America’s Favorite Cities for a Ski Trip
The word may be from Old Norse, and the tradition may be ancient — wall paintings and artifacts date to 10,000 years ago in China — but skiing, which first became viewed as a pleasurable sport in 19th-century Scandinavia and Switzerland, has become a beloved American pastime. Throughout the United States, thousands of lifts transport roughly 55 million ski bunnies to the slopes at nearly 500 ski areas.
Conveniently, many of the country's peaks are also within a few hours of big cities. Take Timberline, east of Portland, Oregon. There, skiers and boarders can swoosh down a whopping 3,600 feet of vertical drop on the south face of Mount Hood. Little wonder that T+L readers think Portland is one of the country's best cities for skiing.
In our annual America's Favorite Places survey, we ask Travel + Leisure readers to dish about their hometowns — the place they grew up or have lived in and know better than anywhere else on Earth. Unlike T+L's World's Best Awards, which encourages readers to weigh in on travel experiences across the globe, the America's Favorite Places survey is a way for locals to share what their hometowns do best.
The winners in this year's survey demonstrate skiing's broad geographical range — from east to west and north and south. Even a Midwest city earned high marks from T+L readers, who noted several regional ski areas, including one frequented by an Olympic gold medalist.
These favorite American cities prove you don't need to live in a tiny mountain town to have access to some of the nation's best skiing.
10. Boston, Massachusetts
The "City Upon a Hill" is actually surrounded by multiple ski-worthy slopes. Beginners flock to Blue Hills Ski Area — the tallest point on the Atlantic coastline south of Maine — just outside of town. Those looking for larger inclines head inland to popular mountains like Wachusett and New Hampshire's Mount Sunapee.
9. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
Who said the Midwest was flat? Readers love Minneapolis and St. Paul for both the Twin Cities' beautiful lakes, as well as their winter ski options. Afton Alps, Hyland, and Buck Hill — where Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn learned to ski — are within the metro area, while the 825-ft vertical drops at Lutsen, one of the northernmost ski resorts in the U.S., beckon just a day trip away.
8. Sacramento, California
Four ski areas within 100 miles of California's scenic capital make it a favorite city for snow bunnies. Chief among them is Sierra at Tahoe, just under two hours to the northeast. There, a vertical drop of over 2,000 feet draws families and expert skiers and snowboarders annually.
7. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
A short drive from downtown Pittsburgh lands winter enthusiasts to a clutch of nearby ski areas within the Allegheny mountains. West of the city, Seven Springs, with 285 acres of runs and a vertical drop of 750 feet, is amongst the region's most popular resorts. You'll find fewer crowds towards the east, though, at resorts like Blue Knob, one of the state's highest peaks.
6. Rochester, New York
The lake effect means that slopes near Rochester receive plenty of snowfall. Under an hour from town, Bristol Mountain has the tallest drop — an impressive 1,200 feet — between the Adirondacks and Rockies.
5. Seattle, Washington
Coming in at No. 5 on this year's list of America's favorite ski cities, Seattle offers winter lovers multiple nearby high peaks. Summit at Snoqualmie is close enough (and easy enough) for professionals to escape to even on weekday nights. On the other side of the same mountain, Alpental has some of the steepest runs in Washington. Further afield, Crystal Mountain's 50 runs, and 3,000-foot vertical drop make the two hour drive worth it.
4. Portland, Oregon
On winter weekends, follow the locals as they head east from Portland to Mount Hood. There, six ski areas offer various terrain options suitable for newbies and pros alike. Adventure seekers should try Timberline, with its 3,600-foot drop. Visiting in the summer? No worries. Timberline is one of the few North American resorts to offer skiing year round.
3. Buffalo, New York
Shuffle off to Buffalo for a good ski vacation, say T+L readers, who picked it as their third favorite city for skiing in 2017. Family-friendly Holiday Valley has 58 runs, including an adrenaline-pumping double black diamond aptly named "The Wall." Closer to the city itself, Buffalo Ski Club combines three historic ski areas into one, with 43 trails traversing 300 acres.
2. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Skiers in the so-called City Different enjoy 300 days of sunshine matched with a staggering 300 inches of snow at some nearby slopes. The local favorite is Ski Santa Fe, a high-altitude resort nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, just a half hour from town, where the Aspen-lined runs have a vertical drop of 1,725 feet.
1. Denver, Colorado
At the base of the Rocky Mountains, Denver serves as the gateway to some of the country's most beautiful and challenging slopes, leading T+L readers to name it America's favorite city for skiing this year. Famed winter resort towns like Vail, Breckenridge and Winter Park are under two hours away, while Aspen is a slightly less manageable (and substantially more exclusive) four-hour drive.