Vail Resorts’ newest Midwest acquisition is also the closest to Chicagoland, just 65 miles north of the city, offering those with Epic Pass — good at all Vail Resorts — a daytrip option. Wilmot is undergoing $13 million in renovations — the most significant updates since the resort opened 79 years ago — and will be open this ski season. The resort offers 23 trails, two terrain parks and a 22-lane tubing hill. Improvements include three new chairlifts, increased snowmaking capacity, new kids’ ski and snowboard school facilities and a renovated base lodge. The Iron Kettle restaurant, now called Walt’s Tavern, has been entirely redesigned, and a new bar offers adults a place to enjoy an après-ski toast. Lift tickets start at $44; Wilmotmountain.com
Get your day started with mountaintop yoga at 11,212 feet ($5). Take the gondola up Aspen Mountain for spectacular views and, after shavasana, wiggle into your ski gear and hit the slopes. Beginners will thrive with the terrain-based learning program at Snowmass and Buttermilk mountains. Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort (lift tickets start at $32; Aspensnowmass.com) collaborates with different contemporary artists each year to design its lift tickets: This year, they feature colorful pop art by Ohio artist Laura Owens.
Take it easy one afternoon and visit several new exhibitions at the Aspen Art Museum (free; Aspenartmuseum.org), including Julian Schnabel’s plate paintings and Ceal Floyer’s playfully constructed scenes using mundane objects. The museum’s rooftop café is a great vantage point for watching skiers come down the mountain. Alternatively, relax in the steam caves, hot tubs and oxygen lounge at the grand Remède Spa at St. Regis Aspen (services start at $210; Stregisaspen.com) after a signature Rocky Mountain Ritual full-body treatment ($340-$465). The St. Regis also offers complimentary snowman making kits for kids.
Chow down on a meaty steak or vadouvan-roasted cauliflower at Aspen Kitchen or housemade charcuterie, cheese and shareable snacks at Meat & Cheese (Meatandcheeseaspen.com) after working up an appetite. The local liquor scene is strong too, so visit Woody Creek Distillers or Marble Distilling Co. in nearby Basalt and Carbondale to taste potato vodka, gin, rye whiskey and liqueurs.
Come February, Deer Valley ski resort (lift tickets start at $128; Deervalley.com) hosts the Freestyle World Cup mogul and aerial events for the 18th year, inspiring your inner daredevil on the slopes. Kids adore The Montage’s (rooms start at $625; Montagehotels.com/deervalley) canine ambassadors — Bernese Mountain dogs Parker and Monty greet guests in the lobby — and the ambitious can book Montage Expeditions (starting at $8,000), allowing them to jet to Moab in southern Utah for a biking excursion or hike Zion National Park.
A new “escape room” experience downtown is a great puzzle-solving challenge for groups, themed on Park City’s silver mining heritage ($40/person; Escaperoomparkcity.com). High West Distillery’s Saloon is an excellent ski-in/ski-out lunch destination, and for some mountain fine dining have a Nordic six-course meal in a Viking yurt ($130/person; Vikingyurt.com) or indulge at Deer Valley Resort’s The Mariposa. Don’t skip the housemade cheese and dessert — the blooming chocolate lotus and chocolate snowball are divine and you’ve earned the calories.
TIP: In 2017, Sundance Film Festival won’t coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so families won’t have to compete with celebs for reservations.
There are two great resorts here: Heavenly (lift tickets start around $80; Skiheavenly.com) and Northstar (lift tickets start around $83; Northstarcalifornia.com). The former has energetic, nonstop nightlife and great expert terrain, while the latter is known for its well-groomed intermediate terrain, and is great for casual skiers and beginners. There’s also a new Thai food truck located mid-mountain at Northstar, and a French fry cabana with craft brews to refuel hungry snow worshippers in the Village.
TIP: Epic Pass is also valid at Heavenly and Northstar, as both are Vail Resorts.
The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe (rooms start at $399; Ritzcarlton.com) balances family-friendly amenities with luxury that adults will fall in love with, too. After hitting the slopes, throw back oysters on the half shell and free-flowing Champagne at the Champagne Bar near the firepit in the hotel’s “backyard.” Take selfies in the adjacent Silver Green Gondola, originally constructed in France in 1986 and now retrofitted with LED lighting and a Bose sound system.
This is the largest skiable terrain in North America, with more than 200 marked trails and the longest season: Blackcomb Mountain stays open through May, with skiing into July on the Horstman Glacier.
Try baseboarding (Whistlersportlegacies.com) for a thrilling slide at Whistler Olympic Park — this new skeleton, bodyboarding and tobogganing hybrid requires no skills or experience. For advanced skiers, there’s no better place to try heli-skiing. Whistler Heli-Skiing (starting at $989; Whistlerheliskiing.com) is the most established outfitter, flying skiers to fresh untracked powder 50 times the size of Whistler Blackcomb ski resort since 1981.
You can’t beat the luxurious accommodations at boutique Nita Lake Lodge (rooms start around $195; Nitalakelodge.com) where you can snowshoe right outside. Warm up afterward with Swiss fondue and an organic spa treatment.