One of the best things about skiing and snowboarding in the U.S. is that no matter where you are, you're probably not all that far from a top-notch resort or epic ski hill of some kind. In the Northeast, you can hit the slopes in the Adirondacks, Appalachians, and even the Presidential Range. Out West, you'll find world-class skiing in the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada, and the Cascades. Even the Midwest has its fair share of excellent hills to hone your skills on.
With more than 470 resorts spread out across the U.S., the real challenge comes in deciding exactly where you want to go. To help with that, we've compiled a list of our favorite skiing and snowboarding destinations, selecting the best places to get your shred on across the entire country. After all, winter is fleeting and we all want to make the most of our time on the snow.
With an average annual snowfall of more than 450 inches, it is easy to see why Jackson Hole is always listed among the top resorts not just in the U.S., but the entire world. Known for its steep and technical terrain, this isn't a destination meant for beginners. Yet intermediate and advanced skiers will absolutely love exploring everything that this resort has to offer, including some of its adrenaline-inducing drops and heart-pumping trails.
It's hard to know which is better—Telluride's outstanding skiing or its exceptionally beautiful scenery. Set in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the resort's enchanting location includes some of the best and most consistent powder found anywhere in North America, ensuring great skiing and riding on every visit. This is yet another destination that has a lot to offer advanced skiers, though beginners will find plenty to love, too. Getting to Telluride requires a bit of an effort, but those who do make the trip will find it to be well worth it.
Easily one of the most famous and revered ski resorts in the world, Vail offers the complete experience. Not only is it one of the largest resorts in Colorado, it also features some of the best snow, making it ideal for skiers and snowboarders of every experience level. And if you find that you still have some energy to burn after shredding the hill all day, Vail's famous nightlife will provide a thrill all its own. The resort features a surprising array of excellent restaurants, bars, and clubs to help you eat, drink, and dance the night away. You haven't truly experienced this iconic destination until you've indulged in some of the town's more famous off-mountain adventures.
Utah's Park City Mountain Resort is another excellent destination for skiers heading to the Western U.S. Located a short drive from Salt Lake City, Park City boasts more than 300 runs spread out over a sprawling 7,000-acre complex. In other words, there is a lot of room to play and plenty of trails to satisfy everyone from the first-time skier to the expert downhiller. With so much area, the resort rarely feels crowded, either, which is a nice change of pace from some of the other popular locations.
The top ski destination in all of Montana, Big Sky more than lives up to its name. The resort covers upwards of 5,800 skiable acres and has more than 4,350 vertical feet to ride, making it the perfect destination for those who truly enjoy the thrill of experiencing breakneck speed on snow. With relatively small crowds for a resort of this size and stature, it isn't unusual to find yourself completely alone on some of the trails—even on a busy day. This gives Big Sky a unique feeling that is all its own, which is partly why so many fans make it a point to come back year after year.
An interesting blend of old-school ski traditions and modern amenities, Taos Ski Valley is one of the true hidden gems of the American West. The hill gets more than 300 inches of fresh powder each year, with the snow covering some truly unique bowls, chutes, and trails. The resort has a bit of an untamed, practically backcountry feel while remaining squarely inbounds. Don't let that scare you away, however, as more than half the routes are designed specifically with beginners and intermediate skiers in mind. Despite its rugged nature, the valley is surprisingly accessible.
Tahoe has long had a reputation for being a great ski destination in the Sierra Mountains of California, and Heavenly is quite possibly the best resort in the entire area. Its 4,800 acres of skiable terrain offers more than 90 runs for visitors to explore, including one route that stretches for an astounding 5.5 miles. Better still, the hill boasts over 300 bluebird days in a given year, despite the fact that it receives 360-plus inches of snow during that same timeframe. The result is a top ski destination for newbies and experts alike, with an excellent outdoor winter experience that few other resorts can match.
Breckenridge truly is the ski destination for everyone. Not only does it offer some of the best skiing and snowboarding on the planet, it also has accommodations, restaurants, and nightlife to suit every budget. This has helped to earn it a spot on just about every skier's list of favorites, drawing new and repeat visitors on a consistent basis. The fact that it features over 3,000 skiable acres, more than 180 trails, and world-class terrain parks doesn't hurt, either. Nor does its close proximity to the city of Denver, which makes it easy to visit even for those dropping by for just the weekend.
When just one ski resort won't do, head to Aspen Snowmass. Consisting of four separate ski hills—connected by a convenient and easy-to-use shuttle system—Aspen gives visitors the chance to spend a long weekend on the slopes and never ski down the same run twice. In fact, there is so much to take in here that just one visit probably isn't enough. The amazing scenery, freshly groomed trails, and fast powder make Aspen a favorite for both intermediate and advanced skiers. Beginners will also love the atmosphere, both in and out of the lodge, although they may find fewer trails to their liking. Of note, Aspen is a decidedly upscale experience, so be sure to budget appropriately.
Revered for its rugged and challenging terrain, the legendary Snowbird ski resort in Utah has become a rite of passage for those who come to test their skills on its formidable slopes. While the amenities aren't as lavish as those found in other resorts, few leave disappointed, as Snowbird's 190-plus runs are some of the most consistently demanding in all of North America. All of this makes it a paradise for the hardcore winter athlete looking for pristine powder and outstanding scenery. Newbies and the faint of heart should look elsewhere.
Who says you have to travel to the American West in order to find great skiing? Stowe Mountain Resort is proof that the New England states have some outstanding destinations of their own. With 26 feet of snowfall each year and nearly 120 trails to ride, Stowe has everything an avid skier or snowboarder could ask for. With its 12 lifts and two gondolas, the resort is equipped to handle large crowds, too, and keeps lines to a minimum even on its busiest days. And when you're ready to relax after a long day on the slopes, the local mountain village feels more like something you'd find in Europe rather than in the Western states.
Lovingly referred to as the "beast of the East," Killington is another fantastic ski resort located in the state of Vermont. Its moniker stems from the fact that its main hill features a 3,000-plus foot drop from the summit to the lodge, something that is impressive even by lofty Colorado standards. Killington's 155 trails offer a wide variety of conditions to explore, while its six terrain parks and full-sized halfpipe are some of the best in the entire country.
When it comes to ski resorts in the Northeast, Sugarloaf is second only to Killington in terms of size and scope. It also happens to be the top skiing and snowboarding location in Maine, receiving a healthy 200 inches of snow on an annual basis. The resort features more than 160 runs and has 14 lifts to help keep traffic moving, but its true allure is the opportunity for experienced skiers to explore the backcountry. Adventurous travelers looking to escape the crowds will find plenty of untouched powder when they head off piste. This gives Sugarloaf an identity that is all its own and helps to lure in top skiers searching for a completely different experience.
Another one of Utah's iconic ski destinations, Alta is an example of old-school skiing at its finest. Here, the skiing is both challenging and rewarding, which doesn't make it an especially good location for newcomers, but earns the resort high praise from advanced and expert skiers. Alta's surrounding landscapes are drop-dead gorgeous, the lodge and lifts are top-notch, and the powder is smooth and plentiful. On top of that, thanks to its close proximity to Snowbird, it is possible to quickly ski between the two resorts, enjoying the unique qualities of both destinations. The only downside of Alta is that it still doesn't allow snowboarders on its slopes, making it the last major holdout in a battle between skiers and snowboarders that was long ago settled everywhere else.
Lake Tahoe provides visitors with a blessing of riches when it comes to ski resorts, and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is yet another example of this. The two resorts have combined to offer more than 240 runs and 6,000 acres of skiable terrain. Add in five terrain parks, 450 inches of snowfall each year, and a plethora of backcountry options, and you have the makings of a truly epic ski and snowboard vacation. Best of all, there is plenty of accessible terrain for beginners as well, allowing even relative newcomers to snow sports to feel right at home.
Note: As of this writing, Squaw Valley has announced it is changing its name. In 2021, the resort will announce a new name that is more respectful of Native American Indigenous culture.
While many of the top ski resorts impress with their sheer size and massive number of runs, Whiteface Mountain overcomes its relatively small footprint (it's just 288 acres in size) with a surprising amount of variety. Located in Lake Placid, New York—home of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games—there is always plenty of fresh powder to be found here. Visitors will also find 90-plus trails, with plenty of those routes specifically geared towards beginners and intermediate skiers. There is even a full-featured terrain park filled with jumps and rails that is especially popular with snowboarders. Upstate New York also delivers mountain views that are on par with some of the scenic places out West, making Whiteface a great wilderness escape that is easily reachable from several major metropolitan areas.
Midwesterners looking for a great ski destination should have Boyne Mountain Resort on their short list. Spread out across 415 acres and boasting more than 60 runs and seven terrain parks, there is plenty to see and do here. More rolling hills than steep mountains, Boyne is especially beginner- and family-friendly, with some areas that don't even require a lift ticket. Lodging is available in a number of sizes and for a variety of budgets, and there are plenty of other winter activities—such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and fat biking—to do while not on the slopes. The resort's Snowsports Academy is also a great place for newcomers to expand their skillset.
Home to the world's very first ski lift, Sun Valley is Idaho's premier mountain resort. Known for its breathtaking views, deep powder (more than 18 feet per year!), affordable pricing, and 120-plus trails, this hill has been a popular one for decades. The runs here are lengthy, wide, and fun, which give skiers and snowboarders a chance to spread out and truly enjoy the experience. The snow is also very accommodating, providing speed and agility without sacrificing stability. And for those who prefer to ski horizontally rather than vertically, Sun Valley is a fantastic destination for cross-country skiing, too.
If there is a resort in the Northeastern U.S. that compares to those found out West in terms of amenities and upscale features, it just might be Bretton Woods, thanks to its variety of restaurants, lodges, and accommodations—all of which are outstanding. Add in the ability to cover 97 percent of its 468 acres in snow and you have some of the most dependable ski conditions found anywhere in the country. The resort's 63 named runs may not seem like a lot, but they offer unique experiences for both adrenaline junkies and more relaxed winter athletes. Best of all, Bretton Woods frequently offers night skiing on the weekends, which is something that isn't found in a lot of other places.
There is a lot to like about Mammoth Mountain, not the least of which is its frequent snowfalls that bring a regular dousing of fresh powder. In fact, the resort sees more than 200 inches of snow each year, which when combined with its geographical location, leads to a very long ski season. It is not uncommon for Mammoth to open to the public in late October or early November, and to continue to have snow well into May or June. With 3,500 skiable acres and 11 terrain parks, Mammoth is one of those destinations you can visit a dozen times and still discover something new. The incredible sights of the Sierra Mountains never cease to impress—especially when dropping into a long ski run from the 11,000-plus foot summit.
Another ski resort known for its long season and dependable snow coverage is Jay Peak in Vermont. Located not far from the U.S.-Canada border, Jay Peak is a bit remote and requires some extra effort to get to—but visitors are rewarded with a number of trails that offer a backcountry-like experience that can't be found anywhere else in the Eastern part of the country. On top of that, the resort's nine lifts and trams are fast, efficient, and easy to access, so you never have to wait long to get back to the summit. Oh, and just in case we forgot to mention it, Jay gets over 380 inches of snow each year, meaning that it has some of the deepest powder in the region.
Compared to Colorado's other well-known ski destinations, Steamboat can feel a bit more isolated and challenging to reach. This has helped to keep it somewhat off the map for a lot of skiers, but those in the know count it as one of the best winter destinations in the entire U.S. Crowds are seldom a problem at Steamboat, and the resort has some of the most dependable winter conditions in the state, seeing a steady 150-plus inches year in and year out. Other nice features include excellent trails through the trees, a relatively low elevation that prevents altitude sickness, and a charming Western town to explore when not on the hill. The local hot springs are also a great place to soak when looking to soothe your tired muscles.
With its rich history, dash of luxury, and outstanding terrain, Sugarbush is one of those resorts that every skier should experience at least once. During the '60s, it was the darling of the East Coast jet-setter crowd and remains a leading winter playground to this day. With 111 trails spiderwebbing across its 200-acre landscape, Sugarbush provides thrills for beginners and experts alike. It also offers the only CAT skiing in the Eastern U.S., providing access to a backcountry experience that isn't found anywhere else on this side of the Mississippi. Throw in three full-featured terrain parks and a half-pipe and you'll quickly understand why this is one of the best ski destinations around. That reputation is only enhanced further by its modern lift system that ensures wait times are kept to a minimum. Small crowds, affordable prices, and a nice variety of terrain round out the package.
Another Midwestern favorite, Chestnut Mountain is a popular destination found along the Mississippi River bluffs in Illinois. The hills are surprisingly fast and steep, dropping more than 3,500 feet while also offering impressive views of the river below. Exceptionally beginner-friendly, Chestnut Mountain is great for weekend getaways from the hustle and bustle of Chicago. Lodging is easy to find, affordable, and offers quick access to the slopes. With just 19 runs to ride, it is easy to become familiar with the hills and find some favorites that appeal to your individual style. And when you're ready to try something completely new, drop into Chestnut's terrain park, which is widely considered to be one of the best in the entire region.
If you're looking for a pampered, luxury experience both on and off the mountain, Beaver Creek just might be the answer to your prayers. The resort is well known for catering to the upscale crowd, although its exceptional trail conditions make it a popular destination for any skier. Crowds are usually quite thin on Beaver Creek's 150 trails, most of which are accessible by the resort's 23 lifts. When you hit the snow, you'll find exquisitely groomed routes that are a joy to ride, providing speed and thrills with a minimum of effort. Snow comes in a capacity of 325 inches each year, which means there is almost always fresh powder to ride. Just be warned: The resort's summit of 11,440 feet can cause altitude sickness or shortness of breath over the first few days.