John Clark

Find bliss on a low-key snowy adventure at these uncrowded, scenic ski areas

Sunset  – January 10, 2019 | Updated February 12, 2019

Anthony Lakes, OR

Anthony Lakes Ski Area (pictured above), in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon, has the highest base elevation of any ski resort in the Northwest. Its snow is so light, fluffy, and plentiful that Anthony Lakes is up there with Utah’s famed Alta as another quiet, peaceful, heaven-on-earth for powder-hounds. And it’s down-to-earth, too: no Chanel goggles or knee-high Uggs or black Hummers in sight. Located three hours from Boise and five from Portland, it’s a bit off the beaten path, but fresh tracks—and rock-bottom lift-ticket prices ($40 for an adult!)—make Anthony Lakes worth the trip.

Whitefish Mountain Resort, MT

The scenery is unparalleled year-round in Montana, and Whitefish Mountain Resort, perched on the edge of Glacier National Park delivers. With 3,000 acres of winter adventuring and a friendly, small-town vibe, Whitefish has a winning formula for those wishing to escape the mega-resort scene. Don’t miss the Moonlight Dine & Ski experience, which includes a scenic on-summit meal followed by a powder run under the stars (and on a clear night, you’ll see plenty—this is Big Sky Country, after all). 

Jeremy Swanson, courtesy of Snowmass Tourism

Snowmass’ Base Village

Snowmass, CO

This mountain resort located 9 miles from Aspen has long played second fiddle to its glammed up neighbor, but a new base village, mountain club, and buzzy hotel opening for the 2018-2019 season have it grabbing some serious spotlight. Snowmass Base Village, just steps from the Elk Gondola, wins for convenience as well as amenities: an ice skating rink, dining options, and a live music and events venue. Also onsite is the 99-room Limelight Hotel Snowmass, a sister property to Aspen and Sun Valley locations, featuring a five-story climbing wall that the kids will love. Join the hotel’s mountain club and get special alpine perks such as moonlight cross-country skiing, first tracks, ski valet, and more.

Sunshine Village, AB

Winter is the off-season in the Canadian Rockies, which means you get all the jaw-dropping beauty without the crowds. Sunshine Village, a low-key mountain resort located in the heart of Banff National Park, enables alpine enthusiasts the double whammy opportunity to ski in a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Banff lodging ranges from luxe to affordable (with the added bonus of a favorable USD to Canadian Dollar exchange rate). Bonus: The locally loved Park Distillery is the ultimate après spot to taste craft spirits and campfire cuisine.

Dave Camara, courtesy of Arapahoe Basin

All smiles at a kids’ lesson at A-Basin

Arapahoe Basin, CO

With nearly half of its skiable acres designated black diamond terrain, A-Basin attracts advanced shredders, but the resort still offers something for everyone. The mountain has opened a whopping 34 new runs for the 2018-2019 season, as well as The Beavers, a well-groomed, in-bounds backcountry ski area. This season also brings special deals for adult and kid skiing lessons (including discounted season passes for certain programs), as well as an on-summit European-style delicatessen where you can linger over charcuterie, cheeses, wine, and beer while enjoying amazing high-alpine views.

Hailey, ID

Sun Valley’s budget-friendly neighbor offers a vast amount uncrowded, pristine cross-country terrain. Glide on the Wood River Trail, by the riverbank, on the valley’s free commuter ski route, a 20-mile run from Bellevue to Sun Valley. Or head to Hailey’s Quigley Nordic Winter Park, where a warming hut with complimentary cocoa and outdoor firepit serves as base camp. A two-­day, all-valley pass lets you access another 150K of groomed trails north of Hailey, which include manicured Sun Valley Nordic trails and the pristine alpine forest at Galena Lodge.

Rainbow Lodge

Royal Gorge, CA

Let the Tahoe traffic continue over Donner Pass while you peel off Interstate 80 on a snowy, bumpy backroad to this undiscovered gem. Royal Gorge is North America’s largest cross-country ski “resort,” where a no-fuss lodge and a handful of warming huts barely disrupt this 9,000-acre winter wonderland. And if you get the downhill itch, Tahoe stalwarts Sugar Bowl and Squaw Valley aren’t far away.

Sun Peaks, Silver Star Mountain, and Big White Ski Resort, B.C.

Whistler is indeed wonderful. But smaller resorts in the interior Thompson Okanagan have advantages as well. Taken in by the small-town atmosphere of resorts like Sun Peaks, Silver Star Mountain, and Big White Ski Resort, you feel a heightened sense of getting away from it all. Because the resorts require a bit more effort to get to (Sun Peaks is a 4 1/2-hour drive from Vancouver), lift lines are short or nonexistent. And sun is plentiful, with Sun Peaks enjoying an average of 2,000 hours per year. While Whistler’s winter allure comes at a premium price, your dollars stretch further at smaller resorts.