While world famous names such as Mammoth, Stevens Pass, Vail, Taos, and Killington are the gold standard of mountain resorts, any local would only swear by the hidden trails and powder stashes of their little local operation. While they may not have an extraordinary number of lifts, sprawling shops, or miles of verticality, these small town ski resorts have community heart, a dedicated fan base, and some of the world's most secretive powder.
These are some of America's best small town ski resorts.
Northwest - Mission Ridge: Wenatchee, Washington
Set in Central Washington in the shadow of Mt. Stuart, Mission Ridge is located on the eastern ridge of the Cascades, where it receives more sunshine and lighter snow on a 2,000 acre basin. Featuring 2,250 feet of vertical drops, 36 runs and four chairlifts, Mission features a variety of terrain, including bowls, chutes and tree runs, including an area known as 'Bomber Bowl', which features the wing of a B-24 Bomber that crashed nearby.
This resort also features an easily accessible backcountry area. After ripping the groomed trails, head for the terrain park with a rope tow that accesses a series of rails, boxes, and ramps. After long sunny days, stay for the night skiing and competition days on the mountain.
Northeast - Cochoran's Ski Area: Richmond, Vermont
Since 1961, Cochoran's Ski Area has been the pride of the Cochoran family, who were all members of the US Ski Team and dominant athletes in the '60s and '70s, and has dedicated itself to being the first non-profit ski area to encourage and develop a love of winter sports. Whether serving underprivileged children or growing a community of young ski enthusiasts, Cochran's, which features three lifts and eight slopes, has been a much loved mountain for generations of families.
It famed ski school, history, and instructors have urged children to learn "The Cochoran's Way", which has led the family to multiple Olympic titles, National and World Cups.
Southwest - Red River Ski Area: Red River, New Mexico
At the southern tip of the Sangre de Cristo Range, Red River Ski Area features over 1600 feet of vertical drop and seven lifts servicing 58 runs over 257 acres. With 218 inches of snowfall, Red River has skiing and snowboarding for all levels, a terrain park, and a homey Western atmosphere.
With an equal amount of beginner, intermediate, and expert runs, including a glade, the resort maintains its reputation as a small family-run operation in an area that boasts over 300 days of sunshine.
Mountain - Wolf Creek Ski Area: Pagosa Springs, Colorado
With 1,600 acres of mountain in the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forest, Wolf Creek Ski Area receives over 430-inches of snow annually, more than any other ski hill in Colorado. With a moderately priced full-day lift ticket of $66,* skiers and snowboarders have access to nine lifts, which service a variety of terrain from beginner to expert, and features over 1,600 feet of vertical drop.
With 77 runs, from trees to bowls, Wolf Creek has exceptional terrain without the added crowds. After playing on the groomed snow, head for the backcountry area beyond the gates, featuring chutes, glades, and bowls.
Southeast - Beech Mountain Resort: Beech Mountain, North Carolina
With 95-acres and seven lifts, and set at an elevation of 5,506 feet, Beech Mountain is one of the highest of the few resorts in the Southeastern United States. With 850 feet of vertical drop, the resort features an impressive amount of varied terrain in its small area.
With 14 easy, intermediate, and expert trails, as well as two terrain parks, the resort hosts events, competitions, and superb skiing and snowboarding for all styles and abilities. Beech Mountain is one of the premier ski hills in an area not widely recognized for its snow sports.