16 Best Ski Resorts in the USA, 2021
The United States has some of the best ski resorts in the world. If you want to create the ultimate skiing bucket list, this is the place to start. Most of the world-class ski resorts are found in the West, but if your travel plans take you to the eastern states, you can still find fantastic places to ski and board.
In the West, the towering Rocky Mountains and surrounding ranges create a veritable playground of snow-covered slopes, offering skiing opportunities for every level of skier. Endless runs and frequent powder days make this a skier's dream destination.
Colorado and Utah each have a large concentration of top resorts to choose from, but you can also find incredible skiing in Wyoming's Tetons, home to Jackson Hole; the Sierra Nevada Range around Lake Tahoe, where you'll find Squaw Valley; and the Sawtooth Range in Idaho, home of Sun Valley. Head farther north to Montana and set your sights on Big Sky. And these are just some of the possibilities for skiing in the West.
When it comes to skiing in the East, you'll find plenty of choices, but a couple of ski resorts stand out above the others. Vermont is one of the top choices for skiing in the eastern United States.
Most skiers will agree that the skiing and snow conditions are the most important factors when planning a ski vacation. But the towns or ski villages at the base of the mountains is where you'll spend your time off the slopes and is also an important consideration when it comes to deciding on a destination. The après-ski opportunities, atmosphere, and customer service at the resorts have been taken into consideration when compiling this list.
For the 2020/2021 ski season: Many American resorts are taking special health and safety precautions. Some resorts are requiring that lift tickets be purchased online in advance. Be sure to check your resort's website prior to arriving at the mountain.
And while all these resorts have expert terrain, they were selected based on their ability to accommodate a range of skiing and snowboarding levels, not just experts. For an overview of our top picks, see our list of the best ski resorts in the United States.
1. Vail Ski Resort
Long reigning as one of the top resorts in America, Vail is what most skiers dream of when they think of skiing in America. If you're looking for bowls, glades, groomed runs, fresh powder, and extensive terrain, Vail is the place to come. Spread out over 5,317 acres and with nearly 30 feet of snow each year, Vail is a must-visit ski resort.
The ski area sprawls over several mountains and provides whatever type of challenge you're looking for. Wide-open groomers, endless moguls, and seven big bowls where you can create your own tracks entice you to try something new.
Vail is ideally positioned to catch snow on a regular basis, leading to a deep base. When Pacific storms roll through, the snow falls fast and furious creating beautiful powder days.
At the base, you'll find the thriving and lively town of Vail, packed with restaurants, shops, and a range of entertainment options, from an ice-skating rink to live music. Vail is known for its posh hotels and high-end boutiques, but it's more than just a destination for wealthy skiers and boarders. This is a great place for families, groups, couples, or solo skiers and boarders.
Vail is part of the EPIC pass program.
Official site: https://www.vail.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Vail
Aspen has been drawing an international jet set of skiers for decades. Although people talk about the scene in town, the real action is on the mountains. Aspen has four ski areas: Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Mountain, and Aspen Highlands. At the base of the mountains are the town of Aspen and Snowmass Village.
These resorts provide an incredible number of runs across a massive area of skiable terrain, and the area receives roughly 25 feet of annual snowfall. First-class amenities and an impressive assortment of lifts will make your ski day one to remember.
The regional airport servicing Aspen/Snowmass has over 150 flights a week in ski season across the major carriers. The airport is five minutes from town, and many hotels provide free airport pickup. Denver International Airport is less than four hours away.
Aspen/Snowmass is part of the IKON and Mountain Collective pass programs.
Official site: https://www.aspensnowmass.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Aspen
The Wasatch Valley is one of the best places in the US for consistently great snow, and it's where you'll find Snowbird and Alta. Moist air gets funneled up this valley, and more than 41 feet of snow falls here annually, on average. The jagged peaks and alpine scenery at Snowbird also make this the most scenic resort in Utah.
Snowbird offers outstanding terrain, great conditions, and is the only choice for groups or families looking to accommodate both skiers and snowboarders. Alta does not allow snowboarding. Snowbird also has the only ski tunnel in North America, allowing you to ski through the mountain and emerge on the other side.
Snowbird and Alta operate as separate resorts but its easy to ski from one to the other. A combined ticket is a good idea if you are spending several days skiing in the area or if you are here for spring skiing. Between the two resorts, you can usually find good conditions at any time of day in the spring.
To cap it off, Snowbird is only 45 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport. Many people stay in the city where the evening scene is livelier and there are more things to do when you are not skiing.
Snowbird is part of both the IKON and Mountain Collective Pass programs.
Within an hour of Salt Lake City, you can find several of Utah's best ski resorts. And if you want to expand that by another 30 minutes, you can hit even more. Given the amount of snow that falls in this area, don't rule any of these out. If you have time and want to experience some other resorts, have a look at Snowbasin, Powder Mountain, and Solitude.
Official site: https://www.snowbird.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Salt Lake City: Best Areas & Hotels
4. Park City Mountain Resort
Park City is one of the largest ski resorts in the United States. Spread over an incredible 7,300 acres and 17 peaks, this behemoth of a ski resort has almost unlimited options. Although you can easily find expert terrain here, the skiing skews towards intermediate and beginner. If you love long, rolling groomed runs, you've come to the right place.
The town of Park City is also an added bonus to skiing here. A real town with a historic main street packed with restaurants and shops provides a laundry list of options for après ski activities. If you are taking a day off from skiing, you will have no trouble finding things to do in Park City.
Park City is less than an hour from Salt Lake City. If you are on a budget, consider staying in Salt Lake City, where the accommodation is plentiful and cheap, and commute to the ski resort.
Park City is part of the EPIC Pass program.
Official site: https://www.parkcitymountain.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Park City
5. Telluride Ski Resort
Telluride wins one of the top spots for its diverse terrain, great selection of lodging on and off the mountain, and the charming ski town of Telluride right at the base of the mountain. You can ski down at the end of the day and not have to worry about driving to a nearby town.
Telluride is tucked off on its own at the end of a valley in southwest Colorado. This works as an advantage and a disadvantage. The great part is short lift lines and less crowds, but it takes a while to get here. It's worth the effort.
Telluride gets about 23 feet of snow each year. If you time it right, you can expect some great powder days. This is also a wonderful place for a family ski vacation, as roughly 60 percent of the terrain is targeted towards beginner and intermediate skiers and boarders.
The resort offers ski-in/ski-out accommodation. The gondola is free and is open to skiers and non-skiers. Telluride is part of the EPIC pass program.
About two hours away is the town of Durango and Purgatory Resort, another fun ski resort in this part of Colorado. Purgatory offers a smaller experience and is very family oriented. Prices here are also much better, both on the mountain and at the hotels.
Official site: https://www.tellurideskiresort.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Telluride
6. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Jackson Hole is a true skier's mountain. The mountain is heavily skewed towards intermediate and advanced skiers, with very little beginner terrain, and the most challenging terrain will test the skills of even expert skiers.
As you ride the tram to the top with 100 of your new friends, you'll feel a palpable sense of anticipation and excitement looking out at the runs beneath your feet. Be on the lookout for Corbet's Couloir on the ride up. This extreme double black diamond run is a rite of passage for expert skiers.
In recent years, Jackson Hole has averaged about 38 feet of snow annually. The resort has 2,500 acres of terrain and 133 named runs, as well as multiple terrain parks. Among the infrastructure improvements in the last number of years is the impressive Solitude Station mid-mountain facility, housing two new restaurants and the Mountain Sports School.
The ski resort is located 20 minutes from the Western themed town of Jackson. Here, you'll find air connections from across the states and excellent accommodation options.
Jackson Hole is part of the IKON and Mountain Collective pass programs.
Official site: https://www.jacksonhole.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Jackson Hole
7. Breckenridge Ski Resort
Breckenridge gets an average of about 30 feet of snow annually and keeps much of it until late in the season due to its high elevation. You can expect this resort to be open well into May. Home to the highest chairlift in the USA at 12,840 feet, this resort will literally take your breath away.
The lower parts of the ski resort are perfect for beginners and families. The gentle inclines of the wide runs provide plenty of space to move. The open bowls at the top of the peaks offer awesome opportunities for more advanced skiers. In April and May, while skiers are enjoying spring skiing conditions near the bottom, the peaks are still enjoying full winter conditions.
The town of Breckenridge at the base is an enjoyable mountain town with fun après-ski options. It has a wonderful assortment of restaurants and shops along with a picturesque main street, perfect for strolling.
Denver International Airport is just under two hours away.
Breckenridge is part of the EPIC pass program.
Official site: https://www.breckenridge.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Breckenridge
8. Beaver Creek
Miles of groomed corduroy are what you'll find each morning at Beaver Creek. This luxurious ski resort takes grooming to the next level. Each night, a massive team of snowcats takes to the mountain and shapes it into a cruiser's dream. After skiing hours of beautiful corduroy, you may start to wonder if chasing powder is only for fools.
Beaver Creek is not all about manicured runs. On Grouse Mountain, the moguls and steeps will push any skier to their limits. This is a mountain the entire family can enjoy.
Customer service is paramount at Beaver Creek, and this includes things like having resort personnel ready to carry your skis for you at the base when you come off the last run of the day and free fresh-baked cookies every day at 3pm.
Beaver Creek is part of the EPIC pass program.
Official site: https://www.beavercreek.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Beaver Creek
9. Deer Valley
If you want to experience true luxury skiing, head to Deer Valley, but be aware, this mountain resort does not allow snowboarders. Just up the road from Park City, this high-end resort is definitely worth a visit. Beautiful lodges, fantastic food, modern lifts, and uncrowded slopes are what you can expect to find here.
To enhance the guest experience, Deer Valley limits the number of skiers on the mountain to ensure the lift lines never get too long. Deer Valley is spread out over six mountains and if there's a dump of snow, head to this resort. Due to the limits on skiers, powder stashes and untracked descents remain here longer than at other resorts.
Deer Valley is part of the IKON pass program.
Official site: https://www.deervalley.com/
Accommodation: Where to stay in Deer Valley
Steamboat is located north of most of the main ski resorts in Colorado and is about a 3.5-hour drive from Denver. As a result, it's off the radar of many skiers who focus on the closer resorts, like Breckenridge, Vail, or Beaver Creek. The upside of this is fewer crowds and more time spend skiing or boarding.
On average, roughly 26 feet of snow falls each year, leading to great conditions across the 165 trails. Uphill capacity is comparable to other major resorts with 18 lifts, including an eight-passenger gondola.
The town of Steamboat Springs is what makes a visit here extra enjoyable. The real cowboy culture and friendly locals in this small town make you feel instantly welcome.
Not far from town are Strawberry Hot Springs. These natural outdoor pools are a delight to visit on days when you're giving your legs a break.
Steamboat is part of the IKON pass program.
Official site: https://www.steamboat.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay at Steamboat Springs
11. Big Sky Resort
Big Sky Resort is Montana's premier ski area. Everything about this place is big: big mountains; big lifts, including a tram; big snowfall at 33 feet; and big, wide-open spaces. In fact, the only thing small here are the lift lines.
The resort does not see big crowds. Big Sky is spread out over 5,850 acres, and that means even on the busiest of ski days, you'll likely have over two acres of snow-covered bliss all to yourself.
One advantage of skiing at Big Sky Resort over the ski areas farther south is related to elevation. Here, you'll ski at lower elevations. For those coming from sea level the effects of high altitude (headaches, tiredness, shortness of breath) are less. You can hit the slopes for longer and feel stronger!
In the winter, daily direct flights arrive into Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport from approximately twenty major population centers across the USA.
Big Sky is part of the IKON pass program.
Official site: https://bigskyresort.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Big Sky
12. Squaw Valley
This iconic ski resort at Lake Tahoe was home to the 1960 Winter Olympics and is one of California's top ski resorts. A ticket here will also get you access to Alpine Meadows ski resort, just a short drive away.
The great thing about skiing at Squaw Valley is the sun. This area gets over 267 days of clear blue skies, and the view from the slopes is amazing. But don't let that fool you. The resort typically receives over 37 feet of snow each year and you can expect some incredible powder days if you time it right.
Squaw Valley is an ideal family resort, with 70 percent of the terrain classified as either beginner or intermediate, and certain areas designated as beginner only. Despite this, experts will have no trouble entertaining themselves on Squaw Valley's chutes, couloirs, and bowls.
Access from San Francisco is along Interstate 80, and the resort is just over a three-hour drive from San Francisco International Airport.
Squaw Valley is part of the Mountain Collective and IKON pass programs.
Official site: https://squawalpine.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Squaw Valley
13. Sun Valley
Sun Valley, Idaho is an ideal destination for those looking for a good all-around mid-size resort. Here, you'll find 121 runs spread across Bald and Dollar Mountains. The views from the top are spectacular, looking out to fields of snow covering the mountains.
On average, Sun Valley receives about 18 feet of snow each year but also has extensive snow making capabilities. It's a good family destination, with runs skewed more towards beginner and intermediate levels. They also do extensive grooming.
Sun Valley is known as the haunt of some big-name celebrities. Also of interest, it was here that the chairlift was invented way back in 1936.
Sun Valley is part of the IKON pass program.
Official site: https://www.sunvalley.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Sun Valley
14. Taos Ski Valley
Located a couple of hours from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Taos is an old-school ski resort that has slowly been modernizing. It was taken over by a multimillionaire, who invested $300 million in upgrades over the past several years. The changes have been a source of controversy, but the resort is now more focused on skier experience and customer service.
Taos currently offers a great mix of old school with touches of the 21st century here and there. But regardless of these changes, the terrain is still the terrain and the skiing is fantastic, particularly for more experienced skiers looking for challenges.
Novice skiers are sometimes intimidated by the mountain they see before them at the base in front of the main lodge. But this is just one area of the resort, and if you talk to staff, they will direct you to the areas designed for beginners and intermediate skiers.
A new base area gondola has made getting around easier, and The Blake at Taos Ski Valley, a new hotel, provides modern accommodation within walking distance of the lifts.
Taos is less than a two-hour drive from Santa Fe Regional Airport and just under three hours from Albuquerque International Sunport.
Taos is part of both the IKON and Mountain Collective pass programs.
Stowe is located on Mount Mansfield, New England's highest mountain, and catches approximately 26 feet of snow each year. If Mother Nature needs a bit of help, Stowe has snowmaking capabilities on 83 percent of the ski hill.
Uphill capacity is up to the task of handling the crowds. About 15,516 people can be whisked up to the top on 12 lifts, including two gondolas. The small resort town of Stowe is a lovely place to stay, with stellar restaurants, cozy inns, and good shopping.
Stowe is part of the IKON pass program.
Official site: https://www.stowe.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Stowe
16. Sugarbush Resort
Sugarbush Resort has 111 ski runs spread over 4,000 acres. The runs wind their way down through the trees on two mountains to multiple base areas. Just jump on any one of the 16 lifts and head back up to the top to tackle the varied terrain.
Should you wish for a bit of out-of-bounds fun, CAT skiing is available on a per person basis, minimum six people required.
You'll find a quaint village at the bottom of Lincoln Peak, with a pedestrian-only area lined with restaurants, spas, and retail shops.
Sugarbush is part of the Mountain Collective and IKON pass programs.
Official site: https://www.sugarbush.com/
Accommodation: Where to stay near Sugarbush
More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com
Best Ski Resorts for Budget Skiers: If you are looking for a cheap ski trip, where lift tickets are a reasonable price and lodging and other amenities are good value, have a read through our list of cheap ski holidays in North America.
You can find deals in some unexpected spots. For example, on the East Coast, you may not have thought about skiing in North Carolina, but these sunny slopes offer long runs, cheap lift tickets, and hotel prices that won't break the bank.
In the West, consider skiing in Montana to discover smaller resorts known for great snow and good prices. And in the Southwest, don't rule out the best ski resorts in Arizona, where if you're lucky, you can have a great powder day at places like Arizona Snowbowl.