Top 10 North American Ski Resorts

Note that the resort's centerpiece Aerial Tram, while able to whisk up to 129 riders to the top in eight minutes, can get crowded, especially first thing in the morning. However, things quickly open across other sections of the mountain, which is efficiently served by ten other chairlifts. Unlike busier East Coast resorts, or the oft-maligned Euro ski experience, you'll never feel crowded out when skiing in Utah.

As if Snowbird's embarrassment of riches weren't enough, the resort offers access through its Mount Baldy shoulder to neighboring Alta and a jumbo 4,700 combined acres of world-class skiing (remember, Alta is off-limits to 'boarders). That's one helluva lot of skiing and may just require you postpone your flight home -- time to get in a day's bonus runs and still be home for dinner.

With the living so good on the slopes, it'll come as no surprise that things are equally stellar off piste. Accommodations at Snowbird include the ultra-luxe Cliff Lodge & Spa ($229 to $389 for standard mid-season rates), which boasts slopeside convenience, restaurants and bars, and a rooftop spa and Jacuzzi in which to soak away the aches of a hard day's skiing. On the slightly less swanky side, try the Inn at Snowbird for cheaper condo-style lodging. Meanwhile, Salt Lake City is packed with all manner of accommodations, from budget hostels to five-star pleasure palaces -- either way, decamping to the city by night is no big hardship given that the Bird is only 30 miles up the road, a negligible distance unless you get blessed with a double-digit dump. And if that happens, you'll definitely want to stick close to the mountain base....

SNOWMASS (ASPEN) SKI RESORT, COLORADO

By Claire Walter

Price: $$$ Number of Runs: 88 Number of Lifts: 22 Terrain: 06% beginner, 50% intermediate, 12% advanced, 32% expert Skiable Acreage: 3,128 Vertical Rise: 4,406 feet Season: Late November to April Annual Snowfall: 300 inches Web Site: http://www.aspensnowmass.com/

As a ski area, Snowmass is the giant among the four Aspen options -- and one of Colorado's biggest as well, with the nation's second-greatest vertical. It is huge, sprawling over a complex landscape of peaks, ridges, gullies, and open slopes that offer the greatest range of terrain, from the gentle precincts of Fanny Hill to the broad cruising expanse of the Big Burn to a wide variety of steeps. Innovative programs and on-slope facilities abound. As a resort, Snowmass offers a congenial slopeside village and some of the best accommodations for families. It's subdued compared with nearby Aspen, but the action is just a bus ride away.

Where: 12 miles from Aspen, off Colorado 82.

What's There: 4,406-foot vertical drop, 87 trails, 3,100 acres, seven high-speed quads, two triples, six doubles, six surface lifts, three snowboard parks, speed skiing, and race arenas.

SQUAW VALLEY SKI RESORT, CALIFORNIA

By Peter Oliver

Price: $$ Number of Runs: 177 Number of Lifts: 34 Terrain: 25% beginner, 45% intermediate, 30% advanced Skiable Acreage: 4,000 Vertical Rise: 2,850 feet Season: Mid-November to Memorial Day Annual Snowfall: 450 inches Web Site: http://www.squaw.com/

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