These ten North American ski towns may not have the name recognition of the world’s best-known destinations, but that’s just fine with them. These are the local favorites, the up-and-comers. They’re real towns, often cheaper and friendlier than the big dogs—at least for now. If you’re on the hunt for great skiing without the crowds and glitz, read on.
Best For: Mixed groups of hard chargers, beginners, and nonskiers who’d rather do their gambling off the slopes
This historic gold-mining town at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains became one of America’s 20th-century gambling meccas before its current reinvention as a hip, outdoorsy city of university students, artists, and, yes, skiers. We know what you’re thinking, but Reno actually is a ski town. Not only is the better-than-you-think Mount Rose 25 miles from downtown, but Reno sits at the northern tip of Lake Tahoe’s constellation of ski areas as well—the densest concentration of ski resorts in North America. There are 18 resorts within a hundred miles of Reno’s international airport.
Sure, Reno, population 225,221, still has plenty of casinos and nightclubs that party all night, but think of it as a smaller, more family-oriented Vegas. Set on the banks of the Truckee River, the pedestrian-friendly downtown has seen a much needed revamp worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s now filled with cafes, galleries, and artist’s lofts overlooking the river walk. A-list musicians routinely play at various venues, while those seeking a more classical experience can check out the nearby Reno Philharmonic or Nevada Shakespeare Company.
Mount Rose, a 20-minute drive from downtown, isn’t the biggest or flashiest ski area in the region, but it’s less expensive than most, has an excellent beginner program, and its expert area, the Chutes, opened in 2004, serves up a buffet of 1,200-plus-feet, 45-degree, north-facing pitches. It also features the highest base elevation in the Tahoe region at 8,260 feet, helping it escape the rains that can despoil the region’s snowpack.
Ask a Local
Luke Jacobson is vice president and an engineer at Reno-based Moment Skis. He has lived in Reno for nine years and praises the “young entrepreneurial spirit in the area.” Here are his recommendations.
Budget: Sands Regency Casino
Swank: Grand Sierra Resort
Cheap: Noble Pie Parlor
Best Aprés Spot
Best Rest-Day Activity
Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake are always must-sees.
Favorite Ski Run at Mount Rose
When the Chutes is open on a powder day it can’t be beat.
PHOTOGRAPH BY GRANT GUNDERSON, TANDEM