It’s an exciting time to hit the slopes: There have never been more resorts, more destinations to explore, and more options for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. When the pandemic first began in early 2020, many of the world’s ski resorts took a massive hit as their season was cut short. The next two seasons saw a modest return to pre-pandemic levels as Americans sought the space and recreation of outdoor sports. The National Ski Areas Association (whose members account for more than 90 percent of skier visits nationwide) reports that ski participation is the highest it’s ever been, with 60.7 million individual visits in the most recent season. There have literally never been more people enjoying the sport than there are today.
Suffice it to say, the industry has fully bounced back. This season, many of the capital improvement projects such as ski area expansions and new hotel builds that were delayed because of Covid have been or are about to be completed. It’s not too late to book that last-minute trip this season—or too early to start planning next year’s. Here, the best places to ski in 2023.
A buttoned-up destination lets loose
There’s a real argument to be made for getting on a plane and heading over to Europe this winter. The culture! The food! The size of the mountains! Plus, the Alps have the art of transportation so much better figured out than our remote villages and often closed mountain passes at home. There’s hardly a need for a rental car, and if you’re coming from the East Coast of the U.S., it takes basically the same amount of time to hop a direct flight to Geneva or Zürich as it does to connect your way over from New York City to Taos or Telluride.
And not for nothing, but the famously staid, famously expensive resort towns of the Swiss Alps are working harder than ever to attract a new generation of customers. This is a destination that doesn’t have to do much to spruce up its already world-class slopes and ski facilities—so the story this winter is that the already hot après-ski scene is reaching new heights.
The iconic Gstaad Palace is celebrating 110 years of operations by reopening its popular nightclub, GreenGo. The nightclub has been a favorite of well-heeled jetsetters from Instagram influencer Gstaad Guy to Dame Julie Andrews—and this year the season kicked off with an appearance by popular DJ Afrojack. Over in the Engadin Valley in St. Moritz, the town’s five-star resorts are clamoring to see who can have the most fun come nightfall. At Badrutt’s Palace, celebrity chef Jason Atherton’s King’s Social House has been the spot to see and be seen since it opened just before the pandemic. There are also rumors that the Grand Hotel des Bains Kempsinki down the road will host a series of nightlife pop-ups next winter, including one from legendary Ibiza cabaret Lío. But even as the after-dark wars ante up all over town, the most coveted invite continues to be the members-only Dracula Club, where buttoned-up Swiss skiers have been letting loose since 1974.
Skiers are rediscovering the charms of the Northeast
Sure, the conditions in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine can be a bit more variable than in the West—and that’s putting it gently—but more and more skiers are coming home to the birthplace of American skiing and rediscovering all the small-town charms that New England has to offer. There’s been a renaissance of independently owned inns and B&Bs in the region lately, all of which are just minutes away from the major ski resorts.
Pickering House Inn in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, is a perfect example. Located in a building that dates to 1813 in a resort town founded in 1759, the inn offers an abundance of history. The premises underwent a loving two-year restoration by its owners, a married couple, before quietly reopening in 2018—and since then has gone on to win national awards for its cuisine, hospitality and amenities such as heated tiled bathroom floors. The new Hermitage Inn in West Dover in southern Vermont has a similar story—married couple saves a New England inn, pours their heart and soul into every detail—and is located just ten minutes from popular ski area Mount Snow.
At both inns you’ll be treated to locally sourced fine dining and hospitality that only an owner-operated property can provide. If you need a St. Regis with heated ski lockers and a champagne après-ski party, go to Aspen. But if you want an authentic experience where the innkeeper knows you by name and can advise which trails have the best conditions, come to New England.
Après-ski experiences become as important as the slopes themselves
The American West is such a vast, diverse region that it’s difficult to summarize all the various towns and terrains on offer, but this year’s overarching theme appears to be that skiing is no longer just for skiers: Plenty is happening both on and off the slopes and everyone is invited to the party. Big Sky, Montana, continues to generate buzz in the Rockies, largely due to its appearance in the hit television show Yellowstone. The region is also home to both Yellowstone National Park and the Yellowstone Club, where members like Bill Gates and Tom Brady can be spotted making their turns down the slopes. Amid its second season, the posh Montage Big Sky now offers an exclusive La Grande Après experience in partnership with Veuve Clicquot, where guests can enjoy caviar service, pumpkin fondue, Montana bison chili and flights of champagne set against the area’s rugged landscape.
Other Western highlights include Accor’s luxury home rental service, Onefinestay, which continues to grow its footprint in the region, this season with a range of new multimillion-dollar slope-side chalets in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. For guests who prefer the privacy and space of a residence yet appreciate the convenience of additional services such as butlers, chefs and airport transfers, it’s a tough proposition to beat. And while Aspen has been no stranger to a good time—we’re still trying to wash the champagne out of our snow pants from a visit last year to the infamous Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro—DJ Kygo ups the ante this winter by bringing his acclaimed Palm Tree Music Festival to Rio Grande Park for two days of celebration on February 24-25.
Adventurous skiers and value seekers visit our neighbors to the north
Canada isn’t just the land of polar bears and maple syrup—the westernmost province of British Columbia, specifically, is famous for its waist-deep powder dumps, steep slopes, heliskiing and untamed wilderness. And with exchange rates being what they are now, it’s possible to find real deals for skiing if you’re willing to head north this winter.
Whistler continues to be the alpha and omega of North American ski resorts, with skiable acreage, vertical drop and a vibrant village that bring it head and shoulders above the competition. To keep up with demand, the resort’s Big Red Express is being upgraded from a four- to a six-seater, and the high-speed Creekside Gondola is going from six to ten people. And of course, you can skip the lift lines altogether by booking a day with Phantom Heli Skiing, which offers private and semiprivate excursions.
If you’re more of an adrenaline junkie, set your sights towards the interior of the province, where you’ll find the most rustic adventures and deepest snow stashes. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is hosting the Freeride World Tour this month, from February 17 to 22, and its lift-accessed alpine bowls are some of the steepest thrills you’ll find on the continent. Step back to a simpler time at Red Mountain Resort, which offers 360 degrees of skiing around its mountains, so there’s (almost) always sunshine to be found on the slopes. During the pandemic, Red launched The Constella, a series of ski-in cabins with food and drink service, baggage transportation from the base, and outdoor firepits for an on-mountain overnight stay. And to wind down the season, check out Fernie’s popular Fernival. With live music, costumes and a range of daredevil contests, it’s a perfect summation of the sense of community and celebration that makes ski towns such as Fernie so special.