Sometimes when everyone is looking in the same direction, it’s good to look in another direction. This is especially true during ski season when travelers flock to famous ski towns.
For sure, these communities offer great skiing and good times, but they can also be busy, crowded, and expensive.
Awhile back, we discussed under-appreciated ski towns in Northern California. But if you’re looking for something different this winter across the U.S., check out these five under-the-radar ski towns where you’ll save money and create new memories. Discover lesser-known ski areas and resorts along with quick access to some of the biggest names in snow sports.
Forty minutes from Denver, Georgetown has a prime location just 12 minutes from Loveland Ski Area and about 40 minutes from Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, and Keystone. Add it all up and Georgetown is an authentic Victorian mining town with easy access to a total of 14,815 skiable acres.
And that doesn’t include backcountry or Nordic skiing.
Georgetown’s signature event is the annual Holiday Market, a 60-year tradition featuring horse-drawn carriages, caroling, roasted chestnuts and wassail. If you’re not in town for the holidays, local ski mom Stephanie Mullins-Masters suggests ice skating at the town rink or checking out the weekend 4WD ice races on Georgetown Lake.
Mullins-Masters also recommends the Guanella Pass Brewing Company, calling it “one of the best in the state,” as well as home to Parker, the Snow Dog.
Stay: Hotel Chateau Chamonix
Eat and Order:
- Cooper’s on the Creek (Order: duck pot pie; Zen burger & fries)
- Lucha Cantina (Aside from the burgers, try the chicken wings and enchiladas!)
- A Whistle Stop Cafe (Solid breakfast burritos and strong coffee)
Carson Valley, Nevada
Home to three small towns, Carson Valley sits at the base of the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, directly below Heavenly Resort. That alone qualifies it as a ski town. But the beautiful thing for visitors is that Carson Valley is also close to Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Sierra-At-Tahoe ski area.
Les than an hour away, Sierra-At-Tahoe has a free-spirited mix of glade skiing amongst moss-covered behemoths, mega-moguls on runs like Eastabout and Preacher’s Passion, freestyle terrain and parks, and plenty of smile-on-your-face groomers.
Back in Carson Valley, enjoy hot springs, wildlife tours featuring bald eagles and wild horses, and historic Genoa. Founded in 1851, don’t miss the Genoa Bar serving up fancy cocktails and old-timey atmosphere.
Eat and Order:
- JT Basque Bar and Dining Room (Gardnerville) (Order: cocktails, steak, soups, and French fries – ask them how they prepare the fries!)
- The Pink House (Genoa) (You can’t go wrong with good ol’ fashioned grilled cheese and their charcuterie & cheese board)
- Cook’d (Minden) (Sundays are half-price pizza night!)
McCall has every classic ski town ingredient and then some.
First, there’s Brundage Mountain with 1,500 acres of inbound terrain and 490 acres of lift-accessed backcountry skiing. Add to this 18,000 acres of snowcat terrain, and your and riding are covered.
But that’s not all, with Little Ski Hill for night skiing, and 1,100 acre Tamarack Resort only 40 minutes away.
To get up-close and personal with wildlife, ski instructor Mike Erlebach suggests taking a horse-drawn wagon to feed wintering elk. Erlebach also recommends a one-hour snowmobile ride to Burgdorf Hot Springs.
Back at Brundage, if you have kids don’t miss the Beartopia Fun Zone with free skiing on the Easy Rider conveyor and Easy Street triple chair.
After skiing, choose from three breweries, “one for every thousand people,” laughs Brundage’s April Whitney.
Eat and Order:
- SnowCat dinners at Bear’s Den (For a unique experience, dine in the SnowCat at the base area of Brundage Mountain, and treat yourself to a four-course meal)
- Rupert’s Restaurant (Try the Himalayan Momos!)
- The Sushi Bar (Consider making a reservation for this spot. And note that happy hour is 4-6pm with $5 rolls!)
While you won’t find one brewery per thousand people in Provo, you will find a surprisingly international city with fast access to Sundance Mountain Resort (24 minutes), Park City and Deer Valley (both 60 minutes), via Provo Canyon.
Sundance is the local favorite, founded by Robert Redford in 1969. With its Hollywood connections — it’s the birthplace of Sundance Film Festival — there are plush accommodations and experiences for those seeking diversions.
But beyond silversmithing classes and fancy massages, skiing and snowboarding are the real draws. Local ski instructor Susan Strayer recommends powder days in Bishop’s Bowl and the views of Mount Timpanogos from Ray’s Lift.
Back in Provo, Melanie Steele points visitors to Center Street for dining and Provo Canyon, home of 600-foot Bridal Veil Falls and the Provo River Trail.
Stay: Provo has every type of accommodation. Search online for deals.
Eat and Order:
- Bombay House (Great for groups! And the butter chicken is a must-order.)
- Black Sheep Cafe (This Native American-Mexican food spot is a favorite. Be sure to try the chile relleno.)
- Red Fuego (Chicken and lomo saltado bowls – yum!)
Our final under-the-radar pick is Salida, a town of about 6,000 on the Arkansas River, at the base of the lofty Collegiate Range. A popular year-round destination, Salida is 30 minutes from Monarch Mountain, one of Colorado’s oldest ski resorts perched atop the Continental Divide.
With 800 skiable acres and cat-skiing, Monarch is a Colorado “must-ski” for those looking for no-fuss adventure at 12,000 feet.
Nearly 5,000 feet lower, Salida often remains warm and dry when its bombing snow at Monarch. Salida resident Charlie Rahe plans for powder days by looking for the “Monarch cloud” that indicates snow. He recommends bringing both a bike and skis and riding the trails on S Mountain after a morning of fresh turns at Monarch.
For après, try Elevation Brewery for a First Cast IPA or home-distilled kombucha.
Stay: Salida Hotel
Eat and Order:
- The Fritz (A great place for a high-end burger and fries, or try the mussels and fries!)
- Boathouse Cantina (Scenic view of the river, and in the summer, you can watch the kayakers go by. Order fish tacos, and craft beer or cocktails)
- Moonlight Pizza and Brewpub (Pizza and home-brewed beer! Doesn’t get much better than that.)
What do you think: did we miss anything? If you don’t mind spilling the beans, tell us your favorite under-the-radar ski town in the comments below!