Imagine a ski destination with no lift lines where you can plunder pristine powder all day long. You could splash out on remote heli-ski adventure, but that’s not for everyone.
So the smart travel alternative is to become a member at an exclusive private ski resort, much like joining a golf club.
For a fee (not generally small), you can avoid the usual frenzy and bag fresh tracks with barely a soul around. If your pockets are deep and you’ve chosen well, you can retire to your own luxury slopeside lodge and do it all over again the next day.
Here are nine of the best private ski resorts and semi-private ski destinations in the USA and beyond:
Yellowstone Club, Montana, USA
Who for: M. Moneybags esq., celeb spotters, Bill Gates
This is skiing the uber-rich way. Becoming a member at the Yellowstone Club in the Rockies of Montana means potentially riding the lifts with just Bill Gates or Justin Timberlake for company.
The limited-membership club charges an initial fee of $400,000 and an annual fee of $41,500, but that’s just the small change.
To become a member you have to own property, which ranges from condos starting at $3 million to ranches north of $25 million.
But once you’ve splashed the cash, the skiing’s epic, with 18 lifts, more than 100 runs and 2,700 vertical feet of downhill action centered on Pioneer Mountain. Plus, there’s 300 inches annually of the white stuff.
There’s everything in the 2,700 skiable acres from gentle beginner slopes to steep expert chutes. If that’s not enough, Yellowstone Club backs onto the vast Big Sky Resort. All that, and you can bag some runs with extreme ski legend Scot Schmidt, who is the club’s resident ski pro.
Getting there: Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is only an hour’s drive from Yellowstone Club with daily flights from across the United States. Transfers to and from the airport can be arranged by car or helicopter
Yellowstone Club, 1 Yellowstone Club Trail, Big Sky, MT 59716, USA; +1 406-995-4900
Cimarron Mountain Club, Colorado, USA
Who for: Those who REALLY hate lift lines
Cimarron Mountain Club could just be the most exclusive resort-based ski experience in the world when it opens in December 2018.
The 1,750-acre property in the San Juan Mountains between Telluride and Crested Butte will be available to just 13 home-owning families and their guests.
The initial buy-in is likely to be about $2.3 million, with annual dues of $62,000.
Members are then deeded a site on which to build a cabin, although they may prefer to stay in the six-bedroom lodge or one of four club cabins.
The ski area encompasses 1,000 acres along the club’s two-and-a-half miles of the Cimarron Ridge, with access to another 950 acres of public land. The 60 runs will be reached by snowcat, with six distinct areas offering a variety of terrain from leisurely groomed runs to glades, chutes and bowls.
Each member is guaranteed 115 days of cat-skiing a year on an area the club claims is bigger than Aspen Mountain. And with a limit in the current accommodation of just 36 guests, that’s a lot of skiable acreage per person.
Getting there: Cimarron Club is 45 minutes by car or 10 minutes by helicopter from Montrose airport, which offers private jet services and seasonal non-stop flights from a range of national hubs.
Eagle Point, Utah, USA
Who for: Powder hounds in search of solitude
Eagle Point, halfway between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas in southern Utah, is a public ski resort with an exclusive twist.
With a lofty base at 9,100 feet it receives more than 350 inches of Utah’s legendary dry powder a year, which can be exclusively yours for three days a week.
For the pocket change of $10,000 a day, the entire mountain – five lifts, 40-plus pine-clad runs, 600 skiable acres, 1,500 feet of vertical – can be rented Tuesday-Thursday, January through the end of March, for individuals or groups of up to 200 on corporate junkets.
Accommodation is mostly in condos although there are larger homes with hot tubs and all the luxury trim.
Getting there: Las Vegas is a three-hour drive southwest of Eagle Point, Salt Lake City is about the same to the north. Small private jets can fly into Beaver Municipal airport, which is 22 miles away.
Eagle Point, 150 S W Village Cir, Beaver, UT 84713, USA; +1 435-438-3700
Silverton Mountain, Colorado, USA
Who for: Backcountry fans who like to hike
Silverton has one single chairlift, but this highway to heaven accesses 1,819 acres of exclusive excitement. There’s an additional 29,000 acres of heli-skiing for people seeking seriously fresh powder.
This ungroomed ski area, for advanced and experts only, lies a short distance as the crow flies from Telluride and enjoys the same whopping 400 inches of snow per year.
The genius is in the policy of guided groups only from December to March (Thursday-Sunday), which limits the number of visitors.
If that’s still not exclusive enough, you can book the whole mountain starting at $9,990 per day.
The ski area rises from 10,400 feet to 12,300 feet, and the mustard keen can hike beyond that to a peak of 13,487 feet for some of the highest skiing in North America.
There are a variety of lodging options in the nearby town of Silverton, an off-the-beaten-track former silver mining camp.
Getting there: Silverton is a one-hour drive from either Durango or Montrose airports and six hours south of Denver through spectacular scenery.
Silverton Mountain, 6226 State Hwy 110, Silverton, CO 81433, USA; +1 970-387-5706
Powder Mountain, Utah, USA
Who for: Early birds and entrepreneurs
“Pow Mow,” as it’s known to locals, is something of a powdery garden of Eden. That’s Eden, Utah, an hour north of Salt Lake City in the Wasatch mountains.
It’s not exactly private – in fact, it’s very much public – but lift tickets are limited to 1,500 per day to preserve its soul.
Powder Mountain was taken over in 2013 by the Summit collective of new-age entrepreneurs and thought leaders, with funds boosted by crowdsourcing big names such as Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Alphabet, Inc.’s Eric Schmidt.
The vision is to build a controlled and sympathetic next-generation alpine town at 8,600 feet at the top of this upside-down ski area, appealing to artists, innovators and influencers.
Nine lifts currently access the 167 runs to provide a lift-served skiable area of 7,957 acres, which the resort claims is the largest area per skier in the US.
The highest lift goes to Hidden Lake Lodge at 8,900 feet, but there are also expansive avalanche-controlled snowcat skiing areas, for $25 a drop, which funnel back to shuttle bus stops or lifts.
Getting there: Powder Mountain is 55 miles from Salt Lake City and 20 minutes from the former frontier town of Ogden, and the Ogden-Hinckley airport with services from Phoenix, LA and Las Vegas.
Powder Mountain, 6965 E Powder Mountain Rd, Eden, UT 84310, USA; +1 801-745-3772
HoliMont, New York, USA
Who for: Upstate New York set, Pennsylvania pilgrims, families
HoliMont, a contraction of “Holiday Mountain,” opened in 1962 and is now the largest private ski club in the United States.
It’s open to the public during the week but weekends are reserved for the 4,000 members to enjoy the 52 tree-lined trails, eight lifts and 135 skiable acres, with plans to develop the Westmont Ridge ski area.
The skiing rises to a high point of 2,260 feet, giving a 700-foot vertical drop amid the rolling Enchanted Mountains near Lake Erie.
The initiation fees begin from about $10,000, with family dues from $177 per month.
Accommodation is in the Ellicottville area although there are plans to add real estate near Westmont Ridge.
Getting there: The nearby town of Ellicottville is just under an hour’s drive south of Buffalo in upstate New York.
Holimont, 6921 NY-242, Ellicottville, NY 14731, USA; +1 716-699-2320
Alpine Ski Club, Ontario, Canada
Who for: Toronto types, lovers of lake views
Alpine evolved from a traveling band of skiing enthusiasts to a club with a permanent site on the Niagara escarpment in the Blue Mountains in 1960.
It grew from a few hand-hewn runs and a rope tow to today’s 120 acres and 36 runs served by five lifts.
The 760 feet of elevation spans beginners runs at the base area to more advanced terrain higher up with five double-black expert runs known as “The Steeps.”
The glass-fronted contemporary clubhouse opened in 2016 with views of the escarpment and across to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron.
Alpine is one of a number of small private ski clubs in the area, including Craigleith, Georgian Peaks, Beaver Valley and Caledon.
Getting there: Alpine Ski Club is 100 miles and a two-hour drive north of Toronto.
Alpine Ski Club, 17-242 Arrowhead Road, Blue Mountains, Ontario; (705) 445-0339
Temple Basin, South Island, New Zealand
Who for: Back-to-basics fans, the non-designer ski suit set
New Zealand is renowned for its “clubbies,” small back-to-basics ski fields operated by club members. They’re open to the public, too, but one, Temple Basin, has what locals call the “Range Rover filter” to dissuade the latte-drinking, designer ski-suit set.
“TB” can only be reached on foot – a 50-minute haul up a jeep track while your luggage is whisked up in the goods lift. This gives it an air of privacy for the hardcore NZ skiers for whom enjoying a raw mountain experience – there are no groomed runs either – is more important than heated chairlifts and hot tubs.
The three rope tows – accessed via a “nutcracker” metal clamp which grabs the moving rope and is attached to a waist harness – open up 790 acres of skiable area and a variety of descents for intermediates and above including some steep, rocky big-mountain terrain for experts.
For those bitten by the bug, there is bunkhouse accommodation offering dinner, bed and breakfast.
Getting there: It’s a two-hour drive from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass followed by a 50-minute walk to the ski area.
Temple Basin, State Highway 73, Arthur’s Pass National Park; +64 3 377 7788