For the last five years or so, I have been honored to be an “expert” for USA Today’s 10Best Ski & Snowboard Readers’ Choice awards. Being an “expert” means that I have opinions that I’m willing to share regarding North America’s 10 Best ski resorts, ski towns, ski hotels and more.
One of my goals each year is to nominate lesser-known destinations and properties. Why? Because North America is full of hidden winter gems.
Ordinarily, I promote 10Best exclusively on my social channels, but this year, I’m excited to feature a few of my nominees here at Braveskimom. If you’re interested in voting and sharing your opinions (please do!), you’ve got until November 22. I’m providing the links to each category below.
10 Best Ski Resorts & Ski Areas
The twenty nominees in this category include plenty of big names, but not all of them are predictable.
What I like about this list of the best North American ski resorts, which was compiled by me and Lyndell Keating at Powderhounds, is that these are ski areas where the on-mountain skiing and riding experience skiing is paramount.
Sure you can shop and live the luxe life in Aspen and Telluride, but once on the mountain, even the biggest name resorts on this list are all about the athletic experience. For most of the resorts on this list, bragging rights are reserved for powder days and challenging terrain, not scoring a five-star dinner reservation.
Here’s the list:
- Alta (Utah),
- Aspen Snowmass (Colorado),
- Big Sky (Montana),
- Brundage (Idaho),
- Cannon Mountain (New Hampshire),
- Copper Mountain (Colorado),
- Grand Targhee (Wyoming),
- Kirkwood Mountain Resort (California),
- Lake Louise (Alberta),
- Mount Bachelor (Oregon),
- Mount Bohemia (Michigan),
- Revelstoke (BC),
- Silverstar Mountain (BC),
- Ski Land (Alaska),
- Snowbird (Utah),
- Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, California),
- Stowe (Vermont),
- Sunshine Village (Alberta),
- Telluride (Colorado), and
- Winter Park (Colorado).
And now my list of those I think are extra-special.
1. Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire and Stowe, Vermont.
Being a native Coloradan, my east coast skiing is limited. But my experiences skiing with family and friends at both of these good-sized, challenging, historic New England resorts leaves me hankering to go back and explore more. If you have the chance to ski the East, sharpen your edges and do it. While you may score an epic powder day, good edges will help make every other day excellent.
2. Mount Bachelor, Oregon.
With little-to-no tourist infrastructure (get a parking lot RV reservation for ski-in/ski-out or commute from Bend), Mount Bachelor is all about snowsports. Offering unique, outstanding 360° skiing on a mostly dormant volcano, we fell in love with this mountain last season. Wide-open, off-piste skiing lets you choose line after line, before dropping into stands of forest. Keep an eye out for active fumaroles (volcanic vents that steam and melt the snow around them), and enjoy a wholly unique experience. Hot Tip: Bring your nordic gear, too. The national forest surrounding Mount Bachelor is full of trails and backcountry lines.
3. Grand Targhee, Wyoming.
In all honesty, we prefer Grand Targhee to Jackson Hole. There, I’ve said it, blasphemy that it might be. Less busy, less expensive, and family-oriented in terms of convenience and ease, Grand Targhee also has the best views of the Teton range and copious amounts of snow. What isn’t to love?
4. Brundage, Idaho and Mount Bohemia, Michigan.
Nope, I haven’t been to either. But they’re both on my list. Brundage has a strong reputation with families, and high-stoke powder chasers. Mount Bohemia is all about ungroomed, natural, gnarly terrain…and lodging in yurts. Let’s go!
10 Best Ski Towns
Here we go with another fun list! I haven’t been to more than half of these ski towns — which only makes this list more enticing. How many have you been to?
- Alta, Utah
- Aspen, Colorado
- Banff, Alberta
- Bethel, Maine
- Bozeman, Montana
- Breckenridge, Colorado
- Carson Valley, Nevada
- Crested Butte, Colorado
- Jackson Hole, Wyoming
- Nelson, British Columbia
- North Conway, New Hampshire
- Park City, Utah
- Red River, New Mexico
- Rossland, BC
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Snowmass, Colorado
- Stowe, Vermont
- Telluride, Colorado
Here is my take on a few of these outstanding nominees.
When it comes to ski towns, less is often more, especially when you find a destination that is easily walkable and where you can park the car and not move it for days. Using this criteria, Red River, New Mexico is prime candidate for throwback, easy-living, hard-skiing fun. An old mining town, I’ve heard Red River compared to Telluride in terms of the natural landscape. But the town couldn’t be more different. Lift-side lodging is inexpensive and shopping and dining are limited. But for relaxation and ease, this stop on the Enchanted Circle, can’t be beat.
2. CB and CV.
Their initials offer a bit of pleasing alliteration (at least for me), but that’s about all Crested Butte, Colorado and Carson Valley, New Mexico have in common, along with skiing of course. Among Colorado’s most beautiful locations, Crested Butte continues to maintain a unique, funky vibe despite tremendous growth in the past few years. It’s always at the top of my list for year-round mountain fun. Carson Valley is the backdoor to south Lake Tahoe skiing, minutes from Heavenly, and close to both Kirkwood and Sierra at Tahoe. Less crowded and less expensive than the ski towns on the lake, Carson Valley is my favorite “secret” ski town.
3. Salt Lake City, Utah.
Forget what I just wrote about small, walkable towns. Salt Lake City doesn’t check those boxes, but it does check the boxes for convenience, value, and ease. While the Ikon and Epic passes have made the Salt Lake area resorts more busy (that’s what affordable ski passes will do), we remain believers, especially when we can ski weekdays. Choose from nearby Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, and Solitude or go just a bit further and enjoy Snowbasin, Deer Valley, and Park City. All are easy days trips. Stay at a major chain hotel to save money and take in Salt Lake’s multicultural food offerings. Utah dining is so much more jello.
10 Best Ski Hotels
This post is getting long, so rather than list all of the nominees in this category, I’m going to shout-out a few hotel favorites with which we’ve had fantastic experiences.
10 Best Ski Hotels
1. Geiser Grand Hotel, Baker City, Oregon.
An historic, restored hotel just off Interstate 84, we discovered Baker City while en route to Bend and Mount Bachelor. We stayed one night at the Geiser Grand and had a great dinner and breakfast before heading up to nearby Anthony Lakes ski area. The Geiser Grand offers discounted lift tickets and Anthony Lakes offers old-school skiing at Oregon’s highest elevation ski area. With just one lift, and very little infrastructure, bring your lunch and join the locals in the parking lot. You’ll be hungry. The skiing is really fun.
2. The Inn at Riverwalk, Edwards, Colorado.
Close to both Beaver Creek and Vail, the Inn at Riverwalk requires a car to easily get around (there is public bus transport, too), but offers great value. The rooms are large and comfortable, there is an outdoor pool and hot tub, a gym and free espresso coffees all day. With lots of dining and shopping nearby, as well as the trail along the Eagle River to explore, the Inn at Riverwalk is a fantastic year-round option in the Vail Valley.
Located at Golden Peak, Manor Vail is a large property that was recently updated with pool and restaurant renovations. Walk to the lifts, check your skis overnight with the valet and thoroughly relax after a day of skiing in the on-site spa and hot tubs. Units vary, as they are independently-owned, but the standards are high and the complimentary full breakfast means no-hassle and no-delay as you fuel up for your ski day. And speaking of fuel, Manor Vail has onsite Tesla charging.
10 Best On-Mountain Restaurants, 10 Best Aprés-Ski Bars, 10 Best Cross-Country Ski Areas
Here are three more categories which I will leave you to explore them on your own!
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