Top 5 Places to Ski in the U.S.

A lot goes into planning a ski trip — it's not as simple as booking a plane ticket, packing your bags, and heading off to hit the slopes. You've got to sort out resort accommodations, religiously check the weather forecast, and most of all make sure there's adequate snow on the ground or that snow-making machines are fully operational. Location is crucial — especially this early in the season. Let's take a closer look at the top five places to ski in the U.S. They're not in any particular order and will give you a thorough overview of the pros and cons of each location and help you plan your next ski trip — whether it's next week or in two months from now.

Lake Tahoe, California

If you're not just looking for a ski resort but a ski area with all the lifestyle perks to go with it, Lake Tahoe is your ideal destination. A bustling nightlife scene compliments some of the best resorts for fresh powder in North America. Heavenly Mountain receives over 360” of snow each year and with a projected November open date makes for a suitable early season resort choice. Squaw Valley boasts an even higher amount of snowfall — including 42 lifts and 270 trails. Aside from the plentiful snowfall, most visitors are drawn to the area's magnetising European-inspired village, complete with boutiques, restaurants, and bars. To top it off, the Lake Tahoe area includes the Kirkwood Mountain Resort, providing for a blend of long groomed trails and expert backcountry chutes. With an estimated annual 600” of snowfall, it should definitely be on your radar early in the season. The downside to Skiing in this area is that you're sure to pay a pretty penny for accommodations, so definitely book in advance.

Park City, Utah

Anywhere that's hosted the Winter Olympics is guaranteed to meet your needs as a quality ski area. Park City Mountain is the area's highlight ski resort, offering nearly 350 trails and 14 bowls — spread across an area so huge you could spend a whole week exploring this resort alone. Three distinct base areas with charming amenities qualify Park City as a world-class ski destination. In addition to Park City Mountain, the area Is home to the iconic Deer Valley Resort located just outside the city. With a December open date, it might not be the most ideal early season resort, but it certainly stands its own in terms of great powder, moguls, and steep runs.

While Park City, Utah is known for its powder snow like most of the state, this area may receive a little less than its neighbours over in the Cottonwood Canyons, and experts may have to search a little harder for truly challenging terrain.

View of Park City Ski Resort in Utah

Image: Keith Kendrick, Flickr

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

The Teton Mountains in Wyoming boast chilly temperatures and early season snowfall — so put Jackson Hole high on your destination list. The vertical relief in this location is unprecedented, as is the stunning scenery. The summit of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort sits at 10,450ft — more than 4,000ft above its 6,311ft base. A fantasy for steep slope lovers, the resort receives an average 450” of snow and offers 2500 acres of skiable terrain. In addition to the iconic Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, this area is home to Snow King and Grand Targhee, two resorts worthy of their own notoriety. Snow King is a great place to escape the crowds and offers a variety of nice cruisers just outside of downtown Jackson. Grand Targhee is the place to go for powder — boasting an average 500” of annual snowfall. The downsides include limited beginner terrain and somewhat of a disconnect between the slopes and town.

The Finger Lakes, New York

An east coast lover's paradise, the Finger Lakes receive ample lake-effect snow that make for a suitable ski resort early in the year. Greek Peak Resort caters to skiers of all levels, including 32 trails, terrain parks, and a half pipe. Bristol Mountain is located just west of Canandaigua Lake, geared towards intermediate and novice skiers. In addition, the resort features nearly 100% snowmaking coverage and a bonus — nearly 100% of the resort is suitable for night skiing. A third Finger Lake gem is Song Mountain, one of the most accessible ski resorts in the area. A two for one package, Song Mountain season pass holders can also ski at the Snow Ridge Ski Area. The only downside to the Finger Lakes is the lack of involved ski town ambience like you're sure to find in Park City or Lake Tahoe.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge boasts the perfect combination of a ski resort and a typical mountain town. Located just two hours from the Denver International Airport and directly off highway I-70, Breckenridge is as accessible as it is iconic. The area boasts one of the highest summit elevations in the U.S. at 12,998ft, making for a sure provision of early-season snow. It has one of the earliest November open dates and offers over 2900 acres of skiable terrain, including four award-winning terrain parks. The downsides to this area include guaranteed tourist crowds and high prices as ski enthusiasts from all over the world vie for a run down the mountain.

View of Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado

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