The 10 best ski towns for alpine adventures in the U.S.

Published Date: May 11, 2023

The snowy alpine trails of one of the best ski towns in the country sit in the distance as sunlight hits the buildings.
Ask a group of skiers about the best ski towns in the country, and chances are you’ll hear more recommendations than you can keep track of. Some might say it’s all about the mountain, while others will gush about the local vibe and après-ski experience. There’s no right answer — it just depends on what you’re looking for. But if you want to check out someplace new on your next ski vacation and your requirements include great skiing and a great place to enjoy your off-slope time, these 10 communities are among the best the U.S. has to offer.Let's take the tour!
A map provides the locations of the best ski towns in the U.S.

1. Vail, Colorado

Vail is one of the country’s best-known ski towns, and for good reason. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges, Vail boasts spectacular views from any vantage point and is the gateway to Colorado’s largest ski area, Vail Ski Resort. Covering 5,300 acres, the resort is known for its big-powder bowl skiing and advanced runs, but it also offers a nice mix of gladed terrain and beginner-friendly runs. Setting itself apart from the other best ski towns in Colorado, Vail was intentionally built as a ski community. Modeled in the style of a Bavarian village, the town is designed for pedestrians to pop into one of the many upscale shops and restaurants that are just steps away from Vail’s assortment of luxury hotels. The small-town yet swanky atmosphere attracts celebs and CEOs, but the skiing and scenery draws anyone who loves the mountains. Just be prepared for high-end prices, from lodging, dining and shopping in town to lift tickets at the resort.

2. Aspen, Colorado

South of Vail, Aspen rivals its neighbor to the north as one of the country’s best ski towns, with epic skiing and plenty of off-the-slopes amenities. Like many small towns in the region, it was originally a mining camp — historic buildings line the main street today. It offers easy access to four ski areas:
  • Aspen Mountain is closest to town, with a mix of intermediate and advanced runs. 
  • Snowmass is the biggest Aspen-area resort, with ski-in, ski-out lodging and a bustling base area. 
  • Buttermilk has gentler slopes for beginners and a good number of intermediate runs. 
  • Aspen Highlands is known as the locals’ mountain, and has smaller crowds, expert runs and unmatched terrain. 
When you’re not on the mountain, the town has plenty to offer, including fine dining, galleries, festivals and museums showcasing the area’s history. Like Vail, the A-list crowd flocks to Aspen, and it’s a popular second home location for the rich and famous, so don’t expect bargains unless you visit during the off-season.

3. Breckenridge, Colorado

Less than a two-hour drive southwest of Denver, Breckenridge is easily accessible from the capital city and bursting with charm. Founded during the Colorado Gold Rush, Breckenridge is a down-to-earth ski town with Victorian-era roots. You’ll find its historic main street lined with cute shops, a handful of local breweries and a variety of lodging options. When you’re ready to ski, hop on a free shuttle from town and head up to Breckenridge Ski ResortThe mountain is known for its five peaks each with unique terrain, and offers the highest lift-served terrain in North America. With a good balance of beginner/intermediate and advanced/expert runs spread across 187 trails, skiers of all levels can enjoy the experience. Unlike Vail and Aspen, both the mountain and town of Breckenridge cater to more of the local crowd, while still providing plenty of amenities for travelers looking for a more laid-back, less ritzy atmosphere. 

4. Telluride, Colorado

Located in southwestern Colorado on the Western Slope, Telluride is another former mining town that has gradually transformed itself into a premier ski vacation destination. Telluride Ski Resort is a family-friendly resort with 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, including both plenty of trails for beginners and long steep runs like a 4.6-mile run covering a portion of the mountain’s 4,425-foot vertical drop. The mountain gets lots of sunshine and loads of snow, which means beautiful views and big powder throughout the ski season. It's easy to get around with the free gondola that shuttles skiers between the base and downtown Telluride.The ski town has an authentic Western sensibility, smaller crowds compared to the state’s chic resorts, and a more relaxed community atmosphere. You can expect good times in town and great skiing on the mountain.

5. Bend, Oregon 

Bend is known for its year-round outdoor adventures, including rock climbing, water sports, golf (including three courses at the luxury Sunriver Resort just south of town) and, of course skiing, at nearby Mt. Bachelor, Oregon’s premier ski resort. The largest city in Central Oregon’s high desert, Bend was once a sleepy logging town, but it has grown into a lively city and vacation hotspot in recent decades. The revitalized downtown core offers a plethora of small distilleries and craft breweries, earning it the status of “Beer City USA.” However, it’s also a haven for families with a mix of boutiques, cafes and an active arts community. This ski town is an ideal base camp for skiers heading up to Mt. Bachelor, one of the top 10 largest ski resorts in the country with more 4,300 acres of lift-accessible terrain. Terrain is evenly split between beginner/intermediate and advanced runs, so novice and expert skiers alike can enjoy plenty of challenging runs all day long. 

6. Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada

The Lake Tahoe region, high in the Sierra Nevadas, is home to some 14 major ski areas, so there’s truly something for everyone. It’s hard to choose a single best ski town, but standout resorts include Palisades Tahoe and Heavenly — the two largest near the lake. Palisades Tahoe is famous for hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics and offers long, steep runs with stunning views. Its two mountains boast a combined area of 6,000 acres and a fairly even distribution of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs. The base town, The Village at Palisades Tahoe, was designed with après-ski in mind. You’ll find resort-quality lodging and dozens of boutiques and restaurants. Plus, you don’t have to drive far to reach several other quaint North Lake Tahoe communities, each with unique personalities and ski-town amenities.Heavenly Ski Resort spans South Lake Tahoe, California, and Stateline, Nevada. The resort offers 4,800 skiable acres and the highest elevation in Tahoe. South Lake Tahoe is both a ski town and party town known for its nightlife and club scene, making it one of the best ski towns to live in year-round. Over in Stateline, you can try your luck at one of the many casinos. 

7. Park City, Utah

The former Utah mining town of Park City has come a long way from its rustic roots. Considered by many as one of the best ski towns in Utah, Park City couples historic charm with modern amenities. Cinema lovers and stars flock here for the annual Sundance Film Festival, and you’ll find chic dining and shopping establishments throughout downtown. Luxury lodging, boutiques, spas and breathtaking scenery make Park City an upscale vacation destination. Take your pick of two world-class ski resorts near town: Park City Mountain and Deer Valley Resort. Both resorts hosted events during the 2002 Winter Olympics and remain a training ground for the U.S. Ski Team. Park City Mountain has the largest ski area in the country, and seasoned skiers can hone their skills on the mixed terrain. At around 2,000 acres, Deer Valley is considerably smaller — but it’s also less crowded and offers more beginner runs, making it a great option for newer skiers.

8. Jackson, Wyoming

Picture a classic Western mountain town, and you may envision a place like Jackson, Wyoming. Situated in the Jackson Hole valley among forests and two mountain ranges and far from major cities, Jackson feels remote and rugged. As the area’s industry transitioned from timber to tourism in recent years, Jackson has gained increasing popularity as one of the best ski towns in the West. It has all the amenities like shops, restaurants and luxury lodging while retaining its frontier-like appeal. You won’t find the glitz and glam of Vail or Squaw Valley, but Jackson offers beautiful wilderness and a relaxed pace of life. It’s also the gateway to three ski resorts, including the popular being Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The resort encompasses 2,500 acres and provides an abundance of advanced runs, plenty of intermediate runs and a few beginner trails. The resort borders Grand Teton National Park, and you’ll get the best views by taking the aerial tram up to the resort’s highest point on Rendezvous Mountain. For experienced skiers, the tram also provides access to one of the steepest runs in North America: Corbet’s Couloir, a chute that terrifies and thrills skiers who dare to test their skills. 

9. Sun Valley, Idaho

Sun Valley, Idaho is one of the oldest planned ski towns in the country and was developed at a time when alpine skiing was starting to gain momentum in the U.S. The resort opened in 1936 and included the world’s first chairlifts (don’t worry, they’ve been replaced since then). Throughout the decades, Sun Valley has attracted celebrities and other icons, from Ernest Hemingway in the 1930s to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who currently owns a second home there and has a ski run named after him. The Sun Valley area includes the town of Ketchum just west of the resort, which is an outdoor paradise with a vibrant arts community. As newer, swankier resorts have cropped up throughout the West, Sun Valley Resort may feel a bit old school to some — but it’s also more affordable, with excellent skiing for all levels. Novice skiers can access gentle trails on Dollar Mountain and large proportion of beginner runs, while experts will find fun and challenging bowls on Bald Mountain.

10. Stowe, Vermont

Stowe is a picture-perfect New England ski town. This quaint Vermont village exudes Americana — think malt shops, white steepled churches and main street parades — plus a healthy dose of the Austrian Alps. In fact, the real von Trapp family settled here in the 1940s after fleeing their native Austria because the town reminded them of their alpine home. They built the Trapp Family Lodge, which was later rebuilt after a fire and now offers a full European-style resort experience. Stowe offers lots of local charm, with live music, breweries, friendly residents and affordable family activities. Stowe Mountain Resort packs 116 quality trails across 485 acres, with a mix of beginner and expert runs and a large variety of intermediate trails. If a trip to the West is out of reach, this gem of the East is a great choice for skiers of all levels and deserves its spot at the top of the list of the best ski towns in Vermont. Pacaso has stunning second homes in some of the best ski towns in the West. So, if Park City, Lake Tahoe, or any of the Colorado mountain towns caught your eye, there might be a luxury home with your name on it. 

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Amie Fisher

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