Ski Resorts in the West: The U.S. and Canada

Matthew Cook

Thanks to these top resorts, this ski season is shaping up to be a true powder chaser’s dream.


Valdez: Valdez Heli-Ski Guides ferries guests from the two-year-old, 24-room Tsaina Lodge to massive, glacially sculpted peaks off nearby Thompson Pass. This season a snowcat ensures skiing when fickle Alaskan weather puts a damper on flying. A three-day trip starts at $4,055 a person; 907-835-4528;


Sugar Bowl: The smaller Tahoe resort boosts access to advanced terrain with a new triple chairlift up Crow's Nest Peak, giving entry to top-to-bottom runs in the Crow's Nest Glades and Strawberry Fields as well as to Rob's Run, a new groomer.


British Columbia: A new partnership between K2 Skis and Canadian Mountain Holidays' K2 Rotor Lodge (from $4,145 a person for four days; 403-762-7100; pairs famed pro skiers like Seth Morrison with advanced skiers for a day of tackling the steeps of the Selkirk and Monashee, in southeast B.C. With Northern Escape Heli-Skiing, in the Coastal Mountain Range of the north, the renovated Pioneer Lodge (from $5,140 a person for three days; 250-615-3184; houses eight and comes with an A-Star B2 heli and private pilot.

Whistler: The upgraded Crystal Ridge Express quad on Blackcomb Mountain eliminates the need for two lifts to reach popular runs like Ridge Runner and Outer Limits and adds faster access to the Horstman and Blackcomb glaciers. Meanwhile, the former quad Harmony is now a six-pack that whisks skiers to Whistler Mountain's upper bowls 50 percent faster.


Aspen: Interior designer Holly Hunt has modernized The Little Nell's Pfeifer and Little Nell suites with an eclectic mix of custom furnishings; the other four suites will get the same treatment next spring. Suites start at $2,860; 675 E. Durant; 970-920-4600;

Beaver Creek: Arguably the biggest hotel news out West, The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch is open after a $15 million redo of the guest rooms, lobby, Great Room and Club Level lounge. The makeover includes a new restaurant, Buffalos, whose menu has an emphasis on (surprise!) bison. Rooms start at $700; 0130 Daybreak Ridge; 970-748-6200;

Breckenridge: A Peak 6 expansion adds 543 acres of above-tree-line terrain, giving the ski area five peaks total. In addition to expert runs, the new slopes include moderate pitches that give intermediates the chance to experience high-altitude skiing with a remote feel.

Crested Butte: Eleven Experiences' Sopris Lodge used to be a saloon. This season it debuts as a renovated four-bedroom private house. As with the Scarp Ridge Lodge next door, a stay includes front-door pickup by snowcat for backcountry skiing, plus access to an adjacent private bar. From $1,350 a person per night; 970-349-7761;

Steamboat: The resort joins a small number of Colorado ski areas that offer night skiing: Until 8:30 p.m. on the weekends, skiers can now cruise on lower-mountain Christie Peak.

Vail: As the demand for ski villas grows, The Four Seasons Resort & Residences Vail offers six of its private residences for short-term stays. Number 1021 has three bedrooms, a media room and a huge roof deck with a view of the super pipe built for the 2013 Burton U.S. Open. A private morning ski session with Four Seasons' executive chef Jason Harrison ends with him grilling elk bratwurst and lamb sliders for lunch at Blue Sky Basin's Belle's Camp. Rooms start at $495; 1 Vail Rd.; 970-477-8600;


Big Sky/Moonlight Basin: Ski area Moonlight Basin's past financial woes are a skier's gain, as adjacent Big Sky Resort, already known for its uncrowded trails, acquires its neighbor this season. The result? A seamless ski experience on 5,750 acres—overtaking Vail Mountain as the biggest single ski resort in the U.S. Terrain ranges from the heart-in-your-throat steeps of the Headwaters chutes to cruisers like Ambush.


Park City: Maybe not the biggest news but perhaps the most delicious: The Montage Deer Valley's (rooms, from $865; 9100 Marsac Ave.; 435-604-1300; new Burgers & Bourbon serves up its signature Smokehouse burger with Canadian bacon, smoked cheddar and bourbon barbecue sauce as well as milkshakes and locally distilled High West whiskey.

Snowbird: Guided half-day cat-skiing trips begin with a couple of morning runs in Snowbird's Mineral Basin before the mountain opens to the public, then move to open bowls and aspen glades in the adjacent backcountry. Best strategy: rent the whole cat for a full day of skiing with catered lunch. Half-day cat rental starts at $330 a person; 801-933-2222;


Stowe, Vermont: Skiing the East? The Topnotch Resort and Spa just underwent the biggest renovation in its 50-plus-year history, debuting refurbished guest rooms and a new lobby. Rooms start at $325; 4000 Mountain Rd.; 802-253-8585;

Get Geared Up

Upgrade your on-slope activities with the season's top equipment and outerwear.

Goggles: The Zeal Z3 GPS Live's newly enhanced, smartphone-compatible GPS function displays real-time stats like speed, altitude and distance. $600;

Skis: The Volkl V-Werks Katana's wide body incorporates carbon fiber instead of metal, resulting in a ski that's superlight and maneuverable for its size. $1,100;

Jacket: The Westcomb Arcane's techie water- and windproof membrane expands and contracts to release or retain body heat as needed. $380;

Boots: Part of the first boot line from longtime skimaker K2, the Spyne 130 was designed for all-mountain skiing. $650;

Snowboard: The beveled edges of the Jones Aviator prevents hooking on snow while enhancing responsiveness. $530;

Ask the Experts

Former Olympians—and Sochi Games hopefuls—on their home-mountain favorites.

Ted Ligety, Skier—Park City, Utah: “The area off the Jupiter lift is awesome, with steep chutes and big bowls. Ski down to The Corner Store (1325 Lowell Ave.; 435-645-8666; for a burger. Next to the Town lift, High West Distillery (703 Park Ave.; makes its own whiskey.”

Julia Mancuso, Skier—Squaw Valley, California: “Spend all day off the KT-22 lift—and never ski the same line twice. The cookies are best at Wildflour Baking Company (Olympic House; When we get a storm, we cross-country ski to Mamasake (1850 Village South Rd.; for sushi.”

Gretchen Bleiler, Snowboarder—Aspen, Colorado: “Nothing beats Aspen's Highlands Bowl on a powder day! When I'm not snowboarding, I love cross-country skiing up to the Maroon Bells peak with my dog and going to Aspen's King Yoga (408 Aspen Airport Business Center;”