Let's start by stating the obvious: There are a lot of great ski resorts out there. Far more, even, than the 80 we put on our initial list when we set out to pick the top 50 in North America -- which is why we asked for your help.

The results are in. Your participation did more than help us make unkind cuts and add color commentary. It showed an appreciation for just how many ways a resort can stand out, be it through a bustling base village, frequent powder days or a superb ski school for the kids.

Not surprisingly, those twin stalwarts of destination skiing, Colorado and Vermont, ran away with it. A perfect dozen from the Rocky Mountain State -- including the No. 1 spot -- set the tone for resorts in western states: big. Big mountains with huge drops, sprawling ski areas that span multiple peaks, outsized terrain parks and endless buffets of winter activities and luxurious amenities.

Vermont's eight picks, while not as massive as their western counterparts, helped prove that the Rockies don't have a lock on great skiing. Old standbys like Stowe and Jay Peak were popular with voters, and picks like Smugglers' Notch, with its triple black diamond run, demonstrate that New England can satisfy even the most adrenaline-addicted powder junkie.

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Not far behind was Utah, with seven picks -- all within a few miles of each other. There was no higher concentration of incredible skiing and snowboarding on our list than in Utah's Wasatch range, which lies between Salt Lake City and Park City. This has to do, in large part, with the Utah’s slogan, “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”

Many of these resorts average around 500 inches a year -- that's over 41 feet -- and as recently as 2011 some posted figures as high as 776 inches. You’d have to work very hard to run out of fresh powder there.

British Columbia’s so-called “Powder Highway” gave the Canadian province a strong showing, independent of its mega-resort Whistler Blackcomb. The Lake Tahoe area of Northern California also notched three spots in the top 50.

In making the final list, we combined publicly available stats, other expert lists and -- with added weight, of course -- our own survey results.

Best Ski Resorts In North America Slideshow


25. Kicking Horse (Golden, B.C.)

This young ski area 45 miles outside of Banff National Park gives the resort treatment to heli skiing territory. Not surprisingly, Kicking Horse is known for its backcountry access, but even inbounds the big draw is its huge vertical -- over 4,000 feet -- and collection of four alpine bowls with 90 chutes. Many of the runs are so new they go by numbers instead of names, which may, perhaps, speak to its uncrowded atmosphere. Not that it’s all bombing all the time here: Kicking Horse has a roomy 10-km green run called “It’s a 10,” and a selection of blues and greens further down. By way of non-ski attractions, Kicking Horse is home to a rescued grizzly bear named Boo (don’t worry, there’s an enclosure), and Canada’s highest restaurant, Eagle's Eye, perched on the top of the mountain. KickingHorseResort.com -- Mark Lebetkin


24. Aspen Mountain Colorado)

Aspen's original ski area, now part of the Aspen-Snowmass conglomerate, is the classic, compact resort that set the town on the path to becoming the skiing wonderland it is today. Formerly called "Ajax," Aspen Mountain is small, covering only 675 acres rising directly out of town, but in that tight space it fits serious, no frills shredding. There are no easy runs here and more than half range from black diamond to extreme. AspenSnowMass.com -- Mark Lebetkin


23. Winter Park Resort (Colorado)

Winter Park calls itself "Colorado's favorite," which makes sense given that this easily accessible resort is only 67 miles from Denver. Winter Park is spread out over three peaks, the most famous of which is Mary Jane, known for her big bumps. There's also the Cirque, which gives inbounds access to steep chutes and tight tree skiing. But what endears Winter Park most to its fans is the casual, welcoming vibe that stands in contrast to the more commercial outfits out there: "Winter Park is not a Snow Disney, but an authentic big mountain," commented one reader. Families return there year after year. Another reader wrote, "I've telemark skied Winter Park for 20 years, from being single and partying, to [having] my 9-year-old on the ski team." WinterParkResort.com -- Mark Lebetkin


22. Canyons (Utah)

Originally founded as Park City West, Canyons has been through a lot of changes over the years. The most recent round, begun in 2010, saw the addition of hundreds of skiable acres and the Orange Bubble Express, a high-speed quad lift that also happens to have heated seats -- an American first. Not only is Canyons the largest of the three resorts in Park City (the other two being Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort), it’s the largest in Utah, covering nine peaks and 4,000 acres. With such a huge spread, Canyons is practically a skiing buffet, serving up heaping portions of bowl, chute and glade skiing, as well as a healthy side of greens. CanyonsResort.com -- Mark Lebetkin


21. Big White (Kelowna, B.C.)

Although it doesn’t have the massive scale of Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia’s mega-resort of note, this ski-in resort is still impressively large, with over 2,700 skiable acres in the Okanagan Valley, and offers one of the most well rounded experiences west of the Rockies. Noted for being especially family friendly by voters, the resort operates a ski school for all ages that has been recognized as one of the best in Canada. But that doesn’t mean the serious skiers in your clan will miss out: Big White is also famous for the quality of its snow, which is some of the driest Champagne powder around, and its generous helping of glades. BigWhite.com -- Mark Lebetkin


20. Breckenridge (Colorado)

With four mountains, five tall peaks, and almost 3,000 acres there's no question as to why Breckenridge is one of the most visited ski resorts in the Western Hemisphere. The resort is famed for its Imperial Express SuperChair, North America’s highest chairlift, which carries riders up to a peak elevation of 12,840 feet, offering the clearest sights to some of Colorado's most stunning and scenic views. But with a ton of terrain and world-class slopes catered to skiers of every level, at Breck getting back down the mountain is an equally novel experience. Breckenridge.com -- Katie Rosenbrock


19. Copper Mountain (Colorado)

With a history as the host of the 1976 World Cup alpine ski races (and a trail named after champion Rosi Mittermaier) and all the amenities of a modern ski resort, Copper Mountain is truly a one-of-kind Colorado snow sanctuary. One of the most recent additions to the park is its 20,000 square-foot Woodward Camp, an indoor ski and snowboard terrain park and pipe progression training center. With 21 total features for park rats of all different levels it's quickly become one of Copper's new main attractions. CopperColorado.com —Katie Rosenbrock


18. Crested Butte (Colorado)

This Rocky Mountain resort is located near an old mining town of the same name, which has managed to maintain its original character and avoid becoming the tourist trap that the Vails and Aspens of the world are often accused of being. It's all about the skiing here. By reputation, Crested Butte has some of the most extreme inbounds skiing you're likely to find in North America, with 542 acres dedicated to insanely vertical double-black-diamond runs. In fact, Crested Butte was the first resort in the U.S. to host an extreme freeskiing competition, and it has continued to do so for over 20 years now. Lucky for those of us without a death wish, 69 percent of its trails are beginner and intermediate, many of which are thoughtfully separated from the bomber runs by their own lifts. SkiCB.com -- Mark Lebetkin


17. Snowmass (Aspen, Colo.)

Snowmass is the big, friendly member of the Aspen-Snowmass family of resorts. With over 3,000 skiable acres, 94 trails and 4,000-plus vertical feet, Snowmass has enough variety to please both weekenders and ski snobs alike. The terrain parks, featuring large and small halfpipes, have also been called some of the best in the country by Transworld Snowboarding. And of course there’s the glam ski town of Aspen -- possibly the most famous of them all -- which is the very definition of a full off-slope experience. AspenSnowMass.com -- Mark Lebetkin


16. Stowe (Vermont)

This "classic yet modern" resort, as one reader put it, is located on Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak, and on adjacent Spruce Peak. Although it now has a tony New England vibe, the resort has New Deal origins, dating back to a Civilian Conservation Corps project in the 1930s. The prices are definitely not Depression era -- $98 for a one-day regular-season lift ticket -- but the mountain keeps bringing people back and the amenities reflect the price tag. Stowe.com -- Mark Lebetkin


15. Taos Ski Valley (New Mexico)

Situated in the Southern Rockies of New Mexico, this charming and quaint mountain was once home to an abandoned mining town. Now, the family-owned park, ranked highly for its varying terrains, affordability, and authenticity, is a rugged 1,300 acre resort that prides itself on exuding the “lore of the European Alps" combined with the "charm and beauty of the Southwest.” In 2008, the resort lifted its ban on snowboarding and now welcomes both skiers and boarders alike into a friendly, laid back atmosphere that snow lovers of all levels and backgrounds enjoy. SkiTaos.org -- Katie Rosenbrock


14. Big Sky-Moonlight Basin (Montana)

Just last month, Big Sky merged with Moonlight Basin to surpass Vail as the largest single ski area in the United States. Located north of Yellowstone on fittingly-named Lone Mountain -- its solitary, perfectly triangular peak rises to 11,166 feet -- Big Sky has some of the best inbounds big mountain skiing anywhere. The Lone Peak Tram takes experts all the way to the top where the monster cliff and chute action begins. If you like your skiing a little more, er, leisurely, the bottom half of the mountain (and lesser peaks like Andesite Mountain) is welcoming to intermediates. BigSkyResort.com -- Mark Lebetkin


13. Mammoth Mountain (California)

Maybe this mountain is named after its location in Mammoth Lake, Calif., but don't let that take away from the fact that pretty much everything about this resort is massive. Set in the eastern Sierras in Inyo National Forest, Mammoth offers skiers a whopping 3,500-plus acres of skiable territory, eight Unbound terrain parks, and one of the longest ski seasons in North America. (The '94-'95 season lasted over ten months, opening on October 8 and finally closing on the thirteenth of August.) One of the parks most renowned attractions is the Unbound Main terrain park, where a handful of elites, including Shaun White, practice and compete. MammothMountain.com -- Katie Rosenbrock


12. Sun Valley (Idaho)

Sun Valley (Sun Valley, Idaho) Idaho is the self-proclaimed “soul of skiing,” and not unrightfully so. Developed by Union Pacific Railroad chairman W. Averell Harriman just after the successful 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, Sun Valley was the United States' first ever destination winter resort. Now, more than 75 years later, rich with history and considered a true ski town through and through, Sun Valley is still regarded as one of the top ski resorts in the nation. Bald Mountain (or “baldy” as the locals like to call it) boasts a consistent vertical drop with slopes for skiers of all levels, and Dollar Mountain—the location of the world’s first ski lift—offers a wide variety of park terrain and a 22-foot superpipe. And if you were wondering where its name comes from, about 80 percent of the ski season here is graced by brilliant blue skies and warm, radiant rays, making it a go-to spot for "winter sports under a summer sun." SunValley.com -- Katie Rosenbrock


11. Beaver Creek (Avon, Colo.)

A regular host of World Cup skiing events and the future site of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, Beaver Creek recently completed a brand new women's speed course, adding 17 skiable acres to this huge, highly-rated resort. Located just 10 miles west of Vail and with three villages, four mountains, and 150 trails of varying levels, it's no wonder this world-class resort is a top-pick for snow seekers everywhere. Oh, and every day at 3 p.m. is "cookie time," during which fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies are passed out at the base of the Centennial Express Lift. It's "the perfect ending to the perfect day," the resort claims. Can't quarrel with that. BeaverCreek.com -- Katie Rosenbrock


10. Squaw Valley (California)

Squaw Valley (Olympic Valley, Calif.) The biggest resort in Tahoe in terms of skiable acreage, Squaw Valley (which now shares a lift ticket with nearby Alpine Meadows) goes toe to toe with Northstar and Heavenly in terms of popularity. This freeriding and freeskiing mecca is the home resort for many of the sports’ biggest names, including Jeremy Jones, Tim Dutton and J.T. Holmes. The KT-22 lift leads to hucking heaven, which is why air lovers line up at the crack of dawn on powder days and weekends. Not to say beginners or intermediate skiers can’t have a good time here: the greens and blues are high up on the mountain, affording wow-worthy views of the lake below. Squaw.com -- Mark Lebetkin


9. Steamboat (Colorado)

Comprised of six peaks on and around Mount Werner, Steamboat calls itself a "complete mountain range" with 165 named trails and more than 2,900 acres. Pioneer Ridge, Sunshine Peak, and Storm Peak are the resort’s biggest draws, and powder hounds who frequent here know the slopes are never void of smooth and dry "Champagne powder." Tucked away from some of the area’s other ski resorts, one reader notes, it may be "a little bit of a pain to get to, but worth it when you get there." Steamboat.com -- Katie Rosenbrock


8. Snowbird (Utah)

Tucked in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah's Wasatch range, Snowbird and its sister resort Alta (which shares a lift ticket) have long seasons and tons of snow. We're talking an average of around 500 inches a year, and as high as 776 inches in 2011. While not known for being beginner-friendly, Snowbird makes up for its relative lack of groomed blue and green runs with some of the most highly rated expert terrain in the country. Expect lots and lots of fresh powder, steep chutes, and some seriously memorable skiing. Snowbird.com -- Mark Lebetkin


7. Park City Mountain Resort (Utah)

Ski directly into town at Park City Mountain Resort, which is famous for hosting the snowboarding and men’s and women’s alpine giant slalom events in the 2002 Winter Olympics, and also for being featured in the Xbox 360 Shaun White Snowboarding game. With several courses designed for U.S. Ski Team training, a handful of terrain parks, and the ever-popular “Alpine Slide” toboggan coaster, Park City is truly a family-friendly resort set to serve every type of skier. ParkCityMountain.com -- Katie Rosenbrock


6. Whistler Blackcomb (B.C.)

No stumper here: One of our reader-favorites also happens to be the most popular skiing destination on the continent. First let’s look at the stats: it has the most skiable acres in North America, two mountains with nearly mile-high verticals, 16 alpine bowls, over 200 marked trails, 6 terrain parks, 17 on-mountain restaurants ... should we keep going? With such a huge footprint, varied terrain and some 460 inches of snow annually, you'll have plenty of opportunity to find fresh powder even with the crowds. This mega-resort, which is a gorgeous 2-hour drive from Vancouver, is also known for its off-slope amenities in Whistler Village, its access to endless backcountry terrain, and the Peak-2-Peak Gondola, with breathtaking 360-degree views. WhistlerBlackComb.com -- Mark Lebetkin


5. Alta (Utah)

Alta first opened its doors to skiers in 1939, making it one of the oldest and most storied ski resorts in the U.S. Nestled amid the Wasatch Mountains in a unique microclimate environment that differs from the surrounding area, the location is characterized by 500 inches of high-volume, low-moisture snow every year. Alta especially prides itself on its exceptional beginner and intermediate slopes but offers a wide variety of terrains, including quite a few advanced gradients. As one reader so succinctly put it, "The snow at Alta is fantastic. [This is a] resort for real skiers." Alta.com -- Katie Rosenbrock


4. Jackson Hole (Wyoming)

Located in Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole is an extreme skier’s dream. It’s home to the legendary Corbet’s Couloir, an expert run that begins with a 30-foot drop and draws daredevils from all over the world. But while it's famous for super-steep terrain -- half of its trails are rated expert -- and incredible backcountry, Jackson Hole is also starting to build a reputation for attracting families and the less adrenaline-addicted set. And of course, there's the nearby gateway town of Jackson, Wyo., which has a cultural and culinary cachet that belies its remote location. JacksonHole.com -- Mark Lebetkin


3. Telluride (Colorado)

Serene and secluded, Telluride prides itself on its uncrowded trails, which include such famed terrain as Revelation Bowl, Palmyra Peak and Gold Hill Chutes. With everything from neatly groomed beginner runs to demanding downhill slopes and more than 2,000 skiable acres, the resort welcomes beginners and experts alike. Choose between hotel, condo, or vacation home lodging, spend your downtime with activities like free mountain tours, snowshoeing, and guided hikes, and at the end of an active day cash in on your complimentary chair massage at the Gorrono Ranch. TellurideSkiResort.com -- Katie Rosenbrock


2. Deer Valley (Park City, Utah)

"Luxury" is a word you often hear tossed around when describing Deer Valley. But while this resort is definitely an upscale choice in an area packed with choices -- Alta, Snowbird, Park City and Canyons are all nearby -- the quality of its skiing is as good as the service provided by its uniformed ski valets. True, the terrain isn't quite as challenging as Alta's or Snowbird's, but the immaculately groomed runs are uncrowded since Deer Valley limits the number of lift tickets sold and -- a modern-day rarity --forbids snowboarding. DeerValley.com -- Mark Lebetkin


1. Vail (Colorado)

The second-largest resort in the U.S. is also America’s favorite, at least by the numbers. It’s no wonder: The wide variety of terrain spread out over Vail Mountain is enough to satisfy every level of skier and snowboarder. There are the miles and miles of groomed runs on the front side of the mountain, and for expert skiers there are the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin. "Take your pick if you love bowl skiing," wrote one reader. As a dedicated resort town, Vail Village is also a walkable, concentrated dose of gourmet dining, après-ski nightlife and shopping. Vail.com -- Mark Lebetkin

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For the complete list of the 50 Best Ski Resorts In North America, go to TheActiveTimes.com.

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