Ski-in, ski-out lodging at western resorts


by Annie Fast

Photo courtesy Timberline Lodge

It’s the quiet humming as the chairlift starts spinning, the soft crunching of snow underfoot, the first rays of sun sparkling across the freshly groomed runs and newly fallen snow. It’s the anticipation of those first turns down the mountain. Then, it’s the ease of walking right out of the hotel lobby to the slopes.

Staying in slopeside accommodations on a ski trip is the ultimate vacation maker and the difference between a logistical morning of coordinating transportation and shuttling gear, versus a peaceful start to a day. It pays off at days’ end as well when the choices are simplified to hitting the hot tub or enjoying a lively après ski libation and bite to eat. Staying at ski-in, ski-out lodging allows a visitor to fully experience a vacation destination, whether it’s scoring the first chair at Big Sky on a powder day, ending the day on the Yodler sundeck at Mammoth Mountain, or experiencing the wonder of full-moon night skiing at Timberline Lodge.

The following western ski resorts offer full immersion in the winter atmosphere while taking advantage of every moment during January and February’s shorter days. With slope-side accommodations and all the amenities, these snow sport destinations fit the bill and offer the bonus of being part of the Ikon Pass network.

Big Sky Resort, Montana

Photo Tom Cohen @tomcophoto for Big Sky Resort

It’s all big in Big Sky country—from the big mountains to the big skiing, to the big excitement over the resort’s brand new 75-person tram accessing the 11,166-foot summit of Lone Peak. Big Sky is arguably the most European-like ski destination in North America, with the enviable combination of incredible high-alpine descents with family-friendly terrain below. The resort boasts 300-plus trails spanning 38 lifts (many of them with heated seats and weatherproof bubbles), across 5,800 acres—in other words, it’s massive and has something for everyone. Big Sky is really three mountains in one, including the excellent intermediate terrain of Andesite Mountain, the steep big mountain descents of Lone Peak, and the endless trails of the southernmost Madison Base area.

The Mountain Village is the main hub, with multiple lifts ascending from there. Three distinct hotels and the Vista Hall dining space overlook the sundeck and village center. This winter, the resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary season with a “Year of the Après,” featuring lively weekend dance parties. Both recently renovated, The Summit Hotel and neighboring Huntley Lodge offer slopeside lodging, dining and heated outdoor pools. Big Sky offers plenty of evening experiences, including lift-accessed evening dining at Everett’s 8800 and guided headlamp skiing, which is an adventurous new take on night skiing.

Schweitzer, Idaho

Photo Tom Cohen @tomcophoto for Big Sky Resort

The biggest ski area in Idaho is getting a lot of attention lately, and it’s deserved. Schweitzer, just outside of Sandpoint, Idaho, offers nearly 3,000 acres of scenic, skiable terrain and a network of recently upgraded high-speed lifts which access groomers, gladed tree runs and wide-open bowls. The resort is undergoing a resurgence, with modern lodging and amenities added to its European-style village, boosting the resort’s appeal beyond skiing and boardriding. New to the resort is the modern 31-room Humbird boutique hotel situated among the existing lodging and village shops, and the Cambium Spa, with treatments designed to help guests expedite ski-day recovery and get back on the mountain.

The resort also added a new Creekside Express high-speed lift this season, improving access to the village from the base area below and offering guests an excellent first run of the day, right from their village accommodations. Mid-day dining at the Sky House summit lodge is a must for stunning views of Lake Pend Oreille and the surrounding mountains. Then, at day’s end, guests can head to the new Crow’s Bench for après ski cocktails or to Pucci’s Pub for a more casual “boots-on” atmosphere. Twilight skiing is also offered for turns under the lights on weekends and select holidays throughout the winter.

Timberline Lodge & Ski Area, Oregon

Photo Tom Cohen @tomcophoto for Big Sky Resort

Not many experiences can compete with a stay at the historic Timberline Lodge, tucked below the towering summit of Mount Hood. The lodge exterior is recognized as the set location for the chilling movie, The Shining, but its history goes back to 1937 when it was built as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal following the Great Depression. The three-level, 70-room lodge is positioned in the middle of the ski resort, with 1,685 acres of skiable terrain winding through the forested landscape below, and the Magic Mile chairlift accessing spectacular high-alpine runs above. Timberline is a nearly year-round ski resort, thanks to the 6,000-foot altitude and the glacial snow field above boasting some of the best terrain parks out west and notable for having 4,500 vertical feet of skiable runs.

Guests will be able to relax in the brand-new outdoor pool and hot tub, debuting this winter, or head inside for après at the Ram’s Head Bar before indulging in locally sourced fine dining in the Cascade dining room. The resort also offers night skiing on select weekends.

Mammoth Mountain, California

Photo Tom Cohen @tomcophoto for Big Sky Resort

Located in California’s Eastern Sierra range, Mammoth Mountain is paradoxically positioned to receive massive amounts of snow and plenty of sunshine. Last season was the snowiest winter on record with more than 700-inches falling at the Main Lodge and nearly 900 inches at the 11,053-foot summit. But it wasn’t all storm days—Mammoth is notable for having an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, which translates to an abundance of sunny powder days. The resort offers 3,500 skiable acres accessed by 25 lifts, with multiple base areas. Mammoth is also known for its terrain parks and halfpipes, which serve as the training grounds for freeski and snowboard Olympians, as well as family-friendly terrain (be on the lookout for the resort’s skiing mountain-mascot, Woolly the Mammoth). Experts can head to the summit for black diamond runs.

Visitors looking for nightlife and plenty of dining options may choose to stay at the Village Lodge or the Westin, both located right in the heart of the bustling village, within walking distance of the gondola, which offers direct access to the slopes. Mammoth Mountain Inn, a stand-alone hotel in the uppermost resort lot, is set to undergo a $4-million renovation this spring. This classic slopeside lodge is open this winter and is the best option for those looking to score first tracks at the resort and last call at the iconic Bavarian Yodler restaurant and bar. 

Annie Fast has made a living as a writer in the snowboard and ski industries, both as an editor at Transworld Snowboarding Magazine and as a freelancer covering everything from the Winter Olympics to winter sports and ski lodges.