Comparison Of Ski Resorts USA

Comparison Of Ski Resorts USA

Compare Ski Resorts USA

Can’t decide which ski resorts in USA to visit? Perhaps you’re looking for the largest ski resorts in US by acreage, the biggest ski resorts in US by vertical, the best ski resorts for experts, or the top place to ski or snowboard for nightlife and family friendliness. To help you decide where to ski in USA in the west see:
  • Download the USA resort statistics comparison. This ski resort comparison includes mountain statistics such as terrain size so you can see the largest ski resorts in the US, and the proportion of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs. 
  • See the Powderhounds' USA ski resorts ratings which are broken into many aspects such as: terrain for different abilities; the powder; lift infrastructure; family-friendliness; cost; nightlife; and the likelihood of finding “freshies”. 
  • See our “best ski resorts in US” awards for ideas on which USA ski resorts may suit your needs. 
  • See the information below which compares USA snow quantity and quality, crowds, cost and resort size.

Biggest Ski Resorts in US

In a country where big is best, it’s no great surprise that many of the western ski resorts in the USA are very large. Perhaps they’re not the mega size of some of the European ski resorts but still pretty big. Powder Mountain is the largest ski resort in the US at 8,464 acres, although it’s debatable as to which elements of the ski terrain should be counted in the statistic. Park City is also one of the largest ski resorts in the US with 7,300 acres of skiable terrain, Big Sky is aptly named with 5,850 acres, Vail ski resort is huge at 5,289 acres, and other mega-resorts include Heavenly, Squaw Valley, and Mammoth Mountain. The size of the combined ski terrain of the inter-connected Alta and Snowbird ski resort is 5100 acres, making it one of the biggest ski resorts in US.

Some of the resorts have significant vertical, but when compared to parts of Europe, US ski resorts don’t quite measure up. USA ski resorts don't even get a mention in the top 30 resorts in the world for ski vertical.

See the western US ski resorts statistics to make comparisons.

Ski Resorts USA US - Snow

US ski resorts are renowned for having plenty of snowfall. Various Utah ski resorts receive an average of 500 inches of snowfall annually and Alta tops the Utah charts with 547” of snow. Mt Baker Washington set a record in 1998-99 for the most snowfall in a season, with an amazing 1,140 inches, whilst the annual average is “only” 701 inches (it also rains a fair bit)! Timberline in Oregon, Crystal Mountain in Washington and Sierra at Tahoe have snow stats of 540, 486 and 480 inches respectively. And Alyeska in Alaska receives an average of 669 inches of snow per year, which puts it in the realm of some of the Japan ski resorts that receive ridiculous amounts of snow.

Most powder hounds will cite that quantity of powder is important, but that high quality powder is also essential. US ski resorts near the west coast are more inclined to have wettish snow, which sometimes isn’t much fun unless you have super fat skis or a mega board. “Cascade concrete” and “Sierra cement” are unaffectionate terms for the type of snow that can be found in these mountain ranges, where the snow typically contains 10-15% water. On the plus side, one benefit of the maritime snowpack is that it’s more stable.

The Eastern states don’t have a good reputation for snow quality. Some of it is artificial snow which has really high moisture content, and the words “ice” and “icy” come to mind which doesn’t get a powder hound wagging its tail.

So in general, as to be expected, the central states have the best snow quality. The state of Utah is dry in many respects. Whilst the reputation of there being no alcohol is not true (OK it’s got a little truth to it!), the air is so dry that you’ll constantly be applying lip balm, and the snow is so dry (sometimes only 5-7% in Little Cottonwood Canyon) that it possibly deserves the rep of “The Greatest Snow on Earth” although Hokkaido skiing gives it a good run for its money. Utah skiing has both quality and quantity when it comes to snow.

Also in the interior is Colorado. Many of the Colorado ski resorts have decent snowfall volumes, and the resorts boast that the quality is superior, thanks in part due to the high elevation. In Wyoming the snow is “from heaven, not from hoses”, and Montana has great snow too.


Unfortunately the abundance of fresh powder doesn’t last for long at many of the USA ski resorts. The popularity of USA skiing and snowboarding has been increasing in recent years and the season pass wars between Epic Pass and the Ikon Pass have also served to increase the crowds at the ski resorts in US.

The lift infrastructure is generally very modern and copes OK with the crowds, but the snow doesn’t cope as well. Unlike with skiing in Japan, it can be difficult to find an “off-the-beaten-track” resort where you can have the powder to yourself. “Relatively” is an important word because in the US in comes down to finding ski areas where there are “relatively” fewer crowds. Examples of potential gems include Powder Mountain in Utah and Powderhorn in Colorado.

Off-Piste Skiing and Expert Ski Terrain

Whilst Europe may have larger ski resorts than the US, what the United States has over skiing in Europe is “trails” and better terrain opportunities for advanced and expert skiers without the same degree of risk. In Europe guides may be required to explore “off-piste”, and the areas between the marked trails are generally unpatrolled, not avalanche controlled, and it’s a case of “ski at your own risk”. With USA ski resorts, the inbounds terrain is reasonably accessible, avalanche controlled, patrolled and on the trail map. The exception is Silverton Mountain (Colorado) where a guide is often required, but Silverton remarkably has 100% black run terrain. At least 20 other western US ski resorts have more than 50 percent of the terrain rated as black and double black; heaven for advanced and expert riders.

When is the US Ski Season?

The US ski season is generally long. Most ski resorts in USA open from sometime in November, with Thanksgiving (the 4th Thursday of November) being a common opening time. Many stay open until April. Arapahoe Basin, Squaw Valley and Snowbird enjoy long seasons well into the spring. See our US stats resort comparisons regarding the start and end of the season for each of the western USA ski resorts.

Many international visitors choose to ski in the USA during January and February, however there are opportunities for a much cheaper ski trip if you go during the shoulder season. During spring, the ambient temperatures are more pleasant, and there is still plenty of snow. The snow conditions may be more variable, but many prefer the softer forgiving snow. December is also a great time to visit because it’s quiet (with the exception of Xmas to New Year) and the cold temperatures provide good snow quality, but there may be inadequate snow base in the off-piste areas.

Cost of Skiing USA

Is it expensive to snowboard and ski in the United States? The answer to this question is largely dependent upon the strength of the US dollar in comparison to your home land currency. However as a general rule, it is more expensive to ski in the US compared with Canada, New Zealand, India, South America, Europe and skiing in Japan.

Lift ticket prices vary significantly across the US. If you don’t have an Ikon Pass or Epic Pass or pre-book your lift tickets, some of the high profile ski resorts charge an absolute bomb for a ticket window lift pass, with prices in excess of $250 per day.

Thankfully the US has some lesser known resorts where it’s possible to have a ski vacation without burning a hole in your pocket. Lodging can be quite expensive in the US. The standard of the lodging and service is often quite high, and accommodations commonly come in the form of hotels, condos (apartments) and vacation rentals. It can be hard to find a backpackers hostel or a little pension to save money. These aren’t as prolific in the US compared with New Zealand and Canada. Budget motels or chain hotels are a possibility, but these are typically not located on-mountain or close to the slopes.