Diploma-Ski: Best Colleges for Skiers

A good education shouldn’t mean sacrificing the gnar. These colleges offer higher learning and great pow.

skier perched big sky montana
Photo credit: Zach Dischner

When deciding which college to attend, you should consider many factors: tuition, curriculum, degree programs, graduation rate, and overall ranking.

But far too often the quality of education is the only consideration. Pssh, nonsense. Forgotten are crucial elements of any well-rounded scholarship. Distance from gnar, average snowfall, depth of ski culture, and technicality of ski terrain are woefully overlooked.

Sure, a bachelor’s degree will serve you well. But don’t you want to accept your diploma with a goggle-tanned face? Of course you do. Here are eight schools you’ll want to attend.

University of Denver & University of Colorado (Boulder)

Best Ski College: University of Denver & University of Colorado (Boulder)
The University of Colorado, Boulder, engineering center

Colorado ain’t a shabby place to call home for four years. And chances are you’ll stay after graduation: 300 days of sunshine, the Rocky Mountains, happy ski bums, a storied ski culture, and light, feathery snow.

DU and Boulder are great schools nestled right next to some giant snow-filled, precipitous beasts. They even offer classes. But the real gem of these colleges is their vicinity to Eldora, Loveland, and Arapahoe Basin ski resorts. All three mountains offer early bird discounts for college kids and a commute of an hour or less.

Plus, Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Aspen, and Telluride are within striking distance for weekend trips.

Michigan Tech University

Best Ski College: Michigan Tech Keweenaw Peninsula snow thermometer
Keweenaw Peninsula snow thermometer, Mohawk, Mich. Photo credit: Nick Nolte

When it comes to great skiing destinations, you might think Michigan has a snowball’s chance in heck. But this is why you need to go to college, friend. MTU is located in the quaint town of Houghton on the Upper Peninsula, only 40 miles from the Midwest’s powder skiing paradise, Mount Bohemia.

Boho has a – ahem – snow problem. A 40-foot pole called the “snowmometer” measures snowfall – 40 feet. Plus, Bohemia has legitimate technical steeps, lake effect storms that dump fluffy powder snow by the foot, and craggy, frozen creek beds. Best of all, a season pass costs $99 (yes, that’s really the price).

Montana State University

Located in Bozeman, MSU is part of a stellar mountain town … but only if you dig kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, fly fishing, climbing, skiing, snowboarding, any and every outdoor passion, and smiling most every single day.

The college has great agriculture, architecture, and engineering programs. Also, MSU is right next to Bridger Bowl and Big Sky – ski resorts known for extreme terrain, fiercely talented local skiers, blower snow, and lack of lift lines. A young adult season pass at Bridger is $775, while Big Sky offers a plethora of different ski passes. Their most college-friendly is the Bronze Season Pass, $669.

Colorado Mountain College

Best known for nursing, business, and outdoor and environmental programs, Colorado Mountain College is especially attractive because it is incredibly affordable. In-state tuition is $6,360, and out-of-state is $13,200. CMC has campuses all over the state, most notably in Aspen, Breckenridge, Buena Vista, Carbondale, Steamboat Springs, and Vail Valley.

All locales sit near or next to world-class inbounds skiing. And the backcountry access is out-the-backdoor with mouthwatering terrain.

University of Utah & Westminster College

Best Ski College: University of Utah & Westminster College
Mount Timpanogos. Photo credit: Eric Ward

Both of these schools sit in the shadows of the Wasatch Range in Salt Lake City. Oh, and there are 10 ski resorts within an hour radius of each school.

Ten. Ski. Resorts.

Both campuses are just a 30-minute drive from Snowbird. If motivated, you could hit the hill between hitting the books in class every day. And don’t forget Wasatch is home to some of the most sought-after backcountry skiing in North America. Your senior thesis could be an explication of Utah’s tagline, “The greatest snow on Earth.” In-depth research would be required, of course.

University of Vermont

Burlington, Vt., home of UVM, is the Boulder of the East. Phish formed there, for crying out loud. Dready neo-hippies with wool socks and Birkenstocks plod along cobblestone streets lined with hip coffee cafes, restaurants, and outdoor gear shops.

Ya can’t fling a spoonful of Ben & Jerry’s without hitting a passionate skier or snowboarder here. UVM is a wonderful liberal arts school that is within 40 minutes of Stowe, and an hour from Sugarbush and Mad River Glen.

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