Spring Break doesn’t have to be about the beach. Nowhere can you complement the parties and late nights of a proper spring break with outdoor adventure and even a bit of exercise like you can in a ski town. These five skiing and snowboarding areas offer ample opportunity for the whole shebang. You should still bring your swimsuit, though, because the hot tub has your name written all over it.
1. Heavenly — Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe has been pounded with snow this winter, including 247 inches — more than 20 feet — at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows this February. Skiing over spring break is all about finding that perfect mix between partying and skiing, and nowhere does that better than Tahoe, even if dipping your skis into chest-deep powder sounds like more effort than it’s worth. Make South Lake Tahoe your host town as its proximity to the Nevada state line means casinos and 24-hour booze and makes it the hub of all things party in the area. If you blow your hand in the casino and decide to stick to the more regulated side of the border, stop into Whiskey Dick’s for live music or do what ski bums the world over have done for decades — rent an absurdly large party house in the Al Tahoe neighborhood and stock the minibar with a quick run to BevMo.
In the morning, head out to the Heavenly Ski Resort gondola — a stone’s throw from Harrah’s casino — and snap a selfie of yourself skiing in two states at once. You can see for miles in every direction from the top of the Sky Express Lift before dropping into the Ski Ways Glades for your fill of all that snow that’s fallen this winter. The cruisers off Dipper Express are among the best in California and offer easy access to gladed terrain and lifts that cover a majority of the mountain. This is a great spot to head for first-time visitors to the resort, where the only worry you’ll have is keeping your focus as the views of the lake as you cruise a groomer down to the base are nothing short of jaw-dropping.
2. Loon Mountain — Lincoln, New Hampshire
Loon Mountain is New England skiing at its finest — fast groomers, open tree fields, and a gondola ride that’s just long enough to warm up your fingertips. For a challenging morning session, park at the base of South Peak and do a few laps on Ripsaw, Undercut, and both Upper and Lower Twitcher. For a mellower experience, take the gondola and stick to the blues of Loon Peak.
The resort is also an easy drive from Boston, making it a hotspot for university students craving a few days away from the urban chaos. Stay in North Woodstock or Lincoln, both with ample lodging options and nightlife scenes that liven up nicely when the college crowd comes to town, though deals at lodging properties nearer to the resort can be found as well. The on-mountain scene happens at Babe’s Blue Ox Lounge and the Paul Bunyon Room, and afterwards many make the move down to the Woodstock Inn Brewery.
3. Steamboat — Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Steamboat is the type of place where you can have your powder cake and ski it too. The town is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the resorts on Colorado’s I-70 corridor, but the resort is massive, chock-full of the high-speed lifts and world-class terrain you rightfully expect when paying for a trip to Ski Country USA. Wake up early and head directly to the Morningside lift where on sunny days the east-facing powder is warmed to Steamboat’s famous fluffy and soft state just in time for first chair. Local tip: Save a bit of your bagel, as you can likely use it to lure a bird to your shoulder as you ride up the lift.
Once you’ve carved plenty of turns, two prime choices await you for apres action. The first is the patio at Slopeside Bar and Grill, located on-mountain at Ski Time Square. Here you can sample craft beer and likely catch live music happening inside, though the place does tend to fill up — so don’t wait until the lifts close to make your appearance. The Gondola Pub and Grill at the base of the mountain serves the best Bloody Marys in town. Or, hop on the free bus towards downtown and hit one of the joints on Lincoln Avenue. Late-night action in Steamboat tends to center around Schmiggity’s, particularly if there’s a good band in town, or a couple blocks down at Sunpie’s on Yampa Avenue.
4. Mount Baker — Deming, Washington
Mammoth Mountain used to be the hub of the West Coast snowboard scene. In recent years, the party has moved north to Mt. Baker, thanks to iconic events like the annual Legendary Banked Slalom and an independent spirit that appeals to riders and skiers wanting an experience free of corporate prices and whitewashed offerings. If riding hard is your priority, Mt. Baker is the place to be. The terrain is challenging and generally covered in fresh snowfall, and the mountain is far enough from any major urban hub — Seattle is over three hours away, Vancouver is two and a half — that the groomer crowds don’t tend to make the journey.
A variety of lodging options including B&Bs, lodge-style hotels, and short-term rentals are available about 20-30 minutes down Highway 542, though there are a few options closer to the mountain. The Tap Room in the Heather Meadows Day Lodge is your spot for a drink at the mountain. Deming is about an hour away, where the North Fork Brewery is worth a stop. It’s a brewpub, restaurant, and oddly compelling shrine to who knows what, probably beer, that is sure to look good on your Instagram feed. Bellingham is about 90 minutes away and home to much of the area’s best nightlife and restaurants. There you’ll find the local ski bums, tucked into barstools at The Local Public House plotting their lines for the next day. If you want to know where the powder lies, buy a round and pop a squat.
5. Arizona Snowbowl — Flagstaff, Arizona
Spring break and Arizona are a match made in heaven, partly because of the state’s preference for massive party schools but also because there’s no ocean nearby to drown in once the keg is cashed. The scene up in Flagstaff, however, is far different than what you’ll find in Tempe or Lake Havasu. The city of about 75,000 is home to Northern Arizona University and offers incredible access to both mountain and desert-based outdoor activities. Plus, the town boasts a great nightlife and chill vibes and is fewer than 30 minutes from Arizona Snowbowl. The resort has had a solid winter and brings a 50-inch base depth into March following more than two feet of snow in February. Mellow cruisers and trails toeing the line between blue and black diamond are aplenty here, though the challenging Upper Bowl is there for the taking if you’re up for a good hike. In honor of its spring break legacy, the Snowbowl is peddling $29 lift tickets in March.
Excellent Mexican food abounds, and the chilaquiles at Martanne’s are a must-do. Nights out in Flagstaff tend to cap at the Uptown Pubhouse after live music at The Green Room or cocktails at the Southside Tavern. Be sure to stop by The Museum Club while in town to get your line dance on. Mix that with the skiing and an easy drive to Grand Canyon National Park and your trip is already planned out.