If you live in a ski town, consider yourself lucky. For the rest of us, travel to and from a major ski resort is just something that comes with the hobby if we want world-class skiing. You pack the skis in a ski bag and boots in a boot bag, pack all of your warm-weather gear, check your luggage and hop a flight to a new ski destination. It is a great way to explore.
The fact is that the travel to and from a ski vacation can be a major part of the expense, time commitment, and overall experience of a ski trip. Not factoring-in the post-flight drive to your overall travel consideration could make for a rude surprise.
The good news: There are some more convenient ski areas relative to airports than others.
We set out to find the 5 best ski resorts near major airports.
To make our list, a ski area had to have a few qualities.
- Be 60 minutes or less from a major airport. 60 minutes might still seem like a long drive, but the fact is that there are not many major airports situated right in the mountains. Keep in mind that we are only talking about “major” airports, and that brings us to our next point.
- The airport has to be served directly from at least 15 cities. You can fly to many ski resorts by connecting and then getting on a small plane to finish the trip, but that wasn’t what we were looking for. We wanted to focus on those places where you can likely fly directly in from many different parts of the country, get your rental car, and be on the slopes quickly. The good news is that with the major air carriers flying larger planes to more places, direct routes are being opened up that did not exist before.
- The ski area has to have at least 2,000 skiable acres and be well-regarded with our staff. Sure, you can fly into Minneapolis and be downhill skiing within 30 minutes at a few different ski hills, but those are not the resorts we had in mind for this piece. 2,000 is a pretty low bar, most resorts we mention below have way more than that.
Best Ski Resorts Near Major Airports
Park City / Canyons, Utah. Airport: Salt lake City
When it comes to great skiing near major airports, Utah dominates the list, because of the unparalleled convenience of the Salt Lake City airport. Utah really has it all for the traveling skier. You can reliably be from the Salt Lake City airport – a major Delta hub and an airport services by almost every carrier – to the Park City airport in 35-40 minutes, and much of it is on major 4-lane highways which are kept clear during winter. Park City provides you with the great Park City/Canyons ski area, the exclusive Deer Valley resort, along with an excellent downtown. Offering plenty of shopping, lodging, food, and nightlife, this might be the best overall combination of accessibility and experience in the country. The mountain itself is outstanding – especially the Canyons side. When Park City and the Canyons came together as one a few years ago, they were able to boast a combined 7,300 acres of skiable terrain! (Find a vacation rental in Park City)
Alta / Snowbird, Utah. Airport: Salt Lake City
Also in Utah, and also very close to the Salt Lake City airport is the Alta/Snowbird ski area. It is a slightly different direction from the airport than Park City, but relatively close as a crow flies. Same mountains different side. You can typically get to the Alta area in about 40 minutes by heading generally South and then East from the SLC airport.. While it doesn’t quite have the same level of lodging and amenity as Park City, the skiing is usually fantastic. Its orientation in the Cottonwood Canyon area gives it snow that many parts of Utah might not ever see. Alta and snowbird are technically separate resorts, but you can buy a ticket that allows you to ski both, which can be done via some expert terrain or from the lifts at each base.
Northstar at Tahoe, California. Airport: Reno
The Tahoe area is known as being drivable from San Francisco and Sacramento. For those of us traveling by plane, we love that the North Lake Tahoe resorts are quite close to the Reno airport. South Lake Tahoe – which is home to resorts like Heavenly — is considerably further from the Reno airport. Of the North Lake Tahoe resorts, Mt. Rose and Northstar are probably the closest to the airport, at about 40 minutes away. We love the combination of terrain, lodging, and views at Northstar. With 3,200 acres of skiable terrain, it has something for everyone. The easiest driving route takes you on I-80 most of the way from Nevada and into California, with a short drive on a smaller highway. (Find a great vacation rental in the Tahoe area.)
Big Sky, Montana. Airport: Bozeman
Big Sky barely made the criteria on this list, because it is a bit of a hike from the Bozeman airport. It is right at 60 minutes from the airport on a good day with no weather or traffic issues. But once you are there, you have some of the biggest, and best skiing anywhere. We love Big Sky. In fact, we think the skiing in Montana is downright underrated, even though it has been getting plenty of press lately. Plus, the Bozeman airport is growing and adding more direct flights by the year. Big Sky is about an hour drive from the Bozeman airport, and the Bozeman airport was serviced by 16 different cities a the time of this writing. The drive from the Bozeman airport to Big Sky is stunning, and a little tense if the weather is bad. Once you are there, though, look forward to 5,000 acres of skiable terrain and one of the best all-around ski experiences in North America. If you wanted to keep your skiing a little closer to Bozeman, Bridger Bowl is an excellent ski area that is much smaller, but only about 20 minutes from Bozeman. It is a great spot if you are try save some money too — Bridger’s lift tickets are less than 1/2 of the other resorts on this list.
Deer Valley, Utah. Airport: Salt Lake City
Just past Park City is Deer Valley, one of the best family ski resorts in the country. In fact, Deer Valley technically sits in Park City, but it is operated by a different company and not connected to the Park City/Canyons mountain.
Deer Valley is an experience like no others. You have a daily limit on the number of skiers on the slopes – so book ahead if you are going during a peak time. You also have the ski-only policy, so if you prefer to be surrounded only by skiers, you will be in luck. They have what we think is the best groomed terrain in the country. The resort is about a 45 minute drive from the Salt Lake City airport. While Deer Valley offers up just over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, it feels larger because of the lack of crowds. You can cover lots of ground in a day at Deer Valley. It is spendier than most resorts, so not a place to ski on a budget. If you want a little splurge, though, it is a great experience. We have had good luck with vacation rentals in the Deer Valley vicinity.
Paul Miller is the Founder of Family Skier. He is an advanced skier and has extensive experience with family travel and ski schools. An accomplished skier, he has skied in 15 states and provinces and 6 countries. In addition to FamilySkier, his writing can be found on many ski-related websites, and as curriculum for many ski clubs in North America.