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Resort Guide 2023

Top 10 Resorts in the West with the Best Local Flavor

Resort destinations with more character than most are what make a ski trip feel like true vacation experience.

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Local Flavor is that certain je ne sais quoi, that feeling that the destination rises beyond just a ski vacation and instead offers a peek into what it’s really like to live in this mountain paradise. If that’s an important component of your ski vacation, these resorts ranked at the top for Local Flavor in the 2023 Reader Resort Survey. See the entire survey results here.

Top 10 Resorts in the West for Local Flavor

No. 10: Winter Park Resort, Colo.

Score: 8.21 
Other Strengths: 
Challenge, Terrain Variety
Weaknesses:
Nightlife, Apres

What Readers Say

Great mountain with many terrain options—excellent value for the price. The location couldn’t be better with either a one hour and45 minute drive from DIA or the option of the Ski Train (exclusive to WP).”

“Would recommend the resort to anyone regardless of their ability. The resort is perfect for groups with mixed abilities. You can ski the same lifts and match terrain to ability.”

“Parts of Winter Park are simply fantastic. There are runs that are just perfect for my style of skiing—moderate bumps, nicely groomed steep slopes, above the tree-line bowls—but a good bit of the mountain is left as wild black-diamond moguls, just too expert and consistently challenging to be fun for a day of average skiing. It’s a really good mountain that could be great if it were tamed just a bit more.”

I love challenging myself on bumps and Winter Park is the place to ski bumps!”

No. 9: Banff Sunshine, Alb.

Score: 8.39
Other Strengths: Overall Satisfaction, Snow

Weaknesses: Access, Nightlife

Sunshine Local Flavor RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Banff Sunshine)

What Readers Say

Banff Sunshine has a great variety of terrain and had tremendous snow cover this year. You can’t beat the proximity to the town of Banff, with its great dining and local charm.”

Is a unique vibe with a lot of variety. I describe it to people as skiing on the moon on a big mountain terrain park because of how high the base is and all the cool natural features all over the place. There are awesome parks too and big wide-open bowls above the treeline.”

“The town of Banff is really close. There is so much to do in Banff and the local vibe is great. The additional parking added this year fixed the old parking issues. Other than a flat spot here and there and some wicked cold days, it is an awesome place.”

No. 8: Arapahoe Basin, Colo.

Score: 8.49
Other Strengths: Challenge, Value

Weaknesses: Nightlife, Dining

Arapahoe Basin Local Flavor RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Arapahoe Basin)

What Readers Say

A-Basin is in an excellent location in Summit County, so you can get everything you need for the hours off of the mountain. The food on-mountain is better than any other resort, especially the grill at the base. I wish parking was easier.”

Extremely easy to get to and parking is free. A-Basin has experts-only terrain and a lot of it and greens that all filter to the same lifts.”

Staff attitude runs the gamut; some friendly, some not, some indifferent. Flat light on overcast days can make skiing in the alpine less than enjoyable. When you take out the alpine terrain, skiing options are greatly limited.”

No. 7: Deer Valley Resort, Utah

Score: 8.49
Other Strengths: 
Local Flavor, Value
Weaknesses: 
Nightlife, Snow

What Readers Say

Best ski experience in the Park City area. Not crowded even on the most crowded days. The terrain varies with challenging aspects, but not enough challenging features for expert skiers. Extremely incredible guest services. DV takes care of the mountain so well.”

Deer Valley is at the outer edge of my budget but the level of service and amenities is certainly appropriate for the cost. A wonderful experience and more within my budget with my new Ikon pass for next year if I can find affordable accommodations in town.”

“Deer Valley seems to be intently focused on providing the best service and amenities to its guests. The staff goes out of his way to take care of its guests, particularly the ski school. The ski school there is excellent!”

No. 6: Telluride Ski Resort, Colo.

Score: 8.52
Other Strengths: Challenge, Terrain Variety

Weaknesses: Access, Value

Telluride Local Flavor RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort)

What Readers Say

First time to Telluride last year and it will be a staple for every winter. There was seriously rad lift-accessed terrain and some great glades that felt completely empty. The food scene is the best we have experienced and the amount of ski-on/ski-out hotels was a treat. The resort felt pretty empty and their focus on keeping lift lines low is fabulous.”

Telluride is hands-down my favorite resort in North America. What others see as drawbacks (inaccessibility, cost), I see as benefits. If you book appropriately, it’s no more expensive than anywhere in Colorado, and the terrain and overall experience beat the hell out of anything I can drive to from Denver. I can’t think of a more visually arresting place on the continent. Snow quality is consistently great, the in-bounds-accessible terrain is as gnarly as anywhere, and you can walk from the foot of the hill into Smuggler’s in your boots for a couple of primo pints.”

“More raw character, local charm, and natural beauty than any other resort. Tucked out of the way, it takes time and effort to get there,  but once you’re there, there is nothing not to like. Great food and fun, a great mountain with a lot of steeps and diverse terrain, and never a lift line. Freshies can be hard to come by, but the mountain still rides well. Truly distinctive ‘out west’ experience.”

No. 5: Steamboat Resort, Colo.

Score: 8.58
Other Strengths: 
Snow, Grooming
Weaknesses: 
Value, Access

Steamboat Local Flavor RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Steamboat Resort)

What Readers Say

I visited Steamboat for the very first time this season. It’s a huge mountain with a lot of great terrain for most but lacks extremes of other mountains in its class. Best Ski Town in the USA.”

I love going to Steamboat, partly for the mountain itself, and partly for all the fun things you can do if you’re not on the mountain. I’ve ridden horses, biked, soaked in two very different hot springs, attended movie premiers and free concerts, and even made my own fused glass snowflake souvenir. And there are so many wonderful places to eat. The mountain itself, with terrain for all abilities, is amazing‚ especially after it’s been snowing that wonderful champagne powder!”

“Steamboat has great terrain for strong intermediate and advanced skiers. It’s also beautiful and the Western vibe is fantastic. The lower elevation can create some snow quality issues at times, but if you ski there on the right day, it’s one of it, not the best places to be in the state of Colorado.”

No. 4: Taos Ski Valley, N.M.

Score: 8.61
Other Strengths: Challenge, Terrain Variety
Weaknesses: Nightlife, Dining

Taos Local Flavor RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Taos Ski Valley)

What Readers Say

“Taos is an amazing resort with some of the best terrain I have ever skied. There are fun steep fall line cruisers, lots of bump runs, and lots of amazing steeps. Kachina bowl, Stauffenberg, Juarez, Hunziker, and Al’s Run are some of the best Taos has to offer. The lifts are almost all the slowish fixed-grip kind, but they give your legs a rest from the amazing terrain they service.”

“Not enough dining facilities to service the number of people. Need more places to eat in town, but otherwise one of my favorite areas.”

We love Taos. We recommend it to anyone and everyone. We love the New Mexican food and flavor. We love the Swiss Alpine feel of the resort. We love going into town to eat, shop around the square, visit art galleries, etc.”

No. 3: Whitefish Mountain Resort, Mont.

Score: 8.64
Other Strengths:
Value, Overall Satisfaction
Weaknesses:
Access, Nightlife

Whitefish Local Flavor RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Whitefish Mountain Resort)

What Readers Say

“We love Whitefish Mountain Resort. Feels a bit more like the ‘olden days’ with not a big consortium of areas under a developer umbrella. People are friendly, the snow is amazing, and we love skiing there.”

Huge value. Great terrain, limited lift lines, and friendly locals. Very authentic. When the weather is good, the views match or beat anything. The place isn’t crowded so a few days after a great storm, you can still find stashes of powder.”

“Been going here since the early 1990s before it was ‘discovered.’ Still a real treasure with an incredibly wide variety of terrain for all abilities and interests. Not crowded. Very good value for the money. Great authentic Western atmosphere. Close to spectacular Glacier National Park and huge Flathead Lake for all-season adventures. Laid-back attitude, not the pretentious jet-set ultra-wealthy snobby crowd.”

No. 2: Powder Mountain, Utah

Score: 8.74
Other Strengths:
Terrain Variety, Snow
Weaknesses:
Dining, Nightlife

Powder Mt. Local Flavor RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Powder Mountain)

What Readers Say

Powder Mountain is ascending as one of our favorites! So much incredible terrain, for all skill levels. Amazing powder. Very close to where we stay in Eden. The only knock for us is lodges seem a bit ‘old school,’ that is not as nice as some of the beautiful dining and après-ski at other resorts.”

I’ve been skiing Powder Mt. long enough now to know how it works and I love the fact that it controls the number of people on the hill on any given day. That makes lift lines easy and backcountry access excellent. They do it the right way and when the snow is good, it’s really good!”

“First time to Powder Mountain on a powder day! Wow, wow, wow! Super chill place. My wife and daughter loved it. Total locals ski mountain, but well worth the hour’s drive from Salt Lake City. The ski patrol was awesome. Take the shuttle bus up—the roads are steep.”

No. 1: Sun Valley, Idaho

Score: 8.95
Other Strengths:
Grooming, Lodging
Weaknesses:
Snow, Access

Sun Valley Local Flavor RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Sun Valley)

What Readers Say

“Sun Valley is the entire package. The snow quality, the wide range of terrain from challenging down to beginner-friendly, tons of vertical, lack of crowds, quality lodging, amount of other stuff to do, total trip cost, and local town feel— it’s a safe bet that a trip planned well in advance (which also may include non-skiers) will not leave anyone disappointed.”

Absolutely gorgeous amenities, super kind staff, and some pretty amazing terrain that is incredibly accessible from wherever you are lodging.”

Enjoyable ambiance and history. Big open bowls and varied terrain. Recommended for skiers experienced with hardpack, who want a classic, sophisticated, but not flashy resort.”

“Consistent every season with great staff, great service, great grooming, great food on the mountain, and a small-town feel. No lift lines! Free parking!”