Actually, there's something to be said for the lesser-known resorts and cities. They can be less expensive. They can have more diverse terrain--and often better terrain. They can be less crowded. And, let's be honest, in many cases, they're way more fun.
If I were you, I'd look at the following resorts/cities instead of the big names. And the Northwest is the place to be.
Schweitzer (Sandpoint, Idaho): Can't be beat on liftlines. Ever. It's pretty difficult--the place was recently rated #4 in the country for its efficient lift system (quads and six-packs are the conveyances of choice). The backcountry access is insane (it's one of the few resorts that retains a mostly open ski area boundary; there are access gates, but they're all at exactly the places you'd ever want to enter the backcountry/sidecountry). And Sandpoint is a lot of fun, for a ski town. There always seems to be something interesting going on. If you need something larger, Coeur d'Alene and Spokane are always nearby.
Mt. Bachelor (Bend, Oregon): Bend is my favorite small to midsize town. It's really, really cool. There's a vibrant nightlife built around its burgeoning brewery and bar scene. But if that's not your style, there are also nightclubs, galleries, etc. And Mt. Bachelor is top-notch in every respect. Over 3,000 acres and around-the-cone skiing (it's a dormant volcano). Excellent expert terrain and an outstanding park. High-speed quads. What's not to like?
Mt. Baker (Bellingham, Washington): There's a lot to be said for Bellingham. It's in western Washington, near the Canadian border (so Whistler's closer than perhaps anywhere else in the United States). Vancouver and Seattle are equally-accessible, but Bellingham is pretty cool too. It's the home of WWU and has been experiencing somewhat of a re-awakening of late. And Baker is like a skier's wet dream: powder, powder, and more powder. Amazing powder. Cliffs, rocks, and crags. Stuff to jump off of. Some of the gnarliest terrain in the lower 48. A skier's mountain if ever one existed.
Whitefish/Big Mountain (Whitefish, Montana): Kind of like a cross between Sandpoint and Bend. It's a really cool mountain town. Just like Sandpoint, there's a lake nearby for summer activities. Just like both, it has a pretty awesome nightlife, for a ski town. And just like Bend, it has been experiencing a large growth in the number of breweries/bars/etc. The resort is perhaps similar to Schweitzer. Mainly in that it has a lot of tree-skiing, a well-built, respectable park, and an efficient and fast lift system. There's something to be said for the view at each, as well.