View from Whistler to Backcomb via Flickr
The air is crisp and the leaves are changing. Although I am thoroughly enjoying fall, ski season is on the way! After last winter’s epic snowfall in the Sierras, I’m hoping this year is just as snowy. Here are my top 5 destinations for skiing in North America, which includes some of my favorites as well as some I hope hit up in the near future.
Whistler Backcomb, Whistler, British Colombia
Season: 11/23 – 5/21
Elevation: 2,214 ft. – 7,493 ft.
Skiable Terrain: 8,171 Acres
Average Snowfall: 456”
Lift Ticket Price: $112 (Adult)
Whistler and Backcomb are actually two separate mountains giving skiers the largest skiable area in North America (by a couple thousand acres). In 2008 the two peaks were connected via gondola making is easier to access both mountains. It is about a two-hour drive from Vancouver, where the nearest airport is, but it’s a beautiful drive. Whistler village has plenty of food and shopping and a bit of a European flair which sets it apart from US ski resorts. Although Christmas and New Years tend to be the busiest time here, January, February, and March offer great conditions and consistent snowfall. April also receives a good amount of snow and skiing often lasts until the end of May when you can score cheaper lift tickets. Last year, Whistler was acquired by Vail Resorts and is now part of the Epic Pass, which might make it more enticing to visit.
Whitefish Mountain, Whitefish, Montana
Season: 12/7 - 04/08
Elevation: 4,464 ft. – 6,816 ft.
Skiable Terrain: 3,000 Acres
Average Snowfall: 300”
Lift Ticket Price: $79 (Adult)
Whitefish might be the most underrated ski destination in the US due in part to its remote location in the Northwest Corner of Montana near the Canadian border. Its location also has a number of advantages such as fewer day-trip skiers you might see in Tahoe or Breckenridge and much more affordable lift ticket prices. I was fortunate to spend a week here a few years ago and the skiing was amazing. Until a blizzard moved in our last day there, it was pure powder and bluebird skies. The Mountain is perched above Whitefish Lake, which I did not even know what below until the afternoon when the clouds cleared and the lake was in view. Also, Glacier National Park is just 35 miles away, which is worth a visit when you are not on the slopes.
Jackson Hole Mountain, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Season: 11/25 – 4/08
Elevation: 6,310 ft. - 10,450 ft.
Skiable Terrain: 2,500 Acres
Average Snowfall: 450”
Lift Ticket Price: $144
I have yet to make it to Jackson Hole but it is high up on my list of ski destinations. It's consistently ranked one of the best ski resorts in the US. It's a ski-in/ski-out town with great dining, nightlife, and amazing snow. Although known for its extreme terrain, there are plenty of options for intermediate as well as beginners. It is known for one of the best ski schools in the US, so don’t let the extreme terrain scare you away. The airport is extremely close and most of the major airlines fly in and out daily. For the non-skiers, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are close by and make the scenery from the mountain simply incredible.
Mammoth Mountain, Mammoth, California
Season: 11/09 - 6/10
Elevation: 7,952 ft. – 11,052 ft.
Skiable Terrain: 3,500 Acres
Average Snowfall: 400”
Lift Ticket Price: $139 (Adult)
Another Ski resort on my list to get to, especially since living in California is Mammoth Mountain. Not only does Mammoth get blasted with snow, you can ski here all the way through June and sometimes later snow permitting. Situated in the Sierra mountain range, the tallest mountains in the US, the runs are long and the views, which include Yosemite National Park, are vast. Your pass is also valid on June Mountain, just 20 miles away if you want a little more peace and quiet on a busy weekend. My suggestion is to hit up one of the many natural hot springs on your way out of town.
Aspen/Snowmass, Aspen, CO
Season: 11/23 – 4/15
Elevation: 7,879 ft – 12,510 ft
Skiable Terrain: 5,517 Acres (combined)
Average Snowfall: 300”
Lift Ticket Price: $155 (Adult)
Even though Aspen is one of the most expensive ski towns I know of, it will always hold a special place in my heart since it's where I spent many winters skiing when I was growing up. It’s the quintessential ski town and if you’re skiing Aspen Mountain, you can walk right off slopes and into town at the end of the day. There is plenty to do when you’re not on the slopes, like great food, shopping, nightlife, and people watching. Your lift ticket gets you access to all four mountains: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands Snowmass, and Buttermilk, which makes the $155 price tag a little more bearable. Aspen and Aspen Highlands are better for skiers and extreme skiing. Snowmass is gigantic and great for skiers and snowboards. Buttermilk is great for kids and beginners; it’s also where the Winter X-Games are held. There are not as many day skiers coming in from Denver so you’ll see shorter lines.
It seems lift ticket prices go up every year and when you factor in the cost of lodging and mountain food, your ski vacation just got really expensive. My advice is to purchase early and buy multiple days (or even a season pass if it makes sense) to save money. Avoid holidays and if you can, weekends and you’ll probably save some money there too. Seek out places like Whitefish and other smaller ski resorts with great snow such as Kirkwood in Tahoe and skip the luxury ski town prices.