Tahoe

Straddling the border of California and Nevada, the Tahoe region boasts a whopping 15 alpine ski and snowboard areas, some 24,000 lift-served acres and more than 160 lifts. In fact, no other place in the United States offers such large amount of skiing and snowboarding in such a small geographic area. There's no single resort center, but rather an array of towns and base villages encircling the region's dazzling centerpiece—Lake Tahoe, a hypnotic gem with a 74-mile coastline crowned by Sierra Nevada peaks. In truth, the layout can be confounding for newcomers who like their ski holidays car-free and highly centralized. And while centralized resort experiences can be found here (particularly at NorthstarHeavenly and Squaw Alpine), it's a region that more amply rewards visitors with cars who are willing to explore. Long the playground of choice for San Francisco Bay Area weekenders, the Tahoe basin is remarkably beautiful, with a vibe that's both laid-back and lively, upscale and lowbrow. Best of all, its diversity of ski and travel experiences—and its low/hi spectrum of price points for ski travelers—is unmatched.