For some Colorado powder hounds, leaving the state to ski is practically sacrilegious. After all, there’s a reason multitudes fly here every winter from elsewhere to experience Colorado’s storied mountains and deep snow. But with traffic worsening and the inclusion of world-class resorts on popular ski passes, there’s never been a better time to venture further afield in search of freshies. Here are five worthy destinations that are a direct flight away.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyo.
Why: Tucked into the Tetons in northwestern Wyoming, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boasts a 4,139-foot vertical drop and some of the biggest open-face bowls in the lower 48. Extreme skiers love the couloirs and cliff drops, while beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders appreciate the uncrowded blues and greens. Everyone loves the proliferation of good on-mountain restaurants.
Then there’s the scenery. Only three percent of Teton County is privately owned, which means 97 percent is undeveloped and wild. You’re likely to see moose and elk (and wolves, if you’re lucky) during your stay.
Stay: The newly renovated Anvil Hotel is one block north of the Town Square and on the free bus route that goes to the ski resort. Rates start at $135. (215 N. Cache St., 307-733-3668, anvilhotel.com)
Eat: Breakfast sandwiches and lunch offerings are made with fresh, local-when-possible goods at Picnic, located in town (1110 Maple Way B, 307-264-2956, picnicjh.com). The Handlebar Restaurant and Pub at the mountain offers hearty burgers and a killer après ski happy hour. (Inside the Four Seasons, 307-732-5157, fourseasons.com/jacksonhole).
Off-slope adventure: Wyoming winters can be chilly. Warm up in the National Museum of Wildlife Art, where Remingtons mingle with other masters, and where floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto the National Elk Refuge, winter feeding ground for thousands of elk. (2820 Rungius Road, 307-733-5771, wildlifeart.org; fws.gov/refuge/national_elk_refuge/)
Ski pass: Mountain Collective, which provides two days at 16 destinations and 50 percent off additional days for $519. mountaincollective.com
Mt. Bachelor, Oregon
Why: Mt. Bachelor offers big-mountain skiing without the big-mountain egos. Laid back locals refer to Bachelor’s “zones,” natural playgrounds of gladed trees, open bowls, half pipes and jumps, and the multi-faceted mountain can keep skiers and snowboarders of all levels entertained for months. Last year, Bachelor installed a new $6 million quad, Cloudchaser, bringing the total skiable acreage to 4,318. Best of all, United Airlines flies direct from Denver to Redmond/Bend.
Stay: The Old St. Francis School Hotel, a transformed Catholic school, features a pub, brewery, movie theater, live music and a soaking pool. Rooms start around $200. (700 NW Bond St., Bend, 541-382-5174, mcmenamins.com/old-st-francis-school)
Eat: Spork serves international fusion food in a casual environment. The eatery started in 2009 as an Airstream food truck and landed permanent digs downtown in 2013. (937 NW Newport Ave., Bend, 541-390-0946, sporkbend.com)
Off-slope adventure: Explore Bend’s famous mountain bike trails on a guided winter fat bike tour with Cog Wild. (541-385-7002 cogwild.com)
Ski pass: The Rocky Mountain Super Pass includes three days at Mt. Bachelor. skicolorado.com
Sun Valley, Idaho
Why: Built by the Union Pacific Railroad, Sun Valley is the country’s first destination ski resort. The resort is comprised of two mountains — Bald and Dollar — and you’ll be hard pressed to find a lift line, even on a Saturday on a holiday weekend. The flight from Denver to Hailey (Sun Valley is the name of the resort and the region, and the two primary towns are Hailey and Ketchum) can be shorter than the drive from Denver to Summit County on a blower powder day.
Stay: The lounge at the new Limelight Hotel in downtown Ketchum anchors this boutique property, which is luxurious without pretense. (151 Main St. S., Ketchum, 208-726-0888, limelighthotels.com/ketchum)
Eat: The steaks are tender and the décor is authentic Old West at the Pioneer Saloon, Ketchum’s classic bar and grill. (320 N. Main St., Ketchum, 208-726-3139, pioneersaloon.com)
Off-slope adventure: With more than 124 miles of Nordic ski trails, Sun Valley is has one of the largest Nordic systems in the country. It was also country’s first Nordic Olympic Training Site; expect to see elite athletes training here. (208-622-2250, sunvalley.com)
Ski pass: Mountain Collective. mountaincollective.com
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
Why: North America’s largest ski resort, two hours from Vancouver, is a gargantuan amalgamation of two mountains — Whistler and Blackcomb — that offer virtually everything a skier or snowboarder could want: glaciers, open bowls, glades that run on forever, impeccably groomed trails and boundless hike-to sidecountry. Add in the inimitable Canadian friendliness, and you have a warm, welcoming resort that can also pack a punch.
Stay: Budget travelers will love the Whistler Lodge Hostel, a 42-bed historic lodge built in 1965 by University of British Columbia students. Now under new management, the lodge has dorm bunks and private and semi-private rooms, along with secure ski storage, a sauna and hot tub and a communal kitchen. Rates start around $45 Canadian, or $36 U.S. (2124 Nordic Dr., Whistler, 604-932-6604, whistlerlodgehostel.com)
Eat: Araxi Restaurant and Oyster Bar redefines surf and turf with its elegant, flavorful entrees. A pioneer in the farm-to-table movement, this popular restaurant is located in the heart of Whistler Village. (110-4222 Village Square, Whistler, 604-932-4540, araxi.com)
Off-slope adventure: Ziptrek Ecotour Ziplining sends participants flying through old-growth, temperate rainforest, even in the dead of winter. (4282 Mountain Square, Whistler, 604-935-0001, whistler.ziptrek.com)
Ski pass: Vail Resorts’s Epic Pass offers unlimited skiing at 15 resorts plus select days at several European resorts. epicpass.com
Park City Mountain Resort, Utah
Why: In 2015, two ski resorts in this former mining stronghold became one when owner Vail Resorts connected Park City and Canyons with the Quicksilver Gondola. Now the largest resort in the United States with 7,300 acres of skiable terrain, Park City Resort blends incredible terrain with a European-like ski experience. Visitors can ski hard until last chair or casually traverse many mountains while stopping for delicious food, fine wine and treats for the kids. Better yet, Park City is one of the few resorts in North America with a lift that drops directly into the town. Located only 40 minutes from Salt Lake City’s International Airport, a weekend trip here is a no brainer.
Stay: There’s no shortage of hotel beds in Park City, but Treasure Mountain Inn stands out for its relative affordability and prime location at the top of Main Street. Rates start around $175. (255 Main St., Park City, 435-655-4501, treasuremountaininn.com)
Eat: Fans of Mexican food make pilgrimages to El Chubasco, a budget joint just off of Main Street where you’re given a basket of chips while waiting in line. Hot tip: try everything on the menu. (1890 Bonanza Dr., Park City, 435-645-9114, elchubascomexicangrill.com)
Off-slope adventure: Olympic bobsled rides are available to the general public at Utah Olympic Park, where experienced bobsled pilots take groups of three down the 2002 Olympic bobsled track. Riders must be at least 16 years old. (3419 Olympic Pkwy., Park City, 435) 658-4200, utaholympiclegacy.org)
Ski pass: Epic Pass. epicpass.com