Whether you're snowplowing down the bunny slope or ripping through the gates on a slalom run, nothing is quite as exhilarating as a winter vacation in crisp mountain air and views that can take your breath away.
Thanks to plenty of sun, a gentle climate and bountiful snow, you'll find some of the world's most desirable ski destinations in the North American West.
CRESTED BUTTE, COLORADO
With its historic Victorian downtown and a total absence of chain stores, Crested Butte transports you back in time to an old mining town (if that old town had world-class ski slopes and hosted extreme ski championships).
Trails range from beginner to double black diamond. If you're up to the challenge, you'll find some of the steepest cut runs in North America with slopes up to 55 degrees and jumps up to 60 feet.
At night, this quaint small town offers an impressive selection of restaurants and bars, many featuring live music.
LAKE TAHOE, NEVADA/CALIFORNIA
The skiing here is equaled only by the après ski scene. Enjoy all the outdoor splendor of the High Sierras and spectacular views of Lake Tahoe — plus the excitement of Vegas-style nightlife with 24/7 casinos and top entertainers.
You'll find classic Alpine skiing and plenty of family fun, too — tubing parks, sledding, mini-snowmobiles, treetop canopy tours, bungee trampolines, ice skating, even complimentary s'mores.
Lake Tahoe enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year, and its snowfalls pass quickly, leaving plenty of pristine powder and brilliant blue skies.
For sheer untouched splendor, nothing beats Sugarbowl Resort, a 1,500-acre downhill ski destination with four peaks, 13 lifts and North Tahoe’s deepest annual snowpack. The resort recently purchased Royal Gorge, a 3,000-acre cross-country ski park that is America’s largest.
MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, CALIFORNIA
This resort definitely lives up to the name Mammoth, with more than 28 lifts and 150 trails for every level, and slopes that include wide-open bowls and steep chutes.
Mammoth also has nine terrain parks featuring a super pipe, technical rails, jumps, jib skiing and more. At the Disco Park, everything is built kid-size, from small jumps to a mini pipe.
The Night of Lights Celebration in December is a great way to launch the holidays, with a fireworks display, torchlight parade, hillside light show and a snowcat ballet.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
In and around Salt Lake City are 14 ski resorts with some of the best Alpine runs in the west. Alta/Snowbird not only has an amazing snowfall — as much as 783 inches of Utah’s famously fluffy powder — it made the top-five lists in both Freeskier and Forbes magazines.
Dogsledding is a new addition to outdoor recreation at the Stillman Ranch. Experienced mushers, some of them Iditarod veterans, and Alaskan Husky sled dogs will take you on a memorable adventure through the snow-covered Rockies. At Olympic Park, built for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, you can learn to luge or zip down the track in a bobsled.
If you like your sparkling snow with a dash of glittering stars, take your ski holiday during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City.
VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA
Can't decide between a metropolitan vacation with multicultural restaurants, concerts and museums – or winter sports in the great outdoors? In Vancouver you can have it all, skiing and Stravinsky too.
Minutes from downtown are three of North America's best ski areas, Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain, venue for the 2010 Olympic snowboarding and freestyle skiing events.
Ninety minutes from the city is Whistler, which SKI Magazine readers named the No. 1 ski resort in North America. The slopes are world class, and it’s also a great place for heli-skiing — a thrilling way to ski the glacial wilderness.