Published: Nov/Dec 2003

What child doesn’t enjoy playing in the snow? The whole family can enjoy a western ski resort getaway. (above) /Lori Adamski-Peek photo/Park City Mountain Resort
Ski Santa Fe is a favorite resort for snowboarders. (below) /Ski Santa Fe photo

Snow, what’s new?
A sneak preview of the ski season out west provides a variety of resorts

By Janna Graber

When it comes to ski resorts, there is no such thing as one size fits all. Skiers heading out west will find an array of choices– from large, upscale resorts to smaller, family-run establishments with more affordable prices.
Some mountains welcome snowboarders, while other resorts are strictly for skiers only. No matter what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find the ski destination that is just right for you.

Steamboat Ski & Resort, Steamboat Springs

There is more to Colorado skiing than big name resorts like Vail and Aspen. In fact, some of the best-kept secrets are resorts located off the beaten path. Steamboat, tucked away in the remote Yampa Valley, is one such treasure. This world-class resort is a vital part of Steamboat Springs, a small ranching community with a flavor all its own.

Western roots run deep here. Don’t be surprised to see skiers cruising down the slopes in cowboy hats. With one of the state’s top ski and snowboard schools and 142 trails spread out over almost 3,000 acres, it’s no wonder that this community has produced 54 Olympic athletes.

In addition to its top terrain, the resort is known for its tree skiing (going off the runs, skiing between trees) and the 650-foot-long Mavericks Superpipe.

Contact, or 1-800-922-2722.

Winter Park Resort, Winter Park

Winter Park is one of the most popular resorts with Colorado residents. Owned by the City and County of Denver, Winter Park offers 2,762 acres for skiing, including 134 trails. If Winter Park is crowded, ski over to Mary Jane, which is included in the price of the Winter Park ticket.

This mountain, named for a popular lady of the evening who lived here a century ago, rarely has long lift lines and offers excellent skiing for those above beginner levels.

Accommodations are easy to find in Winter Park and in the nearby towns of Granby and Fraser, where the rates are even better. If you tire of skiing, try snow tubing at the Fraser Tubing Hill, or going to Grand Adventures, which offers dogsledding, snowmobiling and horse-drawn sleigh rides.

Contact, or 1-800-729-5813.

SolVista Golf & Ski Ranch, Granby

Located 79 miles northwest of Denver, SolVista is perhaps one of the most affordable ski resorts in Colorado. The mountain’s 406 acres include 30 percent beginner, 50 percent intermediate and 20 percent expert runs, making the resort an excellent place for beginner boarders and skiers.

All of the runs end up at the same base, so families won’t have to worry about losing each other.

Contact, or (970) 887-5144.

Grand Targhee Resort, Alta

Nestled on the west side of the Teton Mountains, family-owned Targhee is known for its light, fluffy snow (more than 500 inches a year) and intimate resort feel.

Ski and lodge packages make skiing here an affordable option. Children 14 and under ski and stay free. Boarders and skiers of all levels are welcome on the 2,000 acres of lift-served runs, as well as another 1,000 acres of snowcat-serviced terrain.

Contact, or 1-800-TARGHEE (800-827-4433).

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Jackson Hole

Bordered by Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers approximately 2,500 acres of slope in one awe-inspiring location. Ten percent of the terrain is designed for beginners, with another 40 percent for intermediate and 50 percent for expert skiers and boarders. There are 12 steep, deep-powder bowls for those with a sense of adventure.

Jackson Hole has one of the longest continuous vertical rises of any ski area in the country–the top of Rendezvous Mountain is 4,139 feet from the valley floor. The resort boasts a 63-passenger aerial tram that transports skiers from bottom to top in 12 minutes.

Contact, or 1-800-443-6931.

New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, Taos

Taos Ski Valley is for skiers only. The New Mexico resort is a unique blend of Southwestern culture and European alpine flair.

Just 18 miles from the town of Taos, the family-run resort is the biggest ski area in the state with more than 1,200 acres and 110 runs. Though there is plenty of terrain for beginners, the resort favors the advanced skier. Twenty-four percent of the runs are for beginners, 25 percent intermediate and 51 percent advanced.

Expert powder hounds will enjoy the steep terrain at Taos Ski Valley, as well as a double-diamond-rated traverse, which takes skiers out to the West Basin. The highest terrain is only accessible by hiking 10 minutes to the highline ridge. From there, skiers can pick their route, from tree skiing to shoots.

Contact, 1-800-347-7414.

Ski Santa Fe, Santa Fe

Ski Santa Fe has 45 trails and 660 acres for skiing. Though this is not huge in western ski standards, it is certainly enough to keep a good skier entertained. The longest run is over three miles long and the season typically runs from Thanksgiving to Easter. The resort’s highest peak is more than 12,000 feet in elevation, making Ski Santa Fe one of the highest resorts in the country.

A favorite with boarders, the resort is also known for its tree skiing. Best of all, visitors can stay right in historic Santa Fe, a beautiful town worth exploring.

Contact, (505) 982-4429.

Ski Apache, Ruidoso

Located in the Sacramento Mountains at the southern tip of the Rockies in south-central New Mexico, Ski Apache has the only gondola lift in the state and a total lift capacity of 16,500 skiers per hour.

Owned and operated by the Mescalero Apache Tribe, the resort, located 18 miles northwest of Ruidoso, has a Southwestern feel and a friendly, down-to-earth flavor.

Ski Apache is an excellent place to learn to ski. Its bilingual school has more than 100 instructors and teaches more lessons than any other facility in the state.

The resort has 750 acres and 55 runs (20 percent beginner, 35 percent intermediate and 45 percent advanced). Snowboarders are always welcome.

Contact, (505) 336-4356.

Park City Mountain Resort, Park City

With lifts that lead right into town, Park City Mountain Resort is a convenient choice for skiers wanting to enjoy the mountain as well as the city’s Old West character. With more than 3,300 acres and eight powder bowls, Park City Mountain Resort is Utah’s most extensive snowboarding and free-skiing facility.

Recently named as one of the top four terrain parks in the world by “Snowboarder Magazine,” the resort has a new Eagle Superpipe, a regulation-sized PayDay Halfpipe and four terrain parks.

Contact,1-800-222-PARK (800-222-7275).

Deer Valley Resort, Park City

Although there is terrain for skiers of all levels at Deer Valley Resort, this destination caters especially to those who ski at the intermediate level. More than half of the resort’s 1,750 acres are groomed for intermediate skiers, with additional runs for experts and beginners.

Spread out over four mountains, the resort has 88 runs, six bowls and more than 800 acres of tree skiing. There are no snowboarders here.

Deer Valley has an upscale reputation but down-to-earth customer-oriented attitudes. That customer emphasis comes through in everything the resort does, including food service. The cuisine at their three main restaurants is excellent and affordably priced.

Adults who want to learn to ski will feel welcome at Deer Valley. Along with the usual children’s classes, the ski school offers adult classes with a maximum of four students.

Contact, 1-800-424-DEER (800-424-3337).

Janna Graber is a new contributor from Golden, Colo.

Before you go

To plan your western ski trip, stop by your nearest AAA service office for reservations, maps, TripTiks and TourBook guides.

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