“Getting there” may be half the fun, but when it comes to a ski vacation; the only journey that matters is how fast we can go from summit to base. And maximizing precious time on the slopes can’t be accomplished if we’re stuck at an airport, wasting away the hours in transit, or waiting for gear to arrive at the baggage terminal (or, even worse, trying to hunt down lost luggage!).
At Liftopia, we travel quite a bit for work (and for play!), and spend a fair amount of time in airports across the country. Below are our favorites based on easy access to resorts, speed of baggage delivery, and how quickly we can get in and out of the terminal and out on the slopes.
- Salt Lake City International Airport – Salt Lake City is one of the country’s most convenient airports, where you can arrive in the morning and be skiing within an hour. The airport might not have the dramatic appeal of others servicing more remote resorts, but the easy access to Park City (Park City, The Canyons, Deer Valley) and Little Cottonwood Canyon (Alta, Snowbird) – along with all the other resorts in Utah – can’t be beat. Not to mention it serves many major metropolitan areas throughout the country with direct flights. Plus there’s a special section for ski and snowboard bags at baggage claim.
- Denver International Airport – It’s definitely not as easy to get in and out of as Denver’s old Stapleton airport, but Denver is a hub for skiers who vacation in Colorado. Every major city in North America has direct flights to Denver, and chances are, even if you’re flying to one of the more remote, smaller ski airports in Colorado, you’ll have to connect through Denver. It’s a nice, modern airport that gets you to all the epic mountains off I-70 within a few hours. Similar to the Salt Lake City Airport, Denver scores major points for having a special luggage carousel for skis and snowboards – a nice, convenient touch.
- Reno-Tahoe Airport – There isn’t much to this airport, but it’s an easy 45 minutes to an hour-drive to the many Tahoe resorts and is at the foot of the Sierras so the views are beautiful. Plus, it’s always nice to be able to pull a few slots on your way out of town (or, if you’re less anxious to get on the slopes, on the way in).
- Burlington International Airport – This airport in northern Vermont serves some of the best East Coast resorts like Stowe, Jay Peak, Sugarbush, and Mad River Glen. Free Internet and fast-moving security are among the reasons it has a four four-star rating on Yelp. Rocking chairs and friendly people provide a “Vermont” ambience. Those living in the New York City tri-state area can hop on one of many Jet Blue flights if they don’t feel like driving.
- Jackson Hole Airport – Set at the base of the Tetons and near the Snake River, the Jackson Hole airport is in a gorgeous setting; I was there about five years ago and still remember the landing. The facility feels modern with a Cowboy attitude, good food and even better bloodies. Plus, it’s just 30 minutes from Teton Village.
- Calgary International Airport – Calgary is the Denver of Canada, with great access to numerous resorts such as Banff, Kicking Horse, Revelstoke and Lake Louise.
- Spokane International Airport – If you’re heading to interior British Columbia, you’re road trippin’ from Spokane. Nothing flashy about the airport, but lots of skiers and boarders recognize Spokane as a launching pad for an epic trip.
- Telluride Regional Airport – At 9,070 feet above sea level, Telluride is the highest commercial airport in North America. And with a tilted runway, flying in and out is an adventure of its own. The views rival those of many upper mountain chairlifts.
While a killer airport can’t erase every hassle and pain point that comes with air travel these days, travelers can easily avoid costly baggage fees by flying Southwest. It makes a huge difference in the cost of a ski trip when other airlines charge approximately $75 per flight to ship skis and boards – that’s two (non-Liftopia) tickets’ worth!
Let us know if we missed one of your favorites.
I can add my 2 cents that flying into SLC is fantastic. Both times I was on the road with my rental car and checked bags in less than 30 minutes.
Aspen airport is awesome unless its dumping. Brings you right smack in the middle of Aspen and Snowmass
Zurich Airport in Kloten, Switzerland serves just about every major international airline. Davos and St. Moritz, in Switzerland or St. Anton and Ischgl in Austria (land of all night apres ski parties) among others are just an hour or two away by rental car. Or you can hop a train to any one of the great Swiss ski resorts from the station in the airport. Swiss International Airlines even does baggage transfers to the trains once you’ve cleared immigration!
Who doesn’t like fondue and schnapps?
If your on the west coast then how about Mammoth Airport? Its like 20 min from the base and is served daily from SD, LA, SF and SJ. That has to be a winner.
What about the Eagle/Vail airport! It’s so easy and and 20 minutes to Beaver Creek, 1/2 hour to Vail and convenient to Aspen also. Just wish they had non-stop flights from Tucson or Phoenix. Have to connect in Denver, but it’s easier then driving to Denver and hassling with rental cars and security. It’s a breeze at the Eagle airport. Lots of non-stops from around the country!
Going to Whistler from Philly in 2012, any good airport tips? I have read Seattle is a good option.
Sounds like a great trip! You’ll love Whistler. Try flying in and out of Vancouver (YVR) it’s much closer than Seattle so you’ll save some drive time. Vancouver’s also a fantastic city so might be worth spending a couple hours there.
Flights are super cheap to Seattle but Vancouver is an option. I would definitely enjoy a night in Vancouver!
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