Salt Lake City, early spring. A Chevy Avalanche heads up a commercial boulevard, past Chili's, Blockbuster, and the Gap, and reaches a small sign—GREEN HILLS DRIVE—marking the entrance to a residential neighborhood. The car cruises another couple of blocks, pulls up at a curb, and stops. A compact, muscular guy steps out. He's not a middle-aged, tucked-in golf shirt, braided belt with the cell-phone holster soccer dad. This guy is young, baby-faced—and he's in flip-flops, a faded logo T-shirt, and a camouflage ball cap.
Other young dudes emerge from houses nearby, traipsing across lawns, toting cases of beer. They aren't the insurance brokers, IT wankers, or cubicle jockeys indigenous to this sort of environment. Yet, for a bevy of reasons, living here in the ultimate anonymous suburbia are these guys—all of them professional skiers.
Appearance-wise, Green Hills is exceptionally unexceptional. But two factors distinguish the tiny cul-de-sacs and cheapish 1970s homes from any other American subdivision. It sits at the mouth of Utah's Little Cottonwood Canyon—home to Snowbird, Alta, and some of the lightest snow on earth—and is the HQ of photographers, filmmakers, and athletes who have made Little Cottonwood a critical North American ski hub. And, hiding in plain sight amidst suburban blandness, Green Hills is effectively one of the country's greatest ski towns. If you walked around knocking on doors, in roughly one of four homes you'd encounter someone who's been in a Teton Gravity Research or Warren Miller film.
Why is Green Hills a skier ghetto? The obvious location benefit aside, it's affordable. But the appeal goes deeper. Green Hills offers skiers a sense of community in a sprawling city that is closer in spirit to Los Angeles than Jackson.
"Instead of never seeing anyone you know except at the ski hill, you see them in your neighborhood, says Fred Foto, who has lived in Green Hills since 1993. "We're always having dinner together, meeting at each other's houses, and hitching rides together. Foto was the first of the current generation of skiers who moved in, and a vital link in the word-of-mouth network that lets skiers know when Green Hills houses come up for sale.
Sure enough, Jeremy Nobis owns that Chevy Avalanche, along with a low-slung brown house in the neighborhood. The boys carrying the brew across the lawns? Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Julian Carr, and Nick Greener. Some of the revelers currently live in Green Hills, some used to reside here, and others have come just to rage. Today's celebratory occasion (as if they needed one) is Cinco de Mayo, and the Green Hills gang has gathered for a block party.
Check out the freeskiing celebrity guest list here, or click on the related slideshow above.