Small Ski Towns To Avoid Tourists

These small but mighty mountain towns are the hidden gems of the ski world

Vail, Aspen, Jackson Hole, Killington, Park City: These are some of America's most highly regarded ski resort towns. But lately, they're more like lavish cities with luxury hotels, glitzy designer boutiques and celebrity-chef restaurants—plus the crowds that come along with them—than quaint mountain towns. That's all the more reason to visit these smaller villages with restaurants slinging made-from-scratch fare and family-owned inns snuggled in the shadows of highly skiable terrain. 

Waitsfield, Vermont

This Vermont village lies adjacent to two of the East Coast's best and most underrated ski mountains: Mad River Glen (the only skier-owned resort in the country) and Sugarbush. The town itself is filled with organic bakeries and artists' studios, and the down-to-earth New Englanders who frequent them. Grab a bite at Localfolk Smokehouse, where you can wash down the smoked-in-house barbecue with an IPA from Lawson's Finest, brewed just 10 miles away. Get wood-fired pizzas at American Flatbread or visit high-end, French-influenced Peasant.

Mad River Distillers is worth a visit for spirits like rum aged in maple barrels and whiskey  distilled from Vermont-grown heirloom corn. Spend the night in neighboring town Warren at the family-owned Pitcher Inn, a Relais & Châteaux property with a stellar restaurant that celebrates the area's stunning mountains and local bounty.   

Fraser, Colorado

Mountains are a dime a dozen in Colorado; affordable yet charming towns are harder to come across. Fraser is a humble town with character in the shadow of a premier ski area (Winter Park Resort, with 3,060 feet of vertical and 25 lifts). You can even take the train there—Amtrak has a small station right downtown. For post-ski eats hit up The Ditch on 40 for New Mexican food, Deno's Mountain Bistro for good steak and great aprés scene, or the winter-only Solstice Winter Bistro, open for just its second season.

Not big on skiing? Hit up the bowling alley/movie theater The Foundry Cinema & Bowl for double the fun, or browse the Elizabeth Kurtak Gallery in the historic Fraser Mercantile Building. Throw in a Colorado ranch experience with a stay at nearby Devil's Thumb Ranch.

Ketchum, Idaho

Sun Valley has more than 3,400 vertical feet, more than 2,000 acres of varied terrain and 18 lifts, making it one of the best places to ski the Rockies. Ketchum, the adjacent town, has a thriving art scene, an adorable ski museum and great ski town food. Trout is a way of life, and a good place to sample it is Bigwood Bar and Grill, which also features stunning views of Bald Mountain. Other great spots include Rickshaw, Enoteca, The Kneadery and, for a true cowboy experience, the Pioneer Saloon. Hit up The Sawtooth Club for a bit of Ernest Hemingway nostalgia: It was one of his haunts when he lived there at the end of his life (he's buried in the Ketchum Cemetery) and spent his days writing For Whom the Bell Tolls in suite 206 of Sun Valley Lodge. 

Bend, Oregon 

Mount Bachelor towers over Bend, the largest city in Central Oregon. With more breweries per capita than any other city in the state, beer aficionados can trek the Bend Ale Trail, and the food scene at this outdoorsy mecca is growing as well. Get breakfast from McKay Cottage and lunch at Jackson's Corner or Spork, a food-truck-turned-restaurant that serves dishes like Thai curry and gochujang-marinated short ribs. Zydeco Kitchen & Cocktails, Ariana and Joolz (for excellent Lebanese food) are all good options for dinner.

Truckee, California

This modest former logging town-turned-ski haven is just 13 miles north of Lake Tahoe, near Northstar, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows resorts. With a historic main drag lined with cafés serving gourmet coffee (Coffeebar), boutiques selling locally made goods (Bespoke, California 89) and a growing number of wine tasting rooms (The Pour House, Truckee River Winery), Truckee checks all the boxes. Breakfast at the Squeeze In is a must, as are meals at Cottonwood, Moody's Bistro, Bar & Beats (inside the 100-plus-year-old Truckee Hotel), Stella (in the more modern Cedar House Sport Hotel) and local favorite Burger Me.

Devorah Lev-Tov is a contributing writer for Tasting Table who travels the globe—and traverses NYC block by block—in search of her next amazing meal. See her latest adventures on her Instagram at @devoltv.