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America’s 10 Best Small Ski Resorts

Shorter lift lines, a friendlier feel, and less expensive tickets—there’s a lot to love about smaller ski areas. Here are the 10 best small ski resorts in the U.S.

Grand Targhee, Wyoming

Grand targhee ski resort in wyoming

Thanks to Grand Targhee’s location west of the Tetons, this ski area averages a massive 500+ inches of snowfall a year. Although there are just five lifts, you’ll rarely wait in line here, as the crowds tend to pass over Grand Targhee in favor of the more famous Jackson Hole (which is only about an hour away).

Where to stay: The Grand Targhee Ski Resort has plenty of housing options, from ski-in-ski-out rooms to two-bedroom suites.

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Magic Mountain, Vermont

Magic mountain ski resort in vermont, usa

Magic Mountain may be small, but the terrain here is mighty. The ski area was founded in 1960 by a Swiss ski instructor who wanted to create “a little corner of Switzerland” in Vermont. Today, Magic Mountain is home to some of the most challenging terrain in the east (including plenty of glades), plus numerous easy and intermediate trails for beginners. Despite a recent $1.5 million investment in snowmaking and lift improvement at Magic Mountain, peak-price tickets are still just $74 for a full day of skiing.

Where to stay: The affordable Upper Pass Lodge is located right next to Magic Mountain’s parking lot.

Mt. Abram, Maine

Mt. abram ski resort in maine, usa

With lift tickets regularly exceeding $100 at many resorts, a day on the slopes can be an expensive proposition. Not so at Maine’s Mt. Abram, where weekend tickets cost $49 for a full day or $39 for a half day. Headed up on a Thursday or Friday? You can snag lift tickets for a bargain $29, which gets you access to five lifts and 54 trails.

Where to stay: There’s no on-mountain lodging at Mt. Abram, but the charming Bethel Hill Bed and Breakfast is just down the road.

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Big Powderhorn, Michigan

Big powderhorn ski resort in michigan, usa

Michigan doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a ski destination, but the state is actually home to 37 areas where you can hit the slopes. Big Powderhorn’s Upper Peninsula location means this small ski resort is blessed with 17 feet of average natural snowfall. At the base, a Bavarian-style village offers plenty of apres-ski dining and drinking options, plus a free shuttle bus to and from the mountain.

Where to stay: Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort has some great ski-and-stay deals if you book your lodging and lift tickets at the same time.

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Whaleback Mountain, New Hampshire

Whaleback mountain ski resort in new hampshire, united states

A locally owned, nonprofit ski mountain is a rare thing to find, but Whaleback Mountain is one. Owned and operated by the Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation, the resort aims to preserve the mountain and keep it affordable and accessible for the nearby community. Come here on a Friday evening for night skiing and a family-style dinner for just $32 total (or $28 for kids).

Where to stay: Historic Shaker Farm Bed and Breakfast is a quick drive away, and offers beautiful Mascoma Lake views for apres-ski.

Silverton Mountain, Colorado

Silverton mountain ski resort in colorado, usa

There’s only one lift at Silverton Mountain, but you can also opt for a helicopter ride to the top. (Prices start at $179 for one heli-drop, or book six runs for $1,190.) This ungroomed and unmarked mountain is for advanced and expert skiers only, which keeps down the number of visitors. In fact, Silverton Mountain boasts that it gets more snowfall per year (400 inches) than visitors per day.

Where to stay: The closest town to the mountain is the former mining town of Silverton, Colorado. Stay at The Avon, which has been around since the early 1900s and is lovingly preserved.

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Solitude Mountain, Utah

Solitude mountain ski resort in utah, usa

The aptly named Solitude Mountain lets the masses go to nearby mega-resorts Alta and Snowbird, and keeps its similar snow conditions (over 500 annual inches of snow on average) on the quiet side. Just eight lifts serve 80 runs and three different bowls, so you’ll be able to find some empty slopes no matter when you visit.

Where to stay:  The Creekside Condominiums are slopeside condos that even have a rooftop hot tub for apres-ski muscle soothing.

Bolton Valley, Vermont
Bolton valley ski resort in vermont, usa

Family-owned Bolton Valley has something for everyone. Six lifts serve 71 downhill trails that are well divided for different abilities (34 percent easier, 38 percent more difficult, and 28 percent most difficult). Not interested in downhill? There are also over 62 miles of backcountry, Nordic skiing, and snowshoeing trails here.

Where to stay: The Inn at Bolton Valley is by far the most convenient option. You can ski in and out, and also easily walk to plenty of dining options.

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Sunlight Mountain, Colorado

Sunlight mountain ski resort in colorado, usa

Sunlight Mountain recently made headlines for having America’s most expensive lift ticket. Priced at $700, the Sunny 700 includes not only a one-day lift pass but also a hot springs day pass and a pair of hand-crafted Sunny 700 skis. Fortunately, a regular one-day lift pass at Sunlight Mountain costs just $65, which is very affordable for Colorado. But you should still splurge on that hot springs pass: Sunlight Mountain is home to the world’s largest hot springs pool, which feels amazing after a long day on the slopes.

Where to stay: Liquor lovers should book a room at the nearby Distillery Inn, a luxury hotel within a working distillery.

Diamond Peak, Nevada

Diamond peak ski resort in nevada usa

Lake Tahoe has a glitzy reputation, but Diamond Peak Ski Resort keeps things a little more low-key. This community-owned resort may have only a few lifts, but the mountain has a serious vertical drop (1,840 feet). The panoramic views of Lake Tahoe from the summit can’t be beat either. Take the leisurely way down on Diamond Peak’s longest run, which clocks in at a leg-testing 2.5 miles.

Where to stay: The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe runs a free ski shuttle to and from the mountain, so you don’t have to fight for parking.

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Caroline Morse Teel has a goal to ski all the best small ski resorts in New England. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for ski and travel photos from around the world. 

 

By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo, Boston.com, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

E-mail her at cmorse@smartertravel.com.

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