This ski season, skip the predictable resorts with a million and one vacationers in your way. Take a look at these five ski towns where you can show your stuff and zoom down the mountain in peace:
About seven hours from Denver, Telluride lies in the San Juan Mountains of the Rocky Mountain Range. The town used to be well known as a gold mining district, and it is now a National Historic Landmark District. Today, however, those looking for a relaxing and fun-filled vacation visit Telluride. With more than 1,700 acres of skiable territory, the town's resort now offers 16 lifts and 84 trails, and the highest point rests at 12,260 feet on Gold Hill.
Some winter activities for the non-skier include ice climbing, heli-skiing, snowmobiling, tubing, sleigh rides and alpine skiing and snowboarding. Wintermoon Sled Dog Adventures even offers dog sledding. Year-round activities such as fly-fishing, hiking, mountain biking, hot springs retreats, camping and river rafting are also popular. Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado's tallest free-falling waterfall standing at 365 feet, is just at the east end of Telluride. Telluride actually boasts the only free gondola public transportation system on the continent. It takes riders to Mountain Village, a mid-mountain town with a fantastic view that features restaurants, shops and fun winter and summer activities.
Squaw Valley, Calif.
Squaw Valley is probably best known for hosting the winter 1960 Olympics. It opened in 1949 with one chair lift, and now skiers and snowboarders are able to access 4,000 acres from 25 lifts. Unique winter activities include a 3.2-mile night ski run, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at The Resort at Squaw Creek's Nordic Center and dog sledding with Wilderness Adventures. If you're into tricks, make sure to check out Mainline Park, which consists of a superpipe, variety of medium and big jumps, range of 24 to 52 foot boxes and rails and more. Other attractions such as the Swimming Lagoon and Spa, Olympic Museum and cable car moving at 2,000 vertical feet are all year-round. Adventurers try the Sky Jump, where they can get 25 feet of air on a bungee trampoline, a flying trapeze, and the Headwall Cafe and Climbing Wall for indoor rock climbing.
Stowe was originally popular as a summer resort after the Civil War, but around 1915 it slowly began to build as a ski town. Located in North central Vermont, Stowe features Mt. Mansfield, the state's highest peak at 4,395 feet. Fifty-nine percent of the runs are set for intermediate skiers and snowboarders out of the entire 116 trails and 485 acres of skiable terrain Stowe offers. Try the infamous double-black diamond "Front Four" trails if you're a dare devil. Then take a break and have some lunch at the Cliff House Restaurant, which sits on one of the mountain's shoulders. Stowe Mountain Resort provides 35km of maintained and 40km of backcountry paths specific for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Other popular activities include canoeing, kayaking, ice fishing, hot air ballooning and snow mobile tours.
You don't have to experience breathtaking views just from the top of the mountain - hiking trails like The Pinnacle Trail, Long Trail and Wiessner Woods allow for a bit of a change of scenery. There is also the Stowe Recreation Path, an all-purpose trail that leads you to various swimming holes, rivers and lakes. Don't forget to get the true Vermont experience and visit a sugarhouse to learn the process of making the state's famed maple syrup.
Davis, W.Va. Canaan Valley Timberline Report
Davis, a town of less than 700 residents, is located on the border of the highest mountain valley east of the Rocky Mountains. With an average 200 inches of snowfall per year, the area is a skier and snowboarders' dream. The city consists of two competing resorts, Timberline Four Seasons Resort and Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center. The top elevation at Timberline is 4,268 feet, and the resort offers 100 acres of skiable terrain and 37 trails. At 3,200 feet, Canaan offers 39 trails but has a vertical drop of 850 feet, 150 feet less than at Timberline. Canaan is the first ski area in the U.S. to have an airboard terrain park. (Airboarding is like sledding on an air-filled nylon board - think body boarding, but on snow.) It also features a snow tube park and 30km of cross-country trails. The 300-year-old Seneca Caverns and the Seneca Rocks formation are also worth seeing, as well as the Blackwater Falls (a half-mile-wide canyon) and the Smoke Hole Caverns.
Sun Peaks, British Columbia
As the closest British Columbia interior ski resort by road from Vancouver and Seattle, Sun Peaks presents 3,678 acres of skiable terrain and 122 trails on three separate mountains. Sun Peaks also has the largest vertical drop in the interior of British Columbia at 2,891 feet. The resort has a majority of intermediate runs with the specific level breakdown at 58 percent. Attractions include the Kids Adventure Park, which provides mini snowmobiles and slopes for children, as well as three terrain parks with jumps, rails and boxes. Cross-country skiing is available on 28km of groomed trails and 12km of backcountry trails. Sun Peaks is also well known for hosting the FIS Grundig Snowboard World Cup.