The Best President’s Day Weekend Ski and Snowboard Destinations
Looking to book a trip for next President's Day Weekend, but not sure where to go? Check out these four recommendations from Ski Expert Zachary Simon!
President’s Day weekend is an obvious opportunity to explore new resorts over a long weekend of February fun. By the time Washington’s birthday rolls around, there have been enough storm cycles to build up a solid snowpack, opening up more terrain and helping to prevent those dreaded core shots on the base of your favorite skis or snowboard. While many snow lovers think of Christmas and the New Year as the perfect time of year for a ski getaway, the early season snow conditions, as well as added crowds and cost of holiday snow-cations, can put a damper on late-December ski plans. But for those willing to wait, President’s Day weekend (as well as MLK Day weekend) offers the perfect chance to snag some turns on wide-open slopes at ski resorts across the United States.
There are some additional considerations when trying to cram so much fun into a three-day weekend, so start planning now to get the most out of your trip.
If you are lucky enough to have world-class resorts within driving distance that you haven’t explored yet, President’s Day is a great time to hit the road and try something new. For the rest of us, we’ll most likely be hopping on a plane to start our adventures. While flying for snow can seem daunting, there are ways to ensure your travels are as buttery-smooth as the latest Candide Thovex video. In fact, flying can be less stressful and more efficient than sitting in your car for hours, waiting for a pass to re-open after avalanche control work or a twenty-car pile-up.
So, regardless of where you fly, here are a few things to consider:
- If you don’t feel like lugging all of your gear to the airport and dealing with checked bags, consider demoing a new board or pair of skis once you arrive. A weekend at a new resort is a great time to test out a potential upgrade to your setup.
- If you have PTO or flexibility at work, pad the three-day weekend with some additional time off. Not only does an extra Friday or Tuesday of vacation open up more time for skiing or boarding, but it can also be the secret to unlocking cheaper flights and more destinations!
- Check to see if there are any lift ticket or season pass bargains available at that resort you’ve been dreaming of shredding. Epic Pass and Ikon Pass holders are keenly aware of the ever-changing landscape of these deals. But even for the rest of us, it’s worth shopping around—many resorts offer discount passes that can make one destination stand out as an offer that’s too good to pass up. These deals often come with a few conditions, so study up as they may ask you to buy a pass far in advance of your trip, require you to live in a certain state, or prohibit you from using them on the busiest days.
Don’t get hung up on those details yet though, the first step is to decide on your destination.
Broadly speaking, I break airports with excellent skiing access into two categories. The first is smaller airports in resort towns that cater almost exclusively to winter sports enthusiasts. The second is larger airports in bigger cities that just happen to be located amidst incredible mountains and tons of snow. In reality, every option you consider will be somewhere between the range of these two extremes. Still, it’s worth considering the pros and cons of each side of this spectrum.
The first group of smaller airports is often served by only one airline (or two if you’re lucky!). Since this airline doesn’t have a lot of competition, you can expect to pay a premium for landing so close to the slopes. While the airline schedules at these destinations are often tailored to get you on the slopes as quickly as possible and whisk you home seamlessly, you may have to connect through the airline’s hub airport and be prepared for less flexibility when it comes to travel times. However, once you touch down, you’re typically looking at a convenient shuttle bus service straight to the lifts and lodging without the need for car rentals.
The second group of larger airports is typically served by many different airlines, so not only do you usually pay less for flights but there are also more options in terms of departure times and direct flights. However, once on the ground at your destination, you are typically further away from the lifts. So while public transportation and hotel shuttles may be available, you will most likely need to rent a car, especially if you are staying in an Airbnb or short-term vacation rental.
This guide will focus more on destinations in the second category because the cost and convenience make them more accessible to most people. That’s not to say you can’t have an incredible weekend at Mammoth Mountain or Jackson Hole, but it takes an extra bit of planning to pull off. Now, in no particular order are my top spots for a Presidents Day weekend ski or snowboard getaway.
Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Range
Home to a Delta Airlines hub, this sprawling metropolis has the infrastructure and amenities to serve as the perfect home base for a long weekend of adventures. And with so many great resorts right in SLC’s backyard, you won’t have to go far to find legendary terrain and champagne powder once you touch down.
Little Cottonwood Canyon boasts the legendary slopes of Alta and Snowbird. Don’t let the name fool you, Alta and Snowbird boast some of the rowdiest terrain and biggest vertical drops around. Skiers can buy a combined lift ticket and explore both resorts, but snowboarders are only welcome at Snowbird, as Alta is one of the few remaining resorts that doesn’t allow snowboarders.
Big Cottonwood Canyon is home to Brighton and Solitude, two more great resort options for world-class turns minutes from the city. Solitude’s relatively advanced terrain is similar to that of Alta and Snowbird, while Brighton offers a mix of terrain more suited for intermediate skiers and perfect for families.
A bit further out from the city are some of the most luxurious and exclusive resorts in the country. If you want to avoid the weekend rush of SLC locals up to the LCC and BCC resorts, you still have plenty of options. Park City, Deer Valley, and Sundance resorts, while famous for their legendary Wasatch powder and sprawling terrain, also host some of the best fine dining and ski-in-ski-out accommodations around. If you’re seeking a more secluded destination, these resorts are still easily accessible from the big city, but they feel a world away.
For those looking to stick to the East Coast for their snowy vacation, there’s no need to fly across the country for President’s Day fun. Burlington, Vermont is the go-to home base for winter exploration east of the Mississippi.
Within half an hour’s drive from the city are Bolton Valley and Cochran’s ski area. Another half-hour of driving will get you to Mad River Glen and Stowe, while Killington and Jay Peak are each an hour and a half away. The huge selection of legendary terrain just a short hop from town makes Burlington the perfect spot to access the best the East Coast has to offer. Burlington International Airport offers plenty of reasonably priced flights for easy connectivity up and down the eastern United States.
While Burlington isn’t exactly known for its hustle and bustle (it’s the smallest city to also be the largest city in its state!), those searching for more of a relaxed, small-town feel don’t need to go far. Stowe and Smugglers’ Notch are both a short drive away and offer a cozy respite only feet from the lifts.
So whether you opt to stay in the “big” city or one of Vermont’s endless stash of hidden gems like Sugarbush, starting your adventure from Burlington is the perfect way to access the best the East Coast has to offer without braving a seven-hour drive.
Vail and the Eagle County Regional Airport
It’s hard to think of a more iconic ski or snowboard destination than the Colorado Rockies; with an endless list of world-class resorts and legendary snow, there’s more than a lifetime’s worth of fun to be had exploring all this state has to offer. But knowing how to make the best of a short trip is key to getting the most turns in during your stay.
Anyone who has braved a weekend trip up I-70 from Denver will tell you the experience isn’t much of a vacation. The cheap, plentiful flights to Denver may seem tempting, but they’re not such a great deal once you factor in the drive.
For a seamless, stress-free experience once your flight touches down, Eagle County Regional Airport offers plenty of flights from all over the country and easy access to the heart of the Rockies. While Eagle County Airport bills itself as the “Vail” airport, don’t let that fool you: Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Copper Mountain are all a short rental car or shuttle bus ride away.
Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada
Even if you don’t plan on hitting the blackjack tables in the “Biggest Little City in the World,” Reno, Nevada is perfectly situated for skiers and snowboarders to reach the slopes surrounding Lake Tahoe, all just a short drive to the west.
Lodging in Reno is cheap and plentiful, and you won’t be far from the slopes. However, staying in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, or any of the other towns encircling the lake will get you closer to the chairlifts and make your whole trip feel like a true Sierra getaway. Whether you stay in Reno or up at lake level, driving will be much easier than the traffic-snarled trek east from California’s Central Valley that many Tahoe fans are intimately familiar with.
From the city of Reno, the most accessible turns to be found are at Mt. Rose. Instantly visible from downtown Reno, Mt. Rose Ski Area is actually on Slide Mountain; Mt. Rose proper is a couple of miles away. Known for its steep chutes and excellent snow conditions, Mt. Rose may be less famous than some of its neighboring resorts, but visitors often overlook it to their own peril.
For those staying in Truckee and in most lodging on the north side of the Lake, recently renamed Palisades Tahoe provides easy access to iconic Tahoe views and endless terrain. With bowl after bowl of steep powder stashes and Tahoe legends like KT-22, it may seem like Palisades is more suited for advanced skiers. But don’t let the mythic nature of this beast scare you away; there are tons of groomers and playful intermediate terrain, all with the same panoramic alpine views that the experts enjoy.
On the south end of the lake, Heavenly is home to the most skiable acres of any Lake Tahoe resort and a mile of vertical drop. With chair lifts picking skiers and snowboarders up just down the street from the lake in South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly whisks skiers up to the highest slopes in Lake Tahoe where they’ll be treated to breathtaking views and acres of terrain for anyone from park rats to mogul champs, and everyone in between.
Regardless of whether you spend the whole weekend at one destination or spread your vacation over the numerous resorts ringing the lake, Reno and Lake Tahoe are guaranteed to give you the ample opportunities for great snow, unending geography, and showstopping scenery that the Sierra Nevada are known for.
Now That We Got It, Let’s Get It
Now that you’re up to speed on the best spots for a quick weekend of snowy fun, be sure you’ve got the gear to keep you cruising comfortably all vacation long. Curated has Winter Sports Experts ready to help you find the perfect setup for your next adventure. Whether you’re chasing powder in Colorado and need more floatation, or you’re interested in tackling the backcountry for the first time, we have knowledgeable, friendly gear nerds standing by to work with you and find the ideal gear for your next big trip.