Planning a ski trip soon and want to make it count? In that case, you need to be well-informed on the biggest and best ski resorts in America. In such a diverse country full of varying climates and terrain, it should come as no surprise that ski resorts vary wildly from region to region. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the best ski resorts on both the West Coast and, here, the East Coast. If you’re a skier with an East Coast bias or just an Eastern resident wanting to keep it close to home, you’re in the right place. Here, for your consideration, are my top five skiing destinations in the Eastern US (Note: Canada NOT included, that’s for another day).
1. Whiteface, New York
What better place to start your tour of East Coast ski resorts than Whiteface? They don’t get any taller than this mother lode, and thanks to some recent acquisitions by the state-owned resort, there’s no lack of horizontal space either. This keeps the crowd factor marginal and the fun factor through the roof. This resort is best known for its adjacent village Lake Placid, home to the 1980 Winter Olympics where the Miracle On Ice (where the US hockey team knocked off a Soviet Goliath for the gold medal) took place. The terrain here is unspoiled and breathtaking, with some seriously incredible runs to boot. This is also a great place to bring the whole family in case they decide to tag along on your ski trip (it happens).
2. Okemo, Vermont
Continuing on with the family vacation factor, no better resort can be found along the East Coast than Okemo. Known for their exceptional lodging and attention to details in the customer service arena, even non-sporting family members can enjoy a relaxing and serene environment nestled within one of the finest winter sports resorts in America. The conditions at Okemo are perpetually inviting and even when the snowfall is less than optimal, the finest groomers are hard at work making these runs perform at their peak. Expansion over the years has brought a lot of diversity to the once limited run selection, though many critics are quick to point out a general lack of free-falling vert runs. Still, plenty of challenging runs have kept me riveted during my frequent visits to my favorite “underdog” resort.
3. Stowe, Vermont
Long ago, on my first pilgrimage to Stowe, I hastily dubbed this hot and trendy resort the “Aspen of the East.” The comparison may be a little over-exaggerated, but it’s difficult not to notice many of the same features of the trendsetting culture that make Aspen such a love-hate destination in my mind. Considering this, it’s impossible to overstate the quality and diversity of the runs at Stowe which is the sole reason the iconic resort comes in at #3 on my list of top East Coast resorts. The conditions are every bit as optimal as Okemo, and though you lose some of the quaintness, you gain a great deal in vertical challenge runs. The resort is also home to a great deal of family-friendly lodging destinations as well as a full-featured village for visitors to enjoy.
4. Sugarloaf, Maine
A resort with a name that’s both descriptive of it’s conditions and delicious-sounding, Sugarloaf has made a recent acquisition of land to become the largest East Coast resort to date (at least in terms of run acreage). This one makes the list for the sheer number of runs that will challenge even the most seasoned black diamond junkies. This type of resort is among the most treasured of all to a skier like myself; it’s about as remote as a ski resort in America gets and is wrought with rugged back country terrain. This is a resort popular amongst the young and adventurous, and though they’ve made strides in the area, is among the lowest on the list in terms of family-friendliness. Come to Sugarloaf when you can escape work and family with a few ski buddies and let loose on the slopes. Fair warning: It’s remote, and it’s not always easy to get to. For an established and passionate skier, neither of those factors will affect your good time.
5. Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont
The final spot in the Top 5 was a close race, but ultimately Smuggler’s Notch won out for it’s ability to provide great terrain for ski enthusiasts while providing a wonderfully effective service for many dedicated skiers: distracting the family! Affectionately dubbed Smugg’s, this resort has made its business providing for Dad, Mom, and kids of all ages. A child care center provides young ones with a day of endless and responsible entertainment, while the pre-teens and teenagers can enlist in some award-winning snowboarding classes to develop into the shredders of tomorrow. There’s some intensely challenging terrain here at Smuggler’s Notch, and another tip of the cap goes to their lodge featuring some exclusive beer and unbeatable chili, among other comforts. If Vermont is the most family-friendly winter sports state, Smuggler’s Notch is the epitome of that distinction.
Honorable Mentions: Sugarbush(VT), Loon Mountain(NH), Stratton Mountain (VT)