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Resort Guide 2022

These 10 Western Resorts Ranked at the Top in Terrain Variety

From extreme steeps to top-to-bottom groomers, these are the 10 resorts in the West with diverse enough terrain to please all comers.

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Now for the scoring category that skiers arguably care about most (after snow quality, that is): Terrain. And let’s be clear—there’s a significant difference between ski resorts that are rated highly for challenge vs. variety when it comes to terrain.

Challenging terrain is great for expert skiers who ski by themselves or regularly ski in a shred posse with other advanced skiers. But not all skiers are looking to test or scare themselves when they ski. For the latter, terrain variety is a good indicator of how much fun they’ll have on the hill. Ski areas that offer a little something for everyone in the family or the crew—some expert glades and hike-to-terrain with a healthy sprinkling of bump runs and mellow green and blue cruisers—make great vacation destinations because they can keep everyone happy and entertained for days on end. If that sounds like your speed, check out these 10 ski resorts voted by SKI readers to offer the best terrain variety in the West.

Top 10 Resorts in the West for Terrain Variety

No. 10: Vail Mountain, Colo.

Score: 9.02
Other strengths: Grooming (#10), Après (#8)
Weaknesses: Challenge (#22), Value (#30)

Vail Terrain Variety
109969 (Photo: Jack Affleck)

What Readers Say

“Best uphill capacity, best terrain variety, and I can take anybody of any skill on every lift and send them down a direction that will be comfortable for them. The only thing we don’t have—and it doesn’t matter to me anymore—are the super duper steeps. ”

“First skied Vail in 1983 and it has been my favorite ever since. Best variety of runs and lifts. We also stay in a ski-in/ski-out condo at Golden Peak. My Military Epic Pass is the best deal available.”

“Great variety of terrain, usually good snow conditions, good lift system. Negative: It’s very pricey.”

No. 9: Taos Ski Valley, N.M.

Score: 9.05
Other strengths: Challenge (#1), Overall Satisfaction (#2)
Weaknesses: Nightlife (#23), Access (#27)

Taos Terrain Variety
(Photo: Claire Mylott)

What Readers Say

“Grew up skiing at Taos. The New Mexican vibe is extremely unique. Taos is an amazing place to visit year round, and the ski resort, despite being in the Southern Rockies, has some extremely challenging skiing and a good variety to boot. Taos isn’t on the radar of a lot of skiers and rider who assume that places in Montana, Utah, or Colorado have the best skiing in the U.S., so it never seems too crowded.”

“Very special place where the desert meets the mountains and many cultures come together to play on snow. I grew up skiing in Taos and still find fun terrain every season to keep the shred time thrilling. Lots of growth happening in our little valley to add more variety of restaurants and an array of activities for families.”

No. 8: Winter Park Resort, Colo.

Score: 9.13
Other strengths: Family-Friendly (#6), Access (#6)
Weaknesses: Snow (#18), Nightlife (#22)

What Readers Say

“The Park and The Jane are where Denver locals ski. There are hills with more vertical, more hotels, and more nightlife, but none that can beat the terrain variety, challenge, and easy access. Just got back from some late spring (4/28) skiing at The Jane and there was nearly a foot atop Parsenn Bowl, that’s skiing at its best.”

“Winter Park is a huge ski area, with great variety among the ‘7 territories’ that provide plenty of options at every level. There is even a moderate selection of “extreme” terrain, and the Chutes are awesome. Yet it retains a unique character as ‘Colorado’s mountain’.”

No. 7: Copper Mountain, Colo.

Score: 9.16
Other strengths: Lifts (#5), Access (#5)
Weaknesses: Dining (#23), Challenge (#20)

What Readers Say

“Copper is top-flight for pure skiing; huge area, excellent variety, nice steeps and bumps, easy to navigate the mountain. Not much of a base-area, but enough. Like most ski areas, parking/shuttle system is cumbersome. But the skiing experience itself is why it’s my #1.”

“Great big local mountain, with easy access from Denver (barring I70 traffic). Great variety of terrain, with real good expert/advance terrain. Recommend to all abilities.”

No. 6: Snowbasin, Utah

Score: 9.16
Other strengths: Lifts (#2), Guest Service (#3)
Weaknesses: Lodging (#30), Nightlife (#29)

What Readers Say

“Snowbasin is an excellent resort and a great place to learn to ski. I’ve improved my skiing immensely on their variety of runs with different terrain options. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good intermediate mountain.”

“The total skiing venue from snow depth, grooming, and trail variety make for a very satisfying experience. My favorite Utah choice. Please bear in mind that I am an ex-expert 80+ skier still loving the sport.”

“Never crowded during the midweek. Awesome food on the mountain. Easy parking access. Great terrain variety and generally the best snow conditions in Utah or Colorado. Easy drive from affordable lodging in Ogden.”

No. 5: Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

Score: 9.21
Other strengths: Lifts (#7), Grooming (#9)
Weaknesses: Access (#29), Value (#26)

Mammoth Terrain Variety
Bernard Rosow – Mammoth Mountain (Photo: Christian Pondella)

What Readers Say

“As long as the upper lifts aren’t on wind hold (which is often, especially around a storm), Mammoth delivers some of the best snow and terrain variety in California.”

“Mammoth is an amazing place to stay and ski. The Mammoth Mountain Inn is hands down my favorite lodge, and price and access to lifts can’t be beat anywhere. The mountain itself offers the biggest variety of incredible terrain within a beautiful 5-hour drive from Southern California! The town and locals are so wonderful and welcoming!”

No. 4: Aspen Snowmass, Colo.

Score: 9.26
Other Strengths: Lifts (#3), Après (#3)
Weaknesses: Access (#19), Snow (#13)

Aspen Terrain Variety
April 3 2020 Corona virus Skin up to top of chair 6 Highlands Bowl, Mt Sopris, S1, Bell Mtn Aspen CO @mattpower (Photo: Matt Power)

What Readers Say

“Best in America—four mountains, tons of terrain variety, great après and dining. Snowmass itself is phenomenal—then you have the other mountains, too.”

“I love how just one pass gives you access to all four mountains. Each mountain offers something different in terms of terrain. I loved all of the Aspen/Snowmass mountains but my favorite would be Highlands. It is so fun to rip it top to bottom and it is a great mountain for advanced to expert skiers. And of course it is home to the Highland Bowl, one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in skiing. Snowmass mountain had the most variety and the most terrain. I also enjoyed skiing here because of the multiple glades and headwalls. The town of Aspen is also very welcoming and full of great restaurants and bars.”

No. 3: Telluride Ski Resort, Colo.

Score: 9.27
Other strengths: Overall Satisfaction (#3), Lodging (#3)
Weaknesses: Value (#20), Family-Friendly (#21)

Telluride Terrain Variety
(Photo: Telluride Ski Resort)

What Readers Say

“Very good variety of ski runs to accommodate any type of skier. It is hard to get to but well worth it. Also, the mid-mountain and town are very nice.”

“Telluride is Alta with less snow, much more nightlife, and much more beginner and intermediate terrain. It’s also more remote, which is key because it keeps the crowds down. Skiers and snowboarders tend to be pretty skilled, which is nice, and almost everyone is friendly and courteous. Crowds are sparse; I rarely waited in line more than a minute or two. The terrain is big and varied—steeps, cliffs, trees, bumps, and hike-to terrain that in most places could only be accessed by helicopter.”

No. 2: Big Sky Resort, Mont.

Score: 9.39
Other Strengths: Challenge (#5), Lifts (#9)
Weaknesses: Access (#28), Après (#26)

Big Sky Terrain Variety
(Photo: Patrick Conroy)

What Readers Say

“Big Sky has a lot of different kinds of terrain, and theres even variety in the steeps! As long as you can put up with the frigid temps it’s a great place to visit.”

“Great variety of runs, great scenery, excellent snow conditions, generally uncrowded slopes. Unique dining options. Very compact and friendly base area.”

“Excellent expert terrain and a lot of it, but also has great options for my family that like more blue runs. very efficient lifts handle a lot of people without feeling like I’m waiting in line a long time. The mountain is simply majestic and magical. It’s good for the spirit!”

No. 1: Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.

Score: 9.54
Other Strengths: Nightlife (#1), Lodging (#3)
Weaknesses: Snow (#28), Value (#24)

Photo: Vail Resorts

What Readers Say

“Been going to Whistler for over 10 years and love the variety of terrain, accommodation and restaurants. I have 3 boys aged 20 to 25 and they all learnt to ski at Whistler and love the place and always find new places to ski every year we come.”

“Great terrain and huge size. Great variety across both mountains and the nightlife is awesome!”

“I’ve skied all over North America and my last 10 trips were to Whistler Blackcomb. Love the steeps, the trees (especially Blackcomb), the variety of terrain can’t be beat. Fun apres in the Village and Creekside. Great dining and fun nightlife. The people of Whistler are very welcoming. It’s home.”