20 Colleges for Skiing and Winter Sports

Winter sports opportunities are available coast to coast.

For students who want to hit the slopes when they’re not hitting the books, there are plenty of colleges close to great skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports. Along with competitive or recreational opportunities, some offer academic programs that can lead to a career in the snow sports industry. Schools in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and Rocky Mountain region have the highest concentration of ski areas near campus, but some schools in warmer states also have varsity and club snow sports options, says Jay Moyer, marketing committee chair and board member for the U.S. Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association, which oversees national competition for a mix of varsity and club skiing and snowboarding teams. “You can think outside the box and still find a really good institution that actually has great skiing and snowboarding opportunities,” Moyer says. Here are 20 colleges with easy access to skiing and other winter sports.

Colby College (ME)

Located in the central Maine city of Waterville, Colby College sits just south of Quarry Road Trails and its six miles of cross-country ski trails, where the university’s Nordic ski team trains and hosts events. Sugarloaf Mountain, about an hour north of campus, ranks No. 12 on U.S. News’ list of Best Ski Trip locations. With 24 double black diamond trails, snowcat skiing and Sno-Go Skibiking, it’s a popular spot for Colby students. It’s also where the university’s Alpine ski team trains. Titcomb Mountain in West Farmington, Spruce Mountain in Jay and Lost Valley Ski Area in Lewiston are within about an hour of campus, and Black Mountain is about an hour and a half from campus in Rumford.

Colorado Mountain College

With 11 campuses close to 18 ski areas — and a two-year academic program in ski area operations — Colorado Mountain College “is the ideal spot for passionate skiers and riders looking to advance their ability to work in the industry that they love and enjoy,” Ben Cairns, vice president and campus dean for the school’s Leadville and Salida campuses, wrote in an email. Students in the ski area operations program learn skills to work at or manage a ski resort and have hands-on opportunities at some of the nation’s most famous slopes. Ski and snowboard business and marketing are offered, along with avalanche science. The school has a ski team based at the Steamboat Springs campus.

Colorado State University

Located in Fort Collins in the northern part of the state, Colorado State University offers semi-competitive Alpine skiing as well as a recreational route through the CSU Snowriders, a club that organizes ski and snowboarding trips. Eldora Mountain Resort, where CSU’s competitive team trains, is billed as cross-country-, snowboard- and snowshoe-friendly. Eldora is about two hours south by car and several other resorts are within a few hours’ drive from campus. The school also offers an online graduate certificate in ski area management to prepare students for a career in the ski industry.

Cornell University (NY)

As of 2022-2023, no state has more ski areas than New York’s 52, according to the National Ski Areas Association. That serves students of Cornell University, whether they’re members of the competitive Alpine ski club team or the Cornell Ski and Snowboarding Club, which is open to students of all skill and interest levels. The club takes trips to mountain resorts across the country, but members spend most of their time skiing at Greek Peak, about 25 minutes by car from Cornell’s campus in Ithaca. Skiing and snowboarding courses are also available through the school’s physical education department.

Dartmouth College (NH)

Only seven schools can claim NCAA team skiing national championships. Dartmouth College, with three, is one of them. More than 100 Olympians have attended Dartmouth, and the Dartmouth Skiway — located about 15 miles from campus and encompassing more than 100 skiable acres — is home to the varsity ski teams and has served as the go-to ski and snowboard spot for students since it opened in 1956. As of 2022-2023, New Hampshire has 28 NSAA ski areas, and students can join organized snow sports through the Dartmouth Outing Club. It sponsors outdoor clubs including the Dartmouth Ski Patrol, the Alpine ski racing club, the club snowboarding team and the Nordic ski club.

Gogebic Community College (MI)

Located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the Wisconsin border, Gogebic Community College has “probably one of the larger ski industry program offerings,” says Bo Bigelow, president of the USCSA. Through this program, a joint offering with Northern Michigan University, students earn an associate degree in ski area management and complete a capstone cooperative work experience that includes a five-month internship at a ski resort. On campus, the Mt. Zion Recreational Complex is used as the training ground for students in the degree program and is also open to the public. Students with a minimum of six credit hours can ski or snowboard for free at Mt. Zion with their student ID.

Lees-McRae College (NC)

North Carolina may not be top of mind for students looking for skiing and snowboarding, but Lees-McRae College boasts one of the most successful competitive snow sports programs among USCSA schools. Skiing/snowboarding will become the school’s newest varsity sport in the fall of 2024. Located in Banner Elk in western North Carolina, the school is within five miles of Beech Mountain Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort. The school’s ski and snowboarding teams train at Beech Mountain and the Brigham Classroom at Beech Mountain is home to its academic programs in outdoor recreation management and ski industry business and instruction. Head skiing and snowboarding coach Aaron Maas says his aim is to recruit the best athletes while also helping those interested in pursuing a career in the snow sports industry.

Middlebury College (VT)

Located in eastern Vermont, Middlebury College is about a 20-minute drive from the Middlebury Snowbowl, a resort featuring 150 skiable acres with trails for all experience levels. Students are eligible for discounted full-season rates. On the competitive side, Middlebury fields varsity teams in men’s and women’s Alpine and Nordic skiing, and students looking to mix competition and recreation can join the Nordic skiing club team. Students can also receive a physical education credit during the winter term while taking ski lessons offered by the Snowbowl Snow School.

Montana State University

Ranked No. 1 on the U.S. News list of Best Ski Trips, Big Sky Resort in Montana is about an hour’s drive south of Montana State University in Bozeman. The resort boasts more than 6,000 skiable acres with more than 300 ski runs — everything from bunny slopes to triple black diamonds. The school offers varsity men’s and women’s skiing, and the Bobcats finished fifth at the 2024 NCAA championships. Alpine and Nordic skiing are offered at the club sport level, where teams compete against other Western region teams, and focus on promoting lifelong interest in the sport. Skiers of all levels are welcome to join the club teams, and the Nordic skiing club team has coaches to help athletes develop, according to the school’s website.

Northern Michigan University

Located on Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula, in the city of Marquette, Northern Michigan University is another school that offers a mix of study, competition and recreation in snow sports. Its joint associate degree program with Gogebic Community College prepares students for a career in ski area operations, while athletes can compete in men’s and women’s Nordic skiing at the varsity level or Alpine skiing through the USCSA, where the women’s team placed second and the men’s team placed fourth at the 2024 national championships. The Nordic Ski Club is open to skiers of all abilities and while participation in races is encouraged, it’s not required.

Reed College (OR)

Mount Hood is the highest point in Oregon and is home to some of the most popular ski spots in the Pacific Northwest, including Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood Meadows and Mount Hood Ski Bowl, the largest night ski area in the U.S. The area is No. 13 on U.S. News’ list of Best Ski Trip locations. Reed College is about 62 miles west in Portland, making it a go-to spot for students who love to ski and snowboard. The school also operates its own ski cabin in the Government Camp Village area that can be reserved by students, faculty and alumni. Student groups, like the Reed Outing Club for outdoor enthusiasts, get priority in reservations.

Southern Methodist University-in-Taos (NM)

New Mexico may bring to mind warm weather and desert terrain, but the northern city of Taos boasts one the top ski locations in the U.S. and the best in the state. Southern Methodist University, with its main campus in Dallas, Texas, has a satellite campus in Taos that offers experiential and adventurous learning through classes like Mountain Sports, taught during the January term. Students receive skiing and snowboarding instruction as well as lift passes to Taos Ski Valley and ski and snowboard gear to use for the class. Those seeking extracurricular time on the slopes can head to Sipapu Ski Resort, which is about 20 minutes’ drive south of campus and features over 40 runs and six lifts.

SUNY Plattsburgh (NY)

Full-time undergraduate and graduate students at SUNY Plattsburgh get unlimited access to Belleayre, Gore and Whiteface Mountains with the Ski3 College Club Pass at student rates. While the school doesn’t offer varsity snow sports, students can join the Plattsburgh Ski, Snowboard and Outdoors Club. The adventure sports and expeditionary studies department offers a degree path for students to pursue outdoor careers including ski patroller, park ranger or mountain guide. Students spend part of this program skiing and pursuing other outdoor activities, such as kayaking, paddling and climbing, according to the school’s website.

University of Colorado Boulder

The University of Colorado Boulder won the 2024 NCAA ski championship, its 20th NCAA title and 21st national ski championship overall. Its 20 NCAA championship tally is the second-highest among any program, and the school’s ski team is its most successful varsity sport — but students don’t need to be varsity skiers to enjoy the snow sports culture around campus. Just 35 minutes’ drive from Eldora Mountain Resort and within a two-and-a-half hour drive from eight ski resorts, the “location and the sheer beauty of the campus remind you every day that world-class powder is just minutes away,” Stacy Wagner, spokesperson for the university, wrote in an email. The school’s snowboarding and freeskiing clubs are popular, with more than 50 members each.

University of Denver (CO)

When it comes to collegiate skiing, no school has had more success in NCAA championships than the University of Denver, with 24 wins. With the Rocky Mountains on the horizon, students can choose from several ski resorts within a two-hour drive from campus, including popular spots such as Breckenridge, Vail and Aspen — all of which rank in the top 10 on U.S. News’ list of Best Ski Trip locations. The school’s longstanding “First Snow” tradition celebrates the first accumulation of one inch or more of snow with giveaways, hot cocoa and playing in the snow. The weeklong Winter Carnival, which dates back to 1961, culminates with a weekend on nearby Keystone Mountain, where students can ski or snowboard at discounted rates.

University of Maine at Farmington

The University of Maine at Farmington offers both competitive and recreational snow sports, as well as an Alpine Operations certificate for those looking to make their passion into a career. The school fields varsity teams in men’s and women’s Alpine and Nordic skiing as well as snowboarding and freeski, but students looking for a more leisurely time on the slopes can head to Titcomb Mountain, just outside of Farmington. There they can take advantage of free season passes and free learn-to-ski-and-ride lessons, which are taught by students in the certificate program or the outdoor recreation business administration program. Sugarloaf Mountain and Sunday River Resort, both about an hour or less from campus by car, honor student discounts on lift tickets.

University of Nevada, Reno

With more than a dozen resorts nearby — including Heavenly Ski Resort, Palisades Tahoe and Northstar California Resort — the Lake Tahoe region in northern California is popular with ski and snowboard enthusiasts. The University of Nevada, Reno is about an hour’s drive from many of the resorts, with easy access via Interstate 80. The school fields varsity men’s and women’s skiing teams as well as a winter sports club, which caters to both recreational and competitive athletes with varying levels of membership and pricing, and pass discounts to ski resorts and other events. Competitive athletes can participate in national competitions and qualifying events, including the USCSA national championships.

University of Utah

After winning four straight NCAA ski championships between 2019 and 2023, the University of Utah boasts a total of 16 team national championships in skiing. Located in Salt Lake City, the school is near several popular ski resorts including Park City, ranked No. 4 on U.S. News’ list of Best Ski Trip locations. Students can also ski and snowboard at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, which hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. The university’s One Love Ski and Snowboard Club is open to students of all skill levels, according to the organization’s website. Full-time student members are eligible for discounted season passes to nearby resorts, and the school’s website also advertises discounted lift tickets to two Big Cottonwood Resorts just outside Salt Lake City.

University of Vermont

About 36 miles east of the University of Vermont campus in Burlington is Stowe, often called the “Ski Capital of the East.” It ranks No. 14 on U.S. News’ list of Best Ski Trip locations, boasting 485 skiable acres, 116 trails, outstanding cross-country skiing and snowboarding — even dogsledding and ice skating. As well as Stowe Mountain Resort, nearby ski locations include Bolton Valley Resort and Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. UVM has won six NCAA skiing national championships, most recently in 2012, and was runner-up in 2022. Since 2003, the University of Vermont Ski & Snowboard Club has been a recreational outlet for snow sports-minded students. With more than 3,000 members, it’s one of the school’s largest student-run clubs, according to the organization’s website.

Western Washington University

With Mount Baker about 56 miles to the east, students at Western Washington University don’t have to go far to find slopes for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling and hills for sledding. The school’s Snowboard & Ski Club takes group trips to Mount Baker, which encompasses 1,000 skiable acres. The club also organizes on-campus ski and snowboard events and is open to all levels. The school’s outdoor center offers gear rentals and experienced guides to help students explore the trails. The campus recreation department offers a ski conditioning class to help people develop leg and core strength as well as the flexibility and mobility needed for skiing or snowboarding.

Colleges for Skiing and Winter Sports

1. Colby College (ME)

2. Colorado Mountain College

3. Colorado State University

4. Cornell University (NY)

5. Dartmouth College (NH)

6. Gogebic Community College (MI)

7. Lees-McRae College (NC)

8. Middlebury College (VT)

9. Montana State University

10. Northern Michigan University

11. Reed College (OR)

12. Southern Methodist University-in-Taos (NM)

13. SUNY Plattsburgh (NY)

14. University of Colorado Boulder

15. University of Denver (CO)

16. University of Maine at Farmington

17. University of Nevada, Reno

18. University of Utah

19. University of Vermont

20. Western Washington University

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20 Colleges for Skiing and Winter Sports originally appeared on usnews.com

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