Mountain Ranges: The Origins Of World-Famous Ski Destinations

by Travis McCullough | January 9, 2024

Outside of Antarctica, every continent on the planet has at least one world-famous ski destination. Whether you are looking for a family-friendly haven to explore or the steepest deepest terrain imaginable, just about every part of the planet has a little something for everyone. This list is far from exhaustive and choosing from all of the best ski areas on the planet is no easy feat, but at the very least it should add some more resorts to your must-ski list this season.

The Rocky Mountains

The Rockies are an absolutely massive mountain range that spans 3,000 miles from northwestern Canada all the way down to New Mexico. As the largest mountain range in North America, you can bet that it holds more than a few world-famous ski destinations. 

The Teton Range

This subrange of the Rockies is the gem of Wyoming when it comes to skiing. Grand Teton tops out at 13,775’, and the rest of the Teton Range is chock-full of steep terrain. The Tetons hold more than a handful of world-famous ski resorts that consistently get pounded with snow every season. The most popular of these being Jackson Hole Mountain Resort which touts a whopping 400”-500” of snow on average. Wyoming generally isn’t the first place that new skiers would consider traveling to, but take it from us, it is a powderhound’s dream.

Resorts to check out: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Grand Targhee, Snow King Resort

The Wasatch Range

A little further south within the Rocky Mountains lies the Wasatch Range of Utah. Along with Colorado, Utah is one of those states that is known for its deep and dry powder. Wasatch County is the snowiest county in the state, and the rest of the Wasatch mountain range follows suit. There’s a reason that the area is jam-packed with so many historic resorts like Alta and Snowbird. 

Resorts to check out: Alta, Snowbird, Deer Valley, Solitude, Park City Mountain Resort, Brighton

san juan mountain range

The San Juans

Even further south toward the southern tip of the Rockies is a snow factory known as the San Juans. It would be impossible to fit in all of the top-tier mountain ranges of Colorado in this short article, but the San Juans are a personal favorite for more than their natural beauty. The southwestern part of the state holds everything from family-friendly resorts like Telluride to big backcountry playgrounds like Silverton. Even better, they all have one thing in common – heavy annual snowfall. Do yourself a favor this spring and plan a trip to any of the local ski areas in the San Juans, you won’t be disappointed.

Resorts to check out: Telluride, Wolf Creek, Silverton, Purgatory

The Pacific Coast Range

The Pacific Coast mountains make up another beast of a mountain range in North America. Stretching from Alaska down to Central Mexico, this range is brimming with famous ski destinations like the rest of the western US. 

Sierra Nevadas

The Sierra Nevadas

The name Sierra Nevada is synonymous with great beer and even better snow along the western edge of North America. This range encompasses a large portion of the border between California and Nevada. Part of the reason that the Sierra Nevadas are world renowned for skiing is the diversity of the mountains within the range. With lower elevation peaks around the Lake Tahoe area to the highest summit in the lower 48 states of Mount Whitney, there is an almost endless amount of terrain to discover.

Resorts to check out: Palisades Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, Heavenly, Kirkwood, Bear Valley

The Cascades

Just above the Sierra Nevadas in Oregon and Washington are the ever-famous Cascade Mountains. As far as the Pacific Northwest goes, this is the capital of must-ski resorts. Big winter storms drop hundreds of inches of heavy snow along the Pacific Coast and high peaks allow you to enjoy this precipitation for the better part of the entire year. Oregon and Washington are already a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and dirtbags alike, but the prime time to visit is during ski season.

Resorts to check out: Mt. Baker Ski Area, Stevens Pass Ski Resort, Hoodoo, Mt. Hood Meadows, Timberline

The Fitzsimmons Range

Up in British Columbia, we have a smaller mountain range that is the home of one of Canada’s most famous ski destinations. No disrespect to Fernie, Mont Tremblant, or Lake Louise, but we are talking about Whistler-Blackcomb of course. Celebrated as the largest ski resort in North America, Whistler has a mind-boggling amount of terrain for skiers of all skill levels. 

Resorts to check out: Whistler-Blackcomb

The Alps

Now it’s time to show our buddies across the pond in Europe some love. Everyone knows the Alps of Italy, Austria, France, Switzerland, Germany, Slovenia, and Hungary are a world-famous ski destination whether you actually ski or not. Many of the world’s best skiers and boarders grew up honing their skills in the Alps, and it’s not hard to see why.

The Pennine Alps

This range lies within the southern part of the Alps, spanning Switzerland and Italy. Based around the 14,692’ behemoth known as the Matterhorn, many of the ski areas in the Pennine Alps are open year-round. What’s unique about this area is the number of massive ski resorts that combine anywhere from 3-5 mountains into one unforgettable skiing experience. If you are powder-hungry year-round like us, it would be very wise to spend those frequent flier miles on a trip to Europe.

Resorts to check out: Zermatt Matterhorn, Zermatt Bergbahnen, Verbier 4Vallées

The Dolomites

The Dolomite Mountains, or Dolomiti, is the premier playground for outdoor recreation in northeastern Italy. This area is dominated by Dolomiti Superski which is composed of over 450mi2 of terrain over 12 different mountains. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some smaller resorts in the area worth skiing, but it’s hard to argue with the quality of all the mountains within the Dolomiti Superski boundaries. 

Resorts to check out: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Kronplatz, Alta Badia, Val Gardena

The Japanese Alps

Not everyone is aware that Japan has its very own set of Alps, but they are every bit of the European skiing powerhouse from which they get their namesake. They consist of the Hida, Kiso, Akaishi subranges that span the island. Japan is a famous destination for skiing because of the vast number of resorts scattered across its islands and the incredible amounts of powder they can get during the winter, hence the name Japanuary.



Honshu is Japan’s largest island and it is stacked with world-famous skiing destinations, which is why the 1998 Winter Olympics were held in Nagano. Between the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, there are over 400 resorts to choose from, making Japan a skiers/boarders paradise.

Resorts to check out: Naeba, Kagura, Geto Kogen, Tenjindaira, Nozawa Onsen

The Andes

You thought we forgot about the southern hemisphere?! Get real. South America is home to the longest continental mountain range on planet Earth. The Andes stretch over 5,500 mi, so you know that there isn’t any shortage of gnar to shred. Not to mention, those of us from up north need a place to ski during our summers, right? 

The Chilean Andes

The Chilean Andes are notorious for high-elevation fun on the snow. This mountain range is a favorite for expert skiers and boarders because of how steep the local mountains are. It’s not unheard of for some of the resorts like Nevados de Chillán to receive 400” of the good stuff in a season. The ski season down here runs usually from June until October, making it a perfect option for staying in shape during the offseason in the northern hemisphere. 

Resorts to check out: Valle Nevado, Ski Portillo, Nevados de Chillán

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