The 10 Best Colleges for Ski Buffs


What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of freshly fallen snow? It may be Christmas at home, or sleigh rides, or a Norman Rockwell picture. But if your first thought is a crazed desire to get to the nearest mountain and careen down it as fast as you possibly can on two strips of fiberglass, you just might be a ski buff. And if you’re a college-bound ski buff, regardless of where you’re from – Alaska, Illinois, Rhode Island – we’ve got 10 schools from the Rockies to the Appalachians that deserve a serious look.

  1. Montana State University:

    This school in Bozeman knows the legendary ski town is one of its biggest draws for students and proudly proclaims its “Dream Town” location right from the admissions section of its website. From Outside magazine to National Geographic, critics agree Bozeman offers world-class skiing, and MSU students take advantage. Whether it’s hitting the soft powder of the Bridger Bowl 20 minutes north of town, cruising the Moonlight Basin 45 minutes south of town, or kite skiing across campus, State is smack dab in the heart of ski mecca.

  2. University of Colorado-Boulder:

    Like MSU, CU-Boulder is conveniently located near some of the best skiing in America, with Boulder’s Eldora Mountain a half hour from campus and both Vail and Beaver Creek just a couple hours away. But the real pull for college-bound snowheads is the college ski team. It’s one of the most consistently strong teams in the country and several pros have made their way through university as a Buffalo. Just this March the freestyle team took home the national championship, improving on the previous year’s finish in second place. With world-class equipment and no classes before 11 a.m., CU ski team members have a great setup for perfecting their passion.

  3. University of Vermont:

    Football might be king in the South, but at least on this Vermont campus, skiing wears the crown. Shredding and ripping are such popular activities here on the weekends you might want to think twice about attending if you’re not a ski buff. For the students who don’t want to invest in or store the equipment, skis and snowshoes can be rented on campus. As for where to go, the options are many: the Killington Mountain Resort with the highest lift-served skiing in the state; the 1,000 acres at Smuggler’s Notch; or the off-trail adventuring at the Mad River Glen. The ski team also happens to be one of the best in the nation and is fresh off a NCAA skiing championship.

  4. University of Utah:

    If you decide to go to the U of U just for the skiing, you’ll find you weren’t the only one. The campus that’s surrounded by mountains was temptation enough for famous skiers like Pittsburgh native Tom Wallisch, and low out-of-state tuition sucks in any holdout ski honks. The hardest part is deciding which of the close-by ski havens to target on a particular day: Alta, Brighton, Park City, Snowbird, or Solitude. A down year for snowfall in 2011-2012 has locals predicting a monster amount of powder this coming season. Until then, ski buffs will have to content themselves with kayaking, rafting, biking, and hiking in the beautiful Salt Lake wilds.

  5. College of the Rockies:

    The U.S. can’t claim all the best places for skiers in North America. Barely an hour to the north of Montana, across the border with our northern neighbors, lies Fernie, B.C., a fantastic ski locale that is home to this small community college. Ski buffs looking to make a career out of it enroll in the Adventure Tourism major and take skis-on classes like Avalanche Skills Training and Outdoor Adventure Leadership. But on the weekends, students are just regular ski aficionados enjoying the powder that’s more consistent than Whistler and the weather that’s warmer than Banff.

  6. Southern Methodist University-Taos:

    If you’re familiar with the reputation the student body of the main campus in Dallas has of — how shall we put this? — enjoying the finer things in life, you’ll see the humor in the fact that there’s a campus in Taos, New Mexico (if you know anything about Taos). It’s eclectic, back-to-nature, hippie-ish, and just generally laid back, all traits ski buffs naturally jibe with. And while Dallas withers in the Texas heat, students at the Taos location enjoy steep runs, friendly fellow skiers, and short lift lines. The Taos Ski Valley 30 minutes up the road is a five-star ski spot locals praise for its untouched feel and challenging terrain. And after a day of skiing, students can enjoy the funky local vibe of the Taos coffee shops and art galleries.

  7. Lewis & Clark College:

    This school 15 minutes south of downtown Portland may get overlooked by avid skiers for not resting in the shadow of a ski slope, but ski buffs who come here won’t regret it. The feeling about organized sports seems to be a resounding “don’t care,” but when it comes to unstructured outdoor activity, LC is all about it. Mount Hood is a 90-minute jog away, and buses run every day carrying students looking for P.E. credit or just playing hooky from class. The Timberline area has the longest ski season in the U.S., and the Skibowl Resort is the biggest night-skiing provider in the nation. Cross-country skate-and-ski and snowshoe courses are regularly offered through the school’s College Outdoors program, which also keeps skiers busy during the few snowless months.

  8. Middlebury College:

    Owning your own ski area pretty much secures a slot on a list like this. Not only does Middlebury have access to all the same spots UVM students do, the Middlebury Snow Bowl has been a place for students to ski on the cheap since 1934. Come mid-year graduation in February, exiting seniors hit the Bowl for the annual cap-and-gown “ski down” event. That should give you an idea of how central skiing is to the Panthers. As for pedigree, Middlebury alumni have represented the school at every Winter Olympics since 1948, and they continue to be a college destination for competitive skiers.

  9. Plymouth State University:

    Two words: Ski Day. Yes, here at the other PSU on the East Coast, skiing gets administration-blessed priority over classes one wintry day. Of course, virtually any day is in danger of becoming an unofficial snow day if the powder is too good to pass up. Each year the Student Senate arranges a student vote on which New Hampshire mountain will offer students discounted lift tickets. Last year’s winner was the scenic Cannon Mountain, but the Tenney, Waterville, Loon, and Ragged Mountains are also under an hour away, and student ski buffs and their cousins, the rabid snowboarding fans, head their en masse as soon as the temps drop.

  10. Dartmouth College:

    We have to keep it in the east side for No. 10, as Dartmouth has 100 acres of ski area to call its own, primo New Hampshire location, and the record for turning out more Olympic skiers than any other Ivy League school. But wait, there’s more. One day in February is designated not just Ski Day, but 99 Cent Ski Day. The day is part of the college’s legendary Winter Carnival, which also features Division 1 ski races and a 3k race for scrubs wearing PJs and capes. It all makes for one of the best college choices a skier could make.

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