A Utah ski area without lodging ranks among the best destination resorts in the U.S.

PeakRankings.com listed Alta as the best place to ski in the United States, followed by Snowbird at No. 3 and Snowbasin at No. 6. Deer Valley doesn’t even crack the top 20.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A skier make turns at Alta Ski Area on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. Alta was named the top ski destination in the United States and second-best in North America according to PeakRanking.com, which began independently evaluating them in 2019.

Alta Ski Area is almost as good as it gets for destination skiers during the 2023-24 season. Snowbird is a close second and Snowbasin a not-too-distant contender.

So says PeakRankings.com, a website that has been independently ranking and reviewing ski resorts since 2019. The site listed Alta as the best place to ski in the United States, followed by Snowbird at No. 3 and Snowbasin at No. 6.

Sam Weintraub, the founder of Peak Rankings and its “Ranker-in-Chief,” said he or a member of his staff has visited each of the ranked resorts. They determine the pecking order by looking at factors he believes matter to destination skiers such as snow quality and consistency, terrain quality and diversity, ease of navigation and “mountain vibe.”

He took only two issues with Alta: Its lack of affordable lodging and its ban on snowboarders. Snowbird also got dinged for having limited on-site lodging and for limited beginner terrain.

“Ultimately, it’s just the elevation, for Alta that it faces entirely north, and then just the fact that [they have] such an insane consistency (of snow quality),” Weintraub said. “Those things alone, I would say, justify Alta and Snowbird being near the top. But what sets Alta and Snowbird apart from Brighton and Solitude, which also see really incredible snow, is the terrain. They’re just really large, ample mountains. And especially if you’re advanced or expert, both resorts have just world-class steeps.”

Among North American resorts, Alta and Snowbird ranked second and fourth, respectively. Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada, took the crown for “delivering one of the most well-rounded experiences we’ve seen anywhere.” Jackson Hole in Wyoming, meanwhile, filled the gap between the Little Cottonwood Canyon resorts.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Early powder enthusiasts ski at Snowbasin Resort, Nov. 21, 2022.

Snowbasin landed in the top 10 on both lists — it came in at No. 8 in North America — despite not offering any nearby lodging for out-of-town skiers and riders. Weintraub said that’s because it’s less crowded than many other resorts its size and does everything well. Plus, the quality of Earl’s Lodge, both inside the bathrooms and out, can’t be overstated.

“It’s basically the best lodge setup of any resort we’ve ever seen,” Weintraub said. “Those lodges will literally make you feel like royalty.”

Deer Valley’s ability to make visitors feel like royalty often vaults that Park City resort to the top of the rankings in Ski Magazine’s readers’ polls. That poll, which comes out each October, has singled out Deer Valley as being among the top five ski areas in Western North America for at least the past three years. According to Peak Rankings, however, Deer Valley comes in 28th, one spot below neighboring Park City Mountain.

The knocks against it, according to the website, include a lack of diverse terrain compared to other Utah resorts, expensive ticket prices and its ban on snowboards.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lift lines were not a problem as skiers braved the high winds at Deer Valley, on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.

In total, 10 of Utah’s 15 public resorts were ranked. Here is where the others landed in the North American standings: No. 32 Powder Mountain, No. 33 Solitude, No. 34 Brighton, No. 47 Sundance and No. 48 Brian Head.

The list is by no means exhaustive, though. It includes just 81 resorts despite the National Ski Area Association reporting nearly 500 in operation just in the United States as of 2021-22. It’s also not infallible, Weintraub admitted.

“To be fully honest, I don’t think the rankings are perfect today,” he said. “Like, they’re the best we can do, but there definitely is always room for improvement.”

Best Peaks in North America

As rated by PeakRankings.com

1. Whistler Blackcomb (Canada)

2. Alta (Utah)

3. Jackson Hole (Wyoming)

4. Snowbird (Utah)

5. Banff Sunshine Village (Canada)

6. Vail (Colorado)

7. Snowmass (Colorado)

8. Snowbasin (Utah)

9. Beaver Creek (Colorado)

10. Telluride (Colorado)


27. Park City

28. Deer Valley

32. Powder Mountain

33. Solitude

34. Brighton

47. Sundance

49. Brian Head

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.