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Your boss has the gall to send you out of town during ski season? That’s great if it’s to Geneva or Salt Lake City. But what if you get stuck in Des Moines? All’s not lost. While some lucky cities have multiple slopes within cab-ride distance, others make you work a little harder. Fortunately, even towns you might not think of as wintersports hubs often have a slidable bump somewhere in the vicinity, or more challenging slopes within a few hours’ drive. So before you head to the airport, clip this information and stash it in your briefcase. When the convention is cancelled thanks to a record-shattering blizzard, you’ll thank us.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Ocean, beaches, palm trees—yawn. The real fun in SoCal lies a short drive to the east, where the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains rise 8,000 feet to meet the moist, flake-spawning clouds blowing in from the Pacific. The headlining act is Big Bear, which looms over the shores of the deep blue lake for which it’s named. Though it boasts a decent vertical (1,665 feet over 198 acres), the resort isn’t that much of a bear—all but a handful of runs are leisurely blue or green cruisers.
Your lift ticket also gets you onto the mountain next door, former-competitor-turned—sister-property Snow Summit. Both are liberally dotted with terrain parks, so be warned: The scene is dominated by boarders. 100 miles; two hours; bearmtn.com; 909-866-5766
From L.A. take Metrolink’s San Bernardino line, then connect to the regional MARTA shuttle to Big Bear Lake. Call for fares; 800-371-5465; metrolinktrains.com; marta.cc[NEXT “New York, NY”]
New York, N.Y.
What do the hills of northern New Jersey have in common with the Rockies, the Alps and the Laurentians? They’ve all been colonized by Intrawest. True, 1,040-foot-vertical Mountain Creek might not have the terrain of Whistler, but it’s a bagel’s throw from Zabar’s. Since buying the hill in 1998, Intrawest has invested $100 million, adding seven lifts, five terrain parks and more snowmaking. This season, the resort unveils The Appalachian, its first ski-in/ski-out lodge. 47 miles; one hour; mountain-creek.com; 973-827-2000
NJ Transit usually runs buses out of Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan during the ski season. $17 one-way; check njtransit.com to confirmUrbanites looking for a more physically intensive ski experience head north to the Catskills, where Hunter Mountain beckons with 53 trails, including gentle groomers on the slopes of Hunter One and a cache of double blacks on the far side of Hunter West. Midweek, you’ll likely have the place to yourself, but on weekends and holidays prepare to elbow your way onto the lifts. 125 miles; 2.5 hours; huntermtn.com; 800-486-8376
A bus leaves from Cooper Square in Manhattan at 6 a.m.; bagels are served. $35 round-trip; go to nycski.com for dates[NEXT “Denver”]
Yes, those big white things outside the conference room window are mountains—the Rocky Mountains, to be exact. How about wrapping up that presentation? The nearest sliding is at Loveland, 53 miles west on I-70. At 13,010 feet, it’s often the first resort in the U.S. to open. 53 miles; one hour; skiloveland.com; 800-736-3754
There’s no public transportation, so renting a car or catching a cab are your options. If you’ve got the time to drive a little farther, some of the state’s best skiing lies a short drive west on I-70. Winter Park Resort offers the big-resort experience you’d expect in the Rockies. Sprawling over the sides of five mountains, the 2,762 skiable acreage ranges from the bunny-slope front face of Winter Park to knuckle-chewing, experts-only Vasquez Cirque. “The skiing’s fantastic, and the conditions are always really good,” says local skier Jim Reynolds. 70 miles; 1.5 hours; skiwinterpark.com; 303-316-1564
The Wintter Park “Ski Train” runs Fridays (after Feb. 3), Saturdays and Sundays all season, leaving from Denver’s Union Station. $49 round trip; skitrain.com[NEXT “Boston”]
The infamous Big Dig construction project is nearly complete, and here’s the payoff: The centerpiece Central Artery, I-93, happens to be a mainline straight to the ski heartland of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. If you’re short-timing, consider a jaunt north to Sunapee, a 1,500-foot family hill with an emphasis on snowmaking and grooming. 95 miles; 1.5 hours; mtsunapee.com; 603-763-2356
More challenging fare is on tap up the road at Cannon, a state-owned area that embodies New England’s no-frills, duct-tape aesthetic. With little grooming or snowmaking, Cannon doesn’t coddle. Tuesdays and Thursdays, the mountain offers two-for-one tickets, and if you’re traveling alone, the cashier will encourage you to team up with other singles to get your share of the bargain. 145 miles; 2.5 hours; cannonmt.com; 603-823-8800
The Boston Ski & Sports Club runs buses to various area resorts on weekends and some Wednesdays. Prices include bus and lift ticket. Call for rates; 617-789-4070; bssc.com[NEXT “Salt Lake City”]
Salt Lake City, Utah
You have to be pretty focused if you travel to Salt Lake in winter and expect to get any work done. You can practically hear the edges carving in both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, where four ski resorts—Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton—lie within 40 minutes of downtown. The oldest ski resort in Utah, Alta still embodies a genteel way of life (free of snowboarders), and skiers sharing the lift with you may have been coming here for generations. The lifts feel like they need that much time to get you to the top, but all is forgiven once your planks touch that legendary dry powder: Alta and its 2,200 acres are on the receiving end of more than 500 inches per season. 25 miles; 35 minutes; alta.com; 801-359-1078
The Utah Transit Authority runs shuttles to Alta and Snowbird daily. Check utabus.com for ratesHead southwest down I-80 and you hit three more resorts around Park City, all of which offer a great deal that’s custom-made for snow-crazed road warriors. Show up at a ticket window with an airline boarding pass from that day, and you’ll get a free lift ticket to Deer Valley, The Canyons or Park City Mountain Resort (log on to parkcityinfo.com and print out a form in advance). Can’t cut that meeting short? Park City has nightskiing from 4 to 7:30 p.m. 30 miles; 35 minutes; parkcitymountain.com; 800-222-7275
A taxi from downtown Salt Lake is your best bet. Rates vary; go to parkcityinfo.com/travel for info[NEXT “DC”]
They’re shredding, and not just incriminating documents. The capital’s favorite ski resort, 935-foot Whitetail, just added a $2 million expansion to its rental center. Best of all, there’s nightskiing until 10 p.m., so you can spend a full day on the Hill and still hit this one. 90 miles; two hours; skiwhitetail.com; 717-328-9400
There’s no regular public transportation, so it’s car rental or bust. But isn’t that what expense accounts are for?