The 5 Most Underrated Ski Resorts
Tired of spending your ski days in long lift lines and traffic? Check out Ski Expert Hailey Gilmore's recommendations for 5 of the best ski resorts you've never heard of!
Nowadays, more of the population is getting into the sports of skiing and snowboarding, as we can see with the increase in multi-mountain season passes such as Ikon and Epic. The lines are getting longer, the prices are rising, and skiing has become more business-like in all aspects of the experience. This seems to make it harder to find a resort that feels authentic.
A lot of people look for the biggest resorts with the most amenities and other services. However, some of the most amazing and underrated resorts are small, family-style mountains that have the charm that skiing had “back in the day.” They’re places that remind you of skiing when you were young and when everything was simply about enjoying the skiing.
Although not easily found, these hidden gems still exist and are thriving because of their locals and regulars. Here are five underrated resorts you just may want to add to your bucket list this season.
Often overlooked because of its larger-than-life neighboring mountain, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Mountain is nestled within city limits of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Often referred to as the “Town Hill,” Snow King provides 400 skiable acres, three lifts (including the newly built gondola), a magic carpet, and 32 trails.
For as little as $75 a day, and $449 a year, you can take advantage of all Snow King has to offer—this includes the best views of the Grand Tetons via ski resort! Snow King not only offers skiing and some of the best views in town, but it also has additional activities that the whole family can enjoy for reasonable prices (something rare in Jackson Hole). Snow King offers scenic gondola rides, the Cowboy Coaster, and a tubing area! You can even purchase the “Big King Pass,” which grants you access to all of these amenities and skiing.
The “Town Hill” is known for being a wholesome family resort. It also played a large part in keeping people outside during the start of the pandemic, as its uphill skiing is unmatched in the area. This year, Snow King went through some major renovations, adding a gondola and opening the backside of the mountain — this simply adds to the draw of the mountain and the range of terrain for all abilities! Complete with a rental shop, restaurant, and hotel, this small mountain has it all for a fraction of the area’s prices.
Small but mighty should be this mountain’s motto. However, according to its website, its real mission is “to provide area youth and families with affordable skiing and snowboarding, lessons, and race training.” In 1998, Cochran’s Ski Area became the first 501(c)(3) tax-except (non-profit) ski area in North America, and its mission remains true to this day. Here, you really get a sense of what Vermont skiing used to feel like at this quaint New England legacy.
Cochran’s Ski Area boasts eight trails, 15 skiable acres, a T-bar and two rope tows. While there is only a 350-foot vertical drop, Cochran’s stays true to its mission by providing staggeringly cheap ticket prices. This includes Friday Night Lights, where skiing and a home-cooked meal is provided for five dollars! A season pass here only costs $295, and although its terrain is limited, Cochran’s legacy is not. Home to multiple Olympic athletes, including the five siblings who still run their family’s mountain to this day, you may get a glimpse of Olympic and World Cup ski racers during your visit. Only a 20-minute drive from Vermont’s most vibrant city, Burlington, this ski area is a must-ski while in the area.
Although Cochran’s may not have big back bowls or epic powder stashes, what you’ll gain from a visit here is a look back in time to how it felt to truly be a part of a community while skiing. To be skiing for the love of skiing, not just to tell stories of epic lines and big hits. This mountain will make you feel at home and remind you why you started skiing in the first place.
New Mexico might be best known for its desert landscape, petroglyphs, and caves. So unfortunately, most people may not know that it is also home to some epic skiing! Taos Ski Valley may get overlooked because of its location, or short proximity to Colorado, but this ski area is highly underrated.
When you first arrive at Taos, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a European ski resort, mostly due to the resort’s German, French, Austrian, and Swiss roots. With an average annual snowfall of 300 inches, this resort is no slouch! Boasting 1,294 acres of skiable terrain, 110 trails, and 15 lifts, you’re sure to find something for all levels and styles. It has everything from self described “pint-sized” lifts to the fourth-highest lift-served summit in North America. A week-day adult lift ticket will only run you $90 for access to all 1,294 acres of diverse terrain!
Only a short drive to the art mecca of Taos, New Mexico, you get the best of both worlds by being able to enjoy the warmth of the nearby desert and some of the best southwest skiing. Don’t pass on this hidden gem in the Land of Enchantment!
Another mountain overshadowed by its gargantuan neighbor to the East is Grand Targhee Resort. Only a short one-hour drive from Jackson, Wyoming, lies the home of Grand Targhee Resort, or “The Ghee.” At about half the vertical drop of Jackson Hole, this resort still has 2,602 acres of skiable terrain, five lifts (with plans to install more), and an average annual snowfall of over 500 inches, or 41 feet!
This underrated mountain is known for its deep, mellow terrain, short lift lines, and astonishing views of the Teton Range. The locals know that big storms get “stuck” in Teton Valley, generally leaving Targhee with more snow than all other mountains in the area. It has a widespread variety of terrain so that everyone in the family can be happy. Its base has plenty of slopeside food and drink options, close enough to ski up to the bar seating! Don’t want to bring your own gear? Great, Targhee has a full rental and tune shop ready to serve all your needs.
You can really get it all here — deep powder, short lift lines, and some of the best views of the Teton Range in Idaho! This resort just simply doesn’t get the attention or widespread love it deserves. At a fraction of the cost of its competitors, it’s worth every penny to trade in the big-time resorts for the flowy, deep terrain of “The Ghee.”
The small-town feel of an East Coast mountain finds its home in this Western resort. Powder Mountain, a little-known oasis in Eden, Utah, is a very unique find but has been around for 50 years. Although most people travel to Utah for larger resorts such as Alta, Snowbird, or Park City, Powder Mountain has 8,464 acres — the most of any resort in the United States. It also includes nine lifts and 154 trails, with something for all ability levels.
Powder Mountain is appropriately named, as its average annual snowfall is similar to that of Jackson Hole (known for its deep days), with 500 inches of the “Greatest Snow on Earth.” For $110, you can have a full-day ticket that serves all of those almost 9,000 acres! Powder Mountain is also part of the Indy Pass, a multi-mountain pass that serves many other small mountain resorts.
Here at Powder, the community wants to preserve a genuine ski experience that everyone is looking for these days. It does so by only allowing 1,500 people in per day, only expanding that number by 250 day passes on weekends and holidays. This sets Powder apart from most resorts, as we see the number of skiers increasing steadily with seemingly no stopping point at larger resorts such as Vail. Powder Mountain is a must-ski mountain; with its vast terrain, deep powder, and authentic New England feel, it is truly unmatched by any other resort in the West.
This year, as we see longer lift lines, higher prices, and angrier guests, it may be time to look for the smaller mountains. Often these larger ski destinations leave you feeling grumpy and wondering if it was worth the price. Maybe waiting in line, no matter how good the snow was, just isn’t worth it anymore. These overlooked mountains often have the same services, amenities, and similar terrain, but their marketing budget just might not stand up to that of larger corporations. Therefore, these places don’t get the love and attention they deserve, but you’ll find yourself more at peace after visiting them.
These mountains are the heart and soul of an ever-growing industry that’s becoming more and more corporate and soulless. Remind yourself of why you began skiing, what it feels like to be a child skiing for the first time, or just part of a community that truly loves being in the mountains — these hidden gems will help you do just that!
Planning on making the trip out to visit one of the resorts on this list or another personal favorite? Let us help you get geared up! Reach out to a Ski Expert on Curated and we can get you ready by offering personalized gear recommendations that are perfectly tailored to you!