With the holidays now over, we gleefully enter into that sweet spot of the winter season when the rush of vacationers subsides; prices lower and pistes become less crowded.
For those with a ski trip on the brain — whether that means playing hooky upstate, or hurling yourself out of an aircraft while chasing perfect pow — our shortlist of early 2020 picks promises to fulfill everyone’s downhill-ing dreams.
Easy drive: Monticello, NY
Located less than 100 miles from Manhattan, Holiday Mountain‘s biggest asset is its convenience; in two hours’ time you’re slaloming in the Catskills. The slopes may only be of the bunny variety — a great place to learn your “pizza and french fries” — but the après ski options are varsity league.
And while Holiday Mountain’s proximity makes day-tripping a viable option, the DeBruce, only 30 minutes away, is primed to snag ski bums for a night or two. Rates at the 14-room manse include a generous breakfast and a legendary multi-course dinner involving flash cards, board games, innovative wine pairings and farm-to-table fare boasting the best of each season’s harvest.
Long drive: Killington, Vt.
The largest ski and snowboard resort in the eastern US is in central Vermont; a five-hour drive from the Big Apple. Killington’s vast spider-web of almost 150 trails is almost as impressive as its elaborate snow-making system for when flurries thin.
“Killington gets around 250 inches of snow each year and uses 1,400 snow guns to cover — if need be — more than 600 of the resort’s 1,000 acres,” explains Dan Sherman, the CMO of Ski.com, meaning optimal conditions despite the specter of global warming.
And although the verticality pales in comparison to the Rockies, the terrain is very diverse, offering groomed cruisers, steeps, moguls and over a dozen tree skiing areas.
Situated 12 miles away as the crow flies, Twin Farms, one of the best inns in America, features six additional slopes available exclusively to its guests — though the sublime dining program and perfectly upholstered cabins make suiting up in your puffy coat and tackling the elements an unappealing prospect.
Easy flight: Alta, Utah
If you’re getting on an airplane to feed your skiing habit, then make a beeline for the Rockies.
A direct flight to Salt Lake City is your best bet; it’s only a quick 45-minute drive from tarmac to T-bar at Alta, one of America’s oldest recreational skiing spots. Scoring an average of almost 550 inches of snowfall each winter, Utah’s premiere peak is the down-to-earth, no-snowboarders-allowed antidote to some of the region’s more uppity mountain towns, earning raves for its deep powder skiing.
Stringent construction mandates have kept the village famously quaint, but a $ 50M investment recently transformed the once-rickety Snowpine Lodge into a gleaming high-end hotel complete with every luxe accoutrement of a mountain chalet, from custom boot warmers in each ski locker to a soothingly hot outdoor pool.
Long flight: Megève and Chamonix, France
The nonstop long-haul to Geneva, Switzerland yields an unbreakable tie — two compelling reasons to cross the pond — Chamonix (above) and Megève; both around an hour’s drive across the French border.
Crowned by a curl of gracefully arcing slopes, Megève lures those wanting powder and pampering in equal measure. The newly opened Chalets du Mont d’Arbois, a Four Seasons property, is the torchbearer of the legendary Rothschild family who established their hotel here 100 years ago.
“While Megève is truly a skier’s dream destination, Chamonix offers some of the world’s best expert skiing on its jagged peaks and glaciers that rise 12,500 feet above the valley floor,” adds Sherman.
As the OG alpine destination, Chamonix’s culture in town is more squarely sports-focused with high-performance gear shops lining the streets, though a handful of designer boutiques and a Michelin-anointed restaurant have crept in over the years due to its enduring international reputation.
Longer flight: Valdez, Alaska
Going from snorkeler to scuba diver is pretty straightforward: you enroll in a PADI Open Water course and snag a certification.
For skiers hoping to add the heli- prefix to their pedigree, the process seems a little more opaque. Luckily, there’s Valdez Heli Ski Guides; if you’re willing to make the journey to a rather remote corner of the 50th state, you’ll be swapping chairlifts for airlifts in no time.
From Tsaina Lodge, the birthplace of Alaskan heli-skiing, guests can land at the top of some of the steepest slopes in the world, but intermediate skiers will find plenty of space to work on their technique as the helicopter drops them anywhere along an expanse of untrampled blue terrain that’s larger than Vail, Apsen Snowmass and Beaver Creek combined.