7 Smaller Ski Areas to Check Out

Chief Snow Junkie December 11, 2010 0

The annual release of Ski Magazine’s “Best Ski Areas” usually compels the Chief Snow Junkie to put together a list of favorites. Unlike the 20,000 surveyed in the magazine, this lineup is a focus group of one. My criteria doesn’t include grooming, night life, lodging, dining, off mountain activities, and resort services. I’ll keep it strictly to some of the hidden gems I uncovered during the 100 Days of Winter roadtrip.

This is not a “best of” lineup, just some ski areas to keep on your radar if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

1. Angel Fire, NM
Technically, this wasn’t part of 100 Days of Winter, but I had to include it because one of the best days of the season took place here. Maybe it was because New Mexico got pounded with early season storms or maybe it was the free tickets. But it was probably because almost nobody here likes to hike which meant hours of knee deep turns.

2. Moonlight Basin, MT
Moonlight is the newest addition to the Big Sky area and my winter base for the last three years. There’s a reason I picked Moonlight. No crowds and tons of snow. Warm up on the Lone Peak Chair and then spend the afternoon hiking the Headwaters for an epic day on the mountain.

3. Mt. Rose, NV
There are certainly gnarlier lines around the Lake Tahoe area, but this ski area (the closest to Reno) does offer some hella easy access to a big old bowl of powder.

4. Alpental, WA
This throwback with its European style lodge at the base is actually owned by Summit at Snoqualmie down the street. I hit it up on an icy Wednesday and was impressed by the amount and variation of terrain that this tiny ski area offers. I can’t speak on the backcountry as the conditions were too treacherous, but it looked interesting enough to warrant a trip back.

5. Wolf Creek, CO
I used to live in Steamboat Springs, and whenever we got twelve inches of snow, the local paper would say Wolf Creek received thirty. I have always wanted to ride the snowiest ski area in Colorado, and this year found me in a two foot “best day of the winter” type of trip.

6. Monarch, CO
This Colorado gem sits in the middle of the state, well away from the maddening crowds of Summit County. The staff here is beyond friendly, but what really won me over was easy inbounds hiking. Just down the road is Salida, a laid back ski town worth dropping by for an afternoon.

7. Willamette Pass, OR
This family owned resort sits 30 miles west of Eugene, Oregon. It’s small and the terrain doesn’t have tons of steeps but it does have very special quality that I search out in small resorts — It’s only open four days a week. That means while everyone else is enjoying scraped off snow from a early week storm you are grabbing knee deep turns.

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