Shut Up and Ski
America's top 10 old-school ski resorts are all about the snow -- and lift tickets are a deal.
Elevation: 8,900 feet
Vertical drop: 2,005 feet
Skiable terrain: 5,500 acres
Annual snowfall: 500 inches
Lift ticket: $53 or less
Info: 801/745-3772, powdermountain.com
With monster snowfalls, a remarkable lack of trees, and slopes that are consistently steep but not harrowing, Powder was created for wide skis. Less than half of the trails are groomed, and it's not unusual to be making turns in untouched powder a week after a dump. For the poor man's version of heli-skiing, a snowcat that tows skiers up to the top of remote bowls can't be beat ($10 per run, in addition to a lift ticket). Even with all the terrain and outstanding snow, Powder remains under the radar compared to hotter resorts, such as Park City, Snowbird, or nearby Snowbasin (which figured prominently in the Salt Lake City Olympics). Down below Powder is gorgeous Ogden Valley. It's only a matter of time before strip malls and subdivisions fill it up, but for now the valley is mostly open land.
How to get there
Powder Mountain is a straightforward, 55-mile drive north of the Salt Lake airport. You'll pass through Eden, so save a few bucks on your lift ticket by buying it at the Valley Market (801/745-4000).
Where to stay
The Red Moose Lodge is a modern take on a vintage ski lodge, with vaulted ceilings, deep leather sofas, and a pool table in a loft. Rooms are big, and it's less than 15 minutes from the mountain (2547 N. Valley Junction Dr., Eden, 877/745-0333, theredmooselodge.com, from $89). Moreover, it's just down the street from Eats of Eden, a fantastic little restaurant with buffalo burgers and sandwiches on homemade bread (2595 N. Hwy. 162, 801/745-8618). Another good spot for a bite: The Oaks, which opened in 1907 and has a menu that always features Ogden's own Farr's ice cream (750 Ogden Canyon, 801/394-2421).
Built in 1879, the Shooting Star Saloon survived Prohibition by running a whiskey distillery in the basement. Today, it's the oldest bar in Utah and serves only beer. Drink specials are illegal in Utah, but who needs happy hour when a cold one costs only $1.25? After a long day at the mountain, see if you can survive the $6 Star Burger, a grilled Polish sausage sandwiched between two beef patties (7350 E. 200 South, Huntsville, 801/745-2002).
"The place is huge and can be hard to figure out," says Amy Wicks, who was born and raised in the area and skis at least twice a week. "I definitely recommend a free guided tour with a host to take you out and show you the layout. There's a lot you might miss if all you did was look up at the mountain from the lodge." (To hook up with a host, contact Powder Mountain.)
Elevation: 11,904 feet
Vertical drop: 1,604 feet
Skiable terrain: 1,600 acres
Annual snowfall: 465 inches
Lift ticket: $48
Info: 970/264-5639, wolfcreekski.com
Snow, snow, and more snow. Wolf Creek gets the most in Colorado, and the views on the traverse to Alberta Peak rival those at any resort in the Rockies. Most runs are short--the mountain's a lot wider than it is high--and because Wolf Creek is so far removed from anything resembling a city, there's plenty of snow for everyone. People are as laid-back and unpretentious as they come; it's not uncommon to see someone lugging in a Crock-Pot for a picnic in the lodge. The cafeteria sells PB&J sandwiches for $1.50 and daily specials, like a cheesesteak with fries and a dessert for $7. The atmosphere may change if Clear Channel Communications magnate Red McCombs's plans for a 287-acre development at the base of the Alberta lift are realized. Locals are fighting the proposed development, which could destroy a six-mile loop for cross-country skiers and their dogs.
How to get there
The nearest airports to Wolf Creek are in Durango and Alamosa, each about an hour from the mountain. It's usually much cheaper to fly into Albuquerque (four-and-a-half hours by car) or Denver (six hours), if you can handle the drive.
Where to stay
The High Country Lodge, just outside Pagosa Springs on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass, rents modern log cabins with full kitchens and heated floors, and each unit comes with a fireplace or potbellied stove. Hot breakfast in the lodge is included (3821 E. Hwy. 160, 800/862-3707, highcountrylodge.com, lodge room from $90, cabin from $120).