Here at Curbed Ski, we spend a lot of time thinking about ski towns. We keep tabs on our favorites, stay on the lookout for hidden gems and plot our next visits. This year, the name of the game is changes and classics. The amenity and improvement bug has hit a number of ski areas, as resort operators struggle to not get left behind. Other legendary mountains are celebrating major milestones and iconic properties are getting upgrades. It's going to be a good year to plan a tour, and we have the top ten ski towns you can't miss this winter.
10. Big Bear, California: If history repeats itself, Big Bear will be the place to be for this monster El Niño. The Southern California lakeside town is still sleepy, inexpensive and free of pretension while being a manageable drive from Los Angeles. There are probably tiny homes in Big Bear that are listed for nearly the same cost as a week's rental in Aspen. Don't fret over where to store that quiver of skis because, with any luck, you'll be out shredding on a different pair every powder day this winter.
9. Lake Louise, Alberta: A ski resort in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Everything about Lake Louise is beautiful. From the Banff National Park setting to views from (and of) the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, one of the most classic mountain resort hotels in the world, it's a bucket list skiing destination. And with the massive expansion approved for the resort in coming years, you'll have to hurry if you want to catch Lake Louise in its current form. Two other resorts, Mt. Norquay and Sunshine Village, complete the area trifecta, giving even the steel-legged vert chaser plenty of terrain.
8. Ogden, Utah: This is a new one for us, but with Powder Mountain and Snowbasin nearby, the skiing was on point and the city was a lot of fun. It's size, at nearly 84,000 residents, makes it a unique pick for this list. Being a city rather than a town makes it a different sort of ski vacation than other options on this list and, we think, a place worth checking out.
7. Aspen, Colorado: Aspen is still a classic ski town destination. It's not getting any cheaper, but Ajax's terrain isn't getting worse either. Finding a decent lodging deal will be a little more work, but there are also affordable Airbnbs to be had down the bus line. What Aspen does have that other ski towns have trouble matching is a nightlife scene that goes pretty hard. Not $1 PBRs or Molson, but lounges, clubs and real parties. Just don't forget you'll have to ski with that hangover.
6. Telluride, Colorado: Telluride is the quintessential mental image of a Colorado ski town. Shaped by its silver mining past, the historic wooden storefronts, meticulously preserved Late Victorian homes and box canyon walls make it feel like a living snow globe. No matter what festival you're there for (or just plan 'ol skiing), make sure to grab a beer at the New Sheridan and a cocktail at There.
5. Whistler, British Columbia: Whistler Blackcomb has to be in any discussion of top resorts, and there's little drop off when you start talking about the town. Stay slopeside for the winter visit, explore the parks and trails during the summer, you might even want to pick up a couple Realtor brochures for this surprisingly livable town. This year, with the resort celebrating 50 years, there are plenty of promotions and deals to make it easier to visit, and for U.S. skiers thinking about making the trip, the exchange rate could hardly be better.
4. Sun Valley, Idaho: Not only is Sun Valley more accessible this year with the addition of more direct flights, the classic Sun Valley Lodge celebrated its 80th birthday with a complete overhaul of its guest rooms, amenities and the addition of a spa. A real piece of history became the best place to stay in town. Add that to how fun the mountain and Ketchum are and you have a winning combination.
3. Jackson, Wyoming: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a host of improvements and full slate of events. There's probably no better time to visit a famous mountain than when it's celebrating a major milestone. There will be new lifts, terrain, dining options and promotions. What's not changing is Corbet's Coulior, the resort's reputation for technical terrain, it's relatively modest (and thus uncrowded) skier count or the town's genuine Western charm.
2. Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico: Pardon the dust while Taos undergoes some of the most dramatic changes in its history, but you'll want to take advantage of what's going on at this iconic resort. The Kachina Peak lift installed last year opens up a wealth of terrain that previously was strictly hike-to. The base area is being completely overhauled, with a new hotel under construction right now being just the beginning. All told, Taos Ski Valley could see $350 million in new construction during the next decade. And — with all the caveats that go along with long-term weather forecasts — Taos could be one of the few major resorts to see a real bump from El Niño. Maybe the Kachina Peak lift will start spinning early this year.
1. Park City, Utah: From No. 10 to No. 1 in a year. That's how much has changed at Park City lately. This time last year, Park City Mountain Resort was embroiled in an ongoing legal battle, and at certain points, we weren't even sure if the resort would open this year or if the lifts would even be there! Now, we're looking forward to $50 million in upgrades at the new Park City and an interconnect gondola making it the largest ski resort in the United States — second only to Whistler in North America. Who knows what changes this might bring to Park City the town, but we're pretty some of our favorite parts will be around for a long time to come.
Got ideas about which ski towns should be in the Top 11 to 20? Or even beyond? Let us know in the comments. Remember, you can also send us an email, here.
· Top Ten Reasons Skiing Telluride Should Be on Your Bucket List [Curbed Ski]
· Why the Death of the Ski Bum Will Ruin Ski Towns Everywhere [Curbed Ski]
· Which Ski Resort Has The Most Skiing in North America? [Curbed Ski]
· 9 Reasons Why Skiing Taos Should Be on Your Bucket List [Curbed Ski]