The Best U.S. Destinations for Winter Sports
The bold names of winter sport destinations — Taos, Sun Valley, Aspen, Vail — are classics for a reason. Gorgeous snow, fantastic winter sports, beautiful people and great culture team up to make them that way. But dozens of other fabulous destinations await this winter. Here are some of the best places to ski and enjoy the snow in the U.S.:
Park City, Utah
Ski season: November through April
Once a fringey mountain town, Park City and its environs officially became hip when Robert Redford established the Sundance Film Festival, and the area has become more and more exclusive ever since. Making the place more precious: a ski-in distillery, High West Distillery & Saloon; rooftop-to-table cuisine at Talisker on Main; and a boutique hotel, the Washington School House Hotel, a restored 19th-century schoolhouse. What hasn’t changed is that Utah has — according to its license plates and most people who love it — the best snow on earth. Dry and powdery, it’s a skier’s (and other snow-sport fanatics’) dream. Last year, a new gondola linked Park City Mountain Resort to the Canyons Resort next door, creating one of America’s biggest ski resort, known just as Park City.
Red Lodge, Montana
Ski season: Thanksgiving through April 2
For those who miss the vibe of, say, Jackson Hole before it got fancy, Red Lodge offers the same kind of Old West vibe, where you’ll find cowboys and skiers drinking at the same 19th-century saloon after a long day. Red Lodge Mountain is a great place for first-time skiers and beginners, since the slopes usually aren’t packed and there are lots of instruction packages. But daredevils will love it, too, since there are more than 1,600 acres of skiable terrain, a summit elevation of 9,416 feet and an average annual snowfall of 250 inches.
Wildcat Mountain, New Hampshire
Season: Early November through April
This area has New England charm in spades (especially in North Conway, about 19 miles away, which is a good place to stay). But Wildcat Mountain isn’t a ski area for showboating your latest designer ski bunny outfit. It’s a good, solid mountain for beginners, but also has a vertical drop of 2,112 feet—one of the steepest mountains in the area. There’s lots of good skiing and snowboarding instruction, but the events are what locals love. The springtime Wildcat Pond Skim, where people dress up in costumes, ski down the mountain and try to build enough momentum to “skim” across a freezing pond at the bottom, is the stuff of legends. It happens each April, when there’s still snow on the ground but the spring thaw has begun.
Season: November 23 through April
It’s hard to beat Sun Valley Resort — and the funky town of Ketchum that serves it — for star appeal. Its summer Allen & Co. Investment Conference is known as “summer camp for billionaires,” and some of the biggest mansions and most notorious playboys park here for the winter. But for those who aren’t in it for the scene, Boise is a seriously underrated ski destination. For one, the slopes start just 16 miles from Boise’s city center, at Bogus Basin, which operates as a not-for-profit with low, low ski pass prices. In town, a strong craft-beer scene, hearty restaurants and an interesting Basque culture make for a great visit off the slopes as well. A bit further afield is Soldier Mountain, which is owned by actor Bruce Willis and has a great backcountry area; Brundage and Tamarack—each about 100 miles away—have incredible powder and a ski culture that’s much more low-key than their famous neighbor. Bonus: The 100-mile drive from Boise to McCall, a town near Brundage, is one of the most gorgeous you can imagine.