5 Awesome and Cheap Ski Resorts in the USA

Posted April 17, 2013 by Matt Gibson in Top 10

As a travel writer specializing in skiing, I spent this past winter traveling to ski areas in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and California in search of the best ski resort in the USA. All in all, I ended up visiting 12 resorts.

Several of the resorts were big world-class mega resorts, like Squaw Valley and Jackson Hole, and several were lesser-known mid-sized resorts.  Surprisingly, I found that I nearly always preferred the lesser-known areas. They tended to be friendlier, have more character, and I usually had an easier time finding stashes of untracked snow.

By the end of the tour I had a distinct preference for these smaller resorts. The experience is more pure, the prices are lower, and the snow is just as deep.

Here are five of my favorites.

1. Grand Targhee

Neighbour to Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee is located just west on the legendary resort on the opposite side of the Tetons. Since clouds must almost inevitably pass over Grand Targhee to get to Jackson Hole, it nearly always gets more snow — more than 500 inches on average each year.

The resort also regularly receives what locals call “free refills” — which is when it snows so hard that you can ride over your tracks from you previous run in fresh power. Combine that with small-town motel accommodations in nearby Driggs, a passionate local music scene, and reasonable lift tickets, and you have one hell of a ski experience.

Grand Targhee

2. Sugar Bowl

With the oldest chairlift in California (the Disney Chair, named after its benefactor, Walt Disney) Sugar Bowl is steeped in ski history. Sugar Bowl has terrain similar to that at nearby Squaw Vally, but it gets more snow, with an average annual snowfall of 500 inches.

Although Sugar Bowl is only 1500 acres, it feels much bigger, and has exceptional extreme terrain. During our visit we spent most of our time on two or three of the best powder runs, yet rarely crossed a track that wasn’t our own. It’s like a small Squaw Valley with fewer people that costs, on average, about $20 less per day for lift tickets.

3. Sierra-at-Tahoe

Sierra-at-Tahoe is a unique little gem a short drive from South Lake Tahoe. It’s a local favourite that’s often passed over by visitors for Heavenly and Kirkwood, which makes it all the better.

Sierra-at-Tahoe has a good variety of terrain and, with an annual average snowfall of 480 inches, it’s great for powder. This hill stands out, however, for the large amount of carefully sculpted terrain. The grooming is excellent and the mountain has five carefully-maintained terrain parks crafted with features for skiers and riders of all abilities — from beginners to pros — and has an award-winning superpipe. With three packs of lift tickets that work out to $55 per day, the value is unbeatable.


4. Wolf Creek

Tucked away near the town of Pagosa Springs in southern Colorado, Wolf Creek is something of an anomaly. Despite the fact that the resort receives more snow than any other resort in Colorado (465 inches on average each year). In a state that’s renowned for it’s ski resorts but receives less snow than most others in the west, the this oversight is baffling.

It’s also awesome, because it means that those of us in the know get to enjoy all that powder for the paltry sum of $56 per day while all the tourists scrape the snow off of bigger, better-known mountains.

Wolf Creek

5. The Best-Kept Secret in the Country

Some things are sacred — and this is one of them. Fishermen will never give up their secret spot, KFC will never tell you what’s in the seven special herbs and spices, and I cannot in good conscience reveal the name of what is perhaps the best-kept ski secret in the United States.

All I can tell you is this: located in one of the major ski states is a hill about an hour’s drive from several internationally-renowned resorts. Locals will tell you: The first rule of Resort X is that you don’t talk about Hill X. The hill allows access to more terrain than any other in the country. The hill receives more than 500 inches of crisp, dry powder every year. It has just a few lifts, and some of them are old. It’s a real mountain for snow-riding devotees, and it only costs $65 for an adult day pass.

Like I said, I can’t come out and tell you where this is. But if you want to find out badly enough, the above information, a few cups of coffee, and an hour on Google should be all you need to figure it out.
Mystery resort

If you have a guess, let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

Matt Gibson

Matt Gibson is the blog manager for Flight Network and an award-winning outdoors and adventure blogger.

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