Powder season is already going strong, but do you know where you’re going to hit the slopes this season? Get ready to shred some snow at these outstanding resorts across America (and Canada) this season. As is the case every year, there’s no shortage of exciting improvements, from new lifts to improved snowmaking capabilities to RFID lift tickets that log data about your daily runs. Thanks to El Niño, this winter is going to be a good one, so start planning your next ski trip today! —Michael Alan Connelly
Park City Mountain
WHERE: Park City, Utah
Say hello to the new kid on the block: Park City Mountain, home to more than 7,300 acres of skiable terrain, making it the largest ski and snowboard resort in the U.S. once it opens for the winter season in mid-November. (In North America, it’s second only to Whistler Blackcomb in terms of size.) In truth, PCM isn’t 100% new, but rather the product of Vail Resorts’ $50 million plan to combine what were formerly known as Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort. Part of the resort opened on November 21, but the final steps of the $50 million plan—including the Quicksilver Gondola, which connects PCMR and Canyons—were completed on December 18.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Park City Guide
Q Burke Mountain Resort
WHERE: East Burke, Vermont
Enjoy the riches of the kingdom—the Northeast Kingdom, that is—at Q Burke Mountain Resort, home to unspoiled terrain and some of the prettiest vistas in all of Vermont. With 50 trails and 178 skiable acres, this is a far cry from the state’s massive resorts, and that means you’ll get to enjoy every inch of the 2011-foot vertical drop without fighting the crowds. Having appealed mainly to locals until now, the resort will open its first on-site property, Q Burke Hotel, this season, making it easier for out-of-towners to experience this magical mountain. Q Burke is expected to open for the season on December 26.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Northern Vermont Guide
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
WHERE: Teton Village, Wyoming
Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort opened for the season on Thanksgiving and will be offering a wide variety of promotions and special events in the coming months. (Check out the extensive events calendar for a taste.) One thing for families to note is the resort’s Kids Ski Free package, which gives skiers and riders under the age of 14 free lift tickets when their families rent any Jackson Hole Resort Lodging property for at least 4 nights. On December 19, the resort debuted the new Teton high-speed quad lift, which 1,700 vertical feet of terrain in just 5 minutes.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Jackson Hole and Northwest Wyoming Guide
Taos Ski Valley
WHERE: Taos, New Mexico
This challenging and beloved resort opened for the season on Thanksgiving, and the months ahead are expected to be powder-heavy. Thanks to El Niño, Taos Ski Valley is expected to receive even more than its annual average snowfall of 305 inches. The resort is currently in the midst of a construction boom, one that could see sweeping changes and cost $350 million over the next decade, but there’s plenty to enjoy now. The Kachina Peak lift, which opened in February, opened up a wide swath of terrain that was previously accessible only by hiking. Taos has also joined the Mountain Collective for this season, meaning you can ski 2 days there and at 10 other resorts for only $399, a steal for the traveling skier.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Taos Guide
Stowe Mountain Resort
WHERE: Stowe, Vermont
Also joining the Mountain Collective this season is Stowe Mountain Resort, one of Vermont’s most beloved ski spots, which opened on November 25 this year. Home to the state’s highest peak, Mt. Mansfeld, Stowe is expanding and has opened a new ice skating rink at Spruce Peak Village Center, while forthcoming improvements include a state-of-the-art Adventure Center for kids, year-round day care facilities, and a children’s activities center. Meanwhile, a new Stowe Mountain Club Alpine Clubhouse is expected, along with new shops, restaurants, and food markets that will enhance the Spruce Peak Plaza.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Northern Vermont Guide
WHERE: Whistler, British Columbia
With 8,171 acres of skiable terrain, Whistler Blackcomb is North America’s largest ski resort, making it a great place to hit the slopes every year. This year, however, marks Whistler’s 50th anniversary, which involves all the promotions and deals you might expect, but the favorable exchange rate is an added incentive for American travelers to visit. The resort, which opened on November 26, has also debuted WB+, an online platform that allows guests to view stats about their days on the mountain. The RFID lift tickets log data that can be accessed by setting up a WB+ profile, making it easy to get a record of your daily runs.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Whistler Guide
Sun Valley Resort
WHERE: Sun Valley, Idaho
Increases in service on Delta, United, and Alaska Airlines are making it easier than ever to get to Sun Valley Resort, with 13 percent more plane seats available this season than last. That should appease Mountain Collective pass holders, since Sun Valley is on the list of resorts the pass grants access to for the first time this season. In time for the resort’s opening on November 26, the classic Sun Valley Lodge reopened after being closed for a year while it received a major facelift. As part of the renovation, the lodge overhauled its guest rooms and amenities while also adding a spa.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Sun Valley Guide
Snowmass – Aspen Skiing Company
WHERE: Snowmass Village, Colorado
The four ski areas at Aspen Snowmass all have a lot to offer, but Snowmass is the one with the most improvements this year. The resort opened on November 21 with improved snowmaking on two trails, plus a new, realigned High Alpine lift that cuts the ride time down to 5.6 minutes from the previous 11. Other improvements include a remodel of Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro and various trail and glade construction projects. American Airlines has introduced new daily nonstop service to Aspen from O’Hare International Airport (through January 4, 2016); from January 5–April 4 there will be 4 daily flights per week. Families should take note of the Kids Ski Free package, available March 1–April 17, 2016.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Snowmass Guide
Big Bear Mountain Resorts
WHERE: Big Bear Lake, California
Two and a half northeast of Los Angeles, you’ll find an atmosphere free of pretension on the slopes of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, which are collectively called Big Bear Mountain Resorts. California’s resorts have had a rough couple of years, but if history repeats itself, El Niño will dump snow on both resorts all season long. The resorts opened on November 13, and the snowfall has been extremely promising thus far. Bear Mountain Freestyle Park is bigger and better than any other terrain park in Southern California, and Snow Summit offers night skiing, something of a rarity in the U.S.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Big Bear Lake Guide
Lake Louise Ski Resort
WHERE: Banff National Park, Alberta
Have you ever skied in a UNESCO World Heritage Site? That’s precisely what you can do at Lake Louise Ski Resort, which opened for the season back on November 6 and is located inside stunning Banff National Park. Voted Canada’s best ski resort at the 2015 World Ski Awards, this charming resort has beautiful views and one of the world’s best mountain-resort hotels, the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. None of this is new, so why go now? Earlier this year, Parks Canada approved massive (and controversial) expansion plans for the resort, which will nearly double the daily skier capacity, from 6,000 to 11,500. All of which is to say this could be the last winter to enjoy Lake Louise in its current, pristine form.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Banff National Park Guide