You have read the reports of the epic snowfall out west this winter — base depths measured in feet, not inches. With just a fraction of that around here so far, you decide that a road trip looks appealing in the coming weeks.
But how to do it? And where to go?
Joining a group is a good option. The Albany Ski Club and the OCs have good trips coming up to Breckenridge and Sun Valley. But those have been filled up for months. Maureen Kline, who organizes trips locally through her Skiing Friends group on Facebook, is headed to Steamboat Springs soon. But the 37 slots on her trip were filled in four days after she posted details last spring.
Sure. you can do a trip on your own. But the devil is always in the details. Looking for a bargain on a slopeside condo within walking distance of the lifts at a big name western area? Even if you can find one, plan on hitting the lottery. Bookings at this time are very tight, especially at marquee resorts, and with people flying again, planes are full and flights are expensive, even more so to secondary airports requiring connecting arrangements.
But don’t give up. One alternative worth considering is looking at destinations that may not be on your radar right now, but are surprisingly attractive when you look beyond wide name recognition. Here are five areas that offer appealing skiing — especially given the abundance of snow — that you may not have considered to serve your get-away needs this winter. None of these are Ikon or Epic pass places and you may not wind up staying right at the mountain, but, chances are you’ll pay a lot less for what will be a great ski experience.
FIVE APPEALING OPTIONS
— Diamond Peak at Incline Village Nevada is halfway between Lake Tahoe and Reno. This area with 1,840 feet of vertical offers a wide array of trails and glades, some overlooking the lake. The summit is at 8,540 feet. The mid-mountain Snowflake Lodge is an especially appealing hangout late in the day when the sun begins to set over the lake. Lodging in Reno is plentiful, and nearby Mount Rose is an excellent alternative ski destination. For big-name variety, day trips to Heavenly and Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley) are a short hop away. Nearest major airport: Reno.
— Angel Fire outside Taos, New Mexico, features the longest chairlift in North America and some exceptional long-cruising runs top to bottom. With 2,077 feet vertical and 80 trails, this area also offers some very appealing open glade terrain. Taos the town is especially attractive and Taos the ski area is an easy day trip. Nearest major airport: Albuquerque.
— Brundage, north of Boise, Idaho. Think of Gore on steroids. The base lodge is similar – serviceable, not fancy — and the skiable terrain is vast, more than 1,900 acres with 1,920 vertical. You won’t be limited to laps on the front side unless you choose to repeat runs, and there is cat skiing available. The nearby town of McCall is a popular summer resort, and the lodging and dining options are many. The Tamarack resort in nearby Donnelly has been resurrected and is an easy day trip. Nearest airport: Boise. It is an Indy Pass area.
— Monarch, on the Continental Divide in Colorado between Gunnison and Salida, is a high-point crossing the Rockies. The summit is at 11,952 feet, so be prepared to ski at altitude. Lots of good runs here, and the opportunity to do some off-piste cat skiing. Located in the middle between two appealing towns, choose Gunninson if you want to ski nearby Crested Butte, or Salida if your gateway is Denver. Monarch offers its “migration” pass: show a season pass from any other mountain and you get a discounted lift ticket. Year-round fly fishermen may want to make a few casts into the Arkansas River or the Gunnison River that flow through the towns. Nearest airport: Gunnison.
— Bridger Bowl north of Bozeman, Montana, is often overlooked by travelers who head south to Big Ski and Yellowstone Park. Bridger is the locals ski area, but it is a big layout with 2,600 vertical and 105 trails. The summit is 8,700 feet. There is plenty of good cruising over this 2,060 acre layout, and for a special challenge, there are a series of steep chutes for those willing to hike 20 minutes. The Big Ski resort is an hour’s drive south. Bozeman is now Montana’s largest city and offers lots of lodging and dining options, as well as good airline access. nearest airport: Bozeman.
Getting on a plane for a ski trip is an act of faith these days. Prices are up, and the aircraft are usually full. Planning a ski trip ideally should be done months in advance and with a group that has a good track record of successful travel. Fortunately, we have several of those locally. But sometimes in a year like this one, a last-minute trip is hard to resist. The big resorts are likely already filled. But if you consider some lesser-known areas that offer good access, you’ll find plenty of snow at attractive places that likely will put a smaller dent in the bank account.
The long-awaited new intermediate run on Gore’s Burnt Ridge is now open. The new Backwoods trail made its debut last weekend. When the North Creek Ski Bowl trails are ready for ski traffic, the new run will allow skiers, and especially snowboarders, to avoid the mainly flat pipeline trail, which previously has been the only connector between the main Gore area and the adjacent Ski Bowl terrain. If the Olympic Authority can finally get approval for the planned new lodge and lift at the Ski Bowl, it will be a major upgrade to the overall Gore layout.
MILLER FILM DONE
The Warren Miller ski film is now history. For almost three quarters of a century, the film marked the symbolic start of the ski season locally and throughout the country. For most of those years, it was shown in November and was a popular fundraiser for local ski clubs. Last fall, it was sponsored by the Schenectady Wintersports Club and held at Proctor’s. Miller first produced the film in 1950, and its popularity grew over the years with his exotic locations and quirky narratives. Although not personally involved for the past 20 years, the production company he founded continued to produce the film until it sold the business in 2020. New owner Outside Plus announced the end of the longtime annual production last week. While the film may have lost some of its charm and spontaneity in recent years, it was still an area tradition and served as an informal reunion for many skiers who had not gathered since the start of the bad sliding months earlier in the year.
COUNCIL RACES CANCELED
The New York Capital District Ski Council Races scheduled for last weekend for West Mountain were canceled. Lack of registrations was the reason, according to race director Mark Pavlus. The Ski Council races date back more than 50 years. Then there was spirited competition between area clubs and there would be more than 100 area skiers regularly competing in a series of races each winter.
Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].
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