For destination skiers and boarders headed to the West, three major hubs—Colorado, Utah, and Lake Tahoe— provide many of the most popular choices. Excellent resorts such as Sun Valley, Taos and Big Sky do shine outside those three resort concentrations. Nonetheless, travelers find Colorado, Utah and Tahoe particularly accessible thanks to major airports in Denver, Salt Lake City and Reno, respectively.
Each region has a few general weather characteristics to consider. Colorado’s altitude keeps the snow in good condition, but snow generally accumulates in inches, rather than in feet as is fairly common in Utah and Tahoe. Utah brags that it has “the greatest snow on Earth.” Its quality and quantity makes it hard to argue with that claim. Tahoe usually receives its snow in huge dumps separated by weeks of lovely bluebird days.
Each grouping has enough different ski areas to suit almost any taste. Once you pick a general destination, here’s a guide to the individual resorts based on specific traveler needs:
- You have a family and have enough worries in your high-pressure job. You want to relax on your vacation with all the full-service amenities, not huck any cliffs.
- You like to go off the beaten path. When you travel in Europe, you head for Estonia, rather than France. You want to surround yourself with locals, rather than tourists, to get the true feel and culture of a place.
- You like to ski or board, but the real action for you starts after the lifts close.
- You are now a destination visitor, but you were once a local and still have the skills to show for it. Double-black diamonds are your best friends. The only time you see a groomed trail is in the last 50 yards back to the chairlift.
- For you, time on the mountain is about communing with nature. You ski with a backpack holding a camera and three different lenses to capture the scenery.
- The economy isn’t going to stop you from your annual ski trip, but you do want to keep down your expenses. You always buy your lift tickets on Liftopia(shameless plug). Far from splurging on ski-in, ski-out lodging, you are willing to stay in a budget motel in Denver, Salt Lake City or Reno and drive up to the ski area each day.
We’d love to hear about some of your favorite resorts and why you chose them too.