RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – BEST OF THE WEST: Aspen Snowmass, Colo.
Aspen is just far enough from the ever-growing Colorado Front Range that it remains noticeably quieter than every ski resort on I-70, even during peak holidays. First-time visitors who expect a snobby culture are always delighted to find welcoming, nearly European hospitality throughout the upper Roaring Fork Valley. Put it on the top of your list for places to visit this season, and we bet it’ll stay there for every season to come. Read more about Aspen Snowmass here.
RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – OVERALL SATISFACTION: Whitefish Mountain Resort, Mont.
It’s the small-town Montana hospitality—found sharing a lunch table at the Summit House or in the family trail tips heard from a local parent on Chair 2—that should reserve Whitefish a spot on your must-visits. No one can argue that this resort must be doing something right: For the second consecutive season it has set a skier-visit record. That’s saying something. Read more about Whitefish here.
RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – ACCESS: Snowbasin, Utah
As Salt Lake City grows and the Park City resorts and Little and Big Cottonwood Canyon hills get packed on powder days, Snowbasin is popping up on more skiers’ radars. It’s super-easy to get to, boasts a quick and efficient lift system, and has some of the most underrated terrain in the Wasatch. Read more about Snowbasin here.
RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – DOWN DAY ACTIVITIES: Steamboat, Colo.
Credit Steamboat’s distance from major cities (the closest is Denver, 150 miles away) for preserving authentic character at the resort and the adjacent town of Steamboat Springs. Homesteaders settled this cowboy town long before the lifts started spinning, and even now, you’ll see as many Stetsons as ski hats on downtown sidewalks. Don’t forget to bring yours. Read more about Steamboat here.
RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – FAMILY FRIENDLY: Keystone, Colo.
Sometimes a dominant branding message works too well. For instance, Keystone is the “family resort” in the expanding Vail portfolio. Indeed, Keystone is one of the most family-friendly resorts on snow. But it’s also a lot more—for skiers willing to head to the outer reaches of the resort. Read more about Keystone here.
RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – GROOMING: Beaver Creek, Colo.
The skiing itself is largely underrated—most visitors come expecting wide, groomed boulevards and mostly mellow terrain. And they leave satisfied, but so do those who come looking for world-class steeps (Birds of Prey, the men’s World Cup downhill), bumps (anything on Grouse Mountain), and extreme terrain (Stone Creek Chutes). Read more about Beaver Creek here.
RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – LIFTS: Sun Valley, Idaho
It’s the birthplace of the modern ski vacation, having installed the first chairlifts in the world in 1936. That’s some pretty significant history right there, and something that this elegant, well-coiffed resort remains proud of to this day. And rightfully so. Read more about Sun Valley here.
RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – LOCAL FLAVOR: Taos, N.M.
Taos is one of those rare, special spots where phenomenal skiing intersects brilliantly with the sport’s European heritage, and injected, this year, with the buzz of American entrepreneurship.The new ownership seems determined to maintain the resort’s unique Old-World-meets-New-Mexico vibe while it puts new sheen on some old veneers. Read more about Taos here.
RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – NIGHTLIFE: Heavenly, California
With 4,800 acres of terrain—and a summit that tops out at an eye-popping 10,040 feet—variety is king. But many come for the fun factor. South Lake Tahoe, on the California/Nevada border, is packed with 24-hour casinos, trendy eateries, and rockin’ clubs. Not everyone’s cup of tequila, of course, but nothing wrong if it is… Read more about Heavenly here.
RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – SCENERY: Lake Louise, Alberta
If you’ve ever seen a postcard of Lake Louise—specifically of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the view across the lake to Victoria Glacier—and wondered if it really is as pretty there as it seems … well, there’s a reason it won the top score for Scenery. The panoramic vistas from Sunset Terrace are picture-perfect, and with over 4,000 acres of terrain, Lake Louise easily satisfies all levels of skiers. Read more about Lake Louise here
RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – SNOW: Grand Targhee, Wyo.
Located an hour’s drive west of Jackson Hole over Teton Pass, Targhee pleases its fans not only with affordable skiing and great snow (more than 500 annual inches, typically), but also with laudable scenery, the resort sitting beneath the backside of the Tetons as it does. Offering an uncrowded alternative to the touristy hub of Jackson, Targhee is unpretentious, with a great local vibe that makes everyone feel like family. Read more about Grand Targhee here.
RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – SERVICE: Deer Valley, Utah
For starters, nowhere on the continent will you find better customer service and friendlier faces waiting to point you in the right direction. And more often than not, that direction is towards fast and efficient high-speed lifts and wide, well-groomed trails with nary a lift line or a crowd in sight. It’s the little things, but this is what makes a Deer Valley vacation stand apart from the rest. Read more about Deer Valley here.
RESORTS OF THE YEAR WEST – TERRAIN VARIETY: Vail, Colo.
To complement the reader-praised, numerous high-speed chairlifts spider-webbed throughout the mountain, the ski resort is investing in 10 new large-capacity, low-energy snowmaking fans to make early season turns under the Born Free Express even more delightful. When snowfall picks up, Vail will increase grooming operations in the famous Back Bowls this season by 30 percent, allowing more skiers to experience the joy of making turns down Morning Thunder, Genghis Kahn, and others. Read more about Vail here.