The modern ski getaway offers something for everyone. Numerous ski resorts have on- and off-mountain activities for those interested in family vacations, extreme skiing, snowboarding, budget ski trips, spring break fun, last-minute weekend getaways, and more. Imagine sunny days of schussing down a hill in the crisp, exhilarating alpine air as you look out upon a panorama of mountains. And when the sun goes down, most ski destinations have abundant après-ski (and even non-ski) attractions, including clubs, brewpubs, upscale and mom-and-pop restaurants, shopping, and relaxing spas in which to soak away the aches of a hard day's skiing or boarding.
With an avalanche of ski and snowboard vacation options before you, it's easy to get overwhelmed. To get away to the slopes that best fit your ski vacation needs, we've provided a list of top ski destinations with information to make your ski trip more enjoyable at higher and lower elevations alike.
Majestic Lake Tahoe is divided into north and south shores by the Sierra Nevada Mountains. For big air, steep zones, and narrow chutes, the north shore is your best bet with major resorts like Sugarbowl, Squaw Valley USA, and Alpine Meadows. Squaw Valley alone has 4,000 acres of ski terrain and draws hordes of extreme skiers. For a more laidback, family-friendly experience on the north shore, Northstar-at-Tahoe offers ski bikes, snow scooters, and Paw Parks, small freestyle terrain parks which are great for the little snowboarders in your group. Resorts such as Heavenly and Kirkwood on the south shore offer a lot more beginner and intermediate terrain. Heavenly sprawls across California and Nevada and is ideal for life on and off the mountain-go skiing and boarding or partake of the lively casino night life of Nevada.
What can't you find at Whistler? Consistently rated a No. 1 mountain resort in North America, Whistler Blackcomb features more than 8,000 acres of ski terrain, including both in-bound slopes and backcountry accessibility. It boasts a one-mile vertical rise, three halfpipes, and an abundance of terrain parks. Though Whistler's cosmopolitan ambiance appears to favor the destination skier, there's plenty of action for beginners. The leisurely Greenline run, for instance, is a great way to take in big mountain skiing. But it's not all skiing and snowboarding; the action spills off the slopes and into Whistler Village as soon as the sun goes down. The Village Stroll, which is the main pedestrian drag, becomes awash in après-skiers piling into over 90 restaurants and bars in the area.
The Rocky Mountain State has one of the best terrain parks around for hardcore snowboarding enthusiasts at Breckenridge. Its Freeway Terrain Park features a massive halfpipe and a half-dozen big jumps. Prefer gentler intro ski runs or open bowls? No problem. There are four interconnected mountains to choose from, and they accommodate a number of green and blue runs as well as splendid backcountry-style skiing. The new gondola, the BreckConnect, links the old town with the resort lifts. Instead of climbing flights of stairs with all your gear, you can take a 10-minute ride from the town parking lots right up to the lifts. Things are equally stellar off the slopes in this charming Victorian resort town. The vibrant 19th-century mining town features funky historic downtown streets with a hopping nightlife and laid-back atmosphere. Live theater, movie palaces, historic tours, and 140 restaurants, bars, and nightclubs will keep you happily occupied 'til the wee hours.
Among Colorado ski resorts, this is the big one. Vail is one of the world's greatest ski and snowboarding mountains. 5,300 skiable acres, four terrain parks, and the country's largest ski school will keep you knee-deep in snowy activity. The welcoming front of the mountain is best for beginners with its wide slopes, while experts can flock (or "drop") to the Back Bowls in the back of the mountain for steep skiing — it is 87% expert terrain and not for the faint of heart. Remote Blue Sky Basin is the third main area to ski and is filled with blue and black runs. These runs give intermediate skiers a chance to cruise among groves of fir trees, giving them a taste of the backcountry. A fully interchangeable lift ticket with Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Arapahoe Basin is a terrific bonus. Off-mountain, the theme is alpine. Even if you don't snap on a pair of skis the whole time you're at Vail, there's plenty to experience. Endless shopping, energetic concerts, film festivals, culinary events, and cozy bars to do your après-ski lounging in will make you want to stay all winter long.
The 2002 Winter Olympics put the funky mountain town of Park City in the skiing and snowboarding spotlight. The resort has four terrain parks spread across 75 acres, from the beginner's Jonesy's Park to the expert King's Crown Superpark. The infamous Utah powder, some of the lightest, driest snow on earth, will please purists on skis and boards alike. Park City is home to the Sundance Film Festival and the ski resort boasts a glamorous atmosphere as well as a multitude of restaurants and shops. Take a stroll down chic Main Street to take in great little cafés, high-end restaurants, and maybe even some celebrity sightings. If you've still got energy to burn after a day of skiing or snowboarding, finish off the night at Cisero's, a restaurant and nightclub that packs in the crowds.