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Helpful Tips for Navigating the 2020–21 U.S. Ski Season for Skiers of All Levels

December 29, 2020

Ski season is here, and like everything else, it has taken on a new look due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Gone are many of the traditional après-ski activities, like gathering for drinks in a busy ski bar, relaxing indoors by a massive lodge fireplace, or crowding onto a rooftop deck to watch the sun set. On-mountain dining, which plays a big part in the destination skiing experience, is closed at numerous locations.

 

But don’t let that discourage you from getting out and enjoying a stripped-down trip down the slopes. Many mountains and resorts are open with new safety protocols in place. And skiing is a sport well-suited for social distancing, which is why several experts are predicting a winter ski boom to match this summer’s golf explosion.

 

To manage the expected crowds, some ski resorts are implementing reservation systems for the 2020–21 season. That means you will have to check availability well in advance.

 

If your preferred dates are already sold out, here’s an insider tip: book a private lesson with a ski instructor. That way, you’ll be able to spend the morning learning new skills, and then you can ski the mountain on your preferred day even if no reservations are available.

 

To further help you plan, we’ve compiled the top U.S. ski destinations to seek out this winter, no matter your skill level or location.

 

Best Ski Destination for Families with Children (U.S.)

 

Keystone Resort

Keystone, Colorado

For years, families have brought young children to Keystone Resort to take part in its signature Kidtopia programming, which features the world’s largest snow fort built atop Dercum Mountain. Kidtopia and the snow fort will not be open during the 2020–21 season in an effort to limit group gatherings, but many other socially distanced family activities will take place as usual. These include the popular Ski & Ride School for kids, scenic sleigh rides, mountaintop snow tubing and ice skating on Keystone’s massive five-acre outdoor skating rink. Keystone is operating a reservation system that applies to all skiers, including Epic Pass holders, so be sure to secure a reservation before you go.

Nearest airport: Eagle County Regional Airport, Gypsum, Colorado (EGE)

Travel time from Teterboro: 4 hours, 45 minutes

Travel time from West Palm Beach: 4 hours, 45 minutes

Travel time from Van Nuys: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Ideal aircraft: When traveling with the whole family plus skis and luggage, a large cabin aircraft like Flexjet’s Gulfstream G450 (with seating for up to 16) is ideal.

 

Best Ski Destination for Beginners (U.S.)

 

Steamboat Ski Resort

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Steamboat’s dedicated adult learning area provides a kid-free zone for beginner skiers to build confidence. It features three distinct terrains with a 7–10 percent grade, which is considered ideal for beginners to start their learning progression. In addition, the Steamboat SnowSports School is known for having some of the best instructors in North America. Equipment rental shops are open for the 2020–21 season, but advance purchases are required. Steamboat is part of the Icon Pass program, and advance lift reservations are not required for Ikon Pass members.

Nearest airport: Yampa Valley Airport, Hayden, Colorado (HDN)

Travel time from Teterboro: 4 hours, 40 minutes

Travel time from West Palm Beach: 4 hours, 45 minutes

Travel time from Van Nuys: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Ideal aircraft: Yampa Valley Airport is large enough to handle regular commercial airliner traffic, so an ultra-long range, large cabin aircraft like Flexjet’s Gulfstream G650 is a good choice for travelers wanting to arrive relaxed and ready to hit the slopes.

 

Best Ski Destination for Experts (U.S.)

 

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Olympic Valley, California

Squaw Valley, host of the 1960 Winter Olympics, is full of ridgelines, cliffs and challenging terrain suitable for only the most advanced skiers. And you’ll have to bring your A-game, because unlike the hidden challenges at most other resorts, “Squallywood’s” extreme runs are in plain sight for everyone on the mountain to see. While skiing and snowboarding operations are open for the 2020–21 season, The Village at Squaw Valley Lodging remains closed until January 1, 2021, due to California’s state-mandated “Stay Home” order. Like at Steamboat, Ikon Pass members are not required to make advance lift reservations at Squaw Valley.

Nearest airport: Truckee Tahoe Airport, Truckee, California (TRK)

Travel time from Teterboro: 6 hours, 5 minutes

Travel time from West Palm Beach: 6 hours, 25 minutes

Travel time from Van Nuys: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Ideal aircraft: Truckee Tahoe Airport’s longest runway is only 7,000 feet, making a light or midsize aircraft like Flexjet’s Phenom 300 or its new Praetor 500, both by Embraer, an ideal choice.

 

Photo Courtesy of Keystone Resorts /Daniel Milchev