When winter comes around, America’s ski towns are ready to come alive. Skiing and snowboarding season runs from mid-November to early May, though hardcore enthusiasts can continue their passion year-round by taking to the backcountry. For most of us, however, getting in our turns at the resorts and ski areas is more than enough to satisfy our need for snowy speed. While the Rocky Mountains have the best-known skiing in the nation, the east, west, and midwest mountains have quality terrain within their regions as well. If you’re ready to migrate where the snow is falling, join us on a pilgrimage to eight of the best ski mountains across the land.
1 – Lake Tahoe, CA- Squaw Valley
Squaw, considered by many in ski circles as the crown jewel of Tahoe, merged with Alpine in 2011, creating the largest single ski area in the continental U.S. with 6,000 acres. Long renowned for steeps and granite cliffs that attract top NorCal skiers, Squaw is recognized as the birthplace of extreme skiing. But Squaw also beckons the less experienced with mellow beginner and intermediate runs, wide open bowls, and, of course jaw-dropping views of Lake Tahoe. On powder days, forget about first tracks unless you’re seriously committed, as competition is fierce, and keep in mind that lifts like KT22, Headwall, and Silverado can get crowded.
2 – Denver, CO – Loveland Ski Area
In the land of big-time resorts, Loveland stands strong as one of the best ski areas that is still independently owned. Because it doesn’t share a pass with the “big boys”, Loveland is something of a local’s mountain, though all are welcome! It’s only about an hour’s drive from Denver and there are rarely any lift lines—quite a novelty in Colorado! The terrain is balanced, with great blue and green runs on the lower half of the mountains, and incredible double black bowls and chutes from the high ridge (where the mountain views are absolutely stunning). Snowcats bring skiers up to 13,000 ft. where they can have the run of a lifetime as they glide through Rocky Mountain powder. Loveland averages over 400 inches per season, so chances are you’re in for a good day! Passes and food prices are reasonable, highway access is good, and the mountain is a ton of fun—don’t miss it on your next visit to Colorado!
3 – Jackson Hole, WY – Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Jackson Hole is located in the heart of the Teton Mountains, a wild mountain range where old man winter crafts some of his finest storms. Rugged, remote, and gnarly, these mountains just happen to have some of the premier skiing and snowboarding anywhere in the world. While the mountain accommodates all levels, the sheer amount of technical terrain favors advanced skiers and snowboarders—steeps are wicked steep, bowls are huge, and cliff drops are par for the course. Even the trails within ski boundaries can be fiercely fun—don’t be surprised when a modest blue run gets your adrenaline pumping. In true Wyoming spirit, this is cowboy skiing and the best way to take advantage of everything Jackson Hole has to offer is to grab the proverbial bull by the horns. Just don’t forget to look around at the gorgeous mountain scenery while you speed down from timberline into forests of towering alpine evergreens.
4 – Portland, OR – Mount Hood Meadows
At 11,250 ft., Mount Hood is Oregon’s highest peak. Thankfully, you don’t necessarily have to climb to the top to have fun. Located on the flanks of this venerable mountain, Mount Hood Meadows has the full suite of ski and snowboard terrain: smooth cruisers, bumpy blacks, nervy steeps, and a half-dozen terrain parks. The Super Bowl is one of the most popular areas for advanced skiers. On a clear day from its lofty ridge, you can see 80 miles in every direction, though chances are you’ll be focused on the wild ride looming below your ski tips. There’s a fine mix of intermediate terrain as well, and many local Portland kiddos learn their chops at Mount Hood Meadows. While the summit may be a prize to some, a full day of turns followed by a relaxing apres ski in the warm lodge is pretty darn nice too.
5 – Salt Lake City, UT – Canyons Resort
Utah likes to boast that it harvests all the quality western snow before sharing its leftovers with the rest of the nation. They may have a point—Utah powder spoils the locals in Salt Lake City, who have several resorts within an hour of the city. Canyons is one of the very best. There are seldom lift lines and there is terrain for every level of rider and skier. Simply put, the place is huge! Canyons is the largest ski area in Utah and the crown jewel of Park City (a mere 32 miles from Salt Lake). 182 runs and 4,000 skiable acres? Now that’s huge! Terrain is geared towards intermediate and advanced skiers, though take heart—beginners tend to progress quickly thanks to the fluffy powder that takes some of the sting out of learning to get your turns. There’s plenty of excellent lodging, stellar mountain views, and no shortage of challenging runs.
6 – Stowe, VT – Trapp Family Lodge
A world-class training facility on Mt. Mansfield in Stowe, Vermont, Trapp’s (as it’s called locally) is one of New England’s best places for cross country skiing. All levels of skiers are welcome. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself sharing a trail with an olympic athlete! In the early 1940’s, the von Trapp family—yes the one from the Sound of Music—settled in Stowe, Vermont, which reminded them of Austria. In 1968, Johannes von Trapp opened the country’s first full service Nordic ski area on the property’s logging roads, hiking trails, and bridle paths. Now Trapp’s, which is still owned by the von Trapp family, has 60km groomed skate and classic trails and 100km backcountry ski terrain that links with other Stowe networks. Though there are plenty of climbs if that’s what you want, Trapp’s has terrain for every skier age and ability. And on weekends you can ski up to Slayton Pasture Cabin and warm up in front of the roaring fire with soup, sandwiches, and hot chocolate.
7 – Killington, VT – Killington Ski Resort
There are over 1,500 skiable acres at Killington Resort and the highest skiable peak, just over 4,200 feet, actually breaks treeline (a rare feat in northeast ski areas). The wealth of terrain (New England’s largest by acreage) is accommodating to all levels of skiers, with a fine balance between runs. Of the 212 total trails, 28% are rated easy, 33% intermediate, and 39% difficult. Killington is the ideal destination for ski families and many Vermont locals grow up with the mountain as their skills improve. There are 6 mountains within the main resort boundary and nearby Pico Mountain (a few miles down the road) is part of the extended family—a Killington Pass will work there as well. Big mountains mean big fun and this one is the biggest in the region!
8 – Williston, VT – Catamount Outdoor Family Center
Family friendly Catamount is another non-profit Nordic area. With 35 kilometers of clearly labeled cross-country ski loops groomed for skate and classic, it’s one of Vermont’s most accessible groomed networks both for its proximity to Burlington, and it’s mellow terrain. And, for family members who don’t want to ski, there’s fat biking, sledding, and snowshoeing trails. The views are always spectacular and it’s easy to mix up sports and try a little bit of everything! This is one of the best places to introduce kids to the joys of winter sports.
Squaw Valley Credit: “Izgled of Squaw Valley California”. Licensed under Public Domain via
Trapp Family Lodge Photo Courtesy of Trapp Family Lodge
Killington Ethan S. Klapper
Catamount Catamount Outdoor Family Center