The Top 9 East Coast Ski Resorts & Why You Must “SKI THE EAST”

Andy Hays |
Killington, VT. photo: killington
Killington, VT. photo: Killington

Originally published in 2016

You’ve thought of all the usual suspects, Jackson, Snowbird, Whistler.  Maybe you’d like to get off the beaten path.  Big Sky?  Revelstoke?  Is this the year to head across the pond?  Is this the year you finally get to Alaska? Or Japan?  I hope so, but really where should you take your next adventure?  It’s time you finally skied the East.


This sounds crazy, you may be saying to yourself, and well, it is, but aren’t most good ideas?  Why would you ever do something like this?  Simply because you should.  Will the skiing be any good?  Probably not.  Is there much tangible enjoyment in not being able to feel your extremities?  No.  Will your friends be impressed with your GoPro footage?  Not likely. So why?  Ask yourself this simple question, do you consider yourself someone who skis, or do you consider yourself a Skier, in the proper sense.  If you responded to the latter, and you’ve never left the comfy confines of your western resort, it’s time.  Are you one of the countless transplants to move out West and never look back.  Maybe this is the year to make a return trip, to remind yourself of how good you have it now.

So here it is, my top 9 (sort of) destinations to check out and return to the roots of American skiing.  There is no scientific methodology implemented here, and these have no real particular order.  The beauty of the East is that everything is (relatively) close together; take a trip and enjoy a few.




Killington, VT. photo: killington
Killington, VT. photo: Killington

The undisputed beast of the East.  It’s big (six peaks), it’s crowded (Thanksgiving weekend is like a video game), the snowmaking guns will probably be blasting, and everyone there is kind of a jerk (seriously, people think Squaw has attitude, those people have never skied here).  This is what East Coast skiing is all about.

Why:  For all of the reasons above.  The access road party scene is as solid as it gets (think coked-out stock traders meets Hot Dog).  It has the longest season on the East Coast and sometimes anywhere.  Almost always the first to open and last to close.  It’s so big that there is something for everyone, and if you know your way around, there is some pretty legit terrain in the trees.  Hint, if you can see it, you can ski it.  Everything between the outer boundaries is open.  That said, you come here for one thing—the bumps.  You thought mogul skiing died with Jonny Mosely’s ski career?  Wrong, it is alive and well, and it lives here.

When:  Spring.  Killington will be the first to open, but the time to be here is April and May (they even extend their hours to 8:30 am to 5:00 pm). Much is said about Outer Limits, steepest, longest, widest, bestest, but the fun starts when things shift over to Superstar. All year they stockpile snow so that Superstar can last until June, and it goes off.  Pack your “fate” pants and brush off your Dynastar Assaults and bash the spring bumps with the local legends.



Mad River Glen, VT
Mad River Glen, VT

Even if you’ve never been to the East Coast, you’ve seen the ubiquitous stickers challenging to “ski it if you can.”  You can, and you should.

Why:  This is practically as old school as it gets.  If you are searching for the roots of skiing, this would be a great place to start.  This place is what Vermont is all about.  Not Yuppy Volvo driving Vermont, Flannel bushy beard Vermont.  It has a single chair, which is refreshing in today’s age of high-speed six-packs.  Also, if you can find someone to show you around, you can catch some East Coast air.

When:  If it snows.  Gnarly, untamed terrain will be fun with a fresh blanket of snow; otherwise, you’ll be glad the lifts are so slow.



Jay Peak, VT. photo: jay peak
Jay Peak, VT. photo: jay peak

As close to a Western ski experience as you’ll find East of the Rockies.  The terrain is legit, bolder steeps than you’ll find at Northstar.  Even many Easterners don’t get up here, because frankly, it’s far from just about everything.

Why:  It snows.  No, really, it snows.  In fact, Jay Peak received more total snowfall than Squaw Valley, CA, in 2013 and 2014. Sure we’re talking about historically low snow totals for California here, but you get the point, it’s Vermont, and they’re getting more snow than Squaw.  Over the last ten years, they’ve averaged 349″ of snow annually.  Where will you find that snow?  In the trees.  Jay is all about the trees.  Not wide open mellow Steamboat trees.  Tight steep technical Eastern trees.  This is more like skiing in the woods.  Put your hands in front of your face and crash through the brush.  Otherwise, test your mettle on the face under the upper terminal of the tram.

When:  Whenever.  When it isn’t snowing anywhere else, it very well may be snowing here.  February and March tend to produce the most snowfall.



Stowe, VT. photo: stowe
Stowe, VT. photo: Stowe

This should also include Sugarloaf, ME as well as the leading category of “classic”  ski experiences.  This is where ski culture was born on the East Coast.  If you are about history, this is the place to live it.

Why:  Sure, the skiing will be good, but you are here to say you skied Stowe.  You ski Aspen because if you ski, you should ski Aspen; the same logic applies here.

When:  The Holidays.  Am I recommending you plan a ski vacation during the busiest time of year?  Yes.  When I think Stowe, I think of quaint notions like carolers and a crackling fire.  It’s just that kind of place.



Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec
Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec

If you thought Jay Peak was far away, then you should check this place out.  It’s a trek from anywhere unless you find yourself in Quebec City, which is only 25 miles away.

Why:  Its black diamond runs are real black diamond runs.  It’s steep, and the snow is good.  These trees aren’t for amateurs.  It rises out of the St. Lawrence River and has spectacular views.  French Canadians are pompous jerks, but that’s just part of their charm.  No one around here speaks English, really, no one.  This isn’t Whistler when you are here; you know you are in another country.  It has night skiing from the top serviced by the gondola, which is necessary because it is cold.  Really really cold.  Mandatory puffy coat for this one.  Warm up with some poutine.

When:  I’ve only been here once. It was January, and boy was it cold, even by Eastern standards.  That said, the snow quality was excellent; no freeze/thaw cycle here. Both my dad and I got frostbite, but ultimately, it was worth it.  Did I mention it will be cold?



Whiteface, NY. photo: whiteface
Whiteface, NY. photo: whiteface

Sticking with the cold theme here.  It hosted the Olympics in 1980 (the 1932 ski events were elsewhere).  The mountain is owned by the State of New York and is still a true skier’s mountain.

Why:  So you are one of those people who says base “villages” are stupid.  Then this is your place.  Adirondack park regulations make building very, very difficult, the base operations could be considered spartan at best.  No shops, no condos, no aquatic centers.  What you get instead is entirely unspoiled views of the Wilmington Notch and the wilderness of the surrounding Adirondacks.  Nearby Lake Placid (about 10 miles away) belongs amongst the pantheon of true mountain villages.  Locations such as Sun Valley or Aspen have nothing on this place when it comes to authenticity.  Twice host of Olympics, virtually all venues are still open and used (you’ve heard of the Miracle on Ice, right?)  Get outside the village of Lake Placid, and it gets wildly upstate quick, which is a good thing (ain’t no Starbucks ’round here, bud.)  Back to the skiing, longest vertical of the East at 3,430 ft.  For reference, Squaw Valley is 2,850.  The Slides is a hikeable portion that can access the sidecountry to get your adrenaline going.  Will they be open when you get there?  Most likely, no.  Then again, did you remember to pack your probe/shovel/transceiver?  Most likely, no.

When:  There’s no beating around the bush; the weather sucks here. It’s called Iceface for a reason. It will be cold, really cold, and cloudy.  Even in the summer, that same damn cloud seems to cling to the peak (5th highest in NY).  It can be sunny your whole drive here (which will be considerable unless you’re coming from Montreal), it will be cloudy when you arrive.  The bottom line is you don’t come here to get a tan. You come here to ski and live the winter.  My highest level of recommendation, everyone should go to Lake Placid at least once in their lives.

Tuckermans Ravine,
Tuckerman’s Ravine, NH


So you did remember to pack your probe/shovel/transceiver?  An absolute must for a true East Coast backcountry adventure.  Full disclosure, I’ve never skied the ravine despite growing up with a picture of it on our living room wall.  I’m embarrassed by this and feel kind of like a poser of an East Coaster.  This one is on my personal list.

Why:  Ummm… it’s backcountry skiing on the East Coast, that’s why.  It rests along the side of the highest peak in the Northeast (Mt. Washington).  It’s a huge scene, there’s no way around the fact that it’s mandatory.  Even Chris Davenport went there for a Warren Miller film a few years ago. Chris Davenport knows what he’s doing when it comes to these things.  It’s steep, rugged, and there can even be avalanche activity.

When:  Spring.  April is traditionally the time to get your friends together and hike your way up.  Snow stability issues and difficult weather conditions make this less of a wintertime activity.



Snowshoe Mounain, WV. photo: Chris McLennan Photography
Snowshoe Mountain, WV. photo: Chris McLennan Photography

Really?  There needed to be a southern resort on this list. Snowshoe takes that honorary spot.

Why:  I’ve never been to Snowshoe, will I ever go? Probably not.  Have you ever been there?  Probably not.  Do you even know anyone who has ever been there?  Probably not.  There’s your most compelling reason right there.  Sometimes the backstory is more important than the actual skiing.  Who doesn’t want to tell the guy on the chairlift about that epic day you had south of the Mason Dixon line.

When:  This is one of those places you need to go when you are there.  When and why will you ever be in West Virginia?  It beats me, but if you are, make sure you pack your skis.



West Mountain, NY. photo: west mountain
West Mountain, NY. photo: west mountain

Where is West Mountain, and why on earth would you go there.  Well… it is in Queensbury, NY, overlooking the beautiful city of Glens Falls.  Enjoy those panoramic views of the paper mills.  This isn’t about the West. In particular, this is about the countless small ski areas that dot the Northeast.  This is the type of place that so many kids get their start at, and coincidently where I learned to ski. This is what skiing used to be like.  It’s incredible that places like this can even still exist, like Willard, NY; Mt. Abram, ME; Suicide Six in Vermont.  Make sure you visit these hidden gems before they recede into history.

Why:  Does the thought of a ski in ski out Starbucks make you sick.  $100 lift tickets?  Fur coats and gourmet lunches?  You won’t find these amenities here.  Valet parking?  There isn’t even a high-speed lift.  This is the kind of place that the lifties wear Carhartts and work boots because they don’t even ski.  There is no “gaper” day because everyone dresses like a gaper without any notion of irony.  These family mountains are really about families, not just relieving them of their money.

When:  Catch them while you can.  Places like this rely more heavily on natural snowfall. January or February will be best. If they have night skiing, most do, then you should do that for the most authentic experience.  You’ll spend most of the time on the lift, but the skiing isn’t that great anyway.  You’re here for the experience.

Jay Peak, VT
Jay Peak, VT

What kind of list is a top 9 list anyhow?  Well, the ten spot goes for you to choose. The East Coast has dozens of mountains, all within driving distance of each other.  To try to separate them is a futile exercise.  Everyone will have their favorite for a reason.  You won’t need powder skis, even if it snows, so sharpen up your carving skis or pack up your twin tips.  This is the East, so you had better take some park laps.  Why are kids like LJ Streno so good on rails?  What else is there to do?  If you don’t yet own a TTT (too tall T), you’d better find one, even though it will be too cold to rock it.  Hopefully, your jacket is long enough, so the TTT doesn’t stick out the bottom, making you look like a complete dork.  Once again, this is the East. No one will be afraid to mock you openly.  Ski season is here. Start planning your trip to the East now.

This is the year… To ski the East.  

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55 thoughts on “The Top 9 East Coast Ski Resorts & Why You Must “SKI THE EAST”

  1. OK, I consider myself an expert at east coast skiing because I lived in Washington DC and NY state all my life. On your list I’ve skied Killington, Snowshoe, Whiteface, MT Sainte Anne, West and many others not on your list. My reaction is that if you really want to get a flavor for east coast skiing, your list should have included any resort in the Catskills, instead of Killington; Massiff instead of Sainte Anne. Instead of West Mt you should have any other small ski area that’s within 90 minutes of any major city between Atlanta and Boston.

    Killington may be the worst possible ski experience I’ve had. It’s high cost, unfriendly bad service, unruly crowds and overly groomed but somehow still icy conditions more than make up for all the terrain. Even when there is natural snow, they pour more man-made crap on top to ensure that there is skiing in late May. Sure the only time to ski Killington is late in the season when no other area is still open. But why? It’s that bad. More representative is Hunter, smaller but still big and you won’t have to drive as far from NYC to get the same unruly crowd. Really, if you want a nice day in the hills in June, can I recommend a day mountain biking at Greek Peak in upstate NY?

    Snowshoe is a nice place, and a couple of trails have 1,500 feet of vertical drop, but it’s not one of the top areas on the east coast. If you are already in the triangle of Cleveland to DC to Atlanta, yeah sure it’s worth the half day drive.

    Massif is a far, far better mountain than Sainte Anne’s, it’s only another 30 minutes from Quebec City. Maybe as important is that the lifts at Massif actually work — they are newer and get actual maintenance. No, you won’t find your gondola or chair falling 50 feet from a poorly maintained lift at Massif. Just Google it.

  2. Why assign this article to some sarcastic western powder snob who thinks his western poop don’t stink. We have history here in the east and we don’t think a gas station built in 1950 is a historic structure. Please keep your western ass west of the Mississippi.

  3. Mount ice face? Mt st Anne Over Le Massif? Less Otten Killington? Skied out super fancy Stowe.
    Give me good steep pitched local hills like Owls Head. Tuckermans yeah!

  4. This column makes me laugh. If your gonna travel to the east coast you mine as well just keep going north to Canada. If your gonna waste money on a trip to really ride. I grew up In Cape cod, Maine and Virginia then moved to Cali and grew up riding in Tahoe. Moved to Utah 5 years ago and it was the best decision I’ve ever made! The only reason I don’t move back to the Cape is there is no terrain that comes close to Tahoe or Utah. No offense, if you got the money to spend the East Coast is my heart and its amazing!!!!…… the summer l.

  5. Hey after enjoying Mad River Glen head “down the street” to Sugarbush,…plenty of snow, trails and if and when you get bored or crowded on the main mountain take the cross mountain lift over to Mt Ellen for plenty of fresh terrain that locals love.

  6. I am wondering about owls head. Also Le massif and Mr Sutton… these are my ideas to explore since I am in between montreal and QC. But maybe Jay. I grew up in Upper Valley NH VT. … but I think thrte is more snow up here. Sugarloaf is also on my radar as is Sutton. Thanks for the info. Got to check out the chick choc men’s someday too

  7. Come ski the east, but pay to ski small, local hills that have killer skinny, winding trails with natural woods. Unbelievable that this list doesn’t contain Wildcat. Or Mt. Abrams. Or Burke. Or Hickory Ridge. Or Saddleback. Andy Hays has only done surface level research. If your skiing the east, then you’re looking for honest, old school style skiing with character. Look smaller and crunchier.

  8. Royal mountain is as homey and old fashioned as it gets in the NE. Royal makes West look like breck and on a powder day it is filled with too many hidden gems

  9. I’ve been to Whiteface 3 times… Or should I say: I’ve been to Iceface twice and Whiteface once. That latter time was some of the most snow (maybe a little wet/heavy) I’ve ever skied in.

    I saw someone say Le Massif Saint-Francois is better than Sainte Anne — I respectfully disagree. There’s a funneling effect that puts everyone on the same stretch to get to the main chair and that gets annoying very fast.

    Personally, I’m a huge fan of Mont Sutton in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. It’s a short trek from Jay Peak (and I think worth exploring if you’re in that neck of the woods). It’s not the tallest but the runs are just great. Glades for everyone! And it might be more accessible for those who don’t speak French, as the Townships have a large amount of English speaking residents.

    I’ve grown annoyed by the huge gondola at Jay Peak which drops everyone into a slope that becomes icy after the 3-4th batch of people get dropped off. But the snow every else is really good. I haven’t been since they built things up around the mountain.

    Love Stowe, love Killington. We got unlucky with lack of snow the year we went to Sugar Bush, but it will definitely deserve another try.

    I was surprised to see so little people mention Mont Tremblant… That being said I’m mentioning it only to say it’s not on my top ten. Nice big mountain with Intrawest-whistler-like village at the base. Very cold, very windy and always way too busy. The alternatives are just better!

  10. Fun article. Love Whiteface for all the reasons stated. Skied in the rain one day, beautiful sun the next day, and freezing cold the 3rd day. All of which is why we say in the East : “Don’t like the weather? Wait till tomorrow”. Nice touch to add a place like West. BTW, New York has more ski areas than any other state!

  11. Why do you keep regurgitating old crap? Snowshoe and West Mtn are a joke on a list of best ski areas in the East. Intelligent ski and ride news? Hardly

  12. Love Jay and yes it snows a lot, but they did not get as much snow as Squaw the last two years. Not close actually. This year they have, but neither one has had great seasons.

  13. Hate to bump an old thread just to be a stickler but West Virginia was a Union state during the Civil War.

  14. Whiteface is an incredible mountain. Longest runs in the east, and some of the steepest, best terrain in the east. There is a reason it had the Olympics, and a reason it still pumps out so many olympians. The lack of a base village means the people there are actually there to ski. Cloudspin, the base lodge bar, is one of the most fun ski bars out there. I can’t believe this article says no matter what, the weather will suck there. I’ve had countless, beautiful bluebird days at Whiteface. Guess what, you’re in the northeast, it will be cold. It’s winter! But every east coast mountain gets icy sometimes! Just keep an eye out and don’t try to turn on it. And with the new, fancy snow guns, whiteface has been delivering on the snow cover. Killington is known for its snowmaking, but Whiteface does a damn good job too. And just having one base means it’s easy to ski at your own speed and still find turnfriends and family. Also, the Gondola is wonderful on cold days. Ok I’ll stop now, but Whiteface deserves a better description than this.

  15. My Mad River Glen story: my first day ever at Mad River, I started skiing on several inches of newly fallen snow. I thought I had found paradise in New England. As the day wore on I had to start avoiding spots where the snow was skied off. Later I had to ski straight lines across the scraped off slope to make my turns on the isolated spots that still had loose snow. By mid afternoon, I was looking for “soft ice” to make my turns. At one point, I stopped and, looking through about a foot of clear ice, saw last season’s trail map laying on the grass.

    I’ve since decided that “ski it if you can” is the snow report.

  16. As someone who skis in West Virginia. I would like to say that Snowshoe is the worst. The skiing in Canaan Valley at either Timberline or Whitegrass is far better. Those two places give you access to the back country of Dolly Sods….for the more adventurous and it’s weather dependent the hike to Mt. Porte Crayon in the Roaring Plains Wilderness can also be very satisfying.

  17. LOL at “West Mountain” being on there. Who wrote this list? Also it’s “Tuckerman Ravine” and it’s not a ski resort. Seriously, who wrote this? Don’t read too much into this list people.

  18. West mountain Andy? Nice. You might as well have listed wacheusett. I’d add some “honorable mentions” but I think others have already.

  19. Wow missed the best ski hill east of the Rockies… LE MASSIF! Better terrain and less crowds than Jay Peak.. still adequate snow. Also worth checking out are Massif du Sud (dry pow hill, but mellow terrain) and Valinouet (mellow hill but hands down best snow quantity-vs-quality in the East). Sugarloaf is decent as well, big enough, fairly mellow and not much snow though. Chic Chocs for backcountry (think Tuckermans x50 and more snow).
    The hills listed are pretty good, but the most are usually very crowded and often have poor conditions. To include Mt Ste Anne and omit the better ones is a gaff.

  20. I’m unsure why the author claims that at Mad River Glen “the lifts are so slow.” Contrary to this, the single chair has been said to be the fastest fixed-grip chairlift in the United States. The Sunny Side double chair also moves at a speedy clip.

    In addition to their speed–and more importantly–the lifts at Mad River hoist you up to the sickest skiing in the East.

  21. I’m unsure why the author says that at Mad River Glen “the lifts are so slow.” Contrary to this, the single chair has been said to be the fastest fixed grip chairlift in the United States. The sunny side double also moves at a speedy clip.

    Not only are the chairlifts at Mad River fast, but, most importantly, they will hoist you up to the sickest terrain in the east.

  22. How about the appalachains with the highest mountain peak in the eastern US they have great runs! Expert to Beginner!

  23. That’s all good and great but this season Okemo is by far the best – and practically only – place to ski on the east coast. For some the fact it has 1/3 each of green, blue and black may be a turn off. And it’s certainly not the biggest mountain or he highest not does it get the most snow dumped on it or have the steepest or longest runs. But, it’s got it’s in the top quartile in just about everything and that makes it a legit contender on any “best of the east” list. This year Okemo has more skiable acres than any other resort in New England, significantly more than Millington down the road (not to mention it actually has a town, no crowds and much better ski schools for kids and way nicer and more able staff).

  24. Snowshoe ..what what… It’s actually the best place for a village scene family style. Everything is basically ski in ski out with a bunch of bars and restaurants. We never have to touch the car after we arrive. These days with small kids is means a lot not to have to lug everyone and everything around. Good spot.

    1. Agreed. Just got back from there today. By far the least expensive place I’ve been to. Even compared to much smaller resorts like Beech mtn, and Sugar mtn in NC! When all the slopes are opened, it’s a very nice place to visit. I definitely recommend this place.

    1. Not sure what happened with the article mentioned, but I can confirm Willard is still operating for the 17/18 winter.

  25. Magic Mountain is what skiing the east is. Bumps, ice, rock, jumping logs, narrow trees (only MRG compares). Out west normally has such great conditions that it makes skiing easier. You find a good skier when they can ski in rough conditions. And just like any resort in Vermont, Magic Mountain can get a little icy. This is a fun place to ski that reflects what the east is about.

    1. YESSSS! Magic is the best, this place is as classic as it gets. Also has the steepest trail in the east, Upper Magician. I did a ski bum year at Stowe, phenomenal, and a ton of woods skiing… but Magic is true East coast skiing, old school.

  26. sugarloaf has a longer season than any of these its season lasted until june 3 once and millington is pretty much done in may come on sunday river is a classic its got some of the best glades in the east i think they should also add smuggs it has the only triple black diamond in the east

    1. Smuggs may have triple blacks but that does not mean that they are the hardest trails in the east. Some of them are not harder than black diamonds because Mad River Glen’s Paradise is a black diamond.

  27. Omg in Quebec you should try Le Massif du Sud with it’s steep glades! Ans what about the Chic-Chocs range in far East Quebec for alpine bowls, chutes and couloir?

  28. No mention of Sunday River? Come on, this report is biased towards Killington, it was probably written by a yankees fan!!! JK Hays man!

  29. Having skied all of these except for West Mt, I actually agree with most of these picks.

    Maybe not Snowshoe or West Mt. But I’m now near Tahoe north shore.

    1. Snowshoe is actually awesome! Plenty of natural snow great snowmaking, long season, great village and the highest elevation in the east. One negative is the drive, it’s hundreds of miles from civilization.

    2. Just returned from Snowshoe and had a blast. Great place for a family vacation because they have included activities for the kids. Watched my 4 year old nephew take off on his skis the first try. They also have an non-profit organization there that take all type of handicapped children and adults skiing in their adaptive skiing program. Great people who love what they do.

  30. “You thought mogul skiing died with Jonny Mosely’s ski career? Wrong, it is alive and well and it lives here” this is just made me LOL for reals Mr. Hays. thanks

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