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Picture-perfect ski towns

For most skiers and snowboarders, the ski towns that they visit and stay in are just as important as the slopes down which they ski and ride.
Warm Winter Hurting New Mexico Ski Resorts
Ski slopes in Taos, New MexicoJoe Raedle / Getty Images
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For most skiers and snowboarders, the ski towns that they visit and stay in are just as important as the slopes down which they ski and ride. An evening walking down a magically lit mining town street, a dinner in front of a crackling fire and a sleigh ride through the woods rate right up there with how much vertical was covered during the day.

Though virtually every resort in North America can claim to have plenty of snow and snowy fun for everyone from beginner to expert, not all resorts can provide a picture-postcard setting for the ideal vacation.

The staff came up with this list of resorts that have a wonderful balance of village charm and mountain character. These towns make for an extraordinary and unforgettable vacation experience.

Crested Butte, Colorado, is a small, once-upon-a-time mining town that time seems to have forgotten. Here, the twinkling lights and Old West building facades lend a feeling of romance. Gourmet restaurants occupy small miners' shacks. The rustic bars are packed with locals and après-ski aficionados. The trails streaking down the flanks of the mountain looming over the town have plenty of steeps for the super-experts as well as wide-open slopes for intermediates and beginners.

Manchester, Vermont, next to Stratton Mountain, typifies the elegant New England town. A white-steepled church stands watch over Main Street. Art galleries, antique stores and upscale boutiques line the streets. Museums and manorial houses present a glimpse into the past. And only a few minutes away, Stratton Mountain provides some of the top cruising trails in the East and its own signature mountain village.

Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho, blends the history of America's first star-filled ski resort with the down-to-earth Western town of Ketchum. At the edge of town, the world-famous Sun Valley Lodge evokes Hollywood elegance. Downtown old saloons rock with après-ski and later, upscale restaurants serve gourmet fare. On Baldy, the massive mountain, trails drop right down into the town.

Taos, New Mexico, combines diverse cultures with the drama of natural beauty. The resort has long been known for its daunting ski terrain, deep powder and its exceptional ski school. But the old city of Taos is also a unique example of America's Southwest with a delightful collection of adobe homes, scores of eclectic art galleries, dozens of regional restaurants and a one-in-the-world setting that creates a unique vacation.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has far more than only downhill sports and the dramatic Tetons to attract winter visitors. The town of Jackson with its antler-adorned main square and wooden sidewalks still retains a strong cowboy town flavor. And, almost for certain, a genuine cowboy will come walking around the corner at least once during a visit. Go to the National Museum of Wildlife Art and take a sleigh ride through thousand of elk at the National Elk Refuge.

These towns and resorts are the crème de la crème when it comes to irresistible charm, but others to consider are classic Stowe, Vermont; star-filled Aspen, Colorado; mining town Park City, Utah; and rustic Lake Placid, New York. Each of these resort towns is one of a kind, fascinating, winter vacation experience.