Winter may be harsh, but it redeems itself with a spectacular
array of sports. Snowshoeing, sledding, ice skating and skiing outings can invigorate sleepy, snowy days. The United States abounds with slopes and trails that offer sports lovers of every level the chance to try their hand at these winter challenges.
Choose the Locale
There are 39 states with snow-covered mountains. Ski runs are designated as green (beginner), blue (intermediate) and black (advanced). Large resorts offer everything from multiple ski runs and snowshoe paths to mountain taverns and sleigh rides. Smaller destinations have less traffic and offer more runs for the beginner or intermediate skiier. They also tend to be less expensive.
Well-known resorts like Colorado's Aspen offer advanced skiers a plethora of moguls, powder and jumps. Although expensive, it's a thrill for skiers seeking the whole experience. The resort covers hundreds of acres and sports eight mountainside restaurants in addition to its own lodges and hotels. A good place to start is this comparative guide.
A smaller but substantial Colorado resort is Keystone, which is under the same ownership as
Breckenridge and Colorado's largest resort,
Vail. Keystone's charming resort and
village, complete with the largest ice skating rink in the United States, is
one of the first to open and last to close thanks to its high elevation. It's also one of the few resorts in the area to offer night skiing, a must-try experience.
Mount Shasta is a smaller version of Keystone in
California. It only spans 425 acres, but mirrors Keystone's night
skiing, snow boarding and trail composition.
Colorado's newest slope is Kendall Mountain, which covers 30 acres of varied terrain and offers reduced prices to match its reduced land area. If you are just trying skis on for size, this could be the perfect introduction. Adult lift tickets sell for $15 and children can enter for $10. (Other resorts sell lift tickets for $40 and up).
Another great mountain for beginners is the Arizona Snow Bowl located near Flagstaff, Arizona. The mountain showcases 4 lifts and 32 trails for skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels. It also sells lift tickets for half days.
Resorts in the East Coast and Midwest are smaller than those in the Rockies, but often similar to other Western states' facilities. Chestnut Mountain, a 100-acre mountain with nine lifts, is a 3-hour drive from Chicago. It also features a special children's program for parents serious about skiing. Wisconsin's Devil's Head offers some of the areas most
challenging terrain in the form of jumps and moguls.
For a classy East Coast experience, try Vermont's Killington Resort. The diverse mountain has 140 trails and more than 70 miles of terrain. The site also says the resort is home to the world's most extensive 600-acre snowmaking system as well as 250 inches of annual snowfall.
To explore other ski resorts around the country, visit:
Most resorts, like Winter Park in Colorado, offer beautiful lodges and cabins within their villages. These properties can be privately or corporately owned and often offer ski in/ski out (where the slope ends at your doorstep) and shuttles to the mountain. They can be pricy. Aspen's Hotel Jerome ranges from $295- $895 a night.
As you go up the mountain, prices for everything start to soar. Purchasing gear ahead of time is wise. For jackets and pullovers, anoraks and waterproof pants, check out Patagonia or REI. Do not, under any circumstances, discount the value of gloves, glove liners, goggles and
hats, especially if you are skiing during extreme winter months. Swirling snow
can blind naked eyes and frostbite warnings are common. For all the
necessary supplies, check out Altrec.com. You'll probably want to rent skis, poles and boots
at the mountain unless you plan to ski frequently.
For more tips and information on safety issues and what to expect check out these official resources: