Top 5 Ski Vacations in the USA

Skiing North America, Skiing USA

USA ski vacations may not ring ‘budget’, but with our handy guide, you might just pull it off. For a ski resort with banging après-ski, a bit of peace and quiet to focus on your technique or perhaps a touch of Aspen glamour, we have ski vacations in the US to suit you.

Top tip: Resorts sting you for being stuck on a mountain side and feeling hungry at lunchtime. Save your pennies by staying at a hostel and use the self-catering facilities to prepare some sandwiches, snacks or perhaps fill up a tea flask to pop in your backpack.

1. Aspen, Colorado

Aspen USA

Surrounded by four mountains, it’s no surprise that as a top ski resort Aspen has grown and grown since the 1930s. 5,300 acres of ski-friendly areas and with an average of 300 inches of snowfall per season aside, the locals are welcoming, the views spectacular and it boasts the most varied slopes in the US.

There are wide open pistes – it still holds a women’s world cup run – but the Rockies are renowned for idyllic routes through the trees. From the top of any of the three mountains, you’ll need to be an experienced skier and although there is an easier section near the bottom of Snowmass, Aspen has no green runs.

Happy hour is lively, but it is staggered so you can find a quiet drink too. If you want to be convinced of this town’s off-piste culture, Hunter S Thompson lived in Aspen for 40 years and skied just once! Aspen has long attracted Hollywood starlets and those looking for a ski holiday with a touch of glamour. Accommodation is, therefore, pricey, and there are not many budget hotels. You will struggle to find a cheap ski lodge too. There are a number of cheap eats in town but you’ll need to hunt around.

Top tip: Why not visit during Aspen Gay Ski Week 2013. Between January 13-20 there will be hot tub parties, round ups, hoe downs and more! The best event is the annual Friendship Cup Hockey Night with a gay v straight match to raise awareness and break down the gay athlete stereotype.

How to get there: Fly to Aspen airport and hit the slopes within minutes or head to Denver airport 4 hours away.

Need a place to stay? The nearest Aspen hostel is the St Moritz Lodge at the foot of Shadow Mountain and offering guests a free breakfast and a heated outdoor pool. They hold après-ski parties around a roaring fireplace with popcorn and hot spiced cider. There are three beds per dorm room and also private doubles and twins.

2. Salt Lake City, Utah

Snowbird in Utah, USA

When a State’s slogan is “The Greatest Snow on Earth,” then you know you’re in for some good skiing.

There are eight top notch ski resorts within an hour’s drive of Salt Lake City, but arguably the two best are neighbouring Alta and Snowbird.

Alta is one of the oldest ski resorts in the US and it retains some old school traditions, like being a ski only resort. Yes, this is a shame for snowboarders but on the plus side, locals claim the snow is better for it!

And that’s the real reason to go to Alta – the pristine snow. Light and soft powder makes for beautiful skiing. The only downside is that there isn’t a great deal of nightlife or facilities in Alta, but nearby Snowbird offers more in the après ski, shopping and general glamour department.

With an impressive 500 inches of snowfall a year, Snowbird is also known for its powder terrain, and there’s a piste here for everyone – from steep drops and tree trails to gentle long runs. An array of bars and restaurants, spas and fitness centres complete the package.

Top tip: Pay a little extra for a combined Alta/Snowbird lift ticket, and you can explore the two resorts on 26 lifts and over 4,700 acres of terrain – one of the largest ski areas in the country. The two resorts are inter-connected via lifts or a free bus.

How to get there:  Fly into Salt Lake City and drive for 45 minutes to either Alta or Snowbird resorts.

AWA Hostel Royal Garden in Salt LakeNeed a place to stay? Accommodation in Alta and Snowbird isn’t cheap, so it might be wiser to stay in a hostel in Salt Lake City and take a 30-minute bus ride to the slopes. AWA Hostel Royal Garden in downtown Salt Lake offers free shuttle to airport, free shuttles to the ski resorts, the largest pool in Salt Lake City, and free hot buffet breakfast.

3. Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman in Montana, USA

If you want to skip the après-ski and concentrate on the sport you came for – skiing – Bozeman’s Moonlight Basin offers about 3,800 acres and 85 miles worth of ski runs and you’ll pretty much have it to yourself. Powdery perfection awaits you most mornings with fresh snow falling during the night. For peace, quiet and wilderness, Moonlight Basin is the place and with no après-ski to distract you, notice how much you improve your technique! Just under half the areas are advanced and about 26% intermediate…

Alternatively, if you like your mountain ski resorts with more atmosphere, try the neighbouring Big Sky resort. The Liberty Bowl is a particularly exciting run and there is, apparently, two acres for every skier at Big Sky – well, Montana is almost the size of Germany after all! Intermediates and novices will enjoy the queue-free and tree-lined pistes at the bottom while every ski run is at least a single black diamond atop of the 11,100ft Lone Mountain.

Yellowstone National ParkTop tip:
Yellowstone National Park (the first national park in the world) is only 60 minutes away, and perfect for cross-country skiing and wildlife watching.

How to get there: Bozeman airport is only 20 minutes away from the slopes.

4. Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge, Colorado USA

Now known as ‘the Amsterdam of the Rockies’, as daft as it sounds, Breckenridge legalised possession of up to an ounce of cannabis in January 2010. Although, how one is supposed to get hold of the stuff – when it is still illegal to buy, sell, grow, display or use cannabis in public – is a mystery. Breckenridge has always attracted a hip crowd and skiers just as up for a party as a day of decent skiing.

This makes the town just as popular for non-skiers. It has a swimming pool, cinema, shops and also an art gallery. As a former gold-mining town, the place has an interesting history and you can also take tours of the mines. For skiers, there are 2,000 skiable areas and it’s also popular for snowboarders who like the specialist parks and half pipe. There’s a free shuttle bus providing access to the rest of the Summit County runs at nearby Keystone, Copper Mountain and A-Basin.

While Breckenridge boasts the highest ski-serving lift in North America, tree skiers will love the glades both north and south of peak 10. It is advised that skiers in the area educate themselves with mountain safety because the Summit County has suffered many avalanches. For cheap drinks head to Jake’s Dive Bar. Alternatively, Breckenridge Brewery is housed in a lovely historic building with fantastic views of the mountains. You should also sample some of their small batch beers.

Top tip: Head over in January to catch the International Snow Sculpture Championships, featuring sculptors from around the world competing to create works of art from twenty ton blocks of snow.

How to get there: Denver airport is 2 hours away.

5. Stowe, Vermont

Stowe, Vermont USA

Let’s be clear – the best ski resorts in the States are to be found in the Rockies. If however, you should find yourself on the East Coast and in the need for some shoop, shoop, shoop (the technical term for skiing), then fear not. Stowe in Vermont can be accessed via New York and Boston fairly easily and while the powder isn’t as light as out West, there are still some great slopes to explore on the over 100 trails to choose from.

With over 60% of Stowe’s slopes suitable for intermediates, this ski destination may be best for those who feel comfortable on a pair of skis, although beginners will have a couple of excellent slopes to try out also.

The best part of Stowe is the charming atmosphere, reminiscent of a quaint Alpine mountain town. Sipping a cup of hot cocoa in a wooden chalet overlooking Mount Mansfield, and you might forget that you’ve crossed the Atlantic. Which is why the singing von Trapp family settled in Stowe and opened The Trapp Family Lodge, a three-and-a-half-star resort run by the tenth and youngest child of the Sound of Music singers. A free shuttle runs from the town to the slopes.

Ben and Jerry's ice creamTop tip: Vermont has a number of microbreweries, well worth a tour (and a tasting session of course). In nearby Waterbury you can visit the Alchemist Pub & Brewery and the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory – just don’t drink before hitting the slopes!

How to get there: Burlington airport is 45 minutes away and Boston is 3 hours.

Thanks to Skistar Trysil, KR1212, MichaelGat, RichardBarley, laurascudder, Grayskullduggery, theimpulsivebuy and cdweber for the images off Flickr. Please note, all images were used under the Creative Commons license at the time of posting.

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