There’s more to a ski vacation than taking run after run in fresh powder. There’s a certain vibe you need to feel to really get into it, and not every mountain (or hill) puts that out.
If you’re searching for an authentic mountain town in the US for your next skication, look no further than these favorites. These picks combined historic charm, quick mountain access, affordable transportation, and diverse food and drink options to make them must-visits.
Winter Park, Colorado
The town of Winter Park is less crowded than many Colorado ski towns but is the closest to Denver and home to the state’s longest-continually operating ski resort, Winter Park. Choose from the country’s best quad-burning bumps in the Mary Jane Territory or fantastic groomers and cruisers in the Winter Park Territory. If skinny skis or snowshoes call your name, visit Devil’s Thumb Ranch to explore 100 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails. To refuel burnt-out bodies, nowhere beats Hernando’s Pizza Pub. A Winter Park institution since 1967, expect giant, hand-tossed pizzas and cheap local beer.
This Austrian-inspired town was built for the ski resort, meaning it lacks the authenticity of other historic mining mountain towns. But it definitely makes up for it in amenities. Live music? Check. Local distillery? Check. Incredible cuisine? Check. Boutiques galore? Check. Pedestrian perks like heated sidewalks and a free bus system make Vail easy to navigate without a car. As for the skiing, it’s tough to find better terrain than Vail’s Back Bowls on a bluebird powder day. Fitt Tip: Ditch your ski boots for a cozy lunch at The 10th, Vail’s on-mountain restaurant, where comfy slippers and gear storage are provided.
Nestled in a remote box canyon in southwest Colorado, this former mining mecca’s preserved Victorian architecture make it one of the country’s most charming mountain towns. Once in town, park your car and walk everywhere. The main drag, Colorado Avenue, features historic saloons and hotels alongside modern, gourmet eats like Ghost Town Coffee and The Butcher & Baker. Need more magic? Take the free, scenic gondola to the town of Mountain Village and Telluride Ski Resort —home of steep, deep terrain and 300 annual days of sunshine.
Arguably the fanciest (read: expensive) Rocky Mountain ski town, Aspen’s home to boutiques galore, fine dining, and high-end ski-in, ski-out hotels. Historic Hotel Jerome’s J-Bar has been serving guests for over 100 years, and is popular with skiers and celebrities alike looking for creative cocktails and incredible burgers. And Aspen’s Power of Four resorts—Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass—have terrain for every skill level, from family-friendly groomers at Buttermilk and Snowmass to black-diamond bowls and steeps at Aspen Mountain and Highlands.
This authentic mining town (we see a theme here, people) has reinvented itself as a year-round outdoor adventure mecca, but Durango’s stayed true to its historic roots by preserving buildings like the Strater Hotel and continuing to operate the country’s only remaining narrow-gauge railroad (it’s like the Hogwarts Express). A great brewery, B&Bs, and an inventive dining scene make Durango’s Main Street the perfect basecamp for visiting Purgatory Resort. And the skiing there sees a wealth of blue and greens, plus not-too-steep terrain that’s great for learning, or wild backcountry terrain with Purgatory Snowcat Adventures for the learned.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Trademarked Ski Town, USA, this Colorado town is iconic as they come. Expect authentic Western stores, world-famous Champagne Powder, and a long-running Winter Carnival known for its skijoring and ski jumping competitions. Experience the fluffy snow for yourself at Steamboat Resort, where over 40% of the trails cater to intermediates. Expect great long groomer runs and plenty of tree skiing easily accessible from town.
A cowboy town at heart, Jackson’s Elk Antler Arch and Million Dollar Cowboy Bar’s horse saddle chairs throw you back to Wild West roots. Advanced skiers flock to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for steeps, chutes, and powder. Meanwhile, families prefer the easier riding at Snow King Mountain Resort. After slaying the mountain, tie one on at Mangy Moose, a favorite Jackson Hole Resort watering hole for over 50 years, or venture into town for brews and pub fare at Snake River Brewing.
Taos, New Mexico
Not enough people know that skiing in NM is bomb. And Taos may be the best. Renown for art galleries and upscale New Mexican cuisine, this town’s adobe architecture offers a different vibe from other ski towns. Experience Rocky Mountain powder on crowd-free runs at Taos Ski Valley, just 18 miles from town. There, a new-ish lift takes advanced skiers up Kachina Peak to an elevation of 12,481 feet above sea level, providing access to more terrain than ever before.
Yet another former mining town that revived itself with skiing, Breckenridge sits at an elevation of 9,600 feet above sea level and is home to North America’s highest chairlift. Bars are big in Breck; so don’t leave without visiting the town’s oldest one—The Gold Pan Saloon—founded in 1879. Breckenridge Resort’s five peaks and 2,908 acres could keep you busy skiing for days, but thrillseekers must take a break for a thrilling ride on the tree-filled twists and turns of the Gold Runner Alpine Coaster. Bonus: Free transportation from town to Breckenridge Ski Resort, Keystone Resort, and Arapahoe Basin is always available.
Park City, Utah
Just 30 miles from Salt Lake City, Park City is one of the only mountain towns in the USA close enough to a major airport to ski the same day you fly in. Preserved Western architecture, diverse dining options, and events like the Sundance Film Festival make Park City a favorite of winter visitors. This historic silver-mining settlement boasts world-class skiing and snowboarding at two resorts: Skiers-only Deer Valley (think: the plot of Johnny Tsunami) and Vail-owned mega-resort Park City. Unique to Park City, ride the Town Lift from Main Street to Park City Resort, and after a day on the slopes, ski down and warm up with a hot toddy at the world’s only ski-in/ski-out distillery, High West.
The East’s winter sports capital, Stowe’s old-fashioned Main Street features locally owned shops hawking handmade art, jewelry, and furniture alongside distilleries, breweries, and stores specializing in Vermont-made food (cheddar!) and spirits. At 4,395 feet, the summit of Stowe Mountain Resort is Vermont’s highest, and the diverse terrain challenges every level of skier. After taking runs on their tough Mount Mansfield trails, give your quads a break and visit the nearby Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum or Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory.
Tahoe City, California
This tiny lakeside ski town provides quick access to plenty of Tahoe’s legendary ski resorts, like Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Homewood Ski Resort, Northstar, and Sierra-at-Tahoe (they’re all worthy). Main Street is home to outdoor stores, coffee shops, and funky cafes. And for dinner, you can’t beat the views or the eats at lakeside favorites like Jake’s On the Lake or Christy Hill.