The Five Coolest Places I’ve Skied
Having covered eight states and at least thirty different ski areas, Curated expert and ski instructor Jake Mundt shares his five favorite skiing destinations in North America.
Skiing gives us the freedom to explore new places and create new adventures. We travel many miles and long days during the winter months in search of powder and new terrain. In North America alone, there are over 800 ski resorts and over 3000 lifts. The options are endless and it can be daunting to choose a location for your next ski trip.
I have been traveling around North America to ski since I was 13 years old. I’ve skied in eight states and two Canadian provinces, consisting of at least 30 different ski areas (yes, I actually counted). I’m going to share with you the five coolest places I’ve skied (in no particular order) in North America. Some of these places may not be the biggest, or have the fanciest accommodations, but they spoke to me in a special way, have excellent skiing, and are places I find myself returning to whenever I can.
Big Sky, Montana
I know I said some of these places wouldn’t be the biggest resorts on the continent, but Big Sky is. Offering “300 degrees of skiing” around Lone Mountain, it really feels like some of the biggest skiing in America. When I was 18, I worked at Big Sky as a ski instructor. Even though I was skiing every day that season, it took me until February to ski most of the mountain, and years later I’m still finding hidden stashes and new terrain every time I go there.
That being said, you shouldn't worry about getting bored on a weeklong ski vacation to Big Sky. It has a wide variety of terrain and some of the longest, most fun groomers I’ve ever skied. The super long, high-speed lifts keep you skiing for a large portion of the day. While the groomers at Big Sky are some of the best, the steep terrain is also impeccable. The tram brings you up to the summit of Lone Mountain, which sits at 11,166 feet. The Challenger lift accesses the impressive A-Z chutes and the Headwaters area, which offers steep technical riding.
Big Sky is also a large resort, so there are many options for lodging, restaurants, and shopping. The Mountain Mall at the Big Sky base area is one of the largest and most extravagant ski lodges I’ve seen. A few miles down the road (or three ski lifts away) is the Madison base area. The consolidation of Big Sky and Moonlight Basin in 2013 opened up more terrain and gives more options for on-mountain lunch. Big Sky is relatively easy to access. It is a one hour drive from Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport, which has been expanding rapidly.
Big Sky is an aesthetically stunning ski resort with a ton of terrain for all abilities. It is slightly out of the way, which gives it a western, mountain vibe, but not so much that it is difficult to travel to. You can’t go wrong at Big Sky!
Silverton is a little different than most of the ski resorts in Colorado. It’s not on the I-70 corridor but instead is located down in the San Juan mountains, between Durango and Ouray. The other unique characteristic of Silverton is there is only one lift. That’s right, one lift, but don’t let that deter you. The Silverton experience is different from most ski areas because most of the season you are required to ski with a guide. But don’t worry, you pay for the guide when you reserve your lift ticket.
At the beginning of the day, you’re sorted into a group based on the terrain you want to ski, your ability level, and how fast you want to go. When you are assigned to a group and a guide, after a quick safety meeting, you ride up the old two-seater lift. From the top of the lift, most groups hike for 5-20 minutes. From there, get ready for some of the best turns of your season.
With their guide service and terrain management, Silverton is able to open and close off terrain (saving good snow!) so every guest gets to ski fresh pow, every day. After the mega-long powder run, you’ll get picked up by their shuttle bus and returned back to the lift for the next run. On a normal day, most groups get in four to six runs, which tells you just how long they are.
Silverton gives you a true personalized and custom experience, with a really high probability of skiing good snow. I can’t leave out the fact that the San Juans are some of the most beautiful mountains in the Lower 48. On a clear day you better watch your set because you won’t be able to take your eyes off the landscape. However, being in these huge, beautiful, less-traveled mountains comes at a small cost. Accommodations and dining opportunities are limited, and it is an hour drive from the Durango airport. If you are like me, can survive off burritos and beer, and care more about skiing than shopping, you won’t notice the only negative quality of Silverton.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole is another place you’ve probably heard of. It is huge and it is a resort. Jackson Hole has over 2500 skiable acres and 13 lifts, including the Aerial Tram. The tram rises over 4000 vertical feet in just nine minutes. Its capacity is usually 100 people (brought down to 25 due to COVID precautions). From Jackson Hole, you have views of the Grand Teton National Park and on a clear day, Yellowstone National Park.
Jackson Hole has amazingly steep, long groomers, as well as fantastic out-of-bounds access for skiers looking for more of an adventure. Keep in mind, backcountry terrain accessed from the ski area is still the backcountry, and everyone should have a beacon, shovel, and probe, and the knowledge to use them in case of an emergency.
The Jackson Hole ski resort is located in the Teton Village, which provides many services and lodging opportunities. While Teton Village is extremely expensive (even for a ski resort) the town of Jackson is priced slightly more moderately and has reasonable dining options. Jackson Hole is one of my favorite ski resorts in the U.S. because of the abundance of steep terrain, long runs, and wide variety.
Mt. Baker, Washington
Mt. Baker is home to the single season snowfall world record (1,140 inches). While every season may not be a record breaker, it sure does snow a lot. Mt. Baker is located 90 minutes east of Bellingham, Wash., which is a coastal city. Heavy maritime snowstorms roll off the Pacific Ocean and dump on the North Cascades. The snow at Mt. Baker is a little heavier than ski areas in continental climates (like the Rocky Mountains) but the quantity of snow is incredible. Frequent storms of multiple feet of snow create insanely large snowpacks, which unlocks terrain that wouldn’t be possible to ski otherwise.
There is very little mountain village or resort feeling to Mt. Baker. Lodging options exist but are limited compared to some of the other big name resorts, and they are not necessarily close to the mountain. Mt. Baker is not known for its groomers but instead its gnarly terrain and deep snow. The lifts are old and slow, which provide a very intimate experience with the mountain and the locals. The vibe at Mt. Baker is friendly, to say the least. It would be rare to encounter a skier who is not kind. I remember skipping class in high school while living in Seattle and driving three hours to Mt. Baker on serious powder days. If you plan on traveling to Mt. Baker, don’t forget your powder skis, as you will almost certainly need them.
Revelstoke, British Columbia
Revelstoke is known for its technical and steep terrain, abundance of snow, and crazy amount of vert. Revelstoke has 5620 feet of lift-accessed vertical terrain. It takes three lifts to get to the top. If you are skiing as fast as you possibly can, it will still take you at least 30 minutes to get from the top to the bottom. Not only is the vertical gain impressive for a ski resort, but the terrain is also challenging and steep. I remember the first time I skied at Revelstoke I was genuinely humbled. The hiking and out-of-bounds options are endless. The Stoke Chair brings you up to 7300 feet and accesses big steep bowls and technical chutes. While the town of Revelstoke has plenty of accommodations and dining options, it still has the small town mountain vibe many of us enjoy. If you like skiing steeps and technical terrain, Revelstoke won’t disappoint.
These are the five coolest places I’ve skied. I hope this helps you narrow down a destination for your next ski vacation. If you have any questions about our favorite ski spots or gear to bring along, reach out to a Curated expert for free, personalized advice. Please travel responsibly, have a great season, and pray for snow!