Squaw Valley USA, California
SQUAW IS THE LEGENDARY SHRINE of extreme skiing, populated by serious skiers and snowboarders tackling serious lines. It's the place where some of the country's most talented freeskiersnew-schoolers like Shane McConkey and Jonny Moseley and pioneers like Scot Schmidthone their extreme skills before heading off in midwinter to take on bigger mountains around the world. SquawÕde;s 4,000 acres and prodigious drops, like the Palisades, will continue to draw the talent that made Squaw famous, but with plenty of cruising runs in Siberia Bowl and Shirley Lake, there's something here for everybody.
COOL DIGS: The Resort at Squaw Creek (doubles, $150-$350; 800-403-4434, www.squawcreek.com) is a one-stop hot spot, with lodging, dining, spa, shopping, and direct lift access to the mountain.
MOUNTAIN STATS: summit, 8,900 feet; vertical drop, 2,850 feet; skiable acres, 4,000; annual snowfall, 450 inches
LIFT TICKET: $58 Contact: 800-545-4350, www.squaw.com
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, British Columbia
THE PURCELL MOUNTAINS of eastern British Columbia are where heli-skiing was born in the 1960s, and until the 2000-2001 season, people just flew over the high bowls and ridges of the front range. That's when a major resort finally opened, promising more than 4,000 vertical feet and big-resort amenities to challenge Whistler Blackcomb as the king of western Canadian skiing. Kicking Horse lets a firm base develop until mid-December, but come for opening week to get first tracks on Blue Heaven, accessed this year by the new Stairway to Heaven quad. If the early-season snow is thin, you can always sign on for a day or two of heli-skiing with local operators based in nearby Golden (we recommend Purcell Helicopter Skiing, 877-435-4754, www.purcellhelicopterskiing.com).
COOL DIGS: Accommodations in Golden are of the motel-chain variety, so your best bet is to stay in the brand-new Whispering Pines town homes at the resort (rates start at around $106 per person, lift ticket included; 866-754-5425, www.kickinghorseresort.com).
MOUNTAIN STATS: summit, 8,033 feet; vertical drop, 4,133 feet; skiable acres, 2,300; annual snowfall, 300 inches
LIFT TICKET: $32 (2001Ð2002 price) Contact: 866-754-5425, www.kickinghorseresort.com