Skier’s Pilgrimage: 10 of the World’s Best Ski Resorts

Getting Around By Timothy Nelson March 9, 2017

You’ve spent all fall tuning your equipment and obsessively checking the forecast for the first signs of snow. Now all that’s left to do is figure out where you’ll be shredding this season. Weekend warrior looking for a winter getaway or a certified ski bum obsessed with chasing the deepest powder, these winter sports meccas will have you booking flights and buying lift tickets before you know it.

1. Squaw Valley, California


Number of trails: 177+

Number of lifts: 30

Vertical feet: 2,850

Average annual snowfall: ~450 inches

Closest airport to Squaw Valley: Reno-Tahoe International Airport (~47 miles)

Several ski resorts ring the Nevada and California shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe, but Squaw Valley manages to rise above the rest. What sets Squaw apart is the hard-charging, fun-loving attitude of its locals. On powder days, Tahoe’s most hardcore skiers and riders queue up for the famous KT-22 lift before the sun even rises. That may sound crazy, but getting first tracks on thrilling trails like Nose, Moseley’s, and Chute 75 is more than worth the extra effort. Cheering on (or heckling) skiers from KT-22 as they launch over “the fingers” is part of the fun.

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2. Jackson Hole, Wyoming


Number of trails: 116

Number of lifts: 15

Vertical feet: 4,139

Average annual snowfall: ~459 inches

Closest airport to Jackson Hole: Jackson Hole Airport (~10 miles)

When a ski town has its own airport, that’s usually a sign that it’s worth visiting. Jackson Hole’s got steep and deep terrain that’ll make experts shake in their boots, but there’s still plenty of blue square runs for the more cautious skiers and snowboarders. Even if you don’t think you’re ready to drop into the infamously challenging Corbet’s Couloir, it’s worth taking the 100-person tram to the Rendezvous Mountain summit for some stunning views of the Grand Tetons.

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3. The I-70 Corridor, Colorado


Total trails: 437

Total lifts: 59

Most Vertical feet: 3,450 (Vail)

Average annual snowfall: ~317 inches

Closest airports to Summit County/Vail: Denver International Airport (~96 miles to Arapahoe Basin) or Eagle County Regional Airport (~35 miles to Vail)

Coloradoans love the outdoors, and skiing in the Rockies is perhaps their favorite pastime. Vail, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin are all on the Epic Pass, meaning you only need one ticket to sample some of the state’s best skiing. Vail’s back bowls are legendary, and the glades of Blue Sky Basin are a must-ski.

Head to Keystone’s A51 terrain park to practice your best tricks on jumps and rail features for every ability level. And with 15 runs of night skiing, the fun doesn’t end once the sun sets. No-frills “A-Basin” is known for its steep and challenging terrain, plus a late-season parking lot scene that turns a day at the slopes into a festive tailgate.

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4. Mad River Glen, Vermont


Number of trails: 45

Number of lifts: 4

Vertical feet: 2000

Average annual snowfall: ~250 inches

Closest Airport to Mad River Glen: Burlington International Airport (~30 miles)

Stubbornly old-school and proud of it, Vermont’s Mad River Glen harkens back to New England’s golden age of family-run ski hills. You won’t find much snowmaking — or any snowboarders — here, but what it lacks in modern conveniences is offset by it’s authentic charm. Home to one of the last remaining single chair ski lifts and some of the east coast’s most challenging woods trails, a day at Mad River Glen is like stepping out of a time machine.

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5. Whistler Blackcomb, Canada


Number of trails: Over 200

Number of lifts: 39

Vertical feet: 5,020 (Whistler peak); 5,133 (Blackcomb peak)

Average annual snowfall: ~402 inches

Closest Airport to Whistler Blackcomb: Vancouver International Airport (~84 miles)

As you’d expect from the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler Blackcomb offers a truly world-class skiing and snowboarding experience less than two hours from Vancouver. A majority of the trails are of intermediate difficulty, but there’s more than enough to sate the appetite of aggressive skiers and boarders. The area’s also known for its Blackcomb glacier, a high-altitude snowfield that stretches the season all the way into August.

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6. Alta and Snowbird, Utah


Number of trails: 116 (Alta); 169 (Snowbird)

Number of lifts: 7 (Alta); 11 (Snowbird)

Vertical feet: 2,020 (Alta); 3,240 (Snowbird)

Average annual snowfall: ~514 inches (Alta); ~500 inches (Snowbird)

Closest Airport: Salt Lake City International Airport (~35 miles)

Deep snow under an hour’s drive from a major airport? That’s exactly what the Wasatch Mountain resorts of Alta and Snowbird have to offer. Alta’s been a premier destination for powder hounds since 1939, and its 500-plus inches of annual snowfall makes for soft landings off of the Devil’s Castle cliffs. While Alta still doesn’t allow snowboarders, skiers can get a sweet deal with a single pass that provides additional access to Snowbird via the Mineral Bowl area.

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7. Portillo, Chile


Number of trails: 35

Number of lifts: 14

Vertical feet: 2,500

Average annual snowfall: ~291 inches

Closest Airport to Portillo: Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago (~95 miles)

If summertime leaves you feeling antsy without any skiing or snowboarding, a trip to Portillo might be just what the doctor ordered. Two hours from the Chilean capital of Santiago, this Andes resort is a true ski oasis during its winter season, which runs from June through October. This isolated spot doesn’t have much in the way of off-the-hill activities, but with plenty of steep, above-the-treeline trails, you won’t be too worried about a lack of après-ski options.  If you’re lucky, you might even share a lift ride with members of the U.S. Ski Team, who use Portillo as their summer on-snow training headquarters.

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8. Niseko, Japan


Number of trails: 30

Number of lifts: 16

Vertical feet: 3,084

Average annual snowfall: ~595 inches

Closest Airport to Niseko: New Chitose International Airport (~71 miles)

The connected resorts on Niseko Annupuri (Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village, and An’nupuri) have some of the lightest, driest, and deepest powder you’ll find anywhere in the world. While there’s ample inbounds terrain for all ability levels, the off-piste action is where Niseko really shines. Once you step through one of the 11 backcountry gates to slash your way through untracked, waist-deep snow, you’ll know exactly why skiers and snowboarders from all over the world dream of checking this Hokkaido hotspot off of their bucket list.

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9. Les Trois Vallées, France


Number of trails: 335

Number of lifts: 183

Most Veritcal feet: 4,490 (Val Thorens)

Average annual snowfall: ~211 inches

Closest Airport to Les Trois Vallées: Chambéry Airport (~65 miles)  

Eight interlinked resorts make up Les Trois Vallées in and around Savoie, France. From the chic slopes of Courchevel to the high-altitude action of Val Thorens, there’s something for every type of vacationer to enjoy. Thanks to a wealth of trails and lifts linking the valley’s resorts (which are all on the same lift ticket), a trip to the Trois Vallées feels like visiting the world’s biggest outdoor playground.

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10. Gulmarg, India


Number of trails:Infinite

Number of lifts: 6

Vertical feet: 4,363

Average annual snowfall: ~550 inches

Closest Airport to Gulmarg: Sringar International Airport (~35 miles)

India probably doesn’t come to mind as a winter sports destination, but the high Himalayan peaks of Gulmarg insist otherwise. Popular among the Bollywood set, this resort in the Kashmir region has conditions and terrain that rival some of the best ski resorts in the world. Once you step out of Gulmarg’s famous gondola at 12,959 feet above sea level, a winter paradise of wide open trails and deep powder awaits.

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Looking for some off-the-slopes adventure? Check out our list of trips around the globe for adrenaline junkies.