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Skip the Snobby Slopes. Check Out These Under-the-Radar Ski Destinations Instead

You won't find exorbitant lift ticket prices or elitist, hyper-exclusive resorts on this roundup of our favorite low-key ski destinations in the U.S.

There are dozens of destinations to hit the slopes across the U.S., but not all of them were created equal. For those who prefer laid-back, uncrowded, and under-the-radar resorts—here are sixteen of the most stress-free spots to ski (or snowboard!) around the United States.

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PHOTO: Luciavegaphotography / Dreamstime.com
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Badger Pass Ski Area

WHERE: Yosemite National Park, California

When people think of Yosemite National Park, they typically think of conquering Half Dome or gazing at the majesty of El Capitan, but it turns out there’s also some great downhill skiing at Badger Pass Ski Area. Perched at an elevation of 8,000 feet, this 90-acre ski area offers a satisfactory 10 runs and five lifts. Winter in Yosemite typically offers average daytime temperatures in the low 50s with clear and sunny skies, perfect weather for spending time on the slopes. Spend the night at Yosemite Valley Lodge for some more “classic” accommodations, or the more luxurious feeling Ahwahnee Hotel —both of which conveniently provides complimentary transportation to the ski area.

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Powder Mountain

WHERE: Eden, Utah

Powder Mountain is North America’s largest acreage ski resort boasting 8,464-acres of skiable terrain–but its relaxed attitude and spaced-out runs make it a famously laid-back place to shred. Here, lift tickets and season passes are only sold in limited quantities to preserve the mellow atmosphere. During normal operations, daily lift tickets are capped at 1,500 and total season passes are limited to 3,000 per season. On the mountain, there are outdoor adventure opportunities for all skill levels of skiers and snowboarders, including nine different lifts and two snowcat skiing areas. After a day in the snow, walk to the nearby alpine village located on the backside of the resort where three bowls intersect just under the ridge of the summit. Powder Mountain offers plenty of places to spend the night that range in price, and are all conveniently close to (or directly on) the mountain.

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PHOTO: Cascade Creatives/Shutterstock.
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Schweitzer

WHERE: Sandpoint, Idaho

Idaho’s Schweitzer is the perfect destination for those who love the mountains but dislike the drama. It’s the largest ski resort in Idaho and Washington at 2,900 acres (about the same size as Winter Park or Steamboat, but with a quarter of the annual visitors!), and is proud to be one of the last truly (and fiercely) independently owned resorts left in the U.S. This winter, Schweitzer is opening the perfect place to set as home base; there’s a new, independently owned and operated 31-room boutique hotel called Humbird in the village offering built-in pegboards to hang gear as well as boot dryers in each room, and gorgeous views of the mountain and nearby lake.

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PHOTO: John Webster
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Tamarack Resort

WHERE: Tamarack Idaho

Tamarack Resort is an independent, all-season destination situated on 3,500 acres, located 90 miles north of Boise in Tamarack, Idaho. In the winter, explore 2,800 feet of vertical drop on 2,000 mountain acres made for skiers and snowboarders, along with a collection of Nordic and snowshoe trails. Spend a cozy evening at The Lodge at Osprey Meadows which is just a short walk away from The Village at Tamarack and mountain and nestled alongside Idaho’s West Central Mountains.

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PHOTO: Snow Valley Mountain Resort
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Snow Valley Mountain Resort

WHERE: Running Springs, California

People don’t typically think of “SoCal” when it comes to cold weather, but Snow Valley Mountain Resort located in the San Bernardino Mountains is just roughly 90 minutes east of Los Angeles and is known as one of the largest, most relaxed resorts in the region. Here, visitors will find 1,041 feet of vertical drop with a summit at 7,841 feet and a base at 6,800 feet. The longest run on the mountain is one mile, and there’s a variety of lifts, with more than 240-acres of terrain. Plus, there’s even night skiing on weekends. Day trip from SoCal or plan an entire weekend in nearby Big Bear or Lake Arrowhead. One fabulous lodging option nearby is the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa which typically partners with Snow Valley Resort each season to offer lodging packages and specials to make for an even more enjoyable trip.

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Alyeska Resort

WHERE: Girdwood, Alaska

Alyeska Resort is a year-round Alaskan playground for all levels of adventurers. It’s located in the laid-back mountain town of Girdwood, Alaska, just about an hour outside of Anchorage. Hosting 1,610 skiable acres, 76 named trails, and over 669 inches of average annual snow, Alyeska is known by locals to be “steep and deep.” Here, seven total lifts take skiers to a vertical rise of 2,500 feet, two high-speed quads, two fixed quads, two magic carpets, and a 60-passenger Aerial Tram. The resort itself offers accommodations on the luxurious side, with heritage decor among the nature of wild Alaska, but in town, skiers can spend the night at one of the dozens of laid back cabin hideaways (after grabbing an après ski beer and bite at Girdwood Brewing Co, of course!).

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PHOTO: Md Esharuzzaman Emu/ iStock
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Arizona Snowbowl

WHERE: Flagstaff, Arizona

Skiing? In Arizona? Yes, and Arizona Snowbowl is actually deeper than most people initially think, its 2,300-foot vertical drop is actually higher than many other comparable, popular U.S. ski resorts such as Alta, Brighton, Solitude, Durango, Brian Head, Eagle Point, or Wolf Creek. Nearby, the relaxed mountain town of Flagstaff hosts numerous friendly bars and restaurants to return to after a drama-free day enjoying the slopes. Spend a night at Arizona Mountain Inn, which is located in a quiet rural area just one mile outside of town with 17 fully furnished cabins (some of which can host up to 16 people!) tucked away on 13 secluded acres of ponderosa pines.

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PHOTO: Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock
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Santa Fe Ski Resort

WHERE: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Ski Santa Fe’s winter season is long and plentiful, snow typically starts in late fall and lasts through early spring, bringing up to 300 inches of powder a year to some areas. But despite its snowy terrain, Santa Fe also averages 300 sunny days a year, making for some scenic days on the mountain. With seven lifts and 77 trails for skiers of all levels, Ski Santa Fe is a welcoming ski area without the long lift lines adventures might encounter at other popular ski resorts. Off the mountain, Santa Fe itself is brimming with a whole host of cheerful restaurants and bars to enjoy some low-key apres-ski sessions. Spend the night at The Sage Hotel, which is a great affordable option for travelers in downtown Santa Fe. Typically during the winter, the property offers a “Ski Package Getaway” that lets visitors take advantage of the nearby slopes.

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PHOTO: Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock
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Breckenridge Ski Resort

WHERE: Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge Ski Resort is turning 60 this year, but is always keeping things new and exciting! In fact, this resort boasts the ultimate chill factor of being the first major Colorado resort to welcome snowboarders in 1984. And the entire town is recognized as “ski-in, ski-out.” This season, it’s debuting a brand-new Leitner Poma high-speed quad lift chairlift on Peak 7. Snow enthusiasts will find five huge peaks, nearly 3,000 acres of terrain, and North America’s highest chairlift. With a base elevation of 9,600 feet, a summit elevation of 12,998 feet, 2,908 total skiable acres made for all skill levels, and 40% of skiable terrain above treeline (hello, summit views) it’s a snowsports paradise. Spend the night at Beaver Run Resort literally on the mountain, hosting multiple hot tubs, a heated pool, and après-ski libations right on-site after a day or adventure.

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Eldora Mountain Resort

WHERE: Boulder, Colorado

Located just 21 miles outside Boulder, Eldora Mountain Resort is a great choice for those looking for great skiing while avoiding the stress of I-70 highway traffic. Founded back in 1962, it’s uniquely one of a few Colorado ski resorts on the east side of the continental divide. The summit of the area is at 10,600 feet above sea level on Bryan Mountain, with a 1200-foot lift serving a vertical drop. Although Eldora might be less trafficked than some of the larger and better-known resorts in Colorado, the terrain is known to be both challenging and enjoyable. Visitors can spend the night in Boulder, at Hotel Boulderado which is close enough to the mountain to keep the good vibes going after a day on the slopes, but also just one block away from the famous Pearl Street Mall and downtown Boulder area to enjoy an après adventure.

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Mt. Rose Ski Resort

WHERE: North Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Mt. Rose Ski Resort might be less famous than its nearby friendly competition in Tahoe such as Palisades Ski Resort or Heavenly Ski Resort, but it boasts 50+ trails, backwoods access, terrain parks, and the highest elevation in Tahoe for some of the best skiing out West. After a day on the mountain, stroll down the streets of downtown Reno and check out the eclectic street public art and sculptures (they’re from Burning Man!) scattered throughout the city. There’s also an impressive craft beer scene for an apres brew–visit one of the dozens of local breweries like The Depot, which is an old rail station turned-brewery distillery. Spend the night at the ski-friendly Renaissance Reno Downtown, which has views of the Truckee River and an appropriately relaxed vibe.

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PHOTO: courtesy of Grand Geneva Resort & Spa
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The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva

WHERE: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa boasts 20 downhill ski runs, a six-acre terrain park with a dedicated lift, and a 211-foot vertical that offers fabulous views of southeastern Wisconsin. It’s just an hour from Milwaukee and Chicago but feels like a world away from the chaos of city life. It’s a great destination to explore for those who are first-time skiers as well as avid ski enthusiasts, with relaxed runs going up to a 1/4 mile in length. There are also awesome weekly specials (tickets run as low as $20 on some days) which make an experience affordable for a group of friends or a large family. Spend the night at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa or its on-site, all-suite sister property, Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark which offers special winter season and ski packages and deals.

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PHOTO: Zorro Stock Images/Shutterstock
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Big Sky Resort

WHERE: Big Sky, Montana

With 5,850 skiable acres, 39 lifts, 4,350 vertical feet, and one impressive majestic peak, Big Sky Resort is “big” fun. It’s perched halfway between Bozeman and West Yellowstone in Montana, perfect for a laid-back weekend in nature. Spend the night at Rainbow Ranch Lodge or the Wilson Hotel, both of which are comfortable and unpretentious options for relaxing. Whether skiers are looking to fuel up before or after hitting the slopes, or for the après ski culture, there are also many casual options for dining in town, fitting to delight any inner foodie. Check out Beehive Basin Brewing or Riverhouse BBQ, both of which are relaxed joints made for grabbing a brew or a bite in Big Sky after a day on the mountain.

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Massanutten Resort

WHERE: Massanutten, Virginia

Virginia’s winter adventure destination Massanutten Resort is turning 50 this year! Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley only two hours from Washington, D.C. but just minutes from the Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive, this 6,000-acre outdoor space offers a plethora of winter activities. From skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and ice skating, there’s something here for everyone. The resort also offers accommodations to fit the needs of every type of skier, from upscale hotel rooms to laid-back and cozy condos, all conveniently located within a few minutes of driving to the Ski & Adventure Park area. After a thrilling day on the slopes, guests can hit the ski lodge deck at Base Camp to sit by the fire pit with a warm apres hot chocolate, and chill out.

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PHOTO: svetlana57 /iStock
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Mount Bachelor Ski Resort

WHERE: Bend, Oregon

In Bend, Oregon, Mount Bachelor Ski Resort is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Here, visitors can experience a plethora of winter activities, including skiing, tubing, dog sledding, and snowshoeing. There are 4,323 skiable acres, 101 runs for exploring, 462 inches of average yearly snowfall, and a max run length of four miles. After a day on the slopes, it’s easy to grab an après brew, as Bend boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the United States. Spend the night at Campfire Hotel which is a great place to set as home base for a fun trip with a group of friends or family. This outpost is a classic, trendy motor lodge turned chic hotel sitting in the heart of Bend. It’s themed around its namesake, enormous 10-foot outdoor fire pits. There’s even a new “lodging season pass” that offers unlimited overnight stays from November through March for a flat fee of just $1,250 (Sun-Thur) or $2,000 (including weekends).

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Windham Mountain

WHERE: Windham, New York

Located in New York’s Great Northern Catskills, Windham Mountain offers incredible skiing in a relaxed atmosphere just two and a half hours north of New York City but feeling like a world away. Here, skiers can enjoy 285 skiable acres with 54 trails, with ideal conditions for all ages and ability levels. This season, visitors can look forward to snowmaking upgrades, an environmentally friendly groomer, and a new “Magic Carpet” conveyor lift. Spend the night at The Whisper Creek Condos, the newest slopeside address hosting ski-in, ski-out lodging located steps away from Whisper Run on Windham Mountain.

2 Comments
Avatar for TreasureAK
TreasureAK November 7, 2021

I wondered the same about Breckinridge. I was there this summer and it looked to be 5 times as busy in the winter.  (Apparently, I can't speak of [email protected]@nutten in my post)

I agree with Alyeska, I go there all the time and love it. Go in late February or March. Schweitzer looks interesting, I think that's where an acquaintance went last winter  I'll have to find out more  Interesting list!

J
Jjpariscal November 7, 2021

Breckinridge is "under the radar "?  Perhaps your radar isn't working!

Big Sky, site of the biggest concentration of multimillion dollar ski in/ski out homes, connected to the ultra-exclusive Yellowstone Club, not "snobby"?

and LA-adjacent Snow Valley is "remote"?

some good picks here for out of the way ski areas, but several don't fit the theme of your article