November 5, 2012

Going skiing is an effort. There’s the online hunt for tickets and reservations, the recruiting of partners in crime, the cramming of bulky gear into its casing, the drive up, the checking in, the suiting up, the snapping in. Not to mention the cost: Skiing and riding are among the most expensive of sports.

But if you’re the type who’s never been deterred by the energy it takes to get out there—and if you’re reading this, you very likely are—you know that all that fuss is, of course, worth it. Your reimbursement comes in the form of crisp air, the smell of a snow-blanketed pine forest, classical-crescendo-inspiring views, the crunch of fresh powder underfoot. And, more than anything else, the unmatched rush of carving your way downhill, leaving nothing but fresh tracks behind.

There’s that good après stuff too: Sharing a hot or liquored drink and hearty food with flush-cheeked friends and strangers, then lowering yourself onto a massage table or into a steaming hot tub can cap off a damn near perfect day.

Still, you don’t want to waste the effort of putting together a ski trip on just anyplace. So here’s our thorough ranking of spots where the haul of getting on the hill is likely to pay off with dividends. To create it, we developed a long scoring key to measure a mess of factors, from snow conditions, terrain quality, and ski-related amenities to affordability, safety, and level of service. We also looked at lodging options, off-hill recreational offerings, and the après-ski scene. Finally, we asked whether a resort takes responsibility for its environmental impact—because it’s pure hypocrisy for an industry so dependent on climate, so inspired by mountain grandeur, to degrade nature.

The result of all that research is this list. Use it as your hack to figuring out which mountains are right for you. You’ll notice that these span a spectrum from frou-frou fancy to no-frills basic: At some places, all there is to do is ski and ride; at others, there’s so much else that the thrill of shredding can feel almost beside the point. Whatever your wintertime pleasure, we hope that our work will make your next snow adventure an effort that’s well worth making.

1. Squaw Valley
2. Vail Ski Resort
3. Whistler Blackcomb
4. Canyons Resort
5. Mammoth Mountain
6. Steamboat Ski Resort
7. Park City Mountain Resort
8. Telluride Ski Resort
9. Lake Louise Ski Area
10. Breckenridge Ski Resort
11. Big Sky Resort
12. Snowbird
13. Heavenly Ski Resort
14. Sun Valley Resort
15. Deer Valley Resort
16. Stowe Mountain Resort
17. Winter Park Resort
18. Beaver Creek Ski Resort
19. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
20. Copper Mountain
21. Crested Butte Mountain Resort
22. Northstar California Resort
23. Mont Tremblant Ski Resort
24. Killington Resort
25. Sugar Bowl Resort
26. Aspen Mountain
27. Kirkwood Mountain Resort
28. Revelstoke Mountain Resort
29. Snowmass
30. Big White Ski Resort
31. Panorama Mountain Village Resort
32. Keystone Ski Resort
33. Bear Mountain
34. Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort
35. Aspen Highlands
36. Grand Targhee Ski Resort
37. Alpine Meadows Ski Resort
38. Buttermilk
39. Alyeska Resort
40. Mount Bachelor Ski Resort


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