More of the West’s Best
By Peter Schroeder
Photo at right: The Gondola at Alyeska Resort in Alaska. Photo courtesy of Alyeska Resort
Viewing the Northern Lights, watching the start of the Iditarod and skiing in Alaska should be on every winter enthusiast’s bucket list.
Alyeska Resort, Alaska’s premier ski area, presents an impressive 2,500 feet of vertical with terrain ranging from novice to double diamond. It also offers up terrain that keeps you at the lowest base elevation in the U.S.: only 250 feet above sea level. Furthermore, ski conditions in these northerly latitudes are guaranteed to be great all season and that season lasts well into spring. In addition to offering challenging ski terrain, the 49th State serves up heli-skiing, dog sledding, ice climbing, glacier flight-seeing and the luminous display of the Aurora Borealis. As for the Iditarod, book your visit to Anchorage for the first weekend in March to see the start of the famous dogsled race.
Alaska Tourism: www.alaskatourism.com
Alyeska Resort: www.alyeskaresort.com
Skiing started in California in the 1930s when Walt Disney co-founded Sugar Bowl in North Lake Tahoe. In 1960, the sport came of age when Squaw Valley hosted the Winter Olympics. From these early beginnings, California today counts 12 alpine ski areas on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, three on the South Shore, and stand-alone Mammoth Mountain in the middle of the state.
Whether your preference is for a small family-oriented area (Homewood, Mt. Rose, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Diamond Peak), a major resort (Heavenly, Mammoth, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Squaw Valley) or anything in-between (Kirkwood, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl), you’ll find most of them within a few hours’ drive from the Reno Airport.
Alpine Meadows: www.alpinemeadows.com
Diamond Peak: www.diamondpeak.com
Heavenly Mountain Resort: www.skiheavenly.com
Homewood Mountain Resort: www.skihomewood.com
Mammoth Mountain: www.mammothmountain.com
Mount Rose: www.mtrose.com
Squaw Valley: www.squaw.com
Sugar Bowl: www.sugarbowl.com
Ski California: www.skicalifornia.com
Colorado corners the market on America’s most colorful ski towns not just snowy theme parks, but communities with both character and characters. The snow is so light that locals joke you can’t make snowballs.
If you want to pack as much variety as possible into a Colorado ski vacation, rent a car at the Denver airport and head due west on Interstate 70 where a dozen ski areas lie within a four-hour drive. Best deal: A multi-day lift ticket allows you to ski five resorts: Keystone, Beaver Creek, Arapahoe Basin and the country’s two most visited ski areas, Vail and Breckenridge.
Colorado Ski Country: www.coloradoskicountry.com
Ski Colorado: www.skicolorado.com
Beaver Creek: www.beavercreek.com
Copper Mountain Resort: www.coppercolorado.com
Crested Butte: www.crestedbutte.com
Steamboat Springs: www.steamboat.com
Winter Park Resort: www.skiwinterpark.com
First-timers may find it strange to look down from snow-covered slopes onto sage and sand stretching to the horizon. But New Mexico is where the desert meets snow-covered mountains.
The state’s ski areas are also unique for other reasons. Ski Apache is the country’s southernmost ski resort and the only one owned and operated by a Native American tribe, the Mescalero Apaches. Pajarito was built in the 1940s by distinguished scientists and Nobel Laureates working on the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. A world-class resort, Taos is still run by the founding Blake family. The tram at Sandia Peak Ski Area is the world’s longest (2.8 miles).
Besides pillowy powder, ski areas in New Mexico are known for sunny skies, high base altitudes, and an intimate alpine ambiance that mingles with spicy Southwestern culture.
Ski New Mexico: www.skinewmexico.com
Angel Fire Resort: www.angelfireresort.com
Pajarito Mountain: www.skipajarito.com
Red River: www.redriverskiarea.com
Sandia Peak: www.sandiapeak.com
Ski Santa Fe: www.skisantafe.com
Sipapu Ski Resort: www.sipapunm.com
Ski Apache: www.skiapache.com
Taos Ski Valley: www.skitaos.org
Want to ski in the morning and take a photography or pottery class in the afternoon? Check out Sundance Resort. Looking for the country’s largest skiable terrain? Buy a joint lift ticket offered by Alta and Snowbird. Want two neighboring family-oriented ski areas? Drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon to Solitude and Brighton. Interested in an epic backcountry experience passing through six ski resorts? Sign up for the Utah Interconnect Adventure tour. Looking for challenging slopes, outstanding cuisine, and over-the-top skier amenities in a party-hearty town? Opt for Deer Valley, The Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort. Want to find your own private space? Head up to Ogden Valley for Snowbasin and Powder mountains.
Need more adrenaline? Venues from the 2002 Winter Olympics are now open to all for ski jumping, bobsledding, ice-skating, cross-country skiing… even biathlon.
Beaver Mountain: www.skithebeav.com
Brian Head: www.brianhead.com
The Canyons: www.thecanyons.com
Deer Valley: www.deervalley.com
Park City Mountain Resort: www.parkcitymountain.com
Powder Mountain: www.powdermountain.com
Wolf Mountain: www.wolfmountaineden.com
Wyoming isn’t just for cowboys who mount bucking broncos and bodacious bulls. It’s also for those who want to ride mogul steeps and powdery snowfields at two of the nation’s top ski resorts, Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole, located near spectacular Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
Go to Jackson Hole just to ride to the top of Rendezvous Mountain in the new $25 million Big Red tram (12 minutes, 4,139 vertical feet). After being closed for a couple if years, Grand Targhee has rebuilt its terrain park with two lines of jumps and hits, one run for beginners and others for more advanced skiers and riders.
Wyoming tourism: www.wyomingtourism.org
Grand Targhee Resort: www.grandtarghee.com
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort: www.jacksonhole.com
Snow King Mountain: www.snowkingmountain.com
Check out the winter resorts in these other western states/provinces: