SKIING IN The USA

INTERESTING ACT NO. 4
INTERESTING ACT NO. 4

Highest chairlift in North America is Breckenridge’s Imperial Express Super Chair 12,840 ft (3,910m).

INTERESTING FACT NO 5
INTERESTING FACT NO 5

Snowbird has America’s only ski tunnel – 600 feet long with a magic carpet.

INTERESTING FACT NO.16
INTERESTING FACT NO.16

The first American woman to win an Olympic skiing gold medal was Gretchen Fraser, who won the gold in the slalom in 1948.

Overview

Choosing where to ski in the USA can be a daunting task. 427 ski areas (according to Wikipedia) are spread across almost every state and the diversity of offerings is huge. Whether you’re a family of beginners, a couple seeking a romantic escape or a powderhound looking for some serious adventure, there is something for everyone.

But regardless of your needs when you ski in the USA you will find resorts with great lifts, perfectly groomed slopes, friendly service and, if you’re lucky, some powder snow.

The best known resorts are in Colorado – where the Rocky Mountains provide a wide variety of terrain, great scenery and relatively reliable snowfalls. The resorts themselves range from the flashy (AspenBeaver Creek and Vail) to the laid back (Crested ButteBreckenridgeCopper Mountain, and Winter Park), to classic Western Cowboy towns (Telluride and Steamboat) that ooze with tradition and friendly vibes.

Then there’s Utah where powder is dry, fluffy and plentiful. If you’re the adventurous type who prefers extreme skiing head for Alta or Snowbird. Or if it’s nightlife, shopping, luxury and family activities that’s more your scene you’ll find the big resorts of Deer ValleyPark City and The Canyons are perfect.

No longer a secret, Jackson Hole, in Wyoming is consistently voted as a favourite of Scouts' (especially among more advanced skiers) owing to its steep terrain, vibrant après scene, spectacular mountains and huge dumps of snow. Alaska has always made a name for itself as the epitome of steep and deep, and Alyeska is an incredible spot to warm up for those bucket-list heli-ski adventures. Head onto Big Sky in Montana, and experience some of the best expert skiing in all of North America (even the most advanced skier will be shaking in their boots!), or shoot through to Idaho, where the sun is shining at Sun Valley and the ski resort is deep in tradition and history.

In California, the skiing takes on the personality of the whole state. The resorts here are friendly, fun and the sun shines often. That’s not to say they don’t get snow – Squaw Valley and Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe receive as much as the Utah and Wyoming resorts. With stunning lake views and skiing to match, the area’s other inpressive resorts (Heavenly, and Northstar) have something to suit every taste, ability level, and budget, or take the trip to Mammoth, where everything is bigger and better!

One thing is for certain, once you’ve had a taste of skiing in America, you will definitely want more.

Scout Picks

Best Resorts for Families:  Squaw ValleyHeavenlySteamboatDeer Valley

Best Powder: Jackson HoleAltaMammothSquaw Valley 

Best Places for Back & Sidecountry Skiing: AltaAspenBig SkyKirkwood

Best In-Resort Tree Skiing: MammothSquaw ValleySnowbirdHeavenly

Best Terrain Parks: Winter ParkAspenPark CityNorthstar

Best Resorts for an Authentic American Experience: TellurideSteamboatJackson HoleSun Valley

Resorts with Fewer Crowds: Big SkySun ValleyAlyeska

Best Value for Money: KirkwoodNorthstarBreckenridgeCrested ButteCopper Mountain

Best Restaurants & Nightlife:  HeavenlyPark CityVailAspen

What to Expect on the Slopes

The skiing and snowboarding experience in the USA is definitely memorable, and it will want you coming back for more every year. With so many resorts on offer across the country, you're sure to find one to cater to every ability level and style. At many of the resorts you’ll find plenty of runs for beginner and intermediates (think wide, perfectly groomed runs for cruising around), as well as plenty of black/double black runs to challenge even the most advanced skier. USA is renowned for its extreme skiing options and tree-skiing, and challenging verticals and steep pitches. However, almost all of the resorts have designated beginner and runs for those participating in lessons so you’re away from the crowds and in the best environment to learn. The ski school at the majority of the resorts are internationall renowned, with highly qualified instructors and a range of programs to suit everyone.

North America is known for its steep terrain, couloirs, and cliffs, with many resorts offering opportunities for more advanced skiers to explore off-piste, yet remain inside the resort boundaries. Backcountry is also a major drawcard for many resorts, and most offer affordable guiding services that include the required safety equipment (highly recommended for all skiers heading into the backcountry). For terrain park lovers, USA is home to some of the largest, most advanced, purpose-built terrain parks in the world, hosting a variety of international skiing and snowboarding events each season.

The chairlift infrastructure varies at each resort, however most have well developed on-snow facilities, with a wide variety of lift operations including gondolas and high-speed quads. Some of the resorts are yet to have a major overhaul of infrastructure, or are slowly upgrading their lift system, so expect a mix of modern and dinky chairs (this just adds to the charm of the resort).

During peak periods, lift lines are expected at many of the larger ski resorts. Especially over the school holiday periods in December and January, visitor numbers are at their peak. Avoid the crowds by travelling off-season, or heading to a lesser-known resort and explore somewhere new. Weekends can bring more crowds with most of the resorts within easy access from major towns and cities.

Resort Culture

Each ski resort in the USA offers a different experience for skiers, however, the majority of the resorts are well-developed, with world-class facilities that cater especially to ski holiday makers and families. Many are purpose-built resorts with all the bells and whistles, whilst others are rich in tradition and history, and are connected to local towns. If you’re after a happening après scene, you can't go past HeavenlyPark CityVail, or Aspen, with countless numbers of bars and local restaurants to explore each evening. If you're looking for a family friendly ski vacation with everything you need to keep every member of the clan happy, you can't go pass Squaw ValleyHeavenlySteamboat, and Deer Valley, with fantastic facilities and amenities to ensure a fun and hassle-free family ski holiday.

There are some resorts that offer a good mix of local culture and heritage alongside great skiing. These, such as TellurideSteamboatJackson Hole, and Sun Valley have historic mountain towns close-by for skiers to enjoy the local produce, shopping, non-skiing activities during their stay, and an authentic American ski-town vibe. Some resorts cater to those who are the most avid skiers, with incredible terrain but with fewer facilities and a less crowded après scene including Big Sky, and Alyeska

If you're after quick and easy access to the ski resort, with minimal travel time, there are plenty of options close to major cities, with reliable transfers to and from the resort area. Winter ParkAspenPark City and Breckenridge are within nice and close to the airport, with Park City claiming you can be on the slopes the same day you arrive into Salt Lake City. 

Services at the resorts are well catered to families, with a decent selection of shops where you can buy and rent ski gear, as well as ski schools with internationally certified instructors. Childcare is also easily provided at the majority of ski resorts. Many of the purpose-built ski resorts have endless options when it comes to retail shops, restaurants, and non-snow activities.

What it costs to ski in the USA

Skiing can be relatively affordable if you pick the right resort and right time to go. In recent years, the AUD has been relatively ho-hum against the USD, however, with many airline carriers flying direct to LAX, the price of flights have become better priced. Saying that, there is accommodation to suit every budget at most of the ski resorts, and even ski-in/ski-out options that won’t break the bank.

The price of lift tickets varies considerably between resorts, and we've seen an increase of lift tickets prices, ranging from $90 – $140 at the ticket office. However, taking advantage of the Early Bird offers and purchasing your lift tickets before you depart reduces the price considerably. Most of the resorts have great deals for families, with many ‘Kids Ski Free’ and ‘Free Kids Rentals’ offers throughout the season, and universal ‘Kids Under 6 Ski Free’, as well as multi-day discounts. Introduction of the Epic Pass and Mountain Collective have reduced the price for many skiers who spend longer periods of time on the slopes and visit multiple resorts. Read more about these options here.

Eating out and après can be relatively cheap or a bit pricey, depending on the resort. Happy Hour is always a good idea, and plenty of bars have cheap drink and snack deals. Generally, on-mountain restaurants and bars are more expensive than those in the nearby towns, so having self-contained accommodation and the ability to prepare your own meals is a great cost-saver.

To get the best deals, travel in non-holiday and non-peak periods, and book early, taking advantage of the best Early Bird Deals each season (up to 50% off accommodation, lift tickets, and transfers!).

Contact Scout to help find the best deals as part of a USA Ski Package.

Getting There & Around

LAX has hundreds of direct international flights, and is the major hub for interconnecting flights through to other cities. Depending on the resort of choice, an additional domestic flight is recommended, such as to Salt Lake city for the Utah resort and Denver for the Colorado resorts, and are reasonably priced.

Scheduled airport transfers are generally supplied by the ski resorts, and are usually comfortable and efficient. The longer transfers can seem daunting, however, the views of the Colorado Rockies and surrounding mountain ranges and valleys are incredible. Some inter-resort transfers are available between certain resorts, if you were keen for a day trip or multi-resort ski holiday. Greyhound Bus service is also another option for travellers who were wanting to explore a little further afield.

If you want to have some freedom to do a bit of travelling around, renting a car is very easy in the USA. It’s a great way to visit those resort a little further off the beaten track, and tick off the ultimate Colorado or Utah Roadtrip off your bucket list. Many companies allow you to pick-up from one location and drop-off at another, so you can visit multiple ski resorts along the way. Snow tyres, GPS, and roof racks are usually included, and experience with driving in snow is highly recommended. 

Weather & When to Go

Skiing in the USA can be incredibly cold, especially towards the start of the season in January. Temperatures in some of the more remote resorts can drop to almost -8 degrees during the day. Layering is important when skiing in the USA.

Some of the more popular resorts like Aspen, Steamboat, Park City, and Jackson Hole can be extremely crowded with Australian families over December and January. Expect long lift lines, and higher accommodation prices over these premium dates. Many lodging options are booked out more than 6 months in advance.

February is peak season for resorts in the USA when the snow is generally at its prime, however, travelling at the beginning of December and in March can still offer great snow conditions (and some decent snowfall), and lifts and accommodation prices are much less. Spring skiing and the additional apres ski in the sunshine is also a fantastic option for later in the season.

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