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The Skyline Lift at Pebble Creek takes its time bringing skiers 8,560 feet up Idaho’s Mount Bonneville. It’s 12-and-a-half-minutes from load to unload; enough time to read and respond to three emails; smoke one-and-a-half cigarettes (a local told me that), or rattle through the typical exchange: Nice day. Where are you from? What do you do?
On this arthritic triple, I met Tom, who is in his 70s. Tom, a 50-year patron of the mountain, spent most of our ride delivering a short sermon about why men and women should race the same ski course. Same for golf, he says. With a minute to go, Tom asked my opinion on something else: Where’s the best place to ski?
“That’s an easy one,” I said, and immediately my mind went back a few years, to a week in early December when my friends and I arrived at Whistler Blackcomb, B.C., just as the first real snow started to fall. More than 50 inches of powder accumulated over our five-day trip. I remember the bootpack above the Glacier Express, where my ski tips hovered over the milky-white drop into Spanky’s Ladder.
A thick fog eliminated any visibility of the narrow entrance into the steeps. I let my hesitation escape through a loud “Yeeew!” and dropped into the unknown behind my friend Matt. Following the laughter of friends barely visible in the distance, we arced hero turns across the apron until dropping below the fog. The rays of the setting sun beamed through the clouds in purple, orange, and pink. We stopped mid-run to watch it burn. It felt like Heaven.
That reminded me of the day in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, where I experienced more fear and joy in one run than every day of the previous season, combined. It was a spicy mix of calculated, tight turns over blind rollers, my skis breaching an ocean of cold, white powder with every move down the fall line. I couldn’t stop laughing, hoping the run would never end.
In Switzerland, the runs do go on forever. On my first trip there, I roped into the most classic route in Engelberg, the Titlis Rundtour—and when I say, “roped into,” I mean our guide, Tomas, shouted instructions to me in German and English as I rappelled through a chute that spring made too sparse to ski.
The view alone could have won the Swiss Alps my choice for the best place to ski, and that was before we skied 6,500 vertical feet of spring corn to a grassy pasture in the valley below. While we waited for the bus to bring us home, my German friends and I toasted cold bottles of Beck’s and turned our faces towards the warmth of the sun. That evening, I fell asleep with my ski boots on.
Mixed in over the years, there have been girls’ trips to Sun Valley, a ski-to wedding at Taos, and powder days at Jackson Hole and Big Sky that each included some feeling of The Best Day Ever. When I lived in Aspen, solo lunch laps had a way of folding into party waves of friends angling to catch the last bucket together. Is there anything better? There was also the trip to Schweitzer in March when John, Maro, and I only skied three laps in the stinging cold before the wind shut down the lifts. It remains one of my most memorable ski trips to date.
When I ski Eldora with my parents, I think it, too, might be the best place to ski. With 1,600 feet of vertical, it’s one of Colorado’s smaller mountains, yet it has everything a skier needs: a parking lot within walking distance to the lifts, a mountain to ski down, and a way to get back up. Dad reminds us to appreciate that. He learned to ski at Belle Mountain, a 190-foot knoll in New Jersey—the best place to ski in Mercer County.
By the time Tom and I reached the end of the lift at Pebble Creek, I hadn’t settled on a good answer for him. I’m not sure he was looking for one, anyway. He skied all over the world and decided home was as good as anywhere he’d been. Before we unloaded the lift, he gestured to the horizon with his dented aluminum pole.
“Look around,” he said. “It’s all right here.”
This article first appeared as the editor’s intro in the November 2021 issue of SKI. Explore the 2022 Resort Guide here.