The 10 Coolest Places I've Ever Skied
Skiing Expert Stephan Chaikovsky lists the top 10 coolest places he's ever skied and explains why you just might want to give each one of them a visit yourself.
1. Alyeska, Alaska: Best Powder Skiing
Location: Girdwood, AK Nearest Airport: Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), 50-minute drive Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 1,610 acres
- Top Elevation: 3,939 feet
- Vertical: 3,200 feet
- Number of Trails: 76
- Number of Lifts: 9
- Average Snowfall: 656 inches
Alyeska is the largest ski resort in Alaska, located in Girdwood, about an hour drive from Anchorage International Airport. The base of the mountain is only two miles from the ocean, and the mountain has a shockingly low base elevation of only 250 feet above sea level. Despite its elevation, the mountain is plenty cold given its latitude and receives some of the most snow of any resort in the world. Alyeska has plenty of steep, exciting terrain in-bounds to keep you entertained for days. But if you are looking to take your Alaskan ski experience to the next level, it is definitely worth looking into the cat and heli operations that Chugach Powder Guides offers.
When I visited Alyeska, it dumped the whole time I was there, and the sun only made an appearance on the final day of my trip. I believe around five feet of new snow fell during my time there. Needless to say, it was one of the best powder skiing experiences of my life. I spent the majority of my time at the resort, which has great terrain, especially for experts looking for steep and deep skiing in the alpine. The North Face, Headwall, and Max’s are some of the great expert zones in the ski area, each with tons of different lines to choose from. However, be aware that there are large portions of the mountains (in particular the Headwall) that are rarely open due to snow conditions or avalanche danger. I was lucky enough to get a standby spot on the Chugach Powder Guides snowcat on my last day there, and I highly recommend it. It was the best day of skiing I’ve ever had.
2. Lake Louise Ski Resort: Best Scenery
Location: Lake Louise, Alberta Nearest Airport: Calgary International Airport (YYC), 2 to 2.5-hour drive Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 4200 acres (1700 hectares)
- Top Elevation: 2,637 meters (8,650 feet)
- Vertical: 991 meters (3,250 feet)
- Number of Trails: 145
- Number of Lifts: 8
- Average Snowfall: 180 inches (4.54 meters)
If your idea of fun is hot-lapping bumpy steeps until your legs give out, you’ll love skiing at Lake Louise. Lake Louise Ski Area is one of the three ski resorts in the Banff area and arguably offers the best skiing experience in the region. The mountain has some of the best scenery you’ll find anywhere, and there are panoramic views of the stunning Canadian Rockies no matter what part of the mountain you are on. Unlike nearby Sunshine Village, at Lake Louise Ski Area there are no hotels on-mountain or at the base area, which makes it feel like much more of a “skier’s” mountain. Six of the eight main lifts here provide skiers with over 1,200 feet (375 meters) of vertical, with incredible terrain to match. If you’re traveling a distance to visit here, I highly recommend staying in the town of Banff and splitting your time between here and nearby Sunshine Village for the best experience!
This past January I took a trip to Alberta and skied “The Big Three” Resorts: Lake Louise, Mount Norquay, and Sunshine Village. After skiing all three, I had a definitive favorite: Lake Louise. Getting there was a breeze — it only takes a two- to three-hour nonstop flight and a couple of hours of driving to get from major cities in the western US to Banff, Alberta. I stayed in Banff and commuted to Lake Louise (30 minutes away) and Sunshine Village (20 minutes away). During my visit, there wasn’t much new snow, but thanks to ample early-season snowfall, the conditions were the best-packed powder I have ever skied. Although Lake Louise doesn’t get as much snowfall as some resorts on paper, the dry snow that falls here yields excellent conditions for days and even weeks after the last snowfall, thanks in part to the constant cold temperatures.
3. Whistler Blackcomb: North America’s Largest Resort
Location: Whistler, British Columbia Nearest Airport: Vancouver International Airport (YVR), 2-hour drive Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 8,171 acres (3,307 hectares)
- Top Elevation: 2,284 meters (7,494 feet)
- Vertical: 1,609 meters (5,280 feet)
- Number of Trails: 200+
- Number of Lifts: 35
- Average Snowfall: 448 inches (11.38 meters)
Whistler is the biggest ski resort in North America with a whopping 8,000+ acres of skiable terrain and over 200 marked trails accessed by a system of 35 lifts. To make the most of your experience here, be sure to study trail maps and plan out your day beforehand to avoid spending too much time on chairlifts and catwalks traversing the mountain. If you’re looking for high-alpine steeps, Whistler Mountain’s Peak Chair, Harmony Express, and the Glacier Express on Blackcomb all access a huge selection of advanced and expert terrain above the treeline. For intermediate skiers, be sure to check out Seventh Heaven for high-alpine cruisers, and spend some time exploring the lower-elevation trails, which tend to be geared more toward beginner and intermediate skiers than terrain accessed by higher lifts. This only scratches the surface of the terrain the mountain has to offer. The only way to get a true appreciation of the scale of this place is to explore it yourself!
Whistler Blackcomb is my favorite place to ski in Canada. No other place I’ve skied compares with the size of this mountain, and it is unquestionably one of the best places in the world for powder skiing. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions when I visited Whistler. In the week I was there, it snowed nearly two meters (over six feet!), making for some of the best powder skiing of my life. One important note about the snowfall here is that even in mid-winter, big storms can come with rain in lower parts of the area. When I visited in mid-January, although it rained multiple days at the base, I had no issues staying high enough up on the mountain to find dry powder snow. With so much terrain at high altitudes, there is no need to ski on lower parts of the mountain here when conditions are poor. Although there are plenty of terrains for all types of skiers higher up the mountain, for less experienced skiers, I would recommend downloading to the base at the end of the day if it’s rainy at lower elevations to avoid sloppy conditions. The in-bounds terrain was more than enough to keep me satisfied when I visited, but if backcountry skiing is your thing, Whistler has easy access to truly limitless backcountry skiing outside of its boundaries.
4. Mammoth Mountain: Best Spring Skiing
Location: Mammoth Lakes, California Nearest Airport: Eastern Sierra Regional Airport (BIH), 1-hour drive Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 3,500+ acres
- Top Elevation: 11,053 feet
- Vertical: 3,100 feet
- Number of Trails: 175
- Number of Lifts: 25
- Average Snowfall: 400 inches
Mammoth Mountain is California’s highest ski area and along with nearby June Mountain, is one of the only two ski resorts in the High Sierras. While the Tahoe area is prone to rain and heavy powder snow known as “Sierra Cement”, the high elevation of Mammoth Mountain generally protects it from these phenomena. The mountain is huge and features a great diversity of terrain for all ability levels. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned expert, there will be plenty of terrains for you to choose from at Mammoth. The mountain is a five-hour drive from Los Angeles and Las Vegas, so keep that in mind when planning a trip here. Crowds can get bad during peak times. For easier access, flights from Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are available to Bishop Airport, located only 45 minutes from the ski area.
I’ve spent a lot of time skiing at Mammoth, all in the months of May and June, which is one of the best times of the year to ski there. Most seasons, the ski area is open until at least early June, and the mountain remains open for skiing as long as snow allows into the summer. The spring skiing scene here is unbeatable. From the tailgating scene at the base lots to people flying down the steeps off of Chair 23, there is an infectious energy in the air here every season once the meltdown begins. If you’re a park skier, Mammoth is home to arguably the best terrain parks in the country and is the training grounds for Olympic Halfpipe and Slopestyle skiers and boarders every May.
5. Arapahoe Basin: Best High-Altitude Skiing
Location: Dillon, Colorado Nearest Airport: Denver International Airport (DEN), 1.5 to 2-hour drive Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 1,428 acres
- Top Elevation: 13,050 feet
- Vertical: 2,530 feet
- Number of Trails: 147
- Number of Lifts: 8
- Average Snowfall: 350 inches
Arapahoe Basin is one of the “hidden gems” of Colorado’s Front Range, although if you’ve spent much time in the state you’ve probably heard of it. With a base elevation of 10,780 feet and topping out at over 13,000 feet, there’s no way to avoid the altitude here, so make sure that you are well acclimated before visiting, especially if you live near sea level. Barely off the beaten path (I-70), A-Basin doesn’t get as crowded as other Summit County resorts and tends to attract a more local and passionate clientele than you’ll find at Keystone just down the road, which is a much better choice for beginner skiers. A-Basin has incredible expert terrain in famous zones like Pallavicini, East Wall, and the steep gullies, and also has good options for advanced intermediate skiers from the top of every lift. The area might be best known for the length of the season, and although the opening day in October is almost always a single run of man-made snow with absurd lift lines, spring skiing here is some of the best, and the majority of the terrain stays open until a few weeks before closing day.
I skied at Arapahoe Basin every month of the year aside from July, August, and September, and I have found that the experience varies greatly depending on what time of year you ski there. It isn’t uncommon for it to take until March for enough snow to accumulate to open their steepest, rockiest terrain, and most years the season lasts into June or even later. April and May are the perfect time to ski here; the weather is much more pleasant than mid-winter, and most of the mountain’s expert terrain should be open well into May. If you go here in the spring, you are almost guaranteed mid-season style snow conditions and will be able to enjoy all of the rocky, extreme terrain that makes this mountain so special.
6. Silverton Mountain: Best Steep Skiing
Location: Silverton, Colorado Nearest Airport: Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ), 2-hour drive Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 1,819 acres (lift-accessed terrain)
- Top Elevation: 12,300 feet
- Vertical: 1,900 feet (lift-serviced drop)
- Number of Lifts: 1
- Average Snowfall: 400+ inches
Silverton Mountain was started in 2002 in Colorado’s snowy San Juan Mountains, and it provides a skiing experience that is better described as lift-serviced backcountry skiing than it is as resort skiing. The mountain has a single, barless, two-person chairlift that rockets you 1,900 vertical feet up from the parking lot to a central location on the upper mountain, from which you have the option of dropping into one of a few run options without hiking, or of hiking between five and 45 minutes to access a bounty of additional terrain. Guided ski days are available for the entire season, and unguided skiing is offered as well beginning in March each season, just keep in mind that avalanche gear and a partner are required to board the lift on unguided days. Additionally, heli-skiing is offered here, and with their á la carte approach of having guests pay per run of heli-skiing, it is likely the cheapest way to experience heli-skiing that you’ll find anywhere.
I bought an unguided season pass to Silverton in 2021, which is the cheapest way to experience this mountain. However, after skiing there I think that visiting during the guided season would be worth every penny. Between the guides’ knowledge of the mountain and the limited number of daily skiers during the guided season, you’re guaranteed to get plenty of incredible skiing out of even just a single day. Do note that this mountain is truly for experts only — even the easiest way to make it down is steep (minimum 35º slope) and extreme. If you want to experience the San Juans with skiing for all ability levels, check out nearby Telluride, which is a more traditional ski resort experience.
7. Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood: Best Summer Skiing
Location: Government Camp, Oregon Nearest Airport: Portland International Airport (PDX), 1.5-hour drive Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 1,685 acres
- Top Elevation: 8,540 feet
- Vertical: 4,540 feet (biggest in the United States)
- Number of Trails: 35
- Number of Lifts: 9
- Average Snowfall: 540 inches
Mount Hood is the best place, and now the only place, where you can ski all summer long without traveling overseas. Located just over an hour’s drive from Portland, Mt. Hood is a massive volcano that is so prominent that it was mistakenly believed to be the continent’s highest peak for a period of time (the summit is actually only 11,249 feet above sea level). Timberline Lodge Ski Area is located on the lower two-thirds of the volcano and is named after its mid-mountain hotel, which is famous for being a filming location in The Shining. The ski area has its own claim to fame, too: Timberline is the only resort in North America where you can ski every month of the year. During the winter, the lower two-thirds of Timberline is open for skiing, in addition to two other ski areas adjacent to it, Mt. Hood Meadows and Mt. Hood Snow Bowl. Mount Hood can be an awesome place to find deep powder during the winter, but storms are so frequent and powerful here that they can become an obstacle to the ski resorts’ operations. In summer, the top half of Timberline is open to skiers and often is sunny and above cloud level, even when it’s a cloudy day in Portland.
There’s no denying it — skiing on a glacier, on a volcano, in the middle of summer is a genuinely special experience. There are a few important things to know before coming out here to ski in the summer, the first of which is to know what to expect. The skiing summer at Timberline consists only of cruiser runs, mogul fields, and terrain parks. Don’t come out here in the summertime expecting to find expert terrain or winter snow conditions, and as long as you’re aware of and okay with that, you’ll have a blast skiing here in the summer. With the limited terrain offered, taking a trip out here and skiing every day might not be the best move; consider spending a day visiting Portland or the Oregon Coast to break up your days on the hill. Finally, keep in mind that as summer progresses, the snowpack deteriorates and the terrain becomes more limited. June into early July is the best time to visit for a summer skiing experience with good snow quality.
8. Tuckerman Ravine: Best East Coast Backcountry
Location: Mt. Washington, New Hampshire Nearest Airport: Portland International Jetport (PWM), 2-hour drive Mountain Info:
- Top Elevation: 6,280 feet
- Vertical: 1,850 feet
- Number of Lifts: 0
- Average Snowfall: 312 inches
Tuckerman Ravine is a glacial cirque on the east face of Mount Washington, New Hampshire, and is the ultimate right of passage for any hardcore East Coast skier. This is not a ski area. No lifts or patrols are waiting to rescue you, and although the zone is heavily trafficked, it is still backcountry skiing. Every spring, thousands of people come here to hike and ski some of the rowdiest lines on the East Coast. To get to the bowl’s base, you need to hike a few miles up from the parking lot, and there you can pick which of the dozen or so options you want to take your run on. After figuring that out, you’ll essentially bootpack straight up the face to get to the top of your run. If you’re fit enough, you can easily lap the bowl a number of times before heading back to the base, but even a single run here isn’t a physical feat to gawk at.
I’m so glad I made it to Tuck’s when I lived out East. It was an irreplaceable experience, with gnarly terrain and even gnarlier snow. Though pictures or videos might have you fooled, this is still the East Coast, and you should expect variable, East Coast snow conditions like you would anywhere else in the Northeast. If you’re open to that, Tuck’s is an incredible backcountry adventure that every hardcore East Coast skier should make the trip to. Make sure you are aware of the risks and know what you’re doing when you ski here. In addition to trauma from a nasty fall, avalanches, crevasses, and exposure are just some of the other life-threatening risks to evaluate before venturing here. If those words alone sound scary to you, definitely stick to the resorts out East, and if you want to experience “bigger” skiing, you can get into that much more easily and safely out West.
9. Verbier 4 Vallées: Best Alps Destination
Location: Valais, Switzerland Nearest Airport: Geneva International Airport (GVA), 2-hour drive or 3 hours by train Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 101,807 acres (largest in Switzerland)
- Top Elevation: 10,925 feet
- Vertical: 4,921 feet
- Number of Trails: 88
- Number of Lifts: 82
- Average Snowfall: 217 inches
Verbier 4 Vallées is the largest ski area entirely in Switzerland with over 100,000 acres of terrain. This place is enormous both on paper and in person, but it’s worth noting that across the 100,000+ acres, there are only 88 named pistes, and the remainder of the terrain is off-piste and unpatrolled. This is typical of ski areas in the Alps, but thankfully for powder lovers, most skiers here stick to the marked trails, so it's easy to find fresh tracks if you have avalanche equipment, a trusted partner, and are willing to explore off-trail. The terrain here is spread across four valleys, each with its own village, but the village of Verbier is the largest and most popular for visitors to stay at. For the Alps, Verbier is one of the easier resorts for visitors to access, with direct train access from Geneva airport, which has non-stop flights to destinations throughout Europe and some of the hub airports in North America. Epic Pass holders get five days of skiing here included on the pass, so if you own one and have been looking for an excuse to make it to the Alps, Verbier 4 Vallées is a great place to check out.
I first learned about Verbier from the Freeride World Tour. Every year, Verbier hosts the final stop of the tour on the infamous Bec des Rosses' face. Although this area isn’t really accessible to tourists, you’ll be able to find plenty of thrills on other terrains, which span across four valleys and are seemingly endless. I visited in March, in a year with good snow, and had solid snow conditions for the entire trip. Snow in the Alps can vary substantially from year to year, so if you are planning on making a trip out there (especially early or late in the season), make sure to keep a close eye on the snow report before you go. Every skier should aspire to one day make it to the Alps. The skiing, history, and culture here are all totally different from what you’ll find in North America and make for the trip of a lifetime.
10. Alta: Best Snow
Location: Alta, Utah Nearest Airport: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), 45-minute drive Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 2,614 acres
- Top Elevation: 11,068 feet
- Vertical: 2,538 feet
- Number of Trails: 119
- Number of Lifts: 7
- Average Snowfall: 540 inches
Only 45 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport, Alta is one of the easiest ski destinations to travel to via plane, and with arguably the best snow of any resort, it is a mountain every skier should have on their bucket list. Alta receives a whopping 45 feet of snow on average each year. For reference, this is nearly double the snowfall Colorado resorts, like Vail or Aspen, receive annually. The massive snow totals at Alta are a product of its geography, with it being located at the end of Little Cottonwood Canyon — a tight valley in the Wasatch Mountains with the Salt Lake City suburbs at its base, Alta gets significant lake effect snow from Salt Lake in addition to the major storm systems that pass through Utah. Alta is one of the last mountains around that doesn’t allow snowboarding, so if there are snowboarders in your crew, check out the adjacent Snowbird. It has epic terrain (just as much snow as Alta), and it permits snowboarders.
Alta has the best snow around. Sure, there are a few areas like Alyeska which receive more snow annually. But the snow there is often very dense and rain is common, a huge contrast from Alta, which never receives rain and receives almost all of its snow in the form of super-dry, champagne powder. When I skied there the mountain got two double-digit snowfalls over the course of five days, and as expected, all of the snow came in the form of Utah’s famous champagne powder. Alta has a special and unique feel that you won’t find anywhere else. Between only allowing skiers, having fixed lifts, and lacking many of the luxe amenities that are commonplace at ski resorts today, Alta offers a pure skiing experience that is centered around the skiing itself. Be sure to check out Snowbird when you’re here, which borders the western edge of Alta. It also has renowned expert terrain and can be skied together with Alta on a single pass.
No matter where you’re headed, the right gear can make or break a trip, so it’s critical you have the best gear to enjoy your destination to the fullest. Whether you’re looking for an entirely new setup, or to complete your existing one, don’t hesitate to reach out to a Ski Expert here on Curated, who can outfit you with the optimal gear for any destination. We carry all of the best gear on the market, and no matter what you need, whether it’s skis, boots, outerwear, or accessories, we’ll guide you in finding the ultimate setup for you. We’d love to chat and help find the perfect gear for you, wherever you’re looking to ski!