The 9 Best Independently Owned U.S. ‘Mom-and-Pop’ Ski Resorts, According to SnowBrains Readers

Ryan Kime | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Finding the untracked near Wolf Creek Ski Area, CO.
Finding the untracked near Wolf Creek Ski Area, CO. pc powder7

We recently reached out to our loyal readers to ask the question, “What are your favorite independently owned mom-and-pop ski areas?” Here’s a list of the top responses. Thank you, and we hope you enjoy reading.

  1. Silverton Mountain, CO

Properly described as “a unique mountain experience,” Silverton operates unlike any other ski resort in the U.S. Silverton Mountain has been owned and operated by Aaron and Jenny Brill since January 19, 2002, when they bought a chairlift from Mammoth Mountain and opened for business. Known for its uber steeps, this mountain is undoubtedly geared towards experts. And with its incredible access to backcountry options including both hiking and Heli-ski options, the potential tilts toward limitless.

Owner Aaron Brill shares, “With no plans or desires for condos or high-speed lifts, Silverton Mountain is how skiing used to be. Based on a cross of New Zealand style club fields and small U.S. ski areas, Silverton Mountain has become a special place for expert lift-served adventure skiing.”

The Silverton Mountain Heli-skiing experience.
The Silverton Mountain Heli-skiing experience. pc screenshot Silverton mountain

Mountain Stats

  • Annual Snowfall: 400”+
  • Summit Elevation (ft.): 13,847
  • **Lift-serviced Vertical (ft.): 1,900
  • **Hike-to or Heli- accessible Vertical (ft.): 3.887
  • Skiable Acres: 1,819
  • Lifts: 1 double

Fun Facts: The easiest run is 35 degrees. For reference, 30 degrees is a steep run at your average ski area. As more than one local reminds us from time to time, it’s not steep, it’s… ‘Silverton steep.’

East Face Silverton Mountain, CO
East Face Silverton Mountain, CO. pc Silverton mountain
West Face Silverton Mountain
West Face Silverton Mountain, CO. pc Silverton mountain
  1. Loveland Ski Area, CO

Just 53 miles west of Denver along the I-70 corridor, you will find this jewel of a ski area. According to its website:

Loveland Valley has a separate area just for beginners. This unique area is the perfect place for newcomers to work on their technique away from intermediate and expert snow riders. With their own lifts and gentle terrain, it’s here that newcomers can develop their new-found love of skiing or snowboarding.

Mountain Stats

  • Annual Snowfall (inches): 422
  • Summit Elevation (ft.): 13,010
  • Vertical (ft.): 2,210
  • Skiable Acres: 1,800
  • # Trails / Lifts: 94 / 9 lifts

Fun Facts: Take a free snowcat ride along the Continental Divide and explore more than 100 hikeable acres of the best skiing Loveland has to offer! Free to all valid ticket holders.

Loveland Ski Area, CO.
Loveland Ski Area trail map, CO. pc screenshot skiloveland
  1. Tyrol Basin, WI

In 2018, Nathan McGree bought the property he owns and operates today. A Midwest skier Matthew Zabransky characterized Tyrol Basin’s rich history by saying,

“… long before it was called Tyrol Basin, the ski resort started in 1958 under the name Sutter’s Ridge. The ski area was started by Sandy Stevenson – a Chicagoan and avid skier who wanted to escape the big city. Just a few years later, Sandy would change the name of the resort to Norway Basin to coincide with the local Norwegian heritage. But he would quickly discover that many confused the ski area with a local living museum called “Little Norway,” so he changed the name to Tyrol Basin, and it has operated under that name since.”

Mountain Stats

  • Annual Snowfall (inches): 50
  • Summit Elevation (ft.): 1130
  • Vertical (ft.): 260
  • Longest Run: 2.5 miles
  • # Trails / Lifts: 16 / 6

Fun Facts: They have one double black diamond slope called “Double Diamond.”

Tyrol Basin trail map.
Tyrol Basin trail map. pc tyrolbasin
  1. Mt. Ashland, OR

With majestic views of all the surrounding natural beauty, Mt. Ashland provides terrain for skiers and riders of every ability. Founded in 1964 and operated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization for three decades, Mt. Ashland is all about Local Mountain Fun. Explore steeper terrain in The Bowl, one of the dozens of groomed runs, or find your happy place in one of our tree glades.”- Mt. Ashland website.

Mountain Stats

  • Annual Snowfall (inches): 265
  • Summit Elevation (ft.): 7,500
  • Vertical (ft.): 1150
  • Skiable Acres: 240
  • # Trails / Lifts: 44 / 4

Fun Facts: Mt. Ashland is also a popular spot in the summer for hiking and biking. The south and east sides of the mountain coincide with stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Mt. Ashland trail map
Mt. Ashland trail map. pc: mtashland
  1. Beaver Mountain, UT

For over 80 years now, the Seeholzer family has welcomed guests to its resort. The story began in 1937 when Harold Seeholzer working with the Mt. Logan Ski Club started pushing his way up the canyon. Later with his wife Luella, they started Beaver Mountain. According to the mountain’s history:

When Harold Seeholzer started Beaver Mountain in 1939, his dream was to create a place where people could bring their families together and teach them to love to ride as much as he did. As generations of Seeholzers worked in every aspect of the resort from then until now, they’ve continued to have that singular focus; making families feel at home so they can continue to create great memories with every single visit. So, come and make yourself at home. Our mountain is your mountain.”

Mountain Stats

  • Annual Snowfall (inches): 400
  • Summit Elevation (ft.): 8,860
  • Vertical (ft.): 1,700
  • Skiable Acres: 1,100
  • # Trails / Lifts: 48 / 6

Fun Facts: It’s the longest continuously-owned family resort in the U.S.

Beaver Mountain trail map
Beaver Mountain trail map. pc skithebeav
  1. White Pass, WA

This past December 2021, White Pass Ski Area was sold to a partnership of Yakima-based businessmen, Andrew Sundquist, David Severn, Dan Plath, Adam Dolsen, and Patrick Smith. Commenting on the changeover general manager Rikki Cooper noted:

Moving forward, White Pass Company, Inc. will continue to provide family-friendly recreation for winter sports enthusiasts from across the Pacific Northwest. The longtime leadership at White Pass has set us on a successful pathway and we are looking forward to continuing that growth into the future.”

Mountain Stats

  • Annual Snowfall (inches): 350
  • Summit Elevation (ft.): 6,500
  • Vertical (ft.): 2,000
  • Skiable Acres: 1,402
  • # Trails / Lifts: 45/ 6

Fun Facts: World Cup racing champions Phil and Steve Mahre grew up skiing here. Their father Dave “Spike” Mahre was the local mountain manager.

White Pass Ski Area trail map.
White Pass Ski Area trail map. pc skiwhitepass
  1. Bolton Valley, VT

The ski resort was founded in 1966 by the DesLaurier family. According to its website,

The Bolton Valley is owned by the DesLauriers family and a small group of investors.  Ralph DesLauriers founded Bolton Valley in 1966 and is now Chairman of the Board. Three of his children, Lindsay, Evan, and Adam – along with the best management team ever – currently run the resort and see to its daily operations.”

Mountain Stats

  • Annual Snowfall (inches): 300
  • Summit Elevation (ft.): 3,150
  • Vertical (ft.): 1,625
  • Skiable Acres: 165
  • # Trails / Lifts: 71 / 6

Fun Facts: Bolton Valley claims the highest base elevation in Vermont. It also has one of the few westward-facing ski areas in the state.

Bolton Valley trail map
Bolton Valley trail map. pc screenshot Bolton valley
  1. Ski Butternut, MA (Butternut Basin)

Channing Murdock converted the G Bar S Ranch into a ski resort when he took ownership in 1963. He named it after the large groves of butternut trees located in the area. The Murdocks have held continual ownership ever since.

American Butternut
American Butternut Tree. pc screenshot big commerce.

Mountain Stats

  • Annual Snowfall (inches): 115
  • Summit Elevation (ft.): 1,800
  • Vertical (ft.): 1,000
  • Skiable Acres: 100
  • # Trails / Lifts: 22 / 4

Fun Facts: The Kennedys were family friends of the Murdocks and were known to visit regularly.

Ski Butternut trail map.
Ski Butternut trail map. pc ski butternut
  1. Mount Bohemia, MI

Outside magazine editor Paddy O’Connell described it as,

… a nine-and-a-half-hour road trip north of Detroit. Marquette, Michigan, the closest—ahem—major city, has a smidge over 20,000 people. The resort has only two chairlifts. A fleet of buses driven by cigar-chewing locals drives skiers who’ve glided past the lifts back to the base area, which consists of a parking lot and a handful of yurts. Mount Bohemia does not allow beginners. In fact, when purchasing a lift ticket, skiers have to sign a waiver pledging an at-the-very-least strong intermediate ability capable of managing extreme terrain. The resort is only 900 vertical feet high. There’s not a single green square run, no grooming ever, and it even boasts a triple-black-diamond trail. And all of these things make it magical.”

Skiing ice waterfalls at Mt. Bohemia, MI
Skiing ice waterfalls at Mt. Bohemia, MI. pc screenshot skimag

Mountain Stats

  • Annual Snowfall (inches): 273
  • Summit Elevation (ft.): 1,465
  • Vertical (ft.): 900
  • Skiable Acres: 585
  • # Trails / Lifts: 95 / 2

Fun Facts: The resort has no snowmaking capability. It relies solely on the lake effect to help create its annual snowfalls. No runs are groomed, and therefore it is not appropriate for beginners.

1 of 4 faces on Mount Bohemia trail map.
1 of 4 faces on Mount Bohemia, MI. pc. screenshot mtbohemia

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24 thoughts on “The 9 Best Independently Owned U.S. ‘Mom-and-Pop’ Ski Resorts, According to SnowBrains Readers

  1. JVC- Eagle Point has changed hands a half dozen times and is now owned by a group of investors. There are plenty of new developments and master plans. Just because a mountain is small (and in Eagle Point’s case, boring too), doesnt mean it’s “Mom & Pop.” Investors and opportunists realized decades ago the money to be made off of the niche resorts.

  2. This is about sole ownership for as long as the area has been owned other owned areas have been sold off to other capitalist ventures like butternut it has been the sole owner for all this time just like the other areas so keep your comments to yourself and do your research. Butternut is special.

  3. Without a doubt everything J says about Silverton is true. Just you all stay away. Especially if you can ski. 😉

  4. Sugar Mountain in Banner Elk, NC is replacing another chairlift this summer. That’s five new lifts in the past seven years. Owner Gunther Jochl deserves credit for making the mountain better and more skiable than before. The high-speed six that replaced the slow double chair to the top had the effect of growing the mountain.

  5. I am shocked yet delighted to not see a “legendary” mom & pop ski area did not make the list. I finally made the journey to snowboarding mecca and was spellbound and humbled by it’s majesty. I also greatly appreciated the lack of cell reception in the nearest town and the locals are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met! That’s all the clue you get!

  6. Did not know Pow Mo was bought. Don’t make it a habit to ski in Utah, but have been there about 13 years ago. Pretty fun.

  7. Wolf Creek in Southern Colorado should be on the list. Taos is owned by one individual, a very wealthy individual, but I believe he calls all the shots.

  8. Close to Boston, Pat’s Peak in Henniker NH is probably one of the best run family owned ski areas in the northeast. It has some challenging terrain and is an incredible place to take kids to learn to ski. World class skiers were trained on that hill.

  9. Clay- Powder Mountain was bought by Venture Capitalists and an event hosting group called Summit Series almost 10 years ago. Been there lately? It’s covered in new developments is transitioning to a private ski area model.

  10. I dont want my local ski hill to be on the radar of others by being on this list. Conversely, I want them to continue to stay in business.

  11. There’s a few missing…with a lot more vert and snow than some of these on list…
    Bridger Bowl
    Lost Trail
    Silver Mtn.
    49 north
    Pow Mo
    Sugar Bowl

  12. You missed Holiday Valley NY, which used to be rated among the top eastern ski resorts.

  13. Silverton sucks, the owner’s are idiots. Just go talk to any long time local or some of their ex-patrollers. The employee transplant bro-bra east coast ego thing is off the charts. Hell you can get arrested there. Your lucky to get 4 or 5 runs a day. Plus it’s expensive.

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