Winter’s onset tends to elicit a collective groan at once again having to don parkas just to make a run to the corner store. The few weeks following the season’s first meaningful snowfall are always a great reminder just how many lousy drivers are on the roads too. Of course, there is one group for whom cold temperatures, early sunsets, and heavy snow are nothing short of divine. We’re talking about skiers and snowboarders. For them, the more powder the better. If that sounds like you, trust us, we get the appeal. Honestly, who can blame you for being in love with places that really come alive when the snow starts falling? For you it’s all skiing, all the time. Sure other people like going down a run or two, but it’s not really in their DNA like it is yours. You want to find those places offering the best of both worlds. World-class runs and plenty of in-town entertainment. In this updated essay we’re taking a look across America to bring you the best of the best. These are the top American ski towns that will delight even non-skiers.
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Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Shawnee Mountain Ski Area, Pennsylvania
Hendersonville, North Carolina
If you’re any sort of a ski fanatic there’s an excellent chance you’ve been to Park City. Located just over 50 kilometers east of Salt Lake City, the area is home to multiple ski resorts including Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort. Both locations featured in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic alpine and snowboarding events. Their eastern-facing slopes help ensure excellent dry-powder conditions. Visitors regularly flock here from around the world to test themselves on some of the best runs. What you may not realize, however, is Park City offers a wealth of action and entertainment off the slopes. For starters, you can simply enjoy a walk around the Park City Main Street Historic District. Home to excellent examples of modern architecture, Historic Main Street overflows with great shops and cafes. Visit the interactive Park City Museum and stop at the Meyer Gallery, which features modern and abstract works housed in a historic former bank building. Or come during the world-famous Sundance Film Festival and watch Park City transform into the epicenter of the film world for two weeks smackdab in the middle of ski season. With so much to do, everyone falls in love with Park City. It’s much more than just a ski resort town!
Northern Vermont appeals to a particular type of a ski fanatic. Jay bills itself as one of Vermont’s last remaining “undeveloped” towns. Untrammeled wilderness exists alongside world-class recreational facilities. Snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, golf, hiking, fishing, and hunting help make Jay far more than a mere ski resort town. It’s the sort of place you’re likely to visit in both winter and summer. For prospective visitors, the best bet is to travel from Burlington. Unfortunately, you can no longer cross the Canadian border on your way from Montreal. Book accommodations near Jay Peak Resort and settle in for some adventure. The resort features an indoor waterpark, indoor climbing, indoor skating, movies, arcade games, and more. You’ll have plenty to do when you’re not strapping on your skis or snowboard and barreling down hill. South of Jay and located between Montpelier and Burlington is the Trapp Family Lodge. Billing itself an authentic taste of Austria, you can enjoy Bavarian-style accommodation and access to some great cross-country and snowshoeing trails. Stowe Mountain Resort is only 15 minutes up Vermont Route 108 so downhillers can get in their fix as well. Treat yourself to some excellent outdoor conditions in beautiful Northern Vermont and book a visit to either of these fantastic winter sports destinations.
Arguably America’s premiere ski resort destination, Aspen has long drawn visitors keen to experience the famous Rocky Mountain lifestyle. Set in a remote corner of the Rockies, Aspen appeals to those seeking a sense of adventure and an escape from the mainstream. Intimately integrated with the surrounding ski slopes, this is quite literally a place where you can walk from a downtown café to a ski lift and, in a matter of minutes, be riding some of best trails in North America. Be sure to visit the Aspen Art Museum or the Baldwin Gallery. The latter is well-regarded for its exhibitions on modern and contemporary American art. Several additional galleries cluster in Central Aspen, making it easy wander around and enjoy the eclectic collections. Visit Wagner Park, a lively spot popular with community residents and visitors. The John Denver Sanctuary is a lovely place with curated gardens and several plaques honoring the singer-songwriter’s life and career. Depending on when you visit, you will absolutely want to take a trip out to see the famous Maroon Bells. The iconic Rocky Mountain peaks foregrounded by Maroon Lake create a natural setting seemingly plucked straight from a painting. With a vibrant community and plenty to offer, Aspen is without a doubt one of America’s top ski resort towns. Come experience it for yourself.
Upstate New York is a highly regarded destination. Ecologically, there is considerable resemblance to the mighty boreal forests that span the globe at more northerly latitudes. This largely protected ecosystem is one of New York’s greatest assets. Lack Placid sits squarely within what UNESCO in 1989 designated as the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve. Having hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980, Lake Placid is a winter sports paradise. Whiteface Mountain is home to many famous alpine runs and anchors the region’s ski culture. This is where you’re going to want to spend some time if you’re a powder head. Be sure to visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum and explore the numerous exhibits chronicling the games. Those commemorating the famous 1980 “Miracle on Ice” are very popular. Visit Herb Brooks Arena and see equipment worn by players including skates and pads from goaltender Jim Craig. Stroll down Main Street and feel the Olympic spirit as you discover the many restaurants, shops, and cafes. Lake Placid is one of America’s top ski resort towns, but you don’t need to spend all your time on the slopes to have a wonderful vacation here.
Bretton Woods is a small town with a global reputation. Even if names like John Maynard Keynes and Harry Dexter White have more or less receded into the annals of history, the momentous decisions taken at the Mount Washington Hotel continue to shape the global order. Visitors to Bretton Woods can today visit the iconic location where in 1944 representatives from the Allied Nations met to plan the postwar economic future. Step outside and enjoy the beauty of White Mountain National Forest. Numerous ski resorts are close by and easily accessible. The region’s principle draw, however, is Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeastern United States. Ride the famous Mount Washington Cog Railway, which runs seasonally from April through November. Brave the fierce conditions and often extreme winds at the summit. Mount Washington still holds the record for the world’s highest measured wind speeds not associated with a tornado or tropical cyclone. Weather conditions on the mountain are notoriously unstable so be prepared for a variety of conditions and check ahead before you visit. With much to offer, we think you’ll find Bretton Woods one of the top ski destinations in North America.
Tucked into the base of Tenmile Range in the Rocky Mountains is Breckenridge. Like Aspen, Breckenridge is closely integrated with the surrounding ski resorts. Head from iconic Main Street to the ski lifts in no time at all. While you’re wandering around, stop at Summit Ski Museum and check out exhibits dedicated to local history. The museum showcases historic equipment worm by early pioneers in winter sports. Breckenridge Galley has an eclectic collection of Western-themed art work on display. Catch a film at the Speakeasy Movie Theater or a stage play at the Breckenridge Theater. The Edwin Carter Discovery Center is a great local history museum. Kids will enjoy Mountain Top Children's Museum where they can dress up and explore various themed activities. As an iconic small town, shopping and dining options are abundant throughout the city center. Spend time wandering through the many local businesses and visiting popular coffee houses. Take a run or two and then head into town for some great fun in one of America’s top ski resort towns. Plus, if going down mountains standing up is a bridge too far for you, take a short ride up Colorado Route 9 to Frisco Adventure Park where you can enjoy snow tubing or some cross-country trails. Reservations are required and the resort is operating at only 50% capacity so be sure to book ahead.
Pennsylvania and other East Coast destinations don’t always receive a lot of attention in ski and snowboard circles. However, there’s something to be said for a great destination located less than two hours from New York City. If you’re anywhere in the New York Metro Area, consider a visit to Camelback Resort. Nestled amongst the Poconos, this is a great day trip destination offering plenty in the way of fun and excitement. Enjoy a range of activities from laser tag, rock climbing, an escape room, an arcade, bumper cars, and more! Parents can take advantage of the resort spa to enjoy a relaxing couple’s treatment while the kids are splashing around the indoor pool. Camelback’s main draw in wintertime, however, is the snowtubing! Settle yourself on an inner tube and go sailing down the mountain at speed. Spice things up a little after dark when artificial lighting bathes the dozens of runs in a wide array of lovely colors. In order to prevent overcrowding, entrance tickets are valid for a single 2-hour session, which start every hour on the hour. This year, it’s best to book online ahead of time so that you don’t miss out. Head out from New York City in the morning and be back in time for dinner when you visit Camelback Resort in Tannersville, PA.
Hugging the banks of Gore Creek in the White River National Forest, Vail is home to the massive Vail Ski Resort. Comprising over 5,000 acres of ski trails, a Switzerland-inspired village, plus plenty of shops, restaurants, and nightlife, the resort is a favored get away. Enjoy a stroll through Central Vail and tour the small but fun Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame. Take your picture on the bench next to the Albert Einstein Statue and visit the Raitman Art Galleries. Vail Village Arts is a charming establishment showcasing contemporary American sculptors and painters. In spring and fall there is normally lots to see at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. Nearby, the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater stages concerts and other dramatic acts at its scenic outdoor venue during the summer months. Gore Creek Covered Bridge is a lovely spot to visit, especially on a crisp winter’s day when you can pose for pictures near a frozen Gore Creek. With much of Vail closed to vehicular traffic, this is an ideal place for a stroll. Enjoy hopping between cafes or stopping at the many pubs where you can enjoy a good beer or glass of wine. Innovative restaurants feature delicious menus catering to diverse tastes. Basically no matter how you look at it, Vail is a quintessential ski resort town that’s certainly one of America’s best.
East Coast travelers looking for a more traditional ski or snowboard experience will enjoy the action at Shawnee Mountain Ski Area in Eastern Pennsylvania. Reachable from New York City in less than two hours, Shawnee Mountain is an excellent option for residents in the New York Metro Area. Visitors can choose between 23 slopes and trails of varying difficulty. Several lodging partners in the area provide special so-called “Ski & Stay” packages with options suited to everything from family fun to a romantic getaway. No matter if you’re a beginner or someone with more of a mountain pedigree, you can find something at Shawnee Mountain to suit you. Lift tickets vary in price depending on whether you come midweek or on the weekend. Adult tickets start out at $40 for night access. This year Shawnee Mountain is working hard to create a safe ski and snowboarding environment. Guests are expected to wear masks while on the premises and practice adequate physical distancing. Tailgating is permitted on the resort’s parking areas provided physical distancing guidelines are adhered to. Visitors seeking to brush up on their mountain skills can take advantage on Shawnee’s resident ski and snowboarding instructors. They offer great programs for kids and will give you the peace of mind to enjoy your vacation in comfort and style.
Though not always considered among the America’s top ski destinations, the Desert Southwest is no slouch when it comes to good slopes. Santa Fe was the home of renowned American painter Georgia O'Keeffe. She immortalized the region’s stunning landscapes over her long career. Pay a visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe museum before exploring the nearby Manitou Galleries and the New Mexico Museum of Art. Nearly a dozen additional small galleries and spaces are set throughout town as well. When you’re ready for some mountain time, you’ll have two great opportunities to choose from. Ski Santa Fe is located approximately 30 minutes from downtown along New Mexico Route 475. Lift tickets start at $42 for beginners with multiday and other discounts available. This year, visitors need to buy their lift tickets online ahead of time rather than when they arrive at the mountain. If you’re looking to get away for a bit longer, consider making the trek out to Angle Fire Resort, a popular ski resort destination with hundreds of acers of slopes. The condos and hotel rooms on premises mean you can turn this into a great staycation. Adult lift tickets start out at $89 or $67 for kids ages 7 to 12. Come experience some of the best snow in all New Mexico.
North Carolina likes to claim it was “first in flight.” Though Ohio might dispute that, one thing is for sure, you can catch some gnarly air at Moonshine Mountain Snow Tubing Park outside Hendersonville. Located roughly two hours west of Charlotte or about an hour northwest of Spartanburg, SC, Hendersonville is small town Carolina par excellence. Be sure to spend time in Historic Downtown Hendersonville. You’ll find an array of shopping, dining, art galleries, and museums. There’s even an aquarium. At Moonshine Mountain, you can enjoy the thrill of speeding down the snowy slopes on an inflatable inner tube. Tickets cost $30 per person for a 2-hour session. The Haus Heidelberg Food Truck will keep your spirits up with a hearty mix of German-themed foods. A good recommendation is to book yourself some local accommodations in Hendersonville so you can spend the morning or afternoon at Moonshine Mountain before returning to town in the evening to enjoy yourself over a good meal, drinks, and some entertainment. Moonshine Mountain is group-friendly so feel free to organize an outing, just be sure to contact them ahead of time if you’re arriving in large numbers. Snow tubing is a wee bit different from skiing and snowboarding, but it’s every bit as fun and thrilling.
Skiing invokes a lot of emotions. For some, there is simply nothing better than the pure thrill and freedom experienced when gliding down epic trails surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. If you’re the type to fancy chartering a helicopter and dropping onto an unexplored slope, the destinations we’ve profiled here offer plenty of opportunities for heart-stopping adventure. This isn’t all there is to ski culture, however. We’ve also done our bit to bring you a wide range of places that will appeal even to those who don’t know a mogul from a molehill. Great museums, scenic beauty, fantastic restaurants, friendly people, there is a lot on offer at America’s great ski resort destinations. We know you’ll agree these ski towns will delight everyone…even non-skiers.