Looking to make one of America’s best ski towns into the destination of your next vacation? RAVE brings you the best ski towns in the country based on a variety of factors that we believe matter most to both rookies and snow sport veterans alike.
So, where should we go to ski? ‘Cause temperatures continue to drop and we can’t wait to go slice up some fresh powder.
But which towns offer the best ski experiences? From destinations that draw international crowds to tiny, overlooked gems, us skiers and snowboarders are spoiled for choice. Though the question remains: how do we decide where to go next?
To help answer these questions, we’ve compiled a list of America’s 10 Best Ski Towns. But first, let’s take a look at how we sorted through all the amazing ski-town destinations and arrived at our top picks.
Methodology of Ranking the Best Ski Towns in America
When organizing this ranking, we collected similar lists from Travel + Leisure, Forbes, Sunset.com, regional travel websites, and more.
In our list, we gave each town a “Shred-o-meter” from 1-10: 1 being an alright place to hit the slopes, and 10 being, like, ski and snowboarder nirvana. We also weighted towns with ski routes appealing to BOTH rookies and veterans, because let’s be honest: there’s almost always at least one newbie in the group.
Additionally, easier slopes provide an excellent way for rusty ski enthusiasts to warm up and get back into the zone, particularly for those who aren’t able to visit the slopes often.
Specifically, we awarded each city with earned points based on the following:
- The frequency with which it was mentioned in similar lists across the internet
- Best places to stay
- Best places to eat
- Best places to ski
- Overall terrain and snow conditions
Now you’re packed and ready to go. So stop estimating the elevation drop on that powdered doughnut, and set a destination to one of America’s 10 best ski towns.
We’ll see you on the slopes.
Best Ski Towns in America
Best Place to Stay: The Oxford Hotel
Best Place to Eat: Spork
Best Place to Ski: Mt. Bachelor
Consider the things that make ski towns great.
Bend has them all: Tons of nearby ski lodges, great microbrews and wine, excellent restaurants, and unbelievable scenery. While in Bend, be sure to try eateries like Spork, Zydeco, or Joolz. Bend is in a special transition zone, smack in the middle of ponderosa forests and the high desert. The result is that Bend’s climate is relatively dry.
But only 22 miles outside Bend is the challenging Mt. Bachelor, part of the Deschutes National Forest. When skiing Bachelor, be ready for over 4,000 acres of breathtaking runs with an over 3,000-foot vertical drop.
After a long day in the snow, you need a place to stay. Look no further than Bend’s Oxford Hotel, located at the heart of Bend’s buzzy downtown district, filled with boutique shopping and more. While staying at the Oxford, be sure to eat at the hotel’s own 10 Below Restaurant.
For these reasons and more, Bend is definitely America’s best ski town for groups of friends and families due to all the amenities and ski options available.
Best Place to Stay: New Sheridan Hotel
Best Place to Eat: Brown Dog Pizza
Best Place to Ski: Telluride Ski Resort
Visiting Telluride is like stepping into a perfectly preserved old Western town. While there, you can marvel at Telluride’s nearby San Juan Mountains. These majestic peaks tower more than 13,000 feet over the idyllic Colorado countryside.
Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado’s tallest free-falling waterfall, is right next door to Telluride. So there’s plenty to do and see.
But you’re here for the snow, that powdery good stuff. So we’ll get right to it. When in Telluride to ski or snowboard, head straight for Telluride Ski Resort. The resort’s gondola ascends right from town all the way to the ridge top, with breathtaking views and cruiser runs. Or head up to the Revolution Bowl for even more epic scenery and an even more challenging terrain.
After a long day carving powder, you’ll be hungry. To eat in Telluride without blowing your budget, go for Detroit-style Brown Dog Pizza. Or for drinks and small plates, try There Bar.
And to get even more of that old-timey cowboy vibe, get your beauty sleep at Telluride’s New Sheridan Hotel.
Try Telluride for your next ski trip, and you’ll see why it’s one of America’s best ski towns.
Best Place to Stay: Dover Bay Resort
Best Place to Eat: Baxters On Cedar
Best Place to Ski: Schweitzer Mountain
Sneaking on to our list at number 3 is Sandpoint, ID, a relative newcomer to the world of premier ski towns.
Sandpoint is located in Idaho’s panhandle, between the glacially formed Lake Pend Oreille and the Selkirk Mountains. And it’s quickly rocketing up in the best ski town rankings.
In Sandpoint, you’ll find artsy types, serious athletes, and old-school railroad employees. And odds are, you’ll find them all drinking a cold one at MickDuff’s Brewing Co.
But when it’s time to find snow, head to the 2,900-acre Schweitzer Mountain without delay. Schweitzer is only 11 miles from Sandpoint and less than 100 miles from the Canadian border. The resort’s terrain is varied, with nearly 3,000 acres for skiing and snowboarding as well as 32 kilometers of Nordic trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowbiking.
While at Schweitzer, check out the relatively secluded Idyle Our T-bar, the lift farthest away from Schweitzer’s base area. There, you’ll enjoy hundreds of acres of off-trail skiing, as well as the resort’s big dog: the intermediate 2.1-mile Little Blue Ridge.
Sandpoint also offers lots of charming accommodations. RAVE’s pick for lodging is Dover Bay Resort. And for dining options, don’t miss Baxters On Cedar, a gastropub specializing in hearty American meals like cornbread and turkey soup. It’s the perfect way to warm up after a long day in the snow.
The only reason we didn’t score this town higher is because the more secluded ski routes and challenging slopes might not be the best option for rusty ski lovers or beginners.
Jackson Hole, WY
Best Place to Stay: Cowboy Village Resort
Best Place to Eat: Snake River Brewery
Best Place to Ski: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
First thing you need to learn about Jackson Hole, WY is that locals just call it Jackson. But regardless of what you call it, Jackson is a one-of-a-kind ski town.
Why? For starters, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is home to the biggest continuous vertical drop in the U.S. at over 4,000 feet. And just try to stay vertical while navigating all the breathtaking double black diamonds.
You don’t have to be a pro to enjoy skiing in Jackson, however. If you’re a beginner or an intermediate snow junkie, try the resort’s tamer Après Vous, the more accessible of the resort’s 2 mountains. And you don’t even really need to leave town to ski. Located just 6 blocks from Town Square are 400 skiable acres at Snow King Mountain, where you can also go night skiing.
When you’re ready to sleep, we recommend Cowboy Village Resort, where you can enjoy an indoor pool and spa tub, plus a fireplace in the lobby–an ideal combination for warming up after a long day in the snow. And after regrouping, you can get back on the slopes in no time with the resort’s complimentary ski shuttle.
For the best eats in town, head for Snake River Brewery. Sample from the brewpub menu, while enjoying a pint of the award-winning beers on tap.
Best Place to Stay: Cedar House Sport Hotel
Best Place to Eat: Squeeze In
Best Place to Ski: Northstar
Everyone’s heard of Lake Tahoe as a world-class wintertime destination. But just 13 miles north of Tahoe is a more off-the-radar ski town that we think is among America’s very best.
There are so many head-spinning places to ski near Truckee, it’s tough to choose just one. So we’ll start with Northstar, known to black diamond skiers for the chutes on Lookout Mountain.
Less experienced snow hounds will love Alpine Meadows. There’s also nearby Squaw Valley, a well-known, ski-scene capitol, known as Squallywood. Squaw Valley is particularly notable for hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics.
And if all those options aren’t enough, there’s more, including Donner and Mt. Rose. In fact, Truckee, CA is all up in the middle of more ski areas than anywhere else in the West. Thankfully, Truckee has yet to succumb to the gentrification of a lot of other ski towns.
Lodging in Truckee goes along with this low-key style. For an eco-chic, boutique experience, try Cedar House Sport Hotel. Or for something fancier, go to Northstar’s Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.
And to eat before heading up the mountain, go to the Squeeze In, said to be home to the world’s best omelet. While we score this one as an 8, we could see it quickly ranking up to a 9 or even 10 within just a few more ski seasons–so definitely keep an eye on this one.
Park City, UT
Best Place to Stay: Washington School House Hotel
Best Place to Eat: El Chubasco
Best Place to Ski: Park City Mountain
Easily accessible Park City, UT is known as the home to Sundance Film Festival. But it’s also one of America’s best ski towns. During Sundance, people from all over the world need to be able to easily fly to Park City. So when it comes time to ski, you can too if you’re cool with the tourist scene, as frequent flights arrive daily from all over the West and East Coast during the festival.
For slopes in Park City, our pick is the recently-merged Park City Mountain/Canyons. But to find snow in Park City, you need do little more than step out of your hotel and onto the Town Lift chair, which will get you from Main Street Park City to the summit of Park City Mountain in 18 minutes.
And to take advantage of Park City’s abundant nightlife, stay at the Washington School House Hotel, where you’ll enjoy a cocktail lounge, soaking tubs in the spa, shuttle service, and sprawling, spacious suites that are pure fire. The restaurants in Park City are also world-class, so be sure to try local favorite El Chubasco for delicious, Mexican-inspired cuisine.
Overall, don’t let film industry royalty scare you off. Park City remains one of America’s best, and most user-friendly, ski towns. We also love the centrality of the resorts in comparison to the mountains. Some ski resorts will come across like a maze, but not this one!
Best Place to Stay: Taos Inn
Best Place to Eat: The Bavarian
Best Place to Ski: Taos Ski Valley
No question Taos is one of America’s 10 best ski towns. But it’s also home to a rich indigenous culture and a vibrant art scene. In fact, this area is one of the oldest continuously inhabited locations in the U.S., home to the Taos people of the Taos Pueblo.
All this means Taos has a lot to offer besides skiing — things like the 1,000-year-old Taos Pueblo, the John Dunn House Shops, El Monte Sagrado’s, and the Taos Art Museum.
But you’re going to Taos to ski, so let’s get to the good stuff.
When you’re ready to hit the slopes, head to Taos Ski Valley. Despite having “valley” right there in the name, Taos Ski Valley is in fact the highest municipality in the U.S. And while skiing at the resort, veterans love the steep slopes atop a 9,207-foot base, as well as a harrowing frontside. Overall, Taos Ski Valley is one of the chillest, most family-friendly ski destinations in the U.S.
When it comes time to find a place to stay, our pick is The Bavarian. Rest up in a luxe A-frame at the foot of Kachina Peak, and refuel on traditional German cuisine from the slopeside deck. Or try the Taos Inn, centrally located in the center of everything that makes Taos not only one of America’s best ski towns, but one of America’s coolest towns, period.
Best Place to Stay: Totem Hotel and Suites
Best Place to Eat: Roadside Potatohead Valdez
Best Place to Ski: Chugach Mountains
If your idea of a great ski town is a little more rugged and out-of-the-way than Aspen or Vail, try Valdez, AK. A tiny, 4,000-person port town on Alaska’s south coast, Valdez is a killer jumping-off point for all kinds of adventures — particularly if you’re headed to the peaks of nearby Chugach Mountains.
After all, where else but Valdez can you try heli-skiing? Valdez is the birthplace of the sport, and there are plenty of services available to help you get started. In Valdez, you can also try next-level snow-tivities such as snow kiting, snowmobiling, and fat biking (which is a little like mountain biking on wheels that are hefty enough to handle snow and ice).
And after working up an appetite outdoors, indulge in a potatohead burrito with house-smoked bacon from Roadside Potatohead Valdez.
For lodging, the Totem Hotel and Suites get our vote. At Totem, guests can enjoy modern, eco-friendly guest rooms, as well as business-class suites and cabins. There’s also cozy décor, food, services, and amenities.
Valdez may not have a lot of big-city amenities, but it’s quickly becoming a well-known ski destination for those that like to push themselves to the limit. Note that the shred-o-meter score for adrenaline junkies will likely stand closer to a 10, but the hardcore nature of this town will edge out many of the more casual slope goers.
Best Place to Stay: WilloBurke Boutique Inn + Nordic Spa
Best Place to Eat: Foggy Goggle Osteria
Best Place to Ski: Burke Mountain Resort
Weighing in at only 1,800 people, teensy Burke, VT is a massively underrated ski destination. And what’s more, Burke has — for now — remained relatively untouched and uncrowded by the elite ski scene’sters of the world.
One word might best describe skiing in Burke: variety. From gnarly forest glades to big steep groomers, there’s plenty of room for all kinds of snow-related pastimes. If you’re headed to Burke to ski or snowboard — and if you’ve never been, you really should go — head straight to Burke Mountain Resort.
Everything you need is at the resort: good food, amenities, and excellent skiing on any one of 50 trails and glades, as well as 5 lift options. Outside of the resort, eat at the charming Foggy Goggle Osteria. With a full bar and a casual atmosphere, the Foggy Goggle serves ethnic foods with an emphasis on Italian.
Another lodging option in Burke is the WilloBurke Boutique Inn + Nordic Spa, only 5 miles from the mountain. Amenities offered at WilloBurke include a seasonal ice skating rink, a grassy area with a fire pit, and a spa featuring barrel saunas and hot tubs. Mix with other guests at evening socials while munching on locally made cheese and crackers.
Try something different and head to the Northeastern Kingdom to ski in Burke, VT.
Best Place to Stay: Snow Cap Inn
Best Place to Eat: Cafe Di Cocoa
Best Place to Ski: Sunday River
Located on the Appalachian trail, Bethel, ME mixes a mid-century vibe with the atmosphere of a New England village. And it’s all a short 12-minute drive from Sunday River, one of New England’s premier ski mountains.
At Sunday River, skiers and snowboarders enjoy 2,300 feet of vertical drop, as well as 135 trails and 15 lifts. There are tons of other peaks and wilderness areas within an hour’s drive of Bethel.
For dining, Bethel also has the goods, particularly for a town of only about 2,600 people. RAVE suggests Cafe Di Cocoa on Main. There’s also the Good Food Store for natural food and takeout. And in their parking lot, go for some seriously killer BBQ at the Smokin’ Good BBQ truck.
As far as lodging, try Snow Cap Inn, conveniently located only 2 miles from Sunday River.
For a mix of small town charm and hip sensibilities, try Bethel for your next ski trip. You won’t be disappointed.
FAQ and Related Rankings
Choosing the best ski town in America only represents about half the battle. The next portion of success comes when successful plans are laid and executed. Because as any snow hound will tell you, there’s nothing worse than finally reaching the slopes, only to realize that you’re missing some crucial piece of gear.
In this section, we’ll let you know what to bring on your next slope bound vacation. Additionally, there’s many other components to a great vacation town, other than ski opportunities. So if you want to compare the best ski towns to other great destinations, consider RAVE’s similar rankings below:
- America’s Best Music Cities (and Most Underrated Venues)
- America’s Best Ecotourism Destinations
- Best Kayak Destinations for Beginners
- Most Attractive Cities for Millennials
- America’s Best Rock Climbing Destinations
- Best College Towns for Bicyclists
- America’s Best Winter Vacations to Escape the Cold
- Best National Parks to Visit During Winter
What to pack
Ski towns are…well, cold. Layers are very important because they’re the best way to stay warm, rather than wearing a single heavy layer.
Not to mention, you won’t always be on the mountain. Maybe you’ll head out to eat, or check out an art gallery.
Either way, you’ll want to be able to take off, and put on, lots of layers when visiting one of America’s best ski towns. Packing lots of layers will allow you to easily adjust to different temperatures, both indoors and out.
Be sure to bring this gear on your next ski trip.
- Leggings or long johns
- Ski pants / Bib
- Thermal top
- Snow boots with tread
- Thick, water proof snow gloves
Don’t forget, you’re visiting one of America’s best ski towns to ski. But even when you’re not out there on the mountain, the conditions can be pretty rough, and even the warmest clothes won’t keep out the chill if you’re spending much time in the snow.
So whether you’re on the slopes or warming up in the lodge, here are some layers no skier should leave home without.
- Down or fleece jacket
- Fleece-lined hat
- Ski helmet
Hand and feet warmers
Nobody likes cold toes or fingers. Solve this problem with adhesive feet and hand warmers. And be sure that you’re actively keeping your hands and feet dry. Frostbite is a real concern on the coldest mountains.
Here’s some additional gear to help you stay warm and snug while outdoors.
- Thick socks
- Waterproof gloves
- Neck warmer/gaiter
Lip balm and healing cream
Cold weather can be brutal on the lips and the muscles. So RAVE Reviews says be sure to pack your Carmex.
And skiing and snowboarding in the cold can make even minor slips, bumps, and bruises more painful than usual. Not to mention sore muscles from a long day catching air.
Here’s where healing cream can help. RAVE loves Topricin Homeopathic Pain Relief and Healing Cream.
Apply healing cream before you head out for the day, and it will help maintain blood flow. This helps keep your extremities warm. Or use it after a long day in the elements and it stimulates blood flow, helping you warm up quickly and soothing sore muscles after the day’s exertion.
Keep it casual
You won’t be in your skis the entire time you’re visiting our 10 best ski towns. After all, the best ski towns also have great restaurants and nightlife.
You need to be ready to take advantage of everything from the heated pool and hot tub at the lodge to nice restaurants and art galleries.
Here are some versatile items you won’t want to forget for your next ski trip.
- Jeans. Most ski towns are pretty chill (pun intended). They understand what you’re here to do: ski. So even at their fanciest restaurants, jeans will usually fit in just fine.
- Bathing suit and flip flops. For hitting the heated pool, hot tub, or sauna after dinner or before cocktails! There’s no better way to recover from a long day on the slopes.
- Hydroflask 10oz. Insulated Wine Tumbler. Because, well, it’s a 10oz. insulated wine tumbler. No trip to the mountains is complete without one.