For those of us who embrace winter’s icy winds and heavy snowfall, a ski vacation is the perfect getaway. The U.S. News ranking of the Best Ski Destinations in the USA weighs the most important considerations: accessibility, accommodations, acreage and annual snowfall, along with expert recommendations and readers’ top picks.
Taos Ski Valley (Taos, NM)
You won’t find a hopping après scene here, but that’s not the point. Tucked at 9,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of northern New Mexico, Taos Ski Valley is rugged and natural for the more adventurous inbounds skiers and boarders. You’ll have access to plenty of tame groomers over its 1,300 acres—though, more than 50 percent of the trails are rated to expert—but the draw here is the matrix of untouched bumps, rocks, and drops on unmatched hike-to terrain. That and the 300-plus days of New Mexico sunshine on top of 305 annual inches of snow. Trudge up to the Highline Ridge or 12,481-foot Kachina Peak for dozens of heart-hammering shots down steep chutes and over cornices.
Telluride (Telluride, CO)
Telluride, which boasts an impressive lift-served 3,845-foot vertical drop, 125 trails (the longest is 4.6 miles,) and three terrain parks, caters to experts and beginners alike. The timid can ride lifts to the highest peaks and score views generally left to the more intrepid—Telluride sits among the highest concentration of 14ers in North America—who will drop big vert with a little off-piste hiking to 13,320-foot Palmyra Peak. You’ll carve dry snow on the west-facing San Juan slopes and, when the light fails, a soulful après in Mountain Village.
Sun Valley (Sun Valley, ID)
America’s oldest ski resort—it’s in its 77th season—Sun Valley still manages to be a bit of a well-kept secret among locals. That means smaller crowds than big-name resorts and a pristine slope with more than 2,000 acres and a 3,400-foot drop at the edge of the Sawtooth National Forest. Plus, Sun Valley has some of the best resort Nordic trails in the country. The 220 inches of average snowfall is a tad scant, but friendly staff and superb on-mountain dining top most other resorts. Take the 56-car Roundhouse Gondola up to the fancy Roundhouse Restaurant on Bald Mountain’s summit for a Northwest lamb burger and long alpine views.
Deer Valley (Park City, UT)
Deer Valley, a skier-only resort, was an Olympic venue for the 2002 Winter Games, so you know it has cred, like 300 inches of snow in a typical year and 3,000 feet of vert. Plus, this season brings $8 million in improvements, like Mountaineer Express, a new high-speed quad lift, and expanded snowmaking capacity with low-energy guns. But Deer Valley is best known for its pampering luxury and fine dining, as well as its top-notch manicured grooming that will have you hurtling giddily down mountain.
Vail (Vail, CO)
First, the stats: 350 annual inches of snow, 3,500 vertical feet, 31 lifts, and 193 trails on more than 5,000 acres. Much of Vail’s terrain is expert class, and the steep back bowls—Sun Up, Siberia, China—are legendary. Vail’s Ski and Snowboard school is also top notch with workshops in Nordic and telemark styles, and Adventure Sessions match skiers with an expert guide for a day on the mountain. Throw in scores of stellar restaurants in the village and environmental efforts in the form of solar panels and reduced water use, and there’s little—aside from solitude—Vail doesn’t offer.