Ski towns that feature the best mix of both snow and terrain are no secret: Jackson Hole, Park City, and Tahoe usually top the list. What is less recognized is exactly where the majority of U.S. alpine skiers come from.
Among 9.9 million downhillers, the top five states that are called home by skiers include New York, Florida, Texas, California, and—in last place—Colorado, according to the 2017 Participation Study published by the SnowSports Industries America and the Physical Activity Council.
The report also found that the overall percentage of skiers per state population aligned with spots that are often acknowledged as the country’s top ski destinations: Vermont, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and New Hampshire. We dove deeper to find out five of the country’s best in-bounds ski areas for the majority of alpine skiers:
Origin state of 5.2 percent of the nation’s alpine skiers
Choice Resort: The number one resort in Colorado is Breckenridge, according to Ski.com. “The nearly 3,000-acre resort offers an historic, charming mining town and a large variety of terrain, lodging options and price points. It’s proximity to Denver International Airport and inclusion on the Epic Pass are also factors that lend to it being the most popular resort,” said Dan Sherman, CMO of Ski.com.
Fame: Gold Pan Saloon opened in the mining town in 1879, and claims to have the oldest liquor license west of the Mississippi. Breck also boasts the highest chairlift in North America: Express Superchair, which carries skiers to almost 13,000 feet above sea level.
Average annual snowfall: 300 inches
Terrain: 11% Beginner, 31% Intermediate, 24% Advanced, 34% Expert
Eat: For fine dining, reserve a table at Hearthstone Restaurant, and order the blackberry elk. Downstairs at Eric’s serves up pizza and wings, and Twist dishes up comfort food like the duck confit ramen bowl. For chilly days, head to Pho on Main, and get a classic American fare at Empire Burger.
Recover: Head to Blue Sage Spa and Breck Body Bar for a post-ski massage or spa date.
Stay: Luxury-seekers stay at BlueSky Breckenridge. Get a ski-in, ski-out pad via Pine Ridge Condos.
Odometer: Denver International Airport is just 105 miles from Breckenridge via I-170.
Origin state of 10.3 percent of the nation’s alpine skiers
Choice Resort: “My favorite ski area in New York is Whiteface Mountain for its large terrain options for all skill levels. The trails are fun, the lifts are decent, and there’s even 35 acres of in-bounds, off piste terrain called the Slides: steep, narrow chutes that requires avalanche gear. Whitefish is also close to Lake Placid where there are many activities other than skiing,” said Marcin Rojek, Buyer and Services Manager for Paragon Sports in New York, NY.
Fame: Whiteface was home to the 1980 Olympic downhill competition and the mountain has the greatest vertical drop of any the lift-served resort in the Northeast.
Average annual snowfall: 199 inches
Terrain: 20% Beginner, 42% Intermediate, 38% Advanced/Expert
Eat: “A great impulse find in Lake Placid is the Pickled Pig, a BBQ and burger joint that’s open late. The beer selection is great, and the food is decently priced,” said Rojek.
Recover: Loosen up the skier’s quads with a class at Hot Yoga Lake Placid. The studio offers hot and non-heated classes plus a $30 one-week pass for unlimited classes.
Stay: “Anywhere in the town of Lake Placid makes the trip to Whiteface more fun,” said Rojek. The best bang for the buck is Crowne Plaza, according to TripAdvisor.
Odometer: Whiteface Mountain is 66 miles from Burlington International Airport.
Origin state of 15.5 percent of the nation’s alpine skiers
Choice Resort: Squaw Valley is the most sought resort in California, according to Ski.com. “Squaw is California’s largest ski resort—a total of 6,000 acres when combined with Alpine Meadows—and is rich in history, including hosting the 1960 Winter Olympic Games. Squaw is conveniently located near Reno, and beginners can experience the tram with green runs to ski down,” said Sherman.
Fame: “A lot of pro skiers have called Squaw home over the years. It’s considered a West Coast proving ground among the birthplaces of big mountain and extreme skiing. Its expert terrain is well known, especially in the Palisades or “Squallywood,” and in the KT-22 and Granite Thief area,” Sherman said.
Average annual snowfall: 450 inches
Terrain: 7% Beginner, 33% Intermediate, 60% Advanced, 0% Expert
Recover: Detox with an appointment at Trilogy Spa & Spa at Squaw Creek. Or, ride the Aerial Tram to the High Camp pool and hot tub at 8,200 feet.
Odometer: Reno-Tahoe International Airport is a 49-mile drive to Squaw Valley.
Origin state of 6.2 percent of the nation’s alpine skiers
Choice Resort: “There are no ski areas in Texas! A lot of people here travel to ski. Direct flights from Dallas to Eagle, CO, make it so easy. I just got back from Steamboat, and the door-to-door trip is three hours,” said Bryan Antalek, General Manager of Sun & Ski in Dallas. And his all-time favorite place to ski? Silverton Mountain. “I love that Silverton has one little ski lift with the school bus at the bottom. There’s nothing much up there. You’re in small groups. The mountain manages where skiers and guides can go to explore on specific dates where on what dates. The terrain and the overall experience is great, and the ski area is only 10 minutes from town—where you can have interactions with a lot of interesting mountain locals,” said Antalek.
Fame: There’s nothing like Silverton: It’s the only single chairlift-served backcountry ski area in the country. The terrain is exclusively non-groomed, guides are available for hire, and its one of the only places to helm-ski in Colorado.
Average annual snowfall: 400 inches
Terrain: 100% Advanced/Expert
Eat: Grab a breakfast burrito and caffeine kick from the Coffee Bear. Get a tasty salad, sandwich, pizza and local beer at Avalanche Brewing Company.
Recover: Head 24 miles north to Ouray for a soak in one of the town’s five local pools. Or, head back to the hotel to crash for the next day of powder runs: “When you’re at a mountain like Silverton you ski from first chair until they absolutely close the lift—I usually crash after,” said Antalek.
Stay: “We stay at Teller House Hotel, a little inn above a bar. You get a code to punch into your door code—very casual and nothing fancy,” he said.
Odometer: Silverton Mountain is 61 miles south of Montrose Regional Airport.
Origin state of 5.5 percent of the nation’s alpine skiers
Choice Resort: Every spring, Peter Glenn Ski & Sports hosts their annual demo trip with 150 employees and family members at Aspen Mountain (plus runs at Aspen Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk.) “The Aspen resorts are in a great, convenient location. You can fly directly into the town of Aspen and have flavors of terrain between the four mountains. Aspen has so much heritage, Colorado history, and it’s a lot of fun with all walks of life,” said David Mahoney, Marketing Director Peter Glenn Ski & Sports.
Fame: The Sundeck panoramic view of the Elk Mountains. Next door, the wide face of Aspen Highlands is a Colorado crown jewel. After a 20- to 50-minute hike, you reach the top of the bowl with 360-degree views of the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak, steep lines up to 48 degrees, and more than 4K vertical drop from the 12,392-foot summit to the base.
Average annual snowfall: 300 inches
Terrain: 0% Beginner, 48% Intermediate, 26% Advanced, 26% Expert
Eat: Grab an outdoor table at Highlands Alehouse for après margarita pitchers (or microbrews), nachos, wings, and salads. For one of the best (and wallet friendly) bar menus in town, grab a chair at L’Hostaria Ristorante; or make a reservation at Mezzaluna, one of Mahoney’s favorite places for Italian food. And don’t miss the Mongolian BBQ at the Cliffhouse at the top of Buttermilk mountain.
Recover: Unwind with a yoga and meditation class (or one-on-one session) with Aspen Shakti Owner Jayne Gottlieb. Then relax with the perfect glass of wine: visit Ellina Restaurant and Bar Sommelier Jill Carnevale, who created the Ellina wine list with more than 1,200 bottles with varieties from around the world.
Stay: “In Snowmass, we stay at Stonebridge Inn, because Destination Hotels has a ton of condo options. In Aspen, we stay at the base of the mountain at Sky Hotel (currently being renovated with a 2019 opening date) with a legendary pool that’s known as, where Vegas meets the mountains. After skiing, there’s always so much to do in Aspen,” said Mahoney.
Odometer: Aspen Pitkin Country Airport is a 4-mile drive northwest of town.