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Ski resorts have been around in the United States since the early 20th century, though they always weren’t as expansive (or expensive) and grandiose as they are today. Many of these are still in operation, but which ski resorts are the oldest?
The five oldest ski resorts in the US are Granlibakken Tahoe Ski Area, Mountain High Resort, Storrs Hill Ski Area, Eaglebrook School, and Howelsen Hill. Most of them lie in western states that are famous for skiing, but surprisingly two of them are on the east coast in states that aren’t as widely known for their skiing.
5 Oldest Ski Resorts In The United States
5. Granlibakken Ski Area – Founded 1927
The first resort on our list is in the famous ski town of Tahoe City, California. This small resort opened in 1927 and offers ski and snowboard hills, cross-country ski tracks, and sledding opportunities.
Granlibakken, formerly known as Ski Canyon by Tahoe locals, began with just a toboggan hill, ski jump, and warming hut. Employees shuttled visitors around the grounds in a sleigh to witness ski jump competitions, dog sled racing, and cross-country ski races.
Eventually, the area became known as the Tahoe Tavern Winter Sports Grounds and built a 260-foot ski jump that would attract competitors and crowds from around the state.
Modern Day Granlibakken
Today it is an all-inclusive resort with lodging, multiple surface lifts, and other popular winter activities. Granlibakken is perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers who want to hone their craft and explore the 74-acre cross-country skiing zone, all without breaking the bank.
The mountain is open Friday-Monday and features a top-of-the-line ski school and rental departments for those new to the sport. It’s not hard to see why this Tahoe favorite is still alive and well to this day.
4. Mountain High Resort – Founded 1924
Next up is Mountain High Resort, another California resort located in the town of Wrightwood. What makes this resort so attractive is its proximity to Los Angeles and Orange County, which aren’t usually synonymous with skiing in most people’s eyes.
Located just 90 minutes from LA, 1 hour from the San Fernando Valley, and just over 2 hours from San Diego, Mountain High is one of the southernmost ski resorts in the United States. They dub themselves “Southern California’s Closest Resort,” and they aren’t wrong.
Opening in 1924, this gem of the Big Pines Region in Angeles National Forest started as a world-renowned ski jump training ground known as Big Pines Park. It was so popular that they petitioned the International Olympic Committee to host the 1932 Winter Olympic games but rejected in place of Lake Placid, New York.
In response to this, they built an even more significant ski jump in 1931, attracting world-class athletes like Halvor Halstad, John Elvrum, Halvar Bjorngaard, and Alf Engen to test their mettle on the state-of-the-art course.
In 1941, they began installing rope tows to make the mountain accessible to skiers of all abilities. Then in 1947, the construction of their first chairlift was complete. At the time, this chairlift was only the second operating in California and the fifth in the United States.
Mountain High merged with neighboring resort Holiday Hill in 1981, greatly expanding their territory and renaming itself Mountain High Ski Area. Fast forward 18 years, and Mountain High would be the top ski area in the region, boasting 46 runs and 11 chairlifts, one of which was the first high-speed quad in the area.
By 2001, Mountain High became so popular that it found itself among the top 5 ski resorts in California and the top 25 in the country.
The resort currently boasts three separate base areas with all the modern amenities a top ski resort can offer, including restaurants, rental shops, a ski school, and terrain for beginners and experts alike.
3. Storrs Hill Ski Area – Founded 1923
Jumping to the east coast, Lebanon, New Hampshire holds the record for the third oldest ski resort in the United States. Over the years, Storrs Hill has produced multiple world-renowned skiers such as Mikaela Shiffrin, Brian Welch, and Nick Alexander.
In 1923, Norwegian skier, Erling Heisted, dreamed that every child and outdoor enthusiast in the area could have a ski jump close to their home.
Storrs Hill began as a simple ski jump on a small hill but became a cornerstone of the local community in no time. The resort almost met its fate in 1986 when the city of Lebanon decided it couldn’t afford to keep the area open.
Luckily Storrs Hill had a guardian angel who donated a large sum of money to keep the area alive. Combined with a partnership with the Lebanon Outing Club and local volunteers, the resort is still in operation.
The only paid employees at Storrs Hill are the two hill managers. Almost every operation on the mountain runs on volunteers, including ski patrol, instructors, lift attendants, and kitchen workers.
Today, Storrs Hill features one lift and 20 acres of skiable terrain, including three trails and a terrain park. They also offer lessons on different skiing aspects like ski jumping, telemark, and backcountry skiing principles.
2. Easton Ski Area & Eaglebrook School – Founded 1922
The second oldest resort in the US is also on the east coast, but chances are you haven’t ever heard of it because it isn’t open to the public. Easton Ski Area is a private ski area for students of the Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Eaglebrook is a private boarding school for boys that offers a variety of athletic options for students, including downhill skiing. Unless you are an alumnus, you won’t be able to scratch this ski area off your list of resorts to ride.
This miniature ski area started out using rope tows to get skiers around the mountain, and in the 70s Easton, Ski area got its first T-bar lift. Today it still consists of just one lift but has upgraded to a double chair lift that serves the entire mountain.
The terrain consists of trails that range from beginner to advanced difficulty and includes a jump section and slalom race track.
1. Howelsen Hill – Founded 1915
Howelsen Hill is the oldest ski resort in the United States and the oldest continually operating ski area in North America! It has quite a reputation in the professional skiing community, producing over 100 Olympians, 22 Colorado Ski Hall of Famers, and 13 National Ski Hall of Fame inductees.
It sits deep within the Yampa Valley, nestled next to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Howelsen Hill is owned and operated by the city, but unlike the previous mountain on this list, Howelsen is open to the public.
It was initially known as Elk Park before being renamed Howelsen Hill in 1917, after the resort’s creator Karl Hovelsen. Initially, it was a training ground for ski jumpers but was expanded in 1931 to include the alpine skiing area.
The portion of the mountain dedicated to ski jumping holds some truly massive jumps that have produced two world records that still stand today. Ragnar Omtvedt and Henry Hall landed 192.9ft and 203ft, respectively, off the famous HS127 ski jump.
Howelsen Hill Today
Today the resort is a favorite among locals and tourists alike, offering terrain for skiers of all ability levels and other favorite winter sports. Howelsen serves 19 trails, one terrain park, and its famous ski jump area with three chairlifts. They also offer a large area for cross-country skiing and uphill access for A/T skiers.
The resort’s rich history and modern amenities make Howelsen Hill worth the detour if you ever find yourself in Colorado.
Although the definition of a resort has changed over time, each one of these mountains proved crucial in the development of the skiing industry at the time. All five of these resorts are still in operation today, which makes them a great option to experience some of skiing’s notable history.