"What are you doing over your winter break?"
This is a question frequently being asked by both family members and friends, despite winter break being several weeks away. However, as I've learned from past experiences, the holiday season is the busiest time for both the ski industry and the travel industry, so it's best to plan a little bit in advance, especially if you have a destination trip in mind.
The holidays are the perfect time to get on the slopes for many reasons. Many people have time off from work and/or class (ZING!), but it's also the time when ski resorts across the country are in full-swing, offering most of their winter amenities and even hosting fun events the whole family will enjoy. And if you start your researching and booking early, you'll be able to save big bucks not only on your travel and lodging accommodations, but your lift tickets, too!
Planning and booking a ski trip can be daunting, especially if it's your first time. Depending on how big your trip is, it will require some initial research and buy-in from the rest of your group - all done weeks in advance of your actual trip.
One of the hardest, but most important, parts of planning is choosing where you want to go. With hundreds of ski areas in North America, where the heck do you start? Here's a quick guide on North American ski regions to help guide your planning.
With great snow coverage and a wide diversity of trail options, New England is home to some of the East's best skiing and snowboarding. There are a total of 131 ski resorts of all shapes and sizes in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and the region is known for it's rugged terrain, cold weather, and down-to-earth attitude. With its variations in weather conditions, many Easterners posit that if you can ski the east, you can ski anywhere.
Vermont is known as the "ski capitol of the east" and is home to both big-mountain, premier resorts, as well as more low-key options with impressive terrain. New Hampshire offers some of the best backcountry skiing in the east. Many of New England's resorts also boast sophisticated snowmaking systems, great terrain parks and half pipes, and a good après-ski scene.
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PHOTO: Mount Snow
NY, NJ, PA
Thanks to the vast number of ski resorts in the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania region, terrain options abound for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders.
New York is, in fact, the state with the most ski areas in the US. It's also home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics Games. Because of the plentiful on- and-off mountain activities, New York an ideal destination for groups with both skiers and non-skiers. Close by are the states of New Jersey and Pennslyvania, which also offer great family-friendly skiing.
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PHOTO: Whiteface Lake Placid
Because of the state-wide diversity in landscape, California ski areas may have some of the biggest personalities in North America. The Tahoe region is home to both steep, powder-filled tree lines in the backcountry to immaculately groomed parks and pipes. Meanwhile, Southern California's mild winters allow you the unique chance to start the day on the slopes, then hit the beach in the evening.
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PHOTO: Sugar Bowl
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The Northern Rockies provide some of the most scenic, high quality ski and snowboard experiences. There are a total of 41 ski resorts in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota, with plenty of terrain options for both beginners and those seeking bigger adventures.
Idaho is dubbed the "birthplace of the American skiing," while Wyoming is known for its challenging alpine terrain. Montana has some of the biggest skiing and snowboarding in North America, and its uncrowded slopes mean you'll seldom have to wait in a lift line.
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PHOTO: Grand Targhee
Whether you're looking for a luxurious, world-class resort or a challenging mountain with a local vibe, Colorado has it all! Dubbed "Ski Country USA," Colorado offers a wide variety of terrain, après-ski options, and consistently amazing snow. The state is notorious for having the earliest opening dates, as well as one of the longest seasons in the US, and it's one of the most popular destinations in the world for skiing and snowboarding.
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Famous for its light, fluffy champagne snow, the state of Utah reps the "Greatest Snow on Earth." It is home to steep, powder-filled backcountry, as well as some of the most innovative and top ranked parks in the country. Several ski areas are within driving distance from Salt Lake City, so skiers and snowboarders can enjoy deep powder by day and city living by night.
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The mountains of the Pacific Northwest are blanketed with tons of snow, as storms roll down from up north in Alaska. With a strong snowboarding subculture, the sport has deep roots in this region.
An abundance of snowfall and exhilarating tree runs make Washington a favorite for both skiers and snowboarders, while Oregon's deep snowpack lets you ski or ride long after most resorts have already closed.
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Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Indiana make up the Midwest region. While many Midwest resorts are smaller in size than elsewhere in the US, they still offer plenty of great skiing and snowboarding options for all skill levels. Many resorts also boast great tubing parks, half pipes, terrain parks, grooming, restaurants, slope side dining and lodging.
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PHOTO: Crystal Mountain (MI)
Despite being surrounded by desert, the high mountain elevation ensures snow-covered peaks, especially when El Nino winters bring the storms. When Mother Nature doesn't cooperate, resorts are ready to fire up their snow guns. After a day on the slopes, you can enjoy fine southwest dining or relax at a top-notch golf course.
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PHOTO: Angel Fire Resort
Resort after resort leaves skiers and snowboarders in awe of Canada's incredible terrain and snow. Wet Pacific storms collide with arctic temperatures and bless Canada with its copious amounts of snowfall.
In West Canada, British Columbia and Alberta are two of the best ski destinations in the world. British Columbia couples big mountain riding with state-of-the-art parks to provide some of the finest alpine skiing and snowboarding in North America. It also hosts most of Canada's heli-skiing and cat-skiing operations. Meanwhile, Alberta's extraordinarily long seasons last well into late spring, allowing you to enjoy the spectacularly rugged scenery and uniquely beautiful terrain. In Central Canada, Ontario and Manitoba have great hidden skiing and snowboarding gems. In Eastern Canada, you can find world-class destinations in Quebec, as well as more quaint options in other Eastern Townships.
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PHOTO: Whistler Blackcomb
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PHOTO: Ski Snow Valley
Ski resorts are like snowflakes - no two are alike. They all vary widely by factors like location, size, terrain difficulty, cost and overall vibes. Choosing the right one can ensure the whole group is happy, and even foster a lifelong love for skiing and snowboarding.
Where will you be spending your holidays and what are you most excited about?