With winter sports season well underway, it’s time to plan your own exhilarating adventure. Looking to hit the slopes by traveling in the comfort of your van? We’ve got you covered with our list of eight of the best places to ski in America.
Of course, what marks a location as “the best” depends on what you’re looking for. That’s why we’ve taken multiple factors into account, including the terrain, snow conditions, infrastructure, crowds, value, and other attractions in the area. From fan-favorite locations with bustling ski towns to hidden gems where you can focus on communing with nature, your #vanlife ideal winter wonderland awaits! Read on for the details.
Telluride, CO – Click Here for RecVan’s Adventure Guide to Telluride
It comes as no surprise that many of our nation’s top-rated skiing destinations are in snowy, mountainous Colorado. Head to The Centennial State for fresh powder and picturesque towns. One of Colorado’s loveliest locations is Telluride, which is home to the top-rated ski resort in the U.S. Enjoy a quaint small mining town with mouthwatering dining options, colorful historic buildings, and–of course–excellent and diverse terrain to glide down.
The ski area has something for everyone, with about 60 percent of the runs catering to beginner and intermediate-level skiers and snowboarders. If you’re ready to take on a challenge, a high-speed quad chair will bring you to the advanced gnarly terrain in no time. Spend extra time exploring this magical snow-covered landscape with cross-country skiing or fat biking. Overall, Telluride strikes the perfect middle ground between upscale and casual skiing destinations.
Aspen/Snowmass, CO – Click Here for RecVan’s Adventure Guide to Aspen
Another approach to reaching the perfect balance of different atmospheres is to head to a location with a bit of everything. Aspen, Colorado is one of the most well-known, luxurious ski towns in the U.S. and is accordingly chock-full of activities to enjoy on and off the slopes. Besides amazing skiing and snowboarding, you can catch a thrill with tubing or the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster. Then have a romantic dinner in the mountains or pamper yourself at one of the area’s many spas. Unfortunately, tons of visitors and higher prices come along with this iconic destination.
That’s why we recommend sampling Aspen’s attractions, then extending your vacation with a visit to Snowmass Village just under 20 minutes away. The ski resort here is laidback and family-friendly, more affordable than Aspen, and offers diverse terrain with plenty of intermediate options. If you’re a newcomer to winter sports, Snowmass has some of the best lessons available. Besides Snowmass Ski Resort and Aspen Mountain, there are two other ski resorts in the vicinity to keep the fun going. The best part? A lift ticket for one location gives you access to all four.
Park City, UT – Click Here for RecVan’s Adventure Guide to Park City
If you don’t want to center your entire trip around skiing or snowboarding, check out Park City. This small city in northern Utah has many draws including nightlife, shopping, and dining. Visit from January 19th-29th for the glitz and glamor of the Sundance Film Festival.
When it comes to hitting the slopes, Park City Mountain Resort stands out as the largest ski area in the U.S., with 7,300 acres of terrain for endless exploration. If that weren’t enough, the nearby Deer Valley Resort is also considered one of the top ski resorts in the country. Snowboarders take note, however–Deer Valley is only open for skiing. For a truly unique experience, join a free Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour. This tour will take intermediate skiers around the slopes to areas of significance in regard to Park City’s silver mining history.
Mammoth Mountain, CA – Click Here for RecVan’s Adventure Guide to Mammoth
Skiers and snowboarders from Los Angeles and Las Vegas flock to Mammoth Ski Resort to trade sunshine for a snowy paradise close to home. This destination is not only closer to these major metro areas than the Lake Tahoe area ski resorts, but also at a higher elevation. The high elevation leads to better snowfall and a long winter sports season extending into June. Take advantage of the powder and hone your tricks on the resort’s eight impressive and diverse terrain parks.
Besides these optimal conditions, Mammoth Ski Resort will treat you to incredible views of the mountains and a nearby lake. Take in mother nature’s glory in a more relaxed manner with a gondola ride at over 11,000 feet elevation leading to a cafe with panoramic views. Speaking of views, you might want to pay a visit to nearby Yosemite National Park for bucket list-worthy snowy vistas.
Big Sky, MT – Click Here for Additional Van Destinations in Montana
Big Sky, Montana is a paradise for outdoor lovers. This area in southwest Montana certainly earns its name with postcard-pretty horizons of snow-covered mountains and blue sky. This climate makes for great skiing and snowboarding from Thanksgiving to mid-April.
Big Sky Resort is a place of superlatives. It is one of the largest ski areas in the U.S., which means you’ll have tons of space to yourself. The resort also boasts the fastest chair lift in North America, called the Big Sky Blue Bubble, and one of the largest vertical drops in America. What this area doesn’t have is much in the way of ski village life. However, if you’re drawn to extremes and endless untouched nature, this is the place for you. Extend your adventure with a one-of-a-kind experience in nearby Yellowstone National Park, where you can take a snowmobile tour, cross-country ski, or snowshoe, all while keeping an eye out for winter wildlife.
Montana Snowbowl, MT
Looking for a good value ski vacation? Head to the Montana Snowbowl ski area, which is under 30 minutes from the lively city of Missoula. Montana Snowbowl has been rated by Powderhounds as one of the best low-cost ski resorts, as well as one where you’ll have the best chance of getting fresh snow all to yourself. Good tree skiing and steep terrain are other draws of the area.
The ski hill has a more relaxed, mom-and-pop feel than other developed ski resorts on this list. However, you’ll feel right at home as you enjoy a delicious wood-fired pizza at the top of the hill. For other après-ski delights, head into Missoula to meet new friends over craft brews, explore galleries, or warm up with an authentic Indian curry at the local favorite Masala restaurant.
Grand Targhee, WY
You’ve probably heard of Jackson Hole, which is one of the most popular skiing destinations in the country. Grand Targhee Ski Resort, just an hour’s drive away on the other side of the Teton mountains, is the lesser-known and more-affordable sibling of Jackson Hole. Grand Targhee is less crowded than its popular counterpart but benefits from the same amazing conditions. In fact, there is actually more fresh powder on this side of the mountains.
Take in jaw-dropping views while enjoying plenty of beginner and intermediate terrain, limited but exciting advanced terrain, strong lift capacity, and noteworthy backcountry access. Go deep into the pristine Teton mountains with experienced guides through Yostmark.
East Coasters can get in on skiing and snowboarding adventures too. Head to the charming town of Stowe, known as the birthplace of alpine skiing in Vermont. While elevations here are lower than those of western ski areas, Stowe is on the tallest mountain in Vermont and receives around 26 feet of snow each year. The Stowe Mountain Resort can also supplement this by making an impressive amount of snow. A benefit of the lower elevation is that you won’t have to worry about dealing with altitude sickness when you hit the slopes.
The ski area has its own attractions at The Village at Spruce Peak, which offers cocktails, farm-to-table dining, live performances, and an outdoor ice-skating rink. For more to do, head just 15 minutes from the ski area to the storybook New England town of Stowe. There, you can cozy up and replenish burned calories with a whole host of local sweet treats. Sample hot apple cider made from Vermont’s state fruit, tour the original Ben & Jerry’s factory, and taste the state’s famous maple syrup.
Whichever destination you choose, you’re sure to enjoy crisp mountain air, thrilling runs, and other attractions to keep you busy in between. If you’re a van-dwelling snow lover, be sure to check out our list of the most van camping-friendly ski resorts as well as “Van Camping at Ski Resorts: Dos and Don’ts.” For the cozy camper van to take you there, visit RecVan.