With the snow-sport season starting, you’re likely sharpening your skis and waxing your board. But which lifts will you hit? To help you determine where to shred this holiday season, we’ve rounded up the 10 ski destinations seeing the biggest spike in KAYAK searches. These places are the hotspots of 2018 winter sports. Here’s where to go and what to do when you’re ready to head off-mountain and hit the town.
Note: To make our “when to book your flight” recommendations for this list, we looked into our data at last year’s median flight prices to these cities for the holiday season. As always, no matter what, if you find a good deal — book it.
1. Banff, Alberta, Canada
Increase in traveler interest: 29%
Banff is an iconic ski getaway that boasts stunning vistas from its slopes. With runs like Delirium Dive and Whitehorn challenging even the most seasoned skiers, it’s a great place to push yourself. Be sure to book flights at least a month ahead — that’s when travelers last year had the best chance of finding a deal. But when you’re looking for something to do off-slope, the town itself has a lot to offer. Hit up the Indian Trading Company, a 100+ year old Banff National Park mainstay that features arts and crafts from First Nation artists. It’s also where you’ll find the infamous taxidermied “Banff Merman” — we just don’t recommend bringing your little ones to see it (unless you’re ready for the night terrors). At night, dust the powder off your jacket and grab a dish of Italian comfort food at Pacini (and maybe a Cranberry Mojito or two). Or, hang with real cowboys at Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon, where you can live out all your two-stepping fantasies in this famous nightclub.
2. Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Increase in traveler interest: 28%
Though beautiful any time of year, Quebec City really shines around the holidays with its fairytale-village-like buildings ringed in lights and snow. We recommend you book at least 2 weeks ahead of your trip if you’re looking to get the best deal on flights. Ski season starts in November and you have your pick of slopes to hit — 4 popular ski resorts surround this French-Canadian town. But when you can’t take one more trail, the city itself offers plenty of things to do. The Musee du Fort is a popular site to explore, where you can learn more about the city’s history. You can also visit the 200+-year-old Morrin Centre, a cultural center that was once Quebec’s first prison. But really, what you’ll want to check out is the food. Boulangerie-Pâtisserie is a bakery located in the trendy Saint-Roch neighborhood. It’s open for breakfast, lunch or an early dinner. You can’t go wrong sampling one of the chestnut cream danishes. Or book yourself a table at Brasserie Francaise Chez Jules for traditional French fare and cocktails. For a truly deluxe night out, however, reserve your spot at Chez Muffy, a Relais & Chateau in a historic shipping warehouse whose farm-inspired menu changes on the regular.
3. Taos, New Mexico
Increase in traveler interest: 27%
Ski season may open in Taos around late-November, but January is when you’re most likely to find a flight deal for the holiday season. Just be sure to book at least 2 weeks ahead, which is when travelers last year had the best chance at lower airfare. Of the slopes surrounding Taos, Wheeler Peak is probably its most famous. At 13,167 feet above sea level, it’s New Mexico’s highest point. You can access hiking trails from the resort if you’re not into shredding powder. At night, visit Taos Mesa Brewing, a popular microbrewery that serves up local beers in a taproom setting that lets you get away from the ski lodge vibe for a bit. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit more romantic, book a table at De La Tierra inside the El Monte Sagrado resort.
4. Big Sky, Montana
Increase in traveler interest: 26%
Enjoy Montana’s epic expanses in this Rocky Mountain resort. Book your adventure at least 1 month ahead if you’re looking for the best flight deal. And when the slopes open in November, you can expect to find airfare for around $465 before flight prices spike in December. When you’re not checking out the diamond trails, take a ride on the Skyline Bus. You can sip on hot cocoa and check out spectacular view of the Gallatin Canyon. It’s also an affordable way to travel around Big Sky. In the morning, grab a breakfast sandwich from the family-owned Blue Moon Bakery before you break in your skis then head back there at night for a gourmet pizza before heading back to your hotel. Or, for a night out, Lone Peak Cinema is our favorite kind of movie theater with a full bar and nightly happy hour from 8-9pm.
5. Stowe, Vermont
Increase in traveler interest: 21%
Vermont’s ski season starts in November when median airfare is around charms are in full display during the holidays. Based on last year’s data, travelers who booked flights 2 weeks ahead of their departure generally found the lowest airfare. From snow-caps to maple shacks, get your apres-ski fix in a quintessentially New England town. Indulge in truffles from Laughing Moon Chocolates, a local chocolatier whose side hustle is promoting social responsibility. Then take the fam to the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum before heading off on a snowmobiling adventure tour with Snowmobile Vermont. At night, grab your seat by the fireplace of Hob Knob, located in Stowe’s first ski lodge. Or, really kitsch kick things up with a meal at the Trapp Family Lodge Dining Room (yes, those von Trapps). This farm-to-table dining experience is heavy on the innovative comfort food (like Roasted Pumpkin Curry).
6. Jay, Vermont
Increase in traveler interest: 17%
Hitting the Green Mountains this holiday season? According to data from last year, you’ll want to book at least 2 weeks ahead to get a good deal on flights. While Jay Peak may be one of the smaller mountains on our list, this holiday hotspot still boasts awesome trails and plenty of local things to do apres-ski. Even when it’s -30 out, you can’t miss a tour and ice cream at the famous Ben and Jerry’s Factory. Though it’s an hour’s drive away, you can’t miss out on experiencing something so quintessentially Vermont. If ice cream isn’t your thing (who are you), then relax after a day on the slopes at the Vermont Salt Cave Spa. This salt grotto is known for its hand and foot detox treatments, but really is just a way to get your zen on. Then, at night, you have your pick of pubs for some after-hours fun. You can head to The Belfry for an intimate dinner in a restored schoolhouse. Or party with other skiers at the Snow Shoe Pub and take in a few video games or live entertainment on the weekends.
7. Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada
Increase in traveler interest: 11%
Northwest of Montreal, Mont-Tremblant is a mountain oasis perfect for powder-seekers. You’ll want to book your flight there at least 10 weeks ahead. That’s when travelers last year were able to find the best flight deals. When you’re ready to hit the lodge, try your luck at Casino de Mont-Tremblant. This alpine-style gaming palace has awesome mountain views and a stage with weekly live performances. Or do something that’ll get your blood going with Aventures Neige, a mountainside slide park that lets you have fun in the snow without the equipment. At night, treat yourself to the fullest with a meal at the fancy Choux Gras Brasserie Culinaire, which overlooks Tremblant’s pedestrian village. You can go all-out with a bottle of local wine and the towering Seafood Tower, or keep it classy but a bit more low-key at the restaurant’s Lounge Bar. For a fun night out, Le p’tit Caribou is considered one of the best apres-ski bars in the world. It’s nightly rotating line-up of DJs and classic cocktails will warm you up.
8. Mammoth Lakes, California
Increase in traveler interest: 4%
With Mammoth Lakes opening in early November, the town is preparing for an epic season. Do your part by booking your flights at the right time — last year, travelers got the best deal when they booked at least 2 weeks ahead. To get yourself ready for an epic ski break, line up a tour with Sky Time Helicopter. They’ll take you over waterfalls, lakes, and glacier-carved valleys, letting you get up in the clouds without the ski lift. Or, you can enjoy the heated luxury of Snowcat Tours, which shows you awesome views of Mammoth Mountain, the Minarets, Ritter Range and more. At night, get your game on at Mammoth Rock ‘n Bowl. This venue has all you need: specialty martinis, foosball, bowling, darts and indoor golf. Or if you want to dine where the locals go for special occasions, book a table at The Restaurant on Convict Lake for an *ahem* arresting evening together.
9. North Conway, New Hampshire
Increase in traveler interest: 3%
While Vermont gets most of the spotlight when it comes to Northeast ski destinations, it’s also New Hampshire’s time to shine. If you want to be there when ski season starts, travelers that booked at least a month ahead last year found the best deals on flights. Looking for something that gets you out in the snow but off your skis? Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park is ready with all-day snow tubing. After that, you can shop at Settlers Green Outlet Village and pick up your wardrobe staples, tax-free. In the evening, take the kids to the wilderness-themed Muddy Moose Restaurant. Or grab your buds and watch the game at the sports tavern of Delaney’s Hole In The Wall, set inside the restaurant whose menu runs from salads and burgers to sushi.
10. Breckenridge, Colorado
Increase in traveler interest: 3%
Everything is made for ski and snowboarders in Breckenridge. The town itself is a pedestrian-friendly oasis, with plenty of shops and restaurants to entertain those looking to leave the bunny slopes. Book your trip there at least 2 weeks ahead, which is when travelers last year were able to find the best flight deals. And while ski season starts in November, if you go in January you’ll hit the International Snow Sculpture Show. The kids would also enjoy a visit to the Edwin Carter Discovery Center, a log cabin that is filled with interesting taxidermied creatures that once roamed the mountains of the American West. At night, take to the skies at Breck’s newest on-mountain dining experience, Pioneer Crossing, a restaurant at the top of Peak 7 off the Independence Super Chair. Or you can play it more laid back by reserving a spot at The Canteen Tap House and Tavern which specialized in serving local brews and shareable plates.
Wherever you hit the slopes this season, we’re here to make sure you’re planning your next holiday ski trip confidently.
See here for when to book methodology.