As the temperatures shift toward fall, ski enthusiasts begin to dream about winter getaways. If you’re like me, you’re deciding where you’re going to hit the slopes and searching for a destination that ticks all the boxes. It must be a place with tons of snow, challenging runs, stunning views — and after a day on the slopes — places to gather and relax.
Travel has changed a lot over the last year, and now there are extra considerations. This year, along with all the usual must-haves, you’ll want to skip the crowds. Here are 11 fabulous options for an epic, uncrowded ski vacation in the United States. Ahhh! I can hear the swooshing sounds already.
Known as “America’s First Destination Ski Resort,” Sun Valley has over 2,400 acres of terrain spread out over two distinct mountains. The resort averages 220 inches of snow annually, has 16 different lifts (including a gondola) serving some of the best-groomed downhill skiing runs in the country, and also offers 25 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. Bald Mountain (affectionately known as “Baldy” to locals) has an impressive 3,400 vertical feet of steep, fall line terrain, while mellower Dollar Mountain caters to the beginner and lower intermediate skier. Last season, the resort opened 380 acres of new, expert-only terrain on Bald Mountain, and for this coming season, a U.S. Forest Service–approved forest health project has opened up a significant amount of new gladed tree skiing.
SKI Magazine readers have ranked Sun Valley the #1 ski resort in North America the last two years in a row, and Powder Magazine has named it “A Top 8 Ski Town,” so with accolades like these, you know there’s something special happening at this resort. It’s a bit off the beaten path (150 miles east of Boise), which keeps the crowds down and the lift lines short, but access is still easy thanks to a number of national carriers providing seasonal non-stop flights to Friedman Memorial Airport, just 13 short miles from the base of Bald Mountain. Sun Valley is also a foodie paradise, boasting gourmet, chef-driven options like fondue at 7,700 feet and delectable, tender Wagyu Bavette at their original (and many would argue best) restaurant, The Ram, located in the resort’s village. Mountaintop lodges like Seattle Ridge and Lookout provide skiers and riders with myriad food and drink choices paired with panoramic views of the Wood River Valley and its surrounding peaks.
Pro Tip: Plan on having an incredible meal surrounded by stunning views while perched on the side of Bald Mountain at the Roundhouse. The Roundhouse, best known for its to-die-for fondue, is a ski-in/ski-out restaurant that is also accessible via the Roundhouse Express gondola and has been serving gourmet lunches and dinners to hungry skiers since 1939.
Crested Butte is less crowded and more down to earth than its neighbor, Aspen. It’s quirky, friendly, and welcoming. It’s home to the best lift-served extreme terrain in the states. It’s known as the birthplace of inbounds extreme terrain. Located in the Colorado Rockies-Elk Mountain Range, the average snowfall is around 230 inches per season. Fifteen lifts lead to 121 trails (over 50 percent devoted to advanced and expert trails) with over 1,500 skiable acres and 2,700 vertical feet. Lift tickets are sold online using the EPIC pass system. Even if you aren’t a skier, you can cross-country ski or snowshoe in the surrounding 1.7 million acres of national forest. After a day outdoors, head into the town of Crested Butte. It’s an old Colorado Mining village a few miles from the ski resort that’s historic and charming. You won’t find any chain stores, just authentic buildings from the old days. With over 50 restaurants and bars, many located on Elk Avenue, you won’t go hungry or thirsty.
Nordic Valley, nestled in the Wasatch Mountains, is only a few miles from Ogden, Utah, a town named by Forbes Magazine as the “Third Best City to Raise a Family.” That’s probably why it has high marks for its family-friendly atmosphere. It’s also known for being budget friendly with the ski school and its intermediate and advanced slopes. Nordic Valley expanded recently, adding 300 acres, 12 new trails, and their first six-person high-speed chairlift. Now the terrain totals 450 acres, five lifts, 32 runs, and offers the best night skiing in Utah. Eighty percent of the resort is lit from 3 p.m.–7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Extra outdoor seating and contactless payment options were added along with grab-and-go options for dining on the mountain. Off the mountain, visitors can thoroughly enjoy all that Ogden has to offer.
Pro Tip: Visit historic 25th Street. The street was once home to brothels, political scandals, and gang rivalries so intense at times that it made it unsafe to pass. Today you’ll find art galleries, great food, and speakeasies.
Big Sky is located midway between Bozeman and West Yellowstone, Montana, in the Madison Mountain Range. Because of the proximity to Yellowstone (about an hour’s drive from the resort), they recognize that they coexist with the same ecosystem and made a deep commitment to sustainability. The area is gorgeous with stunning views and wildlife. When you book a stay at Big Sky, guests save with perks such as slopeside lodging, reduced lift tickets, rentals, and more. When you think of Montana, you automatically think “big” with a lot of space, fewer crowds, and lots of trails for all skill levels. Big Sky has 5,850 skiable acres, 39 lifts, and 4,350 vertical feet with an average snowfall of around 400 inches. The Mountain Village is the central location where four hotels and several condos are located. Here guests can access the mountain and find great shopping or dining options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and après ski with music, libations, and food.
Okemo has fantastic terrain, snow, and accommodations; it’s an incredible place to ski in the East. Okemo’s 2,200 vertical feet is the highest in Southern Vermont with 121 trails and 20 lifts including one high speed six-pack and four high speed quads, all with protective bubbles. This means shorter lines and more time on the slopes. With an average snowfall of 200 inches, you’ll have snow, but if not, Okemo has the highest snowmaking efficiency (98 percent of the trails) among all ski resorts in Vermont. The terrain parks are innovative, creative, and allow you to build on your skills, appealing to riders of all ages and abilities. The mountain accommodations vary and are in the Jackson Gore Base or the Clock Tower Base. You can stay at either area and ski over to the other using a series of chairs and trails. Along the way, you’ll find lodges to warm-up, relax, or dine. Or head to the Summit Lodge and Robin’s Roost near the top of the mountain for some delicious food and views.
Belleayre has attracted skiers since 1885 when they hiked their way up the steep mountain. Today it offers skiers 50 trails (22 percent appealing to beginners). Only 2 and half hours from New York City, Belleayre, located in the Catskill Mountains, also has five glades, a terrain park, progression park, and an X-Course. It also has a long run that everyone loves which extends 12,024 feet. The Catskill Mountains are not as high as those in the West, with the vertical drop at 1,404 feet, but you can have a ton of fun at this historic gem. While most skiers spend the day at other nearby mountains, Belleayre seems to have stayed under the radar. The mountain has a fantastic ski school that is separate from the challenging trails. Non-skiers can enjoy cross-country or snowshoe trails nearby. There are no accommodations at Belleayre, but there are plenty of places to stay in the charming villages nearby.
Angel Fire in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the Southern Rockies is a family resort. It started out small in 1966 in Northern New Mexico and grew to a four-season experience. It’s convenient for groups because everything from lodging, rentals, and ski lessons are on-site. When you arrive, park your car, check in, and hit the slopes. There are 50 acres of groomed trails with over 80 runs and 30 acres of gladed trails with three ski-and-ride terrain parks. Dining, shopping, and activities are at the resort, but if you venture to town, you’ll find breweries, food trucks, and fine dining. Angel Fire also offers night skiing, and non-skiers will love tubing, sledding, and the cross-country and snowshoe trails.
Boyne Mountain is an hour and 20 minutes from Traverse City Airport. Once you settle in at the resort — there are a myriad of lodging options — you’ll enjoy everything this family mountain has to offer. The average snowfall of 140 inches covers 415 skiable acres and 500 feet of a vertical drop. There are 60 runs (41 percent intermediate), 12 lifts, and seven terrain parks. Other activities include, cross-country, snowshoeing, Sno-Go and fat tire biking, tubing, ziplining, and swimming. There’s also a spa and a waterpark. Shopping and dining options are available at the resort, and if you ever want to leave, there’s a lot to do in town.
Whitecap is a four-season resort in Northern Wisconsin that sits within the ancient Penokee Mountains, about 2 hours away from Duluth International Airport. White Cap is spread out over three mountains: Thunderhead, Eagle’s Nest, and Whitecap Mountain. The average snowfall is 200 inches across 400 acres and 43 runs, and there are trails for all ability levels. If you don’t ski, the snowmobiling, cross-country, and snowshoe trails are just as exciting. Lodging includes a hotel or private homes.
Loon Mountain opened in December 1966 and has come a long way since then. With an annual snowfall of 160 inches over 370 skiable acres, Loon has 61 trails (60 percent intermediate) and eight glades with a vertical drop of 2,100 feet. Spread out over three peaks serviced by 10 lifts, Loon also has six terrain parks for all abilities, snow tubing, skiing, and snowboarding school, cross-country and snowshoeing, and a zipline. Lodging is available around the mountain. Dining is available both on and off mountain, including the expanded deck at the Paul Bunyan Room, the après ski hotspot. Now there’s more room to spread out and enjoy a cold beer.
11. Sugarloaf, Maine
Sugarloaf is in the heart of the Carrabassett Valley in Maine’s Western Mountain area. At 4,237 feet, it’s the second highest peak in Maine. It’s a winter playground with 1,240 skiable acres and a vertical drop of 2,820 feet. There are 162 trails (34 percent intermediate) and 13 lifts to get you skiing on the slopes. If you’d like to explore other activities, there are Sno-Go bikes, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating. There are tons of lodging options, shopping, and dining on the mountain at the base lodge. If you know, you know.