For Oarsmen, there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ time or place to ski. Sunny or stormy, Rockies or Sierras, ice or powder, groomer or glade, -10° F or 50°, you still get at it. But when you have just a week or two of vacation to spend on the slopes, it pays to be picky.
This O + A guide will help you find a resort you’ll want to ski or snowboard season after season. Let’s keep this simple...which statement resonates with you?
“Powder should be added to the endangered species list.”
We agree. And if you feel that crowds are threatening that rare, crystalline beauty, head somewhere known for fresh tracks and few people: Powder Mountain in Eden, Utah.
Now the largest resort in North America, Powder Mountain (a.k.a. “Pow Mow”) has 8,464 acres of skiable terrain yet limits lift ticket sales to just 2,000 per day (!?). If you ski anything but fresh tracks on a powder day there, you’re doing it wrong.
PRO: 500 average annual inches of Utah’s fluffiest. 55 miles from Salt Lake International Airport. Reasonable lift ticket prices ($79/day).
CON: Nearest metropolitan area is Ogden, Utah, which is not exactly known for nightlife.
Alternative: Hoard some powder at Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming.
“I can’t leave the kids at home.”
Then you better invest in your future skiing partners. A good family ski resort should have a) A kids ski free deal, b) A topnotch ski school, and c) A good balance of green, blue, and black terrain.
For all that, head to Steamboat in northwestern Colorado. If you’re kids are decent skiers (and first graders or older), a clinic with the Billy Kid Race Camp will take them to the next level. Don’t be mad when they start beating you down the slopes.
PRO: Unparalleled tree skiing. Champagne Powder®. Your kids will be obsessed with the rollers, jumps, and trees off of Sunshine Express.
CON: Travel – try to fly direct to Hayden (40-minute drive from the resort), or fly through Denver and take a hopper to Hayden. The three-hour drive from Denver is gorgeous but dicey in a snowstorm.
Alternative: Aspen Snowmass, especially if members of the family don’t ski.
There’s a cliff? Can you spot the landing for me?
Ok, you’re pretty hardcore but don’t have a death wish. You’ve done double blacks at Snowbird, Jackson Hole, and Whistler Blackcomb. You want some new challenges. For necktie-tight chutes, steep trees, and encounters with gravity, head to Crested Butte in Colorado.
A glance at the trail map tells you that this mountain means business. Roughly a third of the skiable acreage is classified as “Extreme Limits” terrain, meaning it’s avalanche-controlled but reminiscent of backcountry conditions. Fun Fact: Bud Light temporarily renamed the town “Whatever, USA” for an ad campaign in 2014.
PRO: Cozy, classic ski town. Off the beaten map. Too far for Front Range weekenders.
CON: You either fly into Gunnison, CO (limited direct flights) or drive four hours from Denver or Colorado Springs. At 1,547 acres, it’s smaller than more well-known Colorado resorts.
Alternative: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for the extreme skiing off KT-22 chairlift.
What if lunch time somehow becomes après-ski time?
If noon is when you trade a soft snowboard for a stiff drink, you might want to find yourself in Park City, Utah. Wait – Utah + après? Damn straight. Carve right down to High West Saloon, the world’s only ski-in-ski-out gastro-distillery. Start with a whiskey flight and then order whichever cocktails the bartenders recommend (they are mad mixology geniuses).
CON: 3.2% draft beer (so order bottles, but beware of the altitude). Epic Pass crowds at PCMR on major holidays.
Alternative: Breckenridge, Colorado, especially if you like more Spring Break-ish après skiing.
Is there a Brooklyn of ski resorts?
Yes, it’s called Mad River Glen, located in Waitsfield, Vermont. They keep it super old-school. No snowboards. No express lifts. Minimal snowmaking. And they have one of America’s two last remaining one-person chairlifts – ideal if you prefer a less chatty and more contemplative ride to the summit. Oh, and it’s a co-op.
PRO: 2,000+ vertical of untamed terrain. Tree skiing galore. Knuckle draggers will not ruin your precious moguls.
CON: 120 acres of skiing. Narrow-cut New England runs. It will tear up your skis if snowfall is sub-average.
Alternative: Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico, where snowboarders are welcome.