Choosing where to ski on your precious vacation time is not an easy task. Every ski resort has its own vibe. It might be luxury, laid-back, or family-friendly. Every skier has his or her own vibe, too.
Maybe you want a luxury experience – carry your skis, ma’am? – and the best spa. Maybe you like a no-frills mountain with plenty of charm and character. Or maybe you head to the sickest terrain.
To make sure you have the best experience on the slopes, I’ve broken down four basic personality types and where you can ski to fit your personality.
Type A Skier: Goal-Oriented and Aggressive
Where to Go: Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe, California. Do you spend your vacation ticking off the list of runs to make sure you got them all? Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Olympic Games, will not disappoint the goal-oriented thrill seeker in you.
You’ll want to hit the famed KT-22 with its gnarly steeps and then check out Granite Chief on the backside for cliffs and jumps.
Bringing the family along? Don’t worry, Squaw Valley has an amazing variety of terrain for kids and it’s set at the top of the mountain, so everyone gets to enjoy the incredible views of Lake Tahoe.
Where to Stay: The Village at Squaw Valley is the ideal place to stay, right next to the slopes and with easy access to shopping, a spa, a yoga studio and excellent restaurants. I recommend Fireside for delicious pizza and Rocker – their brisket fries were to die for.
What to Do: Visit the lake. The drive around Lake Tahoe will take you about two hours, but plan for longer so you can stop along the way. Well worth taking an afternoon off the slopes, the scenery and variety of towns – from campy lake towns to casino hot spots – make for a unique and exciting mini road trip.
If you don’t have a car, Tahoe City, just 15 minutes from Squaw Valley Resort, is accessible by bus. A great place for apres-ski, the town has wonderful restaurants and shopping, as well as a beach and park with a playground.
While the resorts get plenty of snow, the sun is almost always shining in Lake Tahoe and the lake-level towns aren’t always snow-covered. You can usually walk along the lake, or play at the playground, even in the middle of winter.
Type B Skier: Friendly, Outgoing, but Not Very Detail-Oriented
Where to Go: Deer Valley in Park City, Utah. My family has dubbed Deer Valley “The Happiest Place on Snow,” because we couldn’t help think of Disney World while we were there.
All the little details are taken care of, their people couldn’t be happier to help, and you just feel special.
Take the trail signs for example. Ever ride on the lift and wonder what trail is underneath you? It looks like a good one, but do you know how to find it when you’re halfway down the mountain? Deer Valley sets trail signs facing in both directions – looking uphill and downhill – so you always know where you are and how to find where you want to ski!
And the chair lifts are like sitting on a couch, with probably a good six inches of padding keeping you warm and comfy!
This luxury resort boasts some of the best corduroy around and you won’t go hungry with its gourmet, award-winning food. In fact, Deer Valley was rated #1 by readers of Ski Magazine for its grooming, service, food, and more, for several years.
If you’re a type B that just wants to have fun and not worry about the details, Deer Valley has you covered. Important note: Deer Valley is a skier-only resort. No snowboards allowed.
Where to Stay: You’ll find tons of lodging right on the mountain. For families, look for lodging near the Children’s Center – Trails End Lodge, Silver Baron Lodge, Lodges at Deer Valley, or Deer Lake Village.
What to Do: Take a free bus to downtown Park City for trendy shopping and eating.
Type C Skier: Detail-Oriented, Dependable and a Perfectionist
Where to Go: Steamboat Springs, Colorado. For a “perfect” vacation with dependable snow and an array of off-mountain activities, go to Steamboat. Thanks to its location in northwestern Colorado, it averages 350″ of snow and its renowned glades keep powder stashes for days after a storm. But they also groom their blue cruisers with impeccable attention to detail.
Where to Stay: I recommend the Steamboat Grand Hotel. When my family visited, we checked in, took care of our ski rentals, and sat down at The Cabin Restaurant for dinner all in the space of 30 minutes. That’s what I call effortless. You can choose from a hotel room, condo, studio or penthouse. We stayed in a roomy, comfortable condo.
But the best part is the easy ski and boot storage at the Grand Storage. They keep your boots, skis and poles locked up overnight just a short walk from the lifts. This makes it so easy to get to the lifts each morning without having to carry your skis and boots too far!
What to Do: For a Type C who wants the perfect ski vacation, with active, off-day fun, the town of Steamboat Springs delivers. Soothe tired quads at Strawberry Hot Springs, or try winter horseback riding with Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch.
The town itself continues to thrive as a working ranch town so there’s plenty of authentic western shopping and fine dining. Visit during Winter Carnival in early February and you’ll get parades, contests, fireworks are more.
Type D Skier: Laid-Back and Resistant to Change
Where to Go: Powder Mountain in Eden, Utah. When you arrive at the main lodge at Powder Mountain, you might think you’ve been transported back in time to the 70s. There’s no faux-European chalet or fancy village – just a cozy lodge with a joyful bar, a cafeteria with a warm fireplace and a minimalist rental center/gift shop.
But make no mistake – this is no small resort. With their 8,464 skiable acres, Powder Mountain offers more terrain than any ski resort in the United States.
What I loved the most about PowMow (as it’s lovingly referred to) is the wide-open spaces and total lack of crowds. They cap season and day passes, giving them the lowest skier density of any major ski area in North America.
Even on a weekend after a big dump of powder, the longest lift line I waited in was maybe 5 minutes and there were places on the mountain I skied and did not see or hear one other person.
The other thing I loved was its side-country skiing opportunities. These are areas that do not have trails cut, but are open for skiers to, well, just ski. The terrain is not ultra-challenging or super steep, but I found it a fantastic mix of fun and just-shy-of scary for a blue-black skier like me.
If you’re a Type D looking for a laid-back atmosphere and an authentic ski experience, head to Powder Mountain.
Where to Stay: NorthStar Lodgings offers condos convenient to the slopes. My family stayed at Moose Hollow, just a short walk across the parking lot from our door to the bus. I loved that they supplied so many basics that you need on vacation. I’m used to shopping for laundry detergent, paper towels, sponges, etc, when I stay in a condo, but NorthStar Lodgings’ policy is to take care of all that for you so you feel at home and relaxed. There was even a solid supply of oils and spices in the pantry.
Another thing I loved was that Moose Hollow hosted a Happy Hour on Friday nights where everyone could gather for wine and snacks. This led to us meeting some terrific people who we skied with for many days on our trip.
What to Do: Eat at the Shooting Star Saloon in hearby Huntsville. It’s the oldest, continuously operating saloon west of the Mississippi River and worth a visit if you like western culture, history, and quirky attractions. There are a lot of stories here – be sure to look carefully at the walls and ceiling.
Their entire menu fits on a napkin dispenser and there are no variations. Do not ask for fries. Do not ask for a burger without ketchup. You get their standard burger and chips, and you’ll like it. This establishment is 21-and-over only, so plan a date night! My husband and I cozied up to the bar with our burgers and beers and had a wonderful time talking with some other skiers at the bar.
Choosing where to ski, and finding a ski resort that syncs up with your personality, is important. You may not be happy with a poma lift when you’d prefer a gondola. Do your research before choosing a ski resort and you’ll be sure to have a better experience on and off the slopes.