7 Mountain Towns That Are a Storybook Paradise in Winter
There’s something magical about mountain towns in winter. Main streets become lantern-lit trails, fresh mountain air and high-altitude views make you want to throw on your layers and get outdoors, and restaurants turn into cozy places to escape the cold.
Stowe, VermontCourtesy Stowe Mountain Resort
The 200-year-old village is set against the state’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield. Stowe’s brick and clapboard homes only look prettier when peeking out from layers of glittering snowflakes, while charming selections of restaurants and specialty shops will reel you in.
What to do: Stowe is home to the quintessential skiers’ paradise, Stowe Mountain Resort, so you’ll definitely want to take advantage of the slopes. Take a snowshoe tour with Stoweflake, which offers on-site groomed trail systems on snowshoes rented from their Sports and Wellness Center. You’ll also want to take advantage of the horse-drawn sleigh rides, which will whisk you through the trails of Stowe along the Westbranch River.
Where to eat: For California cuisine with a New England twist, dine at Plate. For the freshest, seasonal and local fare, go to Idletyme Brewing Co. For a quick but elevated bite, go to Green Goddess Cafe.
Where to stay: If you’re planning on skiing or snowboarding, definitely stay at Stowe Mountain Lodge, which is situated at the base of Stowe Mountain Resort. If you’re looking for something straight out of the 1800s, stay at Green Mountain Inn.
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Vail, ColoradoCourtesy Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail
Vail is one of those mountain towns that will take your breath away. No, literally. The base elevation is 8,022-feet! The town’s two main villages, Vail Village and Lionshead, are pedestrian-only, so it really feels like you’re taking a step back in time.
What to do: Being the largest ski mountain in Colorado, it only makes sense that Vail thrives in the winter. If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding, come here. Sign up for Vail Resorts’ Ski & Snowboard School, rent your gear through Black Tie Ski Rentals which will come to your hotel room to fit you, and prepare to become an expert by day’s end. End the day by skiing up to Vail Chophouse for live tunes.
Where to eat: Get a sweet or savory crepe at Crespelle, grab friends for shareable bites at Fall Line, cozy up with your loved one for an intimate dinner at White Bison, and take a sleigh ride up to Beano’s Cabin for serious mountain vibes. This town likes their apres ski, so prepare to sidle up to Tavern on the Square and The Remedy Bar at the Four Seasons. If you Google where to eat in Vail, Sweet Basil will come up first. And for good reason. Don’t ask, just go! It’s a must when in Vail.
Where to stay: For the best access to both villages, stay at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail. Be sure to dine at Flame while you’re there. The food is excellent, but the ambiance is mesmerizing. Antlers is another great option, especially if you are looking for something that can host a family, as it features condo-style lodging.
If you fly into Denver for the cheaper flight, be sure to use Colorado Mountain Express, which will take you straight to your hotel with plenty of room for your bags and snow equipment should you have it.
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Nestled in the San Jacinto mountains, Idyllwild is the quintessential small town atmosphere. From the locally owned shops and restaurants tucked beneath tall pines and legendary rocks, it’s charming to say the least.
What to do: Idyllwild in the winter means beautiful cross-country skiing terrain, so take advantage! The funky shops in the small town are worth an afternoon visit. From a specialty cacao shop to used bookstores, antique shops, and Everitt’s Minerals & Gallery, featuring handcrafted fossil and mineral jewelry, there’s a lot to keep you occupied.
Where to stay: Rent a cozy, woodsy cabin. They are totally budget-friendly, even if you opt for a multi-level A-frame alpine beauty, like The Treehouse. Have a pooch? Bring them along! This hidden gem of a mountain town is known for being very dog-friendly, with plenty of stores welcoming your furry family member in with open arms.
Sandpoint, IdahoCourtesy Schweitzer Mountain Resort
Situated on Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint offers world-class recreational opportunities in a breathtakingly beautiful environment. From the historic downtown to the Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort, there is plenty to see and do.
What to do: A lake in the winter means ice fishing! At Lake Pend Oreille, you’ll find lake trout and rainbow fish. The west side of the Long Bridge is a favorite spot among locals. Of course, skiers and snowboarders will want to hop on the slopes of Schweitzer Mountain Resort, with 59 named trails and 2,500 acres of terrain. Be sure to check out the Solstice Well Being Spa and Wellness Center, which is a must for your sore muscles after a day of shredding. You’ll find several fun and unique shops in downtown Sandpoint, like Cedar Street Bridge, which is a public market offering a variety of wares.
Where to eat: Beer lovers rejoice at MickDuff’s Brewing Company, which offers 100 percent all-natural, handcrafted beers and a high-quality menu. Selkirk Lodge at Schweitzer Mountain is the perfect place for a cozy setting, featuring two fireplaces, comfortable lounge-style seating, and sensational burgers.
Where to stay: Talus Rock Retreat is a Tuscan-style, timber-framed lodge that shines come winter time. Want privacy? With 30 acres of land, the property has just six guest rooms and suites. This is the place go if you want an intimate experience after dealing with winter crowds on the slopes.
Want someplace even more remote? Check out this Alaskan town that’s 250 miles away from the nearest stoplight.
Residing in the Jackson Hole Valley of Teton County, Jackson is one of America’s most authentic western destinations, featuring adorable mom-and-pop shops and motels, locals adorning cowboy boots as they strut down the streets, and an incredibly picturesque view of the Grand Tetons.
What to do: Ski down the slopes of Jackson Hole’s steep, powdery runs. The resort is another one on this list that’s known for giving first-timers of the sport a helping hand, featuring everything from daycare to kid’s lessons and camps and adult lessons. Experts flock here for its notorious reputation as being a “skier’s mountain,” for its hardcore terrain. Nature lovers should also check out the Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris for a wintry tour of Grand Teton National Park, where you’ll spot wolves, coyotes, elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and moose.
Where to eat: The culinary scene is bustling here. Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse, White Buffalo Club, and Westbank Grill are surely the steakhouse staples that you must try out. Grab breakfast at Persephone Bakery, Jackson’s French-style bakery and coffee shop, take your time with tapas at Bin 22, and enjoy chef-driven, unique bites at The Rose.
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North Conway, New HampshireNick Beer/Shutterstock
Situated in the heart of Mt. Washington Valley near the White Mountains National Forest, this is surely one of the prettiest mountain towns New England has to offer. The picture-perfect village of North Conway will sweep you off your feet—and hopefully onto the mountain!
What to do: Layer up and stroll down Main Street, checking out the various storefront shops, featuring everything from clothing to cigars. Everything is just oozing with old-time charm. Cranmore Mountain Resort is located in the heart of the village, and offers 56 trails. For more of a challenge, head to Attitash Mountain Resort which offers 68 trails and 11 lifts across two big, connected mountains (Attitash & Bear peak). There are a total of 13 ski resorts within 30 minutes from town, so you have plenty of options!
Where to stay: If you’re traveling with kids, definitely try out Red Jacket Mountain View Resort which features a 40,000-square foot indoor water park. And for that quaint ski lodge feel, stay at Green Granite Inn and Conference Center.
Red River, New MexicoRoschetzky Photography/Shutterstock
Situated northeast of Taos in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this is the mountain town Texans take off to for a local ski resort that features a laid-back vibe. Though it’s small in stature, it’s grandiose in charm. The town features just one funky road, where a mix of alpine-style restaurants, bohemian shops, and a whole lot of Texan twang provide some eclecticism.
What to do: If you want a really mellow alpine ski experience, check out Red River Ski Area, which features intermediate terrain. Bar hop your heart out for some apres ski fun along the main drag, or keep it adventurous by going on a guided snowmobile tour with Bobcat Pass Wilderness Adventures in the Kit Carlson National Forest, with miles of trails crossed by elk, mountain lions, and bobcats.
Where to eat: Go to Bull O’ The Woods Saloon for a historical local watering hole, check out Sundance Restuarant for Mexican food, hand cut steaks, and agave wine margaritas, and get your fill of live music at Texas Reds Steakhouse.
Read on for more of America’s prettiest winter towns.