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Resort Guide 2023

Top 10 Resorts in the West for Terrain Variety

Glades, bowls, bumps, groomers, and more. The different types of terrain at these ski areas pleases all comers.

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Not to state the obvious, but mountains are big. It’s a good thing, too, because there are all different types and levels of skiers, from never-evers on the bunny slope to chute-seeking missiles looking to huck themselves off anything vertical. Whether you’re seeking out the toughest pitches in the West or happy to schuss groomers all day long, these are the ski areas that can accommodate those requests, according to the results of the 2023 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey. See the entire survey results here.

Top 10 Resorts in the West for Terrain Variety

No. 10: Vail Mountain, Colo.

Score: 8.90
Other strengths: Challenge, Après
Weaknesses: Local Flavor, Value

Vail Variety RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Vail Resorts)

What Readers Say

“From the top of most any of the 30-plus lifts at Vail, you can choose any terrain: groomers, bumps, glades, trees, even bowls. Amazes me every day I get up to make turns.”

“Back Bowls, wow. Villages were different and all fun, terrain was interesting and provided all level challenges. Parking was a pain and expensive.”

“More wonderful terrain than anywhere else. Crowds are avoidable when you see the pattern of movement during the day. Well groomed, Chairs 2 and 11 access extremely kind runs on terrific condition all season. April had abundant snow, stayed cold so full coverage late season. My favorite ski area!”

No. 9: Copper Mountain, Colo.

Score: 8.92
Other strengths: Challenge, Overall Satisfaction
Weaknesses: Nightlife, Après

Copper Variety
(Photo: Courtesy of Copper Mountain)

What Readers Say

“The skiing is great —more options than most people realize. Plus, it’s an athlete’s mountain. Uphill skiing and fast tracks are bonus options as well to get in runs and beat the crowds.”

“We love everything about Copper. The variety of terrain and keeping the level of difficulty separate. We are never bored even when we ski the same routine. We can always head toward a bowl or an area new to us.”

“Place I ski most regularly. Varied terrain. Fun. Good parks. Good bowls. Generally less crowded than other Summit County resorts.”

No. 8: Telluride Ski Resort, Colo.

Score: 8.94
Other strengths: Challenge, Overall Satisfaction
Weaknesses: Value, Access

Telluride Terrain Variety 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. We had fabulous snow the whole trip and the long groomers around Galloping Goose were great for beginner skiers. There was seriously rad lift-accessed terrain and some great glades that felt completely empty.”

“Great place, stunning scenery, people are friendly. Skiing is excellent with a great variety of terrain ranging from 0 to 10 pucker factor. Really good restaurants abound. It’s tough to get there, but that keeps the crowds down; otherwise it would be mobbed like the Front Range resorts.”

“Telluride has an extraordinary range of terrain, and even the double greens are beautiful and fun to ski.”

No. 7: Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

Score: 9.00
Other strengths: Challenge, Lifts
Weaknesses: Nightlife, Access

Mammoth Variety RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Mountain)

What Readers Say

“A fantastic resort with great terrain and a great lift system. Long season and great lodging and food!”

“Mammoth is unique, with the towering Eastern Sierra peaks of the Ritter Range and the Minarets looming in the distance. Snow can be hit-or-miss, but as long as there’s coverage, it’s guaranteed to be a good time.”

“The most varied and easily accessible terrain with great lift coverage, great scenic beauty, and good food options.”

No. 6: Lake Louise, Alb.

Score: 9.02
Other strengths: Challenge, Overall Satisfaction
Weaknesses: Après, Nightlife

Lake Louise Variety RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Lake Louise)

What Readers Say

“It’s the resort that I choose to ski the most. Recommend it to better skiers who like to go off piste. The big mountain feel and views are tremendous and the snow is almost always good on the backside where all the best terrain is located.”

“Lake Louise is a great mountain with lots of different terrain. The snow is usually fantastic. Lines can be long on weekends but the slopes never feel crowded. A really cool vibe with the Kokanee cabin and other area to stop for a bite and beverage. The only downside is it can be really cold. Upside is the snow stays great all season.”

“The place is huge, well laid out, very wide variety of terrain and conditions, excellent staff, good parking/access. LOVE the Banff/Lake Louise shuttle bus service.”

No. 5: Alta Ski Area, Utah

Score: 9.02
Other strengths: Snow, Challenge
Weaknesses: Après, Nightlife

Alta Variety RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Alta Ski Area)

What Readers Say

“Alta is a classic ski area. We love to go there for the amazing and challenging ski terrain. However, it is certainly limited in nightlife and restaurant choices.”

“Alta is probably my favorite ski area in the country—the terrain is endlessly fun, the snow light and fluffy, the lifts are efficient enough, and the vibes on mountain are unparalleled. It’s impossible to have a bad day at Alta.”

“If you are a serious skier, there’s nothing better than Alta. But, if you’re a serious boarder I’m sorry—you’re out of luck, no boarders allowed. The result is a mountain that is stuck in time … but, in a VERY GOOD time. Challenging terrain is everywhere and relatively easy to reach, yet the groomers are plentiful. There’s not a lot of beginner terrain, though.”

No. 4: Big Sky, Mont.

Score: 9.09
Other Strengths: Lifts, Challenge
Weaknesses: Après, Nightlife

Big Sky Variety RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Big Sky Resort)

What Readers Say

“Big Sky was great because of the amazing terrain, great glades and chutes as well as a top-notch lift system, along with good dining.”

“Unbelievable variety of terrain. Plenty of beginner/intermediate runs for kids. Great lift system. Only knock is that it comes with a price.”

“Great variety of terrain for every level of skier with good and fairly often great snow. Very good lift system that gets better every year. No longer under the radar but still generally not crowded.”

No. 3: Palisades Tahoe, Calif.

Score: 9.09
Other strengths: Overall Satisfaction, Challenge
Weaknesses: Value, Guest Service

Palisades Tahoe Variety RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Palisades Tahoe)

What Readers Say

“Terrain at Palisades Tahoe is varied between Alpine and Olympic Valley, really superb for expert skiers. I am now a mid-week skier so crowds and lines are not an issue, but parking can be a problem on weekends and holidays. Snow conditions vary a lot and this year lack of snow from January to March was a major problem.”

It has the the best overall terrain balance for me and any visiting friends, from beginner to expert ‘kill yourself’ terrain. The ‘anywhere you see you can ski’ (unless otherwise marked, of course) casual policy and the lack of requiring us to stay only on groomed (like they do at Heavenly) with both off-piste and relaxed tree skiing gives me a freedom I can’t find at 90 percent of other resorts around me.”

“Palisades is legendary! The terrain is truly epic, and has allowed me to grow into a much more confident skier.”

No. 2: Aspen Snowmass, Colo.

Score: 9.18
Other Strengths: Challenge, Overall Satisfaction
Weaknesses: Access, Value

Aspen Terrain Variety RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Aspen Snowmass)

What Readers Say

“Four separate mountains each with distinct characteristics. Something for everyone and not too crowded. A real community, not just a ski resort. Gold medal fly fishing, amazing hiking, excellent mountain and road biking. Off-piste skiing and great hut system. Having skied at many resorts around the world, I still rank Aspen number 1.

“Between all four mountains, there’s plenty to skiing for every level of skier. Snowmass is quiet at night but Aspen has plenty of dining and entertainment options. Lots of lodging at both mountains, and some at Highlands and even Buttermilk.”

The intermediate and advanced intermediate trails are wide, long, and most importantly spread all over the mountain at Snowmass, which is where we ski. Keeps the beginners on a separate area, and spreads the intermediates out. Never had anything but great experiences there, over 50 years.

No. 1: Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.

Score: 9.44
Other Strengths: Challenge, Après
Weaknesses: Access, Value

Whistler Variety RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Vail Resorts)

What Readers Say

“As close to paradise as you can get. THE best après, dining, lodging, shopping, family programs, etc. for young families, adults, guy trips and gal trips. All on a set of mountains that offers more than any other bump out there. Size, variety, steeps, groomers, tree runs, glaciers, above the tree line. Efficient lifts. Yeah, there are some temperature inversions and yeah, there can be some cloudy days, but with everything else it offers, it can’t be beat. Heaven on Earth.”

They have the highest vertical, most varied terrain, and most frequent and highest snowfall of anywhere I’ve skied. Furthermore, there is a vast amount of backcountry and sidecountry skiing options including guided, hut-to-hut and heli.

Whistler is a great resort. Two huge mountains with the best terrain you can find. It’s a high-end experience with a laidback vibe.