The Best Places to Ski in the U.S.: Indagare Matchmaker

From Vail to Jackson Hole, America’s top ski destinations offer travelers wide open spaces and crisp, clean air—as well as cozy lodges and glamorous resorts to return home to after a day on the mountain. As a growing number of destinations move towards multi-mountain passes that give access to a wide reach of terrain, it’s helpful to understand the differences between the best places to ski in the U.S. Whether you’re traveling with bunny-slope beginners or double black diamond experts, après-ski mavens or off-piste enthusiasts, here is your ultimate guide to where to ski, where to stay and what to know.

Contact your Trip Designer or Indagare, if you are not yet a member, to start planning a trip to the best places to ski in the U.S. Our team can match you with the accommodations, reservations and activities that are right for you.

For Family-Friendly Fun: Big Sky, Montana

The quieter counterpart to Wyoming’s Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Montana has western charm, wide-open spaces and truly stunning, peaceful landscapes.

  • Vibe: Family-Friendly, Remote Adventure, Authentic
  • Where to Stay: Montage Big Sky and Lone Mountain Ranch; On Our Radar — One&Only Moonlight Basin (opening Winter 2024)
  • Ski Scene: Big Sky Resort is a hidden gem of the American ski world: Vast and uncrowded, it offers nearly 6,000 skiable acres for all skill levels and attracts a stylish but low-key set. Thanks to the 2021 arrival of the ski-in/ski-out property Montage Big Sky, guests can now take full advantage of the region. Says Indagare's editorial assistant and resident ski sage Abby Sandman: “Big Sky is blessed with truly sprawling terrain. The remote location (an hour outside of Bozeman) really makes it a skiing-focused destination, with no real town or restaurant scene to speak of. On mountain, there are terrain options for everyone; experts might spend large portions of their day on the Challenger and Headwaters lifts and venture up the Lone Peak Tram when the winds aren’t too bad (Lone Peak Tram is not included in most passes, so this is at an extra cost), while beginner and intermediate skiers might enjoy the variety (and chairlift bubble comfort) of the Spirit and Andesite peaks.”
  • Indagare Tip: Abby continues, For those seeking a day without skiing in their itinerary, a snowmobiling excursion into Yellowstone National Park (only an hour's drive away) is a great option, especially for families with older kids or groups of adults.” Plus—For beginners, The Ranch at Rock Creek can organize a day of crowd-free skiing and snowboarding at the Discovery Ski Area, an under-the-radar gem known as “Disco,” followed by an outdoor barbecue and bonfire with the Ranch’s head chef.

  • Related: How to Plan a North American Ski Trip

For the Softest Powder: Alta and Snowbird, Utah

Thanks to the reopening of Snowpine Lodge after an extensive renovation in early 2019, Alta and Snowbird finally have accommodations to match the superb quality and volume of their snow.

  • Vibe: Old-School, Local & Laid-Back, Serious Skiers
  • Where to Stay: Snowpine Lodge
  • Ski Scene: With a lack of snowboarders and some of the highest-quality powder in the West, Alta and Snowbird offer a traditional, skiing-focused experience (akin to what can be found in the European Alps), with very little "scene" and off-piste entertainment. Adds Abby Sandman, “Alta is first and foremost a skiers mountain—not just because they don’t allow snowboarders, but because this is the mountain where the locals, ski bums and all-around serious skiers come. It is the ultimate in-the-know ski mountain: Its tucked away location and reputation for being an expert’s mountain scare away the lay crowd, and many of its 'best' runs are hidden. That being said, you will still find skiers of all stock on the mountain, and the high snow quality and designated beginner sections make it a great mountain for intermediate skiers seeking good snow and a bit of adventure outside their comfort zone, as well as families looking for a balance between exciting terrain for the adults and quality training for younger kids. Snowbird, on the other hand, has more beginner and intermediate terrain, a more obvious diversity in skiers and a more lively, somewhat more upscale lodge scene; however, I would consider Snowbird the more intimidating mountain.”
  • Indagare Tip: Says Abby Sandman, “Hire a guide for at least one day—Alta and Snowbird are all about the hidden gems, and a guide will be able to direct you to the ones best for you (which you can revisit throughout your stay).” Plus: In Snowbird, head to The Summit, the food hall atop Hidden Peak, for craft beer.

Related: Winter Vacation Ideas from Anguilla to Zimbabwe

For Wild West Terrain: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Known as “The Big One” for its vast expanses of difficult runs, Jackson Hole embodies the spirit of the Wild West, both on the slopes and off. The rustic local ski scene is punctuated by pockets of luxury centered around the top hotels. Although it has attracted a trendy, high-energy crowd in the past few years, Jackson Hole continues to maintain a rugged, easygoing atmosphere.

  • Vibe: Dramatic Terrain, Mix of Rustic and Ultra-Luxury (Cowboy-Meets-Aprés), True American West
  • Where to Stay: Caldera House, Four Seasons Jackson Hole and Amangani
  • Ski Scene: With plenty of mountain and great snow, Jackson Hole caters to experienced, serious skiers; however, there is a reserved area for beginners and a lively après-ski scene to keep your whole group entertained. Says Abby Sandman, “Jackson Hole presents a fascinating mix of families and friends on their annual ‘Out West’ ski trip and serious skiers from ages 18 and up who are looking to conquer the famously intense terrain—namely, Corbet’s Couloir (though the resort has plenty of other steep shoots to entertain the thrill-seeking crowd). But despite its spot on many skier’s bucket lists, Jackson Hole really can cater to all levels and interests, serving up adventures regardless of the trails you tackle.”
  • Indagare Tip: From October through May, the Four Seasons Jackson Hole offers an exclusive day-long experience to learn about and observe the elusive gray wolf population of Yellowstone National Park, in the company of a resident naturalist. Along the way, you'll also pick up tracking tips, as you keep an eye out for moose, elk, bison and bears. Contact to learn more.

Related: What’s New on the Slopes: Indagare’s Ski News Report 2022-2023

For a Glitzy Aprés-Ski Scene: Aspen, Colorado

With designer shops, luxury hotels, high-end restaurants and serious ski terrain, Aspen is the glittering crown jewel of the see-and-be-seen ski destinations.

  • Vibe: Elite, Buzzy, Glamorous
  • Where to Stay: The Little Nell, Hotel Jerome, St. Regis Aspen Resort and Viceroy Snowmass
  • Ski Scene: Aspen’s four mountains—Snowmass, Aspen Mountain (Ajax), Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk—offer an array of terrain for every skill level. Advanced skiers head to Highlands, while beginners and families with young children will love Snowmass and Buttermilk. Says Abby Sandman: “These four mountains allow skiers to self-segregate more than many other U.S. ski resorts and, as such, it appeals to a diverse crowd. Beginners and families can relax, knowing the more experienced skiers will steer clear, with advanced and expert skiers likely spending most of their time at Aspen Highlands or up in the Cirque and Headwall areas on Aspen Snowmass, which is the largest of the four catering to the widest range of skiers. Ajax, the smallest and most classic of Aspen Mountains, gears more towards the experienced skiers, with difficulties beginning at intermediate, but it is also great for getting a few quick runs in when pressed for time.”
  • Indagare Tip: The Pandora's expansion by Aspen Skiing Company is slated to be fully open after decades in the making this winter season, opening up over 150 acres of newly skiable terrain on Aspen Mountain (served by a new high-speed lift), which were formerly considered to be backcountry. For an après treat, Abby recommends stopping by Paradise Bakery for hot chocolate and cookies—or head over to the nearby hot springs.

Related: Aspen News

For a Crowd-Pleasing Vacation: Vail, Colorado

As the most well-developed ski resort in the U.S., Vail is a diverse destination that offers something for everyone, making it a perfect choice for multi-generational families and large groups. In addition to the wide variety of skiing experiences available, there are plenty of high-end hotels and restaurants to choose from, as well as a buzzy nightlife scene.

  • Vibe: European-Inspired, Busy, Developed
  • Where to Stay: Four Seasons Vail, Hotel Talisa and Sonnenalp. For a more private experience removed from the crowds, book the Game Creek Chalet or one of the Solaris Residences.
  • Ski Scene: Vail has some of the most varied ski and snowboarding terrain in the U.S., as well as multiple ski schools. With the versatile Epic Pass, you can easily stay here for a week without getting bored. To avoid being overwhelmed (and especially for first-time visitors), book a ski instructor for the beginning of your stay, to help you navigate the right trails for your skill level—plus, you'll get to skip the lift lines. Says Abby Sandman: “Vail is the stuff of legends in the ski world—it's formerly the largest single-mountain ski resort in the United States, and it produced such famous Olympians as Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn. As such, its reputation for sprawling and diverse terrain and the Alps-inspired Vail Village draws the full spectrum (with a higher price tag). Most advanced expert skiers will while away their days in the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin, while the more traditional front side hosts the beginner, intermediate and park skiers.”
  • Indagare Tip: Don’t miss a cocktail and/or dinner at Matsuhisa, one of Vail’s most popular restaurants. A reservation is necessary, although take-out is now available as well.

Related: What’s New: Stylish Ski Escapes

For a Pampering Getaway: Deer Valley and Park City, Utah

No longer a secret among well-heeled families, Deer Valley is now often ranked as the top ski resort in the U.S. Keep in mind, however, that while Deer Valley is easily accessible, private and offers seriously pampering properties, it does not have its own village to explore. Those who desire a social scene can take the five-to-ten-minute drive to downtown Park City, home to the area’s best shops and restaurants—as well as Park City Mountain, the largest ski resort in the United States.

  • Vibe: Pampering, Relaxing, Skiing-Centric
  • Where to Stay: St. Regis Deer Valley, Montage Deer Valley, Stein Eriksen Lodge and Stein Residences, the Washington School House, The Lodge at Blue Sky and Pendry Park City
  • Deer Valley Ski Scene: Deer Valley offers pristine, uncrowded terrain for those who would rather ski than socialize. It also has an excellent ski school and is ideal for beginners (no snowboarding is allowed on the mountain). Says Abby Sandman: “Deer Valley hosts one of the most singular crowds of skiers of all the mountains in the United States. It’s the place where chic jumpsuits and fur-hoods are commonplace, and where time is more likely to be equally split between the slopes and leisurely brunches and après. Ski schools here work in effortless collaboration with the hotels, and the terrain offers great beginner areas and a smattering of expert zones—though much of them require a hike. But Deer Valley undisputedly has some of the country’s best groomers, and quality corduroy is a treat no matter what your skiing preferences are.
  • Park City Ski Scene: Those looking for greater variety can head to Park City, but here, you will also find crowds. Says Abby Sandman: “Park City encompasses two mountains connected by a gondola: Park City and Canyons. This makes it the largest ski resort in the United States, with many ridges and lifts to conquer to move from one end all the way to the other (the Park City side of the mountain is spread vertically while Canyons is sprawled more horizontally.) Park City has bigger lodges, newer lifts and a more central location above town—drawing the majority of the tourist crowd, from families to adventurers looking to tackle the Jupiter and McConkey's lifts. Canyons is more of the locals’ side, with a smattering of gear lifts mixed with high-speed lifts, carrying travelers across the diverse and adventurous terrain. Experts will likely most enjoy the terrain off 9990 and Dreamcatcher, but this side of the resort has pockets of unexpected and exciting terrain to be found all over. While there are plenty of intermediate runs and a beginners area on both sides, the general crowds at Park City make it a better mountain for those with a bit of experience, as opposed to the very new beginners.
  • Indagare Tip:The Lodge at Blue Sky from Auberge is the top new addition to the Park City hotel scene and ideal for travelers who wish to mix a bit of skiing with other winter activities and spa. Set on a 3,500-acre ranch, the Lodge provides a relaxing, remote escape to counter the action of downtown (it's a thirty-minute drive from Park City, a forty-minute drive from Deer Valley and an hour's drive from Snowbird and Alta). Plus, says Abby: “Canyons Village is one of the main draws of Park City, and the Pendry offers prime access to it (it's also the only property ideally located between Park City and Deer Valley). I also recommend heading to the St. Regis Deer Valley Vintage Room, a clear tent with elegant couches and tables, fur throws, a bar and occasional live music.”

Related: Editors’ Picks: The Best Restaurants in Park City & Deer Valley

For a Low-Key Adventure: Telluride, Colorado

Once a major mining town in the 19th century, Telluride today draws visitors for its scenic landscapes and Western charm. Well worth the journey to Colorado’s remote southwestern corner, the mountain village offers world-class skiing without the crowds, as well as a lively yet unassuming après-ski scene.

  • Vibe: Rugged, Relaxed, Authentic
  • Where to Stay: Dunton Hot Springs and Madeline Hotel & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection
  • Ski Scene: Telluride’s low-key atmosphere, intense peaks and beautiful terrain attract die-hard skiers, but there is a breadth of options for all levels, including bowls, chutes, cliffs, glades and mogul runs.
  • Indagare Tip: For a great add-on to Telluride, head three hours north to the gorgeous Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, where you can enjoy exclusive cat-skiing on Irwin Mountain—or, if you love the pampering amenities of Deer Valley, try Beaver Creek.

Related: Ultimate Wilderness Vacations

For the Original American Ski Lodge: Sun Valley, Idaho

Established in the 1930s, Sun Valley was the very first winter destination resort in the United States. Once the ski getaway for stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, including Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, it continues to draw visitors with easy charm, old-school glamour, excellent slopes and natural beauty

(and it won Ski Magazine's title of "Best Resort in North America" in 2021, 2022 and 2023).

  • Vibe: Classic, Soulful, Approachable
  • Where to Stay: Sun Valley Lodge
  • Ski Scene: Open to skiers and snowboarders, Sun Valley offers a variety of terrain for all skill levels, as well as excellent powder throughout the season. The two main mountains to know are Bald (or Baldy) and Dollar (ideal for first-timers), and there are also themed “Adventure Trails” for children. After hours on the slopes, an après-ski cocktail at the historic Sun Valley Lodge is the perfect conclusion to the day.
  • Indagare Tip: Like many others, Ernest Hemingway fell in love with Sun Valley upon visiting. He finished For Whom the Bell Tolls in Suite 206 in the Sun Valley Lodge, and later bought a house in Ketchum, a charming nearby town where he lived until his death in 1961. Today, the house is closed to the public; however, you can visit Hemingway’s grave in the Ketchum Cemetery, as well as his memorial site. Afterwards, stop at the Kneadery for lunch.

Related: The Top 10: Best Ski Resorts Around the World

For an East Coast Escape: Stowe and Sugarbush, Vermont

With a variety of mountains to choose from, as well as a gourmet culinary and craft beer scene, Vermont is the best destination for an East Coast ski trip. Sugarbush and Stowe can both be reached from New York City with a five-to-six-hour drive.

  • Vibe: Charming, Bucolic, Quirky
  • Where to Stay: The Pitcher Inn, The Lodge at Spruce Peak
  • Ski Scene: Deep in the Mad River Valley, Sugarbush is one of the largest and most varied ski resorts in New England, making it an ideal destination for groups with mixed experience levels. Stowe is home to Vermont's highest peak, Mount Mansfield, as well as Spruce Peak (which can both be skied in the same day, thanks to a connecting lift).
  • Indagare Tip: Though there is no shortage of charming properties, the incredible Pitcher Inn in the tiny village of Warren makes Sugarbush the Vermont ski spot of choice. With only 11 guest rooms, The Pitcher Inn should be booked with advance notice. The Lodge, Colonial and Ski suites are favorites. Plus: For a pampering Stowe extension, Twin Farms is just an hour's drive away.

Related: 5 Reasons to Travel to Upstate New York: New Hotels in Hudson Valley & the Catskills


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