Looking for snowy slopes beyond Canada? Find pristine powder and fresh mountain air at these stellar U.S. ski resorts
With the 2021-22 ski season just around the next bend — or, in some parts of North America, already underway — it’s time to unearth the mittens, dust off the snow pants, and take the skis for a wax and tune.
If you’re well-acquainted with Canada’s slopes, new challenges await south of the border; you’ll find something for everyone when it comes to the beloved winter sport that makes the coldest months not just bearable but embraceable.
With excellent skiing across the United States, the only thing to decide is where to go for that swoosh-swooshing zen, fresh mountain air, and après-ski Bloody Mary, natch.
Greens for days
Even the mountains most famous for their daredevil runs, with stunningly steep drops, narrow passageways through snowy forests, and unforgiving miles of mogul terrain, have diversified their offerings to attract all levels of skiers and snowboarders, but some shine brighter than others in the beginner-friendly department.
At Steamboat in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the resort encompasses six peaks, but more than 50 percent of the terrain is designated beginner or intermediate. Kids under 12 also ski for free, with the purchase of a 5-or-more day adult lift ticket, which grants access to beginner zones, including the terrain park Mini-Mav for budding snowboarders.
The resort’s SnowSports School is a wise choice for skiers or riders of any age who want to advance their on-mountain skill set, and all the activity options, ranging from snow tubing to ice skating to a mountain roller coaster, promise visitors a well-rounded vacation in one of Colorado’s most charming ski towns.
A three-year major renovation to the tune of $135 million (U.S.) is currently underway, positioning Steamboat as a premier ski vacation for future generations. When complete, the redevelopment will add a second gondola, more advanced terrain, and a square with new shops and restaurants.
Next-level vertical adventure
Double-black diamond chasers have their work cut out for them at virtually any Rocky Mountain ski region, where there’s no shortage of challenging terrain, but for advanced enthusiasts, there may be no greater adventure than being dropped on the top of a fresh mountain of powder by a whizzing helicopter.
Hoping to lure adrenalin seekers in Park City, Utah, this year is Beyond Boundaries Heli-Skiing. Taking guests to backcountry terrain covering a total area larger than all the state’s ski resorts combined, the outfit goes above and beyond the resort’s easily accessible 7,300 acres and 330-plus trails.
Fortunately, shelling out for the chopper isn’t essential for obtaining that skier’s buzz: Park City’s features also include 3,226 feet in vertical rise, overnight grooming (the new snow-making capabilities mean a longer season and greater access across the mountain), and a terrain park that hosted the 2002 Winter Games (see the 22-foot Eagle Superpipe).
Big country tracks
Big Sky, Montana, has nearly 6,000 acres of skiable terrain, and it’s easy to forget you’re sharing the mountain when you’re in the zone. The resort’s 39 lifts take skiers and snowboarders to wide-open groomed runs, meandering glade runs, and perfectly shaped moguls.
Skiers access the diverse territory via a fast and efficient chairlift system, and new this year is Swift Current 6. The six-person, bubble chairlift (yes, the seats are heated) will increase uphill capacity by 50 percent, but even then, you’ll have plenty of space for solo (controlled) careening down the mountain.
Beginning Dec. 15, there’s also a new ski-in, ski-out option, thanks to the debut of Big Sky’s first luxury resort, Montage Big Sky. The posh property will encompass 139 rooms and suites, a 10,000-square-foot, alpine-inspired spa, and seven dining options. It’s only the second ski-side property for the upscale resort company and will help bolster Big Sky’s position as a world-class skiing destination.
The “Beast” on the East
Most East Coast resorts can’t compete with their Western brethren’s enormous, uncrowded mountains, but Vermont’s Killington Resort — which has already opened for the season for skiing and snowboarding — isn’t respectfully called the Beast for nothing.
Seven distinct mountain areas add up to nearly 2,000 skiable acres, accessed by multiple high-speed lifts to guarantee maximum mountain time. Glade skiing on this side of the country can feel a little daunting, but challenge-hungry skiers and riders will find plenty of forested fun on this Beast.
An outdoor exclusive
Sure, Park City, Utah, has more than its fair share of high-end accommodations and sticker-shock menus across a wealth of fine-dining restaurants, but for the total package, look to its neighbor, Deer Valley Resort.
The ski-only resort (sorry, snowboarders!) limits uphill capacity to no more than 50,000 skiers per hour to maintain both the mountain and each guest’s five-star experience. Daily mountain access is also monitored — capped at 7,500 lift tickets. And while the mountain itself is pristine and practically perfect due to dedicated grooming on roughly 2,000 skiable acres, exclusive Deer Valley delivers on the details off-mountain, too.
Hospitable staff, a stellar food, and beverage program, and supremely luxurious digs make this Utah destination both a bucket-list spot as well as a repeat player for discriminating skiers.