The FloQ

Travel Insights Blog

The FloQ

Travel Insights Blog

The Inside Scoop On 12 Top Ski Resorts In North America

Nov 9, 2023

Katya Lopatko

Tips & Tricks

Read:

22 min

Not sure which slopes to hit this winter? We’ve got you. Read on for an exclusive peek into some of the top resorts in North America, from one seasoned (and obsessed) skier to you.

Unsplash / Alessio Soggetti

As pumpkin spice lattes become peppermint mochas, you know what that means: time to hit the slopes. Here in North America, we’re lucky to have some of the best mountains in the world. Whether you’re a first-timer, a seasoned expert, or just want to sip hot cocoa in a snowy town, there’s something for everyone.

Over the past years, skiing and snowboarding have been getting steadily more popular in the US, even as participants skew white and male. Today, access is a hot topic in this historically exclusive industry. As stats show more and more Americans hitting the slopes, lines get long, slopes get packed, and prices creep higher and higher. While some resorts cap lift ticket sales to avoid crowds, others raise lift ticket prices to dizzying heights on high-demand days. But the people keep coming, and it’s easy to see why: the thrill of zooming down a snowy slope; the stunning beauty of jagged peaks; the cozy allure of an après pint in a quaint village; the unmatched bliss of feeling a snowflake land on your nose in the hot tub.

Not all resorts are created equal. From the humble hometown slope to the swanky big-name resort, there’s a huge range in mountain destinations. The choices are endless, and there’s something for everyone if you do a little digging. And while resort websites and trip reviews are a great place to start, we’ll throw in our own two cents with this succinct and honest guide to (some of) the best resorts in the US (and one in Canada). These tips are based on a combination of research and first-hand interviews with a seasoned skier reporting on his all-time favorite spots. Because of this, they skew west–sorry, East Coasters, we’ll have to cover your slopes in a separate post. Got a favorite we didn’t mention? Slide in our DMs!

1. Whistler / Blackcomb

Unsplash / Sierra M

The biggest resort in North America and home of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler Blackcomb is a must for any bucket list. A two-hour drive from the Vancouver airport, it’s the most famous Canadian mountain resort, attracting visitors from all over the world.

Pros:

• Lots of lifts

• Predictable precipitation means lots of snow

• Fun, laid-back, international village vibe

• The record-breaking Peak 2 Peak gondola, the longest and highest of its kind, featuring 360 views of Whistler and Blackcomb, and letting you hop from one mountain to the other in just 11 minutes.

Cons:

• The weather is a toss-up — chances are, it’ll be damp, gray and foggy or super windy, leaving you with wet gloves and the enticing choice between wet and icy snow

• If you’re US-based, traveling to Canada might seem like an extra hurdle. Be sure to look up any import / export limits, especially if you’re bringing food.

2. Lake Tahoe

Unsplash / Lukas Souza

This gorgeous West Coast destination includes a cluster of world-class ski resorts, including Heavenly, Squaw Valley, Northstar, Kirkwood, and Sierra-at-Tahoe. This means plenty of slopes to choose from, skewing more towards beginner and intermediate than advanced.

Pros:

• Stunning views of Lake Tahoe

• Long season and lots of snow

• Lots of terrain for beginners.

Cons:

Big crowds from nearby Bay Area and Sacramento.

Fun fact:

Tahoe straddles the border between California and Nevada, so you can hit the casinos after you hit the slopes!

3. Vail

View of Vail Village,circa 1970. Flickr / Doug Letterman

This Colorado resort nestled in the Rocky Mountains comes with a big reputation for the slopes and the après scene alike. One of the more luxurious destinations on our list, Vail attracts quite the range of clientele, from serious skiers to fancy families decked out in furs at dinner. Two hours from the Denver airport, a major US hub, it’s right in the middle of the continent, convenient for East and West coasters alike.

Best for:

• People watching: big shots from all over the Americas flock here in the winter, whether it’s to practice their turns or show off their après style

• Vail Village: To see these fancy folks, take a stroll through the village any time of day, but especially around 4-5pm. Modeled on a ski village in the Alps, the vibes are 10/10 — think cobblestone streets, cute and cozy boutiques, open air ice skate rink, and both American and Euro-inspired cuisine (crepes, fondue, yes please)

• The legendary Back Bowls: if you’re an advanced skier or boarder, these seven vast, ungroomed bowls are paradise on a powder day.

Cons:

Unsurprisingly, Vail is pricy and can get crowded, especially around the holiday season. If you’re in it purely for the slopes and can take or leave the ambience, you can probably get more bang for your buck elsewhere.

Fun facts:

• Vail has one of the best free public transportation systems in a resort, so you can easily get around without a rental car

• For added convenience (and added $$$), you can skip Denver and fly straight into the Eagle Vail airport, just a 30-minute car ride away.

4. Beaver Creek

Just a quick quick shuttle ride down the road from Vail is the Rocky Mountains’ hidden gem. Smaller, cozier, and more intimate than its famous neighbor, Beaver Creek offers a top-notch skiing experience and some unique perks.

Pros:

• Less crowds: although it can get busy on holidays or weekends, Beaver Creek is a quieter alternative to Vail.

• Beginner-friendly and family oriented: Beaver Creek is unique for having several beginner lifts (Red Buffalo, McCoy Park) with green runs galore near the mountain top, where snow stays fluffy and dry.

Fun fact:

Beaver Creek is home to the Birds of Prey Downhill course, a race course that hosts World Cup alpine events. Visitors are free to test it out, but be ready for some steep drops and sharp turns!

Insider tips:

• With the Epic Pass, you can hit both Vail and Beaver Creek in one vacation, since the two are just a free shuttle ride apart (prices go up November 19).

• Stop by the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek village for world-class theater and dance shows, including the Nutcracker each holiday season.

• Swing by Cookie Hour, every day at 3pm at the mountain base, for some fresh baked chocolate chip bliss, free of charge!

5. Breckenridge

Aerial view of Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 7 and Peak 8 in Colorado, USA. Unsplash / Kevin Bree

One of the closest major resorts to Denver, Breck is a mining town turned hub for world-class winter sports. With five massive peaks, alpine bowls, and terrain parks, it’s got endless variety for all types of skiers. The après scene is much more laid back, but just as vibrant, as in fancier resorts like Vail or Aspen, and its bustling Main Street is lined with bars, restaurants and galleries. You can even take a historic walking tour to learn about Breck’s Gold Rush era.

Fast facts:

• Breck is one of the highest-elevation resorts in the US, with the base at 9,600 feet, and the summit a whopping 13,000 — pack your aspirin for the altitude!

• Chilly winter winds have bestowed the affectionate nickname “Breckenfridge” — so bring your warmest base layers, and don’t forget the hand warmers.

• Four O’Clock Run: this popular trail runs right through town, so you can end up in the heart of the historic district just in time for that 4pm brew

• If you come in January, you can catch the International Snow Sculpture Championship, which attracts artists from around the world.

6. Telluride

Unsplash / Thomas Kelley

Another former mining town, Telluride is one of the more remote spots on our list, but that doesn’t stop people from all over the world flocking there year-round. With stunning views of jagged cliffs that look more like the Alps than anything you’d find in the US, and a charming walkable town straight out of an old postcard, it’s easy to see why.

Best for:

• Amazing terrain for beginners, experts and everything in between, without the crowds of the major resorts near Denver

• A remote and isolated feel, for those who truly want to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life

• Heliskiing: For the expert, Telluride boasts 250 square miles of terrain.

Cons:

• In a town that’s only 8 by 12 blocks, affordable lodging is in short supply

• A 5+ hour drive from major airports (Denver, Salt Lake) means it’s not the easiest or cheapest place to get to.

Fun facts:

• Telluride is a Dark Sky Community, making it perfect for some romantic stargazing

• The historic Sheridan Opera House stages performances throughout the year

• The green Galloping Goose tail, known as one of the most scenic runs in North America, is the longest trail on the mountain at 4.6 miles, and takes you all the way from top to bottom

• A free gondola system connects the town of Telluride to the Mountain Village, making for a scenic and eco-friendly mode of transportation.

7. Aspen

Unsplash / Chase Baker

Looking to spot some celebs? For decades, Aspen has had the reputation of being the go-to winter spot for the rich and famous. But there’s a lot more to Aspen than fur coats and luxury lodges. With four world-class resorts — Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass — there’s something for everyone in terms of terrain. Aspen also hosts the Winter X Games, attracting top athletes and fans, who can watch for free, from all over the world.

Best for:

• Swanky après vibe, with upscale restaurants and resorts

• Celebrity watching, of course

• The charming  Victorian vibes of the historic district

• A top-notch cultural scene, including famous galleries with outposts in big art cities like New York showcasing a range of contemporary art

• Ski-in, ski-out — many hotels and lodges let you hit the slopes right from their doorstep.

Cons:

• The prices are steeper than the slopes

• The shuttle service between the four mountains helps with accessibility and opens up your options, but the diffuse layout means that it can take a while to get around.

8. Alta

Two sister resorts tucked away in a little cottonwood canyon in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, Alta and Snowbird offer some of the best skiing in the country, along with a glimpse of what the mountains looked like 50 years ago, before the development of big, commercial resorts. Both are known for getting lots of snow, which means fresh powder for days, but also avalanche danger and highway closures.

What sets Alta apart is what it doesn’t have: snowboarders. In an attempt to preserve the “traditional” ski experience, only skiers are allowed. Whether this is an injustice or a relief, it’s definitely unique, as one of only three ski-only resorts in North America.

Come for:

• Snowboard-free slopes

• Quaint mountain lodges and cozy condos

• “The Greatest Snow on Earth”: you can’t prove this one, but Alta does get an impressive 500 inches of snow a year, and the super-cold temps keep it crisp and dry.

Know before you go:

• Since there’s only five lodges (and some private condos for rent), many people stay in nearby Salt Lake City and drive 30-45 minutes to the slopes

• The Cottonwood Canyon Road (UT-210) between Salt Lake and the Alta/Snowbird area often closes during heavy snowfall due to avalanche danger; plan ahead so you don’t get snowed in.

9. Snowbird

Unsplash / Lance Anderson

While there’s lots of beginner and intermediate runs, Snowbird is best known for its expert terrain. On powder days, the Road to Provo run and the Mineral Basin back bowls offer the first lucky few the best ride of their life.

Don’t miss:

• The Snowbird Tram provides a unique way to access high-altitude terrain, with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains

• The Cliff Spa at the iconic Cliff Lodge features a pool, hot tub and 360 views of the mountains.

10. Jackson Hole

Unsplash / Aubrey Odom

Near the border of Wyoming and Idaho, Jackson Hole has a rugged feel that’s hard to find in a modern resort. The nearby city of Jackson is a national hotspot for all things outdoors, with access to three ski resorts, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, and plenty of museums, galleries and public artworks devoted to wildlife, like the famous arches made of real antlers shed by deer in the nearby National Elk Refuge. Jackson Hole covers a broad area of diverse terrain, dotted with iconic runs and equally iconic restaurants and taverns. A tram runs from the base to the top of the mountain, making for easy access.

Don’t miss:

• Corbet's Cabin at the top of Rendezvous Mountain serves world-famous waffles

• In Teton Village, the Mangy Moose Tavern has been the go-to après spot for more than 50 years, with food, drinks, live music and all-around good vibes

• Or, swing by the alpine-inspired Alpenhof Lodge for its second-floor terrace, where you can keep your beer cool with the snow on the balcony railings

• Corbet’s Couloir, a narrow corridor world-famous for its treacherous curves and steep drops, hosts an annual contest called Kings and Queens of Corbet’s Couloir. It’s free and open to watch, and fans can vote in the People’s Choice Award.

11. Big Sky

Unsplash / Andrew Meehan

The Montana sky might be big, but Big Sky also boasts the largest terrain of US resorts. Cold, remote, and relatively difficult to access, Big Sky is for the dedicated skiers. To get there, fly into Bozeman, Montana, and then drive about an hour to the slopes. Although there is some beginner and intermediate terrain, green runs are few and far between. But it does have one of the most challenging mountains in North America, Lone Peak, featuring double and triple black chutes named after the likes of Lenin, Marx and Engels.

Know before you go:

• The resort is on the rustic side, with just a few lodging options at the resort base and another handful in Big Sky Town around 10 minutes away

• Fun fact: there’s a private mountain nearby with a gated community where Warren Miller, the famous ski filmmaker, has a cabin

• Montana winds get so cold that Big Sky installed heated lifts with plastic bubble covers.

12. Taos

Unsplash / Zach Castillo

One of the bigger and better known resorts of the southwest, Taos is known for its Bavarian-inspired ambiance and its steep runs, including some of the most challenging hiking terrain in North America. Still, it has a good amount of beginner runs, especially greens. Since all the slopes run on the steeper side, intermediate skiers won’t be disappointed, either.

Best for:

• Steep, spacious slopes

• Group trips with skiers and non-skiers: stay in the town of Taos 30 minutes away, which has plenty of art, culture and outdoor activities for all interests. Don’t miss the Taos Pueblo, a multi-story adobe complex built by Native Americans over 1000 years ago and still inhabited today.

Fun fact:

Taos takes its environmental duties seriously: In 2017, it became the first mountain resort to become a B Corp, signaling an ongoing commitment to positive economic and environmental impact. In 2022, it even became certified carbon-neutral.

This could be you–if you stretch, hydrate, and pack an extra pair of socks. Unsplash / Joshua Reddekopp

Finally, to round out this guide

We’ll leave you with a few general tips from seasoned experts, so that no matter where you go, you’ll have a top-notch experience:

Pass it on: If you can’t pick just one resort, consider Epic, Mountain Collective, or another resort group pass that gives you access to multiple spots per season at a discount.

Carpool: If you’re driving to the mountain with a group, check to see if carpoolers get free or discounted parking.

Book ahead: If you’re staying in a resort during a busy season, like late December or March, make your dinner reservations far in advance, or you might be out of luck (and turkey).

Stay warm, not wet: Dry your boots out overnight, either with electric boot dryers or in front of the fireplace. Don’t be lazy; take the inner lining out, or you’ll be putting your foot in a damp boot in the morning. Also dry out all gloves and socks, and pack a spare pair in case of rain, snow, or falls that leave you soaked. Dress in lightweight layers made of wool or synthetic materials (not cotton), and bring a small backpack to stash extras (and snacks!) throughout the day. And if you have chilly hands, opt for mittens over gloves, and toss in some single-use hand warmers.

Snack wisely: Now that you have a handy backpack, you can pack bars, trail mix, or other snacks to keep you going on the trail. Mountain food can be overpriced, lines get long and lodges get crowded around lunchtime. But if you do buy lunch, we suggest trying a noodle bowl for maximum warmth, hydration, and a balance of nutrients. And of course, don’t forget water — pack a small, soft flask, and take lots of water breaks.

Protect your legs: Stretch at the end of each day to minimize soreness, and if you have hot tub access, get your soak on and maybe even give yourself a mini foot or calf massage. If not, a hot bath or shower can do the trick.

Have a good altitude: mountains can do strange things to people; consider taking some preventative aspirin for altitude sickness, drink lots of water, don’t forget your sunscreen, and take it easy on the pints. While there’s no scientific evidence that the mountains make you get drunk faster, it’s a common urban legend. Even if it’s a myth, you won’t regret taking it easy on the après, especially if you’re back on the slopes the next morning.

Wear a helmet!

Related Articles

5 Ways Travel Can Help You Connect

Modern life can make us feel lonely and disconnected, but there’s a lot we can do to change that. Here’s how travel can help you connect with yourself, with others, and with the world.

A Digital Nomad's Guide: Going Off The Grid

In a world of digital nomads, full time travelers, and endless places to visit, how do you go “off grid” for a period of time? How do some of these travelers go to places without internet for weeks at a time, and how can you do it too?

Travel to Asia in America: Part 1, West Coast

Want to travel to Asia without leaving the country? In honor of Lunar New Year, discover some of these top spots to experience Asian culture on the West Coast.

Why Do We Travel?

Amidst the holiday bustle of lights and festivities, a deeper tradition takes center stage — New Year's resolutions. Explore the obsession with self-improvement and the pursuit of personal transformation in the midst of the holiday season.

A Digital Nomad's Guide: Embracing the World While Working Remotely

With the increase of online work after 2020, the lure of the digital nomad life is hard to deny for anyone now. But, what does that really mean?

Pop Culture Pilgrimages To Take This Fall

When you hear “pilgrimage”, you might think of religious travelers visiting holy sites, or the American pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower. But today, anyone can be a pilgrim.

The Ultimate Foodie Guide to Maui, Hawaii

So you have a trip booked to Maui. Congrats, you’re about to be in one of the best spots for food in the US, and maybe even the world!

Is Fall Really The Best Time To Travel?

This travel season, fall is the new summer. Why? Why now? Has summer always been overrated? Read on to find out.

How To Travel (A Little) More Sustainably

Sustainability can feel overwhelming, but here are some simple steps you can take to make your next trip a little more eco-friendly.

Packing For Your Personality

Want to make packing a little less stressful? Whether you’re an overpacker, a procrastinator, a minimalist, or somewhere in between, discover the psychology behind each type so you can make it work for you.

In 10 Years, Will You Look Back And Be Happy You Stayed Home?

On April 15th, 2018, I started on a 2,650-mile journey along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which spans from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, traversing six eco-zones and seven national parks.

Seven Top Outdoor Weekend Activities in the US for Fall 2023

Floqsta has some top picks for your next Fall group outing! As the crisp autumn air rolls in and leaves turn vibrant shades of red and gold, it's the perfect time to venture outdoors and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.

The Best United States Road Trips For Summer

When it comes to traveling the US, there’s nothing more iconic than a summer road trip. And for good reason.

How To Make A Workcation Work For You

After settling into the comfort of working from home — or couch, or even bed — it’s no surprise that young workers aren’t exactly clamoring to get back in the office.

Five US Destinations For A Coastal European Vacation

Soft sunlight dancing on turquoise water, pastel architecture artfully eroded in the wind, and deeply rooted customs shaping the slow rhythms of daily life give us something we can’t find in the States. Or can we?

Eight Under-the-radar Music Festivals To Check Out

Music festival season is gearing up for its second post-pandemic year, with Coachella officially kicking it off in April. After being deprived of live events for two seasons, music lovers can’t wait to commune with their favorite artists and fellow fans irl again.

Seven Beach Vacations With Amazing Culture In NA

Choosing where to spend your precious vacation time is never easy, especially when you only have a week or two to spare.

Feeling Lonely? Travel Can Help

During the pandemic, conversations about social isolation and its effect on mental health became a hot topic, and for good reason. But actually, the loneliness many of us felt only heightens a decades-long trend.

Can Travel Really Make You A Better Person?

Over the past three years, Google searches for “digital nomad” have tripled in the US, which points to our collective fascination with travel as a lifestyle.

Planning The Perfect Outdoor Weekend Getaway

You can do something good for yourself, your community and the environment. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Read on to learn how to plan the perfect outdoor weekend getaway — no experience needed.

Introducing “The FloQ”

When was the last time you did something for the first time? It’s easy to get caught up in theday-to-day and lose sight of the things that make life worth living: discovery, growth, connection.