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A Walk on the Wild Side — Great Hike-to Terrain

by Dan Giesin | March 8, 2022

It is often said that nothing worth having is easy to come by.

That aphorism works well in the ski resort world as well, where some of the sweetest goods are available only after you make a sometimes agonizing, often post-holing slog up a ridge.

In other words: You’ve got to earn your turns.

But the reward is generally — sadly not always, but that’s another tale — a memorable run of untracked powder or ripe corn or tasty chalk, goods that are seldom trampled and sampled by skiers and snowboarders of fainter heart and less stamina.

Many ski resorts, especially those in the western third of North America, have this kind of hike-to terrain available within their boundaries. Here are seven such resorts:

Palisades Tahoe

This two-valley resort just northwest of Lake Tahoe has hike-to options galore, but a couple of favorites are the Palisades, reachable via the Headwall and/or Siberia lifts at Olympic (née Squaw) Valley, and Estelle Bowl, via the Summit Six at Alpine Meadows.

Kicking Horse

With more than 3,400 skiable acres and 4,314 feet of vertical served by just four lifts, you gotta know this eastern British Columbia resort has plenty of hike-to options. Super Bowl, reachable from the top of the Gondola, takes maximum time and effort to reach but is worth the hike. Feuz Bowl, a short jaunt up a ridge from the upper terminus of the Stairway to Heaven lift, is a  shorter hike but usually more populated.

Taos

A short but aerobically challenging hike from the top of Chair 2 — we’re at 12,000 feet remember — brings you to the New Mexico resort’s boundary ridge. Make a right and head along West Basin Ridge for multiple option drops into bowls, chutes and tree stashes.

Telluride

Another lung buster — this one’s high up in Colorado’s San Juan range — will bring you to near the summit of 13,150-foot Palmyra, Telluride’s high point. There are multiple options to descend along the way, so you don’t have to make the complete trek from the top of Prospect Express to get in on the action.

Aspen Highlands

There are 18 named runs of various types of terrain — all rated double black diamond — that descend from the ridge of the enormous cirque (Highlands Bowl) that defines this Colorado  resort. The entry gate (i.e., the start of the uphill slog) can be found at the top of the Deep Temerity lift.

Crystal Mountain

From the upper terminus of Chair 6 at Washington’s largest ski resort you’ll find a fairly well-worn track heading looker’s left along the ridge. Hump past The Throne to gain access to A-Basin, but don’t be too tempted: In short while you’ll pass Silver King Peak and reach the huge, wide-open back-countryish playground known as Silver Basin.

Solitude

Little Cotttonwood Canyon outside Salt Lake City may be the home of a pair of world-renowned powder playgrounds, but neighboring Big Cottonwood Canyon has Fantasy Ridge at Solitude. Towering above Honeycomb Canyon, Fantasy is knife-edge ridge — providing access to a number of chutes — that is not for the faint of heart. The ridge is gained by a super-steep climb that starts at the top of the Summit lift.

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