What smaller resorts can you Recommend? Im going to start doing a little more research into this.
My advice for your first trip is to go somewhere "convenient" and easy(not as in easy terrain but easy to navigate and have fun) to navigate, one of the "mecca" locations like Summit County Colorado, Tahoe California or Salt Lake City\Park City\Ogden Utah.
Depends on when you go, I'm obviously biased towards Utah so my favorite areas to ride is in Ogden at Snowbasin(where they had the Olympic downhill) and Powder Mountain(in-bounds back-country and uber cheap snowcat rides)......you can stay cheaply in Ogden and it's only a 30 minute drive to either resort.
Salt Lake City also has 3 Snowboarder(2 smaller and 1 large) friendly resorts within 20 minutes of downtown(Brighton, Solitude and Snowbird)
Park City--Great nightlife, shopping all that stuff and had 2 snowboarder friendly resorts within 5 minutes of downtown(The Canyons and PCMR)
Do you have timeline or budget constraints?
This years Ski magazine where they rate resorts is a great place to start and I think it's online for free if you search.