Snow Much Fun

On and off the Slopes at Ten Top Ski Areas

Oct 9, 2003
Outside Magazine

I Believe I Can Fly: Catching air in Aspen    Photo: courtesy, Beige Jones/Aspen Snowmass

Alta Ski Area and 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. The resorts are connected by a high-speed quad in Mineral Basin, though the dual-resort season pass is only for skiers. (Alta still bans snowboarders.)
BEST RUN: At Snowbird, ski Great Scott, the rock-lined chute off the tram. At Alta, hike 30 minutes toward the open steeps of East Devil’s Castle.
OFF-SLOPE ACTION: The consistent winds at Point of the Mountain, just south of Salt Lake City, make for exceptional paragliding. Call Super Fly Paragliding ($100 per tandem flight; 801-255-9595,
LODGING: Built in 1939, the 57-room Alta Lodge (doubles from $243, including two meals; 800-707-2582) has loads of alpine character. Snowbird’s high-rise Cliff Lodge (doubles from $129; 800-453-3000) has two indoor pools.
Summit Elevation: 10,550 feet (Alta)
11,000 feet (Snowbird)
Lift-Served Vertical: 2,020 feet (Alta)
3,240 feet (Snowbird)
Skiable Area: 2,200 acres (Alta)
2,500 acres (Snowbird)
Average Annual Snowfall: 500 inches

Aspen, Colorado
Aspen, with its Learjets and $20 million mountain “cabins,” lives up to its reputation as the Gomorrah of the Rockies. But don’t be fooled. With four resorts just 15 minutes from town—Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, Buttermilk—Aspen remains one of the best spots in Colorado for big-mountain skiing.
BEST RUN: In 2000, Aspen Highlands extended its boundaries to include Highland Bowl, a steep, east-facing slope of treeless bliss.
OFF-SLOPE ACTION: Yes, shopping is a sport here. Where else can you ski first tracks in the morning and shop the Porsche Design store or buy a floating-diamond Chopard watch after lunch?
LODGING: For the classic Aspen chalet experience, stay in the slopeside (and boutique-side) Little Nell (doubles from $615; 888-843-6355).
Summit Elevation: 9,900 feet (Buttermilk) to 12,510 feet (Snowmass)
Total Lift-Served Vertical: 13,338 feet
Total Skiable Area: 4,900 acres
Average Annual Snowfall: 198-300 inches

Big Sky, Montana
The solitary pyramid of 11,166-foot Lone Peak at Big Sky, in the Madison Range, offers some of the steepest American lift-served skiing—2,088 acres of advanced or expert terrain. Some two dozen off-piste chutes and couloirs fall from the summit.
BEST RUN: The steeps of Liberty Bowl, off the Lone Peak Tram, are a local favorite.
OFF-SLOPE ACTION: Surprisingly, midwinter fly-fishing with a wet fly on the Gallatin River will land you rainbow trout. Call Gallatin River Guides ($250 for a half-day, including equipment; 888-707-1505).
LODGING: For urban styling and an outdoor pool with a party atmosphere, try the slopeside Summit at Big Sky (doubles from $160; 406-995-8000).
Summit Elevation: 11,166 feet
Lift-Served Vertical: 4,350 feet
Skiable Acres: 3,600 acres
Average Annual Snowfall: 400 inches

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