Courtesy Wolf Creek/ Jason Lombard

Lower rates, solid early-season snow, and festive activities make these resorts perfect for a holiday weekend on the slopes

Stephanie Granada  – November 5, 2019 | Updated November 26, 2019

For those who’d rather spend Thanksgiving carving something other than turkeys, the holiday weekend is the time for adventurous friend groups, families, solo travelers, and lovebirds to warm up their ski legs in preparation for a stoke-filled winter in the West. And though lots of mountains open in November, some places debut with only a couple skimpy trails and little fanfare, while others kick off with a bang. Colorado’s Wolf Creek, for example, excels at delivering consistent snow early on, and epic resorts like Mammoth and Jackson Hole lean into the holiday spirit, turning into full-on winter wonderlands. Conditions can be hit-or-miss for early-season skiing, but this time also brings slimmer crowds, cheaper lodging, and discounted lift tickets, making for the perfect Friendsgiving getaway. Oftentimes, the Thanksgiving holiday coincides with the resort’s opening weekend, making for a doubly spirited celebration. Whether you’re an avid skier or just love the après scene, get your gear together and head straight to one of the West’s best resorts for Thanksgiving skiing.

Alta Ski Area, Alta, UT

Courtesy Alta Ski Area/ Elliot Wilkinson-Ray

If you’re serious about skiing and skiing only, Alta is your mountain. The family-owned resort has the best track record for deep, fluffy, early snow thanks to its location on Little Cottonwood Canyon—a storm trap of an area that brings more than 500 inches a year. The Alta Lodge Thanksgiving package gets you four nights of lodging with breakfast and dinners (including a gourmet holiday feast) for $979 per person. (Kids under 12 stay free.) 

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Mammoth Lakes, CA

Courtesy Mammoth Mountain Ski Area

With one of the biggest snowmaking operations in the country and an opening date of November 9 this year, California’s biggest mountain resort is practically guaranteed to be covered in white stuff by the time you arrive. Mammoth goes all out for the holiday with a two-mile Turkey Trot race; a tree lighting ceremony with live music and visits with Santa and the Wooly Mammoth mascot; and an alpine skiing competition. You won’t have to sacrifice the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, either. Several places prepare carryout feasts (try Bleu Handcrafted Foods or Smokeyard BBQ and Chop Shop); others, like Rafters, offer kid-friendly buffets.

Aspen-Snowmass, Snowmass Village, CO

Courtesy Snowmass Village

A combo of excellent terrain, new stylish stays, quality food and drink, and a solid roster of smart, recent upgrades is quickly turning Snowmass into one of the best ski resorts in the West. Over the opening weekend, top skiers and aficionados turn up for the Thankjibbing rail jam with top freeskiers and snowboarders competing on Fanny Mountain. Afterward, find your way to the firepits for free s’mores served daily from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Take advantage of  Viceroy Snowmass’ Third Night Free deal, and you’ll offset the costs of the hotel’s Latin-infused Thanksgiving meal at TORO restaurant (think turkey with cranberry-blood orange relish, sage tamale and chorizo stuffing, and cinnamon-spiced flan). Plus, public transportation can easily deliver you to the next-door, always-buzzy Aspen for more holiday feasts at places like Ajax Tavern at iconic The Little Nell and Velvet Buck at the The St. Regis Aspen Resort.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Teton Village, WY

Courtesy Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Spend the morning shredding when the Big One’s slopes open for the season on Thursday, before settling into a master feast in Teton Village (at West Bank Grill at Four Seasons Jackson Hole) or any of the restaurants serving special menus in Jackson (The Granary at Spring Creek Ranch, The Silver Dollar Bar & Grill). Non-skiers can work up an appetite at the 5K Turkey Trot. The race starts and ends two minutes away from downtown Jackson’s town square, which will already be decked out for the holidays with the illuminated Antler Arch as the anchor. Join locals to support Shop Small Saturday—sustainable retail’s answer to Black Friday. There will be plenty of winter fun on tap, too, like ice skating and sledding in Teton Village. 

Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows, Olympic Valley, CA

Courtesy Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows

It’d be worth going to Squaw-Alpine just for the Thanksgiving lunch with breathtaking views at the resort’s High Camp’s Terrace Restaurant. Or for the local-centric spread at the Olympic House’s recently renovated Bar One, near the legendary KT-22 lift. Or even for the dinner with apple- and brown sugar-roasted turkey and pecan-bourbon sweet potatoes at Cascades restaurant at the Resort at Squaw Creek, where floor-to-ceiling windows show off views of the Sierras at every turn. But then there’s the skiing. If this year is anything like the last few (and with promising natural patterns and more than $1 million in improved snowmaking, it should be), then expect a blanket of snow by late November. 

Wolf Creek Ski Area, Pagosa Springs, CO

Courtesy Wolf Creek/ Jason Lombard

Record October snow is making for great early-season skiing in Colorado. But even without that boon, the Wolf Creek is your best bet in the Lower 48 for deep and steep Thanksgiving skiing. Sitting high on the Continental Divide, the old-school (highly underrated) ski area is a magnet for storms, and when the snow lands, it tends to stick around. The ski area doesn’t have any snow machines though, so it’s all up to Mother Nature. On the off-chance conditions are lackluster, you can always spend the weekend soaking in the 23 therapeutic hot spring pools at The Springs Resort & Spa, 30 minutes down the road in Pagosa.

SkiBig3, Banff, Canada

Courtesy SkiBig3/ Reuben Krabbe

Between the three ski areaswith more than 8,000 acres of skiable terrain clustered around Banff National Park, there will be enough trails open to keep you busy for the entire weekend—and then some. Sunshine Village has more on-mountain amenities and tends to get the most and fluffiest snow, while Lake Louise gets super-charged by the Lake Louise World Cup,which brings some of the fastest skiers in the world to the mountain. All locations benefit from the dramatic Canadian Rockies scenery and stellar runs. Get a SkiBig3 pass so you can hop between the three. Sure, you won’t find any Thanksgiving events in Canada, but the Christmas spirit picks up mid-November, and the setting is nothing short of magical.