Bipolar Resorts

Ski resorts that give you the best of both worlds


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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

Ski resorts that give you the best of both worlds: Colorado

Copper Mountain, CO
Diagnosis Copper is naturally divided by skier ability: The gradual slopes of the West Side are for beginners, the steeper pitches of the midmountain are for intermediates, and the East Side and the four Arctic-like bowls that cap the mountain please the experts.
Spaulding and Resolution Bowls top the mountain at over 12,000 feet and feel like gnarly out-of-bounds terrain.
The gentle grades of Roundabout and Soliloquy are easier on the nerves.
Neutral Territory
With one terrain park, a half-pipe, and a superpipe, Copper caters to the young at heart (and limb). Tubing, ice-skating, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are also available, and the Sunsation event at season’s end tops the silliness chart with the Eenie Weenie Bikini Contest.
Average Annual Snowfall 280 inches
Breakdown 21% beginner, 25% intermediate, 54% expert
Acreage 2,450

Monarch Ski and Snowboard Area, CO
Diagnosis Perched at 11,961 feet in the Sawatch Mountains of southern Colorado, Monarch gets hit with storms regularly. Its isolation on the Continental Divide keeps crowds away, giving beginners plenty of room to practice and experts plenty of terrain to ski hard.
The Panorama Lift, with its perfectly spaced tree runs, is your best bet in-bounds, but splurge with Monarch Snowcat Tours ($180 per person; 888-996-7669) for the real steeps.
The Thumbelina Lift is a short ride to an open field of green circles.
Neutral Territory
Ski, board, or snowshoe up 11,312-foot Monarch Pass, or tromp out to Lost Wonder Hut—a swanky backcountry log cabin (970-382-9722; Drink Il Vicino’s Wet Mountain Pale Ale in the Sidewinder Saloon.
Average Annual Snowfall 350 inches
Breakdown 21% beginner, 37% intermediate, 42% expert
Acreage 670

Telluride Ski Resort, CO
Diagnosis In 2000, Telluride spent $14 million to put three new high-speed detachable quads into Prospect Bowl, adding 733 acres and nearly doubling the skiable terrain. Yet the town remains unchanged: quaint Victorian buildings and lots of cafés, like the Steaming Bean, for sipping lattes and jawing with locals.
If skiing The Plunge off Lift 9 or ducking out-of-bounds through the backcountry gate off Gold Hill doesn’t get your blood pumping, then call Telluride’s Helitrax (800-831-6230), the only heli-skiing outfit in Colorado.
Double Cabin off the Sunshine Express meanders for two miles with great views of the San Sophia Range.
Neutral Territory
The in-town network of cross-country trails is free. For gear rentals call Telluride Sports, (800-828-7547). Ice-skating is also free at the town park. Call Telluride Parks and Recreation (970-728-2173) for times and rentals. Wintermoon Sled Dog Adventures (970-729-0058) is an option, and so is the San Juan Hut System (970-626-3033), a series of eight backcountry huts spread over 206 miles.
Average Annual Snowfall 311 inches
Breakdown 22% beginner, 38% intermediate, 40% expert
Acreage 1,700

Vail, CO
Diagnosis With everything from superpipes to five-star hotels to world-class spas, Vail is the Disney World of ski resorts. It’s got everything for the entire family…for a price.
For a real leg-burner, link up the bumps, steeps, and chutes of the Prima, Pronto, and Log Chute runs (The PPL, to locals).
Any run from Chair 14 (the Sourdough Lift) is groomed to perfection—like a putting green on a slope.
Neutral Territory
The superpipe is 425 feet long with 15-foot walls and 17-foot transitions. Need we say more? If you’re pooped, check out the Dew Drop Inn—a heated yurt with video games, a sound system, and a 40-foot sundeck. And who needs cross-country skiing when you can Thrill Sled (a headfirst ride on an independently suspended, four-ski sled), tube, ski-bike, and play laser tag at the Adventure Ridge activities center (970-476-9090).
Average Annual Snowfall 346 inches
Breakdown 18% beginner, 29% intermediate, 53% expert
Acreage 5,290

Ski resorts that give you the best of both worlds: Idaho, Maine, and Montana

Schweitzer, ID
Diagnosis Only 50 miles south of Canada in northern Idaho, Schweitzer has exceptionally dry snow (for the Northwest) and plenty of it. Add to this a high-speed six-pack lift and a stunning view of Lake Pend Oreille and the mountains surrounding Sandpoint, and you’ll know why Schweitzer’s owners are building a new 48-condo lodge slated to open this spring.
2,400 feet of vertical and powder-choked tree runs, like Big Timber off Chair 6, are enough for most people, but the open-boundary policy satisfies those desiring more vertical challenge.
The Musical Chairs lift tops out at Happy Trails run, an open, mellow meadow.
Neutral Territory
Imitate Doctor Zhivago on sleigh rides with Mountain Horse Adventures (208-263-8768), or rate the overabundance of ugly Hawaiian shirts at the season-ending Caribbean Carnival’s Downhill Dummy Derby.
Average Annual Snowfall 300 inches
Breakdown 20% beginner, 40% intermediate, 40% expert
Acreage 2,500

Sun Valley Resort, ID
Diagnosis Sun Valley is a high-tech oasis in rural central Idaho. Seven high-speed quads (20 lifts total) span more than 2,000 skiable acres and 3,400 feet of constant pitch. The 630 acres of man-made snow extend the season and attract international Olympic teams.
Hot dog like the 1970s competitors who raced down the steep pitch and VW Bug–size bumps of Exhibition off Bald Mountain (“Baldy”).
Adjacent Dollar Mountain offers 685 vertical feet of open, treeless skiing.
Neutral Territory
Sun Valley owns two ice rinks (an Olympic-caliber one inside for hockey and an outdoor one open year-round for shows), over 90 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails, and, for visitors who really miss suburbia, a bowling alley.
Average Annual Snowfall 200 inches
Breakdown 36% beginner, 42% intermediate, 22% expert
Acreage 2,050

Sugarloaf/USA, ME
Diagnosis “The Loaf” has the best above-timberline skiing in the East, not to mention the steepest, plus the town and resort feel almost European with their tucked-into-the-mountain ambience.
Hike to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain (4,237 feet) from the Timberline quad and enjoy boundary-to-boundary skiing (no roped-off obstacles) down the Snowfields and into the well-spaced trees.
You need not even ride a lift. Just click in and ski The Birches, a leisurely run starting at the day lodge.
Neutral Territory
Three terrain parks, one for each level of skier or rider, and a superpipe to challenge the best. Give tubing or dogsledding a go (Guest Services, 207-237-2000), or cross-country ski and ice-skate at The Outdoor Center (207-237-6853).
Average Annual Snowfall 260 inches
Breakdown 16% beginner, 59% intermediate, 25% expert
Acreage 480

Big Mountain Resort, MT
Diagnosis Any resort with runs in a place called Hellroaring Basin can’t be half bad. With an open-boundary policy, epic chutes in Canyon Creek, and smooth cruising terrain off the Bigfoot T-bar, Big Mountain lures both hero skiers and your mother-in-law.
Try snowcat skiing (406-862-2900) on the resort’s north side for steep faults, cliff bands, glades, and, of course, bone-dry Montana powder.
The Village Lift (Chair 6) is only 250 vertical feet, but it’s free.
Neutral Territory
Sleigh-ride dinners, lift-served snow tubing, Thrill Sled rides, and K2 ski-bike riding are all offered through the Guest Service and Information Center (406-862-2900).
Average Annual Snowfall 330 inches
Breakdown 25% beginner, 50% intermediate, 25% expert
Acreage 3,000

Ski resorts that give you the best of both worlds: Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming

Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, UT
Diagnosis Snowbird and its neighbor, Alta, are now connected by a new high-speed quad in Mineral Basin and by a common season pass. Skiers have access to 4,700 acres of Little Cottonwood Canyon’s powder-rich terrain—part of which is in boarder-unfriendly Alta. Sorry, knuckle draggers.
Heli-ski with the Wasatch Powderbird Guides (800-974-4354), or go for glory on Great Scott, a steep rock-lined chute, off the tram.
Try the Chickadee run, where the ski school teaches beginner classes. Then move on to Big Emma, a long and classic green.
Neutral Territory
Call the base area Activity Center (801-933-2147) for tubing and luge or the Cliff Lodge (801-933-2265) for outdoor ice-skating.
Average Annual Snowfall 500 inches
Breakdown 27% beginner, 38% intermediate, 35% expert
Acreage 2,500

Stowe Mountain Resort, VT
Diagnosis People have been skiing and cutting trails on Mount Mansfield since the 1930s for good reason: loads of snow, high elevation, and a consistent 2,360-foot fall line. Plus, Stowe is a real New England town, complete with a white-steepled church and the oldest sport of all—shopping.
Famous throughout the East, Goat—one of the Front Four off Mount Mansfield—is narrow, steep, and heavily moguled.
Spruce Peak is melloowww and separate from the faster skiers.
Neutral Territory
Employees playing hooky from nearby Burton Snowboards dominate the terrain park and half-pipe. Nordic ski on 47 miles of trails (Cross Country Center, 802-253-3688). Topnotch (802-253-8585) and Stoweflake (802-253-7355), both four-star hotels, have luxurious day spas and Tae Bo–trendy fitness centers.
Average Annual Snowfall 260 inches
Breakdown 16% beginner, 59% intermediate, 25% expert
Acreage 480

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, WY
Diagnosis The Meet Your Maker chute inspired the cinematographers at Teton Gravity Research, while the groomed slopes of Après Vous and Casper make anybody on shaped skis feel like local phenom Tommy Moe.
A 50-degree chute at 40 feet wide and 500 feet long, Corbet’s Couloir is the signature trophy run at Jackson Hole, demanding a vertical entrance (read: mandatory air).
Eagle’s Rest Double Chair serves a roped-off beginner area with mellow slopes like Eagle’s Rest run, Pooh Bear, and Antelope Flats.
Neutral Territory
Then there’s always the ski-less ski vacation: Tube at King Tubes Snow Tubing Park (307-734-8823), hot-air balloon with Wyoming Balloon Company (307-739-0900), ice-skate inside at Snow King Resort (800-522-5464), cross-country ski or dogsled at the Saddlehorn Activity Center (307-739-2629), sleigh ride with National Elk Refuge Sleigh Rides (307-733-5386), or paraglide with Two-Can Fly (307-690-8726).
Average Annual Snowfall 402 inches
Breakdown 10% beginner, 40% intermediate, 50% expert
Acreage 5,000

Ski resorts that give you the best of both worlds: Washington, Quebec, and British Columbia

Crystal Mountain, WA
Diagnosis In the shadow of Mount Rainier, Crystal hosts avalanche clinics for a reason: backcountry terrain, 3,100 vertical feet, and mounds of snow. But not everything is ski-movie steep. The glade skiing of Orgasm Meadows is, well…you’ll want a cigarette at the bottom.
Drop into Pinball, a narrow chute off The King mountain (7,012 feet high), and ski into Avalanche Basin in the South Back.
Tinkerbell, a two-mile-long cruiser through the trees.
Neutral Territory
Snowshoe up Bouillon Basin (Rainier Rides, 360-663-0182). Soak in the hot tubs at the East Peak Massage and Fitness Center (360-663-2505). Drink Rainier Beer at the Snorting Elk.
Average Annual Snowfall 340 inches
Breakdown 13% beginner, 57% intermediate, 30% expert
Acreage 2,300

Tremblant Ski Resort, Québec
Diagnosis In the Laurentian Mountains—a steep range on the Canadian Shield with challenging terrain—Tremblant offers action at night as well. Strike a pose at Le Café de l’Époque with the people who invented après-ski.
For slush bumps in the Spring, try Expo, a long and steep mogul run. And to test those edges, ski Zig-Zag and Vertige, both double black diamonds on the mountain’s south side.
Cruise the resort’s entire 2,131-foot drop on the snaking, 3.75-mile Nansen trail.
Neutral Territory
Hit the Snow Park with its superpipe, big airs, and rails. Dare we say, compete in the Caribou Splash Cup in April? Ski or board from the resort’s summit, do shots on the way down, then jump into a swimming pool. Simmer down at the Scandinavian Spa (819-681-4848), or try dogsledding, tubing, or snowshoeing with Mont Tremblant Activities (819-681-4848).
Average Annual Snowfall 180 inches
Breakdown 17% beginner, 32% intermediate, 51% expert
Acreage 610

Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
Diagnosis With the massive spring snowpack, international crowd, and above-timberline skiing, Whistler Blackcomb’s US$41 ticket is a bargain. The two mountains offer terrain for every level of skier over a whopping 7,070 acres.
The glacier-carved West Cirque—menacing and vertical—tops Whistler mountain.
Easy Out on Blackcomb gives you all the views, without the steeps.
Neutral Territory
If two half-pipes, three terrain parks, and a snowcross course—all fitted with on-slope, tower-mounted speaker systems blasting DJ-mixed music—are a tad overstimulating, chill (literally) in a horse-drawn sleigh (Blackcomb Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides, 604-932-7631), cross-country ski and ice-skate (Meadow Park Sports Centre, 604-938-7529), snowshoe (Whistler Outdoor Adventures, 604-932-0647), or dogsled (Cougar Mountain, 604-932-4086).
Average Annual Snowfall 360 inches
Breakdown 17% beginner, 55% intermediate, 28% expert
Acreage 7,070

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