The top ski resorts in the USA

Whether you’re looking to test your ski skills or prefer gentle runs with a side of aprés, America’s top ski resorts don’t disappoint.

There are more than 450 ski resorts spread out across the US – it can be daunting (even for residents) to choose which one to visit. Before you go, ask yourself a few questions: Are you into gnarly chutes or easy cruisers? Would you rather stay in the ultimate ski town or soak up the most spectacular scenery? Do you like resorts with all the trimmings or quiet, character-filled towns? Regardless of which ski camp you fall into, these four destinations have your winter holiday covered.

For ski fanatics: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Much of Jackson Hole’s terrain isn’t for the faint-hearted. Advanced skiers and boarders will be drooling over its adrenaline inducing sheer drops, cliff jumps and a seemingly endless supply of powder snow. But intermediates aren’t left out by any means. There are actually two mountains in Jackson Hole, and while Rendezvous Mountain is mostly for those daredevils, Après Vous Mountain has wide blue runs that go on forever. And if you really want to test out your stamina, take the legendary Jackson Hole tram up to the 3,185-metre summit of Rendezvous and – at 11.6 kilometres – ski the longest run in the US. The trip up alone is worth it, just to sample the famous waffles at Corbet’s Hut.

You can either stay at the compact Teton Village (great for ski-in, ski-out accommodation) at the base of the resort, or in the heart of Jackson, about 20 minutes down the road. Jackson is a real ‘yee-haw’ cowboy town, where you can plop down on a saddle by the bar at Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Meanwhile, in Teton Village, you can’t miss having a drink under the very mangy moose at the Mangy Moose.

Plenty of activities for non-skiers at Jackson Hole
Plenty of activities for non-skiers at Jackson Hole ski resort

For lovers of glitz: Vail, Colorado

Vail is the most popular – and best-known – ski resort in North America. It lives up to the hype: the resort is massive and the terrain is phenomenal. With nearly 200 trails, Vail is the biggest of its kind in Colorado, but it also has the most luxury hotels, fine-dining restaurants, spas, and pretty much the most of everything of any winter resort in the country.

The skiing at Vail is legendary (they’ve even got one area named thus). The ‘Front Side’ of the mountain offers mostly long, sweeping, family-friendly runs, but head over to the back and the huge ‘Legendary Back Bowls’ will keep serious skiers and riders amused for days. And if you get some of that lovely fluffy white stuff (of which Vail sees an average of five metres each season), you’ll be finding fresh stashes all day.

After a big session on the slopes, you can walk the long – and heated – cobblestone streets of the faux (but surprisingly charming) Swiss-style village. The dining options are abundant and excellent, so after a week in Vail, you might need to hit one of the glitzy shops for some larger pants.

Vail, Colorado is one of the top ski resorts in the US
Vail’s massive space and awesome terrain makes it one of the top ski resorts in the US

For history buffs: Sun Valley, Idaho

With long tree-cut runs, wide-open bowls and virtually no lift lines, Sun Valley sometimes feels like you have it all to yourself. This is the oldest ski resort in the US, home to the world’s first chairlift, and it gets around 250 days of sunshine a year – hence the name – which is great news for fair-weather skiers.

Sun Valley has two distinct mountains. The main ski area is Bald Mountain (or ‘Baldy’ to the locals), which has perfectly pitched long runs that will have you racking up a ton of vertical. Meanwhile, the kids and beginners get their very own peak: Dollar Mountain, a short bus ride away, is great for newbies. It’s virtually treeless, so there is no trail to veer off on, and very little to hit.

To get a real taste of Sun Valley’s glamorous history, step back in time and stay at Sun Valley Lodge. Built in 1937, it has been a magnet for A-list celebrities from the day it opened, hosting the likes of Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks and Ernest Hemingway, who wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls while staying in room 206.

Sun valley ski resorts
Sun Valley is home to one of the top ski resorts

For sensational scenery: Telluride, Colorado

It’s hard to know which is better: Telluride’s epic skiing or its exceedingly beautiful scenery. The village itself is a perfectly charming old mining town, dramatically nestled in a box canyon. If the views don’t leave you breathless, some of the terrain certainly will – Telluride has some serious inbound steeps and tricky tight glades. But it also has long cruisy runs like the 7.5-kilometre Galloping Goose and the rather aptly named See Forever run. Stop at one of the classy on-mountain restaurants to refuel before tackling the steep Plunge run into Telluride town.

You can stay in the cutesy Victorian houses of Telluride Town, or in a modern lodge in Mountain Village, located in the heart of the ski resort and connected by a free gondola to Telluride. Here, the Fairmont Franz Klammer Lodge, regularly rated among the top resorts in the world, is the place to check in. Admittedly, it’s hard to leave your room’s big leather lounge chairs by the open fire to hit the snow, even though it’s only a three-minute walk to the lift, where a concierge waits to hand you skis and poles just as you jump on for the ride.

Telluride Ski Resort
© Visit Telluride/ Ryan Bonneau

This ski resorts story first appeared in volume 115 of Vacations & Travel magazine. Subscribe to the latest issue here.

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