If you’re looking for minimal crowds, maximum snow and the authenticity that comes with small-fry resorts , you’ll find them in these independent ski locations in the USA.
You’ll also get the additional bragging perks that come with most likely being the first of your friends to access the powdery good times at each of these gems.
We all know folks that regale us with the good old days of Jackson, Aspen and Telluride before the rest of the world discovered them. Well, be like them, and get in first. Just don’t be like them and keep it to yourself.
With no lift lines, super friendly staff and a laidback vibe that makes you feel instantly at home, it’s almost a bonus that there are 3000 acres on offer at Whitefish to ski and board, making for a whole lot of groomers, tree runs, bowls and powder stashes to explore.
Along with no lift lines to speak of, you can check out 105 runs serviced by 11 lifts, all covered by about 7.5m of snowfall per season, plus the creature comforts of a variety of accommodation and dining options at the base of the resort. And when it comes to a unique mountain adventure, our pick is the ‘Moonlight Dine and Ski’, where you enjoy dinner at nearly 7,000 ft in the Summit House before skiing by moonlight to return to home base.
There’s even a giant (and random) full colour statue of Jesus on one of the runs, should you need to, you know, stop and pray. Make sure you check out the private ‘locker rooms’ above the base pub. Each ski room is kitted out by those that paid for the privilege that year from neon Coca Cola signs to juke boxes, leather couches and the like.
If your heart is set on a ski holiday in Canada, we also have good news for you. Whitefish is just a two hour drive from Fernie in British Columbia, so a quick duck over the border from Canada to the USA will get you some time at this super special spot.
Wolf Creek, Colorado
Funnily enough, Wolf Creek does share a name with an Australian horror movie – but that’s where the similarities end. There’s no Aussie outback and no tortured backpackers to be found here, just 11.2 metres of annual snowfall each season – the most snowfall in Colorado, incidentally – and endless faceshots, thanks to a complete lack of crowds.
With 1600 acres serviced by eight lifts and everything from beginner to expert terrain, there’s a lot of opportunity here for backcountry enthusiasts who want to hike a little to access some epic double black diamond goodness. The high altitude makes for dry, light, fluffy pow, plus locals love the food on offer at the cafeteria (we hear the chilli is the way to go) and the affordable lift tickets (about AU$100/day).
You know it’s a truly authentic lowkey resort when there’s no accommodation available on the mountain, so for those looking to rest their heads after a big day on the mountain, stay in nearby Pagosa Springs and South Fork. Your wallet will thank you for the affordable lodging options and you’ll only be about a 30 minute drive from the mountain.
Grand Targhee, Wyoming
If you want powder – real, true, knee-deep, light, fluffy, insane powder – you need to come to Wyoming. More specifically, you need to get to Grand Targhee, where they get over 13 metres of the white stuff every year AND only the diehard skiers and boarders are really there to compete with you for it.
Being just an hour and 20 minute’s drive from Jackson Hole, it’s easy to make a mini US road trip out of your ski holiday and plan to spend a couple of days in Grand Targhee, where you’ll have 2600 acres to play with (or just take the day trip from Jackson). When Jackson gets big snow (which is often), Grand Targhee gets double (or something like that).
For those looking to tick cat skiing off the bucket list, Grand Targhee is the perfect spot to do it. For about AU$620, you’ll get to spend all day long exploring over 600 acres of terrain only available to cat skiers.
Brian Head, Utah
Generally, skiing and snowboarding is synonymous with “spending absolutely all my money on overpriced hotel rooms and the world’s most expensive hot chips”. So if you’re looking to give your credit card a bit of a break on your next ski vacay, opt for Brian Head.
With 71 runs serviced by eight lifts and spread across 650 acres, it’s on the smaller side of Utah resorts, but that comes with all the perks – including lower-priced ski tickets (about AUD$90 for a full day ticket) along with super reasonably priced ski lessons, lodging, food and rentals. The base has the highest resort base elevation in Utah so the snow is uber dry.
Powderhounds won’t be disappointed with over 9 metres of snowfall at this resort each season, and you’ll be blown away by the Utah views and red rocks while you’re carving down a picture-perfect groomer or feeling like a cowboy on skis amongst the boulders.
Make sure you’re there on a Saturday for the weekly BBQ at the Last Chair Saloon.
If you want the kind of feel that comes with a ski resort full of people that just really, truly love skiing and snowboarding, head to Idaho and buy a lift ticket for Schweitzer, once voted the ‘best kept secret in North America’ by Ski Magazine.
One of the bigger resorts on this list, clocking in at 2900 acres, there’s plenty to explore here divided into 10% beginner, 40% intermediate, 35% advanced, 15% expert. Choose from 92 runs serviced by nine lifts, and enjoy the 7.5 metres of snowfall that each season. They’re famous for their tree runs, so keep your fingers crossed for a powder day – just don’t stress too much about getting first lifts, because this resort rarely gets tracked out very quickly.
Bonus Schweitzer fun fact for you – it’s the German word for “Swiss man”. The mountain is named after a Swiss hermit who sheltered in the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains and was so well-known for being, well, a little odd, that he got an entire mountain named after him. The resort opened in 1963 and has been living its best, least unpretentious life ever since.