Shut Up and Ski
America's top 10 old-school ski resorts are all about the snow -- and lift tickets are a deal.
The first restaurant on the way from the mountain to Pagosa Springs is JJ's Riverwalk Restaurant & Pub, a favorite for its happy hour (4 p.m.--6 p.m.), when beers on tap are half-price, well drinks are $1 off, and appetizers are discounted 25 percent (356 E. Hwy. 160, Pagosa Springs, 970/264-9100).
Avoid spring break if at all possible," says David Pryce, a sales staffer at Doc's Outdoor Sports in South Fork, who skis at Wolf Creek around twice a week. "That's the middle to the end of March, when all the high schools and universities are out, and one of the few times the mountain is crowded."
Elevation: 7,880 feet
Vertical drop: 1,650 feet
Skiable terrain: 1,260 acres
Annual snowfall: 450 inches
Lift ticket: $58 or less
Info: 530/525-2992, skihomewood.com
Stellar views of Lake Tahoe, 300 days of sun per year, and a totally hassle-free experience: It's no wonder the resort motto is "Smile, You're at Homewood." Skiers pull off Route 89 directly into Homewood's parking lot, and within 15 minutes find themselves halfway up the Madden Triple Chair. About 65 percent of the terrain is beginner and intermediate, making it one of Tahoe's best places to learn to ski or ride. Experts get theirs, too, with tree skiing in the Hobbit Land area, rails and jumps in Shredwood Forest Terrain Park, and the steep chutes of Quail Face. Local hotshots head to Homewood after a big snowfall because they know they'll find stashes of powder long after Tahoe's more famous (and more crowded) resorts are tracked out. But it's the lake views that keep people coming back. For the best (and longest) look, take Rainbow Ridge from the summit to Cradle, then head down the Face. It makes for a great last run of the day.
How to get there
Homewood is six miles south of Tahoe City. By car, it's about an hour from Reno, two hours from Sacramento, and a little more than three hours from San Francisco.
Where to stay
Dick and Ulli White rent 16 cheerful red cabins, some with gas fireplaces and claw-foot bathtubs, at Tahoma Meadows B&B Cottages, just south of the mountain. Two-person cottages include breakfast in the B&B's common room, while larger "kitchen" cabins are perfect for families (6821 W. Lake Blvd., Tahoma, 866/525-1553, tahomameadows.com, from $109).
Sunnyside, about four miles north of Homewood, is a beautiful arts and crafts-style building with a wide deck overlooking the lake. The bar fills up on Wednesdays throughout the ski season for the half-price ($3) fish tacos--beer-battered snapper, shredded cabbage, and ranch dressing in a soft flour tortilla (1850 W. Lake Blvd., Tahoe City, 800/822-2754).
"Homewood hasn't shut down its chairlifts because of high wind in more than two decades," says Christopher Taylor, a 20-year-old carpenter originally from Manchester, Vt., who moved to the Tahoe area two years ago. "There aren't any detachable quads that shut down when it's storming, and because of the tree coverage, you can get fresh powder for weeks after."
Elevation: 8,200 feet
Vertical drop: 1,800 feet
Skiable terrain: 900 acres
Annual snowfall: 300 inches
Lift ticket: $31 or less
Info: 406/821-3211, losttrail.com
"Hey, it's Lost Trail not Vail," the locals like to joke. As if there might be confusion. At Lost Trail, deep in the Bitterroot Forest, on the continental divide near the Montana-Idaho border, the slow, two-seater chairlifts are powered by generators. Few runs are supersteep, and the people are unfailingly friendly, making Lost Trail a wonderful family mountain. It feels like an old-fashioned ski club, where no one bothers with lockers, and moms send kids off on their own without thinking twice. And $31 lift tickets? You know you're not in Vail.
How to get there
From Missoula, Lost Trail is a two-hour drive, or about four hours from the Idaho Falls Airport by car. The two nearest towns--Salmon, Idaho, and Conner, Mont.--are each about 20 minutes from the lifts.
Where to stay
How's this for a ski report? First thing in the morning, look out the window from the 100 Acre Wood B&B, a timber lodge outside Salmon that, despite the name, sits on a 27-acre property. If there's a herd of 200 elk grazing, a whole lot of snow fell in the high country the previous night. The elk move down to the valley when the snow is too deep (2356 Hwy. 93, Salmon, 208/865-2165, 100acrewoodresort.com, from $90 with breakfast).