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Ski Resort Life

Top 10 Ski Resorts for Snowfall in North America

Never fear—there are powder days in your future. In fact, hit these ski resorts, and powder days are almost guaranteed.

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Don’t let the dog days of summer get you down. Despite how it might feel right now, there are powder days in your future. Soothe your cravings by dreaming of where your next turns will be. From the Cascades to the Tetons, some of the best snow on Earth is right here in North America. Here are the top 10 powder-choked resorts on the continent.

10. Whitewater Ski Resort, B.C.

Sweet glade skiing at Whitewater
Sweet, powdery glades at Whitewater Ski Resort. Photo courtesy of Whitewater Resort
  • Average annual snowfall: 472 inches
  • Skiable acres: 2,367 
  • Closest airport: Castlegar Regional Airport
  • Ticket to ride: $95 CAD for a single day ticket 

Whitewater Ski Resort, on British Columbia’s famed Powder Highway, is the snowiest resort in Canada with 472 inches of annual snowfall. About two hours from the U.S. border, Whitewater boasts 82 marked runs, four lifts, and 1,184 acres of lift-accessible terrain. Whitewater is best known for its acclaimed lift-accessed backcountry and 2,367 acres of skiable terrain. 

With a self-described low-key vibe, this mountain is a bonafide skiers’ paradise. There is no cell service and no access to WiFi, creating a serene space to unplug and enjoy the best snow in North America. Less famous than some of the bigger areas in Canada such as Whistler Blackcomb, Whitewater rewards skiers with shorter lift lines and plenty of fresh tracks in its numerous bowls and glades. If you’re looking for a snowy escape from the outside world and want to dip your toes in B.C. ski culture, Whitewater is the place to be.

9. Crystal Mountain Resort, Wash.

Pow day at Crystal Mountain
Going deep at Crystal Mountain Resort.Photo Courtesy of Colton Jacobs
  • Average annual snowfall: 486 inches 
  • Skiable acres: 2,600 
  • Closest airport: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
  • Ticket to ride: $99 for a single day ticket
  • Accessible with an Ikon Pass 

Two hours from Seattle, Crystal Mountain is set in Washington’s Cascade range. Crystal is the largest ski resort in Washington State, with 2,300 lift-serviced acres and a total of 2,600 skiable acres. An Ikon Pass will give you access to this large resort with an average of 486 inches of fresh snow a year. 

Crystal prides itself on diverse terrain servicing beginners with beautiful groomed greens and blues to experts who are able to ski its incredible backcountry or in-bound bowls. With a base elevation of 4,400 feet and a 7,012-foot summit, the mountain’s vertical drop is a hefty 2,612 feet. $30 million has been invested in the mountain in the last decade, resulting in better dining and lodging options. Check out the highest-elevation restaurant in the state at 6,872 feet, aptly named the Summit House, and take in incredible views of Mt. Rainier, to boot.

8. Snowbird Ski Resort, Utah

Skiing pow at Snowbird
A skier spends his day deep in the white room at Snowbird.Photo credit: Mike Schirf
  • Average annual snowfall: 500 inches
  • Skiable acres: 2,500 
  • Closest airport: Salt Lake City International Airport
  • Ticket to ride: $120 for a single day ticket
  • Accessible with an Ikon Pass and on the Mountain Collective

Resorts in Utah hardly need an introduction concerning the famed snow quality. A 45-minute drive from Salt Lake City lands you in the winter playground that is Little Cottonwood Canyon. There you will find Snowbird, which averages 500 inches a year and boasts the longest ski season in Utah—spanning from November to July, weather permitting. The Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective give you access to the 10 lifts and 2,500 skiable acres. 

Snowbird summits at 11,000 feet, which is accessible by the aerial tram, making it a whopping 3,218-foot elevation gain from the base. Backcountry access at the ‘Bird is incredible, but there’s no need to travel out of bounds to find some gnarly terrain and plenty of powder. With 15 restaurants on-site and several lodging options, Snowbird is the place of skiers looking for a good balance between great skiing and big resort amenities.

7. Solitude Mountain Resort, Utah

Plowing through the deep at Solitude.Photo Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
  • Average annual snowfall: 500 inches
  • Skiable acreage: 1,200 acres 
  • Closest airport: Salt Lake City International Airport
  • Ticket to ride: $ 115 for a single day ticket
  • Accessible with an Ikon Pass 

Set in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Solitude Mountain Resort averages the same snow total as Snowbird with 500 inches annually. Solitude is one of the smaller resorts in the canyons with 1,200 skiable acres and 82 named runs, which is nothing to sneeze at. With eight lifts and just over half of the resort trails marked as advanced/expert, Solitude pleases highly skilled skiers who will enjoy a full day exploring this resort in-bounds as well as out. 

Solitude lives up to its name with 60 percent less ski traffic than Alta during the 2018-2019 season; the mountain is the best-kept secret for many skiers who make a beeline here when Alta and Snowbird are feeling the crowds. The most exciting terrain at Solitude is just a small boot-pack and traverse away. Honeycomb Canyon is known for its challenging chutes and expert glades; the longer you traverse the more fresh tracks you will be rewarded with. All in all, Solitude gives off a good small resort vibe while giving you access to terrain comparable with all of the larger resorts in Utah. After a long powder-filled day, one can unwind and après at the Thirsty Squirrel, tucked into the quaint base village.

6. Brighton Resort, Utah

Pillows of snow at Brighton Resort.Photo courtesy of Brighton Resort
  • Average annual snowfall: 500 inches
  • Skiable acres: 1,050 
  • Closest airport: Salt Lake City International Airport
  • Ticket to ride: $85 for a single day ticket
  • Accessible with an Ikon Pass

Brighton Resort is the smallest in Utah’s Cottonwood Canyons, though its down-home charms are exactly what attract ski enthusiasts to its community-slopes feel. Though small is relative: Brighton has 1,050 skiable acres with an elevation gain of 1,875 feet, larger by far than many Eastern resorts. With 66 named trails comprised of 21 percent beginner, 40 percent intermediate, and 39 percent advanced, there is plenty of in-bounds fun to be had, but when skiers get the itch for backcountry Brighton is very accommodating. Offering one-ride lift tickets, Brighton allows skiers access to the top of Hidden Canyon to enjoy fresh tracks even days after a large dump. 

Brighton is one of the oldest ski locations in the country, opening with a rope tow in 1936, and the mountain has stayed true to its ski roots with limited real-estate growth on the mountain, preserving the unobstructed views of the Wasatch range. Brighton is a local-oriented resort with limited dining and lodging options; instead, the mountain invests in family-oriented programming including affordable ski school and day tickets. If you’re interested in the best snow in the world accompanied by short lift lines and fresh tracks, then Brighton is the place to visit.

5. Sugar Bowl Resort, Calif.

Skier Peter Avedschmidt surfed through Sugar Bowl’s powdery fields.
Skier Peter Avedschmidt surfs through Sugar Bowl’s powdery fields.Photo courtesy of Sugar Bowl
  • Average annual snowfall: 500 inches
  • Skiable acres: 1,500 
  • Closest airport: Reno-Tahoe International Airport
  • Ticket to ride: $125 for a single day ticket

Sugar Bowl Resort is home to the first running chairlift in California, erected in 1939. With a total of 13 lifts and 1,500 skiable acres, Sugar Bowl has terrain for all levels of skiers. The mountain is set atop the Donner Summit and is the closest resort to both the Bay Area and Sacramento. Sugar Bowl has been proudly independent for 79 seasons, boasting a long history amidst some of the oldest resorts in the U.S. The initial investor to the resort was Walt Disney himself! 

Sugar Bowl is a must to include in a Tahoe ski trip, especially for those craving a more authentic experience with less development and fewer people than bigger neighbors such as Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows or Heavenly. The mountain offers everything from easygoing groomers to Mt. Judah’s Bowl and Crow’s Nest Glades, expert pods where fresh tracks can be found after every storm. At Sugar Bowl, you get the most snow in California while enjoying a relaxed environment with skiing at the center of the resort’s mission.

4. Grand Targhee Ski Resort, Wyo.

Powder day at Grand Targhee Resort
Powder-filled day at Grand TargheePhoto Courtesy of Grand Targhee Ski Resort
  • Average annual snowfall: 500+ inches
  • Skiable acres: 2,000+ 
  • Closest airport: Jackson Hole Airport
  • Ticket to ride: $98 for a single day ticket 
  • Part of the Mountain Collective

Wyoming is home to the treasure that is Grand Targhee Ski Resort. Although lesser-known to tourists than nearby Jackson Hole, the mountain boasts 500-plus inches of snow annually. The ski area comprises three peaks: Fred’s Mountain, Peaked Mountain, and Mary’s Nipple, which is hike-to only terrain. Grand Targhee remains an independent mountain with affordable lift tickets, a place where skiers can find the charm of a smaller mountain with smaller lift lines, Western hospitality, and a down-home feel while also serving up some of the best snow in the United States. 

Grand Targhee is so adamant about its snow quality that if you are not pleased with the powder you can take a “snow check,” meaning you bring your lift ticket back to the ticket office with two scans or less and the resort let you come back another day. With the snow having less than five percent water content—compared to an average of eight percent in Utah—Targhee remains a pretty safe bet for a powder day.

3. Alta Ski Area, Utah

Person in yellow jacket with orange goggles rips through powder near a rocky cliff and trees at Alta.
Scotty VerMerris slashes Alta’s steep and deep. File photo
  • Average annual snowfall: 547 inches
  • Skiable acreage: 2,614 acres 
  • Closest airport: Salt Lake City International Airport
  • Ticket to ride: $125 for a single day ticket
  • Accessible with an Ikon Pass and on the Mountain Collective

Alta boasts the largest annual snowfall in Little Cottonwood Canyon with an average of 547 inches every season. Alta’s summit tops out at an impressive 11,068 feet, creating a 2,538-foot elevation gain from the base of the mountain to the summit. The largest snow year recorded at Alta was the 1981-1982 season with an immense 748 inches of snow—62 feet! As the second Western ski area in the U.S. to open, the mountain has been operating for 82 years. 

Alta is a true skier’s mountain, as it is one of two resorts in Utah that bans all snowboarding. Accessible with the Ikon Pass, Alta has started to offer more upscale lodging options beginning with the opening of the Snowpine Lodge last season. With that said, Alta Ski Area still lures skiing’s old guard thanks to copious powder, down-to-earth locals, and some of the toughest terrain in the West.

2. Mt. Baker Ski Area, Wash.

KC Deane and Wiley Miller take advantage of Mt. Baker's accessible backcountry terrain
KC Deane and Wiley Miller take advantage of Mt. Baker’s accessible backcountry terrain and powder. Photo credit: Grant Gunderson
  • Average annual snowfall: 663 inches
  • Skiable acres: 1,000+ 
  • Closest airport: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
  • Ticket to ride: $65 for a single day ticket

Mt. Baker, an active volcano, neighbors the Mt. Baker Ski Area, tucked deep into the Cascade Range. The mountain averages an unbelievable 663 inches of snow a year. Two and a half hours from Seattle, the ski area offers only very limited lodging, so visitors often set up camp in RVs, making for easy access to first tracks in the morning. Mt. Baker does not need any bells and whistles to market itself, though, as the mountain holds the World Record for the snowiest season. In the 1998-1999 season, the mountain accumulated 1,140 inches of fresh powder—that’s 95 feet! 

The snow the mountain received could have buried a six-story building, begging the question “Can there be too much of a good thing?” For skiers: no. For local homeowners and plow operators: yes. The snow can range from fluffy powder to the classic wet and heavy Cascade sludge. While the mountain offers 1,000 acres of skiable terrain, eight chairlifts, and 31 named runs, the real highlight here is the easy access to backcountry. This mountain is definitely one to check off the bucket list.

1. Alyeska Resort, Alaska

Untracked on Center Ridge at Alyeska ResortPhoto Courtesy of Ralph Kristopher
  • Average annual snowfall: 669 inches
  • Skiable acres: 1,610 
  • Closest airport: Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport
  • Ticket to ride: $89 for a single day ticket

Alyeska Resort takes the cake with a remarkable average annual snowfall of 669 inches. Due to the remote location in Girdwood, Alaska, lines are short and sweet, even on the deepest powder days. With 1,610 skiable acres and seven lifts, Alyeska is a powder paradise. A steep hike or cat ride is required to access the 3,939-foot summit. With a base elevation of just 250 feet, Alyeska has a huge descent of 2,500 feet for lift-accessible terrain. Skiers can rip down the slopes without any of the strain of the higher-elevation resorts that we have seen on this list. 

With just 11 percent of trails marked as beginner, Alyeska’s terrain consists of amazing bowls and glades that will make even the most advanced skiers sweat. Alyeska’s record snowfall was during the 2011-’12 season when 978 inches fell on the slopes. Alyeska is home to the U.S.’s longest continual double-black trail, named The North Face. The resort serves up views of the ocean, mountains, and glaciers, rewarding all visitors with breathtaking vistas at any point on the mountain. 

Due to its proximity to the coast, Alyeska does not always have the lightest snow, but a good set of powder skis can fix any heavy powder day. Après-ski is in the celebrated Sitzmark Bar and Grill with live music every weekend and a great atmosphere. If you are looking for world-class skiing and snow at a resort that feels like a mom-and-pop ski area, Alyeska is the place to go and it is most definitely worth the trip.

Honorable Mention: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyo.

Backcountry skiing at Jackson Hole
If you can’t find fresh tracks at Jackson Hole, you’ll definitely find them beyond the resort’s gates. But know before you go. Courtesy of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
  • Average annual snowfall: 469 inches
  • Skiable acreage: 2,500 acres 
  • Closest airport: Jackson Hole Airport
  • Ticket to ride: $160 for a single day ticket
  • Accessible with an Ikon Pass and on the Mountain Collective

Jackson Hole, home to legendary Corbet’s Couloir, just misses the list for snowfall. But with only four percent of trails rated beginner and half of all marked runs deemed advanced and expert, the place serves up some gnarly terrain plus access to over 3,000 acres of backcountry. The peak of the mountain towers at 10,450 feet above sea level with a 4,139-foot elevation drop to the base village. The famous red tram ferries skiers from the base all the way to the summit where you can attempt Corbet’s Couloir. Or hike out-of-bounds with the right backcountry equipment and a partner for about 10 minutes and find yourself in Cody Bowl, a powder paradise with less traffic. At Jackson, the 2006-2007 season brings home the title for the snowiest year with a total snowfall of over 600 inches. Officially, Jackson Hole is known as one of the most difficult resorts in the U.S., so if you are looking for some notches in your ski belt, Jackson Hole has it all. 

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