For incredible variety, some of the world’s finest powder and a super-friendly welcome, there is no better place to ski or board than the USA. From Utah’s champagne powder to Colorado’s pristine pistes and Vermont’s pretty tree-lined slopes to California’s stunning Lake Tahoe views, there really is something for everyone. Yes, getting here takes longer and lift passes are expensive, but heading to the States is a must at least once for all keen skiers and boarders.
Colorado is probably the first choice for many and its elevation ensures great snow reliability, with the quality of the groomed terrain at the likes of Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Vail a real highlight. Meanwhile, powderhounds and fans of steep off piste should head to the likes of Arapahoe Basin, Crested Butte and Telluride. Those looking for even better powder should place neighbouring Utah at the top of their list. Abundant snowfall and the unique drying effect of the Great Salt Lake ensures exceptional snow quality in the Wasatch Mountains at resorts such as Alta, Park City and Snowbird.
Further north, iconic off piste lines can be scored at the world-renowned resorts of Big Sky in Montana and Jackson Hole in Wyoming. Add in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California and the stunning resorts around Lake Tahoe – including Heavenly and Squaw Valley – and the variety out west really is unparalleled. Remember too that all terrain within the ski resort’s boundary will be classed as inbounds and is avalanched controlled, so wherever you go within the ropes, your access to off piste is incredible.
Across on the East Coast, the pretty hills of Vermont, Maine and New York are home to resorts – such as Killington, Mount Snow, Smugglers’ Notch and Stowe – that bring something very different compared to their loftier neighbours to the west. The short flight and smaller time difference are a great bonus as is the ability to tie your trip in with a city break to New York or Boston. On the mountain, expect tree-lined trails and great groomed runs, but less in the way of off piste. Do come prepared for variable weather conditions however, especially the bitter cold if you’re visiting during mid-winter.
Away from the snow, ice sports are popular and most resorts have an ice rink and will offer the chance to play ice hockey. Cross country skiing is also popular, as is snowmobiling, with the latter providing great access into unexplored backcountry areas. Tying in your trip to a city break is also a great option, think San Francisco for Tahoe resorts, Denver for Colorado resorts and New York for ski areas in the east coast.
Many US resorts have great purpose-built accommodation bases in which to stay, all of which offer maximum convenience and are often located right on the slopes. A lot of rooms are in condominium blocks, most of which are huge in comparison to rooms over in Europe – just be aware that you’ll probably need to drive to a supermarket to pick up provisions. If you’re after traditional mountain towns, their number is limited, but downtown Breckenridge and Park City are two fantastic examples of old mining towns turned ski resort.
Food and drink options on the mountain are dominated by self-service restaurants and often slightly-overpriced cafeterias – most do allow you to bring in your own food however, so bear this mind. Off the slopes most resorts have a good selection of watering holes, just note down when it's happy hour and remember that you’ll need to take your passport with you for ID and strict under-21 policies are in operation everywhere. Some of the liveliest resorts include Aspen, Heavenly and Vail, but après over here is nothing like that in the Alps.
The major downside has to be the price of the lift passes. The US ski resort market has transformed in recent years thanks to Vail Resorts and Alterra, leading to the rise of incredibly affordable multi-resort season passes. Great news if you’re heading out for several weeks or more, but not great news if you’re going for a single trip. Day passes have topped $200 at Vail and expect to pay almost twice as much for a week-long lift pass than you would do in Europe.