craft beer on ski slopes

Craft beer and skiing: where to find this perfect combo

Featured Image: Jack Affleck

Last December, I found myself in one of the best ski states, Colorado, during one of the worst times. At Breckenridge Ski Resort, 10 percent of the mountain was open during my mid-December ski vacation. However, I did not let this ruin my first trip “out west.” My family and I took advantage of a beautiful ski village and, as I would come to find, fantastic beer scene.

After skiing each day we ventured into town to sip on suds from Breckenridge Brewery and Broken Compass Brewing, both local to Breck. At brewpubs, I found a wide selection of more tasty beverages from across the state. It quickly came to my attention that Colorado is full of breweries.

This didn’t necessarily surprise me, but I never gave beer outside of North Carolina much thought prior to the trip. Being from Asheville, NC (and having only recently become of age), I had no reason to venture beyond my hometown for beer. This got me wondering about all the other states.

At a quick glance, California and Colorado stand out, along with Washington and New York. This list brings to mind Lake Tahoe, Telluride, Mt. Baker, and Whiteface: all places well-known for their top-notch skiing.

After stumbling into a beer-lover’s paradise at Breck, I wondered, “What other places have dope skiing and beer?” Surely there are quite a few places that meet this criteria. There are clear cultural associations with beer and many outdoor sports.

Biking, paddling, climbing, and camping all have cultures that respect a good brew, but skiing and beer have a unique history thanks to the French tradition of après-ski. For those unaware, “après-ski” is the term for social activities at the ski lodge after a day of skiing (Merriam Webster). The term was first used in 1951 and comes from the French après (after) + ski (you got this one). The French tradition has been adapted by skiers all over the world and holds a prominent place in American ski culture – although the Europeans might be a little crazier.

So there are probably plenty of places to do some skiing and drinking, but where is the best of the best? We know the craft brewery numbers, but what about the skiing? Here is a look at how many ski areas are in each state as of 2017 according to statista.

The number of ski areas is by no means a perfect measure of the amount of skiing in a state. Does Michigan really have three times more skiing than Utah? Perhaps the total skiable acreage per state would be a better measure, but that data has its own shortcomings (such as huge resorts with few skiers) and that data is also not readily available. Ideally we would know the amount of people who ski in each state, but good luck getting those numbers.

The totals of craft breweries and ski resorts are a good start, but the variables of state size and population make it an unfair measure. Dividing both stats by the population of the respective state will take this into account, producing the amount of breweries/ski areas per one million people.

In the chart below, the craft breweries per million people (x-axis) is compared to the ski areas per million people (y-axis). The average annual snowfall across the state and state population are visualized as well.


The relationship may not be as strong as I hoped for, but a slight positive correlation does exist; the data points aren’t entirely random. More importantly, a few interesting conclusions can be drawn.

This dataset clearly favors less-populated states. States with high totals such as Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, were outperformed by northeastern states in terms of breweries and ski areas relative to their population. These states include Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire.

By these numbers, Vermont is the place for beer-loving skiers. Its 88.71 craft breweries per million people more than doubles that of New Hampshire (43.28), the second-highest number.

The well-known Stowe Mountain Resort, in Stowe, VT, is worth mentioning. It is consistently named one of the best resorts on the east coast and, according to Beer and Brewing, the quaint ski village of Stowe and nearby city of Burlington are home to many breweries.

So what does this mean? While some love east coast skiing, most would probably take the Rockies, Tetons, or Sierra Nevadas over the Appalachians any day. But because this is the case, crowds can be an issue out west. If you don’t need the biggest, most gnarly mountains in the US, and instead prefer shorter waits at the lift and the bar, give Vermont or another northeast state a shot for your next ski vacation.

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