Shut Up and Ski
America's top 10 old-school ski resorts are all about the snow -- and lift tickets are a deal.
The Rocky Knob Lodge was built by loggers in the 1940s in exchange for "favors" from the property's owner, a member of the oldest profession. On the Montana side 20 minutes from Lost Trail, the former brothel now serves $2.25 cocktails and excellent food--the smoked ribs ($18.95) in particular (6065 Hwy. 93, Conner, 406/821-3520).
"Go on a Thursday or Friday for good powder," says Chase Cooper, a wood-flooring contractor in Victor, Mont., who started skiing at Lost Trail when he was 10 and manages to hit the slopes about 20 times a year. "The mountain is closed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; so when Thursday comes, the snow's fantastic. And since it's not the weekend yet, there's also hardly anyone there, and you can get on lifts right away without having to wait."
Elevation: 8,100 feet
Vertical drop: 2,000 feet
Skiable terrain: 1,500 acres
Annual snowfall: 350 inches
Lift ticket: $43 or less
Info: 800/223-9609, bridgerbowl.com
Twenty minutes from downtown Bozeman and long a favorite excuse for Montana State students to ditch class, Bridger Bowl stretches along a wide ridge, with easy terrain at the bottom and in the Apron area, and hairy steeps and great powder-filled bowls up at the top. The nonprofit resort marked its 50th anniversary with the 2004/2005 season.
How to get there
Drive 16 miles north from Bozeman, which has an airport served by Delta, Horizon, Northwest, and United.
Where to stay
Right on Main Street in Bozeman, the Lewis & Clark Motel is a quirky gem, with a roadside neon sign depicting the eponymous explorers and casino poker in the lobby. Down in the basement, there's a swimming pool, as well as a tiny pond stocked with rainbow trout (824 W. Main St., 800/332-7666, lewisandclarkmotel.net, from $58).
"On a powder day, get there early," says Keven Wiesner, owner of the Ph.D. Skis shop in Bozeman, who puts in about 80 days per year at Bridger Bowl. "Leave at 7 o'clock from town. If it's deep powder, there'll be a ton of people waiting. Good skiers should get over to the Ridge area. It's a great experience, and the snow is twice as deep."
Elevation: 3,200 feet
Vertical drop: 1,700 feet
Skiable terrain: 135 acres
Annual snowfall: 180 inches
Lift ticket: $56 or less
Info: 802/824-5645, magicmtn.com
After Magic shut down in 1991, heartbroken locals sold "Save the Magic" T-shirts to raise money for its rebirth. The mountain reopened in 1997, and while it doesn't have the fancy lifts, restaurants, and snowmaking equipment of nearby resorts, it does feature some of the steepest trails in southern Vermont--and a whole lot of heart. One thing it almost never has is crowds, even on the weekends. This season, lift tickets for all ages cost only $39 Monday through Friday (non-holiday).
How to get there
Magic is about three hours by car from Boston, or four hours from New York City.
Where to stay
The Swiss Inn rents standard motel rooms with a full breakfast included, and patrons can always find fondue on the restaurant's menu (249 Rte. 11, Londonderry, 800/847-9477, swissinn.com, from $79).
"The west side has a lot of difficult terrain," says Marlene Williams, an administrative assistant for Green Mountain Beverage. She and her husband Jim have lived within walking distance of the lifts since 1978 and ski four or five days a week. "If we have good snow, Talisman is a great run. It's really challenging. My husband's favorite trail is Sorcerer, which is steeper and has a lot of bumps."
Elevation: 7,600 feet
Vertical drop: 1,800 feet
Skiable terrain: 2,600 acres
Annual snowfall: 250 inches
Lift ticket: $46 or less
Info: 800/367-4397, bogusbasin.com
A twisting, 16-mile drive north of Boise, the nonprofit Basin is the pride and joy of locals. Sun Valley gets all the attention as Idaho's premier resort; the fact is, the blue-collar Bogus Basin has more acreage and receives more snow. Its name comes from a legendary gold swindle in the 1880s, but the slopes are anything but bogus. For a challenging mix of tree skiing, bowls, and steep faces, head right to the expansive backside of the mountain.