Skiing the Rockies

It looks like another snowy winter this year, and some of the white stuff will no doubt dip into Dallas. But if you’d rather enjoy the snow in its proper place, and you like to ski, you should find this little guide useful.

In the Rockies, Aspen reigns supreme. It offers fine restaurants, tennis, racquet-ball, swimming, a charming town, and a wide variety of ski terrain. The rich and famous ski here along with thousands of others. Four mountains accommodate the crowds: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. Buttermilk attracts the novices and intermediates, while Aspen Mountain is for experts; but all have something for every level of skier.

Vail, like Avis, tries harder. Second only to Aspen, it’s a perfect place for intermediate skiers. The nightlife is picking up, and, as in Aspen, both singles and families will feel comfortable here.

Steamboat Springs has some of the best terrain for ski racers. The mountain boasts a heart-stopping vertical drop, the biggest in the Rockies, and offers exciting cross-country trails as well.

A family atmosphere and fine skiing for novices and intermediates prevail at Winter Park, Keystone, and Breckin-ridge. Winter Park and Keystone recently expanded and now offer more expert trails. Breckinridge, which is close to Denver, attracts a big local crowd on weekends. The beautiful cross-country trails are recommended for weekends.

Copper Mountain, a smaller version of Vail, is an all-condominium resort. Although it is frequently hard to find accommodations because of the resort’s increasing popularity, those who can arrange a stay here are well rewarded.

One of the lesser-known ski resorts in the Rockies is Crested Butte. Skiing magazine featured this picturesque resort this fall, and that may end its sleepy days. Skiing considered it one of the most photogenic mountains in the Rockies, with a good mix of trails and exceptionally friendly town folk.

Over in Wyoming, Jackson Hole still has some of the cowboy in it. The town is an artist colony, but rugged mountains and wild elk are all around. While the area is best known for its expert slopes, there is a separate area for novices. The mountain is so high that you pass through three weather changes on the way up.

Taos in New Mexico is a man-who-came-to-dinner resort: Skiers tend to spend weeks rather than weekends at Taos. Experts and advanced intermediates will find plenty of challenge in this small region. Beginners will learn good technique at the ski school but may find most of the terrain too challenging.

Salt Lake City now rivals Denver for the skier’s dollar. Alta, Snowbird, and Park City are within a few hours’ drive of the city and of each other. Interchangeable lift tickets are often available with package deals. Alta is renowned for its powder and noncommercial atmosphere; Snowbird for its luxurious accommodations and tough run, Peruvian Gulch; Park City for its raucous mining-town ambiance and its good novice and intermediate runs.

California and Nevada may be synonymous with sun, but the Sierra Nevadas offer skiing well into spring. HeavenlyValley lets you ski in both states and gamble in Stateline, Nevada. Squaw Valley isvast in terms of skiing but limited in termsof lodging; most skiers stay seven or eightmiles away in Tahoe City or Truckee.Squaw Valley is worth the commute,however, because it has the largest liftnetwork in the United States.

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