Ski Towns That Fly Under the Radar
There’s an old saying that good things come in small packages.
This pertains for ski country towns as well.
You can get anything you want at most mega-mountain resorts and villages. Except maybe charm. And perhaps a modicum of peace. But at Smalltown Skitown you can get that and more.
And the best thing is that these places generally fly under most skiers’ and snowboarders’ radar.
The following is a handful of such places:
Red River, New Mexico
This former mining town (pictured above) about 2.5 hours north of Santa Fe has a distinct but restrained Texas vibe and an unpretentious ski hill within the town limits.
It would almost impossible to get lost in a village that is one mile long and three blocks wide, but packed into that little space are some great off-hill diversions, such as the Red River Brewing Company & Distillery, Texas Red Steakhouse and the Motherlode Saloon. All of which are easy walking distance from the Copper King Lodge or the Three Bears Lodge, two fine places where you can spend a night or two.
As for the eponymous ski hill, it literally rises out of the southwest corner of the town, providing 209 tons-of-fun skiable acres and 1,600 feet of vertical serviced by 7 lifts.
Situated on the southern shores of Payette Lake a couple hours north of Boise, this town looks and feels like a throwback to the days — say 50 years ago —when Lake Tahoe wasn’t so overrun.
Though generally quiet and accessible most of year, McCall becomes quite boisterous during its annual Winter Carnival in late January, which features some of the most amazing and intricate ice sculptures around.
There is wide selection of dining choices, from white tablecloth establishments like Steamers to the down-homey and calorie-rich Pancake House, as well as a variety of lodging options, such as the historic Hotel McCall or the literally-on-the-lake Shore Lodge.
You also have two options for downhill fun: Brundage Mountain (1,500 acres, 1,800 vertical, 5 lifts) a half hour north of town and Tamarack (1,100 acres, 2,700 vertical, 3 lifts) a half hour in the other direction.
June Lake, California
Tucked into a subalpine valley and surrounded by the massive eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada range, this town about 2.5 hours south of Reno has been dubbed “the Switzerland of California”.
But because it lies in the economic shadow of the nearby bustling mini-city of Mammoth Lakes, June usually gets overlooked by area visitors. Which is a shame because most tourists are missing the likes the T-Bar Social Club, with its impressive line-up of pizzas, drinks and rousing live music, or the June Lake Brewery, with its diverse craft beer selection, or the super-luxe Double Eagle Resort and Spa.
And rising out of the southern edges of town is the local ski hill, June Mountain, with 1,500-plus acres and 2,545 feet of vertical serviced by 6 lifts. Oh, yeah, Mammoth Mountain (3,500 acres, 3,100 vertical, 23 chairlifts and a gondola) is about a half hour or so to the south.
Rossland, British Columbia
Just across the U.S.-Canadian border in the southern Monashee Mountains lies the erstwhile hometown of Nancy Greene, the Olympic and World GS champion who has been named Canada’s Female Athlete of the 20th Century.
And like the hometown heroine, Rossland boasts a pretty good outdoor recreation cred, with skiing/snowboarding dominating the winter scene and mountain biking taking over in the summer. For instance, what other municipality can say they have highly competitive terrain park competition right in the middle of town?
While dodging slopesliding skiers and boarders, you can stroll down Columbia Avenue to check out the numerous boutiques that have set up shop there. Or have a bite and a brew while listening to tunes at the Flying Steamshovel Pub, which dates back to the town’s raucous gold rush days of the 1890s. Or rest your weary bones at the tres luxe Prestige Mountain Resort.
A couple miles outside of town you will find RED Mountain, a powder hound’s playground (2,682 acres, 2,910 vertical) that has 5 chairs and a T bar to help you get to the goods.
You probably won’t find any rastas in this Green Mountains town, but you will be awash in the quintessential New England vibe.
It’s a sleepy town with a vibrant artsy-craftsy industry. From the folksy Jamaica Country Market in the town center, to the intimate Three Mountain Inn, to the affordable Stone Boat Farm B&B, you’ll feel like you stepped straight into the pages of Yankee magazine.
And it also lies smack dab in the center of the southern Vermont ski and snowboard scene, with Mt. Snow (600 acres, 1,700 vertical, 14 lifts), Stratton (625 acres, 2003 vertical, 10 lifts), Okemo (667 acres, 2,200 vertical, 13 lifts), Magic Mountain (205 acres, 1,500 vertical, 3 lifts) and Bromley (178 acres, 1,334 vertical, 7 lifts) all within a 40-minute drive of town.