2002 Number 10 resort in the Pacific: Sierra-at-Tahoe, Calif.

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Sierra-at-Tahoe is marketed as a family area, and, as a result, many hardcore skiers have come to assume that it isn't worth their time. The loss is theirs. With more than 2,200 acres of skiable terrain and an efficient network of 10 lifts, Sierra offers as much variety and challenge as its famed neighbors. What's more, the Echo Summit area arguably boasts the finest treeskiing in the region. Old-growth stands of ponderosa and lodgepole pine cover the frontside of Huckleberry Mountain. Perfectly spaced, they hide endless stashes of powder with ideal pitch. Challenging slopes bristle in the woods off the high-speed Sensation Lift and include two ego-puncturing double black-diamond runs, Dynamite and Preacher's Passion. "A powder hound's dream," comments a reader. To sweeten the deal, Sierra has opened five backcountry access gates off the south-side summit's Grandview chairlift. Remote and serene, the powder paradise offers a wildlife habitat of steeps and deeps. Sierra's frontside is a freestyle haven, with seven terrain parks and a 300-foot-long halfpipe. If quality terrain was Sierra's only asset, the resort wouldn't have the dedicated following it thrives on. Sierra is tops in service, too. Employees are on first-name terms with regulars, and slopes are studiously groomed. Parents and kids alike appreciate its Wild Mountain Children's Center, with day care and ski and snowboard camps. Like most areas, Sierra is not devoid of liabilities. The resort lacks lodging, and a manageable 35-minute commute from South Lake Tahoe can turn precarious when Echo Summit is hammered by storms. "Tough drive in bad conditions," one reader concludes. In response, Sierra offers complimentary shuttle service from South Lake Tahoe. Par for the course at a ski area where "very friendly staff" and "helpful employees" are common reader refrains.

WHAT'S NEW Backcountry gates access several hundred new acres of advanced terrain.

A GOOD DEAL $199 Sunday to Friday season pass (except holidays).

HIGH/LOW PACIFIC RANK Family Programs (7), Service (8), Snow (9); Challenge (21), Lodging (25), Scenery (25).

DON'T MISS Views of Lake Tahoe and the American River Canyon from the Grandview Bar and Grill atop Huckleberry Mountain's 8,852-foot summit.

READER REMARKS (+) "Best value in the Sierra." "Treeskiing!"
(-) "No accommodations." "Lots of kids on weekends."