The best ski towns in the world
The only town on this list which is located inside a national park. There are three ski areas here within a drive of 50 minutes and, all skiable on a single ticket. The runs of Mount Norquay, home of the one of the oldest chairlifts in North America, are visible from town. Sunshine Village, sits on the Continental Divide and features the most reliable snow in the area. Lake Louise features some of the world’s most scenic skiing and snowboarding.
Switzerland is a country of classic ski towns, but Zermatt is its main attraction. It is surrounded by several glacier-clad peaks. The village itself allows only electric cars. Streets are narrow and cobbled. Zermatt offers three interconnected Swiss skiing zones, all skiable with a single ticket. There are also two ski zones just across the border. The skiing and snowboarding is enthralling. It has vertical drops of up to 7,152 feet on diversified terrain of never-ending cruisers to north-facing powder runs.
Known as the birthplace of extreme skiing, Chamonix has some of the world’s premier lift-accessed steep skiing and snowboarding. It is located in a deeply cleaved valley near the trisection of France, Italy, and Switzerland, the town sits in the shadow of the highest peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc, and a tangle of other glacier-clad mountains. Chamonix’s cobblestone streets and car-free pedestrian centre fill it up with tourists. Cortina, Italy The dramatic peaks of the Dolomites rising in every direction, the ski areas around Cortina is known as the most beautiful in the world. The skiing itself is inconveniently spread out. A shuttle bus that connects the ski areas with continuous service during the operating hours of the lifts. It is the best place for beginners and intermediates.
CRESTED BUTTE, COLORADO
Crested Butte is a remote, high-elevation former mining town of historic buildings surrounded by spectacular scenery. The back-alleys are filled with restaurants and buildings sided with old license plates, and the free shuttle buses to the ski area are wildly painted by local artists. Elk Mountains is the main attraction here. There are plenty of dedicated beginner and kid-friendly terrain on the lower mountain, as well as a reasonable collection of blue groomers mid-mountain, but it’s the expert skiing and hiking terrain on the North Face, Teocalli Bowl that is the main attraction. It is the pioneer of adventure skiing, and there are running lifts for access to ungroomed, advanced terrain, and the steep, cliff- and couloir-riddles. The ski school also offers powder and steep skiing lessons for intermediates looking to become experts.
Due to the storm cycles pumping out of neighboring Siberia, the mountains on the Japanese island of Hokkaido are globally renowned for having some of the most consistent, lightest powder on Earth. Niseko is an amalgam of four independently owned, interconnected resorts that girdle 4,291-foot Mount Niseko Annupuri (skiable with one lift ticket). There is 590 inches of snow a year, there’s fresh powder more days. The town of Niseko, population 4,685, is an easy drive from the four separate base areas and is known for laid-back, surfing-town and dozens of onsen, or hot springs. Night skiing is huge here. Deep-powder runs through illuminated nighttime forest are Niseko’s main attraction. Given the windstorms that periodically lash the mountain, the mountain’s birch forests the best and most sheltered places to ski and snowboard.
Whitefish, a former logging and railroad town of more than 6,000 near the entrance to Glacier National Park, has been quietly delivering glitz-free Montana skiing for over half a century. The Whitefish Mountain Resort, formerly known as Big Mountain, looms above the bars and restaurants of the Western-style downtown, which is anchored by Whitefish historic train station. Beginners will find a good long, wide-open terrain, roller coaster groomers, skiers and snowboarders of all abilities can indulge in here. A high-speed quad speeds to the mountain’s summit, which is often engulfed in clouds and studded with thickly rimmed, white trees known as “snow ghosts.” The ghosts make for atmospheric glade skiing. Experts will find ample pockets of steep and deep terrain, including an abundance of backwoods tree skiing on the mountain’s less visited north side. On clear days, views from the Summit House cafeteria into Glacier are stunning.
The giant of American skiing offer powder-smothered slopes. The town of Jackson, a 12-mile drive from the ski area, sits in a remote, high valley in northwestern Wyoming in the shadow of the mighty Teton Range and just south of Yellowstone National Park. From its wooden sidewalks and cowboy bars to its restaurants that sling unnecessarily large slabs of red meat, the town of just over 9,500 embraces its Wild West heritage. Much like Banff, Alberta, winter is actually the off-season in this town, so good ski-season deals on lodging abound. One of the birthplaces of extreme skiing in the U.S., mighty Jackson Hole Resort Does offer a few beginner runs, and intermediates. Advanced skiers enjoy Rendezvous Mountain, at 4,139 feet of vertical drop to the base area, which is not only skiable in one sustained gulp, but offers a dizzying variety of chutes, bowls, glades, and cliff drops to get there.
PARK CITY, UTAH
This is the home to the U.S. Ski Team, and includes three sprawling ski resorts. Utah's feathery, desert-dry powder, Park City has established itself as one of the premier ski towns in America. Park City Mountain Resort is the best option, with access from town, four terrain parks for snowboarders and freestylers, night skiing, a cutting-edge ski school, and remarkably well-rounded terrain, from gentle beginner runs to powder-filled bowls. The Canyons is four miles from the main town, and has quickly expanded to become the largest ski area in Utah. Impressively, each of Park City’s areas offer a hundred or more runs, bevies of high-speed lifts, and around 3,000 feet of base-to-summit vertical.
Bend is a fast-growing, adventure paradise and one of the largest ski town with more than 76,000 people in central Oregon that is home to the region’s premier ski area, Mount Bachelor, 22 miles west up the road. A 9,000-foot stratovolcano lined with high-speed quads and skiable down every side, it’s a huge, diverse area which, being on the drier, east side of the Cascades, has lighter snow. There are beginner and intermediate runs throughout Bachelor, and some of the groomers are world-class. But with fully 60 percent of the alpine terrain rated black or double-black, experts will get the most from the mountain. From the summit, adventuresome skiers and boarders can jump cornices into the blasted-open summit crater or head for the mountain’s backside of wide-open, backcountry-style double-blacks. Freestyle terrain is excellent, with two halfpipes (18 and 12 feet tall), and a nearly mile-long terrain park.
Remote and unrelentingly beautiful, Telluride is the most picturesque ski town in North America, a Victorian-era silver-mining hamlet set deep in a box canyon in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. Telluride Ski Resort has steep runs and they spill right into the edge of the town’s National Historic District, where a gondola whisks skiers back up into the area’s almost 4,000 vertical feet of absurdly scenic skiing. The town is at a height of 8,793 feet above sea level, and lifts reach to over 12,500 feet. Telluride offers excellent cruisers and beginner terrain, in the kind of high-alpine setting. It is a expert’s haven who will find bumps, bowls, and chutes in every corner of the resort, and some extreme in-bounds terrain in the country in Black Iron Bowl and 13,251-foot Palmyra Peak are accessible from this resort.
The original Rocky Mountain ski resort, Ketchum’s Sun Valley Resort featured the world’s first chairlift when it opened in 1936 and was long the stomping ground for classic-era Hollywood. It still witnesses the grandeur of their pre-war days while the old mining and sheep town of Ketchum, population 2,689, maintains a rustic elegance. The resort village of Sun Valley borders Ketchum at the base of Dollar Mountain, the original ski hill and now an ideal learner’s area with a ski school, terrain park, and separate, inexpensive lift tickets. Bald Mountain is the main terrain, on the other side of town, which features 3,400 vertical feet of some of the finest groomed plunges in the world. Snowboarders will appreciate the mountain’s complete lack of flat areas.
MONT TREMBLANT, QUEBEC, CANADA
Tremblant offers some of the best skiing in eastern Canada. With the first lift opening here in 1939, Tremblant was one of the first ski areas in North America, though the 18th-century French Alps-styled village at the base of its lifts wasn’t built until the 1990s. Underground parking means the entire village is car-free, making for an inviting, old-world environment. The original hamlet of Mont-Tremblant, only three miles from the mountain, makes for a mellower experience. The mountain is home to a vertical terrain of 2,116 feet of skiable vertical, with 95 runs unfurling down four separate faces, providing the ability to follow the sunshine across different aspects throughout the day. Powder skiing is not a regular activity, but assiduous grooming ensures there are no terrifying sheets of eastern ice.
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