You are here

4 Hidden-Gem Ski Resorts (That Aren't Vail or Whistler)

Everybody's heard of the world-famous ski resorts like Aspen, Whistler, and Vail. These premiere resorts offer world-class skiing and lots of glam-and-glitter in their après-ski scenes. But you can avoid the crowds and have fun both on and off the slopes at these best-kept secrets of the ski world.

Ahead, four spots to have on your radar this winter—out west, on the East Coast, and in Canada—plus the best spots to check out at each, straight from locals.

Winter Park

winter-park-resort.jpg
Credit: Winter Park Resort

If you've always wanted to ski Colorado, try Winter Park, a winter playground for Denverites. Although it's become an international destination resort, it hasn't become over-commercialized. Experts rate Mary Jane, one of the seven terrains that make up this resort, number one for mogul skiing in North America (Olympians often train on them). On weekends, the Winter Park Express Amtrak train travels from Denver to the resort, the only one of its kind in North America. The nearby local town of Winter Park has also managed to maintain its unpretentious small-town vibe.

credit-charles-stemen-winter-park-resort.jpg
Credit: Charles Stemen/Winter Park Resort

Insider/Local Suggestions

Where to Stay: For lodging on a budget and a dose of old-school ski lodge nostalgia, try Viking Lodge.

Where to Ski: On busy days, ski the outline runs of the mountains. Most people concentrate on skiing/snowboarding the middle of the mountain, so it's busier there.

Where to Après-Ski: Cozy up to the fireplace and order a flatbread pizza and a glass of wine in town at Volario's.

Where to Eat: The best place for lunch on the hill is the 150-seat heated deck at Lunch Rock. Their happy hour goes every day from 9 to 11 (order a Bloody Mary for $3). Or, head to Winter Park's Mary Jane Mountain parking lot, where locals host cookouts and tailgates.

Big Sky

credit-chris-kamman.jpg
Credit: Chris Kamman/Big Sky Resort

Not only is the sky big here, but so is the resort with 5,800 acres of terrain. Located in the Madison Mountain Range of the Rockies, an hour from Bozeman, MT, this resort has one of the biggest vertical drops in North America (4,366 feet). With no major metro city nearby, there are no crowds or lift lines, and even the scenic canyon drive to the resort is mellow.

Insider/Local Suggestions

Where to Stay: Check out Summit Hotel, a slope-side hotel with an indoor/outdoor soaking pool. Ask for a mountain view; it's pretty sweet.

Where to Ski: Hop on the Lone Peak Tram, and before you take one of the long runs down, check out the view. On a clear day you can see 360 degrees, allowing a glimpse of three states, two national parks, and the Tetons to the south.

Where to Après-Ski: Head to Montana Jack in the mountain village. Order a Cold Smoke, brewed by Montana's own Kettle House Brewing Co. It's a Scotch ale—so dreamy and good after a cold day outside.

Where to Eat: Rub elbows with the locals at Scissorbills Saloon, where they serve a mean burger and White Russian.

Cranmore

credit-cranmore-ski-resort-josh-bogardus.jpg
Credit: Cranmore Mountain Resort

If Olympian-level moguls and all that vertical sound intimidating, head to New Hampshire. Located just outside the village of North Conway in the White Mountains, and only 2.5 hours from Boston, Cranmore has been operating for 80 years—one of the old East Coast classics. With less altitude than Western mountains, Cranmore makes a lot of its own snow, has 56 trails, and is very beginner/intermediate friendly, making it a great place to hit the ski and snowboard school and take some lessons. Don't want to ski, but want to play in the snow? Cranmore is home to New Hampshire's number-one tubing park with a 10-lane lift-serviced snow tubing center.

Insider/Local Suggestions

Where to Stay: The best place to stay for a dose of New Hampshire culture is the historic Eastern Slope Inn. It's located right downtown in North Conway, minutes away from Cranmore.

Where to Ski: For the best long intermediate run, take the Schneider run down to Artist Falls to Jimmy's run and straight across to North slope (and repeat!).

Where to Après-Ski: A must-hit for lunch or afternoon drinks, ideally on the deck, is Meister Hut.

Where to Eat: A Cranmore fan fave is Zip's at the resort. This pub is full of charm and old-school Cranmore memorabilia.

Big White

courtesy-of-big-white-6.jpg
Credit: Big White Resort

British Columbia is a world-renowned mecca for powder hounds, and Big White, just 35 miles from Kelowna, gets an average of 25 feet of champagne powder annually. The resort village is the largest totally ski-in/ski-out in Canada, with everything in the village being accessible by ski (they even have their own craft brewery, the highest in Canada at 5,757 feet). Truly a winter playground, at Big White you can try a range of other winter activities like ice skating, ice climbing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, or dog sledding as well. Watch out for the snow ghosts (trees covered with ice)—Big White is famous for them.

courtesy-of-big-white-2.jpg
Credit: Big White Resort

Insider/Local Suggestions

Where to Stay: Sundance Resort offers stunning views of the mountain from one side and the Okanagan Valley and Monashee Mountains from the other.

Where to Ski: For a wicked run, take the run from Whitefoot Trail, down Powder Bowl, down Blue Sapphire, and then down Ogo Slow to the bottom of Gem Lake. It's super long and beautifully groomed, with soft powder stashes on the sides, and takes you from the tip of the alpine to the lowest elevation chair.

Where to Après-Ski: Head to The Woods, which offers a patio spilling out into the village. If you're feeling adventurous, try the All Canadian Espresso Martini, made with maple cream liqueur, whiskey, chocolate bitters, espresso, and chocolate. Or for live music, great prices, and a ridiculously fun atmosphere try Snowshoe Sam's.

Where to Eat: 6 Degrees Bistro offers an intimate dining room with a classic French-influenced menu, pouring a 100 percent Okanagan wine list.

Comments

Add a comment