The people have spoken: our first list of underrated North American ski resorts was insufficient. Here is another list of five low-key establishments where skiers and snowboarders can enjoy premium, powder-laden runs without the crowds and long lift lines one usually encounters at more prominent resorts.
Chic-Chocs Mountain Lodge, Quebec
What the experts say: “For a total break from the hectic pace of daily life, Chic-Chocs Mountain Lodge offers a snow-skiing adventure in the heart of an untouched wilderness that will have snow sport adventurers coming back for more” — The Snowskiing Channel
Despite (or perhaps due to) its remote location, Chic-Chocs Mountain Lodge has earned a stellar reputation among backcountry aficionados. There are seven peaks situated within the 37-square-mile area, and each one boasts generous vertical drops and pristine terrain. The ‘resort’ doubles as a wildlife reserve; for this reason, there are no lifts and trails have been designed to accommodate moose, caribou and other local denizens. The lodge itself is also a first-rate establishment with plenty of amenities, while the low occupancy rate (no more than 38 guests at one time) and communal lounge and dining areas ensure a comfortable, convivial atmosphere for all visitors.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Colo.
What the experts say: “An afternoon jump-turning the ‘holy extreme terrain, Batman!’ on the back side and the steeper-than-steep gullies streaming from the peak—without the mercy of a single liftline to rest your legs—reminds you you’re alive. And mortal. But quite blessed” — SKI Magazine
Crested Butte sits within a few hours of Aspen, Vail and Telluride, yet the resort manages to keep the large crowds at bay. Known for its wicked backcountry runs and idyllic weather conditions, Crested Butte also boasts an excellent ski school (led by seasoned alpine pro, Nick Herrin), three terrain parks and winter zipline tours. The surrounding community features plenty of accommodations, shops, eateries, and watering holes; the town also hosts numerous festivals and snow-themed events throughout the winter season. And while the lift ticket prices are a little steep ($92 for adults), visitors can offset some of the costs thanks to cheap rental packages and complimentary overnight storage for all lodge/hotel guests.
Grand Targhee Resort, Wyo.
What the experts say: “Grand Targhee has amazing snow – deep, light, consistent powder. The resort also has gorgeous scenery, fun terrain, great backcountry access, cat skiing and very few people. As an added bonus, it’s also an inexpensive place to visit” — Powder Hounds
There are a lot of reasons to love Grand Targhee, a secluded resort in the Western Tetons that is within an hour’s drive of Jackson Hole. The resort receives more than 500 inches of annual snowfall, and visitors can enjoy a plethora of quiet downhill runs (95 percent of which are rated as “more difficult” or “most difficult”), as well as an extensive terrain park and areas reserved for both Nordic skiing and Snowcat excursions. What’s more, CNN Travel reports that the resort is offering a premium deal this year: free skiing or snowboarding to any lodge guest with a 2012 season’s pass to any other resort in the country.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Calif.
What the experts say: “This Tahoe-area resort is more affordable than most and gets an amazing amount of snow—600 annual inches—making for a solid 11 percent of powder days per season” — Outside Magazine
Just across the state line from Tahoe is Kirkwood Mountain, a small resort (2,300 skiable acres) that makes up for its size with more than 70 downhill runs (primarily intermediate or advanced), a quartet of terrain parks and trails designated for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Kirkwood Mountain is also eco-friendly, thanks to a number of recent green efforts to conserve energy and water — and by purchasing a ‘green tag’ ($2 or $10), lift riders can contribute to future projects. And while the surrounding area is much more low-key than Tahoe’s, visitors will find plenty to do (and eat, and drink) once the sun goes down.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Idaho
What the experts say: “Thanks to two new chairlifts and 300 inches of annual snowfall, you now have a reason to visit north Idaho. Go before everyone else discovers Schweitzer’s 6,400-foot-high Selkirk spine and 1,200 acres of tamarack glades and curvy bowls” — Skiing Magazine
Just 11 miles from the sizable town of Sandpoint and less than 50 miles from the Canadian border, Schweitzer Mountain offers a wide range of runs — from beginner bunny slopes to insane double black-diamond steeps. Visitors can enjoy cat-skiing, two parks and night skiing on the weekends. Other, less traditional offerings include hollow tubing, zipline tours and a ‘terrain garden’ for youngsters to perfect their freestyle maneuvers. The rustic, European-style village surrounding the resort offers several lodging and dining options, as well.