After 20 years as a SKI Magazine editor and visits to 127 resorts, you might think it difficult to choose a favorite. You'd be wrong. Val d'Isère, France, may have culture and endless terrain, Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C., the big vert and slick resort village, but if I had to choose one resort, I'd pick Mt. Bachelor every time. Sorry to disappoint the reader who begged, "keep this place a secret!" but here are my top 5 reasons why: 1) It's good to the last rope drop. Bachelor gets so much snow-more than 350 inches annually-that it doesn't own a snow gun. A warm spell curtailed Bachelor's season short of its usual July 4th closure this past season, but you could still wake up in early June and make top-to-bottom turns-and then get in 18 holes on one of more than a dozen local golf courses; 2) Bachelor is big without being bewildering. Its 3,200 feet of vertical rolls over more than 4,000 acres, while the conical shape makes the dormant volcano easy to navigate. And Bachelor's 360-degree exposure means there's always good snow somewhere; 3) It's popular without being crowded. And it's not just because of the extensive terrain. Readers correctly voted Bachelor's lift system No. 1 in North America: Every single slope is reachable via high-speed quad; 4) It's modern without being flashy. The lifts have all been installed in the Nineties. The e-tickets keep lines moving and allow skiers to purchase single-ride tickets. 5) New and affordable hotels keep popping up in the growing nearby town of Bend, helping to keep costs down.
WHAT'S NEW Guaranteed beginner and intermediate ski improvement packages. For $150, you'll be able to stop, turn both ways and ski easy intermediate runs-no matter how many lessons it takes.
A GOOD DEAL Three and Free packages offer four nights' lodging and lifts for the price of three. Call (800) 829-2442.
MEDALS GOLD Grooming, Terrain, Lifts; SILVER Snow, Challenge, Value, Service, On-Mountain Food, Family Programs, Scenery.
HIGH/LOW RANK Lifts (1), Grooming (13), Terrain (38); Accessibility (46), Après-Ski (56), Lodging (59).
DON'T MISS Skiing the Cone. It's a rite of passage for all Bachelor sliders. Access it off Leeway.
READER REMARKS (+) "The shortest liftlines on the cold, white planet." "Long season." (-) "It's 30 minutes to the hill no matter where you stay." "Big winds and fog too often."