Let's start by stating the obvious: there are a lot of great ski resorts out there. Far more, even, than the 80 we put on our initial list when we set out to pick the top 50 in North America-which is why we asked for your help.
The results are in. Your participation did more than help us make unkind cuts and add color commentary. It showed an appreciation for just how many ways a resort can stand out, be it through a bustling base village, frequent powder days or a superb ski school for the kids.
Not surprisingly, those twin stalwarts of destination skiing, Colorado and Vermont, ran away with it. A perfect dozen from the Rocky Mountain State-including the number one spot-set the tone for resorts in western states: big. Big mountains with huge drops, sprawling ski areas that span multiple peaks, outsized terrain parks and endless buffets of winter activities and luxurious amenities.
Vermont's eight picks, while not as massive as their western counterparts, helped prove that the Rockies don't have a lock on great skiing. Old standbys like Stowe and Jay Peak were popular with voters, and picks like Smugglers' Notch, with its triple black diamond run, demonstrate that New England can satisfy even the most adrenaline-addicted powder junkie.
Not far behind was Utah, with seven picks-all within a few miles of each other. There was no higher concentration of incredible skiing and snowboarding on our list than in Utah's Wasatch range, which lies between Salt Lake City and Park City. This has to do, in large part, with the Utah's slogan, "The Greatest Snow on Earth." Many of these resorts average around 500 inches a year-that's over 41 feet-and as recently as 2011 some posted figures as high as 776 inches. You'd have to work very hard to run out of fresh powder there.
British Columbia's so-called "Powder Highway" gave the Canadian province a strong showing, independent of its mega-resort Whistler Blackcomb. The Lake Tahoe area of Northern California also notched three spots in the top 50.
In making the final list, we combined publicly available stats, other expert lists and-with added weight, of course-our own survey results.
Credit: Conor Walberg/Vail Resorts
#1 Vail (Vail, Colo.)
The second-largest resort in the U.S. is also America's favorite, at least by the numbers. It's no wonder: The wide variety of terrain spread out over Vail Mountain is enough to satisfy every level of skier and snowboarder. There are the miles and miles of groomed runs on the front side of the mountain, and for expert skiers there are the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin. "Take your pick if you love bowl skiing," wrote one reader. As a dedicated resort town, Vail Village is also a walkable, concentrated dose of gourmet dining, après-ski nightlife and shopping.
Credit: Deer Valley Resort
#2 Deer Valley (Park City, Utah)
"Luxury" is a word you often hear tossed around when describing Deer Valley. But while this resort is definitely an upscale choice in an area packed with choices-Alta, Snowbird, Park City and Canyons are all nearby-the quality of its skiing is as good as the service provided by its uniformed ski valets. True, the terrain isn't quite as challenging as Alta's or Snowbird's, but the immaculately groomed runs are uncrowded since Deer Valley limits the number of lift tickets sold and-a modern-day rarity-forbids snowboarding.
Credit: Flickr/Michael Wyzosmierski
#3 Telluride (Telluride, Colo.)
Serene and secluded, Telluride prides itself on its uncrowded trails, which include such famed terrain as Revelation Bowl, Palmyra Peak and Gold Hill Chutes. With everything from neatly groomed beginner runs to demanding downhill slopes and more than 2,000 skiable acres, the resort welcomes beginners and experts alike. Choose between hotel, condo, or vacation home lodging, spend your downtime with activities like free mountain tours, snowshoeing, and guided hikes, and at the end of an active day cash in on your complimentary chair massage at the Gorrono Ranch.
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