Guess how many "alpine ski areas with lifts" the United States alone has. How does the number 427 strike you? Yes, between all our different regions and states, we have over 400 mountain spots where we can strap on skis for a downhill flight. Bring our good neighbor to the north into the picture, and you have another 200 or so to add to the mix. To boot, each U.S. region offers different terrain, in many cases different vertical drops and even different snow.
We looked at each U.S. region, taking into account drop, area, amenities and price. After all, not everyone can or wants to fly. Many of us pack up the SUV, fasten the skis on top and make a go of it. We stay where we can stay, more often than not that isn't a resort. We may not have picked the largest or the smallest ski resorts, but thanks to Liftopia, we can give you some factors to consider when you plan your next great slope escape. Be sure to check around, and do it soon. In the meantime, here are our favorite deals.
We found several places worth mentioning, as best value depends on what you're looking for. Vermont and Maine have the greatest vertical drops, with New Hampshire close behind. Massachusetts is in here, too:
- At a little over 2,600 feet, Smuggler's Notch Resort in Vermont has one of the highest vertical drops in New England, 1,000 skiable acres, 78 trails and eight lifts. Lift tickets were $45 for a day but just $67 for a 2-day pass. Make it a 3-day ticket, and cost was $99-$33 a day.
- Mad River Glen added some interesting alternatives. You could purchase a 1-day pass plus $10 lunch voucher for $52, a 2-day pass for $68 or a 2-day pass plus $20 lunch voucher for $83. Make it 3 days, and a lift ticket was $79, but add a $30 lunch voucher, and it was just $100. Yes, there is a free lunch! Mad River has a drop of 2,000 feet, 815 skiable acres, 45 trails and four lifts.
- If you're looking for just a small place to learn, Otis Ridge in Massachusetts has a 400-foot drop, 60 acres, 11 runs and five lifts. Passes are $17 per day, and a 1-day lift plus rental is $37. The night lift is $11, and you can add rental for another $15. For first-timers, the $41 learn-to-ski-package is a bargain.
- With a 2,020-foot drop in New Hampshire, Waterville Valley Resort has 2-day passes for $65.98, a 2-day pass with ski or snowboard rental for $132.99 and a 3-day lift ticket for $91.99. The resort has 259 skiable acres, 52 trails and 12 lifts.
Taking in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, the Mid-Atlantic resorts vary, from steep, small areas to larger resorts with less drop. Here are our favorites:
- Blue Knob All Seasons Resort in Pennsylvania has $32 all-day lift passes, a 1-day pass plus $10 lunch voucher for $39, a 5-hour flex ticket for $26, a night ski ticket for $17, and a 1-day lift pass and ski rental for $54-$9 more if you want a board. You can get a 2-day lift ticket for $47. Vertical drop is 1,072 feet, and 34 trails are balanced among ski levels; the longest run is 2 miles long. Prices are military-friendly, too.
- In New York's Adirondacks, Titus Mountain has drops of 1,025 feet, 200 skiable acres and nice prices, too. You can pick up a 1-day lift ticket for $30 or a 1-day pass plus rental for $55. You can choose a combo with New York maple syrup or $10 lunch voucher, a 2-day lift ticket for $46 or a 2-day pass plus rental for $96.
- For the Olympic-minded, Whiteface Mountain, by Lake Placid, offers some interesting variety in the form of a 3,430-foot vertical drop and runs 2 miles long. If you go on a Wednesday and present a Coca-Cola product, you can pick up a lift ticket for $48. You can buy a 3-of-4-day lift ticket for $127 that allows you to ski any 3 of 4 days. If you're unbearably sore from the first day, you have a day to recover, potentially saving you money; yes, there's a 2-out-of-3-day version for $86. Whiteface also has a Ski3 Snow Sampler for $259 that lets you ski "multiple days at Whiteface, Gore and Belleayre."
When you put southeast in the same sentence as snow, prices go up. Ice starts entering the picture, with freeze-and-thaw patterns playing havoc with manicured powder and snow machines. However, we found a few that we thought were worth it:
- Near enough to let Washington, D.C. residents enjoy some swoosh time, Massanutten offers 1,100-foot drops, with 14 trails split among beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Lift tickets come in sessions, with a weekday peak-date 8-hour lift ticket $50 and extended day passes $60; early or late in the season, they're only $40. If you plan on skiing multiple days, two extended sessions will cover unlimited skiing for 2 days. The resort has great snowtubing, too, running $22 to $26 for a 2-hour session.
- High in the Allegheny Mountains, Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia is the resort for skiing in the Southeast, with more than 250 inches a year in natural snow. Even in peak season, however, you can play with lift ticket choices, with weekday and multiday passes saving you money. You can pick up a 1-day pass for $59, a 2-day for $117, a 3-day for $146 and a 4-day for under $200. Find a cheap place to stay, and enjoy Snowshoe's 1,480-foot vertical drop and 250 skiable acres in its Basin, Silver Creek and Western Territory Areas.
- To put the South in perspective, we've included Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area in the Smoky Mountains. As Tennessee's only ski resort, Ober Gatlinburg gets just under 9 inches of natural snow a year, so count on man-made powder. A year-round resort, in winter, it has nine ski trails, and two are black diamonds. An adult session pass is $36 on weekdays, with holidays and weekends running $65. You can buy a 2-day weekday pass for $62, a 2-day weekend pass for $120 or a hybrid ticket allowing 1 day from each for $91 to ski on snowy slopes in Tennessee.
The Midwest has more ski areas than any other region in the country, with well over 100. You don't have the crazy vertical drops, as the majority are well under the 500-foot mark, but you do have snow and usually plenty of it:
- For serious and extreme skiers, Michigan's Mount Bohemia on the Upper Peninsula has "the longest runs with the highest vertical" (820 feet) and the "deepest powder in the Midwest." The resort offers a $99 season pass (with perks) available the first Saturday in December only. A 2-year season pass will be $159 plus a small processing fee – once again, available only the first Saturday in December. Otherwise, it's $59 a day. Not bad at all considering 273 inches a year of untouched, ungroomed lake-effect snow.
- Devil's Head Ski Resort in Wisconsin offers a 500-foot vertical drop, over 30 runs, 16 lifts and about 250 skiable acres. A flex-session lift ticket is $49 on their website, but date-specific discounted ones can be had for as little as $23. You can even pick up a 2-day pass with rental included for $104, and runs here are a mile long.
- For a 700-foot vertical drop, Spirit Mountain in Minnesota is family-friendly. Peak-day passes are $48 for adults, but if you go during the week, a 1-day pass is $42, and a 3 p.m. to close ticket is just $29. A 2-day weekday pass will cost $70 but just $10 more on peak days. The resort has 22 runs, five lifts and 175 skiable acres and claims the distinction of being the largest terrain park in the Midwest.
The Rockies take in an overwhelming area, from Idaho and Montana to Arizona and New Mexico, encompassing the states in between. This is the land of 4,000-foot vertical drops like Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Aspen Snowmass in Colorado. We searched out a few bargains that will still keep you busy:
- Red Lodge Mountain in Montana, near Yellowstone National Park, has a vertical drop of 2,400 feet. The resort has more than 70 trails and boasts "30 acres of advanced chute skiing, 60 acres of gladed tree skiing and 1,600 acres on Custer National Forest." Its longest run is 2.5 miles long. You can buy a 1-day ticket for just under $35 or a 3-day pass for around $100 online from their site. For the holidays, a 2-day pass is $108 tops, and teenagers, college students and military all pay consistently reduced rates.
- Colorado's Loveland Ski Area west of Denver is a value. We found a 1-day lift ticket for $45 and a 1-day plus rental for $72. You can add lunch vouchers or days for other combinations, but our favorite was a 3-day ticket plus rentals for $193. Even without a discount, $65 for a lift ticket in Colorado to 90 trails, a 2,210-foot vertical drop, 1,800 lift-served acres, nine lifts and 2-mile runs isn't too shabby.
- Considered one of the top resorts in Utah and the country, Snowbird had 1-day weekday lift tickets under $60 and weekend ones for under $70. We could pick up a 2-day pass for $114 and a 3-dayer for $170. With a 3,243-foot vertical drop and at least 2,000 skiable acres, we figure access to 169 runs (the longest is 2.5 miles) and 500 annual inches of Utah snow just might be worth it.
While Mammoth may be king, it's also quite pricey for the average Joe or Josette. California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, however, have plenty of other resorts. Here are a few that we thought were keepers:
- South of Lake Tahoe, Bear Valley Mountain in California got our attention with its 75 runs, 1,900-foot vertical drop and nearly 1,700 skiable acres. Its prices are good, too, at a discounted $37 for a 1-day ticket. For $71, you can find a 1-day lift ticket with rental or a 2-day lift ticket without. Add rentals to 2 days, and your cost was $140. Many of the stores in the area sell resort lift tickets at a $12 discount compared with ticket window prices, and the resort is known for being family-friendly.
- If you want one of the steepest vertical descents, try Mount Hood Meadows at 2,822 feet; total elevation at the lift-served peak is 7,300 feet. An hour-and-a-half outside Portland, Oregon, the resort has 85 runs over 2,100 acres and offers a wide variety of ticket prices. Prices are always lower when you purchase online. We found a 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. adult ticket for $61, and you could pick up a "Three Time Midweek Select Lift Ticket" for $149 (online only).
- California's Bear Mountain Resort and Snow Summit at Big Bear Lake offer a good deal. You can pick up a 1-day lift ticket for under $60 or a 2-day ticket for about $90, good for either location. Bear Mountain has the greater vertical drop of the two, at 1,665 feet, and "the only half-pipes in So Cal." Bear Mountain is fitted with terrain park features and is a snowboarders dream.
Many credit card companies, insurance companies, membership-based discount clubs and special interest groups sometimes make special deals with winter resorts, and it's worth looking into whether your memberships give you these types of deals.