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Rounding-Up the 11 Best Ski Towns for the Holidays

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It's official: The holidays are here, aka full-bore ski season is upon us. Looking for ideas on what to do during your vacay? From Tahoe to Stowe, Curbed Ski has the lowdown on the biggest-deal festivities for family, friends, food-lovers, and freeloaders.

Holiday happenings are listed from West to East, not best to worst.

Whistler
The famous Whistler Holiday Experience, through Jan. 4 (closed Christmas and New Year's Eve) is back with tons of things to do for everyone in your family. The Conference Center becomes a free family fun zone packed with mini-golf, bouncy castles, and video games. Kid-free folks and groms can also watch world-class skiers and riders catching air amidst flames in the free Fire and Ice Show, which finishes with a fireworks display. And you don't want to miss the 30th annual Christmas Eve Carol Service, which will be at 6:30pm in Whistler Village's Westin Resort and Spa.

North Tahoe
From Squaw to Sugar Bowl, there's tons going on. The big events are Ski with Santa at Homewood, Dec. 20, where he'll be shredding the slopes and handing out candy. Over at Sugar Bowl, horse-drawn sleigh rides around the "nation's only snowbound village" are the in-thing; there's also live music Dec. 26-28 at The Judah Lodge. Sugar Bowl and Squaw will hold torchlight parades on Christmas Eve. For après Christmas Day, check out the Holiday Buffet at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, near Truckee, 2-7pm, advance reservations required.

South Shore
Heavenly Village goes nuts for the holidays with a two-week fiesta featuring professional ice skating shows, ice sculptors, carolers, local artists and a 16-foot interactive snow globe. Hop inside for a photo opp on Santa's lap while a live DJ spins tunes. The ice rink features different nightly performances the 28th through the 30th. For a more mellow experience, go Nordic at Spooner Lake or the Cross Country Center at Kirkwood.

Sun Valley
The holidays transform America's oldest ski resort into a Winter Wonderland, literally. Through Jan. 5, enjoy the "Austrian-and-stag themed" Stroll through the Village, and join in on a scavenger hunt. The Tree Lighting Ceremony in the Village is Dec. 20, and will include the usual suspects: Santa, carolers, music, free cookies and cocoa, and more. The 7th annual Classical Christmas Concert is Dec. 21 at the Opera House, and features local singers and musicians; purchase tickets through the Rec Center. Got the crumbchasers in town? Kids' Night Out Day-Care Service, available the 26-30, from 6-10pm, keeps them entertained with projects, interactive books, indoor/outdoor play, and "age-appropriate" movies. Ages 1-7.

Park City
On Christmas Eve, Santa will be shredding the gnar all day; come sunset, he'll lead over 100 ski and snowboard instructors down the PayDay run during Park City Mountain Resort's 50th annual traditional torchlight parade, which can be viewed from the Resort Plaza with complimentary hot beverages and cookies. At nearby Canyons from the 23rd through the 25th, Santa will be putting in shifts on-mountain, delivering candy to deserving children (look for him at the Flight of the Canyons gondola, in particular). Deer Valley is also putting the Man in Red to work Christmas Day, where he'll be greeting guests at various lodges; check website for times.

Jackson Hole
Join the Teton Village Holiday Block Party, Dec. 18, to get your last-minute shopping done in a convivial alpine atmosphere. The USSA IMD Open Tech Race for young up-and-comers in Slalom and Giant Slalom, is the 18-20th, and from the 20-24th, Santa will be putting in appearances in Teton Village at 4:45pm, beneath the Tram. On Dec 20 and 21 the Chabad Jewish Center will hold menorah lightings in Teton Village and in Town Square, respectively, including songs, stories, and tasty treats (who needs s'mores when you have latkes and sufganiyot)?

Vail
Glitzy Vail gets brighter over the holidays, with the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony Dec. 21, at Silfer Square. The evening includes a cappella singing and free hot chocolate, and is followed by a group Lantern Walk up Bridge Street into Mountain Plaza. Got kids or feeling crafty? Join the paper lantern-making workshops ("Libations and Lanterns is what you'd expect, 21 and over, obvs).

Aspen
No surprise Aspen throws down for the holidays. The St. Regis and Hotel Jerome have activities for all ages, from cookie decorating, live music, kid's story hours, meet-and-greets with the local Avalanche dogs, and tequila tastings, to elegant, prix-fixe Christmas Eve and Christmas Day brunch, and buffets. Aspen's famed 12 Days of Aspen starts December 20 with a free kick-off skating party, there's nightly free hot chocolate on the Cooper Street Mall, live jazz, and caroling about town. The St. Regis Aspen will also be holding a daily public menorah lighting December 16-24, from 4:45-5pm with Rabbi Mendel Mintz; on the 24th, latkes and other complimentary treats will be served. The Hotel Jerome will also be holding menorah lightings; check the Aspen Chamber site for times.

One of the Aspen area's most memorable holiday events is the torchlight parade and fireworks, held in Snowmass on December 28th. The festivities start at Fanny Hill at 5:30pm; parents and kids eight and older are invited to join the trail of torch-bearer skiers as they wind down the mountain. Buttermilk will hold their own family celebration featuring crafts, carolers, hot cocoa, and Santa on a Snowcat.

Crested Butte
Colorado's most classic ski town rocks the holidays, literally. Through the 21st, the Rock on Ice carving festival is happening in the Courtyard at Mountaineer Square. There's also the ever-popular yurt dinners at Magic Meadows; ski or snowshoe the torch-lit one-mile groomed trail and partake in the festivities, which include a multi-course meal and live music. Want someone else to do the work? Lazy F Bar Ranch has horse-drawn sleighs that will chauffeur you to a cabin dinner along the East River, through Jan. 10. It all culminates with a dramatic torchlight parade down the face of the mountain (Santa will lead the procession, towed by a Snowcat), on Christmas Eve.

Whiteface Mountain
On Dec. 19, guests of Whiteface Lodge can sing carols with the Saranac Lake Chorus; the next morning, little ones can chat up Santa at a special breakfast from 8-10am. Christmas Eve is a gathering for all ages at The Clubhouse for cookies, milk, and a reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. The resort is also offering special holiday meals, spa treatments (Peppermint Bliss Massage, anyone?). Not a guest? The week between the holidays offers low crowds and walk-in access to Lake Placid's Olympic Museum, Ski Jump and bobsledding.

Stowe
Stowe looks like a Currier & Ives print year-round; this time of year, it positively radiates good cheer. The annual Holiday Artisan Showcase at Stowe Mountain Lodge (one of our 38 Essential Ski Town Hotels) is Dec. 20-21, and will feature Vermont craft and food vendors. Christmas caroling (visitors are encouraged to participate), and a mountain fireworks and torchlight parade at Spruce Peak. On the 21st, there's also the Mountain Road Rumble Rail Jam, register at noon for the $1,500 purse, or just join the award and after-party at Piecasso. You must be a USASA member to compete. The Ice Slide at Spruce Peak is up and ready for action through Jan. 15, and ice carving, live music, and other public events abound.

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