USA or European Ski Holiday? What’s the Difference?

So what’s the difference between skiing in Europe vs The USA?

“The powder snow!” is what you hear the natives yell about and it’s true floating in 12 inches of fluffy powder snow is certainly a one of a kind experience. However there are many other elements to skiing in the USA which make it rather different from the skiing in Europe.

The Weather

Colorado for example has over 300 days of sunshine a year & is famous for its “bluebird” days where the sun shines brightly, warming you up on even the coldest days and there’s not a cloud in sight.

The Skiing

The ski runs are much wider than the average run in Europe & sometimes called “motorway” trails in the USA. These wide runs give beginners lots of time to negotiate their first turns without worrying about careening over a cliff or off the edge of narrow European trails.

Intermediates can take advantage of the many bowls on offer to practice skiing in the untouched powder. Advanced skiers have the benefit of in bounds, off piste skiing, rare in Europe as they often have crevasses to worry about just off the edge of the run.

Many Colorado ski runs (except the bowls) are tree-lined so white-outs are rare, making it easier for skiers to get & keep their confidence on their skis. The trees give good definition & help skiers & boarders see even in low light & when it’s snowing. European above tree line skiing can cause tricky white out conditions.

Powder snow

Steamboat Springs coined the term “Champagne powder” from the delicacy & lightness of the powder snow & its bubbly namesake. The Rocky Mountain ski resorts are well-known for their powder and several inches or sometimes feet of it at time.

“Powder days” are special & many local businesses in ski resorts have been known to shut for a few hours & encourage their employees to make the most of where they live and “shred the pow” if over 8 inches of snow falls over night… and yes it happens quite a few times each season!


“Pomas” / “drag lifts” & “T-bar’s”, often found in European ski resorts are rare in America, so you can avoid achy legs and not have to worry about falling off half way up the lifts and finding yourself on a completely inappropriate & scary run. The lifts in USA ski resorts are mostly chair-lifts & gondolas so you sit back, relax and rest your legs on the way up the mountain.


Often ski resorts in Colorado are pretty quiet especially during the week, with few if any queues. On the whole lift lines are orderly, with skiers & snowboarders politely alternating taking turns to get on the lift from left & then right. Unlike Europe you tend not to have little kids or angry Frenchman (!) barging in front of you to get onto the lifts. This leaves the slopes pretty empty, so you can fly down your favourite run or wind your way peacefully through the glades.


The Americans tend to be hugely customer service orientated and will say hello & be friendly at every opportunity. The “lifties” (lift operators) will assist you with the lifts & ask you how your day is going, staff where you’re staying want to make sure you’re enjoying your holiday to its full potential and will happily tell you all about the latest great restaurant or event.

Ski valet is a wonderful invention! Many of the luxury hotels / apartments offer a complimentary ski valet service. Your gear will brought to the slopes for you & they will even help buckle your boots for you if needed!

Spacious accommodation

Accommodation in the USA does tend to be a lot more spacious than in Europe. You won’t find rooms with bunk beds attached to the walls, which you have to fold down to sleep on very often in America! The large homes regularly boast rec rooms with pool table or table tennis and family rooms with giant TVs. I’ve seen full size bars with kegs / taps and wine cellars inside chalets and even home cinema’s complete with leather stadium seating, reclining chairs, projector screens, oh and a popcorn machine!


Yes the portions will mostly be bigger than you’re used to in Europe! Many Americans do eat out on a regular basis, so you’ll find a large variety of restaurants in the ski resorts and they do tend to have decent quality cheap & cheerful places as well as the fine dining establishments.

The huge portions mean you can reduce your dining costs by sharing the huge dishes or taking a “doggy bag” home is perfect for a snack or lunch / dinner the next day.

So as you can see skiing in the USA is a completely different experience from in Europe.

Is is superior? Better give it a try to find out… !

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