Info and reservations, 800/598-2004; tickets, $59; ski season, mid-November to mid-April; www.skiaspen.com. Sunny Snowmass, Aspen's wholesome cousin 12 miles down the road, is perfect for families who want ski-in/ski-out ease, kids' programs, and lots of ego-enhancing cruising. Not that the skiing at Snowmass can't be challenging—it has the longest lift-served vertical rise in the United States. And 15 minutes after you say adios to the kids and the sitter, you can be in downtown Aspen. Most of Snowmass's lodging is in slope-side condos; the deluxe Snowmass Lodge & Club is a quick shuttle from the lifts.
Info, 970/879-6111; reservations, 800/922-2722; tickets, $48; ski season, late November to mid-April; www.steamboat-ski.com. Skiers make the journey to Steamboat, in the rolling mountains of northwestern Colorado, for its downy powder snow, challenging tree skiing, soothing hot springs, and family-friendly facilities. All that—and the chance to wear a cowboy hat for a few days without feeling utterly ridiculous. The weathered ranch town of Steamboat Springs, founded in 1876, is a few miles from the modern base village, and between the two there are dozens of restaurants, bars, condos, and lodges, all accessible by a free shuttle-bus system. The Torian Plum has 43 luxury condo units, a heated outdoor pool, concierge service, and a prime location near the gondola.
Info and reservations, 800/786-8259; tickets, $52; ski season, late November to early May; www.sunvalley.com. When it opened in 1936, an ongoing love affair between Hollywood and skiing was ignited. Okay, so Bruce Willis is no Gary Cooper. But Sun Valley's basic appeal ndures—the sunny, isolated mountain town of Ketchum, the blend of European elegance and Hemingwayesque ruggedness, and Bald Mountain's fast, steep terrain. Nostalgia buffs will want to check into the 148-room Sun Valley Lodge, a restored inn that overlooks the resort's famed outdoor skating rink. Nordic skiers will find some of America's best cross-country trails and services, including those at the Galena Lodge.
taos ski valley
Info, 505/776-2291; reservations, 800/776-1111; tickets, $40$45; ski season, late November to early April; taoswebb.com. Founded in 1955, this magical, family-owned resort in the sunny Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico combines European, Hispanic, and Pueblo Indian cultural influences. Known particularly for its intensive instructional ski weeks and daunting expert slopes (some of which can be reached only on foot), Taos is primarily a serious skier's mountain—so much so that snowboarding is banned. At night, most visitors simply hunker down in the bars of small alpine inns. If you crave diversion, you'll find it about 20 miles away in the enchanting 17th-century Spanish town of Taos.
taos ski valley
Info and reservations, 800/525-3455; tickets, $49; ski season, late November to mid-April; www.telski.com. It's no secret that Telluride, deep in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, is white-hot these days, stoked by the powerful bellows of celebrity and wealth. But come Oprah or high water, the mountain itself, with its stupefying bumps, steep shafts, and amazing views of 14,000-foot peaks, is immutable. High-end hotel options include the Peaks Resort & Spa in Mountain Village, as well as smaller spots, such as the new Camel's Garden, with fireplaces in each of its 31 rooms.
Info, 970/476-5601; reservations, 800/427-8308; tickets, $56; ski season, early November to early May; www.vail.net. Two hours from Denver, Vail sprawls east to west for seven glorious miles, with 174 trails and seven bowls served by a network of 30 state-of-the-art lifts. Anchoring it all is the resort's Tyrolean-style village, full of bistros, boutiques, and beautiful people. The Adventure Ridge summit recreation area has been expanded to include tubing, skating, snow biking, boarding, and, for those with any strength left in their legs, dancing, in the Eagle's Nest mountaintop facility. Accommodations run the gamut from luxury hotels like the Sonnenalp Resort in the village to less expensive digs on the outskirts of town, including the comfortable 50-room Tivoli Lodge, within walking distance of Vail Village and Golden Peak.
The mountains: monsters. The snow: heavy and deep. The skiers: West Coast trendsetters and Japanese tourists. Still, as well turned out as these skiers are, the focus here is more on fun than on fashion.
Info, 702/586-7000; reservations, 800/243-2836; tickets, $47; ski season, mid-November to late April; www.skiheavenly.com. Straddling the CaliforniaNevada border, Heavenly is ideal for hard-chargers who have the energy to tear it up on the nearly 4,800 acres of ski terrain by day and rip it up in the nearby casinos at night. There's no true ski-in/ski-out lodging here, but a fleet of Heavenly shuttle buses serves dozens of area hotels, including the renovated Harrah's Lake Tahoe.
squaw valley usa
Info, 916/583-6985; reservations, 800/545-4350; tickets, $48 (includes night skiing); ski season, mid-November to late May; www.squaw.com. Rambling, raw, 4,000-acre Squaw welcomes all comers, from cliff-vaulting show-offs to shaky snowplowers, with six peaks so rich in runs that the resort doesn't even attempt to name them. A host of diversions, including mountaintop skating, swimming, tennis, tubing, indoor climbing, and bungee jumping, as well as night skiing and snowboarding, compete with the off-the-cool-meter bars of Tahoe City, six miles away. The Resort at Squaw Creek, in Olympic Valley, is the place to stay, with its massive free-form hot tubs and its buffed, hyper-tan clientele.
What Eastern ski areas lack in acreage and verticality, they make up for in charm and, for millions of metropolis-dwellers, accessibility. Who needs altitude when you have a white clapboard inn, a roaring fire, a fine Pinot, and snow piling up outside?
Info and reservations, 800/621-6867; tickets, $51.25; ski season, mid-October to early June; www.killington.com. Already the East's largest resort, Killington expanded yet again last year when it acquired nearby Pico Mountain. (Plans to link the two areas are in the works for next winter.) In the meantime, visitors will find a dizzying array of 212 trails sprawled over seven peaks, a new gondola to the top of Killington Peak, and new snowboard facilities. Equal to the scope of the skiing is the intensity of the nightlife—the most raucous après-ski scene in the East. The Killington Grand Hotel & Crown Club, set to open in February, promises to be an oasis of gentility amid Killington's fraternity row.
Info, 802/253-3000; reservations, 800/247-8693; tickets, $50; ski season, mid-November to late April; www.stoweinfo.com. Romantic inns, deep snow, and the steeps of craggy Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak, have been luring ostonians, New Yorkers, and Montrealers to Stowe for more than 60 years. Though the seven-mile Mountain Road leading to the hill is busy with motels, health-food stores, boutiques, microbreweries, and, sigh, a McDonald's, Stowe's traditional hale-and-hearty gestalt prevails. Some of New England's best snowboarding terrain is here, as well as its finest cross-country areas—among them, the 100-kilometer center at the Trapp Family Lodge.
Info, 802/583-2381; reservations, 800/537-8427; tickets, $47; ski season, early November to late May; www.sugarbush.com. While it's no longer the height of blueblood chic that it was in the early 1960's, Sugarbush is fashionable once again after a major renovation in 1995. The resort is actually two separate areas linked by a lateral chairlift: Lincoln Peak, with its steep amphitheater of twisty trails, accessed by several high-speed quad chairs; and Mount Ellen, where the pace, and the lifts, are slower. A lighted tubing and sledding park and a family activity center are new this season. Most base lodging is in condos; nearby Warren and Waitsfield offer some top-notch country inns.
Info, 207/237-2000; reservations, 800/843-5623; tickets, $46 ('96'97); ski season, late October to early May; www.sugarloaf.com. This hulking mountain is deeply loved by New England skiers because of—and in spite of—its isolation in snowbound northwestern Maine, a hard five-hour drive from Boston. Challenging enough for experts, gentle enough for novices, posh enough for seasoned travelers, and rustic enough for urban refugees, Sugarloaf manages to be almost all things to all skiers. Two new quad chairs to the above-timberline snowfields (the only terrain of its kind in the East) open this season. The base village offers visitors the full-service Sugarloaf Hotel, several condo complexes, a handful of good pubs and restaurants—and the pleasant sense that a bull moose may come lumbering through at any moment.