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Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows
Photograph: Courtesy Squaw ValleySquaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

The 14 best ski resorts and ski towns in the USA

Your ultimate guide to the best ski resorts in America, with leg-burning slopes, knee-deep powder and après afternoons

Written by
Frederick Dreier
&
Sarah Medina
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It's only November and snow has already started to fall across the country, which means we're already planning this year's trip to the best ski resorts and ski towns in the U.S. From California to Vermont, we've rounded up the best ski destinations in the nation for any type of getaway: Thinking about a family vacation in Idaho? How about a romantic getaway to Colorado? Or a girls' weekend with the most luxe après ski amentities? We have a ski resort with your name on it. All you have to do is pack. 

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Best ski resorts and ski towns

Colorado's status as a top-notch winter destination has turned its front-range resorts into overcrowded parking lots on the weekends. That’s not the case at Steamboat Springs, where the three-hour drive from Denver thins the herds. What you will find is arguably the best snow in the state—the dry, light “champagne powder,” as the locals have named it. You will also find a quaint downtown where the fur coats and haute culture of Aspen and Vail are overshadowed by cowboy boots and 10-gallon hats. And after a day of shredding knee-deep powder, you have multiple relaxation options. Steamboat boasts two hot springs options, the Strawberry Park Natural Springs and Old Town Hot Springs. Oh yeah—the latter one features waterslides.

Discover Colorado: 
📍 The best things to do in Colorado
🛏️ The best hotels in Colorado 

❄️ The best Colorado ski resorts

Sometimes called The Big One, Jackson Hole boasts enormous snowfall and steep, eye-bulging terrain that’s not for fraidy cats. The tram to the summit passes over the famed Corbet’s Couloir, regarded as the most challenging ski run in North America. If you survive the skiing, the town of Teton Village boasts excellent post-slope dining and a wide range of bars. Most locals live 20 minutes away in the town of Jackson. 

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It’s difficult to focus on the ski slope at Telluride when you have jaw-dropping views in every direction. The resort sits in a box canyon, surrounded on all sides by the soaring, steep peaks of Colorado’s San Juan range. Telluride was once the state’s best-kept secret, due to the six-hour drive from Denver; but now the mountain is known internationally (though crowds are still small, even on weekends). The area serves up great après ski, thanks to the aptly named Mountain Village town, which sits amidst the chairlifts, midway up the mountain.

Discover Colorado: 
📍 The best things to do in Colorado
🛏️ The best hotels in Colorado 

❄️ The best Colorado ski resorts

Alta and Snowbird, UT
Photograph: Courtesy Snowbird/Matt Crawley

4. Alta and Snowbird, UT

Alta and Snowbird are two separate ski resorts, but we’ve combined them due to their lift ticket partnership. You can access either resort via ski lifts or a bus. Be warned: the nightlife and après action is limited. And snowboarders are no doubt familiar with Alta’s skiers-only demand. But the area’s world-renowned dry Wasatch powder is perhaps the best ski snow on the planet. And each year, Mother Nature dumps approximately 500 inches on the two ski areas, giving it some of the deepest powder around. Newbies are welcome, but Alta and Snowbird’s terrain is best enjoyed by advanced skiers.

Discover Utah: 
📍 The best things to do in Utah

📍 The best things to do in Salt Lake City
🛏️ The best hotels in Salt Lake City

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Whiteface takes East Coast skiing to a new level with the biggest vertical drop east of the Rocky Mountains and a section of backcountry terrain that would make a Coloradan feel at home. Oh, and there are also the ski runs that hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics. The real draw to Whiteface, however, is the nearby town of Lake Placid, which has plenty of bistros, bars, restaurants and bed and breakfasts. The town is still dominated by the ski jumps and bobsled runs from the Olympics. Don’t like to ski? Lake Placid also boats toboggan chutes, dog sledding and Nordic ski trails.

Discover Upstate New York: 
📍 The best things to do in upstate New York
🛏️ The best upstate New York resorts 

Vail is ubiquitous on global “Best Ski Resorts” lists, and it’s easy to see why. The powder always falls, even in drought years, thanks to the mountain’s cloud seeding program. The après opportunities are unrivaled. The back bowls go on forever. While it’s no longer the country’s biggest resort, Vail created the model for mega resorts that cater to skiers of all abilities. The resort’s front side is where you’ll find miles of zoomers and groomers, while the backside is where the experts go to play. You pay for your fun at Vail, which boasts one of the most expensive lift tickets in the U.S. And with so many opportunities for good food, drink and entertainment, you’re bound to leave with an empty wallet. It’s worth every penny.

Discover Colorado: 
📍 The best things to do in Colorado
🛏️ The best hotels in Colorado 
❄️ The best Colorado ski resorts

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Big Sky was already Montana’s largest ski area, so when it purchased the adjacent Moonlight Basin resort in 2013, it created a massive winter playground with terrain for all levels. Big Sky boasts more than 5,800 skiable acres and a vertical drop of 4,350 feet. The only small thing here is the crowd, due to Big Sky’s distance from any major cities. There’s not much in the nearby town, but you’ll be so tired from a day on the mountain, you probably won’t care.

Discover Montana:  
📍 The best things to do in Montana 

🌲 The best things to do in Glacier National Park

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, CA
Photograph: Courtesy Squaw Valley

8. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, CA

Ringed by world-class ski resorts, the Lake Tahoe region of California and Nevada draws millions of visitors each year. We’re inclined to steer all of them toward Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, the two largest resorts in the area. A single lift ticket grants you access to both areas, which are linked by a bus. Squaw is the larger of the two, and its infrastructure from hosting the 1960 Olympics is still visible. Weekend crowds can be extreme at Squaw, but the mountain’s tramway, high-speed quads and gondola keep the lines moving.

Discover California:  
📍The best things to do in South Lake Tahoe

📍The best things to do in California
🛏️The best hotels in California 

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Park City, Utah is perhaps the quintessential ski town, thanks to its proximity to a major airport, collection of bars and restaurants and ability to please both rich folks and regular Joes. In 2015, Vail purchased Park City Mountain Resort and combined it with the adjacent Canyons Resort, creating the largest ski area in the United States, at 7,300 acres. 

Discover Utah: 
📍The best things to do in Utah
 
📍The best things to do in Salt Lake City
🛏️ The best hotels in Salt Lake City
 

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Beginners beware: Taos is best enjoyed by experienced thrill seekers who enjoy the steep and deep. More than half of the marked trails are black or double black, and Taos’ version of a blue run would be black at most other resorts. Reaching many of Taos’ best known terrain requires a hike. There’s a payoff for the experts, however. The small crowds are a respite from Colorado’s packed resorts, and the skies over northern New Mexico dump feet of light, crisp powder snow on Taos each year.

Discover New Mexico: 
🍴The best restaurants in Taos 

📍The best things to do in New Mexico

Planning a trip alongside skiers of all abilities? Look no further than Sun Valley, which includes two separate ski mountains, both accessible from the town of Ketchum. Intermediates and experts will love Bald Mountain’s 3,400 vertical feet and rugged tree skiing; the beginners can spend a day at Dollar Mountain, a treeless beginner slope that also features a tubing park. And at night, Ketchum serves up everything from cowboy saloons to fine dining.

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“Breck” is of the most popular ski resorts in Colorado due to its proximity to Denver, all-abilities terrain and amazing snow. This combination means that Breckenridge is often congested and competitive on the weekends. If you can skip away during the week, however, you will find a charming, laid-back vibe—and lots of snow. The real draw of Breck, however, is the town, which features the most varied nightlife of the Colorado ski towns. The bars range from upscale to dive, and the cuisine runs a similar gamut. It’s a safe bet that there’s a party going on almost every night of the week. 

Discover Colorado: 
📍 The best things to do in Denver
🛏️ The best hotels in Denver

❄️ The best Colorado ski resorts

Known by locals as “Smuggs,” Smuggler’s Notch is like a Pixar film: There’s equal enjoyment for both parents and kids. The gentle slopes of Morse Mountain are an ideal learning ground for newbies, while the upper steeps of Madonna Mountain are scare-worthy. But it’s Smuggs’ ski school and family programs that are the real draw.

Discover Vermont: 
🍴The best restaurants in Burlington
📍The best things to do in Vermont

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