Powder seekers wait all year for the snow to fall on America's finest hills. There are hundreds of ski resorts to choose from across the States, from the obvious West Coast and Rocky Mountain range locales to the underrated slopes of New England. If you're one to pack up your ski gear and travel for good powder, you might be wondering which direction to go.
Look no further: Here are 10 of the best U.S. slopes to hit this winter, plus some tips to help you make the best of a ski trip.
Mammoth Mountain, California
Mammoth Mountain is a dream ski destination for many reasons, but it's perhaps best for those traveling in groups with varying abilities. It not only has amazing backcountry terrain for experts but also one of the best lesson programs in the nation.
In addition to its 3,500 skiable acres and an exhilarating terrain park (in which to participate or just watch), Mammoth also offers snowmobile adventures, snowshoeing, and high-speed tubing. It has one of the longest ski seasons, too, often being the first California resort to open and the last to close.
Vail Ski Resort, Colorado
No list of ski destinations would be complete without Vail. The iconic and celebrity-favorite ski mountain takes luxury to new heights with its mountainside hotels like The Arrabelle at Vail Square and The Sebastian Vail. Its slopeside town is postcardlike and downright enchanting, filled with high-end shops.
While the mountain itself contains 5,317 acres of skiable terrain — not to mention access to world-class instruction, a scenic gondola, and more — visitors should be sure to slot in off-mountain activities, too. Vail is a mecca for backcountry skiing and also offers ice skating, tubing and sledding, lavish spas, and lively hockey games.
Sun Valley Resort, Idaho
If getting off the beaten path is on your skiing bucket list, then it's time to head to Sun Valley. Though it's long been a favored destination among celebrities and billionaires the world over, Sun Valley is really for everyone. All you need to do is figure out how to get to this adorable town smack dab in the middle of Idaho, which can certainly be a feat.
Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colorado
Though Breckenridge Mountain has been around for some time, the destination has experienced a bit of a renaissance since the opening of extremely hip hotels like Gravity Haus. Skiers and riders at Breckenridge get access to five peaks, four terrain parks, 187 trails, and almost 3,000 skiable acres. If it's all about the views for you, this resort is also home to the "tallest chair lift in North America." Between runs, you can thaw out with a hot meal on bustling Main Street, conveniently located at the bottom of the hill.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming
Jackson Hole was made for the well-seasoned skiers and riders of the world. The mountain's more difficult terrain and steep pitch make it ideal for those who really know what they're doing. For anyone interested in taking their skiing to that next level, the mountain hosts its Steep and Deep clinic exclusively for advanced to expert skiers each year.
Aligning well with Jackson Hole's reputation as a thrill seeker's paradise, the resort also has options for heli-skiing and guided snowcat skiing — the ultimate adventure.
Big Sky Resort, Montana
Montana is known as "the last best place" for a reason: It's home to Big Sky Resort. The gorgeous mountain has remained largely untouched by commercialization and has kept all the charm people hope for when hitting a mountain town. It also offers guests plenty of extras, such as headlamp night skiing and the chance to do "first tracks," where guests can get on the mountain an hour before anyone else.
Centered around the 11,000-foot Lone Peak, the resort includes 5,850 skiable acres, 4,350 vertical feet, and 39 lifts up the mountain.
Park City Mountain Resort, Utah
Park City is the place to be for any ski bum but especially one who happens to also be a foodie. Along the picturesque and always-lively Main Street, you'll find dozens of local and one-of-a-kind restaurants all ready and willing to serve hungry skiers and riders (think grain bowls, sushi, and gourmet doughnuts, not just your average old chili).
Park City Resort encompasses 7,300 acres, six terrain parks, more than 330 trails, and 43 lifts — and that's not even including what's offered by neighboring Deer Valley Resort.
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
New Mexico is mostly associated with dusty plains dotted with tumbleweeds and succulents, but rest assured it claims a fair enough share of the Rocky Mountains to be a certifiable ski and snowboard destination. The snowsports hub is Taos, whose Ski Valley resort quickly gained traction after the introduction of Taos Air, an airline dedicated to getting guests to and from the mountain with ease.
Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont
If you're going to ski in New England, you might as well go for the best. Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont comes with one of the largest vertical drops in the eastern U.S., enough varied terrain for all abilities, and charm oozing out of every trail. Although Stowe has only 468 skiable acres, it has some of the best powder on the East Coast. It's also home to the longest-running ski patrol in the nation, so make sure to give a patroller a high-five while you're there.
Alyeska Ski Resort, Alaska
Located in Girdwood, Alaska, about an hour's drive from Anchorage, Alyeska Resort is a luxury ski destination with 1,600 skiable acres, 76 trails, and an average of almost 700 inches of snow each year. It's the largest ski resort in Alaska and home to the longest double black diamond run in all of North America. Perhaps most enticing is that tourists have the chance to peep the northern lights after a fun day of skiing.
Tips for Making the Most of a Ski Trip
Pick the Right Mountain for Your Skill Level and Group
Whether you've been skiing your entire life or you're hitting the slopes for the very first time, there is a ski destination for everyone. While planning a ski trip, make sure to check out each mountain's map, as well as its percentage of beginner, intermediate, and expert runs. Also, visit the mountain's website to ensure it has a lesson program if you're a beginner.
Stay as Close to the Mountain as Possible
Choosing accommodation that's close to the mountain means you won't have to waste too much time commuting to and from the hill. Thankfully, many mountains have on-mountain or mountainside accommodations, or at least places to rent just down the road. If you do decide to rent off the mountain, make sure you're on a public transportation route as parking in the morning and lugging your gear to the lodge can be a real pain.
Take a Lesson
No matter how good you think you are, you really should take a lesson. After all, if professional skiers like Mikaela Shiffrin have coaches, then why don't you? Lessons allow skiers of all skill levels to increase their potential and stay safe while on the mountain. (As a bonus, ski school students often get to skip the lift line.)
Investigate Extras Around the Mountain
Ski-centric mountains across the nation offer up some seriously exciting extras like night skiing, tubing, backcountry skinning, hiking, and much more. Of course, there are always more relaxing options, too, like spa days, ice skating, or just roasting marshmallows by a hotel fire. If you're planning an extended stay, try to build in at least one day of non-ski-related activities to get a real feel for your destination.
Consider Buying an Epic or Ikon Pass
Let's be clear: Skiing and snowboarding can be crazy expensive. Some day passes run upwards of $200, meaning a family of four is looking at $800 a day just to ski. But, there are better options out there including multi-day passes as well as mega tickets like the Epic and Ikon passes. Both passes allow access to multiple mountains over the season and can offer serious savings, even if you're skiing for as little as five days at some mountains. Just make sure to sign up for alerts from both passes and purchase them as early as you can in the ski season.