What makes a ski resort worthy of a top ten list? From the terrain to the vibes, the trails to the après-ski action, the perfect resort means different things to different snow lovers. Which means searching for the top ten resorts in North America can quickly become overwhelming. To narrow down our list to the final ten, we focused on the most important qualities: the efficiency of lifts, ski-town ambiance, skiable acreage, quality of snow, and the elevation of the resort. Based on our findings, these 10 North American ski resorts deserve to be on any top ten list.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
- Location: Teton Village, Wyoming
- Average snowfall: 475”
- Top elevation: 10,450’
- Total vertical drop: 4,139’
- Trails: 80
It’s the reigning king of many top ten lists, and that’s because the terrain and snow are second to none. Sure, there are a few runs for beginners, but this place is known for its huge vertical terrain, something you’ll see in the roughly nine-minute tram that zooms you up over 4,000 feet. The resort also recently added a new lift that offers improved access to the top ridge on the resort’s north end. Other perks of Jackson Hole include improved access from around the country, with 13 cities offering some kind of direct flight to Jackson during ski season; serious dining for serious foodies; and it’s a member of the Mountain Collective, one of the best bargain passes for access to tons of the top independent ski destinations.
- Double-Black Diamond Tip: Looking for a little après-ski? USA Today readers voted the Mangy Moose in Teton Village one of the top 10 ski town bars. However, if you’re looking for a more upscale dining experience, checkout Snake River Grill located on the Town Square.
- Location: Olympic Valley, California
- Average snowfall: 450”
- Top elevation: 9,050’
- Total vertical drop: 2,850’
- Trails: 170+
Amazing snow, lots of sunshine when it counts, soaring cliffs, a village packed with goodies, and oh yeah, it was the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Today, Squaw is a two-fer – offering passes good for riding at Squaw and nearby Alpine Meadows (ski free if you bought the Mountain Collective pass). Two mountains, stunning and diverse terrain, and all the shopping, dining and après-ski fun you could possibly want – that’s Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows in a nutshell. And you don’t even have to be an Olympian to enjoy it.
- Double-Black Diamond Tip: The Squaw Valley Village Shops are an absolute must. Wander around the cobblestone streets and you’ll find several ski gear and equipment shops, but also high-end clothing stores, art galleries and more.
- Location: Whistler, British Columbia
- Average snowfall: 396”
- Top elevation: 7,494’
- Total vertical drop: 5,324’
- Trails: 200+
This place is huge. From the sheer size of the resort – over 8,000 acres – to the varying terrain and insane snow – more than 20’ this season – to the infamous party scene, this isn’t the place for a weekend ski trip. Whistler Blackcomb, another sweet resort rolled into the Mountain Collective deal, deserves a bit more time, so find a full week to really enjoy it all. And factor in travel time, too, especially if you’re not coming from the West Coast. It takes a little over two hours to get to Whistler Village from Vancouver.
- Double-Black Diamond Tip: Did you know that dog sledding is one of Canada’s oldest official sports? Head out for a sledding expedition and learn how to drive the huskies yourself.
Park City Mountain Resort
- Location: Park City, Utah
- Average snowfall: 360”
- Top elevation: 10,000’
- Total vertical drop: 3,200’
- Trails: 324
The merger between The Canyons and Park City has created the largest ski resort in the US. Now owned by Vail Resorts, the leader in the ski industry, Park City measures six miles north to south. And within those six miles? Two base areas, nine hotels, activities for the whole family, over two dozen restaurants and an awesome mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain so you can ski or ride all day. It’s the epitome of ski in/ski out villages, and you can get slope side from the airport in less than 40 minutes.
- Double-Black Diamond Tip: If you’re looking for a the picturesque ski town, wander down Main Street. Most of the town’s shopping and dining spots are located on this stretch. There’s even some photo-worthy street art by Banksy, the anonymous England-based graffiti artist, located in the garage at the Cunningham Building and at the Java Cow building.
- Location: Mammoth Lakes, California
- Average snowfall: 400”
- Top elevation: 11,053’
- Total vertical drop: 3,100’
- Trails: 150+
One of the biggest resorts in the nation, Mammoth strikes a great balance between historic charm – it was founded in the 40s – and modern amenities. It has the highest summit of all California resorts, and that means deeper snow, killer views and a season that can run well into June. Between the wide open bowls and groomers, the mammoth chutes, incredible terrain parks and tree skiing, there’s something for everyone. And bonus – Mammoth is one of the mountains included in that Mountain Collective pass.
- Double-Black Diamond Tip: Eager to hit the mountain early in the morning, but need to fuel up? Stellar Brew opens at 5:30 a.m. and serves a grab-and-go breakfast burrito. It’s also one of the few places in town that has vegan, paleo and gluten-free options.
- Location: Sun Valley, Idaho
- Average snowfall: 220”
- Top elevation: 9,150’
- Total vertical drop: 3,400’
- Trails: 75
As America’s first destination ski resort, Sun Valley is the stuff of ski legend. It’s tucked away in a real-deal ski town, and the mountain is fit for the whole family. The resort got its name from the blazing sun that beams down for 80% of the ski season, and it’s known for efficiency – lift capacity is over 29,000 skiers/riders per hour, with just 3,000 folks shredding on the average day. And you know what that means – no lines at the lift. Then there’s the perfect pitch of Sun Valley – consistent vertical from the peak down to the base, with no plateaus or flats to be seen. It all adds up to a perfect day on the mountain, every time.
- Double-Black Diamond Tip: Pioneer Saloon is the kind of place you have to visit in a classic ski town. Natural woods, mounted game and period firearms help recreate an authentic saloon atmosphere while the menu dishes out hearty steaks, prime rib and seafood.
- Location: Vail, Colorado
- Average snowfall: 350”
- Top elevation: 11,570’
- Total vertical drop: 3,450’
- Trails: 195
Vail is loved the world over, and it’s no surprise. With more than 5,200 acres of developed terrain, seven beloved (and downright legendary) back bowls that span some seven miles, and arguably the most perfectly groomed terrain of any resort anywhere, Vail has earned its reputation as a legend in the ski world. Enjoy the village, with lodging, dining, entertainment options and accessibility to all that terrain, the world-class on-mountain facilities, and the dynamic experience that keeps people coming back season after season.
- Double-Black Diamond Tip: Game Creek restaurant is truly five-star dining with a five-star view. Overlooking the beautiful Game Creek Bowl, this breathtaking European chalet-style restaurant is accessible only by snowcat, but it’s totally worth it.
- Location: Snowmass Village, Colorado
- Average snowfall: 300”
- Top elevation: 12,510’
- Total vertical drop: 4,406’
- Trails: 91
Aspen Mountain stats
- Average snowfall: 300”
- Top elevation: 11,212’
- Total vertical drop: 3,267’
- Trails: 76
Four mountains and two ski towns – that’s the magic of Aspen Snowmass. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk round out the offerings, and with this much to choose from, everyone will be happy. One lift ticket gets you access to more than 5,500 acres of terrain, and then there’s the après-ski fun- an abundance of great restaurants, unique shops, exotic nightclubs and art galleries. A proud member of the Mountain Collective, Aspen Snowmass is exactly what a ski resort should be.
- Double-Black Diamond Tip: Located next to the Silver Queen Gondola, Ajax Tavern has a mountainside patio that can be seen from halfway up the mountain. Best known for their truffle fries and Ajax double cheeseburger, this restaurant is the hub for casual fine dining.
- Location: Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
- Average snowfall: 305”
- Top elevation: 12,450’
- Total vertical drop: 3,250’
- Trails: 110
There are resorts for people, and then there are resorts for skiers. Taos falls into the latter category – this is a resort that puts the emphasis on terrain first and everything else second. Over half the trails are for experts, but there are lots of manicured slopes and groomers if you’re not into the more intense stuff. The ski school is top-notch, the views are incredible and Taos puts on some awesome events too. A new member of the Mountain Collective, this is a mountain worth checking out.
- Double-Black Diamond Tip: Have a beer at The Bavarian. The restaurant and beer garden, located at the Base of Lift 4, is the best examples of Taos Ski Valley culture. Enjoy beers on tap that are straight from Germany or head over on Swiss fondue night on Tuesdays during the winter.
- Location: Stowe, Vermont
- Average snowfall: 314”
- Top elevation: 3,625’
- Total vertical drop: 2,360’
- Trails: 116
Hospitality and adventure – that about sums up Stowe. World-class improvements and upgrades on and off the mountain make this New England getaway the definition of East Coast luxury, and it’s a good fit for families too. The main lodge in the village has been recognized as one of the world’s most sustainable luxury hotels. The resort’s two mountains are now connected with a high-speed gondola, boosting accessibility to all that terrain. Stowe is renowned as one of the leading cross-country destinations in North America, thanks to endless backcountry and groomed trails.
- Double-Black Diamond Tip: You can spend an entire day hunting for antiques and jewelry around Stowe. There are more than 20 antique stores within an hour from the mountain and there are also several craft jewelers and vintage stores.