Endless Winter

September

¡Viva gravity!: Argentine downhill     Photo: Eyewire

Thredbo, Australia
Snow is always an iffy proposition in Australia, but 200 inches a year is nothing to sneeze at. On a typical day at Thredbo, in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales in southeastern Australia, rain at the bottom of the mountain is not uncommon (which can mean snow up high), and by early September (the austral equivalent of March) the snow depth is still near its peak. Thredbo is a well-rounded mix of intermediate cruising and bump runs, plus decent steeps and some adventurous off-piste skiing in the above-treeline seams that feed into Golf Course Bowl. Plus, where else can you ski past parrot-inhabited gum trees?
COOL DIGS: Stay in a lakeside condo at nearby Lake Crackenback Resort (doubles, about $65; 011-61-2-6456-2960, www.novotellakecracken back.com.au) and ride the ski train—a.k.a. the Skitube—to the mountain.
MOUNTAIN STATS: summit, 6,681 feet; vertical drop, 2,204 feet; skiable acres, 1,186; annual snowfall, 200 inches
LIFT TICKET: about $44 (2002 price) Contact: 011-61Ð459-4294, www.thredbo.com.au

Las Leñas, Argentina
Snowfall in Las Leñas Can be irregular—weeks might go by without a trace and then boom! an eight-foot dump. That's why it's best to wait until late in the austral ski season to visit what Southern Hemisphere ski bums consider the best resort in South America. By September, the snow on the famous steeps has turned to corn, and while the resort's Argentine guests are sleeping off the nightly routine of partying until 4 a.m., you'Ll have more than 10,000 acres to yourself—half a million acres if you go off-piste. The terrain off the Marte lift, with steep chutes lined by knuckle-like rock outcroppings, is good for powering turns that make the snow peel away from your edges in even sheets. And if you get lucky, a so-called Santa Ana wind will bring a storm to hammer you with powder.
COOL DIGS: Piscis is the resort's biggest and fanciest hotel, but if you want some relief from the late-night-partying crowd, stay at the smaller, more moderately priced Geminis (package rates start at about $110 per person per night, including meals and lift tickets; 011-54-26-27-471100, www.laslenas.com)
MOUNTAIN STATS: summit, 11,253 feet; vertical drop, 3,904 feet; skiable acres, 10,000 to 15,000; annual snowfall, 250 inches
LIFT TICKET: $42 (2002 price) Contact: 011-54-627-71100, www.laslenas.com (recommended tour operator: Ski Vacation Planners, 800-822-6754, www.skivacationplanners.com)

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