By Stacey Leasca
Updated February 21, 2020
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Welcome to Mountain Mondays, our eight-week series introducing you to some of the coolest mountains in America. Stay tuned each week for a new mountain for you to explore.

In case you missed it, I’ve been snowboarding a lot this winter — all in the name of journalism.

Over the last few months, I’ve traversed the nation in search of the coolest mountains in America and to discover what makes each place so utterly unique. After carving down my fair share of mountains (and tumbling down a few too) I’ve learned a few trade secrets when it comes to planning a mountain getaway. Here are all the inside tips for planning a mountain vacation and 10 American ski destinations you should visit before the snow melts this year.

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Courtesy of Vail Mountain

Tip 1: Pick the Right Mountain for Your Skill Level and Your Group

Whether you’ve been skiing your entire life or are hitting the slopes for the very first time that’s okay because there is indeed a ski destination for everyone. While planning a ski trip make sure to check out each mountain’s map, as well as its percentage of beginner runs if it’s your first time. Also, visit the mountain’s website to ensure they have a lesson program to fit your needs.

COURTESY OF PARK CITY MOUNTAIN

Tip 2: Stay As Close As Possible to the Mountain

To make the most of a ski vacation it’s crucial to stay as close as possible to the mountain. That way, you won’t be wasting too much time shuttling back and forth to the hill. Thankfully, many mountains have on-mountain or mountainside accommodations, or places to rent just down the road. If you do decide to rent off the mountain make sure you’re at least on a public transportation route as parking in the morning and lugging your gear to the lodge can be a real pain.

Tip 3: Take a Freaking Lesson Already 

No matter how good you think you are you really should take a lesson. After all, if professional skiers like Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller have coaches why don’t you? Lessons allow all skill levels to increase their potential and stay safe while on the mountain. And, as a bonus, if you’re taking a lesson you get to skip the lift line.

BEN SAHEB

Tip 4: Investigate the Extra Offerings Around the Mountain

Sure, you’re here to ski and snowboard, but you’re also here to have a little fun. Mountains across the nation offer up some seriously exciting extras like night skiing, tubing, backcountry skinning and hiking, and much more. Of course, there are always more relaxing options, too, like spa days, ice skating, or just roasting marshmallows by a hotel fire. If you’re planning an extended stay try to build in at least one day of non-mountain activities to get a real feel for your destination.

Tip 5: Consider Buying an Epic or Ikon Pass

Let’s just put this out there: Skiing and snowboarding can be crazy expensive. Some day passes run upwards of $200, meaning a family of four is looking at $800 a day just to ski. But, there are better options out there including multi-day passes as well as mega tickets like the Epic and Ikon passes. Both passes allow access to multiple mountains over the season and can offer serious savings, even if you’re skiing for as little as five days at some mountains. Just make sure to sign up for alerts from both passes and purchase them as early as you can in the ski season.

Now that you know all the inside tips here are all the places you can still travel this winter to take the ski vacation of your dreams all across the nation.

courtesy of Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain, California

Mammoth Mountain is a dream ski destination for many reasons, but it’s perhaps best for those traveling in groups with varying abilities. That’s because it not only has amazing backcountry terrain for experts, but it also has one of the best lesson programs in the nation.

Courtesy of Vail Mountain

Vail Ski Resort, Colorado

No list of ski destinations would be complete without Vail. The ski mountain takes luxury to new heights with its mountainside hotels like The Arrabelle at Vail Square and The Sebastian Vail, as well as its adorable slope-side town filled with high-end shops. But, in Vail, make sure to check out all the off-mountain activities — like backcountry skiing — to find your own personal piece of winter paradise.

Sun Valley Resort, Idaho

If getting off the beaten path is on your skiing bucket list then it’s time to head to Sun Valley. Though it’s long been a favored destination among celebrities and billionaires the world over, Sun Valley is really for everyone. All you need to do is figure out how to get to this adorable town smackdab in the middle of Idaho.

Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colorado 

Though Breckenridge Mountain has been around for some time, it’s going through a bit of a renaissance thanks to the opening of new and extremely hip hotels like Gravity Haus. Skiers and riders to Breckenridge can expect lots of snow, and lots of good times thanks to its bustling Main Street located at the bottom of the hill.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming

Jackson Hole was made for the well-seasoned skiers and riders of the world. The mountain’s more difficult terrain and steep pitch make it ideal for those who really know what they’re doing. And, for anyone interested in taking their skiing to the next level, the mountain hosts its Steep and Deep clinic each year. But, the camp only has a few slots so if you want in for the 2020/2021 season you better sign up now.

Big Sky Resort, Montana 

Montana is known as “the last best place” for a reason: it’s home to Big Sky Resort. The gorgeous mountain has remained largely untouched by commercialization and has kept all the charm people hope for when hitting a mountain town. It also offers guests plenty of the extras we discussed above, including headlamp night skiing and the chance to do “first tracks,” where guests can get on the mountain an hour before anyone else.

Courtesy of Park City Mountain

Park City Mountain Resort, Utah

Park City is the place to be if you’re a skier who happens to also be a foodie. The mountain is home to some 16 restaurants all ready and willing to serve hungry skiers and riders. However, these places aren’t just serving up some basic chili. There, visitors can expect grain bowls, sushi, and tasty doughnuts that will surely delight everyone.

Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

When you think of New Mexico skiing and snowboarding probably isn’t the thing that comes to mind. However, a visit to Taos will change that. The mountain is quickly gaining in popularity thanks to its unique location as well as the introduction of Taos Air, an airline dedicated to getting guests to and from the mountain with ease.

Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont

If you’re going to ski in New England you might as well go for the best. And, hands down, the best is Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont. The mountain comes with one of the largest vertical drops in the east, enough varied terrain for all abilities, and charm oozing out of every trail. It’s also home to the longest-running ski patrol in the nation, so when you’re there make sure to give a patroller a high-five.

Alyeska Ski Resort, Alaska 

Located in Girdwood, Alaska, about an hours drive from Anchorage, skiers and riders will find the Alyeska Resort, a luxury ski destination unlike any other. The mountain comes with more than 1,600 skiable acres, 76 trails, and averages nearly 700 inches of snow each year. It also happens to be one of the very few ski resorts where you could even spot the Northern Lights if you’re lucky.