Snow has already start to hit parts of the US, and naturally, that means that we’re already thinking about ski season.
Vail and Aspen may have the cachet that comes with being glamorous, high-end ski resorts, but they also have crowds and incredibly expensive hotels, restaurants, and lift tickets that can cost upwards of $US800 per day.
But not all ski resorts are that expensive — or that pretentious.
We found the 11 most underrated ski resorts in the US. These mountains are (relatively) cheap, crowd-free, and get tons of powder. They also have cool towns that will keep you entertained when you’re not on the slopes.
Daily lift ticket: $US52
Mountain stats: Bridger Bowl has about 2,000 acres of skiable terrain and an average snowfall of about 350 inches. The peak summit elevation is about 8,700 feet and there's a vertical drop of about 2,600 feet. But best of all: The mountain is rarely crowded.
Vibe: Bridger Bowl is located just 20 minutes from the town of Bozeman, which is home to Montana State University. It's a cute college town with several bookstores, record shops, art galleries, coffee shops, and vegetarian cafes -- things you wouldn't find in most other Montana towns. Head to Montana Ale Works for an Apres-ski beer.
There's a thriving arts scene here too, which culminates at the Emerson, a former school that's been converted into a cultural space where artists and designers can showcase and sell their works.
Daily lift ticket: $US51
Mountain stats: With over 1,600 acres of skiable terrain and an annual average snowfall of 240 inches, Red Lodge Mountain offers some stellar skiing. The peak summit elevation is over 9,400 feet and the mountain has a vertical drop of about 2,400 feet.
Vibe: The town of Red Lodge is one of the coolest ski towns in America -- but most people haven't even heard of it. It's a unique mix of old West and sophisticated modern, where cowboys, skiers, ranchers, and more meet and mingle. There are great restaurants, shops, art galleries, and even a well-respected microbrewery (Red Lodge Ales) to keep you fed and entertained.
Daily lift ticket: $US72
Mountain stats: Schweitzer has 2,900 skiable acres and 92 trails, plus open bowl skiing. It gets about 300 inches of snow each year, and the longest continuous trail is about 2 miles long. Besides downhill skiing, visitors can go cat skiing, snowmobiling, Nordic skiing or snowshoeing.
Vibe: Located in Sandpoint, in northern Idaho, Schweitzer offers a wide range of trails for all skill levels. Visitors can stay in Schweitzer's rustic, European-style village or in nearby Sandpoint, which has a very family-friendly small-town feel.
Daily lift ticket: $US73
Mountain stats: Grand Targhee gets blanketed with powder, with an average snowfall of more than 500 inches. The vertical drop is 2,270 feet, and some trails run for almost 3 miles. There's great powder and few people so skiers can have the open terrain all to themselves.
Vibe: Located in Alta, about 48 miles from ritzy and moneyed Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee is a low-key no-frills ski resort. People come here for for the phenomenal powder and the great skiing -- not to see and be seen.
Daily lift ticket: $US75
Mountain stats: Wildcat Mountain has 225 acres of skiable terrain in New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest. It's one of the steepest mountains in the area, with a vertical drop of 2,112 feet, and it has New Hampshire's longest summit-to-base novice trail, which runs for 2.75 miles and offers great views along the way.
Vibe: Wildcat is a no-frills mountain that has both challenging and easy terrain. The mountain is about 19 miles from the town of North Conway, which has lots of old New England charm, with its Victorian-era houses, old fashioned candy shops, and lively pubs. It's a charming, relaxed family-friendly town.
Daily lift ticket: $US82
Mountain stats: Taos Ski Valley has about 1,295 skiables acres and gets an average annual snowfall of 305 inches and more than 300 days of sunshine to enjoy it in. The terrain is steep -- the vertical drop is 2,612 feet -- but there are also plenty of trails for beginners.
Vibe: The resort at Taos Ski Valley has plenty to keep you occupied -- Swiss-style chalets, cafes, and bars for apres-ski -- but it's best to drive the 18 miles into the town of Taos to really see why people love this place. Once an ancient pueblo desert town, Taos today is a quaint artsy town with five museums, several art galleries, and a small and walkable downtown area.
Daily lift ticket: $US79
Mountain stats: Mt. Bachelor has nearly 3,700 acres of lift-accessible terrain and an average annual snowfall of 387 inches. There's a vertical drop of 3,365 feet.
Vibe: With 12 breweries and two more slated to open this year, the town of Bend is a beer lover's dream. When you're not skiing or drinking beer, explore the shops and galleries in the historic Old Mill District or take a yoga class in one of the town's many yoga studios.
Daily lift ticket: $US99
Mountain stats: Founded in 1961, Alpine has over 100 trails and about 2,400 acres of skiable terrain. The area gets over 450 inches of snow each year, which makes for great, powdery skiing.
Vibe: Lake Tahoe has seven major ski resorts, but Alpine is one of the lesser-known gems. The family-friendly resort, which recently merged with the massive nearby Squaw Valley resort, has a laid-back feel and a wide variety of trails for all levels. The nearby town of Truckee, Calif., is a great place to base yourself.
Daily lift ticket: $US103
Mountain stats: There are almost 1,550 acres of skiable terrain and a vertical drop of almost 3,000 feet. It's an extremely high altitude mountain; the summit elevation is at 12,162 feet and even the base is high at 9,375 feet.
Vibe: About a six hour-drive from Denver, the Crested Butte Mountain Resort is very family-friendly and it's rarely crowded. Once a small mining town, Crested Butte, which is just a few miles from the mountain, embodies old Colorado. Yet it also has a laid-back funky vibe. There are no big chain stores or fancy restaurants here -- just cool local mum and pop spots frequented by the artists, outdoor enthusiasts, and creative types who call this town home.
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