The 7 Absolute Best Ski Resorts In the Western US, 2015

From sheer vertical descent and an abundance of trails, to fun village amenities, these resorts are considered the best in the West.

Photo by IM Photo/Shutterstock
Photo by IM Photo/Shutterstock

 

A ski vacation is all about the complete experience, from the moment you wake up and smell the coffee, to the moment you take off your wet boots and warm your toes by the fire. When it comes to skiing in western North America, some resorts in British Columbia, Canada, always receive high praise–think Whistler-Blackcomb (the largest and most visited ski resort in North America) and Revelstoke (the tallest ski area in North America). In order to find out which are the highest-rated ski resorts in the western US, we looked at six “best of” skiing lists from top sources, and eliminated any that were in Canada.

Here are the Top 7 US ski resorts, plus the results of each list we consulted:


Ski resorts tied for the gold medal:

These resorts both were listed on 5 of the top lists.

Jackson Hole, WY

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Photo by JHCR/Flickr
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Photo by JHCR/Flickr

 

You can fly to Jackson Hole, WY, non-stop from 13 major cities, and the airport is only 15 minutes from town. On Town Square, you’ll find 19th-century log cabin architecture (read: quaint), mixed with contemporary stores selling everything from high-end fashion to traditional Western garb. There are lots of places to stay, from resort lodges to rental apartments. When we checked today, it had the second-largest total amount of snowfall at 62″ (Telluride had the most at 75″).

Snowbird, UT

Snowbird, UT. Photo by FashionStock-Shutterstock
Snowbird, UT. Photo by FashionStock-Shutterstock


Allianz Travel Insurance

 

People who love Snowbird tell of its excellent powder snow, varied terrain that you’ll never get bored by, and a fun town down the road. They say it’s great for backcountry skiing and snowboarding, and it has more than 2,500 acres of skiable snow that is fairly evenly divided between beginner, intermediate, and advanced slopes. It’s a 45-minute drive from the Salt Lake City International Airport.

Ski resorts tied for the silver medal:

These resorts were listed on 4 of the top lists.

Telluride, CO

Telluride, CO. Photo by Lauren Orr-Shutterstock
Telluride, CO. Photo by Lauren Orr-Shutterstock

 

Telluride has fabulous moguls for bump skiing, lots of trails for all levels of experience, and a super charming town whose claim to fame is that it was the first place Butch Cassidy came to rob a bank. Shops, bars, restaurants–whatever you need, you’ll find it here. Plus, there’s a much newer-built town, Mountain Village, where heated sidewalks and a skating rink add to its appeal.

Snowmass, CO

Snowmass, CO. Photo by Marcin Moryc-Shutterstock
Snowmass, CO. Photo by Marcin Moryc-Shutterstock

 

Snowmass is owned by the same company that owns Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands, which is why Forbes lumped the three together in their rankings. (Together they came out at number 8 on their “Top 10 Ski Resorts in North America for 2016 list.) “Experiencing one of these resorts is about experiencing all of them,” they say. Snowmass is known as a great place for groups because of the 90 trails geared towards different ability levels. Short lines, oodles of accommodations options, and the fun nearby towns of Carbondale and Basalt add to its solid reputation.

Vail, CO

Vail, CO. Photo by Arina P Habich-Shutterstock
Vail, CO. Photo by Arina P Habich-Shutterstock

 

Vail is a place that always has a lot going on, in addition to snow sports. In spring there’s the annual “Taste of Vail” food and wine festival; fine dining and nightlife is open year-round in town, plus there’s bowling, movie theaters, and concerts.  In The Village you can find everything from Nobu Matsuhisa’s Japanese dishes, to South American food. Its known for its great back bowls for wide open skiing, and its Kids Adventure Zones dotting the mountain.

Ski resorts tied for the bronze medal:

These resorts were listed on 3 of the top lists.

Big Sky, MT

Big Sky, MT. Photo by Colton Stiffler-Shutterstock
Big Sky, MT. Photo by Colton Stiffler-Shutterstock

 

Big Sky is located between Yellowstone National Park (it’s one hour away) and Bozeman, Montana. The resort includes over 5,800 acres of skiable terrain; a summit at over 11,000 feet; and a vertical drop of 4,350 feet. 42 percent of the 306 total runs are for advanced skiers, and another 18 percent are for experts, the longest being six miles long. The rest of the trails are for beginners and intermediates. Accommodations range from cabin lodges to inns. In the Town Center you’ll find movies, a farmers market, shops, and restaurants.

 

Park City Mountain Resort, UT

Park City, UT. Photo by FashionStock.com-Shutterstock
Park City, UT. Photo by FashionStock.com-Shutterstock

 

Park City Mountain Resort in Utah is undergoing a $50 million renovation as it combines with Canyons Village–all of which will be ready for Christmas week. That includes a new Quicksilver Gondola to connect Park City and Canyons, “creating America’s largest ski resort with 7,300 skiable acres.” They’ve also added new restaurants, amped up snowmaking on Iron Mountain, and widened trails on Chicane. It’s 35 minutes by car from the Salt Lake City International Airport, and offers six slopeside hotels.

Total Results on the Six Lists We Consulted:

“Top 10 Western Ski Resorts for Families”

Source: FamilySkiTrips.com

These resorts all appeared within the top 10, but rankings were not assigned to each one within that list. They are: 

  • Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort, CO
  • Big Sky, MT
  • Vail, CO
  • Beaver Creek, CO
  • Deer Valley, UT
  • Jackson Hole, WY
  • Mammoth, CA
  • Snowmass at Aspen, CO
  • Steamboat, CO
  • Snowbird, UT

“The Top 10 Ski Resorts In North America For 2016”

Source: Forbes.com

Forbes ranks ski resorts based on their Pure Awesomeness Factor (PAF).  To do so, they considered the best 220 North American resorts (data and numbers crunched by ZRankings).  Eliminating the resorts in British Columbia, this is the order of the US resorts on the Forbes Top 10 Ski Resorts In North America for 2016 list:

  1. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming — PAF: 99.0
  2. Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Utah — PAF: 98.41
  3. Alta, Utah — PAF: 94.04
  4. Vail, Colorado — PAF: 93.69
  5. Telluride, Colorado — PAF: 92.83
  6. Alyeska, Alaska — PAF: 90.58
  7. Aspen Mountain, Highlands, Snowmass – 90.19
  8. Grand Targhee – 89.51
  9. Park City Mountain Resort, UT – 88.28

 

Photo by Gorillaimages/Shutterstock
Photo by Gorillaimages/Shutterstock

“Best skiing in the US/Canada – Largest Ski Resorts”

Source: Mountainvertical.com

These rankings by Mountain Vertical look at the “true-up vertical descent,” which the site has created. They say it “is intended to be a more meaningful ski resort statistic for skiers and snowboards researching mountains. In a nutshell, it represents the most vertical distance at a resort that can be achieved on commonly skied, lift-served, continuous fall-line runs.”

Eliminating the resorts in British Columbia, this is the order of the U.S. resorts on their list:

  1. Jackson Hole Ski Resort, WY
  2. Snowmass Ski Resort, Aspen, CO
  3. Big Sky and Moonlight Basins, Montana
  4. Telluride Ski Resort, CO
  5. Timberline Ski Resort, Mt. Hood, OR
  6. Aspen Highlands Ski Resort, CO
  7. Beaver Creek Ski Resort, CO
  8. Aspen Mountain/Ajax Ski Resort, CO
  9. Snowboard Ski Resort, UT
  10. Sun Valley Ski Resort, ID

“USA Ski Resort Rankings”

Source: Powderhounds.com

The Powderhounds list gives a breakdown for ratings of top resorts based on a number of variables, from skiing experience level to restaurants, nightlife, cost, and more. You can also sort the ratings to see which ranks highest within a given category.

The highest rating from this site is 5, which means “outstanding.” These resorts got the highest overall ratings of all the ones in the western US.

Rating of 5.0:

  • Telluride, CO

Rating of 4.8:

  • Alta, UT

Rating of 4.5:

  • Kirkwood, CA
  • Mammoth Mountain, CA
  • Squaw Valley, CA
  • Breckenridge, CO
  • Copper Mountain, CO
  • Crested Butte, CO
  • Vail, CO
  • Schweitzer, ID
  • Canyons, UT
  • Park City, UT
  • Snowbasin, UT
  • Snowbird, UT
  • Solitude, UT
  • Grand Targhee, WY

“2015’s Top-Ranked Western Ski Resorts”

Source: Skinet.com

Eliminating the resorts in British Columbia, this is the order of the US resorts:

  1. Deer Valley, UT
  2. Sun Valley, ID
  3. Telluride, CO
  4. Vail, CO
  5. Snowmass, CO
  6. Park City Mountain Resort, Utah
  7. Jackson Hole, WY
  8. Breckenridge, CO
  9. Steamboat, CO
  10. Beaver Creek Resort, CO

 

Photo by Mikael Damkier-Shutterstock
Photo by Mikael Damkier-Shutterstock

“The Top 10 Ski Resorts in North America”

Source: Snowbrains.com

Eliminating the resorts in British Columbia, this is the order of the U.S. resorts:

  1. Jackson Hole, WY
  2. Squaw Valley, CA
  3. Snowbird, UT
  4. Taos, NM
  5. Big Sky, MT
  6. Mount Baker, WA
  7. Silverton, CO

What do you think are the best ski resorts in the western US? Share with readers by leaving a comment below.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I have been to nearly every resort listed above & I agree that if you are going purely for the skiing that Jackson Hole & Snowbird & Telluride should be at the top for best skiing terrain for a challenge!

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