Welcome to volume 1 of our guides to the best ski resorts in North America. This will be the first of many as we tour world class resorts to cover the best ski destinations on the planet. Whether you’re an avid skier or thinking of starting, you’ll be glad to know the Northwest has some of the best ski resorts in the world.
That means if you’re reading this from the U.S. or Canada, you already have second-to-none terrain right in your backyard. If you’re trying to figure out where to go on your next (or first) ski adventure, here are a few of our top, must-visit ski resorts.
If you’re thinking about visiting Alaska, just go ahead and book the trip. We promise you won’t regret it. Alyeska is Alaska’s largest ski resort, just 40 minutes outside the city of Anchorage. The entire region is among the most charming and scenic we’ve ever been to. Visit not just for the incredible skiing at Alyeska, but for the entire Alaska experience.
Anchorage is an adorable, sleepy village full of small town charm. From their Historic Anchorage Hotel (attached to the cutest boutique, Grizzly’s Gift Shop) to their abundance of fresh seafood restaurants, it’s the perfect spot to explore and stay cozy in between outdoor adventures. It’s surrounded by a 13 mile hiking trail, stunning mountain views and tons of outdoor activities such as ice fishing, sledding, ice skating, and cross country skiing. In short, it’s perfect for any outdoor adventurer in both summer and winter. We recommend staying in Anchorage for at least a night or two to explore the area before heading up to Alyeska.
For skiing, Alyeska is the region’s premier resort. Just a quick 4o minute drive from Anchorage you’ll find an abundance of snow and challenging terrain. Keep in mind, even though many of the runs are categorized as blue, this is a challenging mountain, nicknamed “Steep and Deep” for its deep base and steep slopes. If you’re an intermediate to advanced skier, you will love this mountain. However, don’t be scared off if you’re a beginner. The base of Alyeska has several green runs that are great for learning and they also offer both private and group lessons.
Their on-site hotel resort, Hotel Alyeska, is beautiful and offers ski-in and out abilities along with world class service and large, luxurious rooms. It’s located just steps away from their scenic 60 passenger tram that takes you straight to their award winning Seven Glaciers Restaurant atop the mountain. Hotel Alyeska features a salt water pool, whirlpool, fitness center, a spa, and several onsite cafes, gift shops, and restaurants.
The resort offers specials throughout the season, such as inclusive 2 night stays that include lift tickets and discounts. There is plenty to do there in both summer and winter, so it’s great to visit year around, whether you want to ski or mountain bike, and if you’re extra lucky, you might catch some Northern Lights! Go to www.alyeskaresort.com to learn more.
Location Girdwood, Alaska
Nearest city Anchorage – 27 mi (43 km)
Vertical 2,500 ft (760 m) lift served;
3,200 ft (975 m) total
Top elevation 2,750 ft (840 m) lift served;
3,939 ft (1,200 m) (summit)
Base elevation 250 ft (80 m)
Skiable area 1,400 acres (5.7 km2)
Green 11% easiest
Blue 52% more difficult
Black Diamond 37% most difficult
Lift system 8 total
Aspen Snowmass is definitely a resort you need to add to your bucket list if you’re an avid skier. Not only does it have abundant terrain, but it’s one of the most active, beautiful ski villages you’ll ever visit. This resort consists of four separate mountains; Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen, and Highlands. We recommend stopping here for at least 5 days to fully enjoy all that Aspen has to offer. In addition to the incredible skiing, the village offers an abundance of nightlife, restaurants, boutiques, and apres ski happy hours. The lodging in the area is also top notch, so you’ll find almost exclusively 4 and 5 star hotels in the village including Four Seasons, Viceroy, St. Regis, and many more.
Aspen also hosts several annual events such as the Winter X Games and the World Pro Ski Tour, so the resort is especially fun and lively during these events. We were there for the X Games and it was a blast! The mountain remains open during the events, so you can watch all action slopeside or while you’re on the lift. It’s a truly an incredible experience to watch such talented athletes essentially defy gravity.
As for the terrain, Aspen typically enjoys a season long deep base and weather in the 20’s, along with many bluebird and powder days. There are plenty of runs for all levels and Aspen’s transportation within the village makes it quick and easy to get from one mountain to the other.
One important tip; if you’re flying in from Denver, you will need to prepare for mountain driving and renting a four wheel drive SUV with studded snow tires. Do not attempt to drive from Denver to Aspen without chains or studded snow tires. Not only is it illegal, but the roads can be blizzard prone and icy. Unless you have the proper vehicle and are skilled at driving in the snow, it’s best to either fly directly into Aspen or take the Colorado Mountain Express.
Either way, visiting Aspen Snowmass is a must for anyone looking to hit one of the best ski resorts in the world. For more information and to book your trip, head over www.aspensnowmass.com.
Whistler Blackcomb is consistently ranked as the #1 ski resort in the world, and for good reason. It really is unlike any other mountain you have ever seen. Whistler Blackcomb includes two gigantic mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, connected by one of the world’s largest (and most famous) ski trams, the Peak2Peak Gondola. In other words, the views and terrain are never ending.
With over 8,000 skiable acres, you can spend 4 days skiing from open to close and still not get through these massive mountains. We definitely recommend spending at least an entire week here to get the full experience. While you’re there, don’t forget to head over to the Harmony chairlift to witness dozens of birds that will land on your hand. It’s a quintessential Whistler experience.
In addition to Whistler’s incredible skiing, you’ll find one of the most beautiful, classic ski villages in the world. Whistler village is surrounded by world class hotels, dining, spas, and boutiques. We had the opportunity to experience a couple of the villages premier hotels and spas including Aava Hotel and Nita Lake Lodge.
Aava Hotel is located right in Whistler village and it’s a stone’s throw away from the mountain. Not only do they offer beautiful, luxurious accommodations, but they have some of the most reasonable rates in the area, so you get a combination of value and amenities. Aava features large, luxurious rooms with high ceilings, mountain views, and a full mini bar. The grounds feature a heated pool, hot tub, Scandinavian baths, and a fully equipped fitness center. The service is wonderful here as well. The staff was wonderfully warm and accommodating and available to help you with anything you need from bag storage to making reservations at restaurants. For more info, go to: www.aavawhistlerhotel.com
Nita Lake Lodge is another resort we highly recommend. Located in the Creekside area of Whistler village, Nita Lake Lodge is a serene and scenic resort nestled among Nita Lake. Its Whistler only lakeside resort and features spacious luxurious accommodations, an award winning spa (voted top 20 in the world by Conde Nast Traveler) with mountain view hot tubs. Their spa provides the perfect apres ski massage or custom facial, both which will leave you rejuvenated and relaxed.
As for dining, head over to their delicious new American restaurant Aura where you’ll experience some of the most creative dishes and inventive cocktails. Think tamarind glazed tiger prawns, kuterra salmon fillet on a bed of french beans, beets, lemongrass fondant potato, sous vide apple and verjus sauce, and tasty cocktails served up in Edison lightbulb glasses. For a moment, you’ll think you’re dining at one of NYC’s finest restaurants; it’s really that amazing. For more information, head over to www.nitalakelodge.com.
Another option for staying near Whistler is Vancouver. It’s a more affordable way of visiting Whistler if you’re open to commuting 1.5 hours into the village. There are many transportation shuttles that make it easy to get from Vancouver to Whistler, so this is a great option for anyone who prefers staying in the city. Vancouver is fun and lively with tons of restaurants, shopping, art, and nightlife. It’s definitely worth staying in for a night or two to experience the region.
For a combination of value and luxury, we highly recommend staying at the St. Regis Vancouver. Not only are the accommodations top notch and beautiful, but the staff is wonderful, and the hotel is perfectly located in downtown next to all the best restaurants and nightlife. The rates are excellent, too, so you’ll get all the luxe without the heavy cost. To book your stay head over to www.stregishotel.com.
Location Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain
Nearest city Vancouver
Vertical Whistler: 1,530 m (5,020 ft)
Blackcomb: 1,565 m (5,133 ft)
Top elevation Whistler: 2,182 m (7,160 ft)
Blackcomb: 2,436 m (7,992 ft)
Base elevation Creekside: 653 m (2,140 ft)
Village: 675 m (2,214 ft)
Skiable area Whistler: 4,757 acres (1,925 ha)
Blackcomb: 3,414 acres (1,382 ha)
Green: 35 – Easiest
Blue: 110 – More Difficult
Black Diamond: 35 – Most Difficult
Double Black Diamond: 20 – Expert
Longest run Peak To Creek(Whistler), Green Road (Blackcomb): Both are 11 km (6.8 mi)
Lift system 37 (Whistler 19)(Blackcomb 17)
Big Sky is one of the best, largest resorts that still tends to fly under the radar. Unlike other “big mountain” resorts that most people know about, Big Sky is still considered a relatively hidden gem. Located in Southwestern Montana, a hour south of Bozeman, Big Sky is the largest ski resort in America by acreage. With over 5,800 acres of skiable terrain, it consists of two mountains Big Sky and Moonlight Basin with over 250 runs collectively. Its top elevation is a whopping 11,166 feet, giving you some of the best powder you’ve ever touched with sweeping unobstructed views of the Bozeman region and the surrounding mountains.
Like Whistler Blackcomb, these mountains are so big, you will need a minimum of 4 days of skiing to get through all the runs. Big Sky is also a top notch, high tech mountain, recently investing $5 million in their heated, high speed chairlifts. The base village features many delicious restaurants, hotels, shopping, and you’ll find plenty of old world charm in the area, and you may even spot a few big horn sheep along the road!
We also recommend heading over to the smaller, but much lauded ski resort, Bridger Bowl to experience their awesome backcountry. Bridger Bowl is a non-profit resort, beloved by locals and visitors alike for its consistent conditions and cold “smoke” snow. They maintain a deep base throughout the season, have great terrain, and low ski lift prices.
For more info, go to: bigskyresort.com
Location Big Sky, Madison County, Montana
Nearest city Bozeman – 50 mi (80 km)
Vertical 4,350 ft (1,326 m)
Top elevation 11,166 ft (3,403 m)
Base elevation 6,800 ft (2,073 m)
Skiable area 5,800 acres (2,347.2 ha)
Green: 15% beginner
Blue: 25% intermediate
Black Diamond: 60% advanced
Longest run 6 miles (10 km)
Lift system 30 lifts
Brighton is a smaller family style resort, but it’s one of Utah’s best and has excellent untouched backcountry. If you want a no-fuss resort with incredible terrain, no crowds, abundant bluebird days, low ticket prices, and plenty of terrain parks, Brighton is your spot. It’s especially great for snowboarders and features 5 jam packed terrain parks for hitting rails, jumps, and improving your boarding skills. Brighton is definitely a “snowboarders mountain” and the type of spot that’s perfect for working on your park skills thanks to its many features and forgivable snow.
Brighton also features incredible backcountry loaded with untouched powder. So, if you want to get fresh tracks, Brighton is a great spot to grab your beacon and head out to Hidden Canyon, Lackawaxen, and the bowls off Mt. Millicent. Of course, check with the resort about avalanche conditions and do your due diligence before heading in the backcountry. They also host some great events, like the Burton Qualifiers, where you’ll get to see your favorite pro-boarders hit the park. Go to www.brightonresort.com for more info.
Location Salt Lake County, Utah, United States
Nearest city Park City, Utah
Vertical 1,750 feet (530 m)
Top elevation 10,750 feet (3,280 m)
Base elevation 8,755 feet (2,669 m)
Skiable area 1050 acres (4.2 km²)
Runs 66 total
Green: 21% beginner
Blue: 40% intermediate
Black Diamond: 39% expert/advanced
Longest run Olympic – 5.5 miles (8.9 km)
Lift system 4 high-speed quads/1 attached-quad/1 triple
Terrain parks 5
Snowfall 500 in/year (12.7 m/year)
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort tops our list as one of the most exciting and challenging mountains in both climate and terrain. With over 2,500 acres of inbound runs and 50% of those runs being black diamonds, J-Hole, as locals call it, is not for the faint of heart. Even their blue runs (which make up 40% of the mountain) would be considered black diamonds at other resorts. But, you don’t go to this mountain to stay in your comfort zone, you go there to challenge yourself on one of the most exhilarating, heart-pumping mountains in North America.
This mountain is for hardcore riders and skiers and it’s guaranteed to be one of the most challenging, scenic and exciting trips you’ve ever taken. Take the tram up to the summit and enjoy incredible 360 views of the entire area of Jackson, but keep in mind there are no easy ways down. Once you get to the top, it’s all black diamonds, but you will enjoy several miles of scenic drops and cat trails.
In addition to incredible terrain, Jackson Hole is nestled in with the charming city of Jackson which has an array of high-end restaurants, shopping, and cowboy-style entertainment. Shoot pool and enjoy live entertainment at Million Dollar Cowboy bar. Or head over to Snake River Brewing for tasty food, a lively crowd, and delicious local brews. Walking around the town of Jackson is like stepping back in time and its charm is timeless.
Also take some time to visit the elk refuge. You can view it from the road or take a sleigh ride to get up close and personal with thousands of elk that descend upon Jackson to take refuge during the winter.
Jackson Hole is one of our favorite regions and a must-visit for any hardcore skier or snowboarder. For more information and to book your trip head over to jacksonhole.com.
Location: Teton Village, Wyoming, U.S.
Vertical: 4,139 ft (1,262 m)
Top elevation: 10,450 ft (3,185 m)
Base elevation: 6,311 ft (1,924 m)
Skiable area: 2,500 acres (10 km2) inbounds, 3,000 acres (12 km2) backcountry
Runs : 116
Green: 10% easiest
Blue: 40% more difficult
Black diamond: 50% most difficult
Longest run: 4.5 miles (7.2 km)
Lift system: 1 tram, 2 gondolas, 11 chairlifts
That’s a wrap for this edition, but we’ll back again for the 2018/2019 season with another round of the best ski resorts in North America and beyond. Stay tuned!