21 of the best ski resorts in the USA

Taking to the mountains for a winter holiday is as American as apple pie.

Easy too, because many resorts offer ski-in ski-out convenience. Chances are you won't need a car!

USA ski resorts have mastered the art of creating winter holidays that are totally self-contained. Once you get there, everything you need is right at hand. By this we mean accommodation that lets you ski off from the front door and back again at the end of the day; restaurants and après-ski bars within strolling distance; movie theatres, ice skating rinks and hot tub complexes that are just a quick walk away. The net effect is a one-stop winter holiday that's ridiculously simple to organise.

On top of all this, snow quality is epic. Fresh powder isn't a stroke of luck, it's a phenomenon that's wonderfully common. Some resorts have a season that lasts eight months! And let's not forget acreage when we're talking about USA skiing areas - NZ's biggest ski area is about 800 skiable acres, but USA areas commonly have more than 3,000 skiable acres.

There are hundreds of brilliant ski resorts in North America. We've profiled some of the best places to ski in the USA, to make choosing a bit easier.

Best winter slopes in Utah

To visit these Utah ski resorts, fly Air New Zealand non-stop from Auckland to either San Francisco, or Los Angeles, then connect to Salt Lake City with our alliance partner United Airlines. All your USA flights - both international and domestic - can be booked through our website.

Park City Mountain, Utah

Claims to fame: Connection with Canyons Resort, good grooming, great for families

Vital statistics: 7,300 skiable acres, 324 runs, 13 bowls, 8 terrain parks, 33 chairlifts, 4 gondolas, 2 rope tows, 3 surface lifts

Massive is the word that first springs to mind when you contemplate Park City Mountain's statistics. As one of the best places to ski in Utah, it never fails to satisfy because there's room enough for everyone. The terrain is weighted towards intermediate (49%) and advanced (44%), but it's important to realise that the 7% for easy runs at Park City Mountain equates to more than 500 acres. That's a lot of space for beginners. There are hotels and restaurants clustered at the base of the lift system, particularly the base of Town Lift, so this winter fun venue is totally self-contained, i.e. you probably won't need a car.

Beaver Mountain, Utah

Claims to fame: Perfect for families, less crowded, less expensive

Vital statistics: 828 skiable acres, 48 runs, 2 terrain parks, 4 chairlifts, 1 surface lift

Located in northern Utah, Beaver Mountain is a family-run Utah ski resort with a friendly, fun atmosphere. It faces north, which helps to keep the snow in pristine condition. Saturday is the busiest day, so ski mid-week and it'll feel like you almost have the mountain to yourself. Trails are well networked, there's something for every skill level and night skiing is sometimes available on some days. The nearby town of Logan has plenty of hotel accommodation. From Logan, the drive to Beaver Mountain ski resort takes less than an hour.

Snowbasin Resort, Utah

Claims to fame: Affordable, fresh powder, great lifts

Vital statistics: 3,000 skiable acres, 104 runs, 4 terrain parks, 2 gondolas, 6 chairlifts, 1 tram, 3 surface lifts

With excellent terrain for every level of expertise, including 'blue cruisers' (easy, long ski runs), plus plenty of snow (powder galore!), Snowbasin has some of the best skiing in Utah. This resort hosted the Downhill and Super G events at the 2002 Olympics, so it certainly has good credentials. Snowbasin is also known as one of the best-managed ski resorts in North America. There's no on-mountain accommodation, however the town of Ogden is a 30-minute drive away. You could even do an excursion to Snowbasin ski resort from Park City, which is a one-hour drive away.

Deer Valley Resort, Utah

Claims to fame: Only for skiers, immaculate slope grooming, gourmet food

Vital statistics: 2,026 skiable acres, 103 runs, 24 chairlifts

There's a lot to love about Deer Valley if you're a skier. No snowboarders, super-fast lifts, short queues, exceptional restaurants, lodging right on the mountain and a general upmarket approach to everything. Free orientation tours are another feature visitors love about this winter resort; known as Mountain Host Tours, these involve an expert taking you around the resort (on skis of course), so that you can get properly acquainted with the lifts and runs. If you don't want to stay on the mountain, Park City resort is a seven-minute drive away. Deer Valley resort isn't the cheapest way to ski Utah, but it delivers some of the best skiing in the USA.

Snowbird, Utah

Claims to fame: Lots of quality snow, diverse terrain, excellent food

Vital statistics: 2,500 skiable acres, 85 runs, 1 terrain park, 10 chairlifts, 1 tram, 1 surface lift

Snowbird's snow score puts it at #2 for snowfall in North America. And the snow is high quality, even in an average season. This mountain also has a perfect balance of terrain types - 27% of the mountain is considered easy terrain, 38% intermediate and 35% advanced. Snowbird is only 40km from Salt Lake City or you can stay at the base village for slopes-at-the-door convenience. On a clear day, the views of Little Cottonwood Canyon are amazing. Skiing and snowboarding are equally good at Snowbird resort; there's night skiing too.

Best winter slopes in Colorado

To visit these Colorado ski areas, fly Air New Zealand non-stop from Auckland to either San Francisco, Los Angeles or Houston then connect to Denver with our alliance partner United Airlines. All your USA flights - both international and domestic - can be booked through our website.

Vail, Colorado

Claims to fame: Ski-in ski-out lodging, amazing back bowls and basins, cool après-ski scene

Vital statistics: 5,200 skiable acres, 195 runs, 3 terrain parks, 22 chairlifts, 2 gondolas, 9 surface lifts

Vail ski resort is one of the USA's legendary snow places. It has epic views, wonderful weather, fabulous restaurants and superb shopping, plus it presents you with a massive choice of runs down the third-largest ski mountain in North America. All up, the experience is bigger than big, with terrain for every level of skier or snowboarder. And like all great USA ski areas, it's totally self-contained with plenty of ski-in ski-out accommodation that guarantees more time on the slopes. Vail mountain is family friendly, but it also has one of the coolest après-ski cultures in the USA.

Telluride Ski Resort, Colorado

Claims to fame: Variety of terrain, no crowds, stupendous scenery

Vital statistics: 2,000+ skiable acres, 120 runs, 3 terrain parks, 11 chairlifts, 4 gondolas, 1 T-bar, 2 surface lifts

Located in the San Juan Mountains, the town of Telluride - once a mining village - is set in a box canyon at the base of the ski resort. You won't need a rental car (except for getting to Telluride ski resort in the first place), because everything you need for an amazing winter holiday is concentrated into one walkable area. While Telluride has some of the steepest terrain in Colorado, it also has plenty of beginner and intermediate runs. What's more, it offers more controlled backcountry skiing than any other snow sport area in the USA.

Steamboat Ski Resort, Colorado

Claims to fame: Unpretentious, gorgeous powder, no crowds

Vital statistics: 2,965 skiable acres, 165 runs, 4 terrain parks, 17 chairlifts, 1 gondola, 1 T-bar, 2 surface lifts

Steamboat Ski Resort is right next to the town of Steamboat Springs, which has a fascinating western heritage - ranches, horses and cowboys are a feature of the area. You could manage without a vehicle here, because there are free buses linking hotels to the ski resort. All the runs at Steamboat ski resort are below the tree line, so you're getting some of the best tree skiing in Colorado; there's also gated access to some excellent backcountry terrain. Intermediates will love this resort, however advanced skiers could potentially run out of challenges.

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Colorado

Claims to fame: Long season, great snow quality, advanced terrain

Vital statistics: 1,400 skiable acres, 147 runs, 3 terrain parks, 9 chairlifts

Arapahoe is heaven for expert skiers. In terms of terrain, the area breaks down into 7% easiest, 20% more difficult, 49% most difficult and 24% extreme. There are enough beginner areas if someone in your group is learning, but the real focus here is the exciting stuff - steep slopes with bumps, bowls, trees and chutes. Regulars rave about A-Basin, saying it's guaranteed to make you a better skier or boarder. The closest accommodation to Arapahoe is at nearby Keystone resort, a nine-minute drive away. You'll need a rental vehicle.

Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort, Colorado

Claims to fame: One pass for four mountains, family friendly, industry-leading facilities

Vital statistics: 5,303 skiable acres, 336 runs, 10 terrain parks, 28 chairlifts, 3 gondolas, 9 surface lifts

Why ski just one mountain when you can have four! Aspen Snowmass encompasses Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk, making this one of the best places to ski in Colorado. Snowmass has the longest top-to-bottom runs in the USA; Aspen has plenty of intermediate and advanced terrain, plus gorgeous blue groomers for less-experienced snowboarders and skiers; Aspen Highlands leans towards more beginner and intermediate terrain; and Buttermilk is the ideal destination for families and those who want to learn to ski or snowboard. At the base of Aspen Snowmass is a well-equipped village full of ski-in ski-out accommodation, restaurants and snow-related shops. You won't need a car, unless you want to explore other Colorado ski resorts.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Claims to fame: Few queues, diverse terrain, lift pass also applies to nearby resorts

Vital statistics: 2,908 skiable acres, 187 runs, 4 terrain parks, 18 chairlifts, 1 gondolas, 15 surface lifts

Breckenridge is about as pretty as a ski destination can get. It was once a gold-mining town and still has many historic wooden buildings along its main street. Newer buildings have arrived, however they've been styled to respect the town's heritage. A winter holiday here is easy, because there are lots of slope-side lodgings. You'll only need a car if you want to explore other resorts in the area - your multi-day Breckenridge lift pass includes Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. Breckenridge ski resort is nearly 3,000 metres above sea level, so the air is thin - great for building fitness, but you might find yourself out of breath at first.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Colorado

Claims to fame: Charming village, family friendly, terrain for everyone

Vital statistics: 1,167 skiable acres, 121 runs, 5 terrain parks, 9 chairlifts, 5 surface lifts

An idyllic mountain town that's perfect for a family snow-sport holiday, Crested Butte (pronounced 'beaut') is one of the more remote ski areas in Colorado (four hours from Denver), but that means fewer people on the slopes. Terrain is shared fairly evenly amongst the different skill levels - 8% beginner, 29% intermediate, 21% advanced and 32% expert. You could manage without a car at Crested Butte, but only if you're staying in ski-in ski-out accommodation. The town is self-contained, pedestrian-friendly and Elk Avenue is fun for shopping.

Best winter slopes on the West Coast

To visit these winter resorts, fly Air New Zealand non-stop from Auckland to either San Francisco, or Los Angeles with onwards domestic connections available with our alliance partner United Airlines. All your USA flights - both international and domestic - can be booked through our website.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California

Claims to fame: Car-free village, superb beginner slopes, lots of challenging terrain

Vital statistics: 6,000 skiable acres, 245 runs, 5 terrain parks, 2 gondolas, 33 chairlifts, 7 surface lifts

With this Lake Tahoe ski resort, you get two areas in one - Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. An express shuttle service runs continuously between the two. Terrain across the both areas ticks all the skill level boxes - 25% beginner, 42% intermediate and 33% advanced. The European-style village at Squaw Valley provides the perfect base for your holiday. Squaw Valley skiing can be car-free, because all the essentials are clustered together. Being able to walk everywhere from your accommodation is the ultimate luxury.

Northstar California Resort, Lake Tahoe, California

Claims to fame: Exceptional infrastructure, immaculate grooming, family atmosphere

Vital statistics: 3,170 skiable acres, 100 runs, 8 terrain parks, 2 gondolas, 11 chairlifts, 7 surface lifts

Northstar ski area is on the side of Mount Pluto, an extinct volcano (Ruapehu skiers are going to feel at home here). Beginners will find this resort especially welcoming, but it's intermediate skiers that get the lion's share of trails - 60%! The terrain is below the tree-line, so skiing is highly picturesque. The abundance of snow here is matched by an abundance of sunshine. When you choose Northstar for your family snow holiday, you're getting that famous all-in-one convenience - lift stations, accommodation, restaurants, bars and shops all gathered together in upmarket Northstar village. It's not cheap here, but it's considered by many to be the best ski resort in California.

Big Bear Mountain Resort, California

Claims to fame: Handy to LA, great for families, two mountains for one lift ticket

Vital statistics: 438 skiable acres, 55 runs, 8 terrain parks, 19 chairlifts, 9 surface lifts

Big Bear Mountain Resort in the San Bernardino Mountains encompasses two ski areas - Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. Each has its own personality. Bear Mountain prides itself on being family-friendly and well groomed; it has a special focus on terrain parks, so is much loved by boarders. Snow Summit is also family friendly, but it offers more traditional ski runs; around 35% of its terrain is for beginners and low intermediate, 40% suits intermediates and 25% is advanced. Together they're an attractive package if your family includes both skiers and boarders. There's plenty of accommodation at nearby Big Bear Lake and shuttle services can get you to the slopes.

Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

Claims to fame: Incredible scenery, challenging terrain, no crowds

Vital statistics: 1,294 skiable acres, 110 runs, 1 gondola, 9 chairlifts, 4 surface lifts

Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at the start of the Rockies, Taos Ski Valley has amazing terrain for high-end intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders. Experts love the place and 'Taos steeps' are legendary, but don't be put off Taos because you have beginners and intermediates in your group - there's plenty for them too. Most of the slopes face north, so the snow stays in good condition. Recently Taos Ski Valley had a major makeover and it's now the only ski resort in the world to have B Corp certification for social, environmental and economic performance. There's an attractive village at the base of the mountain, so you can look forward to a ski-in ski-out experience.

Best winter slopes near the East Coast and Midwest

To visit these snow holiday destinations, fly Air New Zealand non-stop from Auckland to either Houston or Chicago, then connect with onward domestic connections available with our alliance partner United Airlines. All your USA flights, both international and domestic, can be booked through our website. From 29 October 2020, we'll be flying non-stop from Auckland to New York* - handy if you're heading to New Hampshire, Maine or Vermont ski areas.

* Subject to final regulatory approvals and crewing agreements.

Boyne Highlands Resort, Michigan

Claims to fame: Hospitality, family-friendliness, wide variety of terrain

Vital statistics: 435 skiable acres, 55 runs, 4 terrain parks, 1 gondola, 8 chairlifts, 2 surface lifts

Boyne Highlands is loved for its varied terrain and long runs. It's also a resort that promotes itself to families, so this is your kind of place if you're bringing the whānau. And Boyne Highlands is not just for skiing and snowboarding; you can also enjoy dog sled rides, ziplines, ice skating, snowmobiling and horseback riding through snowy forests. There's a range of accommodation providers close to the slopes, including Boyne Highlands Resort. A real treat here is mountaintop dining at North Peak.

North Conway region, New Hampshire

Claims to fame: Lots of ski resorts close together, long season, gorgeous forests

Rather than profile just one ski area in North Conway, we want to tell you about a few. In this region of the USA, ski areas are thick on the ground.

  • Cranmore Mountain is a family-friendly field with four chairlifts and several rope tows. It also has a tubing run, terrain park and night skiing on Saturdays
  • Attitash is two peaks in one. It's great value for money and has an even spread of terrain types. When there's not enough snow, they make their own
  • Wildcat has some of the longest trails in the area, as well as gorgeous views from the top. Top-notch snow making keeps the slopes in good shape
  • Bretton Woods is New Hampshire's largest ski area. It has lots of variety, heaps of intermediate trails and offers night skiing

Killington Ski Area, Vermont

Claims to fame: Huge variety of terrain, long season, excellent snow making

Vital statistics: 1,509 skiable acres, 212 runs, 5 terrain parks, 14 chairlifts, 3 gondolas, 5 surface lifts

As the largest ski area on the East Coast, Killington ski resort is a killer choice for your winter holiday. Known as 'the beast of the east', it includes seven interconnected mountain peaks, so there's absolutely no chance of getting bored. Every day presents exciting new challenges and the snow grooming is legendary. There's plenty of accommodation nearby, including ski-in ski-out options. The hot tubs at Killington Grand Resort Hotel come with stunning views. You'll also find that the local food in Killington town is nearly as good as the skiing.

Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont

Claims to fame: Exceptional terrain, lavish amenities, lively nightlife

Vital statistics: 485 skiable acres, 116 runs, 2 terrain parks, 8 chairlifts, 2 gondolas, 2 surface lifts

Stowe encompasses Spruce Peak and Mansfield ski areas, and you can shuttle from one to the other in a comfy gondola. Vermont ski resorts don't get any better than this! With both areas the terrain leans towards intermediate and advanced, but there are areas suitable for beginners too, which is what makes it one of the best places to ski in Vermont. If you fancy some cross country, there are trails galore in and around the town of Stowe, which is exquisitely folksy, but in a luxurious kind of way. There are several accommodation options providing slopeside convenience. A winter holiday at Stowe doesn't come cheap, but it delivers an exceptional experience you'll never forget.

Sugarloaf Mountain, Maine

Claims to fame: Above tree-line lift service, long season, lots of advanced terrain

Vital statistics: 1,240 skiable acres, 162 runs, 3 terrain parks, 13 chairlifts, 2 surface lifts

Sugarloaf delivers a sweet winter holiday in the beautiful Carrabasset Valley. It gets more than 500cm of snowfall most years, which means skiing from mid-November to early May. The terrain favours expert skiers - 23% beginner, 34% intermediate and 43% advanced. if you're looking for serenity and silence, there are more than 90km of cross-country trails. Many accommodation options in Sugarloaf offer ski-in ski-out convenience and there's no shortage of restaurants and bars for après-ski fun.