Time to hit the slopes again as the season opens. (©Jeremy Swanson)
It’s that time of year again when ski resorts throw open their doors to those who love all things snow.
And with the ski season opening, what better place to book a journey for a ski or snowboard experience than right here in your own backyard?
Travel to North American resorts has been on the rise, which should not come as a huge surprise with their easy accessibility, accommodation diversity and fun for all ages, not to mention the quality of the experience on the mountain itself.
This mecca in the Wasatch Mountains of Alta, Utah, is one of three in the United States that is only for skiing “purists,” with no snowboarding allowed.
Open since its first season in 1938-39, Alta is noted for its gorgeous scenery, diverse terrain and deep powder snow. While it is known for its expert powder slopes, beginner and intermediate skiers shouldn’t be intimidated as there is plenty of terrain for them as well.
The resort also provides a sense of togetherness for those who delve into the overall experience.
"Alta is much more than a ski resort to me," said Gary Marcoccia, Ski Bum Poet blog author. “Independently owned lodges and the small mountain town that surrounds the ski hill gives it a true community feel. When I get in [the lift] line at Collins, I usually see more people I know, than don't.”
Grand Targhee Resort
Accessible only through Teton Valley, Idaho, Grand Targhee Resort provides a seemingly never-ending supply of fresh snow for its visitors.
With storms hitting the Tetons and dropping large amounts of snow, the resort, located on the western slope of the Tetons in Alta, Wyoming, ranks in the top three for quantity and quality of snow.
"Grand Targhee Resort is a hidden gem where skiers and riders will experience amazing snow, iconic views of the Grand Teton, uncrowded slopes and western charm," said Jennie White, spokesperson for Grand Targhee Resort. "The terrain is perfect for families and skiers or riders of all levels. With over 2,600 acres to explore, you’ll find more lines rather than standing in them."
Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont has had much for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy in the past and they’ve continued adding for the upcoming season.
Skiers and snowboarders can take to the slopes on any of 116 trails, either on Mount Mansfield (Vermont’s highest peak), for experts and with long intermediate runs, or on Spruce Peak for beginners or those with intermediate skills.
"Stowe's famous Front Four are expert ski runs which are often full of moguls," said Kris Surette, SkiMaven blog author. "It's kind of a badge of honor to say you skied them. It's fun to challenge yourself on these trails, and then later air things out on the groomed intermediate runs under the Stowe's bright-red gondola."
The resort aims to be even more family-friendly with the addition of Stowe Adventure Center at Spruce Peak. It has an outdoor skating rink—with free admission—daycare facilities and programs for children 3 years old and older in addition to an indoor climbing center.
Just 40 miles from Anchorage, Alaska, tucked into the Chugach Mountains, is Alyeska Resort. The resort has 76 named trails and, with 669 inches of snow annually, the trails are known for being steep and deep.
From Hotel Alyeska, the 60-passenger aerial tram rises 2,300 feet and Mount Alyeska’s North Face provides the setting for North America’s longest continuous double black run.
According to Samantha Berman, SKI Magazine senior editor, the resort is suited for ski extremists.
"Alyeska is the only true destination resort in the 49th state which is better known for its extreme heli-skiing terrain than groomers and chairlifts," said Berman. "But for those wanting a taste of Alaska’s big mountains, Alyeska is a great place to start, offering up a bit-sized sampler of what the rest of the state has to offer," she added.
Hotel Alyeska has luxe accomodations and access to the Alaskan wilderness with nature trails and walking paths for those who choose to explore on foot.
Colorado’s Aspen Snowmass Resort combines the majesty of four different mountains and two towns—Aspen and Snowmass Village—into one unforgettable experience.
One lift ticket gets you access to Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk, all connected by bus and all with their own charms.
"Combine the diverse terrain of Snowmass with the challenge of Aspen Highlands and [Aspen Mountain] and the family vibe of Buttermilk, and you get one of the most well-rounded ski destinations on the planet," Berman said. "Add in the historic and vibrant town of Aspen, and this is the complete package."
Sun Valley Resort
With more than 2,000 acres, Sun Valley Resort, in Sun Valley, Idaho, continues to improve, promising to open even more terrain for exploring. This is remarkable, especially for a resort offering championship-level skiing and snowboarding, having opened as America's first destination ski resort in 1936 while introducing the world's first chairlift.
Bald Mountain has 13 chairlifts, which rise on both sides, and the mountain offers varied terrain and endless runs. Its lack of lines helps its reputation as one of the best ski mountains. Dollar Mountain is also a key cog in the Sun Valley experience.
"Dollar Mountain is an ideal place to learn how to ski or board with gentle slopes, top-notch instruction and a terrain park with a 22-foot superpipe," said Kelli Lusk, spokesperson for Sun Valley Resort. "We also have the largest automated snowmaking system in North America."
Skiers traversing downhill aren't the only ones being catered to, either, as there are other fun and challenging ways to make use of the snow.
"If skiers prefer to hit the trails instead of the slopes, the Sun Valley Nordic Center has over 24 miles of meticulously groomed cross-country skiing trails and miles of snowshoeing and fat biking," Lusk said.
Telluride Ski Resort
Providing terrain for all levels of skier, there is much that Telluride Ski Resort has to offer.
Skiers can get their first good look at the resort with a free gondola ride from the city of Telluride, Colorado to Mountain Village Center, rising almost 1,800 feet in the process. Lack of lift lines and plenty of expert slopes in addition to opportunities for—experienced—backcountry skiers makes Telluride a desired ski destination.
"Telluride is one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful ski towns thanks to its setting in box canyons deep in Colorado’s San Juan mountains," Berman said. "Given the plentiful challenging terrain and the distractingly great views, it’s a wonder people can safely ski here. Seriously though, super-fun terrain, awesome town."
The combination of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains in British Columbia, two hours north of Vancouver, has created the most skiable terrain in North America, fitting for the largest ski resort on the continent.
Ski, snowboard, heli-ski or try riding the world’s longest and highest lift in the world that connects the two mountains. For off-slope activities, Whistler Village is bustling with restaurants, bars and shops.
Mont-Tremblant Ski Resort
It is easy to see why Mont-Tremblant Ski Resort, in Quebec Canada, was named the No. 1 Overall Resort East by SKI Magazine.
Start with the stunning colors of the picturesque village at the base of the manicured slopes in the Laurentian Mountains. The village rates highly for lodging, dining and après ski activities.
On the mountain, it allows skiers and snowboarders incredible views in addition to four distinct slopes and 96 trails across 665 acres from which to choose. With the resort's powerful snowmaking system, expect pristine snow conditions daily.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village, Wyoming, has much more to offer other than stunning views.
Amidst Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, in the shadow of the Grand Tetons, the resort has over 2,500 acres of available terrain allowing a full range of snow activities and for all level of skiers and snowboarders.
Rendevous and Apres Vous mountains provide the backdrop for the activity. The challenging terrain includes the legendary Corbet's Couloir—a crucible shaped like an upside down funnel.
"This is where the pros go to challenge themselves, which is saying something about a resort," Berman said. "A forgiving ropes policy combined with terrain that seems to have the perfect pitch and aspect make Jackson Hole a playground for experts and the town is one of the few left that still embodies an authentic Western spirit."