3 Great U.S. Ski Destinations
By Burt Carey
Fantastic snow skiing in 2016 appears to be a no-brainer no matter which part of the West you visit. Every snow and weather report seems to be good news for ski lift operators, resorts and skiers. Here are three places – in no particular order – you’ll certainly want to experience this winter.
You have to be intentional to get to Telluride. It’s about a 2-1/2-hour drive from either Grand Junction or Durango. It also has direct jet service from nine cities.
Oh, but once you’re there you won’t want to leave. The Telluride Ski Resort made the Top 10 lists of all North American ski resorts in both Men’s Fitness and Forbes magazines, and the ski freaks at Powderhounds.com say it is the best overall ski resort in the U.S.
Telluride features a most-impressive 3,845-foot vertical drop over some 125 trails designed for beginners and experts alike over 2,000 acres. Since the resort is amongst the highest concentration of 14,000-foot peaks in North America, you can bet snowfall levels will be high and powder available.
Ride the lift and add a little hiking to reach Palmyra Peak (elevation 13,320 feet), then take advantage of the powder of the San Juan slopes. Roy Boy, Sunrise and the Senior’s Tram Shot all offer expert skiers steep drops and good powder. Telluride has 18 lifts, including two high-speed gondolas and seven high-speed quads. They can propel an impressive number of skiers up the mountain very quickly.
There was a time when this charming old mining town was one of those best-kept secrets of locals. Not anymore. It’s upscale and high profile among the jet-set ski crowd.
Olympic Valley, California
With more than 18 feet of snow on the ground already this year, Squaw Valley’s reputation as one of the country’s premier ski destinations remains intact.
Whether you’re coming for vacation, wanting to learn how to ski or snowboard, bringing the family, or you’re a season pass holder, this place is big enough and geared right to meet all of your wants and needs.
When the words extreme skiing were first uttered back in the 1980s (thanks, Warren Miller), they were talking about Squaw Valley and its corps of young acrobats on skis. Those same cliffs are still there for those who dare. This was also the venue for the 1960 Winter Olympics.
Squaw Valley serves beginners just as well as it does accomplished ski bums. While the terrain on some runs can be imposing and best advised for huckers, there are plenty of places for novice and intermediate skiers to enjoy.
The resort covers some 3,600 acres and connects with Alpine Meadows Ski Resort. The lifts here are some of the most advanced in the country. It features a double-cabled gondola that even fares well on windy days, a cable car, four six-pack chairs and some high-speed quads. These folks know how to move skiers uphill!
You can get a Tahoe Super 4 ticket and ski all day for just $83. That’s a bargain anywhere.
Squaw Valley is about 12 miles south of Truckee, California, or 50 miles from Reno, Nev. (nearest airport).
Founded in 1939, Alta Ski Resort is one of the oldest in the country. Of course, when you build a ski resort where some of the best powder in the world can be skied, it makes sense that you’d still have the doors open for business three quarters of a century later.
The ski area rests on 2,200 acres, with 116 trails and an over-abundance of off-piste powder. With just seven lifts – two are high-speed quads – you’ll have to traverse a bit to find the best off-piste areas, but the 2,020 feet of vertical drop will make it all worthwhile. For those who prefers skis to snowboards, you’re going to love Alta. All of that traversing and a culture that emphasizes the area’s appeal to skiing powder makes this a place for serious skiers. Snowboarders typically shy away from this destination.
There’s another world-class resort connected to Alta: Snowbird. You can get there via a free shuttle bus or in-bound off the Sugarloaf chairlift. An Alta-Snowbird lift ticket opens up even more terrain; Snowbird has 19 lifts.
Alta is blessed with more than 500 inches of snow in an average season. There’s nearly 200 inches already on the ground this winter.
The resort is 26 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, at the top of the Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains. You won’t find 5-star accommodations here, just some charming ski lodges.