Aspen is everything you've heard it is, only more so. Chic and expensive, with the best dining between LA and New York, the cost of staying and eating and skiing are indeed high, hence the value rating of 71 in SKI's reader survey. But if you value good skiing, and tasteful, pampered surroundings, it's worth it. Aspen's variably priced lift ticket, which starts at $59, gives you access to four mountains that offer a mix of superb grooming and expert terrain: Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk Mountains. For a taste of the high life, the Little Nell (888-343-6355/www.littlenell.com) is a discrete slopeside pleasure palace that epitomizes the best that Aspen has to offer. It will set you back a minimum of $490 per night, with a four-night minimum if your stay includes a Friday or Saturday. For more modest budgets, the centrally located Hotel Aspen (800-527-7369) has rates that start at $179 per night, including a continental breakfast.
Crested Butte ranks 9 for value and is noted for its incredible terrain, buffed out by last year's $20 million infusion. It delights extreme skiers, as well as anyone else who seeks a challenge. The old-fashioned Colorado town is also a treat even though getting here can be time-consuming. The Sheraton Crested Butte Resort (888-223-2469/www.sheraton.com) is in the heart of the mountain village. A four-night Winter White Sale package, including a three-day ski pass, is $450 per person. If you're pinching pennies, look at the Cristiana Guesthaus (800-824-7899), a European style hostelry in the National Historic District of town. Rates, which include continental breakfast, are $67 a night, but stay three nights, and those same rooms are $58 per night plus $87 for each two-day lift ticket per person. Crested Butte is also a place where no one will turn their nose up at you if you bring a bag lunch to the slopes.