It seems like nowadays, gigantic ski resorts, whose towns are built around them and not the other way around, is all the craze when planning ski trips. It makes sense — big money captures
big attention and big audiences. Not to mention large ski resorts usually offer lodging, shuttle services, the whole shebang.
But there is something about smaller, locals-only vibe ski areas that entice every skier and snowboarder. Regardless of age, skill level, or if you’re hitting the slopes with two planks of wood or one, these low-key, off the major grid ski areas in North America are some of the best you’ve never heard of.
Loveland Ski Area, in Colorado
Sitting high in the sky of the Continental Divide, Loveland Ski Area is one of those places in Colorado that just makes you feel like you’re home. Opened and family operated since 1936,
Loveland is just outside of Georgetown, Colorado, making it the closest ski area to Denver. That said, you wouldn’t know it’s vicinity to the city given the views its chair lifts provide. With 94 trails stretching throughout 1,800 acres of terrain, skiers and snowboarders often find trails all to themselves.
What Loveland lacks in on-site lodging, they make up for in shorter lines and day pass prices that don’t gouge the wallet. Their free snowcat access to The Ridge offers some of the best
untouched powder anywhere in the state. Their mascot? An adorable Bernese Mountain dog named Parker the Snow Dog; this big fluffy guy has over 25k followers on Instagram and does a fantastic job capturing Loveland Ski Area’s authentic Colorado vibe.
Showdown, in Montana
Middle of nowhere Montana; seems behemoth, isolated, and a crazy place to get caught in a wild blizzard. Well, that’s also where you’d find Montana’s oldest continually operating ski area, Showdown. Operating since 1936, the CFO of Showdown is also the owner and knows a majority of his local skiers by name (first and last.) Showdown gets an average snowfall of 250 inches a year, providing its 6,800-high base area powder, and its entire terrain. The slower chairlifts let buddies and strangers alike enjoy conversation while taking in the stellar
views. Around Showdown, the locals like to say “ice, what is that? Never heard of it.” While the runs are on the shorter side, their steep tree lines are well worth the continuous chairlift laps. Best of all, even around last chair, you can guarantee there is still plenty of untracked powder waiting for the next day’s skiers and snowboarders.
Mad River Glen, in Vermont
It’s time to head out east. Traveling the I-89 in Vermont, chances are high you’ll find yourself behind a vehicle headed for Mad River Glen ski area with a bumper sticker slapped on the back reading “Mad River Glen / Ski It If You Can.” Designated the East Coast’s most difficult ski area, Mad River Glen feels like you’re in the heart of the Rockies. Their 5 chairlifts and 45 trails provide access to solely natural snowfall, challenging tree skiing, and plenty of expert-only terrain. Single seater chairlifts is what Mad River Glen is all about. While they make it their top priority to ensure low skier density is consistent, one of their great aims is to preserve the natural environment. Rather than overpower and overrun their landscape, they let the quiet, innate beauty of Vermont do all the talking. Mad River Glen literally feels like skiing in the backcountry, and who doesn’t love that!?
Sun Valley Resort, Idaho
If you heard that a handful of Olympians call Sun Valley home and that it’s a favorite to Hollywood stars, you would think it was too popular to make the list. Yet, it has somehow remained completely under the radar. Sun Valley opened in 1936 with the world’s first chairlift. It really bullseyes almost every aspect an avid skier and snowboarder is hunting for; a laid back atmosphere, consistent 5 star service, 3,400’ in vertical drop, more uphill capacity per skier than anywhere else in the country, and super short lift lines, even on impressive powder days. These are characteristics you would expect from the extremely popular and big named North American ski resorts. But while you can count on the on-site lodging and a variety of dining amenities like the popular ski resorts provide during your trip to Sun Valley, you can definitely bank on feeling like you have struck serious powder gold. It’s amazing this place isn’t talked about like Vail Ski Resort in Colorado or Heavenly Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe, but you can certainly argue that the die hard Sun Valley loyals like it that way.
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