6 Best Ski Vacations in the West

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

For as long as I can remember, skiing and snowboarding have been part of my life. Fun fact: my parents moved to my hometown so our family could be within driving distance to major ski resorts. So one could say it is a pretty serious hobby for myself and my family. However, you do not have to be a skier/snowboarder to enjoy an incredibly fun weekend in the snow. Remember in Laguna Beach when LC and Lo couldn't ski and spent the entire weekend in the hot tub on their vacation? Just me? Cool.

There are an overwhelming amount of places for a winter fix in the west, and today I will be breaking down a few of my favorites and that of others!

Whistler/Blackcomb - Canada

Canada is infamous for having incredible snow activities and resorts, but Whistler/Blackcomb truly is a skier/snowboarder paradise. Roughly a two-hour drive from Vancouver Airport, Whistler/Blackcomb has the 'big mountain' experience relatively close to the United States. Whistler and Blackcomb are two separate mountains connected by a large gondola aptly named the "Peak to Peak Gondola," where you can experience a 360-degree view of both mountains.

Difficulty level: Intermediate/Expert

Price: $$$

Other Activities: Snowmobiling, Snowshoeing, Axe Throwing, Tube Park, Spas & Shopping at the Village!

Favorite Run: "Peak to Creek" on Whistler Mountain or the top of Peak Chair to the Whistler Creekside Village. Peak to Creek is the longest consistent run at any ski resort in North America! Make it your last run of the day so you can run into Dusty's Bar for a well-deserved beer.

Lake Tahoe - California

Super biased on this one; I have lived in and grown up visiting Lake Tahoe! Lake Tahoe is located on the California and Nevada sides of Northern California and is home to dozens of winter-related activities. There are so many resorts in Lake Tahoe to visit, so I have included easy and more medium to difficult resorts on this list.

Diamond Peak - Incline Village, NV

Why I love it: What Diamond Peak lacks in runs they gain in minimal crowds. I love this resort because it is small and usually doesn't draw as many people as Tahoe's larger resorts typically do. Fewer people = fewer lines! This resort also has Lake Tahoe views from the top of the mountain, for half the cost of other resorts. Diamond Peak is also perfect for beginners, as most of the runs are fairly easier than other larger resorts. I learned how to ski and snowboard on this mountain!

Difficulty Level: Beginner

Price: $$

Favorite Run: Crystal Ridge, The Great Flume & Luggis (I couldn't pick one!). Crystal Ridge has that million-dollar view of Lake Tahoe all the way down, Great Flume is a little more challenging than Crystal, but has a fun special and jumps toward the bottom, & Luggis is a more difficult run that supplies the best powder on the mountain (for all my snowboarders out there!)

Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows Resort - Olympic Valley, CA

Why I love it: Squaw Valley/Alpine meadows offers everything for everyone and is one of North Tahoe's larger resorts. It is a great mountain to learn on, as well as skiing challenging runs. Squaw also hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics and has a robust history and a fun Village full of restaurants and shops to boot.

Difficulty Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Expert

Price: $$$

Favorite Run: High Camp down the Shirley Canyon Backside or Gold Coast down Squaw Express!

Other Activities: Snowtubing, Dog Sledding & The Village at Squaw Valley for shopping/restaurants!

Salt Lake City/Park City - Utah

Disclaimer here - Clearly, the people photographed above are not me, but my dear friends! Aren't they cute? I have not been lucky enough to ski or snowboard these mountains, but my best friend Kylie has as a Utah resident. Kylie and her fiancée Griffin (my other best friend, I set them up!) are incredible skiers and have ventured to the most prominent resorts in the West! I have hired their expertise for this section of the blog today to give you the best guidance with Utah and Wyoming.

Snowbird - Salt Lake City, UT

Why they love it: Snowbird is located up the stunning Little Cottonwood Canyon in central hub Salt Lake City. The resort is right next to Alta Ski Resort, and you can easily ski between both Snowbird and Alta resorts if you have a dual-pass or IKON pass (however, Alta is a skier only resort). The backside of Snowbird's mountain hosts massive bowls that are incredible to ski, but lines can be long on weekends. However, Snowbird is less crowded than the surrounding Park City/Canyons Resort. Parking is tough, so they encourage carpool or shuttles at the bottom of the mountain.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate/Expert

Price: $$

Other Activities: The Cliff Spa is a great place to relax after skiing all day long. However, the restaurants are nothing to write home about - you go skiing, which is the "good shit :)" according to Kylie. Catch the tram to take you up to the beautiful mid-mountain restaurant for the views!

Deer Valley - Park City, Utah (SKIERS ONLY)

Images by Observer

Why they love it: Deer Valley upholds the ideals of what I imagine skiing in Park City must be like: an incredibly boujee experience with fun amenities like boots and gloves warmers. The resort has a lot of exclusivities, even before COVID. Deer Valley limits the number of skiers they allow each day, so you do not have to wait in long lines. All of Deer Valley’s terrain levels are sublime, including tree skiing on a good powder day!

Difficulty Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Expe

Price: $$$$

Other Activities: The mid-mountain Vueve yurt (do you need to say anything more?) is the thing of dreams, as well as the St. Regis, which offers champagne toasts every sunset where you can even ski into their patio bar. Additionally, the Montage at mid-mountain hosts s’ mores daily.

Jackson Hole Ski Resort - Wyoming

Why they love it: Overall, some of the best terrain of mountains on this list. Jackson Hole offers multiple gondolas and trams, making the lines reasonably moderate. The Mid-mountain lodge offers excellent sit-down restaurants, grab-n-go options, and a ski-up bar because I really cannot think of anything better? Staying in the village provides easy and efficient access to the mountain if you plan to go simply for skiing!

Difficulty Level: Intermediate/Expert (Kylie Note: NOT a beginner’s mountain. VERY steep!!!)

Price: $$$

Other Activities: The town of Jackson Hole offers lots of nightlife, elegant restaurants, & shopping for those who are not as privy to ski! I visited the town this summer and will be talking about the city of Jackson more in a separate post :)

And that is all she wrote! Before you comment saying, “Kathryn, you didn’t include Colorado,” I KNOW! I promise to cover Colorado in another post :) Let me know if I missed any good ones down below!

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