Now through April marks ski season in the United States.
And while Arizona does boast some excellent mountains—especially Snowbowl in Flagstaff and Sunrise in Greer—just a short flight away are some of the world’s top ski mountains in Breckenridge, Park City and Vail.
Located about 90 minutes from Denver, Breckenridge is a small town with major bragging rights. It is known for promising over 100 winter activities for people of all ages. And, the tourism department is not just giving lip service. Once a small mining town—one inadvertently left off the U.S. map until the mid-1950s—Breckenridge sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains and averages 300 days of sunshine and 300 inches of snow yearly. Beyond even skiing and snowboarding, visitors can snowmobile, dog sled, snowshoe, tour the world’s highest distillery in Breckenridge Distillery and ride horses in the snow.
The region made global headlines in recent months with the debut of Gravity Haus Breckenridge. Replacing the former Village Hotel at the base of Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak Nine, the renovated and tech-forward ski-in/ski-out boutique property debuted in December with 60 distinctly curated rooms. Featuring a modern alpine design, accommodations include private queen and king suites and combination suites featuring bunks and private sleeping areas for families and groups. Designed to activate like-minded outdoor enthusiasts year-round, Gravity Haus offers ongoing insider experiences ranging from outdoor excursions to social programming. On-site amenities include the Dryland Fitness and Sports Recovery Center; Backcountry Discovery Center; StarterHaus, a new coworking space by Jim Deters; farm-to-cup Unravel Coffee; nourishing dining at Cabin Juice; and a Japanese onsen, a bathhouse featuring four hot tubs, one cold tub and a dry sauna.
Park City, which is located about 30 miles from Salt Lake City in Utah, was also once a mining town and at one time ran the risk of becoming a ghost town until savvy marketers realized the potential for tourism. Once it was marketed as “The Greatest Snow on Earth” (a play on the tagline of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus), people from all over the world flocked to the winter paradise. With 330 trails, 43 lifts and eight terrain parks across its 7,300 skiable acres, Park City Mountain is the largest ski resort in the United States. It is among the best places in the country to take ski or snowboard school or to test out one’s skills. Beyond the slopes, Park City boasts a zipline adventure, a snow toboggan called the Alpine Coaster, snowmobile tours and sleigh rides. For history buffs, there is the Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour, a free, guided ski tour that takes guests of all ages on an exploration of the region’s rich and colorful past. Park City also excels at all things après ski—the term for the entertainment following a day on the slopes—destinations in the world. There are 16 restaurants on the mountain. Of particular note: fine dining at the award-winning Farm Restaurant, which offers seasonal menus celebrating locally sourced, sustainable cuisine, and the newly opened Tombstone BBQ, which was formerly a food truck but was so lauded for its house-smoked meats and homemade sauces that it built a permanent home last year.
There is no shortage of “wow” resorts and hotels in the area, but of particular note is the Waldorf Astoria Park City and Montage Deer Valley. At the pet-friendly Waldorf, luxury is taken to new heights as it has its own ski valet and slope-side access to Park City Mountain. There are fire pits, a heated pool and hot tubs, including an adults-only hot tub. Beyond this, it boasts a spectacular 16,000-square-foot Waldorf Astoria Spa and signature restaurant, Powder, with to-die-for sustainable, local and seasonal dishes.
Montage Deer Valley is meant to evoke a great mountain lodge from days gone by, but with all the updates one wants and needs today. It’s located atop Empire Pass, so it has ski-in/ski-out access, and it features the largest spa in Utah.
Like Breckenridge, Vail is just a few hours outside of Denver in Colorado. Yet, with its small villages and lovely resort and restaurant offerings—not to mention the iconic Vail Mountain and its 5,300 acres of skiable terrain—it feels like you are in another world.
Those with kids can take advantage of Adventure Ridge, a playland with ski bikes, a kids’ snowmobile track, snow tubing lanes and more. It’s also heaven on earth for experienced skiers and snowboarders thanks to its back bowl (aka the ski roads less traveled) and private experiences. And for couples, after a day on the slopes, there are curated experiences, notably Game Creek, which is a private chalet restaurant only accessible via snowcat or gondola.
As for accommodations, less than a year ago Vail welcomed its first Grand Hyatt Vail—a ski-in/ski-out resort overlooking a creek—which features Native American art and offers multimillion-dollar rental residences on property. In addition, the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort recently unveiled a transformation with new guest rooms, suites and condos with new beds, artwork, lighting, flooring and amenities. The heated outdoor pool overlooks Vail Mountain, and bike rentals on property make quick jaunts to the nearby Lionshead Village, which is completely closed off to cars and buses, or Arrabelle Square and its outdoor ice rink, shops and restaurants even more convenient.
Other amazing options for winter escapes in the Western United States include Lake Tahoe in California, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, Telluride in Colorado and Sun Valley in Idaho.