America's Best Ski Resorts
Big Sky, Montana
Why Go: Loved by mogul fanatics, this mountain has some of the steepest terrain in the US but lacks the lift lines and crowds typical in California and Summit County, CO. Adrenaline junkies flock to Big Couloir, a no-room-for-error run that requires avalanche gear and signing in with ski patrol. Despite the expert reputation, Big Sky is surprisingly family-friendly: Kids 10 and under ski for free (two per adult).
Where to Après: The slope-side Carabiner Lounge serves lamb meatballs and ribs, plus game meats like bison steak and wild-boar sliders.
Why Go: Breckenridge’s Freeway Terrain park is home to some of the largest "features" (terrain that launches you off the ground) in the country. If you lack the skills, bravery or recklessness to hurl yourself 20 feet in the air, nearby Park Lane has more intermediate features. For those who wish to keep skis on the ground, the Lake Chutes also offer slopes that won’t induce vertigo.
Where to Après: The Breckenridge Brewery serves its own beers—like the signature amber brew Avalanche Ale—in a bar room with a view of the production facility. Later, skiers and snowboarders go dancing at Cecelia’s Night Club.
Why Go: The largest single-mountain ski resort in the US features multiple peaks and bowls (snow-covered, wide-open 360-degree slopes) for powder hounds. It’s worth planning a longer trip to experience the vast terrain this resort has to offer.
Where to Après: At her eponymous restaurant, chef Kelly Liken serves hearty seasonal dishes like winter-spiced root vegetables and lamb loin with a savory onion and apple tart. At the base of the new One gondola, locals like The Tap Room.
Snowmass; Aspen, Colorado
Why Go: The largest of the four Aspen resorts, Snowmass boasts the steepest vertical drop in the United States and its longest run is more than five miles long. The Hanging Valley Wall and Glades are among the most notorious patches of expert terrain, only a short hike from the High Alpine lift. Intermediate skiers and riders love the meticulously groomed cruiser trails, such as Big Burn and Elk Camp. Additional perks: Hot apple cider and cookies are free at the top of Coney Glade lift in the afternoons, and skiers can make reservations for First Tracks before the lift opens each day.
Where to Après: The hip Viceroy hotel chain opened its first mountain resort at the Snowmass Base Village in 2009. Will Nolan cooks Southern comfort food at its restaurant Eight K (a nod to the hotel’s elevation), while the 87-foot glass bar serves designer cocktails like a Big Air Willie combining whiskey, chipotle vodka, Cointreau, lime juice and maraschino liqueur.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Why Go: With nearly half of its terrain regularly groomed, Beaver Creek is an intermediate skiers’ haven, but thrill-seekers will find advanced terrain like the Stone Creek Chutes and Birds of Prey, an infamous downhill racecourse. Complimentary fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies are hand-delivered to guests daily at the base of Chair 6.
Where to Après: A breakfast café by day, The Metropolitan transforms nightly into a wine bar serving tapas like albóndigas and flatbreads with chorizo, goat cheese, and piquillo peppers. A longstanding classic for dinner, Beano’s Cabin, reached only by snowcat sleigh, serves decadent prix-fixe dinners in a rustic cabin setting.
Why Go: Overlooking Lake Tahoe, Heavenly straddles California and Nevada and boasts 4,800 skiable acres. Although the resort designates nearly half of its terrain as intermediate, some seriously expert challenges can be found on its slopes. Mott and Killebrew Canyons are in-bounds, double-black-diamond-filled areas are reached only through access gates.
Where to Après: Avid skier Traci Des Jardins, an F&W Best New Chef in 1995, serves pappardelle with duck confit and pork tenderloin with white bean cassoulet at Manzanita, a midmountain spot in the Ritz-Carlton Highlands.
Deer Valley, Utah
Why Go: Skier-only Deer Valley is known as one of the most luxurious resorts in the country; staff will even carry your skis from a car to the base. The resort boasts five mountains, ample expert terrain (double-diamonds here are unforgiving—don’t get caught in Empire Canyon unless you know what you’re doing) and plenty of pristine groomed trails, like Nabob, Sunset and Sidewinder, for the intermediate crowd.
Where to Après: At the luxe St. Regis Deer Valley, superchef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s J&G Grill has a phenomenal wine list. Sommelier Tony Landegent sources terrific California Cabernets and great Burgundies, while chef-de-cuisine Shane Baird prepares dishes like glazed Niman Ranch short ribs with apple-jalapeño puree and rosemary crumbs.
Smugglers' Notch, Vermont
Why Go: Consistently voted among the most family-friendly resorts in the country, Smugglers consists of three mountain peaks. Further away from the base area, toward Sterling and Madonna peaks, the terrain gets harder and steeper. Although the resort is low on frills (there are no high-speed lifts here), "Smuggs" has an old-school charm.
Where to Après: During the biannual BrewFest in the spring and early December, Bootlegger’s Lounge and the Rhino Tavern at the Hearth & Candle are great places to try Vermont’s impressive lineup of craft beers.