Nothing says “winter” quite like bundling up in all your favorite gear to hit the slopes. But this year, we’re hoping to help you do something a little different. We want to help you discover an underrated mountain that deserves a little more love.
There’s excellent skiing all over North America, but enviable runs often come with less-enviable crowds. Thankfully, plenty of lesser-known mountains throughout the United States and Canada offer top-notch skiing and snowboarding complemented by unique experiences and a locals-only feel.
Head to Alaska to tackle the longest continuous double-black diamond run in North America, or take in views of the ocean from the slopes in Maine. Take advantage of a free snowcat experience in Colorado, or spend the night in an RV before attacking runs in Washington state.
These are 10 North American mountains you’ve probably never heard of but definitely should know about for the upcoming ski season.
Mad River Glen, Vermont
Find it: 57 Schuss Pass Road, Waitsfield, VT
Top elevation: 3,637 feet
This East Coast mountain gem is steeped in history. It opened its doors in 1948 with a charming single chair lift that still exists today. But, the charm doesn’t stop there. The mountain is also part of a co-op founded in 1995, making it one of America’s few cooperatively-owned ski areas, and is one of the few skier-only mountains left.
Mad River Glen has plenty of skiing for beginners with 20% of trails set aside for novice skiers and features 800 acres of tree skiing access. And the mountain is even unique when it comes to the snow itself. Its bylaws explicitly restrict snowmaking above 2,300 feet, resulting in some of the only natural snow skiing in New England.
Le Massif de Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada
Find it: 1350 Principale St., Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, Quebec, Canada
Top elevation: 2,645 feet
Le Massif de Charlevoix, located about an hour from Quebec City, boasts the highest vertical drop east of the Canadian Rockies and has more than 400 acres of skiable terrain. This fantastic mountain won’t stay a hidden gem for long. It’s about to hit the limelight due to Club Med, which is opening its first all-inclusive ski resort in North America at the mountain in December.
Those who head to the Canadian resort can hit the slopes while looking out over the St. Lawrence River as they ski more than 50 different trails (including a more than 3-mile-long run). While 70% of the ski area is groomed, the mountain also has more than 9 miles of skiable and rideable backcountry and off-piste terrain to appeal to all levels.
Camden Snow Bowl, Maine
Find it: 20 Barnestown Road, Camden, ME
Top elevation: 1,070 feet
This mountain located in coastal Maine is small but mighty with 15 trails that service mainly intermediate skiers and snowboarders, including the one-mile-long Spinnaker, which starts as a blue and turns into a green. But the crowning jewel of this mountain is its backdrop, as it’s the only ski area on the East Coast to boast ocean views.
Beyond skiing itself, winter enthusiasts who head to the Camden Snow Bowl can get a thrill with the mountain’s 400-foot-long wooden toboggan chute (the only remaining original, gravity-operated one in the country), where riders are shot out onto a frozen pond.
Crystal Mountain, Washington
Find it: 33914 Crystal Mountain Blvd., Enumclaw, WA
Top elevation: 6,872 feet
Crystal Mountain may be the largest ski resort in Washington state, but it’s also one of the most underrated in the country. It features incredible views of Mt. Rainier, 2,600 total acres, and an average of more than 480 inches of snowfall each year. And the fun extends beyond the slopes with the B-lot winter RV parking, a great scene complete with gorgeous views of the mountain, all within walking distance to the lifts.
Those who prefer the lodge over the slopes can still take in the views with a scenic ride on the Mt. Rainier Gondola, which takes passengers up 2,400 vertical feet to the summit over about 12 minutes.
Brian Head Resort, Utah
Find it: 329 South Highway 143, Brian Head, UT
Top elevation: 10,970 feet
This resort is lesser-known than Utah’s other major ski mountains, but it comes with more than its fair share of unique attributes, including the fact that it boasts the highest base in the state. And as a bonus, it’s the only ski and snowboard mountain where you’ll see snow-dusted red rock formations. The resort is actually two different mountains — Giant Steps and Navajo — that connect to form 71 runs. Difficulty is very evenly spread among the trails, with 30% of runs considered easy, 35% intermediate, and 35% considered expert terrain only.
Those who prefer snow tubing will find a 100-foot vertical drop and a 600-foot-long slope at the Giant Steps Tube Hill.
Marmot Basin, Alberta, Canada
Find it: 1 Marmot Road, Jasper, Alberta, Canada
Top elevation: 8,570 feet
This mountain sits in Jasper National Park, part of the UNESCO Canadian Rockies world heritage site and one of the most breathtakingly beautiful spots in North America. An abundance of dry, natural snow makes skiing and snowboarding feel like gliding on air, and with the longest run coming in at 3.5 miles, you can coast along while admiring the view. The mountain also features diverse terrain with 30% of runs for beginners, 30% for intermediate, 20% for advanced, and 20% for experts.
Marmot Basin is also working to reduce its carbon footprint with several initiatives, including organizing group transportation for guests and staff, using timers to turn off lights and equipment like boot dryers to conserve electricity, and distributing snow to protect vegetation during grooming.
Loveland Ski Area, Colorado
Find it: I-70, Exit 216, Dillon, CO
Top elevation: 13,010 feet
There are many mountains with great slopes, but at Loveland Ski Area, adventurous skiers and snowboarders can go one step further. Hop aboard the Ridge Cat, a free 18-passenger snowcat that will take you to unparalleled runs and views along the Continental Divide. Anyone with a season pass or lift ticket can pick up a Ridge Cat Pass free of charge. The runs here aren’t for the faint of heart and can only be accessed by the snowcat (or by foot).
For those less advanced, the mountain has the Loveland Valley, a separate area specifically for beginners with its own lifts and easier terrain.
Lutsen Mountains, Minnesota
Find it: 467 Ski Hill Road, Lutsen, MN
Top elevation: 1,088 feet
The Midwest may not be known for its skiing, but skiers and snowboarders should know about Lutsen Mountains, which offers stunning views, access to tree skiing, and massive terrain. The resort has four interconnected mountains and features 95 different runs set over 1,000 acres and 60 acres of tree skiing. On top of that, visitors will be awed by the gorgeous views of Lake Superior — and the more than 120 inches of lake effect snow is just a bonus.
Those looking to get out and explore can also hit up the more than 270 miles of cross-country trails (the area is home to the largest cross-country trail network in North America) or the 450 miles of snowmobile trails.
Alyeska Resort, Alaska
Find it: 1000 Arlberg Ave., Girdwood, AK
Top elevation: 3,939 feet
This Alaskan resort, which gets more than 660 inches of annual snowfall, boasts some of the most incredible scenery anywhere on earth, with both glacier and ocean views. Experts will love heading down North America’s longest continuous double-black diamond run or challenging themselves with the available heli-skiing and cat-skiing.
In the evening, go hunting for the Northern Lights as they dance across the sky or try to spot them while out night skiing. Or, take a break from the slopes and hop aboard the winter aerial tram for a scenic ride to the top of Mt. Alyeska.
Whitefish Mountain Resort, Montana
Find it: 1015 Glades Drive, Whitefish, MT
Top elevation: 6,817 feet
Whitefish Mountain Resort is nicknamed the “Big Mountain,” and it’s not hard to see why with 3,000 acres available for skiing and snowboarding, 111 marked trails, as well as plentiful bowl and tree skiing. Those new to the mountain can sign up for one of the free daily mountain tours to learn all about the terrain. Or, guests can take advantage of a late-day storm with night skiing.
After time on the slopes, take a break and head to nearby Glacier National Park, or check out the Summit Nature Center, where kids can sign up to be a Junior Snow Ranger to learn about where animals go in the winter, snow safety, and more.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.