Outside magazine, November 1995
Four resorts where you and your new-to-the-sport partner can find downhill harmony
By Ron C. Judd
You share private moments, swap toothbrushes, even exchange vows. Big deal. Agree on the perfect ski vacation, and people will sit up and take notice.
If you're anything like many ski couples, one of you is a burner, the other a learner. An expensive winter getaway with a lot of knee-trembling vertical and too few reassuringly groomed flats is guaranteed to generate angst. So we can be thankful that some U.S. resorts were built with such mixed marriages in mind. Each of the four listed here specializes in creature comforts
for the beginner but provides enough challenging terrain to at least placate the restless hotshot. Pick one out, ski apart, and stay together.
Copper Mountain Resort, Colorado
Copper's unique layout makes it a favorite of rookies and veterans alike. The runs are arranged in an easy-to-difficult, west-to-east format. First-timers start on the far west and progress east. Speed demons start east and fade west. It's a delightfully simple arrangement, allowing beginners an expansive area all to themselves, with no blasting interlopers. The rest of Copper's
beginner program is equally impressive. Green runs are long, smooth, divine. The mountain's ski school, consistently ranked among the best in the nation, offers an Adult Newcomer's Package that includes a lift ticket, a five-hour group lesson, and equipment for $70 per day. The resort itself is self-contained, convenient, and friendly. Steeps freaks along for the ride will have
all they can handle. Half the runs here are advanced, and Copper's ultra-high steeps (the base is at 9,700 feet) are as tough as any in Colorado. Information: 970-968-2882. Reservations: 800-458-8386.
Stratton Mountain Resort, Vermont
Stratton's managers have taken to heart what most beginning skiers whisper to instructors: It's not the snow they're afraid of--it's other skiers. So last year they created a special 45-acre "Learning Park" reserved exclusively for beginners. Not your average roped-off flat spot, the park has ten trails, sculpted to let gravity teach the fundamentals of ski weighting, bump skiing,
and getting a grip on the steeps. It's brought hordes of new skiers to Stratton, which since has added a special ski-instruction package ($49) that includes morning and afternoon group lessons, a ticket to the Learning Park, and equipment rental. Intermediate cruising terrain is ample, and fairly serious advanced runs are in good supply. One added bonus: A rookie skier whose
partner is a snowboarder won't find a better winter home. One of the sport's pioneers, Jake Burton, shaped his first boards here in the early eighties, and Stratton continues to be a boarder mecca. Information: 802-297-4000. Reservations: 800-787-2886.
Deer Valley Resort, Utah
Deer Valley pampers. Whether you're a beginner nursing first-timer's bruises or a veteran rubbing old-timer's knees, that's a welcome change of pace from typical ski-resort fare. If you believe a good first-time experience is the key to future schussing happiness, Deer Valley may just be the place. While the resort is best known for its long, smooth blue runs and seamless
white-glove service, rookies rave about the beginners-only Wide West area. They also marvel at the mountain's impeccable grooming and sensible layout, both of which expand their horizons to the beautiful, tree-lined intermediate runs. Lift lines are controlled by limited ticket sales, and snowboarding isn't allowed. But of course, since this is Utah, there is also an array of
downright scary expert slopes at the top, and the Park City Ski Area--for good reason, the longtime home of the U.S. Ski Team--is just five minutes away. Information: 801-649-1000. Reservations: 800-424-3337.
Northstar endeavors to make learning fright-free, even if that means veering toward the absurd. Resort operators, aware that many beginners are terrified of that first lift ride, recently added the Magic Carpet--an airport-style moving walkway. The result: no lifts until you learn how to turn. It's only one of many helping hands extended to beginners by this family-oriented
resort. Northstar is self-contained, with most lodging a short stumble away from lifts. Beginner terrain is ample (25 percent of the total mix), while the advanced is impressive, the recently added Backside Express on 8,610-foot Mount Pluto lending a hefty dose of steep Sierra glade skiing. Information: 916-562-1010. Reservations: 800-466-6784.