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5 Great Ski Areas You've Never Heard Of

Why wait in lift lines when you can ski empty slopes at these hidden gems?

Kalen Thorien takes advantage of the low key vibe at Brundage Mountain, Idaho. (Shane Treat)
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Why wait in lift lines when you can ski empty slopes at these hidden gems?

Big, well-known resorts have high-speed lifts, stellar terrain, and flashy base area amenities like slopeside hotels and vibrant après bars. They also tend to be crowded, hyped up, and crazy expensive. So why not plan your next ski trip to a lesser-known mountain? At these smaller, off-the-radar places, you’ll still be treated to quality terrain, soft snow, and, with any luck, empty slopes.

Gore Mountain

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East Coast ski resorts can get crowded—but not Gore. (Courtesy Gore Mountain)

North Creek, New York

There are no village wine bars or slopeside condos at Gore Mountain, but what the place lacks in base-area luxuries, it more than makes up for in vast, rugged terrain. Gore has the most space—439 acres—of any ski area in New York, plus 14 lifts and a stout 2,537 vertical feet. For those who care about après, the resort just completed renovations to all three of its on-mountain lodges for this winter. Don’t miss French toast with peanut butter, banana, and bacon at local favorite Chrissy’s Café. You’ll find the closest rooms to the lifts at Gore Mountain Lodge. Rooms from $199.

Brundage Mountain

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You might just feel like the only one on the mountain at Brundage. (Courtesy Sam Marvin/Brundage)

McCall, Idaho

When it dumps in Idaho, Brundage is the place to be, with endless inbounds glades and a lift-accessed backcountry zone where the powder lasts for days. It’s not a huge resort by any means—just five lifts spread across 1,920 acres—but it’s the quality and quantity of snow here that matters most. You can sign up for guided cat skiing into an expansive 18,000-acre plot of neighboring backcountry terrain, or ride a snowcat to a four-course dinner at the Bear’s Den mid-mountain cabin. Stay at Hotel McCall and you’ll get lift tickets plus milk and cookies before bed. Rooms $109 per person per night.

Monarch Mountain

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If you want lift lines, go to Vail. If you want old-school charm, go to Monarch. (Courtesy Dave Lehl/Monarch Ski A)

Monarch, Colorado

At Monarch Mountain, the cellphone service is poor, but the skiing is great. And who needs Instagram when you’ve got 800 acres of high-elevation terrain off the Continental Divide and guided cat skiing in 1,635 powder-filled backcountry acres? Monarch is the kind of place where the ski patrollers know your name and you can still bring a bag lunch into the lodge and get fresh tracks well after a storm. Book a one-, two-, or three-bedroom cabin at the Creekside Chalets, ten minutes from the mountain. Rooms from $129 per night.

June Mountain

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For a mammoth California skiing experience without all the extras, go to June. (Courtesy June Mountain)

June Lake, California

June Mountain lives in the shadow of its big sister, Mammoth Mountain, 27 miles to the south. Though the 1,500-acre June is considerably smaller than Mammoth and has just seven chairlifts, it offers some of the greatest backcountry access of any ski area in the Sierra, with access to famous zones like San Joaquin Ridge and the Negatives. Sierra Mountain Guides offers guided tours from June into the nearby backcountry. The nearby Double Eagle Resort has cabins, lodge rooms, and spa services on site. From from $199 per night.

Mission Ridge

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Mission Ridge may have only four chairlifts, but it has plenty of snow. (Courtesy Mission Ridge)

Wenatchee, Washington

Mission Ridge is bigger than it looks—2,000 acres and 2,250 vertical feet, with only four chairlifts. The mountain, located on the sleepy eastern side of Washington’s Cascades, gets superbly high-quality snow—some 200 inches of light, dry fluff a year. From the top of Chair 2, you can hike into limitless backcountry terrain. Stay in nearby Wenatchee—a few hotels offer ski-and-stay packages—or skip the drive to the hill and bring your van or RV to the ski resort parking lot instead, where a whole camp village pops up on weekends.

Filed To: Idaho / New York / Washington / California / Colorado / Vail
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

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(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.

Plaza2Peak

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(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

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