The best way to celebrate the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016? Hitting the slopes for a high-altitude New Year’s Eve. With the hope that El Nino will bring blissful powder for the folks out West, here are six of the best ski resorts to ring in the New Year.
1. Aspen, Colorado
The 12 Days of Aspen festival will include events like snowman building and ice sculpting contests, plus a bonfire at the Silver Circle Ice Rink in Wagner Park. For the midnight toast, the St. Regis is hosting a free New Year’s party. They are also selling tickets to the Midnight Masquerade, a gala dinner benefiting education programs in Haiti. The event will feature live performances by members of the indie rock band Arcade Fire. The Little Nell Hotel is also hosting a musical and dining endeavor at the Dom Perignon Party. Both events are prime for watching the fireworks over Aspen Mountain, which take place at 8 p.m. and at midnight.
2. Taos, New Mexico
When the bombs go off, the party begins. Taos Ski Valley, one of the most challenging mountains in the country to ski, ignites the same charges they use to force avalanches to initiate the torchlight parade and fireworks on New Year’s Eve. At 6 p.m., the parade begins down the front face of the mountain, weaving down the black diamond run aptly named Snakedance. You’re sure to catch some tricks and wipeouts as the parade hits the bottom face. Afterwards, guests move to popular bars in the St. Bernard or Martini Tree for live Latin music and midnight toasts. The valley is small, so no driving is required. And for the best brews and bites to kick off the evening, head to the German-themed Bavarian, which serves a schnitzel that will change your life.
3. Breckenridge, Colorado
The ski area goes by "Breck," and the village is one of the most scenic in all of Colorado. On New Year’s Eve, the torchlight parade continues past the slope of Peak 9 and weaves through town, with opulent light displays, live music, snow sculptures, and fireworks at midnight. The best place to watch the show is from the open deck of The Maggie in the village base area. Or you can join in the festivities at Burke and Riley’s Irish Pub for alpine brews and fire pits on the patio. For the kids who also want in on the celebrations at 9,600 feet, there’s the Glow Worm Parade. Participants—who must be able to turn and stop on skis—will be stocked up with glow sticks and sent down the green terrain tunnel.
4. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, Canada
Let the Olympic rings illuminate your celebration at the Whistler Olympic Plaza, where the giant ice rink (flash your lift ticket for free skate rentals) is dotted with magicians, face-painters, and storytellers entertaining the masses around the rink. Over at the big jump, catch the Whistler Blackcomb instructors throwing corkscrews, twisters, and tail grabs at the annual Fire & Ice Show. The mountain offers three early countdowns—so you can forego any child tantrums and say hello to the first chair on January 1. Grab your pre–midnight toast grub at the Brew House for craft beer and the best poutine in Western Canada.
5. Park City, Utah
Celebrate with Park City locals before the Sundance rush hits historic Main Street. New restaurant Tupelo, helmed by Matt Harris, might be the best New Year’s meal in the West—showcasing its global influence in such dishes as chargrilled Chilean octopus and Thai pickled tomato nam prik. There's a torchlight parade at Deer Valley Resort at 6 p.m. on Big Stick run, and free afternoon concerts will be held along Main St. after the 7:30 p.m. fireworks. For a jam-packed day of winter activities leading up to the stroke of midnight—including heli-skiing, dog sledding, and bobsledding—stay with the Waldorf Astoria.
6. Heavenly, Lake Tahoe
It’s bigger than the ball drop in New York City but with a fraction of the crowds. The gondola ball drop at Heavenly outside of Lake Tahoe takes place at 9 p.m., with an encore firework display that sends streaks of color dancing across the water of Tahoe. On the ground, carolers, live outdoor concerts, and a 16-foot interactive snow globe entertain the après-ski crowd. And on the main stage at Heavenly Holidays you’ll find fire dancers warming up the crowd and men and women wielding chainsaws as they create massive ice sculptures throughout the night. Have you ever seen a 30-foot ice sculpture? You should. Happy new year!