Top 10 Ski Resorts in North America


Jackson Hole, WY.  photo:  jackson hole mountain resort

Jackson Hole, WY. photo: jackson hole mountain resort

A simple, yet acutely accurate equation has been developed by leading industry professionals to create this complex ski resort ranking system:  

Rank =  [Average Snowfall + Access to Challenging Terrain] x Radness Factor (RF)

 

#1 – Jackson Hole, WY

 

RF to the face. Jackson Hole, WY. photo: jacksonholewy.com

RF to the face. Jackson Hole, WY. photo: jacksonholewy.com

- Average snowfall = 475 inches

- Total inbounds terrain = 2,500 acres

- Top elevation = 10,450 feet

- Bottom elevation = 6,311 feet

- Total vertical drop = 4,139 feet

- Trails = 80

- Lifts = 11

- Why Jackson Is Great = The Backcountry Terrain

- Local Quote =  “Most would focus on the tram, bringing you up over 4,000 feet in about 9 minutes in winds up to 70 mph. Many could look at the average snowfall, which lays down an impressive 450+” of snow.  Some could even point to the fact that our relative isolation keeps crowds far below what they would be at many other resorts around the world. I would say the single factor that makes Jackson Hole stand out from it’s peers is the terrain- long, steep couloirs, badass open faces, incredible tree skiing…and that’s just what’s immediately around the resort. Add in Teton Pass, Grand Teton National Park, and the surrounding ranges that very few people even visit and you’ve got plenty to keep yourself busy.  Finally, Teton fault could always shift and our lines could quickly grow another couple inches…which is, coincidentally, what she said.”Andrew Whiteford, Jackson Hole Freeride Team member

 

#2 – WHISTLER BLACKCOMB, B.C.

Disease Ridge @ Blackcomb.  photo:  Black Jorgenson/Whistler Blackcomb

Disease Ridge @ Blackcomb. photo: Black Jorgenson/Whistler Blackcomb

- Average snowfall = 396 inches

- Total inbounds terrain = 8,171 acres

- Top elevation = 7,494 feet

- Bottom elevation = 2,140 feet

- Total vertical drop = 5,280 feet at Blackcomb (5,020 ft at Whistler)

- Trails = 200+

- Lifts = 38

- Why Whistler is Great = The Size

- Local Quote = “The sheer size and range of riding available at Whistler makes any day with any conditions hold potential to be your best day of the season. Plus, if it is raining, the two dozen bars will give you more than enough options to drink it blue.” – Eliel Hindert, Professional skier & Sweet Grass movie star

 

#3 – Squaw Valley, CA

KT-22, in all it'g

KT-22, in all it’s 2011 glory.  photo:  miles clark

- Average snowfall = 450 inches

- Total inbounds terrain = 3,600 acres

- Top elevation = 9,050 feet

- Bottom elevation = 6,200 feet

- Total vertical drop = 2,850 feet

- Trails = 170+

- Lifts = 30

- Why Squaw Is Great = The Terrain

- Local Quote = ”What makes Squaw Valley the planet’s greatest ski area is that we have the greatest snow on earth, a unmatched dump:sun ratio, unsurpassed verticality, perfectly clean, granite cliffs ten feet higher than some in Whistler, and very few iPhone-toting hippies. On top of all this, the general lack of local arrogance is utterly refreshing, which outsiders might find surprising because Squaw is pretty much the center of the universe.” – Scott Gaffney, editor, director, filmer with Matchstick Productions

 

#4 – Snowbird, UT

The Snowbird Tram is what it'all
The Snowbird Tram is what it’s all about.  photo:  sandy.utah.gov

- Average snowfall = 500 inches

- Total inbounds terrain = 2,500 acres

- Top elevation = 11,000 feet

- Bottom elevation = 7,760 feet

- Total vertical drop = 3,240 feet

- Trails = 85

- Lifts = 11

- Why Snowbird is Great = The Tram

- Local Quote = “The Tram is the best lift in the world because you get all the goodness of Snowbird all from one lift. You can access almost the entire mountain and ski 3-4 times as much steep terrain in one run as you can at Squaw Valley. Plus it really doesn’t smell as bad as people say”Daryn Edmunds, long-time Snowbird local

 

#5 – Revelstoke, B.C.

Mackenzie Face, Revelstoke, B.C.

Mackenzie Face, Revelstoke, B.C.

- Average Annual Snowfall = 169 inches at Revelstoke Airport, 480 inches at top of Mt. Mckenzie

- Total inbounds terrain = 3,121 acres

- Top elevation =  7,300 feet

- Bottom elevation = 1,680 feet

- Total vertical drop = 5,620 feet

- Trails = 59

- Lifts = 5

- Why Revelstoke Is Great = The Vertical (longest vertical drop in North America at 5,620 ft)

- Quote = ”Man, this place is amazing.  I’d love to get back up here.  On a powder day, it seems like there’s nobody here and the terrain’s incredible.  I gotta get back.”  - Arne Backstrom, 2010 Revelstoke FWT Champion & 2010 Overall FWT Champion

 

#6 – Taos, NM

Katchina Peak, Taos Ski Valley, NM.  photo:

12,481 Katchina Peak, Taos Ski Valley, NM.  photo:  the-ratti-report.com

- Average snowfall = 305 inches

- Total inbounds terrain = 1,294 acres

- Top elevation =  12,481 feet

- Bottom elevation = 9,207 feet

- Total vertical drop = 3,274 feet

- Trails = 113

- Lifts = 14

- Why Taos is Great = The Snow Quality + Terrain

- Local Quote = There are plenty of great ski areas in the Western US.  If you happen to be at any one of them when it snows, that is about the best place you can be.  But if you happen to be in Taos for that magic event, you are likely to be enjoying the heck out of things for about a week.  We aren’t on the beaten path… A heck of a lot of folks think they need a passport and some shots to visit Taos.  Shots yes, passport no.  You can’t ski out Taos Ski Valley in a day or a week or a season.  It’s complicated and we like it that way.”Dave Hahn, Taos Ski Patroller, Mountain Guide with 14 summits of Everest, 20 summits of Denali, 30 summits of Vinson Massif in Antarctica

 

#7 – Big Sky & Moonlight Basin, MT

Big Sky, MT.

Big Sky, MT.

- Average snowfall = 400 inches

- Total inbounds terrain = 5,532 acres

- Top elevation = 11,166 feet

- Bottom elevation = 6,800 feet

- Total vertical drop = 4,366 feet

- Trails = 150

- Lifts = 22

- Why Big Sky is Great = The Steeps

- Local Quote = “Where else in America can you get 4000′ vertical, 4000 acres, 400″ of snow, 56 degree steeps, 320 days of sunshine, and less than a million people?”Chris Rennau, Big Sky ski enthusiast

 

 

#8 – Kicking Horse, B.C.

Sylvain Bourbousson, Kicking Horse, B.C., Canada. Photo: Eric Bergeri

Kicking Horse, B.C. Photo: Eric Bergeri/Snowboardermag.com

- Average snowfall = 295 inches

- Total inbounds terrain = 2,800 acres

- Top elevation = 8,033 feet

- Bottom elevation = 3,900 feet

- Total vertical drop = 4,133 feet

- Trails = 120

- Lifts = 4

- Why Kicking Horse is Great = The Lack of Crowds + Big Terrain

- Local Quote = This place is so new and unfrequented, that we couldn’t even get someone to quote…

 

#9 – Mount Baker, WA

Shuksan Arm, Mt. Baker Ski Resort, WA.

Shuksan Arm, Mt. Baker Ski Resort, WA.

- Average snowfall = 641 inches

- Total inbounds terrain = 1,000 acres

- Top elevation = 5,089 feet

- Bottom elevation = 3,500 feet

- Total vertical drop = 1,589 feet

- Trails = 31

- Lifts = 8

- Why Mt Baker is Great = The Snow Quanitiy (world record set in ’98/99 at 1,140 inches”)

- Local Quote = “Baker is great because you have this amazing mixture of constantly deep snow, amazing terrain and a Mountain Management policy that is more about people taking responsibility for there own actions, and lets people make there own decisions about riding some of the incredibly challenging terrain.  Not to mention the limitless backcountry that is easily accessible from the ski area.”Grant Gunderson

 

#10 – Silverton, CO

Silverton Mountain, CO

Silverton Mountain, CO

- Average snowfall =  400 inches

- Total inbounds terrain = 1,819 acres. Plus 22,000+acres heli & hike to.

- Top elevation = 13,487 feet

- Bottom elevation = 10,400 feet

- Total vertical drop = 3,000 feet

- Trails = 0

- Lifts = 1

- Why Silverton is Great = The Heli-Skiing Experience at a Ski Resort

- Local Quote = “Silverton Mountain is pretty close to the most pure skiing experience one can find today – an epic mountain, bountiful snowfall (the deep and light Colorado kind!), and none of the distractions of other ski areas (crowds!). Silverton is like heli-skiing with a chairlift!” – Chris Davenport, Big-Time Professional Skier and Mountaineer

Comment(s): 99

    1. miguel

      Great mountain but the Jackson backcountry gets tracked up faster than a lot of resorts inbounds. Scary how fast people go out after a storm.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      +1 (1 vote)
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  1. stut

    On the dark side of Big Sky is Moonlight Basin. Great tree skiing, Groomers and Headwaters is as bad as you wanna be.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +3 (3 votes)
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    1. Tom Williams

      Taos is ahead of most. Steep narrow, tight trees. Cliffs, terrain, been going back for 12 years and still haven’t skied it all.
      Awesome…

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      +3 (3 votes)
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    2. Mark

      I can scare anyone at Taos, particularly when the conditions are of the eastern variety. No resorts in Colorado? Comon…

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      +3 (3 votes)
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      1. Mark

        and then there is Mad River Glen, best skiers in the world ski here…Flyin Ryan looks over the biggest of the cliff drops!

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        0 (0 votes)
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      2. Sean

        Silverton is in Colorado. What resorts could you be thinking of? Most CO resorts don’t get the snow, don’t have steep terrain, and don’t have accessibility. Maybe if they factored in crowd congestion more Colorado resorts would do better.

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        +3 (3 votes)
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        1. SKIBUM

          UMMM Telluride is a backcountry mecca and has the in bounds terrain as well! Crusty Butte! ummm Colorado has terrain! Get off the I-70 corridor!

          VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
          +3 (3 votes)
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        2. Josh

          Colorado has tons of snow and powder, WHY DO PEOPLE THINK SUMMIT COUNTY IS ALL THAT COLORADO HAS TO OFFER? If places like Wyoming, or Utah had more mountain ranges then they’d be in the same boat as Colorado in terms of snow diversity! Jackson Hole in fact has averaged only 320 inches of snow the last three years! I would rank Telluride and Wolf Creek above most of the resorts elsewhere. Why do people think that Colorado has no steep terrain, just because a ski resort like Breck or Vail is flat doesn’t mean that steep mountains don’t exist in CO!! Remember the winter of 2011-2012, Alta and the rest of Utah got less snow than Summit County!! People who think Colorado doesn’t get the snow of other places are seriously narrow minded and clueless. California snow is too hard, but I guess some people like that.

          VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
          +6 (6 votes)
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        3. clay

          Sean you have no clue. You have never skied any “real” Colorado mountains.
          Steeps: Crested Butte/Abasin/Loveland…..some of the steepest runs in US
          Crowds: Abasin/Loveland/Monarch/Wolf Creek/Crested Butte/Jane….none ever.

          VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
          +1 (1 vote)
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    1. Anonymous

      Jackson closed, others riding powder, Jackson measures snow from Top of mountain others mid mountain. Overpriced should be number 3 or 4. Baker steeper, better outback, more snow, cheaper.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      +6 (6 votes)
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  2. Rango

    It’s not too late, bump Silverton up. If you’ve been there, you should know. It’s epic on the right day

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
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    1. Mark Gerardy

      I have been to Silverton, I know, and you are correct. Silverton makes every run at every other ski resort look flat by comparison. I have skied nearly every double-black diamond and EXterrain at 3/4ths of Colorado ski areas, there is nothing like Silverton. Some of their terrain is quadruple black diamond. The waiver that you sign beforehand says it all. Level 9 extreme skiing all the way.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      +1 (1 vote)
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      1. Pablo

        I skied there in December ’10 and they had like 40 inches in two days. Sick steeps and deep everywhere. Add the very high elevation and it should be higher on the list cause it’s so physically demanding. I’m planning on another trip next month!

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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    2. Tyler

      Guided only for almost the entire season, I’m not sure that they should qualify against traditional resorts….s

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      +2 (2 votes)
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  3. MountainJams

    Hellsyeah for Silverton! – Albeit, – Jackson hole is my Favorite as well !!!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
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  4. Jason

    I just skied Kicking Horse. It should be third, if not first. Kicking Horse has more in-bounds steeps than Jackson, and incredible backcountry terrain and access.

    Squaw is great but should be far below. It just does not have the sustained vertical of the others and the snow quality is bad.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +2 (2 votes)
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  5. Sturn

    How’d Jackson gain 100 more vertical? Must be new Math, or just excited to be #1.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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  6. Gmoney

    Man, hard to not just have a top 15….

    So many GREATS not on the list. Taos is up there for me for sure.

    Aspen’s power of 4 is hard to not recognize….

    As for the, it’s epic on the right day re: silverton, so is all of the other resorts. But Silverton is a tremendous experience.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
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  7. Moonlight Basin

    Where’s the love Snow Brains? Those stats are for Moonlight Basin & Big Sky Resort. Can you do us a solid & add us to #7? At least give us a shout out. Would be much appreciated. Thanks.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +1 (1 vote)
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  8. Sandy Mike

    Snowbird Love! I think it could be above Squaw, but I’m happy with #4. On a late season powder, the place is unreal. Oh, yeah, kinda like today!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +1 (1 vote)
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  9. Daryn Edmunds

    Good list homie. You know Snowbird should be above Squaw, but it is your site so I guess it is to be expected. Keep the good stuff rolling!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
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  11. Anonymous

    Hell yeah JH!

    “iPhone toting hippies” ? Haha get over yourself Squaw.. It’s a great mountain with lots of fun terrain, but if you want local and lack of arrogance? Check out Alpine.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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  12. Kevin

    Mt Bachelor doesn’t need to reopen– looking forward to a pow day on May 26th.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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  13. Duderino

    Do people ski upside down at Taos?

    - Top elevation = 9,207 feet

    - Bottom elevation = 12,481 feet

    = negative vertical drop, which must be a first in the ski industry

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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    1. Miles Clark

      people kept referring to this and I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about. Just fixed it. Thanks for getting thru to me and pointing that out.

      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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  14. CeCe

    Well, I have to say I’ve had my absolute best pow days at Steamboat… for powder I have never had those days matched anywhere… I am talking deep, deep powder that is light as a feather!
    I think Lake Louise has some fun terrain as well.. not the big pow- but amazing scenery, even better then Telluride.
    All these resorts are good on their best day and conditions- but the boat consistently has good pow

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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    1. Mark Gerardy

      Had two great days of fresh deep pow at Steamboat, but found Steamboat to be very flat. Mt. Werner has Chutes and Christmas Tree bowl, but they are short and a long runout with lots of poling. And a real wacky way to have to ski down the flat back bowl to take Morningside to get to the chutes, or have to hike off the Storm Peak lift. I wanted to like Steamboat, but just cannot get into it.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      +1 (1 vote)
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      1. Pablo

        Morningside is a colossal waste of time. Literally you take six turns and your run is over. Flat! The best spots are the chutes and the little hike up to No Names and North St Pats, but it’s short too.

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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  15. powder girl

    Alpine IS Squaw now… gone are the days of the $45 ticket and the endless hike-able pow… Love this list, I can see how some are bantering about the order, but with several places off the beaten path that I’ve never tried, it’s time to get my ass out there! My heart will always stay in POWDER MOUNTAIN, UT, though… love that place!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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    1. Anonymous

      POWMOW! Can’t believe it’s only been mentioned once here! Old School PowMow does it all….SHHHhhhh!

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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  16. Ruffy

    Revelstoke will challange any skier! not meant for families or beginners.
    if that dont do it, rodgers pass will blow any ski touring- back country skiier

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +2 (2 votes)
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  17. Joe snow

    If you have been to revelstoke you know it is the best. Only 3 lifts to access enormous terrain. Easy back/side country access a lot of snow. The trees are perfection. It is not uncommon to see an ambulance at the base. This place is perfection.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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  19. SKIBUM

    It’s difficult to really narrow it down to just 10. Certainly JH get #1 and Whistler #2. Telluride, Crested Butte and Alta all get nods as well in my book.

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    1. Tyler

      Telluried and Crested Butte have good terrain but they have been seriously lacking in the snow department for the last couple of years…

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  20. Big perm

    Dude, BAR none Revelstoke takes the win. Brand new, no one knows about it, and they get more snow than alsmost anyone, no crowds (far to get to), and was even in Art Of Flight (unfortunate :/). I have been to all of these, numerous times except silverton, and all over the world for that matter (thanks government job) and for real un biased since I live on the east cost now REVELSTOKE is KING. PERIOD. And snowbird blows compared to snowbasis, that was the deepest dryest pow of my life 55inches inches in 24 hours. Jackson is awesome for sure, but windblown and icy as you all know as soon as it get’s exposed. Revelstoke baky, get reved!! Plus the town is way cooler than any of them, not built up yet, and have way better heli skiing than any of the above listed for 10x cheaper. WORD

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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  21. jeff

    Silverton requires that you have backcountry gear if that tells you anything.
    And stay away from Telluride- it super-sucks, no need to go there

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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  23. Josh

    Where’s Loveland, Wolf Creek, and Telluride? Colorado has the best skiing in the USA!!! Loveland has 450 inches of snow and great steeps, Wolf Creek has 500 inches of the best powder anywhere. Telluride has everything too! California and Utah always put down Colorado to make themselves feel better, but everything they say is B.S. Both Utah and California lie about their snowfall and terrain, when Colorado is too modest. Why is everyone so jealous of Colorado? If they weren’t then why do they always feel the need to disparage it?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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  26. Maestroe

    Kicking Horse = Jackson without the crowds
    Alta on top of Snowbird = Whistler (not including Blackcomb)
    Revelstoke has 5700+ lift served vert of expert terrain +cat skiing + heli + year round snow
    Banff/Lake Louise has the best scenery and wildlife on the planet + some kick a** skiing
    British Columbia (B.C.) = backcountry
    Canada Rules!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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  30. PNWLover

    It is always about the snow, not who has the best lodge, or the nicest parking lot or a good menu or affordable daycare, it always comes back to the snow. If you are a groomer, good for you, you can ski on an ice rink. If you like moguls, you need to get out of the 80′s. If you like snow, and I’m talking about dumping all the time, consistent 10+ inch overnight dumps that happen 30+ times a year, then you are talking about Mt Baker, the king of snow. The closest place on this list is 141 inches, or almost 12 feet less in snow for the season! This isn’t a place where you get a 40 inch dump and no snow for 3 weeks. Beyond that, it has arguably the best chair lift or book packed backcountry access in the world. They don’t groom 80% of the killer inbounds terrain, because why ruin a good thing? It always comes back to the snow and the terrain under it, and with that in mind, Mt Baker can’t be beat…period.
    Snowiest places in 2012/13. And this is an average year at Baker! But look at the rest of the list, the PNW is where it is at if you want snow! But please don’t come here, the canadians have already infiltrated the area, and we don’t want anymore. Thanks in advance!
    #1 – Mt. Baker, WA = 720″
    #2 – Alyeska, AK = 718”
    #3 – Mt. Washington, B.C. = 685″
    #4 – Timberline, OR = 544″
    #5 – Stevens Pass, WA = 541″

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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