Quinn Rates Ski Resorts


Quinn Palermo, Editor

The Midwest, objectively, is the worst place you could possibly be born if you’re an avid skier. The hills nearby are basically flat in comparison to the stuff a thousand miles away, and we rarely get enough snow to make it an enjoyable experience. However, the upside to this is that it basically costs the same for you to go just about anywhere in the U.S and ski, so when you have the chance to go you don’t have to settle for smaller mountain resorts and you can branch out to a bunch of different places if you want to. This silver lining has allowed me to try a bunch of different places across the U.S, and once it’s safe to travel again hopefully I’ll be able to try a bunch more. Rated from my least favorite to most favorite resorts, I lay out what I think about each resort and what they have to offer for your average Midwestern skier. 

KEYSTONE SKI RESORT – Keystone, Colorado 

Out of all of the places on this list, I would have to say that Keystone is the most family friendly. Generally, the resort is pretty walkable and has a great lesson program for the little ones. Not only that, but on the mountain the resort has plenty of fun little areas for kids to ski into and explore. They also offer a “Kids ski free” deal for those 12 and under, and have a good amount of greens and learner-friendly terrains towards the bottom of the mountain. They also offer a huge variety of more difficult terrain, and it’s laid out so that it’s hard for beginners to get caught up in an area that doesn’t offer any easy ski runs. I haven’t gone there recently, but this year I heard that the snow cover at Keystone was abysmal. 



Stowe is the only Eastern ski resort that I’ve been to, but for the most part I really enjoyed it. The facilities are really, really nice, and while Eastern ski resorts are definitely not known for getting huge powder dumps, at the time that I had gone there was a solid couple of inches on the ground. If you’re on the East coast and looking for somewhere to ski, Stowe is a great place to start. However, if you’re based in the Midwest I really don’t think it’s worth the trek all the way to the East coast just to ski. Also, from what I remember about the ski lesson facilities there it wasn’t amazing or anything; just mediocre. 


BRECKENRIDGE RESORT – Breckenridge, Colorado 

Breckenridge is one of those resorts that is active regardless of season- whether you go in the summer or winter, you’re guaranteed to have a good time. A vibrant nightlife and a huge variety of food options makes Breckenridge appealing for those who may prefer the apres ski life over staying on the slopes until lifts close. However, Breckenridge is also a huge resort with many terrain options for everyone to explore. It would almost be a waste to not ski while you’re there, even though there are so many options for ways to spend your time there. The only drawback to this resort is that it can get wildly expensive for lift tickets (if you don’t have the epic pass, that is) and everything in Breckenridge is just extremely pricey in general. Generally, I would recommend going to Breckenridge at least once just to experience the variety of stuff to do both in town and on-mountain. 


SNOWMASS RESORT – Aspen, Colorado 

Snowmass is a mountain with just about everything that you could want; amazing apres ski, a huge variety of terrain, and amazing views and food. The skiing is drop-dead gorgeous; the view of the bowl from the top of the ski lift is awe-inspiring, and the access to backcountry is unparalleled. Snowmass is a lot similar to Breckenridge in terms of the nightlife vibe, though I would say that Breckenridge feels slightly less pretentious. Depending on where you go, Aspen can feel like it’s a locals only sort of resort with amazing powder or it can feel like a bunch of insecure new money trying to flex on anyone that’ll watch. Snowmass is in pretty close proximity to Buttermilk, another resort that offers amazing terrain. It’s about a 20 minute bus ride and a bit less in a car, which can be somewhat annoying for some. The terrain park in Snowmass is also pretty sick! Generally, the vibes of Aspen and its surrounding resorts can be really weird but the party scene is pretty amazing, which can make up for it. Also, Aspen ski-in, ski-out access lodging can be SUPER expensive for otherwise very mediocre facilities. Overall, Snowmass is probably a less family-friendly version of Breckenridge, and the people there tend to be a little weirder. However, Snowmass also gets dumped on pretty regularly and the people that are actually skiing on the mountain tend to be really, really cool. 


JACKSON HOLE RESORT – Jackson Hole, Wyoming 

There’s nothing that I can say about this resort that would really be able to do it justice. The skiing is all that you want it to be, and more— breathtaking views when taking the gondola up, and amazing powder that rivals anything in the U.S. They regularly get dumped on with storms that drop upwards of 2 feet of snow, and their terrain is really exciting. Even on opening day there were barely any early-season conditions present, and while the mountain is definitely much steeper overall in comparison to some other Western resorts it was still super fun to ski. Their back-country access is unparalleled, and their advanced skiing is truly the best of the best. However, their lesson prices are extremely expensive, so I really wouldn’t recommend it as a learning mountain. It’s definitely somewhere you should go if you’ve had a decent amount of experience on a variety of terrain if you want to make the most of your trip. While their skiing is amazing, the distance from the resort to actual down-town Jackson Hole is somewhat substantial. Also, the food in general there sucks, and is super expensive due to it being so secluded. I don’t know if it’s just the restaurants that we went to while there or what, but basically all the food that we had while we were there was mediocre at best and just unfinishable at the worst. Like, you would think that their barbecue would be really good since the vibe in town is about as western as you can get, right? Despite this, it just wasn’t that good, especially in comparison to local Chicago barbecue and barbecue at other ski towns in Colorado. 

While the food is mediocre and the apres ski isn’t anything special, the actual transportation to Jackson Hole really isn’t that bad in comparison to other resorts. The airport you fly into is small and streamlined, so it feels like a breeze to get through in comparison to airports like Denver International. The drive from the airport is also a little less than 30 minutes, which is much less than the 3 hours it takes to get from Denver International to any ski-able terrain. The ease of transport combined with the heavenly skiing makes it one of my favorite resorts that I’ve ever been to. However, I really wish that the food was better. 


STEAMBOAT SKI RESORT- Steamboat, Colorado

Out of all the resorts I’ve been to, Steamboat is by far my favorite. In comparison to some other resorts, Steamboat can be really hard to get to unless you fly directly into the resort. However, it can work out to be cheaper for a family to just fly into Denver international airport and just rent a car, so it ends up being your call for whatever you prefer. Steamboat has several great, free shuttle services sponsored by various hotels/resorts in the area, so even if you end up flying direct and not renting a car you can rest assured that you won’t have any trouble getting around.

 The vibe of steamboat is really laid back and family friendly, but the party scene and nightlife is always popping off as well. The locals are friendly, and your fellow tourists are always down to chat in lift lines. The actual skiing is amazing, too. The mountain is laid out really well, making traversing across the face of it super easy, and the sheer amount of different runs you can take down the mountain can almost be overwhelming. In most years, Steamboat receives HUGE amounts of powder as well- it can feel like you’re wading through it in some areas. Regardless of ski ability, you can find something to do on the mountain. Their mogul runs are excellent, and their tree runs are some of the best in North America. Also, the food on-mountain is weirdly good? I’m pretty used to the normal hamburgers and fries type of fare that’s common once you’re on-mountain, but Steamboat has surprisingly good asian food and fun, kinda kitschy restaurants spread out across the mountain. If you find yourself at thunderhead lodge, I highly recommend their pho and kimchi grilled cheese. 

In the actual downtown Steamboat, the food scene is divine. You really cannot go wrong with any restaurant that you pick there, and there is a restaurant for every budget. If you end up celebrating a special occasion while you’re there, I recommend E3 Steakhouse; while pricy, their menu is absurdly good and rivals a lot of finer dining in Chicago. Truffle Pig in the downtown resort area of steamboat is also amazing, with delicious seasonal salads and entrees. 

Steamboat’s lesson program is also one of the best in North America, in my opinion. It’s relatively inexpensive in comparison to some resorts like Jackson Hole, and my lessons there were some of the best of my life. Really incredible instruction, and fantastic people. 

Obviously this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the ski resorts in the U.S or anything. There is a lot I missed, and the general vibe and conditions of any one resort vary throughout the season. Despite this, I can say with confidence that I covered what stood out to me at each resort and that I think you can’t disagree with my findings if you were to go- and if you do disagree, let me know in the comments what you think about any one resort! I’d love to hear alternate perspectives for places that may have changed since I’ve been there.