Image: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Canada, an 1892 European-style resort flanked by the Rocky Mountains, makes the most of its surroundings. Book a standard room in the newer Mount Temple wing, as they are 30 to 50 percent bigger than those in the historic building.
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updated 1/27/2011 9:16:24 AM ET 2011-01-27T14:16:24

How would you build the perfect ski hotel? Start with a slope-side location at a notable mountain, add a world-class spa, and decorate the hotel with native stone and Navajo carpets. Factor in an après-ski sushi bar and ever-smiling ski valets to help you with your boots. You’d end up with the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole — one of America’s best ski hotels.

Culled from Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Hotels — named by T+L readers through our annual survey — the best ski hotels must meet some basic requirements. First, alpine skiing has to be the raison d’être for staying there, not an afterthought. And the ski mountain should be close by. Ideally, that’s “close” as in outside the front door, though a few minutes’ walk or driving a mile or so is still okay.

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Slideshow: America's best ski hotels

At the winning hotels, the ski experience begins at check-in. Cozy lobby fireplace with comfy chairs? Check. A friendly and ski-savvy staff who know every powder stash and are generous enough to divulge a favorite? Check. And dining is as important as the snow conditions — places where the wine cellar rivals those found in any big-city restaurant.

Of course, it’s even better if there are ski valets to help with all that equipment. And a ski concierge doesn’t hurt, either — after all, you want someone who can nail that impossible dinner reservation in Aspen or direct you to an après-ski bar beloved by locals.

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Hotels that have a European ski tradition at their core tend to rank high in our listings, places like the Sonnenalp Resort of Vail, which has European ownership along with carved wood and antiques. Or the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley, which borrows smartly from the Norwegian design of Olympic skier Stein Eriksen’s homeland.

And the best ski hotels are true getaways, where a day on the slopes is easily paired with an afternoon of spa relaxation, like the Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid or Topnotch at Stowe.

Whether these resorts are in Alaska or New Hampshire, Colorado or the Canadian Rockies, they celebrate the sport of skiing and are in their prime during the winter season.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

Photos: Popular ski and snowboard playgrounds in America

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  1. Heavenly run

    Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., offers skiers 91 trails and 4,800 acres of terrain. (Corey Rich courtesy of Heavenly Ski Resort ) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Busy at Beaver Creek

    Colorado's Beaver Creek Snow Resort averages 311 inches of snow per year, gets 300 days of sun and offers more than 1,800 acres of skiable terrain. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Beaver Creek Snow Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Oh boy, Alberta

    Whiskey Jack Lodge is pictured at the foot of the ski hills in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the larger ski areas in North America with 4,200 acres of terrain. (Andy Clark / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 2-mile-high club

    Looking for a high-elevation rush? The base center at Utah's Snowbird Ski Resort sits at 8,100 feet. The resort's highest point, Hidden Peak, climbs to 11,000 feet. (Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Va-va-va-Vail

    Vail, Colo., located west of Denver, is one North America's better-known ski towns. Vail Ski Resort features more than 5,200 acres of skiable terrain over 193 trails. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Vail Ski Resorts) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Après ski

    Skiers and snowboarders can do more than hit the slopes in Vail, Colo. Visitors can visit spas, go shopping and enjoy nightlife, festivals and family-friendly activities. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Vail Ski Resorts) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Take a Telluride

    Also located in Colorado, Telluride Ski Resort has 18 lifts, 120 trails, more than 2,000 acres of terrain, and features "Galloping Goose," the resort's longest run (4.6 miles). (Telluride Ski & Golf) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Road trip!

    Ski and snowboard enthusiasts can easily drive to Telluride from the Four-Corner states. Located in Southwestern Colorado, the drive time is seven hours from Denver and Phoenix, 2 1/2 hours from Grand Junction, Colo., and 2 1/4 hours from Moab, Utah and Durango, Colo. (Telluride Ski & Golf) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Stowe away

    Stowe Ski Resort is smaller when compared to competition west of the Mississippi, but it is a hot spot in the Northeast. The area offers 485 acres of terrain, but an average trail length of 3,600 feet -- longer than any other New England resort, its Web site boasts. (Stowe Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Great spot for beginners

    Buttermilk Ski Resort is small compared to some of its Colorado neighbors. Located just outside Aspen, Buttermilk has carved out its niche by focusing on snowboarders and beginners. Buttermilk offers 435 acres of terrian over 44 runs. (Hal Williams Photography Inc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Experience required

    Aspen Mountain is the backdrop for a horse and carriage ride in downtown Aspen, Colo. Aspen Mountain features 76 trails -- 48 percent considered "more difficult," 26 percent "most difficult" and 26 percent "expert." If you're a beginner, you probably want to get your feet wet some place less daunting. (Hal Williams Photography Inc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Take a hike

    Members of Aspen Center for Enviromental Studies (ACES) take a snowshoe tour in Ashcroft, Colo.Ashcroft Ski Touring/Cross-Country Area offers about 22 miles of groomed trails, and is located 11 miles from Aspen. (Courtesy of ACES) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Lock and Keystone

    Another popular ski option in Colorado is Keystone Ski Area, located about 90 minutes from Denver International Airport. The area features 20 ski lifts, two gondolas and more than 3,100 acres of terrain. (Bob Winsett courtesy of Keystone Ski Area) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Grab a six-peak

    Vermont's Killington Ski Resort stretches across six peaks. Skiers and snowboarders can reach the area's 752 acres of terrain with 22 lifts. (Killington Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Beautiful Breckenridge

    Big crowds may descend on Colorado's ski resorts, but that shouldn't be a problem at Breckenridge. The resort has two high-speed SuperChairs, seven high-speed quad lifts, a triple lift, six double lifts, and others, giving it the ability to move nearly 38,000 people per hour. (Carl Scofieldd courtesy of Breckenridge) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Bring the family

    Smuggler's Notch in Vermont bills itself as "America's Family Resort," and offers services, activities and education aimed at making sure everyone in your clan has fun. (Smuggler's Notch Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 63 years and going strong

    Colorado's Arapahoe Basin has been operating since 1946. "The inaugural season opened with a single rope tow and $1.25 daily lift tickets," its Web site reads. Prices and equipment surely have changed, but "A-Basin" offers the skiers and snowboarders 900 acres of terrain -- more than half above the timberline. (Arapahoe Basin) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Long way down

    Utah's Alta Ski Area is scheduled to remain open through April 18, 2010. It features 2,200 acres of terrain, more than 100 runs and an average snowfall of 500 inches per season. It does not, however, allow snowboards. (Alta Ski Area) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Not for the faint of heart

    Of the 116 runs at Jackson Hole Ski Resort in Wyoming, 50 percent are "expert" and 40 percent are "intermediate." That's great news if you pass up the bunny slopes for some challenging skiing and snowboarding. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. On -- or off -- the beaten path

    Jackson Hole Ski Resort offers 2,500 acres of terrain, plus an open backcountry gate system that offers access to an additional 3,000 acres. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Sun Valley -- how original

    Seriously. Idaho's Sun Valley, started in 1936, claims it is the original ski resort. "Born out of a desire to bring the magic of the European ski resorts to America, Sun Valley quickly became a phenomenon without peer on this continent or any other," its Web site boasts. (Sun Valley Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Do you believe in miracles?

    American Shaun White is pictured competing during the Nokia Halfpipe Snowboard FIS World Cup on March 4, 2005 at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, N.Y. Lake Placid has hosted the Winter Olympics twice -- in 1932 and 1980 -- and offers a variety of activities, including downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, ice skating and more. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Old West reminder

    Seven thousand feet up in the Colorado Rockies, nestled quietly below one of the largest ski mountains in North America, sits a small ranching community that serves as a constant reminder that the Old West is alive and well. Never far from its ranching roots, Steamboat remains firmly linked to a Western tradition that sets it apart from every other ski resort in the world. (Larry Pierce courtesy of Steamboat) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Big skiing in Big Sky Country

    Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish, Mont., collects 300 inches of snow each year and features 3,000 acres of terrain, 94 marked trails and a 3.3-mile run called Hellfire. (Donnie Clapp courtesy of Whitefish Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Sweet on Sugarloaf

    Sugarloaf Ski Resort features 1,400 acres of skiable terrain, including Tote Road, a 3.5-mile-long stretch running from summit to base. Sugarloaf's redesigned terrain park features the 400 foot long Superpipe, a magnet for snowboarders throughtout the region. Portland and Bangor offer airport service to Sugarloaf, and Boston and Montreal are four short hours away. (Grant Klene courtesy of Sugarloaf Ski Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Crossing borders

    With more than 400 inches of snow per year, nearly 8,200 acres of skiable terrain and 200 trails, Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in British Columbia, Canada, is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. (Randy Lincks courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb ) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Carrying the torch

    Some athletes will become world champions of their sport on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb when the Winter Olympics roll into British Columbia early next year. (Paul Morrison courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb ) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    Corey Rich courtesy of Heavenly Ski Resort
    Above: Slideshow (27) Hit the lifts
  2. Image: Participants wearing helmets with horns
    Christof Stache / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (42) Winter wonderland

Explainer: Cheers! Eight great après ski cocktails

  • Crème brulee martini, anyone? We've looked to some of our favorite restaurants in ski country to find out what they're serving. Here's how to mix up your own.

  • Crème Brulee Martini

    Image: Creme brulee martini
    Skiing Magazine
    Take Frangelico and Cointreau, add a crushed-graham-cracker rim, and you've got a creme brulee martini.

    Vanilla vodka is mixed with Frangelico and Cointreau, shaken and served in a chilled cocktail glass with a crushed-graham-cracker rim.

    Find it at: Plato’s, Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colo.

  • Brandy Avondale

    Image:
    Skiing Magazine

    Baileys, Tuaca, rich Godiva chocolate liqueur and cream are added to brandy, shaken and strained into a snifter. It’s garnished with ground nutmeg, cinnamon and cocoa.

    Find it at: The Westin Riverfront, Beaver Creek, Colo.

  • Spruce's High West Toddy

    Image: High West Toddy
    Skiing Magazine

    The bartender at Spruce Restaurant creates this warm specialty with local High West Rendezvous Rye combined with Chamomile tea, honey water, lemon juice, cloves and a cinnamon stick. It’s garnished with a lemon peel for a bit of tang.

    Find it at: Dakota Mountain Lodge, The Canyons, Utah.

  • The Hot Teddy

    Image: Hot Teddy
    Skiing Magazine

    A delicious mix of Baileys, Grand Marnier, Frangelico and Goldschlager steamed with vanilla soymilk and topped with chocolate sprinkles.

    Find it at: The Westin Riverfront, Beaver Creek, Colo.

  • Pumpkin Pie

    Image: Pumpkin Pie
    Skiing Magazine

    Pumpkin puree, Wild Turkey or Kentucky bourbon, maple syrup and house make chai syrup are shaken with ice and topped with sparkling wine, then strained into a chilled martini glass with a cinnamon sugar rim.

    Find it at: Kelly Liken, Beaver Creek, Colo.

  • Old Saint Nick

    Image: Old Saint Nick
    Skiing Magazine
    Containing Jim Beam, Dark Rum and White Cr?me de Cacao, the Old Saint Nick is sure to make you jolly.

    A frothy combination of eggnog, Jim Beam, Myers Dark Rum, White Crème de Cacao and nutmeg to warm you from the inside out.

    Find it at: The Vail Cascade, Vail, Colo.

  • The Snowball

    Image:
    Skiing Magazine
    Y ou'll be climbing every mountain when you down one of the Snowball cocktails served at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt.

    Grey Goose Vodka, Kahlua and heavy cream are combined in a shaker and strained over crushed ice into a martini glass. Topped with a scoop of foamed milk and garnished with a cinnamon stick

    Find it at: Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vt.

  • The Falcon Burner

    Image: Falcon Burner
    Skiing Magazine

    This tall, hot double-shot cappuccino with Grand Marnier is topped with fresh Vermont whipped cream and drizzled with local maple syrup.

    Find it at: The Equinox, Manchester, Vt.

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