Winter is right around the corner. As the morning air grows crisper and the days shorter, we can’t help but dream up our next winter getaway into the mountains. With an abundance of wonderful winter wonderlands across the country, how do you choose one over another? I’m here to help you out!
Maybe you already have your favorite winter vacation destination, or perhaps it’s been years since you’ve hit the slopes or sipped hot cocoa in a chateau. Regardless, there really isn’t a dud amongst this list. In this list, I’ll keep in mind three basic factors: activities, affordability, and crowds.
PARK CITY, UTAH
If you haven’t heard the state slogan, “Greatest Snow on Earth”, you haven’t been to Utah. Maybe I have a soft spot for Park City, but Park City is a lovely sight to see. I’ve heard the argument that the “greatest snow” happens to be in Colorado, I honestly think both states have something great to boast about.
Activities: Yes, people come to Park City to ski, but winter sports aren’t all this cool town has to offer. If you’re looking for incredible lodging, restaurants, and breweries galore, and some high-end shopping, you’re in the right place. If you’re looking for a well-rounded vacation, look no further. I may be biased, but Park City has it all. Check out a show at the Egyptian Theatre, grab a pizza slice at the famous Davanza’s, or hit the mountain on one of those days that we get well over 12 feet of snowfall.
Affordability: If I’m being frank, Park City isn’t the first place that comes to mind when I think about affordability. Although there are many great eateries that are decently priced, shopping, lodging, and a lift pass isn’t always the best for a tight budget.
Crowds: If you’re willing to brave the crowds, Park City is worth the visit. But be warned, this spot isn’t for the faint of heart. With its famous film festival and attractiveness to celebs and families across the globe, Park City gets packed quickly. Skiing here is ideal for enthusiasts of any level, but trails can get crowded early on in the afternoon. My suggestion? If you want to miss the crowds, get to the trails early. By that I mean, be there before the lifts turn on for the day.
TAOS, NEW MEXICO (Taos Ski Valley)
It’s unfortunate that not many people think of Taos when they imagine a winter getaway. Or maybe, it’s “hidden gem” status is a benefit to you. This town is both unique and engaging. Stepped in a rich art and architecture history, this spot is unlike any other ski and snowboarding town on this list.
Activities: Obviously, not everybody has the same definition of “perfect powder”. If you like dier, more lightly packed snow conditions, this spot is for you. Because of the elevation and surrounding desert atmosphere, conditions are on the crisper side. Need a break from the slopes? Check out Taos’ Bavarian Village. Locals love talking about the delicious food and beer garden ideally located at the edge of the slopes, so you won’t waste any time hanging out on the mountain to warming up in a cozy European-inspired restaurant.
Affordability: No matter if you’re spending your winter on a mountain or your summer at the beach, a getaway is never worth risking your financial stability. That’s why we love Taos. Off-the-radar doesn’t mean lesser than, and that is never more accurate than describing Taos Ski Valley) with over 50% of the mountain skiing dedicated to expert level trails, and a summit top of 12,000 feet, at $90 a day lift ticket is affordable for the priceless amenities.
Crowds: Like any other beloved ski town, you’re going to have your crowds in the heart of the season. Even so, Taos stays rather intimate. With enough room for everyone to have a grand old time, the Ski Valley never feels overly crowded. If you’re looking for an exhilarating terrain, this is your place. It’s more than just a place for the slope enthusiasts, but rather the hardcore winter sports crowd.
I consider Vail the “Park City” of Colorado. You could even say that Park City is the Vail of Utah. Either way, so much of what I said about P.C. is applicable to this location. With a charming town, beyond delicious eateries, and perfectly packed powder, Vail is the ideal annual holiday getaway.
Activities: I usually recommend Vail to any family that wants to spend an equal amount of time skiing and snowboarding on the mountain, and spending time in town. Activities are never-ending. You can get handcrafted hot chocolate one second, and be on the trails the next.
Affordability: If you plan for it, Vail is quite affordable. It’s a well-known ski town, meaning prices are higher here than in Taos, but if you plan your lodging ahead of time, you can find affordable places to stay without hurting your savings account.
Crowds: Crowds are unavoidable here. Although that says lovely things about families who take the time to visit Vail each year, it doesn’t bode well for those looking to vacation without the hustle and bustle. As Vail is popular with locals and visitors alike, I recommend booking your accommodations well in advance. Great lodging isn’t hard to find, but it’s often reserved suddenly. If you want to avoid crowds on the slopes, find a rental that’s “ski-in, ski-out”. Skip the commute, traffic, and winter roads pandemonium. Instead, get up when you want, head out the door, and you’re literally a 3-minute walk to the lifts.
These destinations are even better with friends and family to share experiences with. No matter the slope, powder, or lodge, make sure to make the most out of your winter season. So if the slopes are on your list for this winter season, we hope that this list will help you narrow down your choices.