Telski: #1 Ski Resort Among Top 11 in USA Today!

Telski: #1 Ski Resort Among Top 11 in USA Today!

Over the past few years the media has been tripping over its superlatives when describing Telluride: #1 Ski Resort in North America for 6 out of 7 years say the readers of Condé Nast Traveler, who sing in harmony with Vogue, Architectural Digest, W Magazine, Town & Country, Travel & Leisure and Forbes – to name a few members of an elite fraternity who think our mountain haven is, well, heaven. Now add USA Today’s name to that list. In an article by Christopher Steiner, Telluride was named #1 among the top 11 ski resorts in North America. 

In addition, TripAdvisor recently released its 2019 Traveler’s Choice Awards, which recognized the Inn at Lost Creek as #1 Top Hotel for Service in the US; #4 Top Overall in the US; and #24 Top Hotel for Service in the World.

Image, Reilly Rowan for Telski.

Some say that selecting the best ski resort is a subjective mission, one that should be left to travelers themselves. We recognize the spirit of that sentiment. Our simple counter: skiers and snowboarders need to start somewhere.

Consider the top 10 (plus 1 more) ski resorts laid out here to be the best places to look at first when planning a ski vacation. This is the top group according to a scoring system unique to USA TODAY, put together by ZRankings, a site that guides skiers to the right resort at the right time of the season according to snowfall history, data and expert opinions.

The rankings here weigh things like town scene, variance of terrain, lodging base, and snow quality, using both hard data and inputs from ZRankings’ network of experts. Scores are then ranked by a metric called PAF (Pure Awesomeness Factor).

This winter has brought skiers the best weather in at least 15 years, as resorts from California to Vermont hit the holidays with 100% of their terrain open. The snow and cold have continued into January, with the Pacific Coast and inner ranges of the West corralling good amounts of cold precipitation.

1. Telluride – Pure Awesomeness Factor (PAF) score: 99.0

Telluride has long been a recognizable destination name to most skiers, but it remains a white whale for many. It shouldn’t. The town’s old bones, tracing to the time when Telluride was a mining outpost, make for a striking foreground against the backdrop of a seemingly vertical box canyon whose upper walls reflect the sun an hour before rays hit the street in town. Top-end eateries and clever shops keep storefronts jammed and foot traffic circulating. Town runs right into the lower trails of the ski resort, with the Telluride Gondola climbing out and up into Mountain Village, a separate town where much of the ski resort operations and lodging sit. This combination of charming old buildings, striking scenery and proximity to skiing make Telluride the best ski town in North America.

Telluride doesn’t leave much uncovered on the skiing front, either. Experts will love the steepness of the Gold Hill chutes and the pure fall lines that descend straight into town. Intermediates can find plenty of blue terrain all over Mountain Village and beginners will revel in prolonged groomers such as Galloping Goose, which stretches on for 4.6 miles. More expert fodder can be had off the Prospect Lift, including the most unique in-bounds skiing in North America: a chute that descends from near the top of Palmyra Peak. Skiers seeking this challenge will need to climb 1,300 vertical feet on their own legs, however, from the top of the Prospect Chair, a task that turns most away and keeps the chute’s snow fresh and chalky. Telluride’s slopes excel in the spring, when its high elevations and northern exposures help preserve snow.

Ski Pass: Epic Pass
Where to stay: The Inn at Lost Creek has one of the pole positions on the mountain.
Where to eat: Tomboy Tavern, in Mountain Village, has a menu full of thoughtful dishes. Our favorite: The Schnitzel Sandwich.
2. Jackson Hole – Score: 98.12

A name that has always been synonymous with extreme skiing, Jackson has made major changes on its mountain to make it more beginner and intermediate friendly. From added terrain on the Teton lift, to the new Sweetwater Gondola and a new kid-friendly ski instruction center dubbed Solitude Station, the resort has been busy bolstering its case as a destination resort that can handle all skier types. It’s a good case, and the efforts are working, as Jackson has grown its skier day totals at a clip far greater than the industry as a whole.

There still remains room to roam in this Northwest corner of Wyoming, however, which is used to even larger crowds in the summer that gather to travel through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Jackson’s epicurean scene has continued to ascend, with steady standbys supplemented by edgy newcomers each season.

Ski Pass: Ikon
Where to stay: The Four Seasons is positioned particularly well on the mountain, and its service, rooms and amenities are unmatched anywhere else in Jackson.
Where to eat: We can’t get away from the food at Teton Thai. Savor it.

3. Steamboat – 92.55

Steamboat calls itself Ski Town USA, and it just might be. This venerable ski resort has been soaking Colorado storms for powder since 1963, and the area’s skiing roots are intertwined with those of America. This is a real place, not an Epcot facsimile of a ski town, so Steamboat has more to offer than many resort towns that have cropped up purely as tourist turnstiles. It also has perhaps the coolest and certainly one of the largest ski shops in America in Ski Haus, which sports a book section and enough spare parts to fix any ski or binding, no matter the year or model.

Steamboat receives more snow than any other major destination resort in Colorado. This year is not proving an exception, as the ski mountain has been layered in white since mid-November. Holiday season skiers this year were treated to 100% of the mountain being open with nary a rock in sight. The resort is awash in easy-going blues and true fall-line blacks that continue for thousands of feet. The steepest shots on the mountain are accessed via a short hike to its highest point. The extra work, as always, helps keep traffic down and snow fresh.

Ski Pass: Ikon
Where to stay: The Steamboat Grand is the resort’s vanguard hotel nestled right at the foot of the mountain, including ski storage for guests right off of the snow.
Where to eat: On the weekends, head to the Western BBQ Dinner at Thunderhead Lodge, at the top of the gondola. Reservations are a must as it regularly books out for weeks—bring the kids and your dancing shoes.

4. Snowbird and Alta – 91.78

For the purposes of this piece, we are going to treat Alta-Snowbird as one destination, even though each resort has its distinctions, including: Alta can only be legally accessed by skiers—sorry snowboarders; and Snowbird has a tram that treats skiers (and snowboarders) to all of the resort’s considerable vertical in one straight shot up the mountain.

Distinctions aside, the two ski resorts do border each other, and can be accessed via a joint lift ticket that allows holders to cross over from one to the other (except for snowboarders coming from Snowbird). For snow seekers, Alta/Snowbird has always been hallowed ground, as the slopes here gather snow better than those of any other ski resort in North America. Join those superlative conditions with terrain that is only matched by a few other resorts and skiers will always find an indelible experience in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Ski Pass: Ikon
Where to stay: The Cliff Lodge, Snowbird. This ski hotel continues to be one of the best in the business.
Where to eat: The Forklift has one of the best breakfasts in Utah. Try the oatmeal…

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