Quickly outgrowing its beginnings as a sport for intrepid mountaineers, skiing is now a mainstream winter activity for the whole family. And ski resorts have kept up with the demand, adding hotels, restaurants, après-ski entertainment, and all manner of indoor and outdoor recreation. But for skiers, it's the snow that counts, and the terrain of the mountainsides it falls on.
1. Whistler Blackcomb
Now part of Vail Resorts group, Whistler Blackcomb combines the superb terrain of two mountains to make it Canada's premier ski resort and the largest winter sports area in North America. The combined skiable terrain offers more than 200 runs accessed by 37 lifts. One of these, the three-kilometer-plus PEAK 2 PEAK gondola joins the two mountaintops and is the world's longest unsupported lift span.
Despite its decidedly upscale villages and reputation, Courchevel is for serious skiers looking for snow thrills of a lifetime. Part of Les 3 Vallées region, the world's largest Alpine ski domain, with 600 kilometers of interconnected ski runs across 10 summits higher that 2,500 meters, Courchevel offers 150 kilometers of alpine ski terrain accessed by 60 lifts.
Even if it didn't have one of the world's most beautiful mountains as a backdrop, Switzerland's ski resort of Zermatt would be a place skiers dream about. It's the highest winter sports area in the Alps, and it has the greatest vertical drop in Switzerland, plus the magnificent peak of the Matterhorn can be seen from almost everywhere on its 350 kilometers of trails and slopes.
4. Vail Mountain Resort
The biggest of Colorado's ski resorts, and one of the largest in the world, Vail offers enough terrain to keep an avid skier in any skill level busy. Long, well-groomed runs overlook the luxury hotels and upscale restaurants and shops in the equally well-manicured town of Vail.
5. Aspen Snowmass
Top among the several ski resorts in Colorado, Aspen Snowmass is made up of four ski areas surrounding Aspen and Snowmass Village. The combined terrain of Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk exceeds 5,500 acres, with Snowmass alone accounting for more than 3,000. Although the smallest of the four, Buttermilk is known for hosting the Winter X-Games since 2002. The 2021 games are scheduled for January 28–31.