10 best ski towns in the U.S.
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Winter is coming, and many of us cannot wait! Are you one of those rare birds that feels a jolt of excitement looking out the window to find an untouched blanket of snow? Do you maintain the rule that there are no friends on a powder day and any new snow over 4” is a reason to call in sick to work? Hello, friends – it’s time to start getting psyched about ski season. When putting together your winter travel plans, it’s helpful to consider destinations that both have epic runs and are located in charming ski towns. Here’s our list of favorite ski towns in the U.S.
When we’re talking about ultimate ski destinations, why not start with one of the holy grails of skiing in North America, Alyeska, Alaska. While it might take a bit of effort to get here, the trip is well worth it. The runs are steep, the snow is deep, and the ticket prices are some of the most affordable in the U.S.
The chances are that if you visit Alyeska, you might end up snowed in, cooking dinner at home with your crew, the epitome of a perfect ski vacation. If you decide to venture out, check out Coast Pizza – a local favorite with great pies and beer and a satisfying way to end the day.
Beaver Creek, CO
I promise that Beaver Creek is not just on this list because they hand out warm chocolate chip cookies at the bottom of the lifts. But honestly, wouldn’t that be enough? Out of all of the more easily accessible resorts in Colorado, Beaver Creek is a favorite for various reasons.
This is a great mountain for every type of skier and snowboarder, from beginners to advanced; there is something for everyone here. Those who visit Beaver Creek in December can watch the World Cup ski races that are held on the expert terrain Birds of Prey racecourse. It’s a fun way to break up the day and a great opportunity to watch the pros in action.
Be warned, Colorado will show up a few times on this list, and for good reason. This state has some of the most epic terrain in the country. Aspen is one of those iconic ski towns that got its start in the late 60s and has been home to some interesting characters. Most notable of these is Hunter S. Thompson, who ran for Aspen town Sheriff in the 70s and hosted some of the valley’s wildest parties. That aside, Aspen is a destination for world-class skiing with four mountains and thousands of acres of terrain to explore
Aspen is also home to an award-winning food and wine scene, hosting the Aspen Food and Wine Festival every summer. Plus, don’t you want to accidentally bump into the Kardashian clan walking down the street decked out to the nines?
Jackson Hole, WY
You can’t put together a list of the best ski towns in the U.S. and skip Jackson Hole. One word comes to mind when thinking of the ski runs at Jackson Hole: steep. This resort has some of the most challenging terrain in the country, but there are plenty of runs for intermediate skiers as well. Are you newer to the sport? Check in to their world-class ski school for a few lessons, and you’ll be cruising down the hill in no time.
The town itself is home to many excellent bars and restaurants, including the famous “Million Dollar Cowboy Bar,” a much-loved establishment that truly captures the spirit of the West. If you’re planning a ski trip this winter, Jackson Hole should definitely be given top consideration.
Every winter, East-coasters looking for a ski hill a little bit closer to home flock to Stowe, Vermont. With Mount Mansfield, the highest point in the state, towering over the town, there is always a reminder that ski season is right around the corner. Stowe Mountain Resort is one of the most popular ski resorts on the East Coast and an ideal ski town destination.
While Stowe is beloved for its winter activities, this town is truly a four-season destination. In Spring and Summer, check out the small-town vibe, art fairs, farmers’ markets, and traditional New England architecture. In the Fall, plan your trip to maximize leaf-peeping during peak foliage.
Year after year, Taos shows up on multiple “Best Places to Ski in the U.S.” lists, holding strong as New Mexico’s top ski town. The high desert town of Taos is surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and home of the local ski hill, Taos Ski Valley. Taos is known for its relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere with less of the flare you might find in Aspen or Vail.
While this town is definitely on the map for skiing, Taos is also a World Heritage Site and year-round destination. Many resident artists feature their works in the local galleries around town. In the winter, the adobe buildings and houses light up with a charming glow that has many people coming back on an annual pilgrimage.
The last town you’ll hit before entering Glacier National Park is also one of the best ski towns in the state of Montana. Whitefish is known for its stunning scenery, three hundred plus inches of snow annually, and three thousand acres of mixed terrain, where you can find ski runs for every level. This is a great option for those who are planning out a family ski vacation, children under the age of six ski for free, and lift tickets are a bit more affordable than some of the other big ski resorts.
If you’re looking for a little bit of extra adventure and aren’t limited by time, consider taking the train from the West Coast to Whitefish. Amtrak runs from San Francisco and Seattle (plus several other locations) year-round.
Park City, UT
Depending on who you ask, Park City might be just as famous for the Sundance Film Festival as it is for its snow. Those looking for an easily accessible ski resort less than an hour from a major airport will find Park City to be a perfect solution. There are several different ski resorts to choose from when you stay in Park City. Spend your time on Park City Mountain if you’re planning a shorter trip or check out some of the nearby hills, like Alta and Deer Valley Resort, if you have a few extra days.
After a long day of working your legs, it’s time to sit down and enjoy some of the craft cocktails served at High West distillery. Located on Park Avenue, in the central downtown area of Park City, this restaurant/saloon is a perfect way to end the perfect ski day.
Yes, Breckenridge is a world-class ski town with everything from beginner to expert terrain easily accessible from the gondola. But it’s also a dang cute mountain town all on its own! This is one of the most liveable ski towns in the United States, with a charming main street full of local businesses, bars, and restaurants. Before starting your day on the slopes, be sure to stop at Crepes a la Cart (Breckenridge’s famous crepe food truck). Everyone loves this place, so be sure to get there early to beat the crowds.
Whether you’re visiting Breckenridge to take advantage of the three thousand acres of fresh powder or if you’re excited to simply sit in a coffee shop with a book while watching the snowfall, this is a winter destination that everyone will enjoy.
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Is it too cheesy to say that the Heavenly Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe is totally…heavenly? The largest of the 15 resorts located in the Tahoe area, Heavenly gets high marks from skiers who travel from all over the world to glide down the slopes every winter. The town itself is exactly what you’d hope for in a ski town – a walkable downtown with many well-established restaurants, small, locally-owned shops, and a vibrant community that takes pride in their city.
This is one of the most accessible ski areas in the U.S. You’ll fly into Reno, Nevada, and then it’s just a quick hour drive (weather dependent, we’re always hoping for snow!) to the base of the ski resort.
When planning out your next ski adventure, keep in mind that you have an opportunity to double up and explore a charming, quaint mountain town that you might not have typically visited if not for its winter recreation. Any ski fan knows that there are too many incredible resorts to cover in just one list. So if we missed one of your all-time favorites, let us know which one we need to check out next in the comments section!
Featured photo by FashionStock.com/Shutterstock.
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