Embrace the white stuff with an escape to the high country. At these powder playgrounds, snow fuels adventure, brings families together and makes for romantic evenings for two. Read on to find out which mountain escape is right for you—and to make this your most fun winter ever.
Summit County, Colorado
The Rocky Mountains’ Gore, Tenmile and Front Ranges converge in scenic Summit County, some 75 miles west of Denver. Over the past 70 years, these mountains have evolved from raucous mining outposts into a premier mountain destination. Today the area’s four ski resorts—Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Breckenridge Resort, Keystone Resort and Copper Mountain—rank among the most popular in the country, and for good reason.
The thousands of skiable acres here are blanketed by around 350 inches of snow every winter, and you can find runs suitable for all ability levels. Breckenridge (970-453-5000; adult lift ticket, $141) is a skier’s delight, with six peaks offering miles of beginner terrain along with jaw-dropping steep-and-deep accessed from Imperial Express, the highest lift in North America at 12,840 feet. Families flock to sister resort Keystone (970-496-4000; adult lift ticket, $104) for its top-notch ski school and Kidtopia programming, which includes the world’s largest snow fort, ice-skating and movie nights. On the county’s western fringe, Copper Mountain (970-968-2318; adult lift ticket, $144) has become a freestyle-skiing capital on the strength of Woodward Copper (970-968-3400; lesson, including lift ticket, $197), an on-site training ground that operates camps where shredders of all ages and abilities can learn to jib, huck and jump like a pro at two on-mountain terrain parks and an indoor facility dubbed “the Barn.”
Colorado’s colorful mining heritage is honored in the picturesque town of Breckenridge, where restaurants, bars, boutiques and galleries are set in preserved Victorian-era buildings. You can throw back suds like a prospector at local hot spot Motherloaded Tavern (103 S. Main St.; 970-453-2572; beers for two, $10) or opt for refined mountain cuisine at Relish (137 S. Main St.; 970-453-0989; dinner for two, $90*), where chef Matt Fackler’s dishes, such as the chipotle-mojo-glazed pork tenderloin, infuse locally sourced ingredients with bold flavors. The town of Dillon is staking its claim as a culinary stop, with Arapahoe Cafe and Pub (626 Lake Dillon Ave.; 970-468-0873; dinner for two, $50) plating barbecue that’s headlined by a mouthwatering pit-smoked pulled pork. Meanwhile, Dillon Dam Brewery (100 Little Dam St.; 970-262-7777; dinner for two, $60) pairs gastropub grub, such as almond sage trout, with craft beers like Here’s Your Dam IPA. For a high-altitude romance, reserve a table by the fire at Ski Tip Lodge restaurant (764 Montezuma Rd.; 970-496-4950; four-course dinner for two, $156) outside Keystone. Housed in a late-1880s log cabin that was Summit County’s original stagecoach stop, the restaurant offers chai-spiced smoked duck and an impressive selection of wines.
South Lake Tahoe, California, and Stateline, Nevada
Some 70 miles southwest of Reno and 100 miles east of Sacramento, Lake Tahoe’s southern shores afford thrills for powder hounds and high rollers alike. Stick with South Lake for Cali-chic vibes, or hop over the California–Nevada border to Stateline for a Vegas-style party. No matter how you do Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America is the star, sitting pretty at an altitude of 6,255 feet between the towering Sierra Nevada Crest and Carson Range.
Straddling the state border, Heavenly Mountain Resort (775-586-7000; adult lift ticket, $115) has the most skiable terrain, the highest elevations in Tahoe (10,000 feet and change) and arguably the most spectacular views in all of ski country. Be sure to Instagram a photo or three from Heavenly’s California Trail, a wide-open groomed run peering down on the lake thousands of feet below. Skiing among the trees doesn’t get any better than the resort’s Nevada side; consider starting with the glades below the Dipper and Comet express lifts before moving into double black diamond Mott Canyon. For an adventurous view of the water, try a snowmobile excursion with Zephyr Cove Resort (760 U.S. Hwy. 50; 775-589-4907; lake-view tour for two, $180). The tour climbs 45 miles from the lake shores through pine forests and meadows up to 9,000 feet. For a more romantic outing, you can book a moonlight ride for two in the Borges family sleigh (4130 Lake Tahoe Blvd.; 775-588-2953; private one-hour ride for two, $100) pulled by beautiful Belgian draft horses.
You don’t have to shred to get in on Heavenly’s après-ski activities. Hop on the gondola for a ride to the resort’s Tamarack Lodge for Unbuckle (775-586-7000; drinks for two, $16), the highest (9,150 feet) on-mountain party in the Tahoe area, held every Thursday through Saturday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. You can keep the party going late into the wee hours in Stateline at Montbleu Resort Casino’s Opal Ultra Lounge (55 U.S. Hwy. 50; 775-586-2000; bottle service from $250) or catch a live show and ogle music memorabilia at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (50 U.S. Hwy. 50; 844-588-7625). For a more subdued scene, après channels Napa at Jimmy’s Restaurant (4104 Lakeshore Blvd., South Lake Tahoe; 530-541-5263; dinner for two, $100) at the Landing Resort, a lakeside hideout with an impressive wine cellar featuring California’s top vineyards. You can take your bottle to the rooftop deck overlooking the lake and stick around for modern Greek food served in a private dining alcove with its own fireplace. For dinner with a view, consider reserving a table by the wall of windows at Edgewood Restaurant (100 Lake Pkwy., Stateline; 775-588-2787; dinner for two, $90), where chef Frank Stagnaro’s seasonal menu features the freshest local meat and fish.
Green Mountains, Vermont
The Green Mountains run 250 miles north to south from Quebec through Vermont and into Massachusetts. Vermont takes its state nickname from these mountains, and the state’s winter culture culminates at the base of Mount Mansfield—Vermont’s highest peak at 4,393 feet—in the range’s beautiful eastern fold, some 45 miles east of Burlington and 200 miles northwest of Boston. Gorgeous hills nurture villages that date from the nation’s founding, and all of New England’s charms are at your boot tips, whether you enjoy stomping snowshoe trails, strolling quaint main streets or feasting on farm-to-table fare.
The ski trails plunging down Mount Mansfield were among America’s first, and Stowe Mountain Resort (802-253-3000; adult lift ticket, $115) is cherished for its signature “Front Four” runs: National, Goat, Starr and Liftline. For family-friendly snow, you can take the gondola to the resort’s brand-new Spruce Peak, where gentle slopes terminate in a luxe village with an ice-skating rink, shops and a performing arts center that stages live theater and music. Just down the road, Trapp Family Lodge (700 Trapp Hill Rd., Stowe; 802-253-8511; adult trail passes, $25) is set on 2,500 powdery acres that are great for backcountry ski tours, cross-country skiing and snowshoe nature hikes. The property is also home to Von Trapp Brewing, which this winter debuts the restaurant Bierhalle (dinner for two, $65), serving Austrian specialties and views of Mount Mansfield.
The Green Mountains’ agricultural bounty has long drawn New England’s top chefs. Among them is Michael Kloeti, whose Michael’s on the Hill (4182 Waterbury Stowe Rd.; 802-244-7476; dinner for two, $90) is on an 1820s farm in Waterbury. Stop by in the morning when the chef teaches cooking classes (one-and-a-half-hour group classes for up to five people start at $150 plus a per-person food cost) in the farmhouse kitchen, and stay for dinner by the fire; signature dishes include beef tenderloin with potato gratin, and maple carrots with smoked butter. In a streamside gristmill, Hen of the Wood (92 Stowe St., Waterbury; 802-244-7300; dinner for two, $75) draws raves for chef Eric Warnstedt’s locavore cuisine. Consider starting with the mushroom toast with house-smoked bacon and poached egg then move on to the braised pork with wild-ramp sausage. A trip to these parts isn’t complete without a stop at the Ben & Jerry’s factory (1281 Waterbury Stowe Rd., Waterbury; 866-258-6877; admission, $4; children under 12, free), where you can enjoy an ice-cream-fueled snowshoe tour around the campus.
The Poconos unspool over some 2,400 square miles of northeast Pennsylvania, high above the Delaware Water Gap that defines their eastern edge. The region is about 100 miles from both New York City and Philadelphia, and city slickers and honeymooners have long flocked to its peaks, rivers, waterfalls and woodlands. Over time the region has grown into a sophisticated, snowy stop for skiing, snow tubing and spa wellness.
Skiing in the Poconos got its start in 1956, when Big Boulder Ski Area developed one of the country’s first snowmaking systems, and today those original slopes have some of the most popular terrain parks in the region—such as Jack Frost Big Boulder (570-443-8425; adult lift ticket, $58), in Blakeslee—which are especially great for young shredders with big half-pipe dreams. Camelback Resort (570-629-1661; adult lift ticket, $67) launched in Tannersville as a ski destination in the mid-’60s and has evolved into a four-season family resort with the 2015 opening of Aquatopia (570-629-1662; admission, $42), the Northeast’s largest indoor water park, with 13 waterslides and the Bombora FlowRider, an artificial surf wave. Every winter hundreds of bald eagles migrate south to the Poconos seeking unfrozen waters of the Delaware River from which they can feed, as well as large stands of trees for undisturbed roosting. Nature buffs can join a guided excursion with the Delaware Highlands Conservancy (508 River St., Hawley; 570-226-3164; free, reservations required).
Spa days don’t get much better than at The Lodge at Woodloch (109 River Birch Ln., Hawley; 800-966-3562; 50-minute massage, $135), where the 40,000-square-foot spa is equipped with 27 treatment rooms, hydromassage pools, yoga studios and a fireside relaxation lounge; try the signature Rosemary Awakening, which starts with a stimulating citrus-rosemary body polish, followed by a massage with rosemary-infused oils. Whether you worked up your appetite on the slopes or at the spa, enjoy a candlelit dinner at The Settlers Inn (4 Main Ave.; 570-226-2993; dinner for two, $72) in a restored Arts & Crafts lodge in the hamlet of Hawley. Chef Ben Sutter’s seasonal menus specialize in local purveyors, including Blooming Grove trout and Jameson Farm lamb. For a more festive evening, raise a pint at Barley Creek Brewing Company (1774 Sullivan Trail; 570-629-9399; dinner for two, $40), in Tannersville, where the craft suds include a chocolaty Farmhouse Porter aged in dark roasted American white oak.
RCI® affiliated resorts in ski country include:
Within walking distance of ski slopes and about one mile from Lake Tahoe. 3845 Pioneer Trail, South Lake Tahoe, CA
Member Review: “Reliable staff and clean facilities.”
Member Review: “We will definitely be coming back!”
Member Review: “Great on-property restaurants.”
Member Review: “Quiet, beautiful surroundings and spacious units.”
Member Review: “A peaceful setting.”
Member Review: “We had a blast on the bumper boats and in the whirlpool!”
Member Review: “Spacious rooms and tons of walking trails.”
Member Review: “There are a number of restaurants and shops within walking distance.”
Member Review: “Our kids loved the on-site snow tubing and Family Fun Zone.”
For complete member reviews (as member reviews have been condensed) and additional resort listings, visit RCI.com or call 800-338-7777 (Weeks) or 877-968-7476 (Points). Club Members, please call your specific Club or RCI telephone number.
Looking for a ski vacation in other popular destinations? Visit RCI.com and use the Vacation-Type filters to search for ski experiences around the world!
Non-RCI affiliated resorts in ski country include:
Basecamp South Lake TahoeJust steps inside the California border, Basecamp comprises two 1950s motels melded together. Expect outdoor fire pits and a mountain-view rooftop hot tub. 4143 Cedar Ave., South Lake Tahoe, CA; 530-208-0180; basecamptahoesouth.com; doubles from $129 a night
Main Street StationEasy access to the slopes and beautiful mountain views make this a great spot for a ski vacation. 505 S. Main St., Breckenridge, CO; 877-346-4450; wyndhamvacationrentals.com; doubles from $149 a night
Water HouseShares facilities with Main Street Station. 600 Columbine Rd., Breckenridge, CO; 877-346-4450; wyndhamvacationrentals.com; doubles from $179 a night
Field GuideSalvaged-wood headboards and river-stone fireplaces deck out all rooms; the new restaurant Picnic Social serves shareable small plates. 433 Mountain Rd., Stowe, VT; 802-253-8088; fieldguidestowe.com; doubles from $139 a night
- *Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax or tip.
- NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
- Published: Winter 2016