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Resort Guide 2023

Top 20 Ski Resorts in the East (2023)

The results are in! Did your favorite East Coast ski area make the cut? Here are the results of the 2023 Reader Resort Survey.

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In June, when we get our first look at the results of the SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey, we hold our breath, wondering what the list will look like this year. Gone are the days when we could count on the big, well-funded mega resorts to dominate the Top 10. Heck, they might not even make the rankings one of these days. (In fact, one big player did drop off this year: Mt. Snow didn’t score high enough to rank in the Top 20.)

This year, like in the West but to a slightly lesser degree, we’re seeing the smaller, independently owned ski areas float to the top of the rankings. There are outliers, of course—Killington continues to do well, as do Mont Tremblant and Jay Peak—but of the Top 10 resorts in the East, six are independently owned ski areas. That’s significant.

Whatever it is people are looking for in their ski vacation, they’re less and less willing to put up with unreasonable crowds, packed parking lots, 30-minute lift lines, and other nuisances that make us wish we had just stayed home. The resorts on this list are not issue-free, but they do reflect an appreciation for simpler times, and give a nod to the notion that it’s not always about the size of the slopes or the degrees of vertical, but rather the quality of the overall experience.

Without any further ado, here are the Top 20 ski resorts in the East, as voted by you, the readers.

The Top 20 Ski Resorts in the East

No. 20: Okemo Mountain Resort, Vt.

Okemo is a friendly, accessible ski resort with a focus on family programming, services, and terrain. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find ample glades and steeper pitches to test your skills.

Overall Score: 7.08
Last Year’s Ranking: 11
Strengths: Access, Grooming
Weaknesses: Challenge, Nightlife

Okemo is a good-sized resort with enough terrain to keep families exploring for days. (Photo: Courtesy of Vail Resorts)

Like some of the other more popular Vail Resorts-owned ski areas, Okemo dropped significantly in the rankings due to staffing issues and crowding that caused full parking lots and long lift lines. Thanks to Vail’s determination to get staffing back on track with various incentives, we’re likely to see an improvement in that area. Otherwise, Okemo’s family-focused programming, led by its excellent ski school and learning terrain, make it a safe bet for skiers with young ones in tow. But behind the family-friendly image lies the rest of the mountain: glades, classic narrow Eastern runs, and adventurous terrain that reveals a whole different face. In a good way.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“Great mountain for cruisers with some good glades to dip in when the snow is fresh. Lifts are spread out enough that you can get away from crowds on the main lifts. Grooming is always top-notch. It’s one of my favorite East Coast mountains.”

“I’ve skied at Okemo for many years. The resort consistently does a great job of maintaining the mountain, particularly during the see-saw weather that we often have in New England. Due to the pandemic and the issues of hiring enough employees this past season, some of my scores are lower than they have been in the past, e.g. dining options.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Okemo Mountain Resort, Vt.

No. 19: Stowe Mountain Resort, Vt.

Stowe is home to some of the most challenging terrain in the East with a truly charming and classically Vermont ski town just down the road. 

Overall Score: 7.18
Last Year’s Ranking: 17
Strengths: Challenge, Terrain Variety
Weaknesses: Value, Guest Service

Stowe RG23
Stowe is a Vermont classic with some of the toughest terrain in the East. (Photo: Courtesy of Vail Resorts)

For terrain and amenities alone, Stowe belongs much further up on this list. Its Front Four comprise some of the most iconic Eastern ski runs in existence. Readers call out declining service and impossible traffic around the base area over the last several seasons, so much so that the resort will be charging $30 for parking on weekends and holidays this season. But once you’re there, Stowe’s legendary terrain speaks for itself, a true boon for advanced and expert skiers looking for a real Vermont experience. The historic town of Stowe, with its clapboard store fronts and locally owned restaurants, is just the cherry on top.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“Great varied terrain with the Front Four as the focal point. Plenty of woods to ski both on and off the official map. Lift upgrades coming this offseason. Classic New England resort with great options for après and nightlife. The only issue is overcrowding on weekends and parking which have reached ‘epic’ proportions.”

“I’ve been skiing Stowe since my teenage years and college years at UVM and 20 years later it is still the ski capital of the East. The terrain is second-to-none as is the lodging and dining. Yes, I certainly miss the Shed and the Rusty Nail for après and the charms of Spruce Peak before all the build up and commercialism. But nothing compares to standing on top of Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont, on a bluebird day. Yes, Stowe has certainly lost some if its charm. But the turns and contours of the Nosedive trail still make for one unique and exciting adventure. Plus, if I’m feeling particularly nostalgic for ‘old’ Stowe, I’ll shoot over to Matterhorn for sushi or the Trapp for a refreshing German pilsner.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Stowe Mountain Resort, Vt.

No. 18: Stratton Mountain Resort, Vt.

Stratton offers excellent access from the tri-state area along with a high-end ski experience with a focus on amenities such as grooming, service, and a fast and efficient lift network.

Overall Score: 7.29
Last Year’s Ranking: 12
Strengths: Access, Grooming
Weaknesses: Challenge, Nightlife

Stratton RG23
Posh Stratton keeps the slopes and village in good working order. (Photo: Courtesy of Stratton Mountain Resort)

Stratton is one of the most accessible Vermont resorts on the Ikon Pass, so it also dealt with more crowds than usual last season and more disgruntled skiers as a result. Readers called out the need for more village and on-mountain dining, but acknowledged that what is there is good quality. You can still count on Stratton to pay good attention to its snow surface—the long, cruisy blues here are top-notch, but as one of the closest major ski resorts to the NYC crowds, you won’t have these manicured slopes to yourself.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“The staff makes everyone feel like family. One of the most powerful snowmaking systems in the East and beastly fleet of groomers to make it pristine. Best lift system and a great village make Stratton the total package.”

“Considering the natural conditions (or lack thereof) this year, Stratton did a commendable job making snow. My biggest frustration with the mountain is the simply poor way the lift lines are managed. Depending upon the lift line operator, you can be stuck in a line while all the other rows around you move significantly faster. Of course, you might get lucky and be in one of those fast moving rows, but that doesn’t make it right or okay. And not that it is news, but no one has ever commended Stratton for providing high value for the cost of the visit!”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Stratton Mountain, Vt.

No. 17: Gore Mountain, N.Y.

Gore is a straightforward ski area that’s low on frills but high on stoke, with ample vertical and good terrain variety at some of the best prices in the industry.

Overall Score: 7.37
Last Year’s Ranking: 20
Strengths: Challenge, Value
Weaknesses: Après, Nightlife

Gore RG34
All the skiing, none of the fuss at N.Y.’s Gore Mountain. (Photo: Courtesy of Gore Mountain)

There’s not much else to do at Gore but ski. That seems to be just what the doctor ordered these days, which might be why this unassuming New York State-owned ski area popped up a few spots in the rankings. Readers appreciate the size and breadth of the offerings and find it to be well groomed and maintained. You’ll have to hit the nearby towns of Lake George or North Creek for anything resembling lodging or decent dining, but if you’re coming to ski, you’ll find good value for the mountain experience at Gore.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“Gore is a gnarly, well-appointed mountain that is for real skiers and boarders. No condos or mountain houses. It is beautiful from every direction with great views of the high peaks of the Adirondacks. The snow is always so good. Very little ice the last couple of years! We just love it, but don’t tell anyone.”

“I ski Gore once or twice a year to experience the longer runs compared to Holiday Valley, my home resort. The place is literally located out in the middle of nowhere, so it’s a place to just enjoy great skiing and not much else. There’s not much good lodging nearby and, even though Lake George (a big summer tourist town) isn’t that far away, not much is open in the winter. That being said, I enjoy the long runs and weekdays are reasonably uncrowded. Grooming has been fine. There’s plenty of intermediate cruisers to explore along with some challenging advanced/expert trails. Sometimes the upper mountain is closed due to weather conditions but there’s still enough trails open to not get bored. I only come there to ski, and I can get around 30 miles downhill in about half of a day before my legs give out. Dining options are limited but the food they have at the main lodge is pretty tasty and not terribly overpriced, and the mid-mountain lodge is a scenic place to take a break. If all you want is a great place to ski, but not much else, I would highly recommend Gore.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Gore Mountain, N.Y.

No. 16: Sugarbush Mountain Resort, Vt.

This northern Vermont gem harkens back to the glamorous heyday of Eastern skiing, with challenging terrain, glades, and long cruisers set against the lush Mad River Valley landscape.

Overall Score: 7.57
Last Year’s Ranking: 10
Strengths: Challenge, Terrain Variety
Weaknesses: Value, Nightlife

Sugarbush RG23
Sugarbush is still the iconic Vermont destination it’s always been. (Photo: Courtesy of Sugarloaf Resort)

Northern Vermont skiing with the views to match, Sugarbush manages to retain its iconic ambience while also offering a nice mix of adventure and amenities. While it’s gotten noticeably more crowded, especially Lincoln Peak, readers still feel like they can find what they came for on wilder Mt. Ellen and especially Slide Brook Basin and the plentiful glades across both mountains. Amenities in the village are adequate, and getting better, but many bemoan the cost. That’s the price you pay—literally—for being far away from just about everywhere.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“Sugarbush never disappoints. It’s not overcrowded (despite being on Ikon) and has a good variety of terrain for Vermont, from long cruisers to bumps to glades. Being able to get my kids up and down Castlerock was one of the highlights of the season. We are sorry they are leaving the Mountain Collective but we may do Ikon so we can keep going there because otherwise lift tickets are way too expensive.”

“Sugarbush is quirky. I love that they have natural terrain and are strategic about grooming, i.e. they don’t groom every trail every night. I love the boundary to boundary ethos. But in some ways it skis like a much smaller mountain than it is. Everything funnels to one or two trails at the bottom. They need to improve access between Ellen and Lincoln or stop with the charade that it is all one resort—you really can’t ski both mountains efficiently at all. And Sugarbush gets dirty very quickly as soon as the spring thaw starts. But I still love it and ski there several times a year.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Sugarbush, Vt.

No. 15: Whiteface Mountain, N.Y.

Whiteface enjoys the unique honor of being both a no-frill skier’s mountain and a luxury resort destination with one of the best ski towns in the East located nearby. The best of both worlds.

Overall Score: 7.82
Last Year’s Ranking: 7
Strengths: Challenge, Nightlife
Weaknesses: Grooming, Snow

Put your skills to the test at Whiteface, then soak in the Olympic vibe in Lake Placid. (Photo: Courtesy of Whiteface Mountain)

Another barebones, no-frills New York state-owned mountain, Whiteface is known for its Olympic-worthy vertical and darn cold temperatures. Come here to ski, and plan to do a lot of it in order to stay warm. That said, it’s also home to arguably one of the most authentic ski towns in the East. Lake Placid provides the perfect counterbalance to Whiteface’s hardcore offerings, including cozy B&Bs, sprawling resort hotels, top-notch dining, and fun nightlife. An unusually appealing mix that we dig.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“Great terrain, not too crowded, plenty of lifts. Great town and great variety of things to do when not skiing. I would recommend to everyone. Best ski mountain in the East.”

“I have a love/hate relationship with Whiteface. Good recent improvements, but still more improvements need to be made. New mid-station lodge lacks character. Love the challenge on-hill, but not for the weak or faint-hearted. Proximity to Lake Placid is what makes this a place I will always return to.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Whiteface Mountain, N.Y.

No. 14: Loon Mountain, N.H.

Well-groomed and manicured slopes is a Loon Mountain speciality, well-loved by intermediates who enjoy the long, cruisy trails—all in close proximity to the metro Boston area.

Overall Score: 7.82
Last Year’s Ranking: 13
Strengths: Grooming, Lodging
Weaknesses: Nightlife, Value

Groomer’s paradise awaits on Loon Mountain. (Photo: Courtesy of Loon Mountain)

Close proximity to Boston is the double-edged sword with which Loon is always battling. When it’s less than a two-hour drive from a major metro area, that’s not surprising. However, Loon’s fan base seems content with the crowds, understands that weekends might be a mess, and plans accordingly. As for the mountain itself, it’s an intermediates paradise with consistently good grooming and enough amenities to keep the masses happy.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“It’s like chicken parm. I can always count on it to be a solid day. It can get a bit crazy with crowds on weekends, but the lifts get em up and spread them out. The 8 can be a gong show, however, and doesn’t go high enough. Wish they would run the East Basin chair more so you could ski the main summit without needing to take the gondola. And the quad replacing 7 Brothers should help move the park people much more efficiently.”

“While access is clearly the strongest asset, this also creates a crowding nightmare. The main mountain has a lot of intersecting trails which can be dangerous and also cause overuse of some trails. Definitely a mid-week mountain that can be fun.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Loon Mountain, N.H.

No. 13: Sunday River, Maine

Sunday River embodies the independent spirit of its home state, with plenty of rugged and adventurous terrain on tap for all comers to explore.

Overall Score: 7.83
Last Year’s Ranking: 14
Strengths: Terrain Variety, Grooming
Weaknesses: Nightlife, Dining

Sunday River RG23
There’s something for every level of skier at Sunday River. (Photo: Courtesy of Sunday River)

Good variety, not too crowded, well run … all common sentiments shared by readers about this Maine ski area. Sunday River is wider than it is high, but what it lacks in vertical it makes up for in acreage and terrain variety. Readers boast that they can always find somewhere to get away from the crowds. The place could use more in the way of lodging, dining, and après, but what’s there is solid and the locals and staff are always friendly and helpful. That’s no small thing these days.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“I don’t know how I never discovered Sunday River until this year, but man what a sick mountain. I feel like they have entire mountain peaks for experts only, which keeps everybody safe. I think their grooming is legendary and needs no discussion, but I actually got them on a bumpy powder day my first time. I feel like even after spending a few days there, I only got to experience part of the mountain and I can’t wait to go back next season.”

“Great mountain and dedication to the snow product year in and year out. Excited for the coming lift upgrades and continued snowmaking infrastructure overhauls. A few pains this year: snowmaking was shorted on several expert trails and many lodges were partially or not open for food options this season. Huge area, so you can always find a quiet terrain pod and lift even on the busiest days.”

🔹 Read Ski’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Sunday River, Maine

No. 12: Cannon Mountain, N.H.

You don’t come to Cannon for anything other than vertical, glades, and jaw-dropping White Mountain views.  

Overall Score: 7.89
Last Year’s Ranking: 8
Strengths: Terrain Variety, Challenge
Weaknesses: Nightlife, Lodging

"Cannon Mountain joins the 2020-21 Indy Pass."
The frills are few at Cannon but the skiing is hardcore New Hampshire. (Photo: Courtesy of Cannon Mountain)

Cannon just offers the most classic of the classic East Coast ski terrain: narrow, winding runs hemmed in on both side by trees, served by an old-school aerial tram that ferries skiers up to the most incredible views of the White Mountains. On a clear day you can see the mountain ranges in four different states plus Canada. A state-run ski area, Cannon offers little in the way of off-slope niceties. There’s no lodging or residential development of any kind, and skier services are pretty sparse. Readers piped up about poor guest service and would like to see more lift upgrades considered, but also concede that this is special place that all serious skiers must visit.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“Barebones resort with the focus on skiing and not the rest of the fanfare. The area is not exploited by overdevelopment and commercialism like many others these days. I would recommend it to any skiers who appreciate the above qualities.”

“Cannon’s terrain—old winding trails off the summit, Front Five steeps—outweigh its problematic weather. On a good day, it’s heaven. On a bad day—icy, windy, socked in—you appreciate and respect the White Mountain weather.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Cannon Mountain, N.H.

No. 11: Wachusett Mountain, Mass.

A family-owned ski area that’s an ideal place to teach your kids to ski, what Wachusett lacks in acreage or vertical it more than makes up for in heart and soul.

Overall Score: 7.91
Last Year’s Ranking: 15
Strengths: Access, Family Friendly
Weaknesses: Challenge, Snow

Sunrise at Wachusett
Hit Wachusett for morning laps and be back at your desk for your first meeting. (Photo: Courtesy of Wachusett/Andrew Santoro)

Wachusett is one of those place that elicits outsized responses in the people who know and love it. On paper it’s not much; but the care with which it’s run translates to a special on-mountain experience where many a Boston-area skier has been born and raised. It’s a place where little ones come for their first turns, seniors gather on midweek mornings to schuss and connect with one another, and high school racers clomp around in ski boots and nosh on snack-bar fries. A destination resort? Nah, but Wachusett’s own brand of ski-area soul has guided its rise through the rankings the last few years. We approve.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“A great place for my kids to start skiing. Close by and affordable. The staff is friendly and helpful. Skiing was good most of the season. We loved the food too. Would recommend to any one looking for a great day of skiing at a great price.”

“Hesitate to rank this resort but realized I could never keep this a secret for myself and 8,000 of my closest friends. I am retired so it is my go-to mountain. Small, very friendly, and convenient. My days of heart-pounding descents are over and this suits me very well.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Wachusett Mountain, Mass.

No. 10: Sugarloaf Resort, Maine

Remote and wild, Sugarloaf is as Maine it gets, a true destination resort with something to please all levels and challenge the best skiers with steep pitches, glades, and more.

Overall Score: 7.95
Last Year’s Ranking: 15
Strengths: Challenge, Terrain Variety
Weaknesses: Access, Nightlife

Sugarloaf RG23
Untamed and adventurous terrain is on tap at Sugarloaf. (Photo: Courtesy of Sugarloaf Resort/Jamie Walter)

Sugarloaf represents the very best of Maine’s independent spirit, with rugged and challenging terrain where the most adventurous skiers can test their skills for days. There’s also amazing cruisers and learning terrain; readers appreciate the terrain variety on tap here. It’s cold, but Sugarloaf skiers consider themselves tougher for weathering it with a smile. It’s remote, so don’t expect much in terms of luxury digs and five-course meals, but the ski town of Bethel fills in the gaps surprisingly well.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“Sugarloaf is one of the best resorts on the East Coast. It has some of the best terrain and is not super crowded. The snow can get icy like all East Coast resorts, but it usually stays a little better than others due to its northern location. There are not many good restaurants nearby and it is a pain to get to, but that keeps the masses away.”

“A bit of a drive but the skiing is challenging and great. The locals are generally hardcore. They ski in the biting cold and know that they’re tough as nails and proud of it. There is terrific sidecountry terrain that will actually challenge you. The on piste terrain is often groomed up to the point of boredom, but when there is fresh snow there is a lot here to play with.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Sugarloaf Resort, Maine

No. 9: Magic Mountain, Vt.

Home to some of the best tree skiing in the East, Magic Mountain is also an independently owned gem that’s a great bang for your buck.

Overall Score: 7.91
Last Year’s Ranking: n/a
Strengths: Value, Challenge
Weaknesses: Nightlife, Lodging

Magic Mountain, Vt.
The vibe at Magic Mountain is laid-back but the skiing is as legit as it gets. (Photo: Courtesy of Magic Mountain)

Magic Mountain returns to the rankings this year after a short hiatus. It’s one of those places that not a ton of people know about, but those who know, love it. Readers think that Magic has a lot going for it: challenging terrain—including some of the best glades in Vermont—a family-friendly environment, and some of the best deals in skidom. There’s few bells and whistles here—a couple intimates lodges nearby, a pub, and a restaurants—but more on tap in cute Londonderry down the road. If you’re looking for a place to introduce the kids to the sport without breaking the bank, where you can also go off and have a day, Magic has got your number.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“We skied Magic because we’d heard great things about it but had never been there before, and it’s on the Indy pass. We went with another family, stayed in the more rustic of the two rustic and only hotels near the base. It doesn’t typically get the snow or match the variety of the bigger, more northern places in Vermont, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Very casual and friendly après scene in the base lodge. Very friendly house staff, great beer, food, music, and very welcoming of kids. We will definitely go back.”

“Laid-back, only one base area which allows parents to easily keep tabs on the kids. Varied terrain, moguls can even be found on green circles.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Magic Mountain, Vt.

No. 8: Waterville Valley, N.H.

Waterville Valley is a family-friendly ski area with great access from Boston. It specializes in intermediate terrain and offers great kids programming, including a legendary racing team.

Overall Score: 8.11
Last Year’s Ranking: n/a
Strengths: Access, Family Friendly
Weaknesses: Nightlife, Lifts

Waterville Valley RG23
Postcard-pretty Waterville Valley makes for a great family vacation. (Photo: Courtesy of Waterville Valley)

It’s been at least five years since Waterville Valley made an appearance in our rankings. Readers love this place for its manageable size and welcoming vibe, and appreciate the recent capital improvements put in place, especially the new Green Peak terrain. Easy access from Boston seems to attract a bit of a party crowd at times, but the resort’s attention to snowmaking and grooming are keeping guests satisfied. Next year’s new high-speed six-pack will help the resort continue along the same upward trajectory.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“Waterville Valley is surrounded by the White Mountains and is a very unique Alpine Village experience for New Hampshire. The mountain is also unique in terms of pitch and roll, and is why it hosted 9 World Cup races before FIS moved to large resorts only. Waterville has a different feel being 10 miles off Rt. 93 and is a resort surrounded by five 4,000-plus-foot mountains, secluded and away from the hustle and bustle of other nearby resorts like Loon, the Mt. Washington Valley, Sunday River, and Killington. Highly recommended for families.”

“This is a great hidden gem. The terrain is very challenging. My knock is I wish there were more trails and they updated all the lifts. Their ski school is phenomenal. Most people bypass this and head to nearby Loon which is okay by me because you have a very local flavor.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Waterville Valley, N.H.

No. 7: Jay Peak Resort, Vt.

Under new ownership, Jay Peak is the closest that Vermont skiers will find to Western conditions, including the most copious snowfall in the East.

Overall Score: 8.11
Last Year’s Ranking: 6
Strengths: Challenge, Overall Satisfaction
Weaknesses: Nightlife, Access

Jay Peak Challenge RG23
Jay Peak gets the most snowfall in the East. (Photo: Courtesy of Jay Peak)

Man, it’s been an interesting few years at Jay Peak after the previous ownership got embroiled in a fraud scandal. Now under the umbrella of Pacific Resorts Group, Jay Peak will spend this season getting its ducks in a row before deciding where to focus its efforts. The impressive part of all of that? The skier experience remained largely unaffected, which is a huge credit to Jay’s management team. This place is all about the snow, the steeps, and the breadth of terrain on tap here. And while that would surely be enough for the hardcore crew that sings Jays praises, there’s also ample lodging, dining, and family activities. The complete package, indeed.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“If I had to choose my last day on a pair of skis or snowboard, I would choose Jay Peak. A combination of chutes off the top, endless options in the trees, and great pitched groomers, this mountain is an expert skier’s paradise. Let’s also not forget that this resort gets the most snow in the East, by far, and also can compete with other places like Colorado and Wyoming on a yearly basis. So you can expect multiple powder days throughout the year. The mountain won’t have your extravagant town or amenities like Stowe Mountain for example, but gives that perfect balance of good lifts, great snow, and a locals’ mountain vibe.”

“Best snow in the northeast. They also were the leaders in bringing off-piste skiing to the East and it shows. The on-piste skiing here is usually pretty grim if there is no fresh snow. It can be windy. But the trees hold stashes for days and there is a lot to explore. Many pow days at Jay!”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Jay Peak Resort, Vt.

No. 6: Holiday Valley, N.Y.

Efficient lifts and continuous upgrades keep skiers happy at this Western N.Y. ski area that’s flanked by the charming and amenity-rich town of Ellicottville.

Overall Score: 8.28
Last Year’s Ranking: 2
Strengths: Lifts, Family Friendly
Weaknesses: Challenge, Snow

Holiday Valley Access
Small but mighty Holiday Valley keeps skiers coming back year after year. (Photo: Holiday Valley)

It’s not big, nor does it get copious snow or have impressive vertical, but there’s something about Holiday Valley that just plain delights its enthusiastic fans. Independently owned, the resort has poured tons of money into infrastructure upgrades, giving this little powerhouse one of the best lift networks in the East. You’re not going to have the best powder days of your life here, but you are going to enjoy your time on skis, and cap it off with drinks and dinner down the road in Ellicottville, a cheery place where the Christmas lights are always twinkling and the locals are as friendly as can be.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“Holiday Valley is the most well-run resort I have ever skied at. Outstanding snowmaking, lift system, and grooming. It skis much bigger than its vertical!”

“It’s close to home, and I grew up skiing it. People travel for miles to ski the best 700 feet of vert within range of major cities such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Erie, Buffalo, Toronto, Niagara Falls, and Rochester. There is a little bit for everyone, and these guys keep putting in new big high-speeds every few years. I wish they moved to RFID ticketing to ease ticket checking at the base of lifts. The town is small, quaint, and great après, but if you want to shop, you better get it done by 6 p.m. Clothing and ski shops close by then even during winter, although a few ski shops will have a few days with evening hours for those renting, demoing, or needing to drop off gear for service. Plenty of lodging options in town, and only an hours drive from Buffalo. It doesn’t feel like an hour. That said, this place is way overpriced. An all-inclusive Epic pass is cheaper than a night/day combo season pass for one ($1,000.00!!).”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Holiday Valley, N.Y..

No. 5: Mont Tremblant, Que.

Mont Tremblant is a slice of Europe on this side of the pond, with a welcoming yet sophisticated ambience rich in fine dining, après entertainment, and manicured skiing with great views.

Overall Score: 8.30
Last Year’s Ranking: 4
Strengths: Local Flavor, Overall Satisfaction
Weaknesses: Challenge, Value

Mont Tremblant ski resort
Tremblant’s charming pedestrian village is right out of an Alps travel brochure. (Photo: Courtesy of Mont Tremblant)

Much like the Alps, a Mont Tremblant ski trip is as much about the culture and ambience as it is about the skiing. Strolling the quaint, French-Canadian-tinged pedestrian village, stopping into a patisserie for an espresso and a fresh-baked croissant en route to the slopes, is all part of the experience. The skiing itself is geared toward intermediates who appreciate well-groomed boulevards and lovely Laurentian views. The resort is always upping its game, adding new facilities and dining and shopping opportunities, making Tremblant one of the best destinations for groups with non-skiers in their midst.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“One of the my favorite ski resorts ever. I just love the overall vibe and sophistication of the village. The best service of anywhere I’ve ever been, from the waitstaff at restaurants to the lifties.”

“Great value. Mountain is not huge but it’s enough to have some enjoyable days, hotels are affordable, town is super charming.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Mont Tremblant, Qué.

No. 4: Mad River Glen, Vt.

The East Coast’s quintessential skier’s mountain, Mad River Glen is operated by skiers, for skiers. Come for the gnarly terrain, great natural snow, authentic vibe, and rockin’ good time.

Overall Score: 8.30
Last Year’s Ranking: 4
Strengths: Challenge, Local Flavor
Weaknesses: Nightlife, Grooming

Mad River Glen RG23
MRG is the quintessential skier’s mountain. (Photo: Courtesy of Mad River Glen)

Mad River Glen is the literally definition of a skier’s mountain, owned and operated by skiers. No snowboarders allowed. Come for the gnarly, wild, untamed terrain that’s largely geared toward advanced and expert skiers. Stay for an après beer or two—and not much else. There’s no lodging at the ski area, and very little in the way of eating or drinking. Just how readers like it.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“Mad River is special. Old school but focused on what is important now: skiing on amazing terrain without crowds. You can explore hidden treasures in and out of bounds with friendly locals and strangers. It can thrill you from top to bottom but you can always find a way to bail and cruise to the bottom. The Single Chair makes you one with the mountain and the music at the bottom and mid-station are worth the ride in and of itself. The staff is happy and helpful from the greeters and parking guys on in. The ski school is special, with kids skiing lines like no where else and adult programs that you can afford and learn from even after 65 years of skiing. The food is real and reasonably priced. No where else compares to Mad River Glen!”

“As a skier, you owe it to yourself to ski at a place where the moguls have been setup and skied only by skiers. You will then realize how messed up the bumps are everywhere else that allows snowboarding. Same goes for the tree lines.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Mad River Glen, Vt.

No. 3: Killington Resort, Vt.

Still home to the best party scene in the region, the Beast of the East opens early, keeps going through late spring, and serves up the most acreage in the state.

Overall Score: 8.35
Last Year’s Ranking: 3
Strengths: Challenge, Terrain Variety
Weaknesses: Family Friendly, Value

Great terrain variety and a rockin’ after-dark scene keep Killington near the top of the list. (Photo: Bill Greene/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Holding steady at No. 3, Killington has just what skiers come for: Great, varied skiing and a party-hearty scene where you can rock into the wee hours. Readers are consistently impressed with the resort’s snow coverage, and its ability to open early and stay that way well into the spring—even in poor snow years like last season. Sure, it can get crowded, but it’s not hard to find a little elbow room at Vermont’s biggest resort. At the end of the day, there’s restaurants at the different base areas, as well as along the Access Road and in the town of Killington, so no skier will go hungry or, even worse, thirsty, after a day on the slopes of the Beast.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“I am a longtime Vermont skier but a Killington newbie. Was scared by the reports of tri-state Jerries but as it turns out the place lives up to its nickname It has incredible views, better snow than anyone else in Vermont outside of Jay, and terrain for almost everyone. Can I tell you a secret? Paying extra to skip the lines is great.”

“I went to Killington for the first time this past March. I was impressed with the overall size of the mountain. I was not impressed, however, with the snow grooming. I know that it was late in the season, but every trail had big moguls on them. It looks like the trails were not groomed at all. The dining facilities at the mountain were great. I would probably go back earlier in the season next time.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Killington Mountain Resort, Vt.

No. 2: Bretton Woods, N.H.

The Deer Valley of the East excels in providing a flawless snow surface, impeccable guest service, and luxury lodging completed by one the best lift systems anywhere.

Overall Score: 8.38
Last Year’s Ranking: n/a
Strengths: Guest Service, Grooming
Weaknesses: Après, Nightlife

Groomed ski run Bretton Woods
According to readers, no ski resort in the East does grooming better than Bretton Woods. (Photo: Courtesy of Bretton Woods)

If ever there was a weather-proof ski resort, Bretton Woods would come pretty close. According to readers, this is a place that can turn Northeastern icy chunder into a manicured corduroy surface. Pretty nifty skill to have, especially on the Ice Coast. Bretton Woods, part of Omni Mount Washington Resort, also can do no wrong when it comes to making people feel welcome, especially families with learners and intermediates who love—you guessed it—long groomed runs. Skiers chimed in that base-area lodging and dining are expensive, but at least you’ll get what you pay for and actually feel like you’re on vacation, too.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“Bretton Woods is the perfect family destination for skiing! The mountain has trails for all levels of skiing. All of the staff from the parking lot, to ticketing, to the lifts, and all of the services are incredibly friendly and helpful. The condos on the mountain or across the street are roomy, clean and exactly what you need after a great day on the slopes.”

“Bretton Woods has a well-earned reputation as a great family mountain. The grooming and snowmaking are excellent, but the resort leaves a lot to be desired for advanced skiers, with very limited options for more difficult terrain. The views of the Presidential Range are unparalleled.”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Bretton Woods, N.H.

No. 1: Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Vt.

This repeat champion serves up the unique mix of family amenities and legit expert terrain with a friendly, welcoming vibe where the visitor experience is the priority.

Overall Score: 8.40
Last Year’s Ranking:
Family Friendly, Challenge
Lifts, Nightlife

Ski slopes Smugglers' Notch
Smuggs has it all: challenging terrain, great grooming, and a family-friendly atmosphere. (Photo: Courtesy of Smugglers’ Notch)

Smuggs nabs the No. 1 in the East title yet again, which comes as a surprise to no one. This resort is more of a community than a ski area, filled with people who’ve been skiing at the northern Vermont hill since they were children, who are now teaching their grandkids to ski on the same slopes. (And the same lifts, as readers are quick to point out.) Smuggs is somewhat of an anomaly among East Coast ski areas—a place where there’s both mellow terrain and serious steeps, where the family programming and amenities are top-notch but where you can also sample the type of summit-to-base, highly pitched classic Eastern runs that put Vermont skiing on the map.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

“Smuggs is a great local resort. While yes, it’s not the largest resort, and yes it has all old slow double lifts, that does keep the crowds away, and it’s large enough to have a really good day on the mountain when the crowds are limited. Smuggs also this year shut off day ticket sales on several busier weekends, which really helped with the overall experience this year.”

“My family is tired of the overpriced lift tickets and ridiculous lines we were finding at all the other resorts once they were included on the Epic or Ikon passes. It didn’t make sense for us to purchase an Epic or Ikon though. Then we found Smuggs. We couldn’t believe the value and fell in love with never feeling crowded on the mountain. We are done with hot doggers skiing over the back of our kids skis. The Village has everything you could want or need. It’s terrific for families and beginners. However, I considered myself an expert skier until I experienced the expert terrain at Smuggs. I think experts could have a pretty great day at Smuggs, as well as beginners!”

🔹 Read SKI’s resort review and get trip-planning tips: Smugglers’ Notch, Vt.