The 10 Best Ski Resorts on the East Coast – UPDATED 2017/2018
Written by Jack Lee • Dec 10, 2017
It’s tough trying to pick of the best ski resorts in the East, not only because it’s all subjective, but because, like most people, you’re probably thinking, ‘why on earth would I ski the East?’ Well, East Coast ski resorts actually stack up pretty well against their compadres in the West and I’m sure you’ll change your mind after I tell you the best mountains to visit! It’s true the snow is wetter, there’s more ice, and sometimes it even rains, but less-than-perfect conditions have kept the soul of skiing strong in the East. It’s all about getting out on the mountain and having fun!
That’s not to say there isn’t epic skiing to be had across the American Northeast, because you’ll find some of the most diverse terrain in the world here, often without the crowds and expense of glitzy resorts in the West. With a little preparation, scoring freshies and bluebird days aren’t that hard, and if anything, the many resorts here are invested in top-notch snowmaking systems and grooming to smooth it out. So here’s my carefully curated collection of the top 10 ski resorts on the East Coast of America!
10. Wildcat, New Hampshire
- 2,112 feet of uninterrupted vertical and a fast lift to lap it
- The best mountain views in the East
- Stay in the classic New England ski village of North Conway
- Ski area feels limited when ungroomed terrain is closed
- Chairlift to the summit is frequently closed when the wind picks up
- Basic base lodge in desperate need of updating
First impressions are deceiving at Wildcat, so don’t let the dated base lodge and lack of facilities put you off! Just slide aboard the Wildcat Express Quad to be whisked up the mountain in no time, and you really won’t care about what’s available down below. From base to summit on one lift, it’s possibly the fastest in all New Hampshire. Once you reach the 4,062 feet peak of Wildcat Mountain, the greatest view of Mount Washington will stun you before the skiing even begins!
Terrain: There’s no denying that the terrain here is best suited for advanced skiers, but upper intermediates will have a blast too. Experts can take the Wildcat Express Quad to the summit to lap the 2,112 feet vertical.
One great thing about this place is that all the runs meet up at the same spot, making it difficult to get lost, so family ski trips work well here. The perfect run for all abilities is the Polecat trail, a gentle green cruiser winding down the mountain from summit to base, which has 80 acres of excellent side-country glades to keep things interesting!
I’d say Wildcat’s biggest downfall is that there’s only one lift serving the summit, so when windhold grinds it to a halt you lose access to a lot of trails on the mountain (including Polecat).
Town: There’s also nothing in the way of accommodation, restaurants, or nightlife on the mountain, so once the day’s skiing is done this place completely closes up for the night. Don’t worry though, the famed après-ski of North Conway village is just down the road!
Known For: The 2.75-mile Polecat trail, it’s the longest novice ski run in New Hampshire!
Trails: Beginner 20% / Intermediate 47% / Expert 33%
Cost: One Day Lift Pass - Adult $79-$85 / Youth $59-$64 / Senior $59-$64
- Skiing doesn’t get much more authentic than this!
- Experts will find plenty to challenge them<
- This place is all about skiing on natural snow
- Skiers only
- Trails are often not groomed and the snowmaking operation is severely limited
- Expect long lift lines on weekends and powder days
- Skiers only
Now here’s a rare breed of ski resort, in fact, it isn’t really a ski resort at all, it’s a ski co-operative owned and managed by the skiers who shred here! Mad River Glen is like a living museum harking back to the way skiing used to be, a true legend of the skiing world. They spent millions to refurbish their famous single chairlift, which is one of only two single chairs in the entire country! If you’re ready to test your mettle then it’s about time you took on Mad River Glen. As their motto goes, ‘Ski it if you can’.
Terrain: The ski terrain on offer here is diverse, complete with natural glades, steep bumps, and narrow winding trails cut to follow the natural contours of the mountain. While there’s only 115 acres of ski area, it’s one of the best in the East for clocking up vertical on expert terrain. All 2,037 feet of drop here can be raced from top to bottom with no flat spots to slow you down! Perhaps the gnarliest run here is dubbed Paradise, covered with trees and rocks to dodge, along with a frozen waterfall that you’ve got no choice but to huck off!
The local skiers who call this mountain home love it for the same reasons that many visiting skiers might hate it. The lifts are slow and queues can be irritatingly long on weekends, plus trail grooming is practically non-existent. Other minor issues of note are the limited lodging options and snowmaking capabilities at the resort. Despite all this, I’d say Mad River Glen offers one of the most unusual and unique skiing experiences in the country and is not to be missed!
Known For: Its gnarly terrain, natural beauty, and being a proud skier-owned mountain!
Trails: Beginners 18% / Intermediate 35% / Expert 47%
Cost: One Day Lift Pass - Adult $89 / Junior $72 / Senior $72
- A classic state park mountain for real skiers!
- Quality extreme terrain and serious racing runs on offer
- Dedicated beginners area is perfect for learning the basics
- No luxury whatsoever, it’s a state park after all…
- Aerial tramway doesn’t run mid-week, remember not to get caught out and stranded!
Nestled within Franconia Notch State Park, Cannon Mountain truly is a local’s mountain, where real skiers come to race the black runs and tear through the trees. Owned and operated by New Hampshire State, this isn’t a ski resort of glamour and glitz, but it does have some remarkable skiing heritage. The first aerial passenger tramway in North America opened here in 1938, which paved the way for skiing to reach mountains all over New Hampshire and the rest of the East!
Terrain: There’s no denying that the terrain here leans in favor of advanced skiers, with plenty of glades and moguls runs scattered around the mountain. One trail not to miss is DJ’s Tramline, a long and narrow black complete with sketchy cliff steps and peppered with boulders! This one’s only open when there’s plenty of snow to cover it, so ski it if you dare. You’ll also find a reputable ski race training center here, which isn’t surprising when you consider that Olympic champion Bode Miller grew up skiing these slopes.
Nothing is sugar-coated at Cannon, but that’s all part of its hardcore skier atmosphere. While there’s 97 trails to choose from, mountain riders come here especially for the tough steep terrain on offer, but there are enough trails for intermediates, with some trails starting at the summit. The easiest way to reach the summit from the base is by taking the Aerial Tramway, but beware this doesn’t operate during weekdays, so you’ll need to take two other lifts to reach the top.
Town: What Cannon Mountain doesn’t provide is much off the slopes, so forget ski-in/ski-out hotels or fancy restaurants. Your best bet for somewhere comfortable to stay is in nearby Lincoln or Littleton, both around a 15-minute drive away.
Known For: Genuine state park skiing with quieter slopes than Killington and Stowe
Trails: Beginner 15% / Intermediate 52% / Expert 33%
Cost: One Day Lift Pass - Adult $77 / Junior $55 / Teen $64 / Senior $55
- Fantastic variety of terrain spread out over two mountains
- Great lift system provides quick and easy access to slopes
- Doesn’t suffer from crowds like similar resorts nearby
- It’s a long and slow ride on the lift connecting the two ski areas
- Restaurants here get very busy, don’t expect a table without a reservation
- Not much in the way of decent nightlife
Sugarbush really is an overlooked gem among its peers, with many skiers heading to nearby Killington, Stowe, or Mad River Glen over this double mountain resort. So why shouldn’t you do the same? To put it simply, Sugarbush offers practically everything that those more popular ski areas boast, minus the crowds. So if you fancy schussing down a freshly groomed slope without queuing for a lift or dodging snowploughers this could be just the place for you!
Terrain: The resort is made up of two interconnected mountains, Lincoln Peak, where the majority of trails are, and Mount Ellen. Other lower peaks include Castle Rock, Gadd Peak and North Lynx. For the type of gnarly terrain you would expect from Mad River Glen, just hop aboard the Castle Rock Double chair to Castle Rock. From the top at 3,812 feet, you’ll have the steep double black chutes of Lift Line and Rumble to get stuck into. If clocking up maximum vertical drop is more your thing then you’ll find the slopes here laid out much better for top-to-bottom shredding than at Killington. Even if you ski all 111 trails here, there’s also 2,000 acres of backcountry to explore in the Slide Brook Basin area!
That said, Sugarbush is not without its shortcomings. The time-consuming journey on the Slide Brook Express Quad to move between the resort’s two main ski areas is a real pain.
Town: If all that wasn’t enough, Sugarbush is generally a notch cheaper than pricey Stowe, but not at the sacrifice of luxury. For lavish lodgings, look no further than Lincoln Peak Village. For these reasons and more, when it comes to the most practical ski destination in Vermont, Sugarbush is my top pick.
Known For: Not suffering from the big crowds usually found at nearby Killington and Stowe
Trails: Beginner 23% / Intermediate 43% / Advanced 27% / Expert 7%
Cost: One Day Lift Pass (Early Season Rates) - Adult $79 / Youth $65 / Senior $65
- Second-largest vertical drop in the East
- Exquisite expert terrain available at The Slides
- Dedicated beginner ski area
- Trail layout has not been designed with intermediates in mind
- Expect freezing temperatures, it lives up to its nickname of ‘Iceface’
- No accommodation at the spartan base area, with the nearest lodgings at Lake Placid
Whiteface is home to the most challenging ski resort terrain available anywhere in the East, a real powder playground for advanced skiers and snowboarders. The Slides area is its crowning glory with true double black diamond terrain including 35 acres of off-piste wilderness skiing down narrow chutes and tight trees. This shouldn’t put beginners off though, as there’s a whole section of the mountain reserved for gentle green trails, safely away from the speed demons racing down the steeps.
Terrain & Snow quality: If you count vertical drop on top to bottom skiing, not just the distance from summit to base, then Whiteface is undeniably number one in the East. Hike less than 300 feet from the Summit Quad chair and you’ll have 3,430 feet of vertical drop to shred straight down to the base at 1,220 feet! While experts and beginners are well served at Whiteface, intermediates could find the resort frustrating. In my experience, many of the blue trials channel into chokepoints on the mountain, resulting in fun-sapping slow sections.
Maybe this is why the resort gets a raw deal from some, labeled ‘Iceface’ for the numbingly cold conditions and questionable snow quality that can be encountered while skiing here. It’s true that lack of snowfall can have a seriously detrimental effect on a skier’s experience here, as without enough white stuff the amazing terrain of The Slides won’t be opened up to ski. However, besides from The Slides and The Glades, 99% of the trails here are kept covered by an extensive snowmaking operation firing on all cylinders!
Town: There’s no accommodation at the base of Whiteface Mountain, so Lake Placid is your best bet for accommodation and off-mountain dining.
Known For: Its expert technical terrain and having hosted the Winter Olympics, twice!
Trails: Beginner 20% / Intermediate 42% / Expert 38%
Cost: One Day Lift Pass - Adult $68-$94 / Junior $44-$58 / Teen $54-$74 / Senior $54-$74
- With 1,509 acres of skiable terrain, it’s the biggest ski area in the East!
- Best ski resort in Vermont for nightlife
- Handy local shuttle bus means it’s simple to park up and get skiing in no time
- Inefficient trail and lift layout could leave you confused on the mountain
- Difficulty in skiing from summit to base makes total vertical drop misleading
- There are on-mountain dining options, though you could enjoy a better meal off-mountain
A perennial favorite among New York City skiers, along with mountain riders from across New Jersey and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic states, Killington is quite rightly nicknamed ‘The Beast of the East’! Encompassing seven different mountain peaks, including Pico Mountain which is connected via shuttle bus, you’ll find 212 trails to explore covering a mammoth 92 miles. With top-notch freestyle parks, plenty of double-diamonds, and corduroy cruisers perfect for family skiing, this place ticks all the boxes!
Snow quality: Killington’s average annual snow record of 250 inches is complimented by its impressive snowmaking operation, covering 600 acres of the resort. Can you believe there are 1,700 snow cannons here! These keep the main trails open and contribute heavily to the resort staying open longer than any other ski destination in the eastern US. Thanks to its reliable artificial snow the resort has become a firm fixture on the FIS Ski World Cup, hosting the only race to be held anywhere in the East.
Terrain: With so much ski area and a variety of trails, from groomers to mogul steeps, Killington’s terrain has something for everyone. From the summit, intermediate skiers can enjoy Juggernaut, the 3.73 mile trail which is the longest ski run at Killington. For the ski run with the most vertical, check out the Great Eastern trail. Park rats can enjoy six terrain parks including The Stash, which has over 65 features. Don’t be fooled by Killington Peak’s total vertical drop at 3,050 feet though, as the inefficient lift system and confusing trail layout means it is difficult to ski from the summit to base all in one run. From the lowest base at Skyeship, you’ll need to take three chairlifts to reach Killington peak!
Town: There’s no denying that Killington is an incredibly popular place to ski and snowboard, but it’s not just the slopes that visitors come here for. In my opinion, the amazing après-ski is an attraction in itself, and some people visit as much for the nightlife as the skiing. More and more young professionals are taking part in season rental shares here, which keeps business booming! For excellent places to eat and drink, you’ll find countless options along the access road leading into the resort.
Known For: Enjoying the longest ski season across the entire East
Trails: Beginner 28% / Intermediate 33% / Advanced 24% / 15% Expert
Cost: One Day Lift Pass - Adult $115 / Youth $89 / Senior $98
- It is the snowiest ski resort in the East
- An abundance of glades to ski, with pitches from steep to gentle
- New base area development includes luxury lodgings and an indoor water park
- There aren’t many groomers to keep intermediate skiers entertained
- Off the slopes there’s little to do and no real town nearby
- The nearest airport and metro area is Montreal which requires a border crossing
Out of all the ski resorts in the East, Jay Peak is number one when it comes to sheer quantity of powder. Official stats put the average annual snowfall at 349 inches, with most of the light and fluffy stuff blanketing the ski area. Combine a trip to the 3,968 foot summit with a fresh dump and you’ll find a powder-filled steep called Face Chutes, where jump turns and face shots are part of the bargain! Once this trail gets bumped up, advanced skiers will also have over 100 acres of dedicated off-piste to explore.
Terrain: There’s plenty to like about this ski resort, but I’d say the best thing about it is the tree skiing. There are gently-sloped glades suitable for all skiing abilities, along with deep powder steeps jam-packed with trees. It’s a fantastic place to learn about skiing natural terrain, and even if you’re an expert you’ll still have plenty of fun here. On the other hand, there’s a serious lack of compelling corduroy cruisers, leaving lovers of a groomed piste unfulfilled.
Town: There are loads on offer at Jay Peak; there’s plenty of comfortable accommodation, an ice skating rink, and The Pump House, a huge indoor waterpark complete with slides, hot tubs, and even a FlowRider! One thing that’s still missing here is any nightlife, so if you want to party, look elsewhere.
Known For: Having a wide variety of glades for the finest tree skiing anywhere in the East; has huge indoor waterpark with hot tubs!
Trails: Beginner 20% / Intermediate 40% / Advanced 40%
Cost: One Day Lift Pass - Adult $85 / Junior $66 / Senior $59 / Toddler $22
- Link to neighboring Burnt Mountain opens up huge backcountry-style area
- 2,820 feet of vertical puts it in the same league as many ski areas out West
- Lots of glades to explore, plus cat skiing
- Limited lodging options near the mountain
- The resort is isolated, far from airport and city
- Recent lift accidents have left a blemish on Sugarloaf’s safety record
Since opening in 1950, Sugarloaf grown into the second largest ski area in the East, after Killington, with 1,240 acres of skiable terrain and the third highest vertical drop at 2,820 feet! Up at the 4,237 foot summit, you’ll have The Snowfields ahead of you, a collection of double black diamond runs all above the tree-line! There’s also the new Brackett Basin backcountry area, serving up steep chutes and powder tree skiing. For the truly adventurous, take the snow cat up Burnt Mountain to access Sugarloaf’s side country featuring over 100 acres of powder-filled fun including rugged terrain. You’ll also find the only lift-serviced above tree line skiing in the East here.
Snow: One of Sugarloaf’s greatest assets is its prime location in northern Maine, where it can take full advantage of huge powder dumps thanks to big nor’easters spinning off in the North Atlantic providing 200 inches of annual snowfall. This helps to create a deep snowpack which doesn’t always happen at other New England ski resorts, particularly in Vermont where lots of light snowfall is much more common. Even when the natural white stuff is patchy here, 618 acres of the ski terrain is covered by snow cannons to blast away those bald spots!
Town: Without a doubt, skiing is the main attraction at Sugarloaf, so don’t expect a glitzy ski village or many off-mountain activities. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, a long drive from the closest major cities of Boston or Montreal. That said, the base area does have a light sprinkling of decent lodging options, eateries, and drinking holes, not to mention an annual Reggae Fest. This year it’s turning thirty, so expect the biggest party yet!
Known For: Being home to the only lift-serviced skiing above the tree line across the entire East
Trails: Beginner 23% / Intermediate 34% / Advanced 27% / Expert 16%
Cost: One Day Lift Pass - Adult $85-$95 / Junior $65-$68 / Teen $75-$79 / Senior $65-$69
- Plenty of challenging terrain to explore
- The quaint ski village in Stowe is one of Vermont’s best
- Ticket covered by Epic Pass
- Long lift queues
- The most expensive ski resort in the East
- Traffic jams are common when skiers leave the resort in the evening
Welcome to ‘The Ski Capital of the East’, the nickname bestowed upon Stowe by its lucky inhabitants. Downtown Stowe is a pretty ski village with old world New England charm, surrounded by Mt Mansfield - the tallest peak in Vermont and Spruce Peak. You’ll find some of the most gnarly skiing in the East here, along with luxurious hotels and plenty of pampering off the slopes. No wonder Vail Resorts snapped it up!
Snow quality & Terrain: Stowe has become one of the most popular ski resorts in Vermont for good reason. Its snow record is one of the best in the East with an annual snowfall of 314 inches. Even when the natural white stuff is in short supply, the snowmaking operation here covers 83% of the 485 acres ski area. You can get as high as 3,625 feet on the Gondola, with 2,360 feet of vertical drop back down to the base area, and there are a whole bunch of groomed trails offering speedy fall line routes down the mountain.
Be prepared for the long lift queues though, as well as the traffic jams that occur when skiers leave the resort in the evening. The resort is also the most expensive in the East but luckily it’s covered by the Epic Pass.
Town: Off the slopes, there’s more fun to be had in the town of Stowe, which has a vibrant local brewery scene. If sampling craft beers sounds like your idea of a perfect après-ski activity, I’d say head straight to the Alchemist Brewery. Throw back a few samples, pick your favorite brew, and fill up your cooler with a few cans of exquisitely named beers like Focal Banger and Heady Topper! That’s really just the start though, because there are more than 50 different restaurants and bars to try out in Stowe!
Known For: Offering a delightful combination of expert ski terrain with indulgent hospitality
Trails: Beginner 16% / Intermediate 55% / Expert 29%
Cost: One Day Lift Pass - Adult $94-$99 / Child $80-$84 / Senior $87-$92
- Diverse terrain suitable for all levels
- One of the most vibrant ski villages on the East Coast
- Excellent nightlife right next to the slopes
- A bilingual resort, with both English and French spoken
- Far from major towns and cities in Eastern USA
- It gets very cold here, even by Eastern standards
- Weekend crowds can be overwhelming
Cross the border into Canada to find a ski resort that feels a world away, and not just because the locals speak French. Tremblant is the Disneyland of the ski world with its colorful old Quebec-style village and cobblestone streets. It’s picture-perfect and pedestrianized, with street performers and musicians entertaining on the streets. Whether or not this sounds good depends on you, but the 665 acres and 96 trails to ski here are the real deal.
Snow quality & Terrain: For one of the biggest challenges on the mountain, start off with the steepest trail in eastern North America, the double black diamond Dynamite run with a pitch of 42 degrees! If tree skiing is your thing then go for some tight turns in the glades; The Edge section of the mountain on the North Side is great for this. To keep things family-friendly, the greens of La Crête, Nansen Haut, and Nansen Bas all join up to make the most of Tremblant’s 2,116 feet of vertical drop. The 178 inches of annual snowfall here is a bit lacking compared to ski resorts of the West, but luckily they have over 1000 snow guns to cover 465 acres of ski terrain.
Town: Skiing started in Canada right here, on the slopes of Mont-Tremblant, way back in 1939, and it’s grown into a one-of-a-kind resort destination. It’s a pricey place to stay, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s also one of only two ski resorts in the East that has nightlife worth writing home about. Weekends can be a bit crowded as Montrealers come here to be seen, whether they ski or not, because there’s as much to do off the slopes as on them! Don’t forget to rug up here as average temperatures in January are as low as 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit!
Known For: Feeling like you’re in a European ski town without the transatlantic airfare price tag
Trails: Beginner 21% / Intermediate 32% / Expert 47%
Cost: One Day Lift Pass - Adult $66-$78 / Child $38-$44 / Youth $46-$52 / Senior $59-$70