So, you want to ski as much as humanly possible while earning your bachelor's degree? Well, you’re in luck, because there are colleges and universities all over the US that are close to great skiing. Balancing grades, dating, skiing, and sanity can be a challenge at times, but with your priorities straight, skiing and college do not have to be mutually exclusive. Choosing the right college is a daunting task, and it definitely has an impact on your life trajectory. Finding the right combination of academics, skiing, and location is important, but if you’re in the process of applying to schools, you'll be finding out that there are plenty of outside pressures, from parents to counselors, so let’s focus on schools that give you the best opportunity to shred while you get learned.
University of Utah - U of U
Total Enrollment: 31,860
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Closest Ski Areas: Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Park City, Solitude, Deer Valley
Located in Salt Lake City, the University of Utah is undoubtedly one of the best colleges for skiers. Students can access a huge variety of skiing, from great parks to legendary backcountry terrain, all less than an hour drive from campus. Snowbird is the closest resort, only 16 miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon, with half a dozen other resorts like Brighton and Park City within an hour drive. Plus, the campus itself has some urban features that you’ve certainly seen in movies and videos from the likes of the 4bi9, Good Company, and the Hood Crew. The school itself is a large public university, meaning there is a lot of variety on the academic side. Don’t let the mormon population of Salt Lake City scare you off either, there are plenty of likeminded skiers at the U of U.
Nearby Schools: Westminster
University of Nevada Reno - UNR
Total Enrollment: 21,353
Acceptance Rate: 83%
Closest Ski Areas: Mount Rose, Squaw Valley, Northstar
While Reno may not be the first city to come to mind when thinking of mountain towns, UNR has quick access to some of Lake Tahoe’s best ski areas. Mount Rose is the closest ski area to campus, about a 30 minute drive away, which is totally close enough to get in some laps before or after class. The rest of north Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts, like Squaw Valley and Northstar are a 45-60 minute drive from the university.
University of Vermont - UVM
Total Enrollment: 13,105
Acceptance Rate: 69%
Closest Ski Areas: Stowe, Mad River Glen, Sugarbush, Jay Peak
Burlington is an awesome East Coast mountain town that might even pique the interest of west coast skiers. Within an hour drive of campus, students can access some of the East Coast’s best skiing at areas like Jay Peak, Stowe, and Sugarbush. There’s fun skiing to be had when the powder falls, and some good parks, too. The University of Vermont is a great college for East Coast skiers that want great skiing but don’t want to move west.
University of Colorado Boulder - CU
Total Enrollment: 33,771
Acceptance Rate: 77%
Closest Ski Areas: Eldora, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Winter Park, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Vail
The University of Colorado at Boulder offers one of the most complete college experiences in the country. The town of Boulder is awesome, there’s great food, fun concerts, good partying, and nice outdoors access. There are some really strong academic programs at CU, too. While it may be one of the most well rounded school for skiers, it definitely isn’t the closest college to skiing. It takes at least an hour and a half to get to areas like Keystone and Breckenridge, and that’s without traffic. All of the colleges in Colorado’s Front Range have to deal with traffic on I-70 (the highway through to the ski areas), which can be heinous, adding hours to drives. This makes setting up your class schedule to avoid skiing on weekends all the more important if you go to CU.
Nearby Colleges: University of Denver
University of Washington - UW
Total Enrollment: 45,591
Acceptance Rate: 45%
Closest Ski Areas: Summit at Snoqualmie, Stevens Pass, Crystal Mountain
Located in Seattle Washington, the University of Washington is a school many skiers might overlook. UW has some of the best academics of any public university in the United States, and access to some awesome pacific northwest powder. The Summit at Snoqualmie and Alpental are about a 60 minute drive from campus. Alpental is a ton of fun on a powder day, and The Summit puts together some solid park setups. Stevens Pass is a 90 minute drive and has the best park in Washington, as well as fun cliffs, and powder riding. It does rain a lot in Seattle in the winter, but skiers at the University of Washington know that rain in the city means snow in the mountains. There are a lot of smaller private universities in the Seattle and Puget Sound area that are nice options for skiers looking for a smaller school experience.
Nearby Colleges: Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, University of Puget Sound
Montana State University - MSU
Total Enrollment: 16,440
Acceptance Rate: 83%
Closest Ski Areas: Bridger Bowl, Big Sky
With Bridger Bowl a short 25 minute drive from campus, Montana State University is easily one of the best colleges for skiing. Bridger is an awesome mountain, with steep skiing and deep powder. Big Sky is only a 60 minute drive out of Bozeman, too, offering some of the best big mountain skiing in the US. Students can easily lap Bridger before or after class. The park scene in Montana is not very strong, but MSU has a long history of converting jibbers into powder hounds. Montana State’s film program gave birth to the Toy Soldiers crew, who have gone on to produce some of the biggest movies in skiing.
Western Washington University - WWU
Total Enrollment: 15,574
Acceptance Rate: 83%
Closest Ski Areas: Mt. Baker
Located in Bellingham, Washington, Western Washington University is the closest college to Mount Baker, which is one of the snowiest places on the planet. Bellingham is an awesome town, with a very outdoors-engaged and young population. It definitely leans towards the hippy side of things, like Boulder, but with less money. Mount Baker is at least an hour drive, depending on how snowy and gnarly the two-lane access road is, but it’s also one of the best ski areas in the US. There isn’t really a park scene, unless you make it yourself, or drive up to the ski areas on Vancouver’s North Shore.
Nearby Colleges: University of British Columbia
Some tips for skiing in college:
Stay on top of your work - Sure, procrastinating is easy, but it will quickly start to eat into your free time, and worse, your ski time. Professors are more hands-off than high school teachers, so learning to manage your time, and get work done early will serve you well in the classroom, and give you more time on the mountain.
You CAN have it all - People (read parents) may tell you that you won’t have time to ski in college, that you’ll be too busy with school work. They’re wrong. It is certainly possible to ski, get good grades, and party in college. I graduated a semester early with a 3.56 GPA, while skiing hard and partying plenty, all while travelling to work for Newschoolers a couple of times per winter. You can have it all, but you have to work for it.
You can’t have it all, all the time - Skiing in college is a balancing act, which means sometimes you have to sacrifice. Keep the big picture in mind, sometimes skipping that party and writing your term paper on a Friday night is the right call when there’s 12” in the forecast.
Keep your eyes on the prize - School is really expensive, don’t blow it.