Every winter, Texans flock like migrating geese to higher elevations, where we strap on skis or snowboards and point ourselves down snow-slickened mountain slopes. So many of us hit the slopes at some resorts—three that come to mind are Wolf Creek Ski Area and Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado and Red River Ski Area in New Mexico—that these vacations can feel almost like home. You’re likely to sit next to a fellow Texan on a chairlift, sip a beer next to one when you belly up to the bar for some après-ski refreshment, or ease your aching quads next to one soaking in a hot tub like a dumpling in a pot.

Trying to decide where to cool your heels this winter or spring? Every destination has its own personality, and we’ve sifted through some of our favorites to help you choose one that matches your needs.

Crested Butte Ski Resort

Crested Butte, Colorado

Good for: Those who enjoy cozying up in a cafe just as much as playing in the snow; some of the most extreme lift-served terrain in the country. 

On Crested Butte’s main drag, Elk Avenue, visitors stroll among Victorian storefronts painted teal, purple, and pale blue. This old mining town, which once bustled with brothels and saloons, is still the real deal, not some slick, made-as-a-resort destination. Book a room at the homey Elk Mountain Lodge, which operated as a boardinghouse for miners working at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company a century ago, located on a quiet side street. For your morning cup of joe, stop by Camp 4 Coffee. Pass the fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and creamed corn at The Slogar Bar & Restaurant, then pop over to The Dogwood, housed in a dark and cozy log cabin, for handcrafted cocktails mixed with an eclectic array of ingredients including lavender, beets, and habanero.

That’s not to suggest that Crested Butte doesn’t offer excellent skiing. The mountain’s wide-open bowls, bumps, and steeps are perfect for adrenaline junkies. The town’s welcoming, democratic style extends to the slopes, which are open for free uphill access between 4:30 p.m. and 8:45 a.m. on designated routes. There’s nothing like skinning (a variation of skiing that involves sticking synthetic “skins” to the bottom of a pair of special skis and hiking up a mountain, then removing the strips and skiing back down) up a slope at sunrise, spotting a fox trotting through the woods, then swooshing down to the base before the lifts open. 

Red River Ski Area

Red River, New Mexico

Good for: Families with kids, road-trippers, anyone who loves small-town charm, and skiers on a budget.

Red River feels like Texas, only with snow. You can eat Texas-style barbecue at Shotgun Willie’s Cafe, listen to country-western music, and chat with fellow Texans on the chairlift. Heck, even the town’s mayor, Linda Calhoun, hails from Haskell, north of Abilene.

“Texans do love Red River,” Calhoun says. “I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are the closest mountains to the Panhandle of Texas and most of those people grew up coming here.” She also notes that the town often draws multigenerational groups and loyal travelers who’ve been coming back for years. “We see many return visitors that were brought here by grandparents and parents. It’s a magical place.”

The resort opened in 1959, and still feels small and friendly enough that you can cut your kids loose and round them up at the end of the day. You’ll ski on runs that wind through swathes of blue spruce and ponderosa pine. Afterward, drop by Red River Brewing Company, opened by the Calhoun family in 2018, where locals and tourists alike gather for beer, spirits, barbecue brisket, chicken, or ribs, and live music.

Six Great Spots for Texans to Ski
Powder skiing at Solitude.Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort

Solitude Mountain Resort

Solitude, Utah

Good for: Folks who don’t care about nightlife; anyone who wants a change from the Colorado scene.

You can hop a direct flight from Houston, Austin, or Dallas to Salt Lake City in the morning and settle onto a chairlift that very afternoon at Solitude, where the name of the place really does reflect the character of the resort. Nobody comes here for the bar scene; you can find all of that in nearby Park City. Fans of this resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon come for the quiet—and, possibly, the hot waffles that you can buy at Little Dollie Waffles in the Moonbeam base area. You can get them dusted with cinnamon, doused in chocolate sauce, or topped with strawberries.

As for the skiing, Solitude is one of the smaller resorts around Salt Lake City, but that’s another reason to appreciate it. About half of the runs are suited for beginner or intermediate skiers, and you’ll find untracked snow for days after each storm in the gladed runs below the oft-overlooked Sunrise Lift. Check the events calendar for interesting offerings, such as a free geology ski tour, led by a guide who will point out ancient rock formations.

Six Great Spots for Texans to Ski
Mount Werner at Steamboat Ski Resort.Courtesy of Steamboat Ski Resort

Steamboat Ski Resort

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Good for: Hot springs aficionados, cowboys, and those who prefer a little lower altitude.

The folks promoting Steamboat Ski Resort trademarked the term “champagne powder” to describe the dry, fluffy snow that falls at this resort in northern Colorado. You can’t make a decent snowball out of it, but it does make for dang fine skiing. Because the base sits at 6,900 feet above sea level, lower than many other Colorado resorts, it’s a good option if you’re affected by altitude sickness.

Texans will also appreciate the cowboy flair of the place. The resort hosts an annual event called the Cowboy Downhill, when pro rodeo cowboys and cowgirls compete in events like the dual slalom course, in which competitors soar over a jump, lasso a human, saddle a horse, and cross the finish line, and the Stampede, in which they storm down the hill, vying to be first to the bottom. Renovations are ongoing here, so look for a new ice-skating rink, improvements at Steamboat Square, and the new Wild Blue Gondola, which will eventually whisk skiers 3.16 miles to the top of Sunshine Peak in about thirteen minutes. (The gondola is open to mid-mountain now, but the second phase won’t open until next season.)

Squeeze in a twenty-minute drive to the hippy, dippy Strawberry Park Hot Springs, where you can dip a toe into a series of rock-lined soaking pools. Each pool varies in temperature, from “Wow that’s hot” to “Aaah, that eases my aching legs,” to “That’s downright chilly.” You also shouldn’t miss a visit to F.M. Light & Sons, which opened in 1905 and sells a selection of denim jeans, cowboy hats, and boots worthy of any good Texan.

Telluride Ski Resort

Telluride, Colorado

Good for: Adventurers and athletes. Expect expert terrain and a chill off-mountain vibe.

You won’t find a prettier setting than Telluride. The historic town is tucked at the end of a box canyon, so no matter which direction you look, you’ll see snow-capped peaks. Because of the city planners’ foresight, that old town retains much of the charming character it had back when it was a small mining town. But hop onto the free gondola for a twelve-minute ride to Mountain Village and you’ll find sleek, modern hotels, bars, and boutiques, and the ski mountain’s main base area. The ski runs are laid out in a basin, making the resort easy to navigate. 

Telluride is famous for extreme terrain where you can have a backcountry-like experience without heading out of bounds. “We’ve always been known as a steep, expert’s mountain,” says former town councilman Tom Watkinson, who grew up in Telluride and now promotes the destination as director of communications for the Telluride Tourism Board. “Telluride is something people aspire to ski because of its terrain.”

Despite the white-knuckle-inducing possibilities, all of the lifts—even the ones that whisk skiers to those black-diamond routes—also access a groomed intermediate or beginner run.

Once you’re done skiing, stroll down Colorado Avenue to soak it all in. At one end you’ll find the Ursa Ravus, a fifteen-foot sculpture of a friendly bear, and at the intersection of Pine Street, you can rummage for treasure in the form of pre-owned sports gear, clothing, and other castoffs at the Telluride Free Box. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” Watkinson says. “You never know what you’re going to find.”

Six Great Spots for Texans to Ski
Wolf Creek Ski Area.Courtesy of Wolf Creek Ski Area

Wolf Creek Ski Area

Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Good for: Anyone seeking solitude, ample powder, and an affordable, old-school vibe.

Want to wallow in snow? Wolf Creek Ski Area claims to receive more snow than any other resort in Colorado: a whopping 387 inches, on average, each year. During the 2019–20 season, an impressive 500 inches of the white stuff speckled the mountain, creating a poufy playground for giddy skiers.

“The way the mountains are channeled here and the Continental Divide, it just funnels moisture in,” says Mike Crandall, who divides his time between Colorado, where he directs the ski and snowboard school at Wolf Creek, and Texas, where he has run Crandall’s Ski & Wakeboard School at Medina Lake since 1989. (Crandall met his wife while working in the water-skiing show at SeaWorld San Antonio.)

“The snow’s the big thing to me. And it’s close to Texas,” he adds. “It’s a natural featured mountain, and the terrain is really, really good. We have a lot of gladed runs. You can go to other resorts, and they’ve got a lot of groomer runs, but we have fantastic tree runs.” Since the resort isn’t part of any ski pass program, it’s rarely crowded. Lift tickets are less expensive than at the big-name resorts, and you can buy a burger on the mountain for just $10. There are no slope-side accommodations, either. You’ll have to stay in either Pagosa Springs or South Fork, each about thirty minutes away.