Skiing in the Rocky Mountains is the dream of many winter sports enthusiasts. But Vail, Aspen, Park City, and Lake Tahoe aren’t by far the only ski resorts in America that draw skiers to their slopes or off-limits areas.
This is already one of the biggest differences between the Alps and North America. While in Europe, from 4 Vallées to Obertauern, the kilometers of slopes are counted, in the United States and Canada they speak of “skiable acres”, that is to say the size of the surfaces on which traditional skiing and snowboarding can be practiced.
And in some regions, the backcountry ski areas, not specially prepared for practicing the sport, are much larger than those on conventional slopes (groomed).
Surprisingly, neither Colorado nor California have the most ski resorts in the United States, despite the fact that they are home to the most popular resorts.
Even Utah, with 14 ski areas, some of the largest resorts, and with its powder snow, is relegated from the top spots.
According to statistics from the National Ski Areas Association, New York State leads the ranking with 51 ski resorts. Michigan, on the Canadian border, has 40, while Wisconsin and Colorado each have 31.
Winter sports enthusiasts have a total of 470 ski areas and resorts in the United States, some of them even in southern states such as Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee.
Along with New York and the Rocky Mountains, New England is a good starting point for skiers. Ski resorts can be found in all six states: Massachusetts (13), Connecticut (5), Rhode Island (1), Vermont (23), New Hampshire (30), and Maine (18).
It is interesting to know who each center belongs to because the ski pass is not only valid for the station where it is purchased but also at other resorts of the same operator.
It’s also always worth checking the ski center’s website for discounts, as ski passes are noticeably more expensive in the United States than in the Alps.
The oldest ski resort in the country is the Howelsen Hill Ski Area, in the state of Colorado, where as early as 1915 you could go up the mountain to enjoy the snow.
However, the first true winter sports center is considered to be Sun Valley, Idaho, which was launched in the late 1930s by businessman and politician W. Averell Harriman.
Dollar Mountain in Sun Valley was not only suitable for beginners, it was also the first mountain to have chairlifts installed.
Ski areas in the United States, particularly those on the East Coast, are not particularly high. In Arctic Alaska, you can even ski down to almost sea level.
However, many regions experience huge snowfall. The first is Mount Baker, in Washington state, where an average of 16.8 meters of snow falls per year. Further inland, in Colorado or Utah, the snow is drier and therefore more pleasant to ski.
Ski resorts in the United States are exposed to weather events other than those that affect their peers in Europe.
The country has only two major mountain ranges, the Rocky Mountains in the west and the Appalachian Mountains in the east. Both traverse the nation from north to south. Only one small ridge in Utah, the Uinta Mountains near Salt Lake City, runs through the region from east to west.
Temperatures also change faster. It rains one day, but in a very short time the weather can change and then snow without stopping for days.
The largest ski resort, measured by groomed slopes, is Park City in Utah, since the Park City Mountain and Canyons areas were connected with a ski lift a few years ago.
The gigantic ski area is located 2,100 meters above sea level, and there the air is lighter and colder throughout the winter. The highest elevation of the ski resort measures 3,056 meters.
The second largest station in the United States is also in Utah: Powder Mountain. Located near the town of Eden, the ski center has more skiable hectares but fewer groomed slopes.
Deer Valley Station is also well known in Utah, but it is independent and does not allow snowboarding on its slopes.
The northernmost ski resort is in Alaska. In the early 1960s, Chris von Imhof came from the German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Alaska, what he called “a developing country for winter sports.” At the time there was a chairlift and a kind of cabin, nothing more.
But the Alyeska Resort, from which you can enjoy a dreamlike panoramic view of Cook Inlet, the North Pacific and the mountains and glaciers, developed more and more, as did the hotel, of which von Imhof was the director for many years.
Today it is the largest winter sports resort in Alaska, with 76 slopes and many acres of backcountry.
Meanwhile, America’s most exotic ski destination is located in its youngest state, Hawaii.
The extinct Mauna Kea volcano has no infrastructure and an off-road vehicle is needed to reach the 4,207-meter-high summit. You also have to be a good skier or handle the snowboard well to launch down the White Mountain – as it is translated – because conditions can change at any time.
During winter temperatures range between four degrees below and above zero, but the strong wind that usually blows on this tropical island guarantees cold ears and good snow.