Best Ski Resorts for the Least Crowds & Lift Lines
May 12, 2020
Heading off-the-beaten path not only usually brings fantastic snow conditions, but also less skiers on the slopes and less time spent in those pesky lift lines. Whether it is the resort's more remote location or extensive terrain with plenty of space to spread out, here are Scout's top picks for the best ski resorts with the least crowds and no lift lines that are sure to be at the top of your next must-ski list.
A simple day trip from Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee offers endless high alpine bowls, as well as 600 acres of cat serviced terrain and limitless backcountry accessibility. It's a wonder that Grand Targhee remains under the radar, as it has fantastic terrain for all ability levels, and receives more snow than many resorts in the US. Here you will find barely any lift lines and plenty of opportunities to enjoy those waist-deep powder pockets!
Head Southwest in Colorado and you'll find the stunning San Juan Mountains and the Wolf Creek Ski Area. One of the oldest resorts in Colorado, it is known for its deep-powder skiing and friendly atmosphere, as well as distinct lack of crowds. Enjoy over 1600acres of skiable terrain, with plenty of bowl skiing (and even cat skiing!) and over 430 inches of snowfall annually (it is trademarked as the most snow in Colorado!). Don't expect all the bells and whistles of a large purpose built Colorado resort, but you can expect no lift lines and plenty of snow to go around. It's the perfect addition to a Colorado roadtrip!
Crested Butte is one of Scout's favourite ski resorts in Colorado. Its off-the-beaten-path location means no crowds, no lift lines and plenty of powder for everyone to share. A relatively small resort (at only 1167 acres) compared to others in the US, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in the complete absence of crowds and no lift lines. Scout skied Crested Butte the day after President's Day Weekend, and there were no lift lines to be seen!
Head down the famous Powder Highway and you'll find one of the hidden gems of BC - Whitewater ski resort. There's no glitz or glamour to be found, nor lift lines or crowds, which is one of the reasons we love this part of Canada. Renowned for it's consistent snowfall and epic powder days, Whitewater is a community ski resort - simple but perfect for real powder skiers and families who want to escape the larger (and busier) ski resorts in BC.
Panorama is not only one of our favourite ski resorts for families in Canada - it is also one of the quietest in terms of crowds and lift lines. Boasting almost 3000 acres of terrain, including the monstrous hike-to and cat-accessible bowls, and long wide groomers that interconnect seamlessly, skiers are spread evenly across the resort (you'll often find yourself on a run all by yourself!). Being a little further from Calgary than the Banff resorts, you can expect a quieter base area, fewer people in your ski lesson, and no lines at the all-important lunch time!
Big Sky is home to the ‘Biggest Skiing in America’ – which it can legitimately claim (based on vertical feet and skiable area). Bigger in this case definitely means better in terms of space for skiers! With over 23 chairlifts, skiers are ferried quickly and efficiently, with plenty of snow to go around. The resort area is not overly developed, with only a handful of lodging options and purpose-built facilities at the base (and no downtown mountain areas), which keeps the number of visitors limited. Being located in southwest Montana, it is only about an hour from Bozeman (easy to get to) but has remained a relatively 'local's mountain.
Being officially the second largest ski resort in Canada, Sun Peaks offers plenty of snow (and space!) for skiers in BC. The ski area itself is spread across two main mountains with endless ridges, valleys and bowls, and the super efficient lift system (and layout of each of the runs) means skiers are dispersed quickly and evenly (hello no more lift lines!). Plus, if you're a cross country fan, Sun Peaks has over 34km of groomed cross country trails to explore.
Another resort in BC that is perfect for those who like a little more space to ski is SilverStar. It often flies under the radar thanks to it's larger (and more popular) sister resort, Big White, being located so close, which means skiers are spoilt with nice and long empty groomers and not having to fight for those first tracks. Silver Star is rarely crowded. The village may have a hustle and bustle in the mornings with ski school check-in along the main strip, but this is far from the case on the slopes. Having a vast spread of terrain across all four mountain faces means skiers are evenly dispersed and lift lines are minimal. It is also home to the largest network of cross-country trails in Canada!
Of the resorts in Europe, Cervinia would be our top pick for the best resort with least lift lines and crowds. Firstly, the terrain is serviced by a super fast and efficient lift system (including chairs, gondola and the Plateau Rosa cable car), which eliminates any waiting time. The area is smaller than other resorts, with only 350km of runs, however, the slopes are mainly long and wide (and well groomed), easy to navigate and well-connected, so skiers aren't funnelling into only a few chairs. Being connected to Zermatt also adds a whole lot more terrain, and advanced skiers tend to head over there for a better selection of runs - it is connected in two places also, so the trek back to Cervinia at the end of the day is fast and easy.
The fact that Portillo only allows a maximum of 450 guests at the resort at any given time, means it definitely makes the list of our best ski resorts for no crowds and least lift lines! The resort itself is serviced by 14 lifts, including several of the infamous Va et Vient; a high speed poma able to transport 5 skiers at a time, sling-shotting them up steep short slopes - lift lines are virtually non-existent! The beginner and intermediate runs are long and wide, and there's definitely no fighting for the fresh powder that can be found in the wide-open bowls, rocky chutes, and incredible off-piste skiing on offer at Portillo.
Being the first resort in the world to have a ski lift, Sun Valley is ironically also home to no lift lines! The ski terrain here is expansive and varied, but the real highlight is the long, wide and often steep groomers that are crowd-free. Sun Valley has excellent grooming and snowmaking, and the lifts are fast and well-positioned to make the most of different parts of the mountain. Plus, there is an entire separate mountain for beginners to cut their teeth without being bombed by advanced skiers (or having to dodge first-timers as you make your way down the slopes).
There are many reasons why skiers are "Happy in Appi", and the lack of crowds and lift lines are two of these! Being a purpose-built ski resort, all the facilities and services on offer at Appi Kogen provide an almost carefree skier experience. The lift infrastructure is fast and efficient and allows easy access to the vast terrain, with no waiting in pesky lift lines. Beginner slopes are situated lower mountain, allowing the upper and off-piste skiing areas to be crowd-free. If you're lucky to score a powder day at Appi Kogen, you can be sure you won't need to fight for first tracks!
Being a lesser known resort in Japan, skiers will be spoilt with empty groomers and non-existent lift lines at Shizukuishi. A lack of Western influence and development means you aren't fighting other international visitors for first tracks in the fantastic Japanese snow. The chairlifts are old and slow, and the hotels and facilities are seemingly stuck in the 80's, but this means it draws the hardcore skiers and eliminates vast crowds of visitors each season. For something new and a change from the typical larger resorts in Japan (and for more time spent on snow than in a chairlift line!), Shizukuishi is a top choice.