The Top 10 Colleges For Ski Buffs

Chris Wallner | BackcountryBackcountry | Industry NewsIndustry News
Brighton resort, open, utah
Credit: Brighton Resort

According to, there are tons of colleges that provide skiing and snowboarding options for their students, but this list includes the best of the best. Everyone knows that you shouldn’t go to a college without a nearby ski area, so this list will reassure your options. It’s that time of year when high school seniors are deciding which college they should attend for the coming years, so use this list to make your decision and thank us later. Taking on sick powder lines with your classmates enhances the mood at any college, so it’s bound to be a positive environment if you choose one of these schools.

#1 Montana State University, MT

Montana State University! PC: MSU Admissions

Montana State University has a lot to offer when it comes to skiing. Students can shred the blower powder at Bridger Bowl, which is 20 minutes north of campus, they can cruise the epic groomers at Moonlight Basin, which is 45 minutes south of campus, and if they don’t feel like traveling, they can kite ski across the beautiful campus. Bozeman is a legendary ski town, and that alone draws in many students who want to attend MSU.

#2 University of Colorado-Boulder, CO

boulder, colorado, university
The University of Colorado, Boulder.

The University of Colorado-Boulder offers some superb skiing close to campus, with Boulder’s Eldora Mountain a half-hour from campus and Vail and Beaver Creek just a couple of hours away. This university also has one of the best college ski teams in the nation, which attracts many students. The U.S. Ski Team has many members who made their way through college as a Buffalo skier, which gives them a good track record. The college doesn’t offer any classes before 11 am, allowing students to have plenty of time to hone their ski skills.

#3 University of Vermont, VT

Vermont, uvm
The University of Vermont. Credit: Flickr

The University of Vermont also has many options for skiing and snowboarding within proximity of the campus, including Killington Mountain Resort with the highest lift-served skiing in the state, the 1,000 acres at Smuggler’s Notch, or the off-trail adventuring at the Mad River Glen. College students live on a budget, and the University understands that, so they allow students to rent skis and snowshoes on campus. When most people think of college sports, football comes to mind, but skiing is king when you’re at the University of Vermont. The school’s ski team is one of the best in the nation.

#4 University of Utah, UT

utah, university,
The University of Utah.

The University of Utah offers up one tough decision when deciding where to ski on a powder day, but with nearby options like Alta, Brighton, Park City, Snowbird, or Solitude, you can’t go wrong. The campus surrounded by mountains was tempting enough for famous skiers like Pittsburgh native Tom Wallisch. The U of U also has relatively low out-of-state tuition, a bonus for financially supporting your ski habit while attending this fantastic university. The off-season at the U isn’t too bad either; students enjoy themselves by kayaking, rafting, biking, and hiking in the beautiful Salt Lake wilds.

#5 College of the Rockies, BC

college of the rockies,
College of the Rockies, BC.

The College of the Rockies is just an hour north of Montana, located in Fernie, BC, home to a fantastic ski locale that is home to this small community college. Students looking to make a career out of it enroll in the Adventure Tourism major and take skis-on classes like Avalanche Skills Training and Outdoor Adventure Leadership. This sweet college offers some great weekend activities, where students enjoy the blower powder and the comfortable temperatures. Thankfully, these students don’t even need nearby ski areas when taking on-ski classes.

#6 Southern Methodist University-Taos, NM

Southern Methodist University-Taos! PC: Media

The Southern Methodist University-Taos is eclectic, back-to-nature, hippie-ish, and just generally laid back, which many ski buffs enjoy. Taos Ski Valley is 30 minutes up the road from the University, allowing students to enjoy the challenging terrain and old-school nature that the area offers. These students also take advantage of steep runs, friendly fellow skiers, and short lift lines that the Taos area provides them with. After a long day of skiing, the tired students enjoy the funky local vibe of the Taos coffee shops and art galleries.

#7 Lewis & Clark College, OR

Lewis & Clark College! PC: Travel and Leisure

Lewis & Clark College has a lot of options when it comes to nearby ski areas. Mount Hood is a 90-minute jog away, and buses run every day carrying students looking for credits or just skipping class to shred the area’s powder. Timberline Lodge has the longest ski season in the United States, and the Skibowl Resort is the biggest night-skiing provider in the nation. Cross-country skate-and-ski and snowshoe courses are regularly offered through the school’s College Outdoors program, enabling students to enjoy the outdoors during the short off-season that Timberline has.

#8 Middlebury College, VT

Middlebury. Image: Pinterest

Middlebury College has access to Killington Mountain Resort, Smuggler’s Notch, and Mad River Glen. The College also owns a ski area called the Middlebury Snow Bowl, which has provided students with cheap skiing since 1934. When mid-year graduation rolls around in February, exiting seniors head to the Bowl for the Cap-and-Gown “ski down” event to celebrate their hard work, which shows how important skiing is at this college. If that’s not enough to convince you, Middlebury alumni have represented the school at every Winter Olympic Games since 1948. The college continues to be a desirable destination for competitive skiers.

#9 Plymouth State University, NH

Plymouth State University! PC: Visit NH Colleges

Plymouth State University offers a Ski Day, where classes are canceled on a wintry day to encourage students to get out and ski. The students also have plenty of unofficial powder days when the snow is too good to pass up. The Student Senate arranges a student vote on which New Hampshire mountain will offer students discounted lift tickets every year. The East Coast College also has a lot to offer in nearby ski areas. With Cannon, Tenney, Waterville, Loon, and Ragged Mountain within an hour, students don’t have to travel far on a powder day.

#10 Dartmouth College, NH

Dartmouth College! PC: Media

Even though Dartmouth is at the bottom of the top ten list, it still has a ton to offer for skiing! Dartmouth College has its own 100-acre ski area, a great location in New Hampshire, and the record for turning out more Olympic skiers than any other Ivy League school. Just when you thought a ski day at college couldn’t get any better, Dartmouth found a way to offer a 99-cent ski day to all of its students. The day is part of the college’s legendary Winter Carnival, featuring Division 1 ski races and a 3k race for scrubs wearing PJs and capes.

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32 thoughts on “The Top 10 Colleges For Ski Buffs

  1. How Nevada doesn’t make the top of the list let alone the list makes this list garbage. In addition, DU is closer to good skiing than CU Bolder.

  2. Northern Vermont University only 5 miles from Burke MT.Home to Burke Mountain Academy. Also producing a few Olympic Skiers.

  3. Fort Lewis College — Durango, CO.
    Close to: Purgatory, Wolf Creek, Silverton, Telluride
    A little further: Crested Butte, Taos

  4. You left out University of Nevada, Reno! Access to over 15 ski resorts around the Lake Tahoe / Reno area.

  5. Come on, Man…Sierra Nevada College! You can ski past the lift at Diamond Peak to your dorm! Thirty minutes (max) to Squaw, Alpine, Heavenly, Homewood, Northstar, Boreal (Woodward), Sugar Bowl, Mt. Rose… And the only legit four-year with a Ski Business Resort Management major.

  6. This list is VERY incomplete for 4 year colleges/universities and the top 10 should be readjusted taking driving distance to the ski area into consideration as one of the top priorities when time is of an essence in regards to on hill time AND studies. One can’t be in two places at once. If the said skier/snowboarder has a commute longer that 45 minutes to recreate and is a true ski/snowboard “buff” (really, ski buff?) this would be one of the top two issues to consider; the other being more subjective ie; school ranking/courses offered, extracurricular activities besides shredding which should be the obvious. This is list does NOT prioritize the the shredding aspect. Simply put *some choices would be: East coast: 1st closest school option to hands down best snow/terrain is JSC; Johnson State College; less than 45 mins to Jay Peak, Smugglers Notch and Stowe. UVM 2nd. Rockies: WSC Western State College, Gunnison, CO; Westminster, SLC, UT, Univeristy of Utah, SLC, UT; Sierra Nevada College, Incline Village, NV; University of Reno, Reno, NV; Montana State University, Bozeman, MT… others of course but do the math on distance first. *Kooks need not apply.

  7. University of Maine at Farmington has Sugarloaf USA, a ski industry / business major / and excellent academics and value…. some of the schools on this list are not even accredited. Univ of Utah, Univ of Nevada Reno, Univ of Denver, Univ of New Mexico, and Northern Ariz Univ should rank high…

  8. Again, amazes me University of Nevada, Reno (my Alma Mater) is never on this list. With the proximity to MANY resorts, amazing backcountry around the Lake Tahoe Basin, and deals on passes for college students, it BY FAR beats out any of these schools.

  9. Having just graduated from cu boulder I can assure you that they definitely have classes before 11 am…I went to plenty of them hungover

  10. Northern Arizona University beats any of those ice coast schools but I guess it’s better keep those goods from the gapers.

  11. Again, University of Nevada (Reno) doesn’t make it….. that’s a shame. Or is it? Nice to keep this area somewhat a secret still.

    1. Best kept secret, for sure. And Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe had 768 inches, just 10 minutes up the highway. Go figure!

  12. I am LMFAO after reading the list. What? No mention of the University of Denver. How did the author ever come these schools? He he randomly pull the names out of his azz?
    How about checking your facts before writing a article about skiing colleges? First UVM did not win the recently held NCAA D1 Championships. DU won its record setting 23rd championship and has dominated the race scene over CU and every other school sending several athletes on to successful World Cup careers and is located no further away from 8 major ski areas then CU (except for Eldora).
    MSU #1 over University of Utah?… highly laughable. Bridger is at least 20 miles away not 20 minutes even for the crazy Montana drivers and Big Sky is well over an hour on the best of roads.
    This brings my to U of U (which is CLEARLY #1) or Westminster College in SLC. They have 6 premier ski areas all with a 30-50 minute drive from campus along with some of the best POW on the planet and terrain that is second to none.

    1. Hey Trout Bum, we hear ya. This list was created by It’s now obvious that we’ll need to make our own list… Thanks.

      1. Reading some those driving distances from Bridger and Big Sky on MSU, I swear the writer pulled those number from a ski town throw down poll Powder Mag did last fall. Which of course are far from accurate. When mentioning Colorado Mtn College, it’s pretty hard to leave out the Steamboat Springs campus.

  13. Seems very odd that the University of Denver is not on the list, #1 NCAA Ski Team, Located closer to the resorts than CU. Lewis & Clark? Seriously? Denver is also the #1 city in the country for college age millennials and the school is very highly rated.

  14. What? No University of Nevada-Reno? Only an hour away from Squaw Valley, Northstar, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl, Homewood. I’d say that’s a better line up than any of the others with the exception of University of Utah.

  15. You also left out Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe. 13 ski areas within a 2 hour drive are you kidding me?! Some of these colleges don’t have ski oriented majors. The only one is Montana State. Colorado Mountain College and Sierra Nevada College not only have academic programs in the ski industry they are also hands down the most prime located schools for skiers and riders. I go to Sierra Nevada College, there is a ski mountain closer to the school then the grocery store in town is. Take my advice.

  16. You missed the number one college. Colorado Mountain College. The Leadville campus is within an hour of Beaver Creek, Vail, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin Loveland and Ski Cooper. On top of that in the Ski Area Operations program you have to ski and work at a ski area to graduate!

  17. Where was this list when I was shopping for colleges? I ended up at SUNY/Buffalo (aka UB) … it had a great ski club, but your choice at the ski areas was the 1/2 mile novice slope, or the couple hundred yards of “expert” terrain.

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