Alta Ski Area/Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Utah
WITH ABOUT 500 INCHES of smoke-light Utah powder falling annually in Little Cottonwood Canyon, neighbors Alta and Snowbird are famous for a reason. And January is often the snowiest month, sometimes spectacularly so. The area has been known to receive 100 inches of snow in 100 hours. And, lucky you, the resorts have aggressive policies toward allowing people on the mountain after big storms, adhering to the time-tested theory that skiers help to compact new snow layers and stabilize the snowpack. Enjoy the benefits on the wide-open spaces of Greeley Bowl; then, when conditions permit, slip through the Keyhole from Alta to Snowbird and schuss the steep chutes of Peruvian Gulch. Skiers are welcome at both mountains, but snowboarders are anachronistically barred from Alta.
COOL DIGS: The slopeside Alta Lodge (doubles, $276-$449, including breakfast and dinner; 800-707-2582, www.skialta.com) dates back to 1939 and oozes woodsy charm. The Cliff Lodge at Snowbird is all steel, glass, and concrete and has a first-rate spa (doubles, $1,556 for five nights, including three-day lift tickets; 800-453-3000, www.snowbird.com).
MOUNTAIN STATS: summit, 11,000 feet (Snowbird); vertical drop, 3,240 feet (Snowbird); skiable acres, 4,700 (Alta and Snowbird); annual snowfall, 500 inches
LIFT TICKET: $38, Alta; $56, Snowbird; $64 for a ticket valid at both resorts Contact: Alta, 888-782-9258, www.altaskiarea.com; Snowbird, 800-453-3000, www.snowbird.com
ASPEN'S NOTORIOUS GLITTERATI typically wait until later in the season, for warmer weather, to do their vacationing, or they simply retreat from January's winter chill to one of Aspen's $25-per-entree restaurants, leaving the mountains all but deserted. The skiing terrain at the four areas that make up Aspen/Snowmass (Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk) totals 4,893 acres, meaning that a powder day is usually a day of soulful solitude. The real goods are stashed at Aspen Highlands, where Highland Bowl (gradually opened to legal skiing over the last four years) has quickly become the gold standard of in-bounds steep skiing in Colorado. Be sure to pick up "The Highlands Extreme Guide," a trail map devoted exclusively to Highlands' hardcore terrain and to the Bowl's 40-degree-plus lines.
COOL DIGS: Tucked into a corner of downtown Aspen, the glass, stone, and right angles of Hearthstone House (doubles, $189-$299, breakfast included; 888-925-7632, www.hearthstonehouse.com) evoke the architectural sensibilities of Frank Lloyd Wright.
MOUNTAIN STATS: summit, 12,392 feet (Highland Bowl); vertical drop, 3,635 feet (Aspen Highlands); skiable acres, 4,893 (all four mountains); annual snowfall, 300 inches
LIFT TICKET: $68 for all four areas contact: 800-525-6200, www.aspensnowmass.com