Bipolar Resorts

Ski resorts that give you the best of both worlds

Jan 18, 2002
Outside Magazine

When it comes to ski resorts, split personalities come in handy—especially when you're traveling with a significant other. At these 18 great North American playgrounds you can huck big air off cliff bands while your partner shusses corduroy, then follows it up with a seaweed facial wrap. Throw in some apres-ski togetherness on a horse-drawn sleigh ride, and you can rest assured that no knock-down, drag-'em-outs about "my needs" will be surfacing on this vacation.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, CA
Diagnosis: With family-friendly programs like the Parent Interchangeable Ticket (parents can share one ticket, exchanging it and the baby like batons) and the ski-bum-friendly open-boundary policy (visitors can ski at their own risk out-of-bounds), Alpine spans the gap between ear-to-the-baby-monitor parental needs and rabid fanaticism.
Heli-ski with Ruby Mountain Helicopter Skiing (775-753-6867) for hidden powder stashes, or drop the steeps of Keyhole for in-bounds fright.
The Subway run keeps it simple: groomed, open, and nearly flat.
Neutral Territory
If your trip coincides with season’s end, watch the trough-crossing Gates and Wakes, where skiers and snowboarders skim across a shallow pond—spectacular crashes guaranteed.
Average Annual Snowfall 495 inches
Breakdown 25% beginner, 40% intermediate, 35% expert
Acreage 2,000

Bear Valley Mountain Resort, CA
Diagnosis The un-Tahoe resort, Bear Valley is small and family owned, but the terrain is big and ambitious. Grizzly Bowl is 1,400 jumbled feet of chutes, trees, glades, and cliffs, but the Backside is all sun-soaked blues.
On a powder day, ski Grizzly Bowl’s finest and most consistent fall line: West Ridge to the trees of Uptight (the steepest chute on the mountain at 45 degrees) into the alluvial Strawberry Fields.
Ego Alley. The name says it all.
Neutral Territory
Bear Valley Cross-Country (209-753-2834;, on the valley floor, has 43 miles of ski skating and classic trails. Reggae on the Mountain ends the resort’s season with live music, pond-skimming, a big-air contest, and a brew festival.
Average Annual Snowfall 360 inches
Breakdown 30% beginner, 40% intermediate, 30% expert
Acreage 1,280

Heavenly Ski Resort, CA
Diagnosis Views of Lake Tahoe, the Sierra Nevada, and the open sky are combined with miles of groomers and diabolical steeps that make for grace- or terror-filled days—you pick.
The 38-degree Snakepit chute in Mott Canyon is barely wide enough to make a turn, but the snow is protected and soft.
Edgewood Bowl meanders through the forest and exemplifies the cruising Heavenly is known for.
Neutral Territory
The Olympic Terrain Park features a combination of jumps and slides, and the High-Altitude Half-Pipe on California Trail is sure to result in massive air. The boardercross course on Comet is a Mad Max–inspired run with high-banked turns, rollers, tabletops, and hits. Try tubing, nordic skiing, and snowshoeing at the Heavenly Activity Center, new for the 2001–2002 season, and of course, gambling in Stateline, Nevada.
Average Annual Snowfall 360 inches
Breakdown 20% beginner, 45% intermediate, 35% expert
Acreage 4,800

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, CA
Diagnosis Ski from November to June at this eastern-Sierra institution. Eight high-speed quads spread the masses over 3,500 acres—at 11,053 feet, Mammoth’s highest lift is well above tree line.
Exit the resort and ski Hole in the Wall off Dave’s Run, then hop the free shuttle at Tamarack Lodge back to the resort.
Sesame Street is a wide, open boulevard, good for learning to carve.
Neutral Territory
Poke around for the many free, undeveloped soaking pools, like Wild Willy’s, off Benton Crossing Road, ten miles south of town. Ski skate, stride, and snowshoe on the 16 miles of groomed trails at the Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center (760-934-5293). Dogsled with Mammoth Dog Sled Adventures (760-934-6270).
Average Annual Snowfall 385 inches
Breakdown 30% beginner, 40% intermediate, 30% expert
Acreage 3,500

More Travel