The 5 Best Ski Mountains For Winter Vacations

Valle Nevado mountains, Chile

Photo: Jennifer Polland/Business Insider

As we transition to the winter months, two kinds of people emerge.There are the gung-ho winter activities lovers — the people who live for 5 am wake-ups and fresh tracks in the snow, undaunted by even the coldest temperatures.

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Then, there are the people for whom the thought of spending several hours outside in 30 degree temperatures sounds like pure torture.

What’s a family to do then, when faced with planning a winter vacation for a combination of ski bunnies and the snow averse?

Here at Hopper we live for these travel quandaries and have pulled together our list of best ski destinations with something for everyone.

To do this, we looked at the biggest resorts in the East and West, narrowing it down to mountains that are easily accessible by plane or car with a wide variety of on and off mountain activities.

From challenging black diamonds to cozy chalets, here are the mountains that offer the best of both worlds:

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Stowe Mountain, Vermont

Two very different ways to hit the slopes in Stowe, VT.

Stowe, Vermont is a New England winter wonderland with an Alpine vibe. In 1950 the Von Trapp family (famously depicted in the movie classic Sound of Music) opened a ski lodge in town, and the place has been a mecca for families ever since.

Stowe Mountain Resort is one of the largest in New England, boasting 116 trails over 39 miles. Mt. Mansfield, one of Stowe's two peaks, is the highest in Vermont and the birthplace of downhill skiing in VT.

The first slopes were carved into the mountain in 1933. With terrain for all abilities (16% beginner, 59% intermediate and 25% expert), everyone from wobbling school kids to wild teenagers will have plenty of trails to choose from.

Non-skiers will be equally occupied. Stowe Lodge boasts a top of the line Wellness centre and Spa for pampering. The town is classic New England with clapboard colonials and a white church.

It's also home to more than 70 unique stores and several outstanding restaurants. Off mountain activities include dog sledding, a trip to the Ben & Jerry's factory or a tour and tasting at Boyden Vallery winery.

Under 4 hours from Boston and a little more than 6 from New York, it's accessible from most everywhere in New England. Burlington is the closest airport, just 45 minutes away from Stowe's snowy peaks.

Mont Tremblant, Quebec

Mont Tremblant, like the Alps, but in Canada.

Mont Tremblant is like Disney World on ice. Just 90 minutes from Montreal, it's a winter playground in the vein of the great European resorts, which means awesome skiing and snowboarding but just as much off mountain fun.

First, the ski facts: with 95 ski trails, four separate slopes, and 13 lifts, there's enough terrain here to keep even the most intense athletes happy and buzzing on adrenaline for days. The off mountain activities are equally buzzworthy.

Tremblant boasts its own casino and over 40 top tier restaurants and bars. The resort village is home to number of chic boutiques as well as a spa and wellness centre. Families will love the movie theatre, ice skating rink, acqua club, and dog sled or helicopter tours.

Mont Tremblant also wins for its charming ambiance. Its distinctly European vibe is entrenched by the abundance of native French speaking Quebecois and its quintessential Alpine architecture.

Its village set up, with many of the bars and restaurants accessible on foot and by skis, means it's easy for families of all activity inclinations to meet up for lunch or dinner.

Flying into Montreal from NYC and Boston is more affordable for East Coasters than a trip out West, and the drive (7 hours from Boston and 8 from NYC) is not so prohibitive either.

Snowbird/Alta, Utah

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Ride the slopes, by skis, board, sleigh or sled.

One of the West's premier ski destinations, Steamboat has 165 (named) trails across 2,965 acres with 23 lifts. Rich in powdery terrain, the resort is also home to the Mavericks Superpipe snowboard/skiing, one of the best pipes in North America.

Recently purchased by Intrawest, owners of Whistler and Mont Tremblant, the ski area has undergone a 30 million dollar overhaul, which means you'll be getting a top tier resort experience for skiers and non skiers alike.

Off slope activities abound including: horseback riding, helicopter tours, hot air balloon rides, tubing, snowshoeing and sleigh rides. Steamboat's first settlers came for ranching and mining, and the town retains a strong Western dude ranch vibe.

Still, it does not lack for luxuries. There's a full service spa and over 100 bars and restaurants to choose from. Steamboat is accessible via direct flights from eight cities including LA, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Austin.

For cheap flights from these cities, check out Fly.com. Alternatively, Steamboat Springs is just a 3 hour drive from Denver.

Mammoth Lakes, California

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