If you’ve been checking out the GetSkiTickets.com blogs over the past couple of years, you might have noticed that we try to keep our list of best resorts or lifts or runs or whatever pretty much unbiased, using any number of metrics to keep the playing field as level as possible.
But not today.
This time it’s personal.
The following is a list of my favorite hills. These are resorts that I’ve either been to on many occasions over multiple winters or that have made such an impression on me that I plan to ski them again and again.
There are many reasons why these resorts resonate with me: It may be the snow quality and/or quantity, or the variety of terrain, or the vistas, or the apres scene, or simply the right vibe. Or a combination of all of that.
So without further ado, here, in no particular order, are my top-10 all-time faves:
What’s not to like? Great snow, zippy lifts, quality grooming, historical and cultural significance, exquisite dining and drinking options at the Sun Valley Lodge complex and in Ketchum. I could spend an entire winter doing laps on the 3,300-foot vertical Warm Springs chair alone.
The views are worth repeated visits: Mts. Banner and Ritter and the Minarets, the majestic San Joaquin River canyon, the towering White Mountains across the sere Owens Valley. But it’s the terrain that brings me back to Mammoth; diamond and double-diamond runs like Wipe Out and Drop Out chutes, Scotty’s, Dave’s Run, Avalanche Chutes, Face of 5.
An iconic and picturesque Vermont village whose ski hill has some of the best steep runs in the East. I once hit Stowe on a powder day — yes, they have them there — and had a ball doing laps on Goat, Starr, National and Liftline, the resort’s famous Front Four. The 2,000-foot vertical Perry Merrill trail is a fast and delightful cruiser.
It’s not the largest resort in British Columbia, but it skis huge. There are fewer than a half-dozen lifts, including the top-to-bottom gondola, so much of Kicking Horse’s terrain is hike-to. And those runs are well worth the tromp because you often feel as if you’re the only one on the hill. The nearby town of Golden is one of the better base camps in North America.
Impeccable grooming turns this Truckee-area resort into one of the greatest cruising hills around. And their terrain park system consistently is ranked among the tops anywhere. But what makes Northstar so appealing is the Lookout lift, a high-speed quad that gives access to high-angled groomers and bump runs and two great off-piste powder powder playgrounds, Sugar Pine Glade and White Rabbit.
Much like Northstar, this Colorado resort offers some of the best groomed runs in North America; you can spend an entire day or two just taking laps on that high-speed boulevard known as lower Centennial. If bumps are your thing check out Grouse Mountain. But what makes Beaver Creek stand out is the base complex, one of the most well-thought out and all-inclusive faux mountain villages around. Bachelor Gulch is pretty nifty, too.
All you have to do is look at its name to know what Powder Mountain is all about. And with 8,000 acres of Utah’s finest product your powder legs will get quite a workout. I really like Powder’s low-fi vibe (there’s only one high-speed lift and a paucity of base facilities) and the fact that the Shooting Star Saloon is just down the road in Huntsville.
Situated near the back end of one of the most picturesque box canyons in all of Colorado, Telluride has that vista thing down pat. But it’s on the ski hill where the resort really shines. Huge open bowls, tight tree skiing, steep bump runs, frolicking cruisers all conspire to make Telluride worth many return visits. Oh, yeah, there’s also Alpino Vino, a delightfully tasty Italian restaurant perched at 11,966 feet of altitude, making it the highest eating establishment in North America.
Once a separate entity, Canyons is now part of the massive Park City Mountain Resort. But I still think of Canyons as it was before it was swallowed by Utah’s behemoth: The steep and deep of the Ninety-Nine 90 lift and the hike-to Murdock Bowl; the fun cruisers over in the Dreamscape area; the delightfully scary Short Lift triple chair, and the exquisite dining at the on-mountain aerie known as Lookout Cabin.
What can I say? I’m saving the best for last. Squaw Valley is the hill I grew up skiing on, and after many years of setting edges all over the Tahoe Basin — and throughout the West — I still consider it my “home” mountain. It’s got everything you need: Steeps, deep and a certain attitude. There is no other chair anywhere that I can think of that compares to KT22; that lift alone serves more terrain — from high-speed cruisers to steep bumps to just plain scary — than many full-on resorts. And the one thing Squaw definitely has that no other resort has? The Shammy (a.k.a., Les Chamoix & Loft Bar), ground zero for apres in all of the Sierra.