2001 Adventure Guide: 25 Skier's Mountains

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If you want to find a Skier's Mountain, look for the old guys. No, not the guys over 30. The guys over 70. The guys who remember rope tows and no tows, who learned in leather boots and leather bindings, the guys for whom ski areas were once as much a novelty as the backcountry is today. Look for the guys who cared enough about skiing to stick with it while putting kids through college and having hips replaced and the million other solid reasons to give it all up and move to Arizona. Look for the guys who can ski anywhere, who've skied everywhere, but who've chosen this place, this mountain, above all others.

See, any hill can pull in the young. Just build a park, throw up some lights, and pump Eminem through the speakers. But to attract the graybeards who still love the sport after all these years, you can only do that when you have something truly special: a culture, a mountain, an attitude...disparate threads woven into something beautiful and unique and only about skiing.

It isn't easy being a Skier's Mountain. Pressure comes from all sides: from consumers, from other ski areas, from the media, and from that drunken monkey on your shoulder telling you you're not doing enough to keep your market share. Halfpipes. Nightlife. Arcades. Shopping. Banana Republic. Pay-Per-View. If you don't got 'em, people wonder why not.

Well, Skier's Mountains are places for people for whom skiing is enough. They're places for people who want nothing more than another run, more snow, lots of trees, big natural bumps, and a ski patrol that skis faster than they do. They're where everyone thinks the skiing's good even when it's bad (because it's skiing, you know?), where the terrain tilts sharply and twists frequently and is always unregulated enough to demand our humility in the face of it.

So, look past the traditional symbols of Skier's Mountains, past the facial hair and duct tape, past the surly lifties and pungent whiffs of weed. Look for the packs of musty old guys in their musty old clothes and ancient equipment, the ones with the ageless grins on their faces. Find them, and you'll find a Skier's Mountain, a place where skiing priorities are absolutely straight.

ALPINE MEADOWS, California
Alpine Meadows is the yin to Squaw Valley's yang. Peaceful, embracing, and sweetly pretty, Alpine lures admirers with its old-school family-style feel, then converts them for life with its quietly kick-ass terrain. Oh, yes, you can cruise, carve, and bump. But you can also ski top to bottom on Alpine's 2,000 acres without ever skiing on-piste. If you can see it-notch or nose, ridge or face, chute or glade-you can hike to it and ski it. Just don't forget to admire the stands of old-growth trees and views of Lake Tahoe on the way.
What's New: Upgrades to the terrain park and halfpipe.
Adventure Angle:: Check in with ski patrol, then take the High Traverse out-of-bounds to Grouse Rock.
If you're a local...you know just when to trek out to the Buttress or Bernie's Bowl for perfect spring corn.
Info: 800-441-4423; www.skialpine.com
-Susan Reifer

ALTA, Utah
Alta is a cult, and anyone with an open mind and good attitude can join. Just remember: The farther out the high traverse you go, the better your chances for scoring fresh. That's what Alta's about-hiking and exploring, seeking and destroying. And there's lots to destroy: Alta typically gets more snow than Snowbird (only one mile away), the patrol opens terrain faster than bunnies procreate, and the lifts-God bless 'em-are so slow that sometimes the powder lasts all day. Anachronism: 1; Modernization: 0.
What's New: Snowmaking on the Sugarloaf side.
Adventure Angle:: On storm days, when the crowds are standing in line, ski "the back side" of Germania.
If you're a local...you squeeze through the tight spots on the high traverse, hoping to cause the tourists to tu down the hill.
Info: 801-359-1078; www.alta.com
-Kristen Ulmer

ARAPAHOE BASIN, Colorado
Venerable A-Basin is Colorado's primo spring-skiing spot. That's not to say that you can't enjoy the array of above-tree line bowls, snow- and tree-choked chutes, aggro cornice jumps, and Pallivacinni's heart-stopping moguls midwinter. But come April, when the party poopers pull out their golf clubs, there's nothing like carving it up in soft snow with the sky that vibrant shade of "A-Basin blue." If you're up for some high-altitude hiking (the summit's above 13,000 feet), you can scare yourself silly skiing down among rocks and cliffs on the North Pole and Upper East Wall.
What's New: The base lodge seems to sport a new coat of paint.
Adventure Angle:: Access backcountry runs like the Beavers-but not without a transceiver and shovel.
If you're a local...you compete in the Enduro race or Bikes & Bumps.
Info: 888-ARAPAHOE; www.arapahoebasin.com
-Cindy Hirschfeld

ASPEN HIGHLANDS, Colorado
Highlands is a study in cultural contrasts. It's a ski bum's mountain at heart-a breathtaking package of steep chutes, bump fields, and high-alpine bowls. But a major base-area development, with land plots starting at well over a million bucks, is now destined to bring a new, upscale, anti-ski bum clientele. But don't expect it to mean crowds on the mountain. Highlands the ski area remains pretty much what it's always been-only better: New lifts and an admirably permissive policy toward tracking up lines in Highland Bowl have opened doors to more first-rate expert terrain.
What's New: High-end base-village development is in full swing.
Adventure Angle:: Hit Highland Bowl, Temerity, and the Y, B, and G Zones.
If you're a local...you take the bus: Parking is seriously limited.
Info: 800-525-6000; www.skiaspen.com
-Peter Oliver

BIG SKY, Montana
Lone Mountain boasts some of the steepest inbounds ski runs in the land. These vertical chutes are accessed by a 15-passenger tram, itself a black-diamond ride for the acrophobe. Nothing up high is groomed, and the steepest of the double blacks are lump-in-the-stomachers for anyone. The mountain's lower flanks hold scores of wide groomers and tamer slopes. The three-mountain resort's 3,600 skiable acres get 400 inches of snow in an average winter, freshies that usually last from storm to storm.
What's New: The 213 luxury slopeside units of the Summit Condos.
Adventure Angle:: Anything off Lone Mountain; the Dictator Chutes (Marx, Lenin, and Castro being the steepest).
If you're a local...you can navigate the spiral staircase to LoLo's Saloon in your ski boots.
Info: 800-548-4486; www.bigskyresort.com
-Claire Walter

BRIGHTON, Utah
Brighton's got an atmosphere that's unique and way laid back. Punks, professionals, senior citizens, and families all hang out inches apart and all have a goofy, great time. It's the terrain that makes everyone so happy-from the long green slopes to the terrifying steeps to the Burton-sponsored terrain park for those with fresh vertebrae. Five-hundred-plus inches of Utah powder, the most-illuminated night skiing in the state (300,000 candle power), and free skiing for those under 10 helps, too.
What's New: Now it's called the Snake Creek "Express"-high-speed quad, baby!
Adventure Angle:: Go out of bounds-anywhere.
If you're a local...you spend most of your time in the terrain park jumping about and saying "dude."
Info: 800-873-5512; www.skibrighton.com
-K.U.

COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colorado
For years Copper had nothing but a mountain, and that was just fine. A compact combination of Vailesque bowls, superb tree skiing, and untouched hike-to terrain made it a haven for pot-smoking college kids milking ski-friendly schedules. They packed lunches, tore it up three days a week, and felt welcome. Copper was that kind of place. Now, a new base area threatens to bring in the masses and create a Mountain Playground. Until then, we'll tear it up as always.
What's New: Copper may nix itself from this category with an enormous $67-million base-area makeover.
Adventure Angle:: Head to Copper Bowl and trek to ski oodles of outrageous terrain on Tucker Mountain.
If you're a local...you hit 17 Glade off the Super Bee for sweet powder after a storm.
Info: 970-968-2318; www.ski-copper.com
-Shawn Magee

CRESTED BUTTE, Colorado
The decision makers at Crested Butte claim the resort is focusing on families and real-estate development. Well, they can try. But the new kid-friendly Club Med opening this season, "Kids Pay Their Age" pricing, and "Big-Picture" planning initiatives can't change the fact that half of the ski area's 1,160 skiable acres are in an area the trail map calls "The Extreme Limits." This kind of terrain-a series of precipitous steps separated by cliff bands, chutes, and the occasional patch of clinging trees-will always lure hardcores with just enough cash for a few beers at Kochevar's.
What's New: Daily nonstop flights from Denver to Gunnison.adventure angle: Ride the North Face poma and follow just about any local; maybe Wendy Fisher or Kasha Rigby will be handy.
If you're a local...you feast on spicy pad thai at Kong's.
Info: 800-544-8448; www.crestedbutteresort.com
-Bevin Wallace

FERNIE, British Columbia
Tucked into the remote southeast corner of British Columbia, Fernie used to be a Skier's Mountain simply because there was nothing else there. Fortunately, despite the addition of new quads and the burgeoning base village, it still remains a testament to skiing's original Holy Trinity-deep snow, challenging terrain, and committed skiers. The snow falls to the tune of 30 feet a year; the terrain traverses five massive bowls and dives through thick timber; and the locals will still take freshies over fashion every time.
What's New: The Great Bear Express, the area's second high-speed quad, replaces the Bear T-bar.
Adventure Angle:: The area's First Tracks program (C$50) gets you on the mountain at 7:45 a.m. for a two-hour guided powder session.
If you're a local...you ski the OB glades of Fish Bowl.
Info: 250-423-4655; www.skifernie.com
-Rob Lovitt

GRAND TARGHEE, Wyoming
If you've been to Jackson and haven't driven the hour over to Targhee, you're a knucklehead. It gets more snow (500 inches a year) than most resorts in the West, including its famous neighbor. In fact, the snowfall is so reliable, Targhee guarantees it: If you get skunked, the resort will pony up a free lift ticket for another day. It's a modest-sized place to be sure, but it has natural halfpipes, lots of tree skiing, some decent steeps, and very few green runs. Plus, it offers a variety of wacky snow toys to try. But with all that fresh powder, it's unlikely that you'll ever want to stop skiing.
What's New: Other than snow, not much.
Adventure Angle:: Targhee has 1,500 acres exclusively for cat skiing.
If you're a local...you live in tiny Driggs, Idaho, drive a beat-up pickup, and try to blend in with the roughneck ranchers.
Info: 800-827-4433; www.grandtarghee.com
-Brian Metzler

JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming
Okay, it's got sleigh-ride dinners, snowmobile tours of Yellowstone, even an art museum. But it would be a travesty to call Jackson's 4,139 feet of relentless ination of Vailesque bowls, superb tree skiing, and untouched hike-to terrain made it a haven for pot-smoking college kids milking ski-friendly schedules. They packed lunches, tore it up three days a week, and felt welcome. Copper was that kind of place. Now, a new base area threatens to bring in the masses and create a Mountain Playground. Until then, we'll tear it up as always.
What's New: Copper may nix itself from this category with an enormous $67-million base-area makeover.
Adventure Angle:: Head to Copper Bowl and trek to ski oodles of outrageous terrain on Tucker Mountain.
If you're a local...you hit 17 Glade off the Super Bee for sweet powder after a storm.
Info: 970-968-2318; www.ski-copper.com
-Shawn Magee

CRESTED BUTTE, Colorado
The decision makers at Crested Butte claim the resort is focusing on families and real-estate development. Well, they can try. But the new kid-friendly Club Med opening this season, "Kids Pay Their Age" pricing, and "Big-Picture" planning initiatives can't change the fact that half of the ski area's 1,160 skiable acres are in an area the trail map calls "The Extreme Limits." This kind of terrain-a series of precipitous steps separated by cliff bands, chutes, and the occasional patch of clinging trees-will always lure hardcores with just enough cash for a few beers at Kochevar's.
What's New: Daily nonstop flights from Denver to Gunnison.adventure angle: Ride the North Face poma and follow just about any local; maybe Wendy Fisher or Kasha Rigby will be handy.
If you're a local...you feast on spicy pad thai at Kong's.
Info: 800-544-8448; www.crestedbutteresort.com
-Bevin Wallace

FERNIE, British Columbia
Tucked into the remote southeast corner of British Columbia, Fernie used to be a Skier's Mountain simply because there was nothing else there. Fortunately, despite the addition of new quads and the burgeoning base village, it still remains a testament to skiing's original Holy Trinity-deep snow, challenging terrain, and committed skiers. The snow falls to the tune of 30 feet a year; the terrain traverses five massive bowls and dives through thick timber; and the locals will still take freshies over fashion every time.
What's New: The Great Bear Express, the area's second high-speed quad, replaces the Bear T-bar.
Adventure Angle:: The area's First Tracks program (C$50) gets you on the mountain at 7:45 a.m. for a two-hour guided powder session.
If you're a local...you ski the OB glades of Fish Bowl.
Info: 250-423-4655; www.skifernie.com
-Rob Lovitt

GRAND TARGHEE, Wyoming
If you've been to Jackson and haven't driven the hour over to Targhee, you're a knucklehead. It gets more snow (500 inches a year) than most resorts in the West, including its famous neighbor. In fact, the snowfall is so reliable, Targhee guarantees it: If you get skunked, the resort will pony up a free lift ticket for another day. It's a modest-sized place to be sure, but it has natural halfpipes, lots of tree skiing, some decent steeps, and very few green runs. Plus, it offers a variety of wacky snow toys to try. But with all that fresh powder, it's unlikely that you'll ever want to stop skiing.
What's New: Other than snow, not much.
Adventure Angle:: Targhee has 1,500 acres exclusively for cat skiing.
If you're a local...you live in tiny Driggs, Idaho, drive a beat-up pickup, and try to blend in with the roughneck ranchers.
Info: 800-827-4433; www.grandtarghee.com
-Brian Metzler

JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming
Okay, it's got sleigh-ride dinners, snowmobile tours of Yellowstone, even an art museum. But it would be a travesty to call Jackson's 4,139 feet of relentless vertical a "Mountain Playground." The resort's 2,500 acres of craggy ridges and colossal bowls overshadow all activity in the village below. Need an excuse to skip another late night at the Cowboy Bar? Spend a day with a local in the Alta chutes, the Hobacks, the glades of Saratoga.... And, when you've mastered the countless inbounds lines, slip into the spectacular, scarily accessible beyond.
What's New: Jackson's open-boundary policy is now official.
Adventure Angle:: Think Corbet's is rad? Hire an Alpine Guide to get you safely into some really hairy terrain (307-739-2663).
If you're a local...you get your turns hiking Teton Pass.
Info: 800-443-6391; www.jacksonhole.com
-B.W.

JAY PEAK, Vermont
Jay seems to take care of powder like no other Eastern area, claiming 488 inches from last year's balky winter. The snow stays in the trees, as do Jay regulars, who winnow some two dozen glades. Jay takes care of trees like no other area, doubling last fall's maintenance budget. And Jay takes care of other business, most notably an overhaul of Vermont's only tram, with amenity-filled new cars and smoother summit docking. A large terrain park debuts at the Stateside area. Most nightlife is still at the resort or at a few outposts in surrounding villages, but new condos increase overnight capacity.
What's New: An old tram car as entranceway to the Golden Eagle bar.
Adventure Angle:: The Beyond Beaver Pond backcountry, now with a catch line for easier return.
If you're a local...you acquire a powder habit.
Info: 800-451-4449; www.jaypeakresort.com
-John Dostal

KIRKWOOD, California
A razorback of volcanic spines winds its way around the top of Kirkwood and creates the classic expert drops that earn the resort its 'core reputation. But those cliffs and cornices eventually give way to wide ridges and giant gullies: serviceable intermediate terrain or warp-speed groomers and natural halfpipes for experts. It's all fat-ski heaven: Kirkwood got more snow than any U.S. resort over the last five years. The area is creating a new "mountain village," but so far this isolated resort still feels like a pure-skiing hideout.
What's New: The Cornice Express quad.
Adventure Angle:: Outside the resort boundaries, classic backcountry descents run in two directions.
If you're a local...you've spent a few nights on someone's floor when blizzards closed the road home.
Info: 800-967-7500; www.skikirkwood.com
-Chaco Mohler

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta
One of the best things about Lake Louise is that it's located in the heart of Banff National Park. That means there are no condos or cutesy shops to distract from the pure pleasure of skiing a massive mountain amid equally stunning scenery. Choose from sunny trails on the front side, massive bowls out back, and endless glades in between-4,200 acres in all-and chances are you'll go home exhausted, exhilarated, and intensely aware that skiing is not an amusement-park ride, but an adventure.
What's New: A high-speed quad replaces the Glacier triple.
Adventure Angle:: The Beyond the Boundary program (C$69) offers all-inclusive hike-in ski tours of Purple Bowl.
If you're a local...you chow the all-you-can-eat breakfast at the North Face restaurant and know that the lifts can open at 8:30.
Info: 800-258-7669; www.skilouise.com
-R.L.

MAD RIVER GLEN, Vermont
It's skiing the way skiing used to be, and, in the minds of Mad River devotees, the way it always ought to be: narrow, ungroomed trails, time-honored lifts, and even time-honored equipment-the base-area repair shop can feel like a museum. The 2,037 vertical feet of in-your-face rocks, trees, ice, stumps, and occ