreliable compared to other resorts. When it’s thin, the steeps can be rocky so early season visits can be a gamble.
Town: Aspen is the king of après ski with endless dining and nightlife options! Hit up the bar at Ajax Tavern for live DJs or check out Wintersköl, a family friendly festival with ice carvings and fireworks. Powderhounds should go see the gnarly tricks at the annual Winter X Games!
For all the glitz and glamour that brings celebrities here, Aspen does come at a price, especially if you want to stay closer to the slopes. You might have to splurge a bit more at Aspen, but if you can find the means to visit Aspen, you won’t regret it!
Known For: Four distinct areas all close together and accessible on one ticket, clustered around an iconic ski town
- Largest ski area in Colorado
- Charming European style village
- Long, wide runs with top-notch grooming
- Plenty to do off the slopes
- Crowds can be annoying
- Expensive place to ski
- Lack of steep terrain
- More “corporate polish” than “local charm”
- Could get stuck in town if a snowstorm closes Vail pass
Vail, is like as they say, ‘nothing on Earth’! It’s one of the most visited resorts in the US, with crowds flocking for their immensely huge ski area and impressive picture-perfect village filled with infinite dining, lodging and après ski activities! But beware, its prices are also ‘nothing on Earth’ with one of most expensive walk-up lift tickets in the country!
Terrain: At 5,289 acres, it’s the largest resort in Colorado and one of the largest in North America. All that acreage offers up a nice variety of terrain, spread across a front-side dominated by green and blue groomers and back bowls (including China bowl and Blue Sky Basin) where incurable powder hounds head for glades, bumps, and steeps.
Snow quality: Vail sees a generous serving of 354 inches of snow in an average year. If you’re worried about lack of snow in the early season, their extensive snowmaking has you covered!
Town: The pedestrian-friendly village was designed for the resort with an impressive selection of lodging, dining options and après ski spread across three base areas: Golden Peak, Vail Village, and Lionshead. Some might find this resort oozes corporate and contrived feels compared to more authentic towns like Breckenridge, but with heated sidewalks, we’re not complaining!
Getting there: It’s relatively easy to get to Vail with the regional airport nearby but the journey is more treacherous if you’re traveling from Denver International Airport. The Interstate 70 between Vail and Denver has been known to shut down in particularly heavy snowstorms, which can definitely complicate your travel plans.
Known For: The destination resort that other destination resorts try to be!
- Huge variety of epic terrain
- High quality ‘Champagne’ powder
- Historic Western town with Insta-worthy scenery
- Difficult to reach
- High-end pricing
- Limited options for lodging and dining
Our favorite resort in Colorado, Telluride is engulfed by fourteeners with views of the San Juan Mountains that will leave you breathless. The mountain averages over 300 inches of snowfall annually, and offers over 2,000 acres of skiing and riding on 148 trails with everything from kid-friendly greens to rugged (and occasionally frightening) off-piste adventures! Top it off with an amazing Wild West town and you’ve got one of the best in the US!
Terrain: Unlike many resorts, Telluride offers novices the chance to taste the high-alpine with a 4.6 mile long green run starting from the top of Prospect Express at 11,800 feet. Experts can hike up to Palmyra Peak at 13,320 feet and take their pick of intense chutes, while brave intermediates can get their dose of adrenalin on the groomed parts of Revelation Bowl sitting at 12,515 feet.
Town: Nestled in the southwest corner of Colorado, Telluride is a small remote town six hours drive from Denver with limited dining, lodging and high-end pricing, all of which keeps the crowds away. You can choose to stay in Telluride proper where there are more après ski activities or in nearby Mountain Village which is slightly cheaper and closer to beginner trails. No matter which one you pick, it’s easy to travel between both bases as they’re linked to parking by free gondolas.
So, if you can brave the journey (or, like us, prefer to think of it as all part of the adventure), you’ll be richly rewarded in Telluride!
Known For: Stunning scenery and amazing skiing in the heart of the Wild West
- Legendary steeps
- Easily accessible back-country terrain
- Efficient lift network
- Not suitable for kids
- Crowded slopes
Jackson Hole, our pick for the best resort in the US, ticks all the boxes: immense snowfall (over 500 inches last year), one of the best lift networks in the country, and world-class terrain including a wonderland of easily accessed side and backcountry. There are cliffs, trees, groomers, bowls, chutes and couloirs aplenty. In fact, half the mountain is rated for experts with 40% for intermediates and 10% beginner-friendly.
Terrain: Jackson Hole is infamous for its extreme terrain and steeps with the most continuous vertical in the US at 4,139 feet. Even with this reputation as an expert’s paradise, recent improvements (including the recently opened Teton lift) have made intermediate terrain easier to access. Near term plans also call for a mid-mountain lodge that will host a ski school and family-friendly après events as the resort aims to become a more versatile destination.
Town & Crowds: It can get a bit crowded on the slopes, especially on powder days, but lines are a rare occurrence unlike other resorts. Winter is the offseason here as the town is oriented toward summer, serving as an unofficial gateway into Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. While this means that it lacks in the ambiance as say Aspen, you’ll benefit from lodging deals available! If you’re looking for ski-in/ski-out access, stay in Teton Village, if not, the town of Jackson is 20 minutes away with more options for nightlife and shopping.
Getting there: Jackson Hole isn’t close to a major airport like Salt Lake City or Denver, but its regional airport is served by three major airlines with nonstop service from a dozen cities across the US, so you won’t have trouble getting there. And once you’re here, ride Jackson Hole’s iconic tram to sample its fabulous terrain; we’re sure you’ll see why it’s our favorite resort in the United States!
Known For: Epic steeps, deep snow, efficient lift network and a charming town