home of the Pure Awesomeness Factor Better Data, Better Skiing
Best Ski Resorts In North America
BY Christopher Steiner

This is the best set of rankings in the industry, compiled across more than 30 data points per resort plus the nuanced and expert opinions of the ZRankings team. This list has been referenced as an authority by:The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Forbes and Freeskier magazine, among others.

Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
1 Jackson Hole

WY
368 in 2,500 acres 4,139 ft 10,450 ft 12 99.0
Jackson Hole built its reputation on its expert terrain and abundant snowfall, but the ski resort has grown up into a versatile mountain that is welcoming to all kinds of ski trips. Intermediate terrain has been consisentely been expanded, most recently with the new Teton lift. Jackson offers skiers the ability to mix in other activities that make it unique: day trips to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge, and copious terrain for snowmobiling. The lodging base, thanks to the region's busy summers, is deep and varied.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
2 Telluride

CO
276 in 2,000 acres 3,845 ft 12,570 ft 18 95.6
Visually, Telluride is the most striking ski town in North America. The richness of scenery created by 14,000-foot peaks and an old mining town that backs into a box canyon can't be overstated. The town is, by our judgement, the best in skiing, with venerable buildings that have been carefully restored making up the majority of the main drag (Colorado Ave.). It has more to offer than any other mountain town, with great intermediate terrain mixing with steeps that are among the best on the continent. Town is connected via a free gondola to Mountain Village, where much of the newer lodging is. The gondola runs from 7 a.m. to past midnight. The dining scene is among the best in skiing.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
3 Snowbird

UT
497 in 2,500 acres 3,240 ft 11,000 ft 11 94.2
Without Snowbird, there would be no tram in Utah's Little Cottonwood Canyon, which would, by our inexact and cursory calculation, constitute a crime against humanity. At least a crime against ski trips. Snowbird's slopes soar majesitcally up, its steep fall lines in full sight from the floor of Little Cottonwood, the best snow trap in the world. Snowbird, by our accounts, has the best terrain in Utah. And only Alta, which borders it to the east, gets more high quality snow (it actually does). But Snowbird has the best ski hotel on the west side of the Wasatch in the Cliff Lodge, a place where ski trip nirvana happens regularly.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
4 Alta

UT
517 in 2,200 acres 2,020 ft 10,550 ft 11 93.5
Alta features some of North America's very best terrain and scenery along with what is, without a doubt, the best snow not in Alaska. This combination is then packaged up in a setting that still evokes how skiing was 50 years ago while still providing enough creature comforts to be recognized as a modern ski resort. For skiers, Alta is holy ground, a necessary pilgrimage that deserves one visit from every enterprising two-planker who ever thought of skiing powder on a bluebird day. Alta can make an ordinary ski vacation a lifetime memory.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
5 Vail

CO
354 in 5,289 acres 3,450 ft 11,570 ft 31 90.8
No name has become more synonymous with ski trips than that of Vail. It is the quintessential ski resort in the quintessential mountain state. As the crown jewel of the largest company in the industry, Vail Resorts, Vail does not disappoint. In central Colorado there is no better combination of terrain, snow, and on-mountain lodging and facilities. Vail is one of the few ski resorts that can be everything to everybody. It plays the role well of a high-end destination—there is a Ritz-Carlton here—and it is also a comfortable place for terrain-obsessed powder hounds who sleep in a van. Vail Village puts everything at skiers' fingertips.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
6 Snowmass

CO
295 in 3,132 acres 4,030 ft 12,510 ft 20 88.9
Snowmass gives familes and skiers looking for a tight one-stop destination resort one of the best options in the industry. It's vast, it receives the most snow of the four Aspen resorts, and its lodging options can fit just about any kind of ski trip or group. The on-mountain dining options are among the best in skiing and the terrain can please all skiers, especially those interested in rolling groomers that go on for miles.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
7 Whistler

BC
419 in 8,171 acres 5,354 ft 7,494 ft 37 88.5
Whistler-Blackcomb looms large over the entire North American ski scene from its perch in the coastal range of British Columbia. It's the largest, and almost the tallest (continuous vertical) ski resort on the continent. It also receives a great deal of snow—our True Snow stat has it at 415". But what keeps so many people coming back to this Colossus is the village. It has more variety at the top-end of the lodging spectrum, at the bottom, and in the middle than anywhere. This is the destination resort that all others seek to emulate.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
8 Steamboat

CO
368 in 2,965 acres 3,668 ft 10,568 ft 18 88.3
Steamboat ski trips have long been a staple for the experienced destination skier. Steamboat has a reputation for snow and powder that's well deserved, as the mountain sets up especially well for ski trips around New Year's and Christmas, when the mountain is 93% open on average, among the best such numbers in skiing. The low elevation makes Steamboat warmer than other Colorado resorts in the spring, which can lead to freeze-thaw cycles overnight. The lodging base is big, with a large amount of on-mountain accommodations. The town of Steamboat Springs is among the best in Colorado.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
9 Whitewater

BC
395 in 1,184 acres 2,044 ft 6,567 ft 4 87.6
The pride of the Canadian Powder Highway in inner British Columbia, Whitewater is a place that regularly lands splashy shots in Powder, Freeskier and other magazines. With good reason. This place is deep, and it has high-octane terrain. The close-by town of Nelson is one of the best spots in the Canadian Rockies to hang out, with a burgeoning food scene and a good collection of bars and diversions.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
10 Big Sky

MT
286 in 5,809 acres 3,666 ft 11,166 ft 21 86.9
One of the iconic names in the ski resort world, Big Sky offers an experience befitting of its large state and its moniker. With 5,800 acres, only Whistler and Park City are bigger. But when there are crowds at these other resorts at times, Big Sky is almost always wide open. The terrain runs from legitmately steep and scary to gentle and rolling. The ski resort's strength is its intermediate terrain, which unfurls in all directions down below Lone Peak. Lodging options for ski trips are top-notch and plentiful.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
11 Park City

UT
288 in 7,300 acres 3,100 ft 10,000 ft 41 86.1
One of the elite ski towns in all of the world, Park City commands respect for the strengths of its Main Street and the wide range of high-end dining available to skiers. This is a place upon which Hollywood descends once a year for the Sundance Film Festival (a great time to ski, tough time to find lodging). Along with its old town ambience and amenities, Park City is also eminently easy to get to, being only a 35-minute drive away from a major hub airport in Salt Lake. The skiing here offers something for everybody. Experts will find stashes on Ninety-Nine-Ninety and Jupiter, and only Whistler has more intermediate terrain than this place. The ski school is top notch and makes dropping off the kids easy.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
12 Winter Park

CO
347 in 3,081 acres 3,060 ft 12,060 ft 25 85.4
Winter Park ski trips offers skiers several notable advantages: a shorter commute from the Denver airport, compared with other I-70 resorts; cheaper lodging and lift ticket prices; and one of the best mountains for snow in the state of Colorado. The mountain has two distinct sides that offer all kinds of stashes and hideouts for skiers, as well as terrain aplenty for intermediates seeking some challenging blues. A great choice for Christmas and New Year's trips—good snow coverage, cheaper—and also for spring break.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
13 Revelstoke

BC
367 in 3,031 acres 5,620 ft 7,300 ft 4 85.0
Revelstoke, with its perch west of Banff, far into the Canadian Rockies, is a ski trip that doubles as an exploration of inner British Columbia. The views here are nearly unmatched, with commanding vistas of the serrated Selkirks, and the mighty Columbia River flowing down below. Town, once a railroad and logging outpost, has grown into a destination itself, with a number of great restaurants. The resort is never crowded and the vertical drop—the largest in North America—is worth the trip. Hit the squat rack before you go.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
14 Beaver Creek

CO
325 in 1,815 acres 3,340 ft 11,440 ft 25 84.9
A ski trip to Beaver Creek comes replete with all the niceties that make Beaver Creek, along with Deer Valley, an alpha dog on the luxury ski trip circuit. But the Beav also brings an A-game to the skiing part of the ski trip; this is a mountain with good fall lines etched all over it. For those who happened to catch Beaver Creek with a good spell of powder on their ski trip, an epic day is in the offing. Beaver Creek skis off more slowly, especially during the week, compared with other large destination resorts. Some of the long pitches coming off Birds of Prey Express are the best stretches of fall line in central Colorado. Whatever you do, ensure you finish up in time to get a cookie.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
15 Mammoth

CA
354 in 3,500 acres 3,100 ft 11,053 ft 28 84.5
Mammoth occupies an advantageous position in the Sierra that puts its base 2,000 feet higher than other ski resorts in the greater region. This makes for more dependable snowpacks, which, of course, is great to know when planning a ski trip. In addition to its altitude, the resort shelters much of its snow on north-facing terrain, keeping it cold and fresh. On-mountain lodging options are amongst the deepest in the industry, although can book quickly thanks to a hungry L.A. skiing market.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
16 Solitude

UT
437 in 1,200 acres 2,047 ft 10,035 ft 8 84.0
A hidden gem on the Salt Lake side of the Wasatch, Solitude gives Utah ski trips an escape valve when things at Snowbird, Alta and Park City grow too busy. The mountain is aptly named. With its location in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Solitude offers one of the best snow profiles in North America, where it gets pounded by systems amped up on lake effect moisture that get trapped against the west face of the Wasatch. The village has been greatly upgraded, and offers an opportunity for a truly quiet retreat against some of the best skiing on the continent.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
17 Aspen Highlands

CO
252 in 1,028 acres 3,635 ft 11,675 ft 5 83.8
Aspen Highlands gives ski trips to the Aspen area an added dimension. This is a skier's mountain, where fall lines are pure and runs tend to be void of people. The bootpack up Highlands Bowl is one of the premier in-bounds hiking tracks in all of skiing. And for those who make its summit (it's not that bad; you can make it), the rewards are real: long, steep lines with powder stashes throughout the trees. Highlands offers a little nip of Alta-style rough edges in the what is the most exclusive alpine valley in North America.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
18 Aspen Mountain

CO
250 in 675 acres 3,267 ft 11,212 ft 8 83.0
The name Aspen has been synonynous with ski trips for decades—with good reason. Aspen defined the paradigm for ski towns everywhere else in North America. And it still remains one of the continent's best destinations, with one of the most tightly integrated relationships between ski resort and town. Skiers here can go as upmarket as they want in lodging and fare, but there are bargains to be had by those who book early. The skiing here will please anybody: tons of legitimate expert runs, great intermediate cruisers and very few crowds.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
19 Grand Targhee

WY
466 in 3,000 acres 2,592 ft 10,000 ft 5 82.4
Grand Targhee's corner of the Tetons offers one of the best situations for powder skiing in all of the world. For those seeking a ski trip that delivers a higher probability of a large snowfall, Grand Targhee should be near the top of the list. The village at the base of the ski resort has seen major investment during the last 15 years, making top-end lodging a reality. The nearby town of Driggs, Idaho, has undergone its own boom during the last 10 years, and offers skiers more dining options. Jackson Hole is an easy day-trip from here.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
20 Brighton

UT
504 in 1,050 acres 1,750 ft 10,500 ft 6 82.2
Work Brighton into a Utah ski trip when other resorts are getting crowded, or when Park City doesn't have a lot of snow. Brighton, located on the Salt Lake side of the Wasatch, is one of the best places in the world for snow. Its terrain is mellower, but there are some good pitches up top that will keep anybody happy. Big Cottonwood Canyon continues to be an underutilized skiing asset.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
21 Breckenridge

CO
282 in 2,358 acres 3,240 ft 12,840 ft 31 81.7
Expansive terrain and high altitudes keep all kinds of skiers happy and the snow cold and plentiful. For ski trips to the I-70 corridor, Breckridge offers the most genuine ski town experience of the bunch, with a bustling main street featuring a mix of old and new structures. The lodging pool is deep here, and the lift system is large and fast, moving skiers around multiple peaks with ease.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
22 Deer Valley

UT
275 in 2,026 acres 3,000 ft 9,570 ft 22 81.5
The king of on-mountain ski food, Deer Valley brings quality to its on-mountain cafeterias that set a standard 30 years ago and remains the bar at which all other ski areas are judged. Our advice: double chocolate cookie and the turkey chili, in that order. The on-mountain lodging pool is among the deepest and most luxurious in the industry. The level of service at Deer Valley is unmatched anywhere else. The skiing offers something for everybody, with world class groomers and steep chutes off of the Empire Canyon Chair.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
23 Palisades Tahoe

CA
369 in 3,600 acres 2,850 ft 9,050 ft 30 81.5
As the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics, Palisades Tahoe is a formidable mountain with big vertical terrain that challenges the best skiers in the world. But it's also a superior destination for ski trips, as it has great amounts of intermediate cruisers and varied terrain that can keep a big group skiers with disparate skill sets entertained. The village has been built up and is one of the two best in the Tahoe region.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
24 Whitefish

MT
332 in 3,000 acres 2,353 ft 6,817 ft 14 80.6
Whitefish has developed something of a cult following. People who take one ski trip to this Montana outpost are highly likely to go back again and again. The mountain is big, at 3,000 acres, never crowded and it gets better than 300" of snow a year. The tree skiing here is excellent and the place is truly away from the bustle and chatter than can dominate other resorts.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
25 Alyeska

AK
488 in 1,500 acres 2,500 ft 2,750 ft 9 80.3
If you're taking a ski trip to Alaska and you're not getting into a helicopter, then you're skiing at Alyeska. This is the big dog ski resort in the biggest state of them all. The place gets snow like few other spots on earth. Ten-foot storms happen. Traveling to Alyeska can be easier than many expect. The drive from the Anchorage Airport, which sports direct flights into most of the major hubs in the U.S., is only 45 minutes and features spectacular views of the ocean and mountains. Alyeska's base is basically at sea level, so altitude is not a factor for visitors. Hotel Alyeska is a keystone property and a destination in and of itself.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
26 Kirkwood

CA
459 in 2,300 acres 2,000 ft 9,800 ft 14 80.3
The best spot for snow in the Tahoe region of the Sierra, Kirkwood gets lots of snow and tends to preserve it well. This gives those planning ski trips good piece of mind. It also beckons to the keener powderhounds in Northern California who try to dodge the crowds at Squaw and Heavenly. Kirkwood offers skiers a unique, snow-filled option in one of America's prime stretches of ski resorts.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
27 Taos

NM
254 in 1,294 acres 3,243 ft 12,450 ft 13 79.9
For those who haven't been, taking a ski trip to Taos requires a leap of faith. As the only major destination ski resort in the state of New Mexico, the routine of getting to Taos is outside the norm. But those skiers who do make the trip are rewarded with one of the most unique experiences in skiing, where the Southwest mixes with high altitude, deep green forests and wide open slopes.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
28 Crested Butte

CO
253 in 1,547 acres 2,500 ft 11,875 ft 16 79.5
One of the most technically challenging mountains in Colorado, Crested Butte ski trips can keep any expert entertained. The mountain also includes a large number of blue runs (more than half the terrain), so intermediated will find this mountain a good fit as well. The town of Crested Butte is a beautiful mountain hamelet, with a legitmately old core of town that harkens back to the mining days. The lodging pool is deep thanks to a build-up of properties during the real estate boom.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
29 Fernie

BC
376 in 2,504 acres 3,550 ft 7,050 ft 10 78.8
A stalwart of the inner British Columbia sanctum, Fernie gives skiers elite snowfall and lots of terrain that skis beautifully with a foot of powder. Ski trips here are further butressed by a high quality town in Fernie that has embraced the outdoor industry. Restaurants and boutique lodging outlets have sprouted up around town as well. Fernie is often a good addition to a Powder Highway trip than can include Red Mountain and Whitewater (Nelson).
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
30 A-Basin

CO
314 in 900 acres 1,692 ft 12,472 ft 7 78.7
FYI: Full Ikon Pass holders get 7 days, Base Pass holders 5 days at A-Basin. This is one of the few resorts whose typical conditions continue to improve from mid-January all the way through march. Snow here stays cold, even in the spring, thanks to the high elevation and lots of north exposure. Spring days here are among the best in skiing. In early April, there is no better ski trip destination.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
31 Copper

CO
278 in 2,465 acres 2,601 ft 12,313 ft 22 78.1
Copper Mountain is one of the first ski resorts that travelers hit driving west on I-70 from Colorado, and it's worthy of a stop. For being relatively close to Denver, the resort is rarely over-crowded. The mountain possesses elite snow preservation characteristics, which make it ideal for spring break, and the on-mountain lodging pool in the village is deep and well-developed.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
32 Loveland

CO
344 in 1,800 acres 1,900 ft 12,700 ft 10 77.8
This place is gem hidden in plain view. It sits on south side of I-70, stradding the east entrance to the Eisenhower tunnel. Even by Colorado standards, Loveland is high, with a base of around 11,000 feet. That means lots of snow and great snow preservation. Add in the fact that 40% of Loveland's terrain faces north and you have a veritable deep freezer keeping things cold and soft. Loveland makes for a great day trip for any ski trips staging out of Vail or Summit County ski areas.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
33 Crystal Mountain

WA
413 in 2,600 acres 2,472 ft 6,872 ft 11 77.2
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
34 Stevens Pass

WA
474 in 1,125 acres 1,829 ft 5,845 ft 10 76.7
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
35 Keystone

CO
235 in 3,148 acres 2,718 ft 11,998 ft 20 76.0
Keystone is a unique ski trip destination that has a special knack for making things easy on families. The parking is free, and gear wagons, used to shuttle kids and stuff from the car to the slopes, are free and abundant. The ski runs here are long, with good extended fall lines coming off of several peaks. There's nothing super steep at Keystone, but experts can stay sated by hiking or riding the cats ($10 a ride) to some back bowls and snow that don't see many skiers.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
36 Wolf Creek

CO
387 in 1,600 acres 1,604 ft 11,904 ft 7 75.8
Wolf Creek collects more snow than any other major ski resort in Colorado. This makes Wolf Creek's early season one of the most dependable in the Rockies. The terrain is mostly easy-going, but there are some short shots of excellent expert terrain toward the top of the resort, and the resort's family owners have made real efforts to improving access there.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
37 Mt Baker

WA
651 in 1,000 acres 1,500 ft 5,089 ft 10 75.4
There is no ski mountain in North America—and perhaps even the world—that receives more snow that Mt. Baker. An average season of snowfall at Mt. Baker would best the biggest year on record at most resorts across the West. Cascade storms can bring warmer precipitation than what usually falls in the Rockies, and Baker's elevation is lower, so it can get rain. But with 640" of snow in an average year, there's more than enough good stuff to go around.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
38 Powder Mountain

UT
350 in 3,200 acres 2,200 ft 8,900 ft 7 75.4
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
39 Alpine Meadows

CA
363 in 2,400 acres 1,802 ft 8,637 ft 14 75.0
Skiers who are Tahoe-bound are well-advised to knit this legend into their itinerary. Positioned at the north end of the region, very near its sister (same) resort of Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows gives skiers a great option close off of I-80, an easy drive from Reno. This place doesn't see the crowds that the main mountain at Squaw gets, but it has terrain that's just about on par.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
40 Red Mountain

BC
274 in 1,686 acres 2,912 ft 6,800 ft 6 74.4
Red Mountain is a special ski resort nestled in the Canadian Rockies not too far from the U.S. border. The ski resort has a little of everything, including some nice steep shots near the top and loads of well-pitched groomers where skiers can crank it up as far as they want. Great, new lodging dots the base of the resort, and Rossland is one of the unknown ski town gems of North America.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
41 Snowbasin

UT
316 in 2,820 acres 2,959 ft 9,250 ft 12 74.3
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
42 Northstar

CA
316 in 3,170 acres 2,280 ft 8,610 ft 20 73.8
Northstar has become the Deer Valley of the Lake Tahoe area, complete with a Ritz and dining options that can satisfy all kinds of demanding Bay Area palates. Staying in the village here offers an incredibly convenient experience, and families love the gear wagons that are supplied free at the parking lot. The mountain's best features are its generous and picturesque glades, which can satisfy experts with their deep stashes.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
43 Mt Hood Meadows

OR
452 in 2,150 acres 2,777 ft 7,300 ft 11 73.6
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
44 Bridger Bowl

MT
303 in 2,000 acres 2,700 ft 8,800 ft 7 73.5
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
45 Mt Bachelor

OR
383 in 3,683 acres 3,365 ft 9,065 ft 14 73.3
The best skiing and the best snow in Oregon, Bachelor is part of the Ikon Pass, and with that association it has seen the number of skiers on its slopes go up. It's still a tough place to trek to as a destination skier, and the crowds from Portland get split between here and Hood, so it can be a great bet all winter.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
46 Heavenly

CA
321 in 4,800 acres 3,500 ft 10,040 ft 30 73.3
The undisputed king of South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly straddles the border of California and Nevada, giving skiers glorious views of Lake Tahoe and wide swaths of all kinds of terrain to keep everybody on the ski trip comfortable but challenged. Lodging is bountiful, with on-mountain options plus all of South Lake at the ready.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
47 Sunshine Village

AB
258 in 3,358 acres 3,514 ft 8,954 ft 12 72.0
Situated in a unique spot in the world, Sunshine Village brings rustic charm and elegance to the sheer and soaring faces of the Canadian Rockies. The Banff area beckons to adventure seekers all year, but it's the winter when the this range shows its true muscle, with white-clad flinty peaks that evoke the Himalayas. The lodging here runs the gamut, but the top end is among the best. Early season is often good, as there are glaciers and the northerly latitude helps preserve snow.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
48 Sun Valley

ID
196 in 2,054 acres 3,400 ft 9,150 ft 19 71.7
Sun Valley is one of the old guard ski resorts, ranking alongside Alta, Sugar Bowl and Timberline as resorts that can say, 'we were here first.' Its slopes sit above a splendid valley, and the Idaho vistas are unique. The food here rivals Deer Valley, and it's a quieter resort than some of its mainline destination peers. The lodging here can compete with anywhere, and the fall lines, although they lack extreme steepness, are consistent top to bottom.
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
49 Timberline

OR
450 in 1,415 acres 3,690 ft 8,540 ft 12 71.4
Multipass?
True Snow*
     Acres Vert Summit Lifts Score
50 Sundance

UT
275 in 450 acres 2,150 ft 8,250 ft 3 71.3

So what does Best Ski Resorts In North America even mean?

This is fair question.

Perhaps we should just headline this section: What we are trying to do here, but we thought abstracting things that far might betray more hubris than the considerable amount we've already shown. So we'll just stick with this.

Many people who rip and riff on our rankings like to whine that the 'best ski resort' is a wholly subjective thing that can only be determined by the skier herself. There's truth in this statement, of course. We've all met that person who has skied all over and still believes Sun Valley to be the finest skiing available. Those people exist. We're here to show them the light, the truth, the awesomeness.

We've worked hard on our rankings, on our site, on our statistics, on our prose, to help inform the skier who has the view of I love skiing, but I haven't been everywhere—tell me more—what ski resorts should I consider for my next trip? We want to tell you more, we want to tell you about every ski resort we can. We haven't been everywhere. But we've been most places that matter, certainly most places that you will find on this site, and all of them within the top echelons of the rankings.

You should ski

The winter must be cherished. Just as so many of us celebrate summer as a season of recreation, of outdoor life, of ideal childhood memories, we must see winter in the same light. We must grasp winter by its wool lapels and give it a kiss, for it can be ours, just like summer.

Too many people make the mistake of playing defense in the winter, of hiding indoors, cowering at the thought of their flesh being exposed to 20-degree air. But this is wrong. Winter must be attacked. We must bring it to heel under the tip of our ski, the blade of our skate, the runners of our sled. To dominate the outdoors, we must dominate winter.

Ski resorts—most of the big ones built on public land here in the United States—give us one of the best avenues through which we can subdue winter and make it ours.

Yes, you can run away to Florida or Arizona or wherever. You could do that. But deep in your soul you know that's wrong. It's no way to live.

Human beings have evolved as an incredibly adaptable species, capable of shearing sheep for wool, plucking feathers from a goose, or even creating a membrane that allows water vapor to escape while keeping H2O from getting in (hello, Gore-Tex).

Put simply: Humans, it's quite clear to us, evolved to ski. So do that.

You can ski at Breck. Just avoid it on weekends
You can ski at Breck. Just avoid it on weekends. Courtesy: Breckenridge

Finding the right ski resort for your ski trip

Any reader who has followed us for a couple of years knows that we try to place as much emphasis on data as we can when we profile ski resorts. Data are facts that can be quantified, indexed and sorted. We prefer to couch things in terms of vertical drops, true average snowfalls, and the observations of experts with proven judgement and wit. We try to avoid mushy feelings that say Crested Butte is just the best and that's that and everything is wonderful, yay! (Note: Crested Butte is a fine place, we like it.)

With the right data, you give your ski trip higher odds of being epic. And there is no trip better than an epic ski trip. That's not a subjective declaration, it just is. Ski trips are the best trips. So ski the best ski resorts at the best times are then, the best trips of any kind. It's physics.

Do the rankings change?

They do. We make major revisions and updates to our ski resort rankings every year. Why? Because we can always make them better. We're always gathering more intel, taking more in-person visits, and gathering more data from more sources every single season. We aim to visit the alpha resorts of the world on a regular cycle, so we can stay current on new lifts, new terrain, and what's coming in the future. Just as the rankings for top colleges change each year, so to do the rankings for ski resorts. Note: One bumper season for snow will not change the rankings whatsoever. Nor will one year of drought. These are outlier events that should have no affect on how you plan a ski trip, hence they don't affect our rankings.

What will change our rankings, among other things: Things like a new gondola, or new terrain—like last year's opening of the Teton lift at Jackson Hole. Or when two resorts such as Park City and Canyons are combined into one mega resort—those things matter and do affect scores. We also adjust seasonally according to additional in-person visits at a ski resort from ZRankings team members.

I've never been on a ski trip out West - what places should I consider?

You can't go wrong by simply consulting our top rankings of North American ski resorts. Even the resorts that may have a fearsome reputation for steeps and expert terrain—like Jackson Hole, Telluride or Crested Butte—have lots of intermediate terrain that can be accessed by all levels of skiers.

Beyond that, the best tool in the entire ski travel industry is our Perfect Ski Resort tool. Simply dial in your preferences and see what ski resorts come back. It's wise to not overweight more than two categories. So if you're not interested in expert terrain, or just mildly interested, you're best off not putting any weight on that category. If you want to challenge yourself on your ski trip, there are a few runs at every ski resort that will have you planting your turns a little tighter than normal.

Our general advice for people taking their first big ski trip is simple: Go To Utah. Getting from Salt Lake to the resorts of Park City, Deer Valley, Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude is a far shorter and straight-forward process than going from Denver to any of the central Colorado resorts. Utah is also more likely to bestow you with a big dump of powder, especially the resorts on the Salt Lake side of the Wasatch. First timers will love Park City's Main Street and its miner town feel. And there's only a couple of other places where the ski runs tumble right into town in such a natural setting (Telluride and Aspen... that's the list. That's it.).

This isn't to say that people shouldn't travel to Colorado, Montana, Wyoming or anywhere else, it's just that Utah has a unique set of properties, travel-wise, weather-wise and on the slopes, that make it ideal for somebody's first ski trip out west. Head to Colorado on year two—and if you can swing it, try and fly somewhere other than Denver. For Vail and other central Colorado ski resorts, that means Eagle-Vail airport; Aspen has perhaps the best small ski town airport in North America; Steamboat Springs has a good facility; and Telluride and Crested Butte skiers can travel through Montrose.

Boom
Boom. Every ski trip should bring just one moment like this. Courtesy: Breckenridge

Why should I listen to you?

Because we've been to every place we write about here. Because this isn't a one-off article of 500 words listing "the best ski resorts." Would you rather take advice and guidance on this subject from this website, that is 100% dedicated to parsing and analyzing ski resorts, ski trips, snow and how to find the best match for you. Alternatively you could take "tips" from a random magazine cough, cough, Outside Mag that weighs in on the subject once a year with a cursory article written by a harried writer looking to make $500 and put it behind him. We, on the other hand are here, every day, all the time, out of passion and love for everything ZRankings is all about.

What's the best ingredient for a great ski trip?

On the mountain, there's nothing more important than snow. If you get a big dump on your trip, it will make for a magical couple of days. It's such a big deal, in our opinion that even a trip to a lesser resort, with shorter terrain and lesser lodging digs, is preferable to a dry trip at a superior mountain. There's simply no replacement for great snow.

When is the best time to take a ski trip?

We wrote an entire piece on this. We got some remarks from people like: "Duh, when it snows." Well, yes - of course. But when is it going to snow? Some resorts are better in the early season than in the late season. Some places peak late, like Telluride. So take a look at our individual ski resort pages and check out the graphs under the heading "Best Time For Snow At (resort name)" On there, you can see that every resort has a distinctly different profile. Aspen peaks at a different time than Vail, and a different time than Big Sky. This is real. This is science, math, geography. Wield it to your advantage!

More Breck
Use Data. Ski. Profit like this guy. Courtesy: Breckenridge

Bottom line

Dominating winter requires attacking it, and planning the perfect ski trip at the perfect time, all things that we dominate here at ZRankings. Picking the perfect ski resort starts with great data. Pairing the perfect ski resort with the perfect time for traveling to that resort produces the perfect ski trip—the one that you should take. Find it here. If you need help, or personalized assistance on finding just the right resort, you can always email us at PAF@zrankings.com