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A White Christmas and skiing go hand in hand, right? If you’re dreaming of a picture-perfect Christmas, there’s no better place to get that than in a ski town.
Imagine snow falling, small-town mountain charm, and lots of time connecting with the people who are the most important to you.
Make sure to also read How To Plan the PERFECT Family Ski Trip!
Small Ski Town Charm
All of the best Christmas ski resorts have a HUGE amount of mountain town charm. Imagine a perfectly walkable downtown area, cute little shops, delicious cafes, and of course, warmly lit street lamps with snow lightly falling all around. It’s magical. Every destination that we’re sharing has a charming small town feel or a fantastic ski village area.
Plan some Non-Ski Days at Christmas
I know that you’re planning a Christmas ski trip, but make sure that you leave PLENTY of time to do other things. Basically, everyone else wants to do ALL THE SKIING, which leaves other winter activities more open and less crowded. Plan on GIFTING some of these activities as Christmas gifts to make them extra special. Since ski crowds and lift lines can get crazy long at Christmas, plan on skiing only half of your trip and doing other activities during the rest of your stay.
Here are our top Christmas Activities BESIDES skiing:
Go Dog Sledding: This is our number one recommendation because it’s so unique AND so fun. We love dog sledding with our family, and it’s always been more of a highlight than skiing. TIP: If you’re going with kids, call ahead to make sure that the excursion you pick is well suited for the whole family. Some outfitters have special tours that cater to children.
Ice Skating: In most of these Christmas ski towns, you’ll find an outdoor ice skating rink. It’s the perfect activity to do with your family or friends. TIP: If you’re not skiing, the least crowded time to skate is almost always in the morning!
Snowmobiling: If you’re looking for a little more excitement, try snowmobiling! This is a great way to see more of the mountain and get some fresh air. Just make sure that you’re with a reputable outfitter and that everyone in your group is comfortable on a snowmobile and going FAST!
Sledding: Bring an inflatable sled from home or grab a cheap one at the nearest big box store. This will keep the whole family happy for hours and is practically FREE!
Winter Hiking: While most people think that you need snowshoes for winter hiking, there are actually a lot of places that you can hike near a Christmas ski resort that don’t require snowshoes. Just make sure that you’re going on a popular trail so the snow is well packed down, and you’re set. This is the best free activity on a Christmas ski trip.
How Far Out To Book Christmas Skiing
Skiing at Christmas can be busy, so plan ahead so you can do everything on your bucket list. Here are our top tips for when to book everything you need:
- Ski School – 6 months out (or as soon as reservations open for the season).
- Ski-In Ski-Out Properties – 8 months out for the best deals and selection
- Dinner Reservations – 3-4 months out
- On Hill Dining for lunch – 1 month out
- Babysitting – 2-3 months out
- Non-Ski Activities – 2-3 months out
- Ski Rentals – 1-2 months out
- Shows or Concerts – 3-4 months out
Avoiding the Christmas Ski Crowds
This is where the bad news comes. All of the resorts we’re sharing here have gone ALL OUT to make a skiing Christmas MAGICAL. The bad news is that it comes with a BIG CROWD. Truthfully, it’s the most CROWDED time of the year. Here are our top tips to avoid the ski crowds at Christmas.
- Travel longer. Spend the week BEFORE Christmas on your ski trip, or the week AFTER New Years (the best option). The week between Christmas and New Years is the most expensive time of the year for skiing and ALWAYS the most crowded.
- Stay in a ski town and soak up all the CHARM, but ski at a smaller, nearby resort for smaller crowds.
- Ski less and play more. If you want to do a lot of serious skiing, you probably won’t get as many runs in as you’re hoping at Christmas. Consider skiing less, doing other activities more, and plan a mid-February ski trip for better snow and significantly smaller crowds.
Best Christmas Ski Resorts
Park City at Christmas
If you want one of the best Utah ski resorts with a small town mountain feel that has GREAT access (it’s 40 minutes from SLC airport), skiing Park City is the place to go for a Christmas Ski Trip! Park city at Christmas is one of our favorite resort towns because it’s so charming, and it has a great mix of activities for both adults and kids. This is our family’s home resort (we live just across the hill), so here are the absolute MUST DO’s in Park City at Christmas:
- Ride the North Pole Express Train
- Take a class at the Kimball Art Center
- Snowshoe Swaner Preserve
- Swim at the Homestead Geothermal Crater
- Fat Bike and Sled at Round Valley
- Go winter hiking in the Uintahs
- Take in an outdoor concert at The Canyons Village
- See the Nutcracker by Ballet West in SLC
- Go dogsledding with Lunas Lobos (seriously AMAZING)
Christmas at Vail
Skiing Vail at Christmas is INCREDIBLE. It’s one of the biggest and most popular ski resorts in the world, so you know that they go ALL OUT for Christmas. The decorations at this Colorado ski resort are beautiful, the lights are twinkling, and there’s just an overall feeling of joy in the air. Skating at Gore Creek is a MUST DO, and you’ll want to spend plenty of time hanging around the Vail village area just soaking it ALL IN! While you’re in Vail at Christmas, don’t miss the chance to go dog sledding or take a sleigh ride. You can also buy tickets to the Nutcracker ballet that’s performed at the Ford Amphitheater to make your Vail Christmas ski trip extra special.
Christmas in Aspen
If you’re looking for a truly magical Christmas ski experience, Aspen is the place to be. The town is adorable, the skiing is some of the best in the world, and there are Christmas activities and events happening nonstop. Check out the Aspen Christmas Eve torchlight parade and fireworks show and don’t forget about ice skating in the park. When you take a Christmas vacation to Aspen, you’re in for a truly magical experience. Aspen at Christmas is a perfect destination for families and adults alike with lots of fun activities during the day and an upscale nightlife (make sure to stick around for New Years Eve too!).
Christmas at Snowbird
If you’re going to Utah for the skiing (of course you are), consider a Christmas ski trip to Snowbird. Unlike most of the resorts listed here, you won’t find a nice downtown to stroll, but rather a quiet village. What you will find at Snowbird at Christmas is a great apres ski scene, and quiet nights in the canyon. Of course, the skiing at Snowbird is HARD TO BEAT. Staying at Snowbird for Christmas will get you easy access to the resort (while everyone else makes the slow drive up the canyon with traffic and snow), so it’s a great place to stay. One of the Snowbird Christmas highlights is the annual skiing Santa day, typically a couple of days before Christmas where skiers dressed as Santa can ski for free (see resort for details). This makes the whole atmosphere extra festive and is an absolute blast for kids to see Santas skiing all over the mountain.
Whistler for Christmas
A Christmas ski trip to Whistler will thrill the entire family. With one of the best ski town villages we’ve ever seen, complete with playgrounds, ice rink, and a HUGE variety of shopping, Whistler at Christmas is incredible. Located in British Columbia, Whistler is an easy drive from Vancouver (about 2 hours). The resort is MASSIVE, with two mountains connected by a gondola, and over 200 trails, with everything from beginner runs to some of the longest and steepest runs in the world. You’ll find everything you could want for skiers, and the Whistler Christmas decorations are simply beautiful. Plan to stay on your Christmas trip at Whistler Village so you can just walk everywhere you need to go and can easily get around and to the ski hill.
Palisades Tahoe at Christmas
This California Christmas ski resort is our top west coast pick for a ski trip. We love that Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley) is just a bit off the beaten path so you can feel like you’ve really escaped the Christmas ski crowds. To make Palisades Tahoe at Christmas feel just like home, make sure to enjoy the massive Christmas Eve buffet, enjoy the old-fashioned carolers around the village, or take a snowshoe dinner tour. You really don’t have to leave the resort to have Christmas ski trip filled with all the memories, traditions, and feelings of home. Of course, you’ll enjoy the two massive mountains, huge variety of terrain, and you might even get to sneak in a run or two with legend Johnny Mosely!
Steamboat during Christmas
“The closest thing to heaven on this planet anywhere is a quiet Christmas morning in the Colorado snow”.
I’m pretty sure that the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was talking about Christmas in Steamboat. If you want a true mountain escape and a taste of the west, Steamboat is the place to be. This ski town has more western charm than most other ski resorts, and you’ll get a true western Christmas in Steamboat. The Christmas ski crowds at Steamboat are usually smaller than most other resorts, so it’s a great place to feel like you’ve truly escaped at Christmas.
Stowe for Christmas
If you’re on the East Coast and want some great Vermont skiing, put Christmas at Stowe at the top of your list. When you visit Stowe for Christmas, you’ll find that it’s a small town with a huge mountain. The skiing at Stowe is some of the best on the East Coast, and you can’t beat the Vermont scenery. Staying in the village will make getting around easy and give you access to all the great Christmas activities happening around town. Check out dog sledding, ice skating, the Festival of Trees, and more. Stowe at Christmas is truly a magical place.
Christmas in Killington
If you’re planning to visit Killington at Christmas, you’re in for a treat. Killington is one of the biggest ski resorts on the East Coast and boasts some of the best skiing in the area. The resort is spread out over six mountains, so you’ll have plenty of terrain to explore. And, if you get bored with skiing, you can always take a ride on the gondola up to Killington Peak for some of the best views in Vermont.
When you’re planning your Christmas ski trip, be sure to check out all of the great resorts in the area. Each resort has its own unique Christmas activities and atmosphere, so you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for your family. And, if you’re looking for a truly unique Christmas experience, be sure to check out Whistler, Palisades Tahoe, Steamboat, Stowe, or Killington. These resorts offer everything you could want for a perfect ski vacation and more. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your Christmas ski trip today!