6 Of The Most Popular Ski Resorts To Avoid (And Where To Ski Instead)

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Image above appears courtesy: Red Mountain Resort

We get it. You only have so many trips available to you. While we won’t begrudge you if these behemoths in North America are a top priority to shred, we thought it would be fun to share some alternatives to the most popular ski resorts. In short, this isn’t the list of the most affordable ski resorts or a selection of our favorite non-Ikon or Epic pass holdouts. It’s rather a list of some of the most popular ski resorts to avoid and where to ski instead to find the same vibes at a less crowded destination.

For The Ski-Town Culture: Taos Not Aspen Snowmass

Learn more about Taos Ski Valley

2 skiers above cornice at Taos Ski Valley New Mexico looking at the top of the peak in winter
Image appears courtesy: Taos Ski Valley

Aspen has always been the hotbed of the ski-town scene. Après isn’t just a few brews but rather an extension to the high quality skiing available at the assortment of ski resorts. For those with a discerning palate and enjoy the good stuff in life, look no further than Taos. When it comes to snow quality, nobody can compete with them. In fact, the snow is so dry that it seems to be made of bird feathers (don’t worry – no birds were harmed in the making of the snow). Then finish the day strolling through the promenade and celebrate with a dish of New Mexican cuisine. A fusion of Pueblo culture (i.e. Apache, Navaho) with Hispano Spanish & Mexican, your tastebuds will be cheering from all the unique flavors.

Get Lost In The Woods: Red Mountain Resort Not Steamboat

Learn more about Red Mountain Resort

Powder day at Red Mountain Resort in Rossland British Columbia Canada featuring paradise chair
Powder day on the paradise chair – Image appears courtesy: Red Mountain Resort

There’s something special about tree skiing or jumping into glades. Once you head off the main trails and make your own path, you’ll become addicted. It’s true that Steamboat’s slopes feature some of the most famous tree skiing on the planet. But, with over a million people visiting annually, expect them to get tracked out pretty quickly. For those wanting to find deep, dry snow and a varied selection of tree skiing, look no further than Red Mountain. Experts will enjoy Captain Jack’s Trees & Beer Belly while intermediates will froth over the goods flanking the Paradise Lift. With over 3,850 acres to feast upon, there’s a reason why their motto is “the last, great unspoiled resort” and on our list of the best non-Ikon / Epic resorts.

For A Storm Day: Homewood, not Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows

Learn more about Homewood

Homewood Mountain Resort Snowboarder Powder Day Cheap Ski Resorts
DEEP Powder Day – Appears courtesy: Homewood Mountain Resort

Squaw has been the central beating heart of extreme skiing for decades. A place that pushed athletes like Shane McConkey to the forefront. As such, when the snow does fall, nearly every skier and snowboarder seem to come out of the woodwork within a 200-mile radius. On a busy powder day, expect A LOT of competition. And with minimal tree skiing, visibility on a storm day can be difficult. Skip the stress and head to the western side of Lake Tahoe to Homewood Mountain. The views are spectacular, and the terrain is off the hook! And on a storm day, Homewood offers some of the BEST sheltered glade skiing when the winds are a blowin’. And compared to the other resorts in Tahoe, you’ll have the powder pretty much to yourself. They also now feature cat skiing! It’s the only one-of-its-kind in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Local Freshies tip: If you’re staying on the south shore keep your eyes peeled on road closures. On massive storm days CalTrans shuts down the Emerald Bay segment due to avalanche concerns.

For Those That Need Leg Room: Big Sky Not Whistler

Learn more about Big Sky Resort

Skiers walking at Big Sky Resort Montana in winter with Lone Peak in background
Image appears courtesy: Big Sky Resort

Whistler is HUGE! Nearly 8,171 acres and 5,020 vertical feet of skiing & snowboarding available to you. But when you compare that to Big Sky with its 5,800+ acres and 4,350 vertical feet along with a 1 skier per acre average, it’s kinda hard to NOT want to visit Big Sky. From four mountain peaks to explore featuring more than 300 runs, featuring everything from steep chutes to smooth groomers, you’ll have lots of options if you do visit.

For The Steep n’ Deep: Revelstoke Not Jackson Hole

Sunny winter day at Revelstoke Mountain Resort British Columbia
Image appears courtesy: Revelstoke Mountain Resort – Photo taken by: Tom Poole

There’s a reason why Jackson’s residential home starting price is at a whopping cool million. Surrounded by not one but TWO national parks, stunning vistas of the Tetons, and with some of the best snow on the planet falling on the steep terrain, there really is nothing like it. But the secret’s out and lift lines continue to exponentially increase. Just like the original settlers heading West for space, it’s time to head north… to Revelstoke. Home to a vertical drop that’s bigger than Jackson’s, steep terrain that’ll challenge the hardiest folk, and over 480 inches of snow annually, this place is downright glorious. AND, if you have a bit more money in the bank, you can even get a few days of cat or heli skiing in.

For The Family: Sun Peaks Not Vail

Learn more about Sun Peaks Resort

Ski-through European village at Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops British Columbia at night with Christmas lights
Ski-through village at Sun Peaks Resort – Image appears courtesy: Sun Peaks Resort

Since its inception in the 60’s, Vail’s goal was to provide the ultimate in winter fun. Inspired by mountain towns in Bavaria, the village gives a nod to classic European alpine architecture, but at the same time, high-end luxury such as pedestrian-friendly heated streets. Just like Vail, Sun Peak’s village gives a nod to European-style buildings as well, although when most think of British Columbia their thoughts go to Whistler where it’s rowdy, rambunctious, and home to a maritime snowpack (i.e. heavy snow). Just a few hours east though, Sun Peaks provides a more relaxed atmosphere that caters to everyone in the family. Together with snow that is as light and dry as you’d find in places like Colorado blanketing the 4,270 acres, you’ll have plenty to explore.

Of course there are places like Jackson Hole that you NEED to ski once in your life, but after you do, it might be time to expand your horizons and check out some other locales that are a bit less crowded.

20 thoughts on “6 Of The Most Popular Ski Resorts To Avoid (And Where To Ski Instead)

  1. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions:
    1. Revelstoke is LOW and frequently gets rain & mush at the bottom (similar to Whistler) so don’t count on 5,000 vertical feet of powder. It’s more like 2,500’. Grand Targhee may be a better bet for out of the way powder
    2. The town of Taos is nowhere near the mountain. The Silver Queen gondola rises straight out of Aspen. It’s a great town, but not sure it really qualifies as a real ski town. Maybe Telluride fits the bill better…it certainly is out of the way.
    3. The recommendation for Sun Peaks is spot on. I’d add nearby Big White to the list as well. Wonderful ski-in, ski-out accommodation and lots of family activities other than skiing

  2. After so much anticipation, hated Steamboat, crowded, costly, and poorly laid out. Fernie was a far more enjoyable experience.

    1. John B. comment about Taos could not be more wrong!!! The town of Taos is only 15 mi from the Ski Valley… there are plenty of places either high$ fancy or bottom$ cheap to eat… your choice!!
      On the mountain, lift lines are practically non-existent… you keep going up & down almost no lines all the time, especially now with the express quad on the front of mountain and the Kachina lift in the back. People spread all over the mountain quickly… rare are days when you have lines…

      1. Hey Louis,

        Good to know! We’re actually heading down to Taos this January to experience it ourselves. The place looks amazing.

        1. Also, they offer a great package deal for lessons! Even though many people think that’s not fun, a friend of mine very reluctantly signed up and had a blast. Think of it as a mountain tour with a local to all the secret stashes, plus a few tips and a lot of fun.

  3. Yeah, Taos is a long winding drive from the ski resort (where there are scant few places to eat & drink). Also, there is essentially one long lift line to go up the mountain from the base which makes eating lunch even more of a problem. In these areas, Telluride far outscores Taos.

  4. On a powder day Revi is smoked out by 11am. Then after lunch all the locals go back to work.
    Sun Peaks still the place to visit, no crowds after the usual lift opening, great glade skiing and wide open cruisers.
    Big White is good but usually foggy.

    1. Hey Kathy,

      Unfortunately we haven’t gotten a chance to hit any Utah ski resorts hopefully in the coming years we’ll get a sponsorship to explore them. Until then, feel free to give us a suggestion on a ski area that you should visit instead of a popular one. 🙂

        1. I see what you’re doing here! Yes, by all means: everyone go to Tahoe for ridiculous weekend crowds and gloppy snow, and Colorado, for a whopping 300″ of annual snowfall, and a five-hour drive from hell –if you’re lucky–from DIA.
          Forget Utah!

  5. I agree, on a few of your assessments on places to ski, I have been skiing since 1955, living out west in Oregon, a lot of the areas you talk about are reachable in a long day or more drive. I think there are a few iconic places to ski, that should be on people’s bucket list, before they venture out to other areas you suggest.
    I list them in no particular order, my criteria is be based on history, skiing terrain, lift access, entertainment, food and lodging (all locations have minimal to luxury accommodations all within a short distance to the mountain
    *Sun Valley Idaho
    *Aspen Colo.
    Vail Colo
    Steamboat Springs
    *Telluride Colo
    *Alta Utah
    Snowbird Utah
    *Jackson Hole Wyo.
    Grand Targhee Wyo
    Big Sky Wyo.
    *Squaw Valley Ca
    Mammoth Mountain Ca.
    Kirkwood Ca.
    Mt Bailey Or (catskiing)
    Timberline Lodge Oregon ( summer skiing)
    *Whistler BC
    Sun Peaks BC
    Red Mountain BC
    (Many more, BC areas I haven’t been to) can’t compare.
    (Areas with an asterisk, a must ski location)

    1. Wow, Phil what a great list! Thanks for providing such an in-depth download of the best of the best of what you’ve skied.

  6. Whistler is the best resort I’ve skied for in bounds lift served steeps. A good day skiing is mostly the results of the weather and the type of snow it’s created it’s not always about the amenities

  7. Sun Valley, Idaho is a must for every dedicated skiier before you do the big bowl run into heaven. It oozes class and history. SV had the United States first – FIRST, chairlift. It had been rolling along years before even WW 2. But, it also has some of the longest, pure fall lines you’ll find. 3,200 feet vertical off the top.

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