8 Of The Most Popular Ski Resorts To Avoid (And Where To Go On Your Ski Trips Instead)

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

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 are the best places to go on your ski trips 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 for one of your ski trips. 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, Navajo) with Hispano Spanish & Mexican, your tastebuds will be cheering from all the unique flavors.

For The Powder Hound: Powder Mountain Not Snowbird

Learn more about Powder Mountain

powder mountain on a DEEP powder day showing why it's one of the best places to ski
Image appears courtesy: Powder Mountain Resort

The terrain at Snowbird is amazing. Yes, the snow is deep. The problem is everyone in Salt Lake City knows it and that attracts skiers like bees to honey on a powder day. Not to mention every year the traffic to little Cottonwood Canyon has gotten worse and worse. If you want to enjoy the legendary deep snowfall but without the masses, head to Powder Mountain. First, Powder Mountain only releases 1,500 daily lift tickets. Second, it isn’t on the Epic or Ikon Pass. And lastly, there’s over 8,464 skiable acres to explore, if you’re willing to put in some hiking. Be forewarned! While the ski area’s village isn’t developed just yet, it’s only a matter of time before the major Summit Village is unveiled.

 

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 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 why we think it’s one of the best places to go for one of your ski trips.

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 beating heart of extreme skiing for decades. A place that pushed athletes like Shane McConkey to the forefront. So, when the snow does fall, nearly every skier and snowboarder seems to come out of the woodwork within a 200-mile radius. On a busy powder day, expect A LOT of competition at one of the most popular ski resorts in North America. 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 storm days won’t be a problem. Homewood offers some of the BEST sheltered glade skiing when the winds are blowing. 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 and why we find it one of the best places to ski on a powder day for one of your Tahoe ski trips.

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.

New England-Style Skiing: Smugglers’ Notch Not Stowe

Learn more about Smuggler’s Notch

A beautiful snowy day at Smugglers Notch one of the best places to ski in the East
Image appears courtesy: Smugglers’ Notch Resort

Stowe is the true embodiment of what people envision as a pretty New England ski town. Mount Mansfield, the tallest peak in Vermont, looms over the valley. It has a gorgeous bar at the summit and a grand resort hotel too. Heck, it’s even dubbed the Ski Capital Of The East and rightfully so due to the famed “front four” classic New England ski trails staring you down. Unfortunately, with it joining Epic, everyone else knows that too.

 

A better option if you still want to take in the culture but avoid the masses is to head over to its smaller neighbor, Smuggler’s Notch, who is still fiercely independent. Mount Mansfield still presides over Smuggs. The three inter-connected peaks provide 2,610 vertical feet of skiing across 1,000 acres. You can still find advanced and technical fall line skiing on Madonna Mountain. Enjoy and sample the sweet New England Maple-y glades. And the village of Smuggler’s Notch oozes that Vermont charm with a few less of those Wall Street brokers you’ll find in Stowe making it one of the best for one of your ski trips.

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. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular ski resorts. 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 showing why it's a great alternative compared to the most popular ski resorts
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 on one of your ski trips.

 

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. And that’s why we think it’s one of the best places to go for one of your family ski trips.

 

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. For more about indy ski areas that feel less corporate, tips on when to visit certain ski areas, or even what gear to pack for a vacation head over to our in-depth guide:

53 thoughts on “8 Of The Most Popular Ski Resorts To Avoid (And Where To Go On Your Ski Trips 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

    1. Hi James,
      Regarding your #3: Don’t forget Silver Star and Apex. They are all close by Sun Peaks and Big White with best in ski-in, ski-out accommodation and good family vibe.

      1. Silver Star Resort is the BEST!
        GREAT snow, fabulous accommodations, and the most quaint village ever. The community spirit is all around but there is still privacy. LOVE IT ❤️

    2. NObody seems to be familiar with Kicking Horse. If you don’t like Revelstoke, go a bit east and ski Kicking Horse. High terrain, awesome snow. Cool little town. And it will give you everything you’re looking for….steeps and deeps.

      Red is fantastic. Taos is far from town but it’s worth it.

      In today’s ski world, getting way out there is probably your best bet. Anyplace easy to get to is going to be packed.

  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.

        2. Taos *IS* amazing. And it must be even more so no that Kachina is no longer hike to only. Do yourself a favor and read the book about Ernie Blake and the making of Taos Ski Valley. It was in my condo when I drive down there from Denver and spent a week. Ernie really thought that everyone would become experts by booking ski weeks with lessons every day. So he set out to find a mountain that would not bore all of these experts that never really materialized. Make sure you ski Longhorn earlier in the day. That trail is relentless and you need to have enough left in the tank for it!

          Ski Pioneers: Ernie Blake, His Friends, & the Making of Taos Ski Valley https://www.amazon.com/dp/1560441577/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_pe8FFbXBKX6PW

          1. Hey Jonathan,

            After visiting there last winter I’m in 100% agreement. The place is amazing. So unique, so refreshing. From an overall experience it’s definitely in our top 10.

  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!

        2. All I can say is don’t visit alta leave it be I promise you guys won’t like it a bit. I’m telling you again stay away you won’t like the snow or the people. I promise it is to steep for you.

      1. Try Snowbasin near Ogden. Closer to SLC than Powder Mtn. Food is great. Skiing fantastic. Views at the top are magical. No place to stay is a big negative. A fun, fun mountain at all levels. Site of the 2002 Olympic alpine events.

          1. Another Place also overlooked and forgotten is Sundance. Redford’s Ranch, good terrain, excellent food. A true unique experience. Very intimate.

      2. Try Beaver Mountain in Northern Utah. A local favorite of the beaten path and some fantastic terrain. Also there is another one often over looked ski resort in Southern Utah, it is Eagle Point Resort. No people and great terrain. Well worth the visit!

    2. Stop going during holiday week! Whining about Steamboat? If you ski the groomers near the base it’ll be crowded and boring. Plus you can imbibe some good stuff while you’re on vacation. Hint. Hint. 😜 😜

    3. Cottonwood canyons are overrun on weekends since joining Epic and IKON pass unions. Solitude is no longer just that. Two lane winding roads in and out of both canyons and tricky parking can leave you stranded for hours at end of a heavy snow day if you need to get down to SLC afterwards. Ustabee a favorite destination til last year.

  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.

  8. Whistler / Blackcomb resort has two mtns one with 5040 ft vertical and Blackcomb 5280 1mile vertical. Ive skied since 1966 im old. I judge resorts by how many days i can ski and still find new runs.At Whistler /Blackcomb you need a week to start.

    1. Brian,

      We totally get that and if that’s important to you then Whistler/Blackcomb is a great option. For us it comes down to people… the less people the better the experience the longer the snow lasts. Slow lifts + no people + lots of continuous snowfall = our heaven.

  9. Powder Mountain is horrible !
    slow lifts & a rope tow ??
    lousy food and crappy snow cats – –
    don’t go there

    1. Hey Rick,

      You’re correct. Since this is a long-term view we assumed that the borders will open in the future. Fingers crossed that maybe in March? We’re natural optimists. 🙂

  10. I would leave a list ….but then I would have to shoot you! LOL Of the ones mentioned out west, Mammoth (mid week) is still one of my favorites for the terrain.
    Not mentioned:
    Mt Bachelor , Bend OR….though its getting crowded now, is amazing on a sunny day when the top is open
    Mt Rose, Lake Tahoe
    Schweitzer… on a good pow day…yum
    Grand Targee for a laid back vibe and great pow
    I think Revi is over rated for the remote location…..KH …shhh
    Also Banff/Sunshine….the Goat Eye lift. great terrain and Lake Louise (mid week) stunning views and great variety of terrain
    There is more , but I can’t give away all my secrets

    1. Hey Chris,

      Great list and I totally agree with all your knowledge on the resorts. Been to Lake Louise Mid-week and I was in total shock. It’s like Taos snow meets above treeline skiing. Definitely a must ski for everyone.

    1. We’re life-long optimists and while you’re right that 3 out of the 8 are across the border hopefully this winter it’s merely a “blip” and we’ll be able to travel north sooner rather than later. 🙂 At a minimum we got 5 resorts to check this winter and finish it off with the other 3 next season.

      1. I count 4 in US and 4 in Canada. And am also hopeful that things will improve but also thought Canada would allow me to visit our cottage by July….guessing there are some Canadian snowbirds that now share my displeasure. Looks like La Niña will favor the North so hopefully all of us will be happy.

        1. First, let me say that I appreciate you checking out our website and putting in the time to comment that really means a lot for both my wife and I. In regards to Canada we know EXACTLY how you feel. Jaime and I were supposed to go back up to Baldface Lodge in Nelson this year for our 5 year wedding anniversary and it’s been cancelled. 🙁

          I could be cross-eyed but this is what I have right now:
          US Picks:
          Taos
          Powder Mountain
          Homewood
          Smuggler’s Notch
          Big Sky (not Whistler)

          Canada:
          Red Mountain
          Revvy
          Sun Peaks

          Lastly, have you checked out our Plan B list for this winter? And keep your ski tips up. 🙂

  11. Got it, apologies. Have not (yet) made it to Smugs, Sun Peaks or Homewood but love Stowe, Big Sky (and Whistler), Alpine Meadows and the Bird (wife does not since experiencing washboard on Cirque Traverse, she does like Vail). Nelson great too….Thanks for your forum, will look for plan b; stay positive, test negative.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *