America is blessed with some of the most beautiful mountains in the world—particularly out West. From steep ridgelines to aspen glades to gentle kids’ slopes, skiing is always an adventure. Whether you live for powder or posh après ski or can’t tell one end of a ski from the other, there’s a winter resort that’s got just the right vibe—you just have to find it. Here, a handy guide for every variety of snow seeker.
Editor's note: Because some resorts have reduced capacity, guests should inquire about pre-purchasing lift tickets either through the ski resort’s website or by calling them directly.
For the rambunctious family: Soda Springs Mountain Resort
An easy drive from Lake Tahoe, Soda Springs is California’s longest-running ski resort (founded in 1935) and super-friendly for families. The area has 15 runs (30 percent beginner and 40 percent intermediate) accessed by two chairlifts and two moving carpets. The new Woodward Balance Park offers gently sculpted snow bumps for gnarly beginner practice while the Tube Town attraction, for guests at least 42-inches tall, has ten lanes for tubing, plus a family play area for snowman-making. Ages 7 and under can enter Planet Kids, a snow playground with ski and snowboard lessons for tots, sleigh rides, a snow carousel, tiny tubing hill, and coming soon: miniature snowmobiles.
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For the backcountry adventurer: Bluebird Backcountry
You won’t see any lift lines at Bluebird Backcountry because there are no lifts. This ski operation moved to a new mountain this year and is completely human-powered, offering 4,200 gloriously ungroomed acres on Bear Mountain for backcountry skiers of all ability levels. With a daily capacity capped at only 200 skiers, this is a place to learn the backcountry ropes, with gear rentals, lessons and avalanche training. The technique is straightforward: skiers attach climbing skins to the bottoms of their skis for traction as they travel uphill (on seven marked tracks), and when they get to the top, they simply strip off the skins and glide back down. Bluebird is a no-fuss place, but they still offer a lodge, mid-mountain warming hut and ski patrol. Guests are even allowed to camp in the parking lot.
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For the community-minded: Bogus Basin
A self-proclaimed community mountain, the non-profit Boise’s Bogus Basin is a year-round recreation area with 2,600 acres open for day skiing and 175 open at night, plus a 22-mile trail network for Nordic (cross-country) skiing, fat-tire biking or snowshoeing. On top of that, Bogus runs an 800-foot snow tubing hill, with a conveyor lift and a mountain coaster. Their SnowSchool program puts kids in snowshoes to enjoy a winter science expedition to study wildlife, watersheds and snow crystals.
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For the luxury lover: Deer Valley Resort
Park City’s Deer Valley Resort encompasses 2,026 Wasatch Mountain acres with 21 lifts, 103 runs and luxury aplenty. This ski-only enclave limits the number of lift tickets sold daily, and it’s earned the “United States’ Best Ski Resort” title at the World Ski Awards seven years in a row. Amenities here include complimentary curbside ski valets, Cadillac in-town car service and a “Ski with a Champion” program for guests to take a run with an Olympian. Ride the gondola up to RIME, the world’s only ski-in raw bar, catch the nightly champagne sabering ceremony at The St. Regis Deer Valley, or stop by The Après Lounge at the Montage Deer Valley for champagne and caviar served inside a posh yurt.
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For the snowboard-obsessed: Breckenridge
There’s a good reason lots of pro snowboarders call Breckenridge home. The sprawling resort (covering 2,908 acres) boasts award-winning snowboard terrain, with four different parks—Freeway, Park Lane, Highway 9 and Frontier—offering an array of rails, boxes, jibs and jumps for all ability levels, plus an awe-inspiring 18-foot-tall halfpipe. Take lessons or just settle in and watch the experts flip and fly. With 187 trails and 34 lifts, including the Imperial Express Chair (North America’s highest, at 12,840 feet) Breckenridge offers plenty of slopes for boarders to explore.
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For the thrill seeker: Taos Ski Valley
Located just outside the historic town of Taos, this namesake resort is an expert’s dream, with 1,294 acres of steep Sangre de Cristo Mountain terrain. Its 14 lifts serve a network of 110 trails, with 33 black diamonds and 44 double black diamonds christened with names such as Spitfire, Inferno and Psycho Path. Skiers or snowboarders who take the chairlift to the very top of Kachina Peak (12,481 feet) have access to a wild selection of extra-steep ridgelines, cliffs, chutes and bowls sure to challenge any daredevil.
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For the old-school purist: Alta
Tucked into the steep embrace of Little Cottonwood Canyon, Alta (founded in 1938) offers an old-school, authentic ski vibe that’s a throwback to simpler days. Alta doesn’t have a fancy base village and trendy shops, but what it does have is legendary snowfall. With an annual average of 547 inches, this is the place for serious powder purists (Alta has a ski-only policy that prohibits snowboards). The terrain is spread over 2,614 skiable acres, with six lifts and 119 runs (55 percent advanced and 45 percent intermediate or beginner). And if you’re up for some roaming, Alta has four gates that allow skiers to glide over to Snowbird, the neighboring resort.
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For the budget-minded: Bridger Bowl
Opened in 1955 just 17 miles outside of Bozeman, Bridger Bowl is a non-profit ski area covering 2,000 acres of the Bridger Mountains, with 11 lifts and 75 trails for first-timers to experts. It’s friendly, low-key, and popular with locals. Prices are reasonable: Single-day tickets for adults are $63, juniors $40, children $25 and $15 for skiers who only use the beginner lifts. There’s a free bus service from Bozeman, and locals share a tip: If you see the blue light flashing on top of The Baxter Hotel, there’s at least two inches of new snow at Bridger Bowl, so grab your skis and go.
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