As any Letterman writer will tell ya, putting together a Top Ten list ain't always the easiest thing to execute. And when it comes to skiing, personal preference and geographic prejudice usually outrank what some media outlet dictates.
With those considerations in mind, our list of the top North American resorts stretches across the four corners of the continent, from Whistler Blackcomb in the north to Taos in the south, from Killington in the east to Squaw in the west. Some are bona fide institutions with something for everyone, while other are light on crowds and weighted toward the experts among you.
Only one thing is assured: Choose one of these resorts and a one-season tryout trip may become an annual pilgrimage.
Away.com's Top 10 North American Ski Resorts: • Jackson Hole Ski Resort, Wyoming • Killington Ski Resort, Vermont • Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, California • Snowbird Ski Resort (Alta), Utah • Snowmass Ski Resort (Aspen), Colorado • Squaw Valley Ski Resort, California • Sun Valley Ski Resort, Idaho • Taos Ski Resort, New Mexico • Vail Ski Resort, Colorado • Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort, British Columbia • Photo gallery: Top 10
By Dina Mishev
Price: $$$ Number of Runs: 111 Number of Lifts: 12 Terrain: 10% beginner, 40% intermediate, 50% advanced Skiable Acreage: 2,500+ Vertical Rise: 4,139 feet Season: Early December to Early April Annual Snowfall: 459 inches Web Site: http://www.jacksonhole.com/
The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is, in its own words, "Like nothing you have skied before." This sign, on a t-shirt in nearly every shop in town, hangs above the entrance to the resort's tram dock and goes on to say, "It is huge. With variable terrain from groomed slopes to dangerous cliff areas and dangerously variable weather and snow conditions. You could become lost. You could make a mistake and suffer personal injury or death. Give this mountain the respect it deserves." The cowboys that called Jackson Hole home at the turn of the last century might have been inclined to tell tall tales, but this sign is meant as a very truthful, and serious, warning.
Jackson's nine lifts and eight-person gondola service 2,500 acres of skiing on two neighboring mountains. An additional 3,000 acres of unpatrolled backcountry terrain in the Bridger Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park were opened recently. Excluding the backcountry, 10% of Jackson's terrain is beginner, 40% intermediate and 50% expert. There are 22 miles of groomed trails, the longest of which is a 7.2-mile traverse of mixed terrain from the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Mountain. Jackson recenty unveiled a huge base lodge expansion, and at the end of the summer 2006, the famous aerial tram was retired (a brand-new version will be ready in 2008).
The 96 "official" trails at Jackson include bowls, couloirs, wide-open groomers, trees, and mellow faces. Just as many unofficial trails wind their way down the mountain. Skiers at Jackson tackle its two mountains in one of two ways: rather like children at the local swimming pool, they either jump right into it at the top of Rendezvous Bowl (experts-only) or ease themselves into it by starting with the resort's two beginner lifts, the Teewinot High-Speed Quad and Eagle's Rest double chair. (These two lifts service Jackson's only beginner terrain.)