The 10 Best Ski Towns in the US

Beaver Creek Colorado Village at Dusk

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Ask any skier what the best ski town in the U.S. is, and you'll get answers that likely say more about what type of skier the person is than the actual destination. But that's to be expected—the U.S. offers a wide variety of places where you can hit the slopes, from the luxurious ski town of Beaver Creek, Colorado to the nightlife-fueled Killington, Vermont.

Understandably, it can be hard to know where to go, especially if you're new to planning ski trips. Fortunately, the 10 recommendations below on the best ski towns in the U.S. can help point your planning in the right direction.

01 of 10

Best for Bragging Rights: Silverton, Colorado

SILVERTON, USA - APRIL 16, 2019: the town of Silverton Colorado in a blanket of snow at the end of winter
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Sure, the average skilled skier or rider can make it down a double black with a bit of luck, patience, and the right conditions. But if you couldn't care less about groomers, head to Silverton, Colorado. Nearby Silverton Mountain Resort is known almost exclusively for backcountry and sidecountry skiing. Experts can look forward to days full of heli drops and face shots, though beginner and intermediate athletes may be happier in-bounds at nearby Purgatory Resort. After the lift (yes, just one lift) stops spinning, head into the small town to make friends with your fellow skiers, who are also likely to be at the top of their game. While this ski town attracts the best, don't get cocky: if you can't handle steep and deep, go somewhere else.

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02 of 10

Best for Nightlife: Killington, Vermont

People Skiing On Snowcapped Mountain Against Cloudy Sky
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Famous North American ski towns like Whistler, British Columbia, and the five base areas of Vail, Colorado, may get most of the attention when it comes to nightlife, but if you're looking for a nightlife scene that starts at aprés and doesn't stop 'til the lights go off at the bar, head to Killington, Vermont. It's the largest ski resort east of the Mississippi, attracting serious skiers from cities like Boston and NYC.

Après starts at 3 p.m. (hit the umbrella bar on spring days or the always-packed Lookout Tavern on winter afternoons), then it's off to late-night staples like the Wobbly Barn, Pickle Barrel, or The Foundry at Summit Pond to keep the energy going into the night with 2,000 of your closest friends. The only real downside is convenience—while nearby Rutland has a very small airport, it only connects to Boston, and most skiers and riders to the K-show will drive in for the weekend. Don't expect to sleep much.

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03 of 10

Best for Bluebird Days: Truckee, California

Mountain skiing with lake view
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If the only goggle lens you own is dark black, plan your ski trip to Truckee, California, just a few miles north of Lake Tahoe. The railroad-turned-ski town reliably has some of the sunniest skies in the U.S., and if it's not snowing, it's usually sunny—overcast skies are uncommon. Within 20 minutes of the town are world-class resorts like Palisades Tahoe, Northstar, and Sugar Bowl, with favorites like Heavenly and Diamond Peak only a few minutes further.

Reno-Tahoe International Airport is just 40 minutes away, offering direct flights from most major cities in the Western U.S., plus Chicago and NYC. Plan your trip to avoid Saturdays and Sundays, when the town is packed with weekend skiers from San Francisco.

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04 of 10

The Best for Luxury Ski Trips: Beaver Creek, Colorado

Beaver Creek Resort Winter Skiing at Dusk

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If you want to be first in line for the lifts—and first in line for a warm chocolate chip cookie and Swedish massage come 4 p.m., thank you very much—head to Beaver Creek, just a few minutes from Vail. It's the best ski resort town for skiers willing to splurge, with everything from heated sidewalks to a $180 first tracks ride at dawn (lift access is not included in the price). The Vilar Center for the Performing Arts is the place to go for evening ballet or live jazz performances, and local brand Gorsuch sells über-posh cashmere sweaters for those who won't bat an eye at the $1,000 price tag.

While you certainly can brave the infamous traffic of I-70 to reach Beaver Creek in about two hours from Denver, many skiers opt instead to fly into the Eagle Country Regional Airport (30 minutes away), which connects to major cities like Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, and Dallas during the ski season.

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05 of 10

The Best for a Quick Ski Trip: Salt Lake City, Utah

Man skiing in Utah
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Salt Lake City may be the most populous city in Utah, but that doesn't disqualify it from also being a ski town. With popular resorts like Park City, Snowbird, and Deer Valley all less than 45 minutes from the airport, it's easy to catch an early morning flight to SLC and be on the slopes by lunchtime. The sheer number of hotels and restaurants in the city ensures you won't pay inflated ski-town prices for lodging and après, and if you book an evening return flight, you can get in a full day of skiing before you go. You'll find direct flights to Salt Lake from nearly all major U.S. cities on the East or West Coasts, ensuring minimal flight time and maximum ski time.

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06 of 10

The Best for Small Crowds: Sandpoint, Idaho

Schweitzer Mountain Frozen Trees Above Lake Pend Orielle Sandpoint Idaho
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Die-hard powderhounds have probably already dream-planned a ski trip along Canada's famous powder highway, but there's no better place to start a road trip full of face shots than Sandpoint. The uncrowded ski town gets as much powder as its Rocky Mountain neighbors to the north and has advanced enough tree skiing (and cat skiing) at nearby Schweitzer Mountain to make it a good place to gauge how long your legs can last at resorts across the border. But since so many skiers fly straight to Calgary, Alberta, entirely skipping Schweitzer, it's never as crowded as better-known destinations to the south or north.

Sandpoint is an easy, sub-90-minute drive from Spokane, Washington, making it the best ski town in the U.S. if you want to hit the grocery store, get your skis waxed, grab a good dinner without a reservation, and get back to your hotel in time for an early wake-up call—all without hitting much traffic in the process.

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07 of 10

The Best for Beer Aficionados: Bend, Oregon

A female skiing.
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Travelers who value their après-ski as much as their actual ski may want to head to Bend, Oregon, home of Mount Bachelor. The large and beginner-friendly mountain offers guests the chance to ski in a volcanic caldera—but beer snobs will especially appreciate just how close it is to downtown Bend. The Bend Ale Trail stops at more than 30 breweries, including standouts like Deschutes Brewery and GoodLife Brewing Company. And that number doesn't even include another 17 distilleries, wineries, and cideries. Don't miss the brewery at The Old St. Francis School; housed inside a former 1936 Catholic school, the hipster nightlife complex features a hidden speakeasy and an indoor soaking pool. Fly into the Redmond airport (17 miles away) or add it to a longer trip to Portland (roughly three hours west).

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08 of 10

The Best for a Peaceful Ski Weekend: Taos, New Mexico

Couple skiing on snowy mountain slope
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Winter athletes hoping to plan a ski trip more focused on cultural experiences than nightlife should plan a trip to Taos, New Mexico. It's the best ski town in the U.S. for arts and culture, with 50 galleries focused on everything from modern art and ceramics to Indigenous crafts and the San Francisco de Asis Church, made famous in paintings by modernist painter Georgia O'Keefe. Plus, there are eight historical museums, including the home of explorer Kit Carson and the 1804 Martinez Hacienda.

While Taos Mountain Resort is the big draw for skiers, athletes happy to spend an afternoon off the slopes may be drawn to activities like guided tours of the "biotecture" Earthship neighborhood and spiritual healing sessions at the Native Roots Ancestral, Folk & Herbal Medicine Collective. For the ultimate relaxation, the well-known Black Rock Hot Springs, naturally heated by underground activity, is the perfect place to soak.

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09 of 10

The Best Budget-Friendly Ski Town: Kalispell, Montana

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Hikers and backpackers may associate Kalispell with sky-high food and lodging prices for tourists visiting nearby Glacier National Park in July and August—but come winter, the town's prices drop significantly, making it an excellent ski town base camp for trips to Whitefish Mountain Resort. Kalispell is just 20 minutes from the resort (one of the most affordable in the U.S. at $89 for an adult day ticket), but it has lower winter prices for hotels and restaurants than the town of Whitefish itself. It also has better options along the lines of motels and is slightly closer to the Missoula airport (roughly two hours south).

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10 of 10

The Best for Western Cowboy Culture: Durango, Colorado

Ski run with many people skiing and rugged mountains
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Slightly unpolished and proud of it, Durango, Colorado, is the best ski town in the U.S. to experience authentic Western and cowboy culture. While Wyoming may have the recognizable cowboy symbol trademarked—and Jackson Hole has all but claimed it as its own—Durango was developed by gold rushers in the late 1800s and still embraces that "anything goes" mentality. In winter, Durango offers rewards for travelers willing to go off the beaten path a bit, and the best hotels tend to be independently owned properties in historic late-1800s buildings that once housed prospectors looking to strike it rich (or perhaps gambling away the rights to their gold and silver claims in them thar hills).