There is a somewhat clichèd saying among the ski-worldcognoscenti that goes like this: A ski area is only as good as its mountain. There's a fair amount of truth to it, too. Because try as they might, ski areas like Mohawk Mountain, Connecticut, and Boyne Mountain, Michigan, though spunky little hills, just aren't going to stack up to the Vails and the Stowes of the world. And no matter what the resort execs at places like Whistler, Jackson, and Squaw might do, they'd need to employ nuclear warheads to screw up what nature has blessed them with.
But that's not to say a ski area is solely the sum of its summit elevation, vertical drop, and annual snowfall. Like a gifted athlete who can choose between football, basketball, and baseball, a mountain doesn't have a predetermined fate. There are many things a mountain can become. Identifying these things is what our Adventure Guide is all about.
As part of this process, we've placed ski areas into groups based on their character and spirit. Skier's Mountains. Mountain Playgrounds. Great Unknowns. Each section opens with an essay that captures the virtues of that group, penned by writers so in tune with our sport they can hear a mountain breathe.
For the individual ski-area write-ups, we go beyond our broad classifications and distill each area down to its essence, letting you in on locals' secrets and, with our Adventure Angle, pointing you to every mountain's most compelling terrain.
And, as unique and varied as a North American ski-area visit can be, we'd like to encourage you to someday broaden your experience in the mountains in two ways we think every skiing fanatic should-by venturing into the backcountry and by skiing in Europe. Backcountry skiing is skiing in its purest form, just you and the mountains, nothing more, save a few friends. Europe is the birthplace of our sport, and skiing there is a revelation of a different sort.
Our goal with this Adventure Guide is to inform you but more importantly to inspire you. So as you read it, do us a favor: Recall your greatest ski days¿and dream about better ones to come.
And now, without further ado, SKIING's Top 10...
- Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C.
- Jackson Hole, WY
- Squaw Valley USA, CA
- Mammoth, CA
- Alta, UT
If you're interested in reading more about SKIING's top-ranked resorts, as well as seeing more of SKIING's top ten lists, check out the rest of our Adventure Guide in the related links (above right).