Piles of snow out west from the strongest El Niño on record and the latest snowstorm in the Midwest make March prime time for a ski vacation. Do it on a budget with these destinations, where you can score deals now.
Wausau, Wisconsin, skigranitepeak.com
A favorite for snowboarders and freestyle skiers for its many terrain parks, Granite Peak sits on Wisconsin’s tallest mountain (the 1,947-foot Rib Mountain) with its highest vertical drop (700 feet).
The deal Make the four-hour road trip during the resort’s family fests (March 4-6, April 1-3), scoring two nights lodging, two days of skiing—including night skiing with fireworks—and rental equipment for a family of four for $579.
The splurge Upgrade to the Jefferson Inn, a newer luxury boutique with a pool in downtown Wausau (from $129 a night).
While there Do après-ski on slope-side patios with fire pits or head downtown to hopping Red Eye Brewing Company for microbrews and wood-fired pizza.
Boyne, Michigan, boyne.com/boynehighlands
You’ll drive 6.5 hours—about 45 minutes beyond its sister resort, Boyne Mountain—and take on a one-hour time change to get to Boyne Highlands, but the effort is rewarded with a snowier base, a great variety of terrain, and trip-worthy activities off the slopes like ziplining and horsebackriding.
The deal Book a room at the ski-in/ski-out Bartley House and get lodging, lift ticket, and breakfast for one for $111 a night. Bonus: juniors 9-15 get reduced rates and kids eight and under sleep and ski free.
The spurge Hole up in a slopeside two- to four-bedroom condo at Alpine Village with breakfast for two (from $422 a night).
While there Make a reservation for the excellent Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner, taking a snowcat-pulled sleigh ride to the top of the mountain for a candlelit dinner backed by an acoustic guitarist (select Saturday nights; $72 a person plus gratuity).
Park City Mountain Resort
Park City, Utah, parkcitymountain.com
This season marked the debut of the country’s largest ski resort, Vail’s new 7,300-acre Park City Mountain Resort, which combined two former ski resorts and spent $50 million on improvements. Traverse it all atop record powder dumps that are proving to be way ahead of last year’s snowfall.
The deal Fly direct to Salt Lake City with round-trip fares starting under $200 in March. Then, stay at the new Hyatt Place Park City, which offers complimentary hot breakfast and shuttles to the ski resorts, plus a location on the city’s free bus route (from $149 a night).
The splurge The white-clad, high-design Washington School House that’s surprisingly family-friendly and just a block from Main Street ($850 a night).
While there Dive into great ski town culture, exploring rolling Main Street with its tiny powerhouse Park City Museum and High West craft whiskey distillery. Get to Utah Olympic Park, too, for the chance to ride the 80-mile-an-hour bobsled and spy athletes in training.
Aspen, Colorado, aspensnowmass.com
New direct flights on American, above-average El Niño-powered snowfall, and —wait for it—the start of Colorado’s snowiest month of March are great reasons to visit Aspen now. Here’s another: this famously ritzy ski town is surprisingly easy to do for less.
The deal Take the free 10-minute shuttle to downtown Aspen and the Rubey Park Transit Center—the hub of the city’s free shuttle service. Check in across the street at the Alps-themed Mountain Chalet (from $209 a night), a clean and supremely located budget find near the base of Ajax, among Aspen Snowmass’ four mountains.
The splurge Book a room at the buzzy-but-easygoing Limelight with a good free hot breakfast and live music at night (from $550 a night).
While there Keep the savings coming. First, check out the gorgeous, free Aspen Art Museum. Then, experience Aspen’s legendary nightlife at local favorite, Jimmy’s, where dinner off the bar menu (try the mac and cheese) goes for less than what you’d pay at a table. For eye candy, visit from March 18-27 to gawk at athletes catching air during the Bud Light Spring Jam.
Telluride, Colorado, tellurideskiresort.com
Another Colorado ski town reaping the benefits of El Niño snowpack, Telluride’s cachet has frequently hung on its remote locale, tucked into a box canyon high in the San Juan Mountains. Now, more direct seasonal flights from Chicago—including American’s new addition—combine with a well-connected, walkable mining town and mountain village to reveal a hot ski town that’s easier than ever to experience.
The splurge Sleep at 9,500 feet with a stay at the Madeline Hotel, a perfect mash-up of luxury with high-touch rooms, a brand new pool deck overlooking snowy peaks, and a location in the Mountain Village, right in front of its own skating rink.
While there Snowmobile with Telluride Outfitters, winding through towering fir and spruce trees, zooming over rolling meadows, and exploring the Alta Lakes ghost town. Chill out later with Telluride Green Tours and a fascinating walkabout to each of the town’s four legal weed dispensaries.