Prospective college students who have begun the search for their future home may take many factors into account: academic prestige, retention rates, and tuition, to name a few. Life outside of the classroom is an important aspect of the college experience, too, and many students desire a university with a vibrant winter atmosphere—and a lot of snow.
"The snow is beautiful and it adds variety," says Arielle Brill, a senior at the University of Colorado—Boulder. "I love that I get to do things outside [during the winter] that my friends in Florida can't do."
[See photos of 10 great colleges for winter enthusiasts.]
For students who place great importance on outdoor activities during the winter season, here are five great college towns—in alphabetical order—for you to consider.
1. Boulder, Colo.: For students who are interested in world-class ski and snowboard resorts, the University of Colorado—Boulder is conveniently situated near some of the country's top slopes. Vail and Winter Park are both roughly a two hour drive from campus, and Eldora Mountain Resort is located 30 minutes from campus and offers 53 trails and 12 lifts for downhill skiers.
"We've got the premiere skiing [and snowboarding] in the country right at our backdoor," says Cheryl Kent, director of recreation services at CU Boulder. "The backdrop for campus alone: You walk out the door of any class and see the Flatirons glistening with snow—it gets you really excited."
2. Bozeman, Mont.: The list of activities for students to participate in during the winter months at Montana State University is seemingly endless.
"The winter recreation available to students around the Bozeman area ranges from downhill skiing, to Nordic skiing, to ice climbing, to backcountry skiing, to ice fishing, and I could go on and on," says Tracy Ellig, a university spokesperson. "Within a 60 minute drive from town, there are three remarkable ski areas, [and] there's a world-class, ice-climbing region that's 40 minutes outside of town."
Receiving roughly 350 inches of snow annually, located about 90 miles from Yellowstone National Park, and surrounded by 10,000-foot mountain ranges, Montana State is an ideal spot for the winter outdoor enthusiast.
[See U.S. News's 15 best winter vacations.]
3. Hanover, N.H.: At Dartmouth College, students celebrate winter by doing more than just skiing or snowboarding. Known as the oldest collegiate winter festival, and one of the school's longest-standing traditions, the Winter Carnival at Dartmouth is a celebration of winter, snow, and outdoor activities.
Hosted annually at Dartmouth Skiway during a weekend in February, events include ski competitions, a human dogsled race, and a student snow sculpture.
4. Incline Village, Nev.: If skiing or snowboarding is your passion, Sierra Nevada College is ideally situated in the Lake Tahoe region, which opens the door to many outdoor opportunities in the winter.
"Within an hour of campus, you've got 10 major ski areas," says Tim Cohee, a ski industry executive and the director of the ski business and resort management program at Sierra Nevada. "[And] not only is Tahoe a Mecca for skiing and snowboarding, but it's also a winter resort. You happen to have the great fortune of being in the heartbeat of one of the biggest ski destinations in the United States—and that part is unique."
For students who want a break from homework, they can make the five minute drive to Diamond Peak, which offers 655 acres of skiable terrain.
"You can go out [to Diamond Peak] to ski for an hour during your lunch break or in between classes or after school," says Andy Gendron, a 2011 Sierra Nevada graduate. "It's almost like a joke—it's so easy to go out there and take two runs and then go back to school."
[Find out which activity is the source of most winter sports injuries.]
5. Salt Lake City, Utah: Receiving roughly 500 inches of snow annually, Utah is well known as a winter destination and has adopted the slogan, "The Greatest Snow on Earth." The state is home to 14 world-class mountain resorts—which are arguably some of the best in the world.
The University of Utah, which is located among the Wasatch foothills and boasts more than 14,000 acres of skiable terrain, offers convenient winter options for students. Within an hour from campus, students can ski or snowboard at 11 of the state's resorts, and seven of these slopes are within 40 minutes of the university.
For students who are interested in attending a school with an active winter season, keep in mind that the best college for you may not only offer the ideal location, but also matches your academic interests and budget.
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