As we begin 2022, the continuing spread of the coronavirus pandemic has thwarted international travel plans, once again – rendering an annual pilgrimage to the highest peaks and chicest chalets on the Continent far more difficult this year. But even though travelers might be stuck stateside, that doesn't mean that champagne powder (and a champagne-fueled après) can't be on the agenda. As European travel returns to a state of flux for the second ski season in a row, there's no better time to rediscover (or discover anew) the best peaks for skiing in the United States — from the San Juan Mountains' jagged peaks to the glacial summits of the Northern Cascades.
Of course, travelers are often loyal to their favorite spots, and to that end, we’ve identified eight ski mountains in the U.S. that correspond to European winter hotspots across the Atlantic. Whether you prefer the Tyrolean Alps' family-friendly terrain in western Austria or the waist-high powder of Switzerland's Ursern Valley, we’ve got you covered with U.S. alternatives sure to satisfy even the most discerning winter travelers.
1. Zermatt, Switzerland > Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Grand Tetons near Jackson Hole, WY (Adobe Stock)
America’s Matterhorn can be found in Grand Teton National Park.
The jagged, snow-capped summit of Grand Teton looms over Jackson Hole in such a striking resemblance to southern Switzerland’s iconic mountaintop that it’s called “America’s Matterhorn.” But sweeping views and pyramidal peaks aren’t the only things Zermatt and Jackson have in common. Routinely named the best ski resorts in their respective countries, they each boast near-limitless back-country areas and off-piste opportunities abound for expert skiers in both destinations. Don't forget to read more about Jackson Hole in winter.
2. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France > Mt. Baker, Washington
Mount Baker, WA (Adobe Stock)
If it’s glacial terrain you’re after, Mt. Baker and Chamonix deliver the ice (and the danger).
Both feature expansive glacial terrain and vertiginous heights—Mt. Baker (‘The Ice King’) is the highest point in the North Cascades, while Mont Blanc is the tallest (most dangerous) summit in the Alps. Visitors to the latter can sign up for a 20-kilometer tour of the famed Vallée Blanche, a glacier just outside Chamonix, while adventurers stateside will find satisfaction exploring the dozen-plus active glaciers near Mt. Baker in northwest Washington.
3. St. Moritz, Switzerland > Aspen, Colorado
View from the top of Elk Camp chairlift in Aspen Snowmass (Adobe Stock)
St. Moritz is the ultimate ski-and-be-seen ski destination in the Engadin Valley, just as Aspen Snowmass is the Hamptons of the Rocky Mountains.
Colorado was first declared “the Switzerland of America” in 1969, and St. Moritz’s spiritual companion in the New World is undoubtedly Aspen Snowmass. Although both resorts boast a ‘ski and be seen’ atmosphere, with foreigners in furs arriving for the season, the glitz and glamor belie the unique cultural history of both destinations. And there’s a reason for both resorts’ popularity: The Engadin Valley and the Elk Mountains are simply breathtaking. If Aspen is like St. Moritz with its high-end restaurants and shops, Snowmass is the neighboring Pontresina—charming and favored by locals in the know (like Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn).
4. Bled Straza, Slovenia > Squaw Valley, California
Ski Resort in the Sierra Nevada (Adobe Stock)
Bled Straza and Squaw Valley both offer magnificent lakeside views — not to mention ample terrain for novices.
At first glance, this may seem like an unlikely fit: tiny Bled Straza matched with the 6,000-acre enormity of Squaw Valley in the Sierra Nevadas? Yet, although notably smaller, the striking Slovenian ski resort shares many similarities to the famed Squaw Valley resort in eastern California. The resorts are linked in their breathtaking natural beauty and scenic overlooks offering simply divine views of Lake Bled and Lake Tahoe, respectively. Additionally, the terrain is easily accessible for all levels of expertise. Though Squaw has a reputation for being an expert mountain, ¼ of the terrain is suitable for novices. Bled Straza is especially good for beginners and, though Squaw has a reputation for being an expert mountain, nearly ¼ of the terrain is suitable for novices.
5. Valgrisenche, Italy > Silverton, Colorado
Backcountry skiers hiking near Silverton, Colorado (Adobe Stock)
Valgrisenche and Silverton are hidden gems that offer spectacular heli-skiing opportunities.
Despite average snowfall exceeding daily visitors (400 inches, to be exact), Silverton — like Valgrisenche — remains decidedly under the radar. And that’s not the only similarity, as both resorts boast comprehensive heli-skiing operations. Valgrisenche offers a North American-style heli experience from its location on the Gran Paradiso, in the heart of the Aosta Valley. Similarly, Silverton is a dream for skiers who love to take to the sky before their first turns. Up, up and away, indeed.
6. Andermatt, Switzerland > Alta, Utah
Alta Ski Area, Utah (Adobe Stock)
If it’s fresh powder you’re looking for, then Alta and Andermatt are heavens on earth.
Located in a state known to have the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” Alta—and fellow Utah resort, Snowbird—are known as the “Powder Capitals of the World,” thanks to a unique microclimate influenced by nearby Salt Lake City. Which makes it the perfect selection for devotees of Andermatt, long considered one of the snowiest ski resorts not only in the country but throughout the entirety of the Alps. It, too, credits a unique microclimate—one with the powder-happy ability to catch storms coming through in any direction. (The 2,965m mountain known as Gemsstock, in particular, is eternally covered in snow.)
7. Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy > Big Sky, Montana
Big Sky Resort, Montana (Adobe Stock)
Both Cortina d’Ampezzo and Big Sky Resorts offer visitors three unique peaks to explore.
Though they’ve become exponentially popular over the years, both Cortina d’Ampezzo (the most famous ski resort in the Dolomites) and Big Sky (home of “America’s Biggest Skiing”) have managed to retain their chic, laid-back sensibilities and ambiance, deriving from their authenticity that can’t be faked. Additionally, both resorts feature three unique mountain ski areas: Faloria, Tofane, and Cinque Torri in Italy, and Lone, Andesite, and Spirit in Big Sky.
8. St. Anton, Austria > Breckenridge, Colorado
Ski Resort in Breckenridge, CO (Adobe Stock)
St. Anton and Breckenridge are historic, family-friendly resorts that are perfect for family travel.
The historic 19th-century mining town of Breckenridge boasts a variety of terrain and downtown diversions that makes the resort both family-friendly and nightlife-ready — a combination shared by St. Anton, in the Tyrolean Alps of Austria. Though the apres scene at Krazy Kanguruh (a slopeside ski hut where dancing on tables in snow boots is expected and encouraged) may remind travelers of Breckenridge’s neighbor to the east, (Aspen’s infamous party scene at Cloud 9, to be exact), the two resorts nevertheless share much in common. Both Breckenridge and St. Anton boast extensive skiing off-piste and above the tree-line, while still maintaining extensive terrain for beginners and intermediates as well. It’s this multifaceted appeal that earns each resort its year-round appeal both for families and groups of friends.