If you are anything like me, this year has either cancelled or postponed one of your favorite activities- travel. International travel has been especially difficult and at times mind boggling to figure out. We are fortunate to live in a country with so many options to explore domestically. I have always loved to ski and living in Colorado has afforded me the option of endless choices just a road trip away. This winter I was especially grateful to have at least one of my favorite activities open, accessible, and safe. Skiing has been my saving grace and basically my only form of recreation and a social life lately! In a nutshell, skiing saved my sanity. And it can save yours too!
When you think about the things you can safely do right now- skiing makes a lot of sense: wear a mask, maintain 6 feet of distance, be outside. Social distance guidelines are practiced on ski lifts- riders are spread out and have the option to ride up solo if they wish. Parking is limited at some resorts and reservations are needed at many others to keep the numbers reasonable. I’ve clocked 36 successful ski days (and counting!) thus far this season at a variety of resorts. Below are a few of my favorites and the reasons why:
Steamboat Springs, CO
There is a good reason Steamboat Springs is called ski town USA and kept me sticking around for five years. Not only is the ski resort extremely family-friendly but it is well known for its champagne powder and tree skiing. There are plenty of options at the base of the mountain to dine, grab a drink and lodge. Slopeside Grill and T-Bar are two of my favorite après ski options. Town is a short 10-minute commute and is full of lively bars, restaurants, and shops. You can see Howelson Hill and the famous ski jump from downtown. I have fond memories of watching Olympic hopefuls soar through the air while relaxing on an outdoor patio. The Strawberry Park hot springs are a must-visit. This relaxing oasis offers four pools to relax in after a long day skiing and the atmosphere is serene. If you’re considering a summer mountain getaway, I can firsthand tell you the summers are just as impressive as the winters with equally as much to do!
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
I recently stayed at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole resort and WOW- I am blown away! This 5-star retreat raises the bar on ski in/ski out resorts. Warm ski boots handed to you before you hit the slopes, huckleberry French toast delivered to your door for breakfast and multiple hot tubs surrounded by aspens to soak in! Does it get any better? Multiple après ski options exist and personally I enjoyed sitting around outdoor firepits while grabbing a cocktail at the Ascent lounge with front row views of the mountain. The complimentary hot chocolate and smores was an added bonus! It’s worth dining at the delicious Alpenholf restaurant right around the corner. The town of Jackson is just 20 miles down the road and there you can find more great restaurants, shopping and bars. Don’t miss sitting on saddles and grabbing a drink at the cowboy lounge! World class skiing paired with a lively town make this a hard to beat ski destination.
Big Sky, Montana
Skiing at Big sky had been on my bucket list for a while and I’m so glad I crossed it off this season! This resort 50 miles south of Bozeman is known to have some of the burliest and biggest inbound terrain in North America. Inbound ski areas exist where you have to sign in with ski patrol and bring a beacon, shovel and probe. My day wasn’t that intense, but I did hike up the chutes clinging onto a rope while trying to keep my balance on a ridgeline! That was scary, but the steep powder run down was well worth it. Riding the Lone Peak Tram is a must- the clouds broke just long enough to take in the 360 degree views and realize just how massive and splendid this mountain is.
Big Sky delivers, despite lacking on the après ski scene. I found the best bet for a great beer and fun vibe after skiing was in the town center- a 10 minute drive. I enjoyed Lone Peak Brewery and Beehive Basin. We stayed in Bozeman but next time I’d lodge at a resort closer to skiing. Word on the street is that a not-to-miss luxury property with easy access to the mountain is in the works. Stay tuned!
Taos, New Mexico
This ski resort is probably not one you are used to reading about but trust me it’s well worth a visit! And I am not just saying that because I love a good margarita. Just a 4.5-hour drive from Denver this getaway is perfect for a long weekend. The mountain offers terrain for everyone but certainly favors the experts with so many nooks and crannies. My favorite lift is the infamous Kachina Peak Chair- the 4th highest lift in the US at 12,481 feet serving up numerous fingerlike chutes. Don’t forget to take a well-deserved break at the Bavarian (just below Kachina Peach Chair) where you can find delicious German beer and pretzels!
I stayed in the town of Taos and really enjoyed the art scene, restaurants, bars and of course margaritas! The town is as unique as the ski resort. I am still reminiscing about my meal and the vibe at the Love Apple- a super cute, romantic, and delicious restaurant downtown. Giggle your way through happy hour by visiting Alley Cantina and trying one of their many flavored (and strong) margaritas. Can you tell what my favorite cocktail is?!
There is a good reason Aspen gets a lot of press. No other resort has four unique, world famous mountains to choose from and such an assortment of luxury restaurants and shops in town. Free shuttles run between the mountains making them extremely accessible. My favorite of the five mountains to ski is Snowmass. I enjoy the various terrain options, tree skiing and stumbling on the Hunter Thomas memorial hidden in the aspen trees (Ok- a very cool local showed me!). Lovely après ski options exist at the base, Venga Venga is my favorite! At Aspen mountain I really enjoy hanging out at the Little Nell- not only are the cocktails top notch but so is the people watching.
I skid Highlands Bowl one afternoon and loved the views up top (not so much the long hike!). This is expert terrain and I only recommend it for advanced skiers. There is one way down and it’s rather steep and ungroomed. The entire Highlands mountain exists for experts and I was definitely worn out after an afternoon of skiing here. Which makes Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro even more appealing! The Champagne corks start popping around 1PM and if you want to see the wildest on-mountain party ever in this part of the world this is your spot. The champagne took a time-out this season due to COVID but will be back in full swing next season.
I have so many great memories at a lot of ski resorts around the world, but this list encompasses my most recent ones. I would love to hear your thoughts- have you visited a resort that you loved recently? What made it so great? What resort am I missing on this list?