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Best Ski Trips for Texans– Easiest way to get to the mountains

Wondering where the best ski trips for Texans are? Whether you learned to ski before you walked or are a brand new newbie (like me), there’s plenty of easy ways to get onto the mountain and frolic in the snow quickly from Texas.

For those living in Texas, skiing may not be a part of everyday life, but occasionally you might want a break from the year round pool weather and experience this mythical thing called “winter”. I am one of those people.

I want to wear furry hats! I want drink craft beer at altitude! I want to hot tub in the snow! I want to apres ski! But also, I don’t want to spend a zillion dollars on travel or gear or have to drive up a mountain with chains in a rental car.

If you’re adventurous but risk adverse like me, take these tips with you on how to plan the best ski trip for Texans.

Click here for the latest updates from Colorado Ski on COVID rules.

best ski trip for texans

Getting to the Mountain

Note, there are zero ski resorts in Texas. To find your fresh mountain powder from Texas, you’re going to have to hop in a car or catch a flight. The latter option is definitely the easiest since most destinations are 10+ hours driving away, but driving can be potentially cheaper if you have the time and a few buddies to road trip with.

Pro tip: For the best ski trip for Texans, avoid holiday weekends. You’ll find peak rates and massive crowds over Christmas, New Years, MLK Day, President’s Day and Spring Break.

Driving from Texas

The closest ski resorts to Texas are in New Mexico. If you don’t blink an eye at driving all day, check out these ski resorts and their driving times from Houston:

  • Ruidoso, NM (12 hours)
  • Taos, NM (14 hours)
  • Pagosa Springs, CO (16 hours)
  • Breckinridge, CO (17 hours)

Check out our guide to Ruidoso.

Flying from Texas

If you’re not into driving all day and night from Texas to the ski resorts, taking an early morning flight is key to get onto the mountain. Oftentimes you’re flying West to Utah, Colorado, or Nevada so you gain an hour in your advantage, making it super easy to be on the ski lift by noon! Personally, I think the best ski trip for Texans is by flying. I recently booked my flights to Denver after finding a sweet deal on Southwest with Escape Houston. Later this month, I’m flying on points with Delta to Salt Lake City.

Non-stop flights from Houston (Southwest, United, Delta):

  1. Hayden (Steamboat)
  2. Montrose (Telluride)
  3. Aspen
  4. Vail Eagle
  5. Denver
  6. Salt Lake City
  7. Reno (Lake Tahoe)
  8. Vancouver (Whistler)
  9. Calgary (Banff area ski resorts)

Non-stop flights from Dallas (American Airlines):

  1. Hayden (Steamboat)
  2. Montrose (Telluride)
  3. Aspen
  4. Vail-Eagle
  5. Gunnison (Crested Butte)
  6. Durango (Silverton, Wolf Creek)
  7. Bozeman (Big Sky)
  8. Reno (Lake Tahoe)
  9. Jackson Hole
  10. Denver
  11. Salt Lake City
  12. Santa Fe (Taos)
  13. Vancouver (Whistler)
  14. Spokane (lower inner BC: Red Mountain, Whitewater)
  15. Calgary (Banff area ski resorts)

Read our travel guides to Park City, Banff, Reno, and Denver.

Getting to the Ski Resort

If getting to the ski resort in snowy, steep mountainous conditions in one piece is a concern of yours–SAME. Texan drivers don’t have a lot of experience driving in snow and hustling up a winding mountain road with sleet coming down isn’t an ideal condition to learn. Luckily, Texans can get to the ski resort from the airport without touching a rental car that requires chains. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take the resort shuttle – if you’re staying on site, many resorts have shuttles that will pick you up from the airport and take you to your ski resort.
  • Take an Uber / Lyft – depending on your final destination, this might be viable option if you have a few people in tow! 12 Colorado resorts are within two hours from Denver and 10 Utah resorts are within an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City.
  • Hop on the train – Winter Park in Colorado has a direct Winter Park Express train from the Denver Airport to the resort. It reminds of my time in Switzerland and is especially great option if you go a bit heavy on the apres ski.
  • Rent a car with 4W Drive – If you do have to rent a car, make sure you call ahead and book one with 4W Drive. You don’t want to be caught off guard with extra fees in the airport pickup. In bad snow conditions, it’s illegal to drive on mountain roads without 4W Drive or chains.
best ski trip for texans

Where Texans should ski

The US is home to 400+ ski resorts. If you’re looking to plan the best ski trip for Texans, it’s best to stick to something nearby and close to an airport to optimize your time on the slopes, which narrows down the best ski destinations for Texans to: Taos, Tahoe, Denver, and Salt Lake City.

Taos, New Mexico

Hop on a 2.5 hour flight to Taos and choose from one of the four resorts in the area: Taos Ski Resort, Angel Fire Ski Resort, Red River Ski Resort, or Sipapu Ski Resort. The Taos Ski Valley Resort offers 110 trails, half of which are designed for beginner and intermediate levels. If you ski only once every year or two, you’ll feel right at home here. 

Denver, Colorado

Nearly all the ski resorts near Denver are easily accessible off I-70. I recently spent a weekend skiing at Copper Mountain which was awesome because all the green runs were located on the same side of the mountain. That meant I wasn’t about to accidentally head down a black with my baby skiing skills. After we were done skiing, we enjoyed a ride on the Rocky Mountain Coaster and did the cross-training “Intro Session” at the Woodward Barn. I stayed in Center Village at Passage Point and could walk to everything I needed in the town. Favorite ways to warm up on the mountain: ramen at Storm King, mac and cheese at Mountain Melt, and beers at 10 Mile.

Other low-key ski favorites in the Denver area include Eldora and Winter Park. Eldora doesn’t require commuting on 70 at all, so it can be a real winner for beating traffic. Winter Park has the fantastic train and is one of the best ski resorts for beginners.

Click here for the latest updates from Colorado Ski on COVID rules.

Tahoe, California

United recently launched year-round flights to Reno-Tahoe from Houston and there’s a big push from the region to get Texans out there. Tahoe is about an hour’s drive from Reno’s airport and is split between the Nevada and Colorado borders around Lake Tahoe. The area has the most concentrated collection of 16 ski resorts in the country. Because of this, you’re not isolated to a particular resort town and can stay anywhere in the area. Last time I went to Tahoe, I stayed at Hotel Becket and was walking distance from the Heavenly Mountain Resort, another great ski resort for beginners.

Read my Reno-Tahoe travel guide.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Park City is the largest ski resorts in the US with 348 runs. Deer Valley is a popular ski-only mountain that tops the lists for best ski resorts, is known for its pristine terrain, limited foot traffic and après culture. I took a group lesson at Park City to refresh my skills and then skied at both resorts. I highly recommend grabbing après ski at Corner Store or Boneyard Salon, and dinner at Chimayo (make reservations!!). Historic Main Street in Park City is adorable to walk around and has a lively night life scene. You can get discounts on gear rental (we used Christy Sports) and lift tickets when you book 24 hours in advance.

Read my Park City travel guide.

Packing for the Mountain

In Houston the best places to shop for ski gear are Saint Bernard and Sun Sport & Ski. You can also find some helpful items at Academy or Dick’s Sporting Goods. I’m really into the budget ski brand Arctix where you can find ski pants for $40 and jackets for under $85!

Renting Gear

If you don’t want to invest in a bunch of tough winter gear, know that you can rent nearly everything you need on the mountain, including helmets, skis, poles, boots and even coats and snow pants! Make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance and you can save up on rentals 25% at some stores!

Things to Pack

  • Ski Goggles: Most retailers won’t rent ski googles to you due to sanitary concerns. I picked up this pair of goggles for $40 before my trip and they worked perfectly!
  • Gloves: Get a good pair that’s waterproof, like these!
  • Thermal gear: I like the Under Armor Cold Gear line that gives you warmth without the weight. I paired the long sleeve shirt and leggings with an athletic quarter zip jacket under my ski jacket.
  • Ski Jacket: Bright colors help you stand out and keep track of your friends. Also, if you’re a newbie skier, the colors ensure that you will be seen on top of the mountain by speedier skiers. I have the Daybreak Jacket by Arctix (just $84!) which can go up to -20F.
  • Snow pants: Bright colors go a long way here too! You can also wear bib overalls to make sure snow doesn’t fall in your pants when you fall (speaking from experience). Love this bright pair by North Face. I have 2 pairs of snow pants by Arctix — under $40– and come in 20+ colors!
  • Ski Socks: Tall socks should be the only thing that goes into your boot. Pack thick socks that don’t have any ribbing or elastic on them to ensure you’re the most comfortable on the mountain. Roll up your leggings or pants before you put your ski boots on. These ski socks are a mountain favorite.
  • Hand and feet warmers: because we’re Texan duh! I bring this brand with me just in case.
  • Swimsuits: outdoor hot tubs in the mountains are magical.
  • Ski Helmet: if you plan to ski more than once in your lifetime, consider buying a helmet because the cost to rent adds up! I found this bright blue one to stand out on the mountain for under $40.

Wear a helmet, and do whatever you can to not wear jeans and play into the stereotypes that exist about Texan skiers.

Heads up affilate links are included in this post which help give back money to the blog at not cost to you. Shop my swimsuit here! Checkout Arctix website for the best deals on ski jackets and pants!

Shop my ski looks

Learning to Ski

Ski vs. Snowboard

A hot debate ensues whether you should ski or snowboard. General thought is that skiing is easier to learn, harder to master. While snowboarding you’re going to spend a lot of time on your bum at the beginning, but you can excel faster. Skiing is also a bit more tough on the knees.

Houston at one point had a ski lessons gym called Gladiator Ski School! But alas, that has since closed. So now you have to get to the mountain to put on a pair of skis. Texas Ski Ranch in New Braunfels has snowboarding options. You won’t find any snow on their mountains hills, but you will get a feel for a snowboard under your feet and moving with gravity.

best ski weekend for texans

Taking a Ski Lesson

My first day on the mountain, I booked a half day lesson to learn how to ski. Many people tend to do this whether they’re veterans or newbies just to refresh their memory and learn some new techniques. Private lessons are more expensive, but more impactful because you get one-on-one time. Group lessons are significantly cheaper, but definitely worth it to help you get your sea ski legs. Book ahead of time to get discounts on pricing!

Speaking the ski language

  • Yard Sale – when you wipe out on the mountain and all your gear goes flying all over the place
  • Apres ski – French for “after skiing”; aka happy hour
  • Bluebird day — blue skies and no clouds
  • Powder day — fresh snow on the mountain

Dealing with Altitude

One thing I was particularly worried about as a Texan on the mountain was dealing with altitude. The last thing that I wanted was to go from sea level to get to the top of the chair lift in a matter of hours and seize up from lack of oxygen.

In preparation for my trip, I chugged a ton of water the day before and the first day I arrived. I had a minor headache when I got to Copper Mountain, so I bought an oxygen canister just in case, but luckily never had to use it. I spent the morning in Denver (only a mile up, compared to the nearly 10,000 ft base), to acclimate my body to the thinner air. Other tips to prevent altitude sickness include eating carbs, avoiding alcohol.

Where do you think the best ski trip for Texans is?

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13 thoughts on “Best Ski Trips for Texans– Easiest way to get to the mountains

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  5. Is there snow in Taos in mid-March? We live in a north Houston suburb and are thinking of going for spring break!

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