With the U.S. economy in a slump, why not offer a helping hand by spending some of your hard-earned cash on a ski holiday in North America? While European resorts suffer from overcrowding and inconsistent conditions, across the Atlantic skiers and snowboarders can enjoy spectacular snow, superfast lifts, virtually no lines, and gorgeous weather. Resorts on the East Coast are generally too small to merit a long-haul flight, but mountain ranges out West such as the Rockies, the Sawtooths and the Sierra Nevada, as well as the Coast Mountain Range of British Columbia have a huge variety of resorts that are worth the trip. (For more travel tips and stories visit time.com/travel.) Here are five to try:
One of the glitziest resorts in the U.S., Aspen/ Snowmass has four mountains with challenging chutes, gorgeous views and impeccably groomed runs, plus world-class shops catering to multimillionaires in cowboy boots and fur-clad ladies with suspiciously perfect noses. The St. Regis, Jerome, Little Nell and Limelight Lodges provide five-star accommodation, and the billion-dollar Base Village opening soon at Snowmass will only enhance the options for luxury lodging, dining and shopping.
Vail is fantastic for families and lovers of high-speed cruising. The Back Bowls and new Blue Sky Basin ski areas offer exceptional tree- and powder-skiing. For kids there are ice rinks, outdoor fire pits and excellent instructors. Those who miss skiing in Austria will find that Vail Square's Germanic influence makes them feel right at home, while the Arrabelle Hotel has the romantic charm of a stately European chateau.
Big Sky Montana
Big Sky has arguably the most Alpine terrain of any U.S. resort, and with only 2,000 skiers a day on 5,510 acres (2,230 ha) it gives skiers and snowboarders so much space they can feel positively lonely. The Lone Peak Tram accesses tree-lined bowls, steep chutes and narrow gullies, and the magnificent Yellowstone National Park is just a short drive away.
Jackson Hole Wyoming
If you prefer the extreme terrain of Chamonix, Verbier or La Grave, then Jackson Hole with infamous runs like Corbett's Couloir has tricky chutes, enough exposure to test the steeliest nerves, and even wild moose roaming the high street. Accommodation varies from the sublime Four Seasons to the Hostel, one of the least expensive on-mountain hotels in America.
Whistler British Columbia
Anyone looking for a rush can also head to Whistler, home of knee-trembling runs like the Couloir Extreme and Spanky's Ladder. Although the village appears a little faux by European standards, it's user-friendly and very lively. The skiing is superbly varied and the new Peak-2-Peak gondola, linking Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains, will be the world's longest continuous lift system when it opens in December.
Another reason to hit the slopes in the States is that Americans have pioneered a revolution in all-mountain skis, outrageous ski design and outdoor gadgetry. And thanks to the credit crisis, property at North America's ski resorts is a steal. So you could come back from your holiday with much more than a healthy tan.
BY SIMON KELTON