Best ski resorts for beginners

The best ski resorts in North America

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 picks 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 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 most resorts 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 making the final list, we combined publicly available stats, other expert lists and—with added weight, of course—our own survey results.

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