Top 100 ski resorts

This is our list of the top 100 ski resorts in North America.  We identified a minimum set of criteria that each resort must meet to start the process.

Looking for paradise on skis

Looking for paradise on skis

Criteria

  • At least 1400′ vertical.  We measure vertical drop as the largest continuously skiable vertical drop via ski lift.  If you have to climb it doesn’t count.  If you can’t ski from the highest point to the lowest without taking a lift, it doesn’t count.
  • At least 250 acres of terrain.  This tends to matter more for North-eastern areas because resorts in the Northeast have narrower trails and heavy trees, cutting down on acreage.
  • We favor areas that get more than 250″ of snowfall but the lower limit is 120″.  Once you get under 100″ of natural snowfall you are basically skiing entirely on groomed runs that have snowmaking.  If it’s under 175″ of snowfall, it has to be really far north or it’s not going to be consistently good.
  • At least 2 ski “pods”, or areas served by distinct lifts.  No “one-lift covers the whole mountain” places unless it is really unique (La Grave, France comes to mind with a 6000′ vertical rise lift).
  • Has to have some challenging terrain.  Skiing is an adventure and for us we need some steep stuff to get the blood pumping.  Trail ratings are not consistent across different resorts, so a lot of research was done by reading reviews and watching Youtube videos of people skiing down the most challenging runs at each candidate resort.  Resorts like Okemo and Stratton were taken off the list for this reason.  If an intermediate skier can ski the double-black terrain it’s not on the list.

Narrowing it down…

After qualifying resorts based on stats, we poured over trail maps and resort reviews to cut the list down to a more manageable 100 resorts.  There are over 600 resorts in North America, so that was not easy.  Most of the places we chose were somewhat known to us already from reading articles in the ski mags or talking to people on the mountain.  In the end, this list is what we think are the best, but not everyone will agree.

Why is my favorite resort not on the list?

There are a few resorts that by stats would seem to qualify, but which we eliminated due to various factors including accessibility, aging facilities, strange mountain layout, poor management, or previous experience that wasn’t good.

Why do the stats on our reviews not match published resort numbers?

Our reviews hope to capture the truth about skiing at a resort, so only the main lifts are counted and the vertical drop represents the continuously skiable vertical (when available).  Magic carpets and other lifts designated as learning zones aren’t interesting to the average skier and thus are not counted here.  Vertical can be deceptive when you just take the difference between the high and low elevations but it’s impossible to ski between those two points.

Here’s a map showing all 100.  The red markers are the ones that are already done.

West Coast – 22

Rockies & Interior BC – 64

Northeast – 14

Other places we’ve skied 

12 thoughts on “Top 100 ski resorts

    1. Ron Thompson Post author

      Thanks Calvin. Powder Mountain will replace Montana Snowbowl on the list…just haven’t gotten around to it. Mt. Baker is too small for this project. I’ve skied it (on a powder day) and if you don’t go out of bounds in the sidecountry it’s a pretty small resort. Yes, it has the most snow (probably on earth?), and the most powder days certainly, but that is not the only focus of our list.

      Edit: Actually, we kept Montana Snowbowl after all. It’s awesome actually. We had a spot open up now that Alpine Meadows and Squaw are combined via a gondola and are now known as Palisades Tahoe.

      Reply
  1. tom b

    Hello, Ron. Great site. Was wondering what your thoughts would be on Indy Pass resorts (in the Rockies). I need some gnar but also skiing with a blue/black group. Looking at an early Feb trip, 3 days. I was concerned that Brundage/Tamarack didn’t have enough steeps. We’ve been to PowMow, but didn’t get the goods and the steeps are limited. There is a lot of luck involved in a planned ski trip.

    A) Castle Mtn (if CA opens to USA)
    B) Powder Mtn
    C) Red Lodge
    D) Brundage 2 day, Tamarack 1 day.
    E) Other Indy trip or other trip

    Reply
    1. Ron Thompson Post author

      Hi Tom, I agree about Powder Mountain, but 2 days at Powder Mountain and one day at Beaver Mountain would be fun if you don’t mind a long-ish drive to Beaver. We loved that place even though it’s easy. We stayed in Ogden and just commuted to Snowbasin and Beaver which worked.

      Castle Mountain is one of our favorites and would be an incredible experience for you if you happen to catch good snow. It’s tough to plan ahead that far though, as it can be highly variable and that’s actually a little early to be sure of good snow. There are some great steep avalanche chutes there.

      In your situation my top pick would be Tamarack for 2 days and Brundage for 1. We really loved Tamarack even though the challenge is a little lower. There is lots of tree skiing if you seek it out, and some shorter steep sections. We actually wished we had 2 days there on our trip because 1 was not enough. Brundage is fine, but it’s not really challenging either. It just gets more snow, but the runs are pretty much straight shots down the fall line which is not as interesting as Tamarack.

      Red Lodge is also a gamble on snow, but it’s a really fun place and has some good challenging stuff. You might find it a bit limiting for 3 days though, and it’s really far away from any other resorts.

      Good luck and have fun!

      Reply
      1. tom b

        Great feedback, thanks!!! Our trip moved to Jan 5th (way too early) so I decided SLC would be the best bet for snow. 8 skiers flying in from the East, so SLC airport is hard to beat. 2 Days Powder Mtn then up to stay in BCC for Solitude and Brighton!!! We’ll be dealing with some crowds, yes but hopefully nothing like Park City.

        Our family ski trip has been going over 30 years and this only the 3rd time out West. I see you have a VT hit list and Whiteface. We are also headed to Jay Peak in March for the first time! We’ve done about 25 years at Gore Mountain. Gore is not a NA top 100, but the State of NY has steadily improved Gore over the years. If you haven’t been to Gore in a while, it’s worth a stop if the glades are open (typically in Feb.) “Z” rankings has Gore at 166 which is somewhat low considering some of the resorts ranked higher and all of the on-mountain improvements.

        Reply
        1. Ron Thompson Post author

          Thanks Tom. Gore was one of the hardest resorts to leave off the list. It definitely qualifies and looks like a really fun mountain when the snow is right. We plan to continue skiing and reviewing resorts after the 100 are done and will very likely ski there some day. There were probably around 20 resorts that qualify for the list in North America but had to be cut. It would be a fun mini project to ski all of those.

          As we do hit new resorts that aren’t on the list, the list may change and names can be added and removed.

          Of course, just like it’s hard for you to go west, it’s hard for us to go east (and it’s even more of a weather gamble) so it’s not a casual undertaking!

          Reply
  2. Tom Fort

    Fun list to read through. Have you considered putting out a numerical list, or at least grouping it by your star ratings?

    When do you think you’ll be hitting Schweizer?

    Reply
    1. Ron Thompson Post author

      Hi Tom,

      Lots of “Tom’s” commenting 🙂

      Someone else emailed me and suggested the same thing, so I’m going to put something together by star rating.

      It’s very hard to rank 100 resorts, and we’ve kept it intentionally vague for now by just giving them a 1-5 star rating. This is because the things that make skiing fun are different for everyone. Even between us, AiRung’s ranking will be different from mine.

      When the project is complete, we do intend to take a stab at ranking all 100 but it wouldn’t be accurate until all 100 have been skied!

      Reply
  3. Kevin

    If you get an opportunity – hit Pebble Creek Ski area near Pocatello ID. Some very steep in area terrain and easily accessible out of area terrain.

    Reply

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