Some things are difficult to hide. Mountains, for instance. As much as you might like to keep a place like Vail or Whistler to yourself, other folks somehow manage to find their way into the parking lots, onto the lifts and all over your fresh snow. That's life—and, in the end, the way it should be. Skiing is a social sport, after all, and crowds (within reason) support the diversity of accommodations, restaurants, nightlife and other amenities that skiers have come to expect. The best-known mountains tend to be popular for good reasons—proximity to urban centers, easy access, fast lifts, massive and varied terrain, smart development, reliable snow. But they don't have a lock on great skiing: There are still places where you can find yourself alone in the powder on a Saturday afternoon.
This month's cover package, "Skiing's Biggest Secrets" (click below), looks beyond the usual suspects to profile three little-known giants: mountains that boast expansive terrain, abundant snow—and largely empty lifts. There's Silver Mountain, Idaho, home to both the world's longest single-stage gondola and more than 400 annual inches of snow. Meanwhile, the astounding 5,500 skiable acres at Utah's Powder Mountain host no more than 1,500 skiers on an average Saturday. Sun Peaks, B.C., is marginally busier and a bit more developed, but its roughly 3,500 acres are rarely what you'd call crowded. All three mountains prove that there's more than enough great skiing out there for everybody—if you know where to look.
Sometimes, though, all you need to do is to take a closer look at a mountain you already ski. Want to beat the gondola line on a powder day at Aspen? Find the fresh at Heavenly? Park your car at Killington? Park your kids at Whiteface? Check out "Secrets of the Locals," a roundup of insiders' advice for beating the crowds, finding the best snow, or just generally having a better time at resorts from coast to coast. Normally, you'd need to buy more than a couple of trust-building beers down at the local ski bar to pry out this kind of jealously guarded insight, but in this case, we bought the beers.
Other highlights this month include intrepid contributor Jay Cowan's tribute-on-skis to the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition (click below). The pioneering explorers didn't ski, of course, but they did eat their horses, which suggests that they might not have felt entirely out of place at certain less-celebrated on-mountain restaurants. Elsewhere, Managing Editor Kellee Katagi offers an affecting look at injury rehab through the eyes—and many scars—of recently retired U.S. downhiller Chad Fleischer ("King of Pain," click below). Enjoy the issue—and whatever you do, please don't keep it to yourself.