Diagnosis Only 50 miles south of Canada in northern Idaho, Schweitzer has exceptionally dry snow (for the Northwest) and plenty of it. Add to this a high-speed six-pack lift and a stunning view of Lake Pend Oreille and the mountains surrounding Sandpoint, and youll know why Schweitzers owners are building a new 48-condo lodge slated to open this spring.
2,400 feet of vertical and powder-choked tree runs, like Big Timber off Chair 6, are enough for most people, but the open-boundary policy satisfies those desiring more vertical challenge.
The Musical Chairs lift tops out at Happy Trails run, an open, mellow meadow.
Imitate Doctor Zhivago on sleigh rides with Mountain Horse Adventures (208-263-8768), or rate the overabundance of ugly Hawaiian shirts at the season-ending Caribbean Carnivals Downhill Dummy Derby.
Average Annual Snowfall 300 inches
Breakdown 20% beginner, 40% intermediate, 40% expert
Sun Valley Resort, ID
Diagnosis Sun Valley is a high-tech oasis in rural central Idaho. Seven high-speed quads (20 lifts total) span more than 2,000 skiable acres and 3,400 feet of constant pitch. The 630 acres of man-made snow extend the season and attract international Olympic teams.
Hot dog like the 1970s competitors who raced down the steep pitch and VW Bugsize bumps of Exhibition off Bald Mountain (Baldy).
Adjacent Dollar Mountain offers 685 vertical feet of open, treeless skiing.
Sun Valley owns two ice rinks (an Olympic-caliber one inside for hockey and an outdoor one open year-round for shows), over 90 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails, and, for visitors who really miss suburbia, a bowling alley.
Average Annual Snowfall 200 inches
Breakdown 36% beginner, 42% intermediate, 22% expert
Diagnosis "The Loaf" has the best above-timberline skiing in the East, not to mention the steepest, plus the town and resort feel almost European with their tucked-into-the-mountain ambience.
Hike to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain (4,237 feet) from the Timberline quad and enjoy boundary-to-boundary skiing (no roped-off obstacles) down the Snowfields and into the well-spaced trees.
You need not even ride a lift. Just click in and ski The Birches, a leisurely run starting at the day lodge.
Three terrain parks, one for each level of skier or rider, and a superpipe to challenge the best. Give tubing or dogsledding a go (Guest Services, 207-237-2000), or cross-country ski and ice-skate at The Outdoor Center (207-237-6853).
Average Annual Snowfall 260 inches
Breakdown 16% beginner, 59% intermediate, 25% expert
Big Mountain Resort, MT
Diagnosis Any resort with runs in a place called Hellroaring Basin can't be half bad. With an open-boundary policy, epic chutes in Canyon Creek, and smooth cruising terrain off the Bigfoot T-bar, Big Mountain lures both hero skiers and your mother-in-law.
Try snowcat skiing (406-862-2900) on the resort's north side for steep faults, cliff bands, glades, and, of course, bone-dry Montana powder.
The Village Lift (Chair 6) is only 250 vertical feet, but its free.
Sleigh-ride dinners, lift-served snow tubing, Thrill Sled rides, and K2 ski-bike riding are all offered through the Guest Service and Information Center (406-862-2900).
Average Annual Snowfall 330 inches
Breakdown 25% beginner, 50% intermediate, 25% expert