Depending on the type of winter vacation you’re planning, some resorts are better suited than others for your particular trip. A girls’ weekend is going to have a different vibe than a family vacation, which will be different than a romantic couples’ getaway. With more than 400 ski resorts across the United States (including 12 premier spots owned by Vail Resorts), there’s something out there for everyone, no matter what kind of trip you might be planning.
Based on who you’re going with and your priorities once you get there, here’s a guide to help you choose wisely and land at the resort that’s exactly right.
A Family Trip
Where to go : Keystone, Colorado Why : There is no other ski area in the world that dreams up this many thoughtful details in a kids’ winter paradise. Utopian indeed, they call it Kidtopia, and it’s a bounty of free daily activities such as ski parades, face painting, snowball launches, animal track education adventures, and a giant snow castle to explore at the top of the mountain.
Oh yeah, kids also ski free when you book a two-night stay. Keystone is also home to two ice skating lakes and some of the tastiest and most award-winning, family-friendly restaurants you’ll find on any mountain, including the Ski Tip Lodge in the Village and Der Fondue Chessel atop North Peak, accessed by a cozy night-time gondola ride.
A Guys Trip
Where to go : Heavenly, California Why : Three words: Unbuckle Après Party. Hitting the slopes in a huge way is probably high on your itinerary and because Heavenly offers more terrain than anywhere else in Tahoe—97 trails ranging from smooth cruisers to steep and narrow chutes and two massive terrain parks—you can check that box right away.
Chances are, you and your buddies are also hoping for a poppin’ après scene and plenty of options for late night entertainment, too. Heavenly does this better than anywhere else, beginning at 3:30 every afternoon at Tamarack Lodge – boots still on. The Unbuckle Party has everything you need to seal the deal on a great day on the slopes: food and drink specials, a live DJ and on Fridays and Saturdays, and table dancing starring the lovely Heavenly Angels.
There are also several sports bars and casinos within easy walking distance of Heavenly Village, where the live entertainment (nationally-acclaimed musicians, comedians, and dancers), slot machines, and roulette tables take the party into the late night.
A Girls Trip
Where to Go : Beaver Creek, Colorado Why : Beaver Creek not only offers miles upon miles of slopes ranging from wide open and serene to steep glades and long mogul runs, but includes a few tasty bonuses. These include free, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies handed out at the base area every day at 3 p.m., a huge selection of classy and delicious après and dinner spots (top picks: Hooked and Golden Eagle Inn), plus a line-up of upscale spas for some serious pampering (Allegria at the Park Hyatt is one of the best).
Also, Beaver Creek offers free Women’s Social Tours of the mountain, which are two-hour excursions on skis led by one of the resort’s talented female ski school instructors.
If you want to get your party on, the Coyote Café is a hot après spot for locals, taking a turn toward rowdy as late-night festivities kick in.
A Romantic Getaway
Where to go : Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, Canada Why : As if breathtaking panoramas and dizzying vertical drop of weren’t romantic enough, Whistler Blackcomb is historically a favorite getaway destination for couples everywhere for its off-the-mountain offerings, too. There are countless spas to choose from for couples massages and relaxation packages, but a soak in the outdoor Eucalyptus Steam Baths at Scandinave Spa, nestled in a thick cluster of pines on the mountainside take the experience to a new level.
On the mountain itself, the most striking views can be found from the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, the world’s highest and longest unsupported cable car that also offer 360-degree views.
As for dining, a champagne toast adds to the feel of any amorous night out, but how about slashing the bottle with a saber? With more than 20,000 bottles to choose from, this is the bubbly opening method of choice at the Bearfoot Bistro.
A Trip with College Friends
Where to go : Park City, Utah Why : You want to go big during the rare reunion with college friends, so why not land in one of America’s most expansive ski resorts? With its amazing powder, countless selection of sports bars, restaurants, and vibrant après party scene, Park City is a picturesque old mining town and consistently ranked one of the most gorgeous cities in America.
Throw in the fact that you can get there within 45 minutes of landing at the Salt Lake City airport, you and your university buddies can spend that much more time making memories that will likely become your best ever.
A Trip with Non-Skiers
Where to go : Breckenridge, Colorado Why : You could say you’re missing out by staying off of these sweeping slopes, including the highest chairlift in North America, but one of the most winning characteristics of Breckenridge is that it is not only a ski resort, but a real town. Rich in history and culture, Breck is home to great restaurants, shopping and lots of other ways to enjoy the outdoors besides strapping boards to your feet.
Choose from thrill rides like the Gold Runner Alpine Coaster or soar over the pines on the Flyer Ziplines. You can also explore the wilderness from the seat of a snowmobile or dogsled. For those who prefer to stay warm inside, Breckenridge is home to a rich arts district, offering daily classes and workshops in painting, pottery, and photography. There’s also a somewhat hidden bookshop called Ole Man Berkins and there are a couple fun places to lose yourself with a cup of coffee for a couple hours, like Cuppa Joe or Clint’s Bakery & Coffee House.
A Trip for Ski Warriors
Where to go : Kirkwood, California Why : You have a single goal in mind and that’s to rip steep and deep terrain every day of your trip. Kirkwood offers a peaceful and remote alpine experience just an hour away from Lake Tahoe, where the majority of visitors have a like-minded yearning for ample slope time.
That said, you will rarely have any wait at the Cornice Express and will find that some of the best warm-up runs can be done on groomed black diamonds. In fact, well over half of Kirkwood’s terrain falls into the advanced and expert categories.
While the high elevation skiing is a delightfully “no frills” experience with only bowls and chutes to take in at the summit, you can admire your lines in the afternoon over a burger and half-price après beer at The Wall Bar and Grill, which opens to soaring views of Thimble Peak, The Sisters, Glove Rock, and Martin Point.
A Trip with Skiers/Snowboarders of Varying Skill Levels
Where to go : Northstar, California Why : Although you’d like to hit the slopes together as a group, some of you are embarking on your first-ever ski trip and others are seasoned rippers. Northstar is a natural place to part ways, offering stellar terrain for every level, from newbies hitting the bunny slopes to experts seeking glades and steeps.
Plus, the bounty of ski-in, ski-out lodging and the all-pedestrian Village makes the whole place incredibly self-contained, meaning you and your crew can easily meet for lunch at Rubicon Pizza or share your best stories over a glass of wine at Petra.
A Business Trip
Where to go : Vail, Colorado Why : However large your group might be, nobody will ski the same run twice even if you’re on the slopes of Vail for an entire week. Offering incredible bowl skiing as well as some of the world’s best wide-open runs, Vail’s slopes have it all.
Not only that, but its numerous lodges and hotels offer ample space for large gathering spots. Situated conveniently at the base of the Lionshead gondola, The Arrabelle is a virtual palace, with group space ranging from Grand Ballrooms to roundtable rooms. There’s also an ice rink tucked into its square and a yummy hot chocolate and gelato joint on the corner.
Vail Village is also a vibrant and scenic pedestrian shopping and dining zone that is easy to navigate thanks to the free in-town bus system. You won’t find a more beautiful, thrilling or accommodating locale to do business.
Featured image provided by © Vail Resorts