Ski for Free

Mar 1, 2006
Outside Magazine

Hitt Mountain, Cambridge, Idaho
Built in the shadows of 7,410-foot Hitt Mountain, the area was little more than a T-bar in a town better known for turkey hunting. After it closed, in 1985, the real skiing began, both on Hitt and neighboring 7,589-foot Sturgill Peak. Above tree line, descents come with views of Idaho's Seven Devils Mountains and the Snake River's Hells Canyon, in the desert along the Oregon-Idaho state line. Cambridge local Cyrus Wert and his buddies use a vintage Thiokol snowcat to get runs of up to 2,000 vertical feet. For you, the six-mile skin starts when your car can't go any farther on West Pine Road—or, if you're lucky, you can thumb a ride with Wert.
Stay: Hotel McCall, McCall; $95;
Beta: Idaho Mountain Touring, Boise; 208-336-3854

Proctor and Ruud Mountains, Ketchum, Idaho
Along with Dollar Mountain, Proctor and Ruud are the remnants of Union Pacific's original 1930s destination-ski experiment—now better known as Sun Valley. After the lift was built on Bald Mountain, in the 1940s, Proctor and Ruud were retired. Access the pow east of Dollar Mountain on Fairway Road. (Lift-line clear-cuts are still visible.) It's 20 minutes through open, treeless terrain to Ruud's summit (6,705 feet) and another 20 to the top of Proctor (7,798 feet), with stellar views of Baldy. Thumb your nose at the movie stars skiing groomers before dropping into 700 vertical feet of turns.
Stay: Sun Valley Inn, Sun Valley; $189-$500; 800-786-8259
Beta: Elephant's Perch, Ketchum; 208-726-3497

Petersburg Pass, Petersburg, New York
Straddling the New York-Massachusetts state line, Petersburg Pass was a locals' mountain, founded in 1962 by two employees of Sprague Electric. Unable to draw skiers from surrounding towns, it closed in 1980, and saw-wielding skiers took it upon themselves to keep trails clear. The skin track starts on Route 2 on the New York side, near remnants of the old lodge foundations, and zigzags to the 2,600-foot summit at the Massachusetts line. Maples and oaks form slalom gates on 600 vertical feet of classic New England tree skiing.
Stay: The Orchards Hotel, Williamstown; $175-$225;
Beta: The Mountain Goat, Williamstown; 413-458-8445

Mittersill, Franconia, New Hampshire
Mittersill hugs the northern edge of Franconia Notch State Park, just northwest of 2005 overall World Cup champion Bode Miller's home field, Cannon Mountain ski area. Created by an Austrian baron shortly after World War II, Mittersill operated until 1980, when it went under. Fuel your thermos at the Peabody or Tram lodge, then skin up Baron's Trail (there's no official gate, but it's legal) to around 3,400 feet, where skier-cut glades are kept relatively clear in an otherwise dense forest. Reopening Mittersill is part of Cannon's long-term plans, but until then, it's a well-earned reprieve from icy East Coast runs.
Stay: The Franconia Inn, Franconia; $91-$260; 800-473-5299
Beta: Franconia Sports Shop, Franconia; 603-823-5241