There are plenty of ski towns across the US, but not all have something extra that elevates them. These top mountain towns in the United States all reside within minutes of world-class downhill ski slopes and feature cool communities to live and visit.
They have amenities and activities that can’t be experienced at just any ski resort and leave visitors with a unique sense of the area’s atmosphere. Each of these seven ski towns reflects its surrounding area, whether it’s part of a former mining camp in the west or one of the country’s early established towns.
Many have free transportation, which makes it easier to visit and explore everything the community has to offer. The amenities and activities available go beyond the basics, with each ski town providing a great and unique experience for visitors.
Here are among the best ski towns in the US to live and visit, in no particular order:
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
First on the list is known as “Ski Town USA.” Steamboat Springs, in northwestern Colorado, has been inviting skiers to its slopes for more than 50 years. The slopes, with their trademarked Champagne Powder, are one reason people flock to Steamboat Ski Resort.
The town’s authentic western charm is another. The town was incorporated in 1900 after more than two decades of pioneers settling in the area. Now the town boasts more than 13,000 residents. It’s nestled at 6,732′, so the elevation is fairly low for this region of the Rockies, which is a positive for warmer temps.
While the mountain resort village has a wide range of amenities, the heart of Steamboat can be found a few miles down the road, where the Yampa River runs alongside the busy streets of downtown Steamboat. This is the spot for shops, restaurants, and dining for every palette and price range.
Whether it’s basic western gear from F.M. Light or a one-of-a-kind artistic accessory from Steamboat Art Company, there’s truly something for everyone.
In the summer months, the mountain is transformed from white to green as ski slopes turn to accessible trails. Take the gondola to the top of the mountain then hike or bike to the bottom, or simply visit the top for dining. Weekly concert series keeps the mountain base alive, plus the area boasts rafting, golfing, fly fishing, and rodeo watching.
In the winter, find backcountry and cat skiing among nearby peaks or stop by the hot springs for a relaxing visit. Downtown Steamboat’s Holwelsen Hill is the oldest continually operating ski area in the United States, and today the entire complex offers ski jumping, Nordic skiing, sledding, and outdoor ice skating.
Ketchum and Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley Ski Resort straddles two communities, Ketchum and Sun Valley, so the two make a great ski town with amazing views at any time of the year. The ski resort consists of Sun Valley and Dollar Resort, with Sun Valley best accessed from Ketchum and Dollar located outside of Sun Valley.
Winter is primarily about downhill skiing in Sun Valley, but Nordic skiing, fat biking, heli-skiing, and snowshoeing are other popular activities. Fly fishing, paragliding and bowling are available year-round, with horseback riding and golfing as perfect ways to enjoy the outdoors when the weather is warm. Mountain Rides busses offer free access throughout the area.
In 1824, trappers arrived in Ketchum, with the town’s incorporation coming about fifty years later. The mining town grew and thrived until the silver market collapsed in 1890. The business shifted to sheep, and Ketchum became the leader in sheep exports in the United States. In the meantime, Sun Valley was established when the Union Pacific Railroad arrived in 1936.
Today Ketchum boasts a population of around 3,500, while Sun Valley’s residents number half that. The clear skies and beautiful mountain backdrop make these adjacent ski towns among the most scenic for any season.
One of the country’s premier ski towns is Stowe, Vermont. With the high peak of Mount Mansfield overlooking the charming community, visitors are always reminded that Stowe Mountain Resort is only a few minutes away. From mid-November through early April, the free Mountain Road Shuttle takes visitors to the slopes.
The town has a population of only 600, yet it’s the state’s largest town in terms of size. Stowe benefits from a wide range of activities for any season. Zip-lining, mountain biking, and hiking are available mountainside in the summer, with snowmobiling, fat biking, ice climbing, and dog sledding when it snows.
Stowe was chartered in 1763, became a summer resort in the mid-1800s, and grew as a ski town in 1933 when the Civilian Conservation Corps began creating the area’s first ski trails. The town is like many charming New England towns, with clapboard buildings, a white steeple, and a haunted covered bridge.
Red River, New Mexico
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains benefit from one of the southwest’s most notable ski towns, Red River. The former mining town was established in 1895. While its residents only number around 500, the town is only a few blocks from the ski resort of the same name.
Red River Ski and Summer Area is a year-round resort, with snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and snow tubing added to the obvious skiing and snowboarding in the winter. When the snow melts, the mountain features zip-lining, hiking, and a ropes course. Many downtown activities center around the area’s western history, like panning for gold, horseback riding, hunting, and chuckwagon dinner shows.
The town’s log buildings and historic wooden structures pay homage to the western atmosphere. They are the perfect backdrop for many outdoor experiences like staged gunfights, music festivals, and Native American dancing.
Dozens of shops and restaurants can be found along Red River’s Main Street or only a few blocks away. Lodging options range from basic hotels to condos, with many just steps from the lifts.
North Conway, New Hampshire
Surrounded by New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the ski town of North Conway is a quaint New England community with a beautiful town square, historic buildings, and an abundance of year-round activities. While the town is only roughly four square miles, visitors can find plenty to do beyond downhill skiing.
North Conway is within a half-hour drive of several different ski resorts, yet is best known for the one in its own backyard. Just a mile away is Cranmore Mountain Resort, with its year-round mountain amusement park.
During the winter months cross-country skiing, ice skating, fat biking, and even curling are popular activities. Downhill skiers and snowboarders can experience Cranmore’s terrain parks or make tracks down the 57 runs.
In the summer, visitors follow different tracks for a ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad winding through the mountains. For a bit more activity with the same incredible mountain views, try horseback riding, ATV rides, rock climbing, fishing, or kayaking.
The scenic area has long been popular with artists, and today the town of around 2,000 people hosts multiple artisan festivals. The town has a range of lodging with breweries, coffee shops, casual dining, and small gift shops. North Conway is home to the New England Ski Museum, the second location in the area to learn about the sport’s history.
With four ski areas within a short distance, Aspen is an excellent ski town to experience a range of skiing. Each of the town’s ski resorts can be accessed by the free bus system, making the visit even simpler. All four mountains have different things to experience, and with one lift ticket providing access to each, skiers and snowboarders don’t necessarily have to choose between them.
- Aspen Mountain is the closest, just a few blocks from shops and restaurants, keeping watch over the town of 7,000 residents.
- Highlands is known for its incredible snow.
- Adjacent to Highlands, Buttermilk is the best place for Freestyle skiing.
- The slopes at Snowmass are furthest away, but the ski resort is by far the largest. At the base, Snowmass Village offers many amenities away from the town of Aspen.
Each resort has opportunities for skinning and snowshoeing, and throughout Aspen, there are places for snowmobiling, lengthy trails for Nordic skiing, and even winter horseback riding. During the summer months, get a different view of the mountain by paragliding, rock climbing, or hot air ballooning.
Try kayaking or paddleboarding along the Roaring Fork River, or enjoy the many culinary dining experiences. The charming mountain town of Aspen has also emerged as a top art destination in the west. Discover all forms of art at the Aspen Art Gallery or at one of many seasonal or permanent art galleries just steps away from Aspen Mountain Ski Area.
Government Camp, Oregon
As the last stop before reaching Mount Hood’s peak and its three ski areas, many visitors pass through Government Camp but not everyone stays to experience the ski town’s charm. That’s a mistake. The quiet little town was a summer resort at the turn of the 20th Century and quickly became a popular spot for ski jumping thanks to the Scandinavian population in nearby Portland.
Government Camp was named in 1849 when US Cavalry troops abandoned wagons there while setting locations along the Oregon Trail. The casual community is filled with rustic buildings, staying true to its reputation as a laid-back ski town instead of a bustling resort.
The population today only hovers around 100, yet there are a large number of inns, lodges, hotels, and condos along with many restaurants and coffee shops. Shopping is primarily limited to outdoor gear and supplies, but the outdoor experience is what makes Government Camp special.
The unincorporated community is surrounded by trees, and hiking along the many trails is a great activity at any time of day and in any season. The Mount Hood Cultural Center and Museum provide plenty of information about the area and hands-on exhibits for all ages.
Because the ski season on Mount Hood is so long, summer activities can include snowboarding and snowball fights around Timberline Lodge & Ski Area and Mount Hood Meadows. Mount Hood Skibowl, just outside of Government Camp, generally closes by April, but that’s when Mount Hood Adventure Park opens.
From carnival-type rides to horseback riding, the park is filled with fun activities for the entire family. The Mount Hood Express bus service travels between nearby Sandy to Government Camp and then to each ski area for a nominal fee.
There are dozens of other ski towns across the country that offer a variety of amenities, but not all of them are representative of their locations. Finding the right ski town adds an extra element to a vacation for a full experience, not simply a place for skiing.
Wandering the streets of Jackson, it’s easy to feel connected to the west. Whether it’s the many elk antler arches, spotting a stagecoach tour downtown, or simply being surrounded by the mountains, Jackson is a ski town that stays true to its heritage.
The area was first inhabited by Native Americans, then in the 1800s became a home for trappers. The official town wasn’t incorporated until 1914 when there were fewer than 300 residents. The population has slowly increased each decade, and in 2020 was above 10,000.
In the winter, guests flock to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort with its intense vertical drops. The ski resort is named for the valley where the town is located, and today the area is home to other winter recreations like dog sledding, wildlife tours, snowmobiling, and sleigh rides.
In the summer, Jackson is a stopping point for touring nearby Yellowstone, the country’s first National Park. Visitors can fully embrace the cowboy experience with a chuckwagon dinner, trail rides, and rodeos. For something a bit more unusual, try paragliding or rock climbing.
Jackson’s downtown is where the atmosphere of the old west comes alive, with wooden sidewalks abutting false-front commercial buildings. There a plenty of places to stay downtown, from luxury to historic, and most within sight of the ski slopes. Bakeries, burgers, fine dining, and international cuisine await visitors who come to enjoy this part of the west that still survives today.
Park City, Utah
It’s only a short distance from Utah’s state capital, but the ski town atmosphere of Park City feels like worlds away. The one-time Olympic destination is easy to navigate, and a free downtown shuttle means visitors never have to worry about renting a car.
With easy access to Park City Resort and Deer Valley Resort, the best option is to stay at one of the ski town’s many hotels, condos, lodges, or rental homes around. Although these two ski resorts have a range of terrain parks and slopes, nearby Woodward Park City also offers indoor activities like a skate park and trampolining.
There are benefits to visiting Park City at any time of the year, although many choose to avoid late January during the Sundance Film Festival when hotels and streets are packed. Like most ski towns, it’s easy to find places in the summer for biking, hiking, golf, and fly fishing. For a different vantage point, experience the area on horseback or hot air balloon, or test the bobsled track on the former Olympic course.
Park City’s downtown area encompasses a historic section and many blocks to explore adjacent to the ski base area. The ski town has more than 100 restaurants, independent boutiques, and brand-name retail shops. Park City’s population hovered near 8,500 in 2020, and has remained fairly steady since the 2002 Olympics.
The town’s roots are in silver mining since before it was incorporated in 1884. That history is celebrated with tours to many of the former mining sites and the Park City Museum.
From coast to coast, each ski town offers extra elements that can make a vacation special any time of the year. With a full assortment of activities and a feeling of being part of the community, these seven cities will entrance any visitor.