The 10 Best Ski Resorts in the US

The 10 Best Ski Resorts in the US - UPDATED 2020/21
Karl Sander
Written by Karl Sander / Photos by Greg Burke
Last updated May 15, 2020
Map View

So you’re looking to ski at one of the best? We’ve done the hard work for you. It’s all subjective, of course, but we put forward all the good along with the bad and hope to inspire you to get some epic skiing done this winter!

Map View

Known for

Most popular resort in Colorado, voted one of the best ski towns in the US

Highlights

  • Vibrant ski town with great apres ski
  • Diverse range of lodgings from affordable to lavishly high end
  • Award-winning terrain parks
  • Big crowds are a pain

Closest airports

Denver Intl. Airport - 104 mi (2.5 hour drive)
breckenridge ski resort
Breck in a snapshot

Breckenridge is an extremely popular ski destination with a bustling historic town and laid-back vibe. It's undoubtedly an awesome mountain to ride, but it can also get frustratingly crowded. This isn't surprising given all the things Breck has going for it; affordable lodging, an abundance of slopes and North America's highest lift. The town atmosphere is fun and relaxed, plus there are a ton of shopping, dining, and drinking options to choose from. Accommodation options here are varied and plentiful, with hundreds of hotels and thousands of condo units to stay in. With so much to offer, Breck makes for a great ski resort that suits all budgets.

Map View

Known for

Iconic ski resort and the biggest ski area in Colorado

Highlights

  • Largest ski area in Colorado
  • Charming pedestrianized ski town with endless food and shopping
  • Luxurious ski experience
  • Crowds and expensive

Closest airports

Eagle County Regional Airport - 34 mi (50 minute drive)
Denver Intl. Airport - 120 mi (2.5 hour drive)
Vail ski resort and town
Vail is as much about the mountain as it is the town

Vail is one of the most visited resorts in the US, with crowds flocking for their immensely huge ski area and impressive picture-perfect European style village filled with infinite dining, lodging and apres ski activities! All that acreage offers up a nice variety of terrain, spread across a front-side dominated by green and blue groomers and back bowls where incurable powder hounds head for glades, bumps, and steeps. Some might find this resort oozes corporate and contrived feels compared to more authentic towns like Breckenridge, but with heated sidewalks, we're not complaining! But beware, it has one of the most expensive walk-up lift tickets in the country!

Map View

Known for

Four distinctive ski areas in one area and available on one lift ticket clustered around a famous ski town

Highlights

  • Upscale and lively town with tons of food and shopping
  • Fantastic intermediate and advanced ski terrain
  • Low elevation - altitude sickness won't be a problem
  • Expensive ski vacation

Closest airports

Aspen/ Pitkin County Airport - 8 mi (15 minute drive)
Denver Intl. Airport - 220 mi (4 hour drive)
aspen highlands mountain views
Aspen needs no introduction

Aspen is the ultimate ski destination for the rich and has evolved into four separate ski areas: Aspen, Snowmass, Buttermilk, and Aspen Highlands. They're all linked by a shuttle system, accessible with a single ticket, and clustered around one of the greatest ski towns in the world. Aspen is truly the king of après-ski with endless dining and nightlife options! It's also one of the few ski resorts in Colorado where you won’t be affected by altitude sickness. For all the glitz and glamour that brings celebrities here, Aspen does come at a price, especially if you want to stay closer to the slopes.

Map View

Known for

Old school skiers-only mountain with access to Snowbird on the AltaBird pass

Highlights

  • World-class extreme terrain
  • Easy to navigate resort layout (minimal walking)
  • One of the best ski schools in the US and good beginner terrain
  • Lodging, nightlife, and shopping options are a bit lacking

Closest airports

Salt Lake City Intl. Airport - 32 mi (40 minute drive)
view of alta backside from Sugarloaf
View of Alta's backside from Sugarloaf

Alta is one of the very last resorts in the US to prohibit snowboarders, which makes it famous in some circles and infamous in others. If you're a skier, be prepared to be buried in snow on incredible steeps, chutes, and tree runs. While there is only 2,200 ac of skiable area, there are plenty of runs for every skier. If that's not enough for you, just upgrade your ticket to ski neighboring Snowbird as well. Aside from the handful of lodges at the base of its lifts, there's not much of a village at Alta. For folks who like nightlife and shopping along with their skiing, you can consider staying over at Salt Lake City.

Map View

Known for

Being an expert's playground nestled in the Wild West

Highlights

  • Epic expert terrain
  • Base village filled with restaurants and nightlife
  • Lots of lodging options in base village and cowboy town of Jackson
  • Crowds can be an issue

Closest airports

Jackson Hole Airport - 25 mi (1 hour drive)
gnarly steep terrain at jackson hole
Nothing beats Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole is infamous for its extreme terrain and steeps with the most continuous vertical in the US. Although it has the reputation of an expert's paradise, recent improvements (including the recently opened Teton lift) have made intermediate terrain easier to access. On the flip side, Jackson Hole is not ideal for first-timers and kids due to the lack of beginner terrain. Crowds can also be an issue, especially on powder days. If you're looking for ski-in/ski-out access, stay in Teton Village which has a handful of bars, if not, the town of Jackson is 20 minutes away with more options for nightlife and shopping.

Map View

Known for

Western town with extraordinary views and epic terrain, top tier resort for skiing

Highlights

  • Exceptional advanced terrain
  • The best laid out mountain in Colorado makes it easy to get around
  • Historic western town with jaw-dropping scenery
  • Difficult ski resort to reach

Closest airports

Telluride Regional Airport - 8 mi (20 minute drive)
Montrose Regional Airport - 70 mi (1.5 hour drive)
telluride gondola
Going up Telluride Gondola – ready to take on the mountain

Unlike many resorts on this list, Telluride offers novices the chance to taste the high-alpine from the top of Prospect Express. Experts can hike up to Palmyra Peak and take their pick of intense chutes, while brave intermediates can get their dose of adrenaline on the groomed parts of Revelation Bowl. Top it off with an amazing Wild West town and free gondolas connecting the two base areas, Telluride and Mountain Village. Although the difficulty in accessing Telluride is one of its biggest disadvantages, it helps to keep the crowds away. As a package, Telluride feels like a tucked away piece of ski paradise.

Map View

Known for

Wide variety of extreme terrain, vibrant ski culture and Olympic heritage

Highlights

  • Largest ski resort in California
  • Legendary reputation for high snowfall and notorious steeps
  • High standard of grooming on steep trails
  • Crowds and long lines on powder days

Closest airports

Reno-Tahoe Intl. Airport - 47 mi (50 minute drive)
Views of Lake Tahoe from Squaw Valley
Views of Lake Tahoe from Squaw Valley

Combining Squaw Valley's premier terrain with Alpine Meadows' powder and views of Lake Tahoe, the two resorts have merged to become Squaw Alpine. Though they're not connected by lifts, you can ski them both on one pass via a short shuttle ride. Famous for its wildly extreme terrain, Squaw Valley is an instant favorite for advanced skiers and riders. The base village has a wide selection for dining, drinking, and shopping choices as well as accommodations. But since it’s one of the most convenient resorts to get to from the populous Bay area, Squaw can draw big crowds meaning packed parking lots and long lift lines. On the other hand, Alpine Meadows is often overshadowed by its legendary neighbor, but it's a fantastic place to ski if you’re looking for great terrain without the crowds! If you can look past the outdated lift system and amenities, Alpine Meadows will not disappoint you.

Map View

Known for

Vail's little sister resort offering luxurious pampering

Highlights

  • Ultimate pampering experience
  • Fewer crowds than Vail
  • Top-notch grooming
  • Expect to pay top dollar for everything here

Closest airports

Eagle County Regional Airport - 28 mi (30 minute drive)
Denver Intl. Airport - 130 mi (3 hour drive)
views of gore range surround Beaver Creek
Views of Gore Range surround Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek is Colorado's newest resort, and it screams luxury both on and off the slopes. On the slopes, expect runs groomed to perfection and efficient lift systems with short lines. Majority of trails are beginner and intermediate runs that offer a scenic and unique skiing experience. Located ten minutes west of its sister resort, Vail, it may be a smaller resort but it also means fewer crowds. Off the slopes, pamper yourself at the base village purposely built for the resort. If you want to relax in extravagance after a day on top-notch groomed slopes, and your budget allows it, you'll have a hard time beating Beaver Creek.

Map View

Known for

Laid-back Western ski town and natural hot springs

Highlights

  • Unwind in one of the many geothermal hot springs!
  • Small authentic Western town
  • Crowds are rare
  • A bit further out from Denver

Closest airports

Yampa Valley Regional Airport - 28 mi (40 minute drive)
Denver Intl. Airport - 180 mi (3.5 hour drive)
steamboat springs ski resort
Welcome to Steamboat!

Steamboat’s claim to fame is its glade skiing - some of the best in Colorado! The tree runs aren't just restricted to experts but are available for all abilities. If this isn't enough, the mountain has a low base elevation which means you won’t get altitude sickness unlike some of the other resorts on this list. But because of this, it doesn't always get a lot of snow and the snow does degrade quicker. For all its rustic charm, the town is far from major airports and not easily accessible so therefore no crowds. But if you can afford the cost of lodging and brave the travel, Steamboat is definitely among the best!

Map View

Known for

Amazing intermediate and expert terrain with access to Alta on the AltaBird pass

Highlights

  • Great challenging terrain for intermediate and experts skiers
  • Connected to Alta (only good if you're a skier)
  • Efficient lift system and long ski seasons
  • Not suited for beginners along with limited dining, nightlife and lodging options

Closest airports

Salt Lake City Intl. Airport - 32 mi (40 minute drive)
epic rugged terrain at snowbird
Epic terrain at Snowbird

Snowbird serves up some of the best expert terrain for shredders with steeps and chutes to trees and bowls. Best of all, Snowbird has an efficient lift system and sees dumps of that famous Utah pow on a north-facing aspect, keeping it fresh and light! Unlike Alta, skiers and snowboarders are both welcome although the terrain is not well suited for beginners. If you’ve come for the nightlife, there isn’t much here at Snowbird; certainly not like there is in Park City. The small pedestrian village at the base of the slopes offers few accommodations and dining options but are clean, comfortable, and convenient with top-notch customer service.

The 10 Best Ski Resorts in the US
Breckenridge
Vail
Aspen Snowmass
Alta Ski Resort
Jackson Hole
Telluride
Squaw Valley - Alpine Meadows
Beaver Creek
Steamboat
Snowbird
Breckenridge