Most of us calculate Paid Time Off based on formulas that are less forgiving than a Lehman Brothers balance sheet. Those hours rarely add up to week-long ski vacations at our leisure. But parse them out just so and you can be taking long weekends whenever the heavens open up. We suggest squeezing in the most runs possible by choosing mountain resorts with bankable terrain and within close proximity to a transportation hub. These 10 ski areas are among the best in the U.S. — and they’re all less then 60 minutes from the regional airport.
Alta Ski Area (Alta, UT)
Located in the Wasatch Mountains just outside Salt Lake City, Alta gets an average of 560 inches of snowfall during the season on a mixture of trails that suit experts and novices alike. Visitors can stay at a ski-in/ski-out base lodge, rent a condo or vacation home or just crash in Salt Lake City and make the short drive in the morning. Snowboarders take note: Alta is one of the few remaining mountains in the U.S. that allows skiers only.
Alyeska Resort (Girdwood, AK)
A long haul for folks on the East Coast, sure, but weekend warriors in Seattle can get to Alyeska by plane in just three hours — and they’re rewarded with tons of powder, terrain that favors experienced skiers and limited crowds. Heli skiing and snowcat skiing are good possibilities, as is a local seafood cooked cajun style at nearby Double Musky Inn in downtown Girdwood.
Bridger Bowl Ski Area (Bozeman, MT)
What comes to mind when we think of many destination ski mountains are expensive lift tickets and high-budget accommodations. But Montana’s Bridger Bowl is a community-owned ski area where lift tickets go for $50 and the vibe is decidedly more laid back. Terrain ranges from novice at lower elevation to expert toward the top of the bowl and up along the ridge terrain. Likewise, all manner of accommodations are available, from budget hotels to beautiful homes on Airbnb or HomeAway.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (Teton Village, WY)
Grab a direct flight from one of 12 U.S. cities to Jackson Hole Airport in Grand Teton National Park and you’re just a half hour from some of the best skiing and snowboarding on the continent. Though it’s known for steep and deep, with more backcountry terrain than inbounds, Jackson Hole also caters to beginners and families with plenty of intermediate terrain, lessons and programs for kids. Make the most of a long weekend by catching a few extra hours of skiing under the lights at Snow King and then hitting the town’s famous après-ski scene.
Mount Bachelor Ski Resort (Bend, OR)
For skiers and snowboarders in Washington and Oregon, the most acreage around is at Mount Bachelor just outside Bend, which gets plenty of light, dry snow and has terrain for all ability levels. Since Bachelor is on and surrounded by National Forest, there’s no lodging in the immediate area — but nearby Bend is a destination for outdoor recreation, with plenty of lodging and dining options to support a three-day vacation.