A skier in bright yellow jacket skiing down a slope.

Lesser-known ski destinations in the US

Written by:
January 9, 2024

Lesser-known ski destinations in the US

While Park City, Utah, and Vail, Colorado, may be home to some of the best American ski resorts, big mountains usually come with long lift lines and expensive stays. If fresh powder, uncrowded slopes, and cheap lift passes get you stoked, then you're probably looking for a lesser-known destination for your ski trip this winter.

To help, Stacker consulted Bryan Battles and Michael Murphy—both of whom have extensive knowledge of ski and snowboard spots in the United States—and used resources, including OnTheSnow, to come up with five noteworthy resorts off the beaten path that deserve a little love.

These resorts prove there is no need to spend $200 on a lift pass to enjoy top-notch trails. One of the destinations offers the biggest vertical drop east of the Rocky Mountains; another claims to have the most snowfall in Colorado and includes the world's deepest geothermal hot springs, a real treat after a long day on the slopes.

This list is for the skiers and snowboarders who dare to take the road less traveled to glide down fresh, untouched snow. They might be lesser-known destinations, but they don't sacrifice a big-mountain experience and do have enough acreage for you to spend an entire weekend shredding the slopes.

Follow in the paths of Olympic athletes down black diamond trails, and traverse gnarly parks with these ski destinations.

A snowy forest with a mountain in the background.
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Penny Hegyi // Shutterstock

Lost Trail Ski Area, Montana

Sitting atop the Continental Divide is Lost Trail Ski Area, on the Montana-Idaho border. Usually overlooked for its more popular and expensive neighbor, Big Sky, this family-owned destination in Sula was founded to keep skiing affordable and accessible. With an adult day pass that costs $63, steeply discounted prices for older adults, and a free lift pass for children 5 and younger, it is hard to find a more family-friendly option.

Lost Trail also has 69 trails and 300 inches of annual snow, making for reliable powder days. Off the slopes, the nearby Triple Creek Ranch offers a real taste of Montana with beautiful log cabins, horseback riding, and dog sledding. If the water isn't frozen, be sure to grab a fly-fishing pole to check out phenomenal angling on the Bitterroot River.

Hotels and ski slopes of Snowshoe ski resort.
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Gary C. Tognoni // Shutterstock

Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia

Those living on the other side of the country will be happy to know they can skip the flights out west, as country roads will take you to a mid-Atlantic ski destination worth the drive: Snowshoe Mountain. Ikon Pass holders can ski for free, but for those without a pass, prices fluctuate depending on the day.

The resort features 244 acres of terrain, not as many as others but enough to fill a weekend with friends. With snowmobile tours, night skiing, and a tube park to terrain parks to test your skills, Snowshoe has a lot to offer. After a day on the slopes, warm up at the Old Spruce Tavern with slow-cooked beef brisket and a Happy Trails IPA. This mountain town boasts a rich history of craftspeople and artisans; find pottery, glassware, and jewelry made by locals in Snowshoe's quaint village.

A snow-covered forest with a mountain in the background.
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Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado

Colorado offers 39 ski resorts, among which are some of the most popular in the U.S., including Snowmass, Breckenridge, and Vail. But if you want to find the most snow in the Centennial State, head to Wolf Creek Ski Area in Pagosa Springs. With adult day passes starting at $89 and discounted prices for older adults and kids, visitors can enjoy one of the best destinations in Colorado without breaking the bank.

Skiers and snowboarders can also take in panoramic alpine views while shredding through 144 runs, from beginner to double black diamond slopes. Afterward, soak in the "world's deepest geothermal hot springs." Skip the long lines and crowded slopes for this gorgeous resort OnTheSnow named the #1 Small Ski Area in North America. And you don't have to leave your furry family members behind on this adventure—dogs are welcome.

Two skiers looking at the trails in front of them.
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Grand Targhee Resort, Wyoming

Just 42 miles from the famous Jackson Hole Mountain Resort sits the not-so-famous Grand Targhee Resort in Alta. But this fun-filled mountain is a hidden gem. On the west side of Grand Teton, skiers can find deep snow and slopes for all levels. Its 2,602 acres of skiable terrain give you enough room to shred all weekend. Explore the backcountry of the Teton Range with guided tours, or participate in one of the many races and competitions the resort hosts. At night, skiers can relax in the heated outdoor pool or trade in their poles for bloody marys at the Trap Bar & Grill, which touts live music. The laid-back atmosphere of Grand Targhee and its excellent trail system make it one of the best-kept ski secrets.

A small, wooden cabin nestled in front of a snow-capped mountain.
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Whiteface Mountain, New York

Whiteface Mountain offers the greatest vertical drop (3,430 feet) east of the Rockies. Nestled in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, this Wilmington, New York, mountain stands 4,867 feet tall. The high peak gets overshadowed by destinations such as Vermont's Killington Ski Resort and Stowe Mountain Resort.

Only a five-hour drive from New York City or Boston, it is easily accessible from multiple major airports. You can also ski Skyward, the Olympic-worthy black diamond trail athletes raced down in the 1980 Games. Whiteface was also voted #1 for Down Day Activities in the East by Ski Magazine in 2019. That means when you tire of shredding its 94 trails or landing tricks at the terrain parks, you can stroll through the Adirondacks' breathtaking walk at High Falls Gorge.

Story editing by Mike Taylor. Copy editing by Paris Close. Photo selection by Ania Antecka.

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