Top North American ski resorts
What makes each of these resorts special?
Whistler Blackcomb British ColumbiaWhistler Peak is home to the best “dawn patrol” run in the world, said Gordy Megroz in Outside. Grab a ride on the village gondola at 7 a.m. and the $18 ticket to the top will also buy you a fine buffet-style breakfast at the Roundhouse Lodge. When you push away from your bacon and eggs, 8,171 acres of freshly groomed powder await outside the door. Navigating an action-filled day at North America’s largest resort has gotten easier: “Whistler’s new, free mobile app tracks trail and lift openings throughout the day,” helping you to hit the same slopes used by the 2010 Olympians. And there’s no reason to put off booking a visit. Last year, “the resort got seven feet—seven feet!—of snow the week of Christmas.”
Jackson Hole WyomingFor a place that offers “the normal trappings” of a first-tier destination resort, Jackson Hole has, “rather impossibly, managed to retain all of its soul,” said Christopher Steiner in Forbes.com. While the Four Seasons at the base of the slopes may be crowded with celebrities and rich cowboys, this is also still a resort “where the best skiers in the world, before skiing off 50-foot cliffs, gulp down waffles and Budweisers inside a mountaintop shanty called Corbet’s Cabin.” Jackson Hole has “the best backcountry skiing in the world,” as well as the greatest ski lift you’ll ever ride—the Tram. But the resort’s greatest asset is that it’s one “contiguous, unrelenting, and glorious slope,” not a wandering series of small fall lines.
Squaw Valley CaliforniaThe peaks have “always been world-class” at Squaw Valley, and now the resort “finally has a village as awesome as its slopes,” said Adam Fisher in Men’s Journal. The valley used to have “nothing more than a handful of indifferent eateries and only one decent cup of coffee.” But a recent merger with neighbor Alpine Meadows has revitalized the area, causing “a small city’s worth of new bistros” to spring up. The new businesses bring “San Francisco’s high-foodie culture” right to the base of the mountain, joining the distinguished PlumpJack Cafe, partly owned by former S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom and affiliated with the “top Napa Valley winery” of the same name.
Snowbird/Alta UtahLong before these two resorts combined a decade ago to form the U.S.’s second-largest ski area, they “represented the hallowed ground of the deep and steep,” said Marc Peruzzi in Men’s Journal. Modern powder skiing was invented at Alta, “where 500 to 600 inches of the world’s lightest and driest snow falls each winter.” An added perk to visiting this year is the opening of the fabled Zone 5, a “wild, ungroomed series of hidden chutes” between the two resorts that features a 1,200-foot vertical drop. Before the advent of rocker skis several years ago, the area was considered “too remote, precipitous, and full of unstable snow for anyone but experienced backcountry skiers.” Zone 5 is now served by the handy Aerial Tram, and average skiers can log as many laps in a day “as their quads can take.”
Aspen/Snowmass ColoradoSometimes you want a ski town that isn’t all about downhill runs, said Anne Z. Cooke and Steve Haggerty in The Boston Globe. By day three in Aspen, you might notice that “the gung-ho skiers” you met on the summit of Ajax “are now sunbathing in rows of deck chairs facing the mighty snowcapped peaks of the Maroon Bells.” There are plenty of other diversions, too—including the choice window-shopping in town and the lively nightlife. Yet an outdoorsy spirit prevails. Locals actually don shorts to make morning hikes all the way from Aspen Mountain’s base to its summit. At the top, anyone can join a naturalist-led snowshoe hike or, better, return to Ajax’s summit for a two-person paraglide flight. “The pilot controls the glide.” Your job is to gape.