Anatomy: Crested Butte's North Face

Don’t be fooled by the T-bar that accesses this terrain: This is no bunny slope. The North Face, a massive back bowl that slants as much as 50 degrees, is the site of big-mountain competitions and gladed, fluff-filled stashes. If it’s a powder day, get here quickly.
Crested Butte's North Face

1) Honey Pie
For a perfect warmup run, ride the North Face T-bar and follow the signs to Rachel’s, a mellow slope that gets trampled quickly. Halfway down, drop over the ridge to your right to reach Honey Pie, a 32- degree open slope. If that’s tracked out, traverse skier’s right through the trees to find softer snow in the well-spaced woods of Stevie’s or Paradise Glade.

2) North Face Cliffs
From the T-bar, follow the signs to the North Face. You’ll go down a short groomer, then cut right on a traverse through the trees. From there, pick your line. North Face Cliffs can be unskiable in lowsnow years, but when it’s filled in, you can huck 50-footers if you’re so inclined. High Notch and Hard Slab offer smaller 10-footers or 300 vertical feet of soft, cliff-free skiing.

3) Hawk’s Nest
Ski High Notch or Hard Slab, then head straight down through the thinned-out trees to Hawk’s Nest, a wide-open slab of wind-buffed cream. On a powder day, you can slash three big turns down this 400-vertical-foot face. If it hasn’t snowed in a couple weeks, watch out for car-size bumps. Veer right toward the bottom to reach Rosy Lane, a knoll that often hides powder.

4) Last Steep
If you’re itching for more vertical, head down from Rosy Lane moving left to reach Last Steep, a smooth 40-degree pitch. If your legs are killing you, head far left about three quarters of the way down Last Steep to catch Bucks Traverse, an unmarked singletrack through the trees back to the Paradise quad. If you’re feeling ballsy, go skier’s right of Last Steep, for Cesspool, Sock it to Me, and Little Hour Glass, venues in Crested Butte’s notoriously steep big-mountain comp. Each is riddled with 15-foot mandatory airs and narrow 50-degree chutes. You’ll need a big dump for much of the rowdy terrain here to be skiable.

In 1992, Crested Butte hosted the Lower 48’s first extreme-skiing competition, with the qualifier on Hawk’s Nest. Four years later, the venue was moved
to Sock it to Me, where Seth Morrison spun a helicopter off a rock.

The North Face terrain is, well, north-facing. Which means it stays shaded longer. Translation: no sun crust to deal with. Powder stays dry and cold
almost all day long and well into March and April.

Fredo’s was named after a legendary ski patroller named Steve Monfredo, who died of complications from pneumonia on Mount Communism, Tajikistan’s highest peak, in the mid-1980s.

Each March for 34 years, Crested Butte has held the Al Johnson Memorial uphill/ downhill race. Costumed skiers climb 600 vertical feet, then charge 1,200 feet down Hawk’s Nest and Last Steep.

Summit elevation: 12,162 feet
Base elevation: 9,375 feet
Total vertical drop: 3,062 feet
Skiable acres: 1,167


Anatomy Casper

Anatomy: Jackson Hole's Casper Bowl

Casper Bowl, a 180-degree cirque of 1,200- vertical-foot cliff-littered chutes, opened in the winter of 1997. Since then, it’s become one of Jackson Hole’s many proving grounds and the venue for numerous freeskiing comps.

Known for it's steeps, Crested Butte houses such aptly named runs as "Dead End Chutes," "Staircase," and "Hot Rocks," as well as the US Freeskiing World Championships.  If that isn't enough, the Body Bag Glades should be. The glades as well as Dead Man's Chute are located in the resort's "Extreme Limits," terrain that should be considered out-of bounds if the resort didn't want to boost its acreage. The Body Bag Glades drop 275 feet at 55 degrees, so you'll have to stick the landing if you want to live to tell about it.

Best Steeps 2009: Crested Butte

There's no easy way down. Jump-turn, pole-plant through the narrow chute, and then hold on tight while you drop the mandatory 10-foot air at the bottom. Welcome to Crested Butte.

Bridger Bowl's Schlasman's Lift

Anatomy: Bridger Bowl's Schlasman's Lift

Schlasman’s (pronounced Slushman’s) lift opened in December 2008 and accesses 300 acres and 1,700 feet of steep terrain. It’s more skier-friendly (translation: fewer places to get cliffed out) than the rest of Bridger Bowl’s gnarly Ridge, but beacons are required and nothing is marked. Case in point? Last season, patrol regularly performed rope rescues here.

Engelberg's Titlis Peak

Anatomy: Engelberg's Titlis Peak

This mountain looms nearly 6,500 glaciated feet above the town of Engelberg, home to one of Switzerland's longest-operating monasteries. Go there and pray for snow stability and for one of the many transplanted Swedes to show you around so you don't get cliffed out. Or you could bypass Jesus and follow these directions.

Fernie Polar Peak

Anatomy: Fernie's Polar Peak

With the installation of the Polar Peak chair this fall, Fernie Alpine Resort opens up new cliff- and chute-studded terrain in a zone that, until now, saw only occasional action as bootpack-accessed spring skiing.

Cold Front 1103

Crested Butte's Colorful Mayor

Meet Alan Bernholtz. The mayor of Crested Butte and the founder of Crested Butte Mountain Guides.

Zone 5 Snowbird Anatomy

Anatomy: Snowbird Zone Five

When the good people at Snowbird make a “resort improvement,” they don’t just glade an intermediate run or groom a black-diamond pitch. They open 500-acre Mineral Basin. They blast a ski tunnel through 600 feet of rock. And now they’ve opened up Zone 5, a new hairball section of 40-degree terrain off Mount Baldy.