Snowbird Ski Resort, Utah

The Most Challenging Ski Areas in the Southwest

When thinking of the Southwest Region of the US, skiing is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Sure… Utah is known to have some of the best skiing in the US, but the rest of the states? Well, you’d be surprised.

Explaining our Criteria

Here at Parks & Trips, we created a proprietary Difficulty Score thats generated by combining a number of metrics for each resort. Primarily, we look at the count of easy-intermediate-expert slopes by acreage and the maximum vertical drop of the overall resort.

Our algorithm compares each resort’s metrics with all others in North America, then gives each a Difficulty Score, which we use to rank them accordingly. Resorts with a lower score are easier than those with a higher one. However, a high score does not mean that the resort does not have any easy slopes, or vice versa. This is just an overall score given to the resort based on all its metrics grouped together.

Snowbird: The Most Difficult Ski Resort in the Southwest

Taos Ski Valley

Taos Ski Valley is one of the hardest ski areas in the country. It ranks in the top 10% of most-difficult ski resorts in all of North America, mostly due to the fact that it has 70% of its trails rated as expert-level, and a vertical drop of 3,281 feet.

Mountain Stats

Summit:  12,481′
Vertical:  3,281′
Base:  9,200′

Terrain Stats

Trails:  110
Lifts:  14
Acres:  1,294

Trail Breakdown

Beginner:  14%
Intermediate:  16%
Expert:  70%

More Information…

Taos Ski Valley, NM narrowly wins the top spot, just barely over Snowbird. It comes out on top because of its super high summit elevation and insane level of expert-only trails.

While Park City Resort is the most well-known Utah ski resort, Snowbird (also located near Salt Lake City) actually beats it. Snowbird has a higher summit, steeper vertical drop and more difficult trails than Park City (which comes in third in our ranking).

60% of the top ten most challenging ski resorts in the Southwest are located in Utah. New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada have the remaining difficult ski resorts. Texas is the only Southwest state that does not have a ski slope in our top 25.

Top 25 Challenging Southwest Ski Resorts

RankResortSummit Elev.Vertical DropExpert TrailsDifficulty ScoreTM
#1Taos Ski Valley (NM)12,481 ft3,281 ft70%82.8%
#2Snowbird (UT)11,000 ft3,240 ft67%82.8%
#3Park City Mountain (UT)10,000 ft3,200 ft51%76.0%
#4Lee Canyon (NV)11,289 ft2,779 ft45%68.9%
#5Deer Valley (UT)9,570 ft3,000 ft42%65.5%
#6Snowbasin (UT)9,350 ft2,950 ft30%62.1%
#7Arizona Snowball (AZ)12,000 ft2,800 ft35%62.0%
#8Powder Mountain (UT)9,422 ft2,522 ft35%58.4%
#9Mount Rose (NV)9,700 ft1,800 ft50%58.3%
#10Sundance (UT)8,250 ft2,150 ft40%57.9%
#11Diamond Peak (NV)8,540 ft1,840 ft36%53.7%
#12Ski Santa Fe (NM)12,075 ft1,725 ft40%53.6%
#13Eagle Point (UT)10,600 ft1,500 ft45%53.3%
#14Alta (UT)10,550 ft2,020 ft35%53.3%
#15Brighton (UT)10,500 ft1,745 ft39%53.2%
#16Solitude (UT)10,035 ft2,047 ft30%52.9%
#17Angel Fire (NM)10,677 ft2,077 ft23%50.2%
#18Ski Apache (NM)12,000 ft1,900 ft20%47.5%
#19Sipapu (NM)9,255 ft1,055 ft40%46.8%
#20Pajarito (NM)10,440 ft1,440 ft30%46.8%
#21Mt. Lemmon (AZ)9,150 ft950 ft42%46.6%
#22Red River (NM)10,350 ft1,600 ft30%45.2%
#23Brian Head Resort (UT)10,929 ft1,329 ft35%45.0%
#24Sunrise Park (AZ)11,100 ft1,900 ft26%43.0%
#25Beaver Mountain (UT)8,860 ft1,628 ft25%42.8%