Ski to your degree: We rank the top 10 colleges for skiers

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College rules—big time. Out-of-this-world parties, gorgeous babes, no parents, spontaneous adventures and plenty of bad (good) decisions to be made along the way. Of course, you might learn a thing or two in the classroom, as well.

Here at FREESKIER, though, it’s our duty to inform you that while you’re hunting for your “perfect fit,” there is one thing, and one thing only, that should weigh heavy above all other factors—namely, how easily will you be able to go skiing at kick-ass resorts if you attend a certain school?

To aid you in your quest for higher shreducation, we’ve compiled a copious amount of data and plugged these numbers into an elaborate algorithm (crafted with the aid of one Christopher Steiner, of Steiner was a staff writer at the Chicago Tribune and Forbes Magazine; he’s published two books including Automate This, which focuses on the power of algorithms.), that yielded a comprehensive list of the best colleges for skiers. If you’d like to see how the intricate algorithm breaks down, keep reading. If not, skip ahead to see the top ten colleges for skiers in our great nation.

The Scientific Method

We began with 30 schools and narrowed them down to the 10 best, based on 16 factors—each one weighted based on a carefully calculated order of importance.

We multiplied each of these factors’ percentage of its category’s maximum score by the category’s weight factor and summed the results. Head spinning yet? We then reset scores on a 0-99 basis, based again on percent of maximum. The top school scored a 99 according to these criteria. Some categories were scored in steps. For example, 18 nearby resorts isn’t twice as good as nine; so we awarded points based on different tiers: 2-3 resorts within 100 miles was 30 points, 4-5 resorts was 40 and so on to where all schools with 14 or more resorts within 100 miles received the maximum of 100 points. In the case of things like weed legality, we awarded 100 points to schools where you won’t be imprisoned for being at the right party and 0 points to schools where you may find your life diverted, away from skiing, by the state’s judicial system. At any rate, we began with thirty schools, and via this formula, devised a definitive list of the top 10 colleges for skiers.

Breaking It Down

Factor% Total Score
Distance to Closest Resort16%
Average Annual Snowfall of Closest Resort13%
Number of Ski Areas within 100 miles10%
Average Snow Score of all Resorts within 100 miles6%
Highest Snow Score of any Resort Within 100 Miles6%
Largest Score within 100 miles6%
Avg. Score within 100 Miles6%
Transportation Offerings to Ski Areas Provided by School (Y/N)5%
Number of Courses Offered with Regard to Skiing and Snow5%
Major Film Premieres on Campus This Year5%
Average Annual Tuition5%
Percent Students Receiving Grant Aid5%
Professor-to-Student Ratio5%
Graduation Rate5%
Average Snowfall of City / Town2%
Is Weed Legal (Y/N)2%


#10 — The University of Denver

The university’s Denver location gives students easy access to the I-70 corridor of ski areas and makes it a prime contender for this list. The University Ski Bus is a great option to get to the mountains on the weekend, easing the gas money burden on your wallet. In addition to all the awesome skiing in its backyard, DU’s ice hockey team is consistently one of the best in the nation. Go Pioneers!

Photo by Chris Mclennan
LocationDenver, CO
Overall Points:80.6
Type of SchoolPrivate
Enrollment5,517 Undergrads | 6,262 Grads
Professor-to-Student Ratio1:11
Male / Female Ratio45 / 55
Annual Tuition$42,090
Percent of Students Receiving Grant Aid42%
Freshman Retention Rate87%
Graduation Rate 67%
Admission Rate77%
Is Weed LegalY
Size of Ski Club460 (Alpine Club)
Avg. Snowfall of Closest Town - Inches58
Avg. Snowfall of Closest Resort - Inches300
Closest Ski ResortEldora Mountain Resort
Distance to Closest Resort - Miles49
Number of Ski Areas within 100 Miles9


#09 — Western Washington University

The shores of Puget Sound, where this Pacific Northwest college is found, offer an ideal locale for powderhounds from all walks of life. Mt. Baker Ski Area, home to the highest average annual snowfall in the lower 48, is an hour to the east. There, skiers can enjoy some of the steepest inbounds terrain around and have easy access to the massive Mt. Baker backcountry, too.

Photo by Grant Gunderson
LocationBellingham, WA
Overall Points:80.8
Type of SchoolPublic
Enrollment14,285 Undergrad | 665 Grads
Professor-to-Student Ratio1:20
Male / Female Ratio45 / 55
Avg. Annual TuitionOut-Of-State: $20,406 | In-State: $8,964
Percent of Students Receiving Grant Aid51%
Freshman Retention Rate84%
Graduation Rate38%
Admission Rate84%
Is Weed Legal?Y
Size of Ski Club80
Avg. Snowfall of Town - Inches12
Avg. Snowfall of Closest Resort - Inches641
Closest Ski ResortMt. Baker
Distance to Closest Resort - Miles60
Number of Ski Areas within 100 Miles4


#08 — University of Nevada Reno

The University of Nevada Reno is a stone’s throw from the world class resorts of Lake Tahoe. Its closest resort, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, receives 350 inches of average annual snowfall and is home to Tahoe’s highest base elevation (8,260-feet) as well as a burly steep skiing zone called “The Chutes.” In addition to its proximity to the mountains, the city of Reno features a bevy of casinos for of age students to take advantage of.

Photo provided by Heavenly Mountain Resort
LocationReno, NV
Overall Points:81.2
Type of SchoolPublic
Enrollment19,934 Undergrads | 6,262 Grads
Professor-to-Student Ratio1:22
Male / Female Ratio47 / 53
Avg. Annual TuitionOut-Of-State: $20,325 | In-State: $6,415
Percent of Students Receiving Grant Aid53%
Freshman Retention Rate79%
Graduation Rate17%
Admission Rate84%
Is Weed LegalN
Size of Ski Club120
Avg. Snowfall of Town - Inches23
Avg. Snowfall of Closest Resort - Inches350
Closest Ski ResortMt. Rose Ski Tahoe
Distance to Closest Resort - Miles25
Number of Ski Areas within 100 Miles14
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