Favorite ski areas plentiful statewide, nationwide – Patriot

When asked to name their favorite ski areas, some skiers respond that it’s the slopes they’re on when the question is put to them. It’s carpe diem, their way of seizing the day, of savoring the moment.

My stock answer is that some days I like vanilla, on other days chocolate. I can come home from challenging trails on a big mountain in the west and on the next outing enjoy a run on a modest hill in the Poconos.

Of course, I have made judgments in the 67-years-old love affair with the sport, during which I skied in more than 100 North American locations.

My choices are subjective and based on a lot more than configuration of the trails. Convenience, ambience and special experience are considerations. Even romance plays a part.

Let’s start with the three areas owned by Snow Time: Roundtop, Liberty and Whitetail. They’re all fine, but Whitetail and its big vertical are too far for a day trip from my home in Jenkintown.

Roundtop is much closer, but my vote goes to Ski Liberty for its trails on the back side of the mountain and the attractive slope side accommodations.

Distance is also the reason I penalize Seven Springs, the state’s most visited ski area, and Elk Mountain. Nice for two or three-day outings, but not a day trip unless it’s by bus. Driving a car for several hours after a day on the slopes makes me feel as if ski boots are dangling from my eyelids.

My choices in the Poconos come down to Camelback and Blue Mountain. I prefer the atmosphere at Camelback where I made many friends in its half century of existence. But I like the trails more at Blue, where the state’s highest vertical affords challenge and long runs.

New York has twice as many ski areas as Pennsylvania, but if I am going to drive that distance, I go a little farther and wind up in Vermont.

Mt. Snow used to be my favorite in the Green Mountains, until I discovered Okemo. It doesn’t compare with huge Killington, but I like its three distinct areas, 2,100-feet vertical and wide array of parallel trails on the main mountain. Skiers can choose from green to black.

New Hampshire has the same number of credible resorts (18) as Vermont, with Loon Mountain and Waterville Valley at the top of my list.

Much farther north in Maine are two large areas, Sunday River and Sugarloaf, with three-mile-long runs. The latter has a lift-served open snowfield above the tree line. Both have attractive, convenient lodging facilities.

Anyone going into Canada will often find more natural snow. In Quebec there are many worthwhile areas. Some resorts are legendary: families learned to ski at small Grey Rocks, while many Americans flocked to Mont Tremblant over seven decades to ski on the two-sided mountain.

Today they can try their fractured French in the colorful base area that looks like a town square in Paris.

My choice, however, is Le Massif, an hour and a half northeast of Quebec city. It has great trails, some of which are wide cruisers from which skiers see ice floes below on the St. Lawrence River moving toward the ocean. In the aprés-ski scene skiers relax in a delightful hotel and its casino.


Here I may surprise you. My favorite is not Vail, the country’s most popular resort. I have had many memorable moments in the resort that was founded by a veteran of the Tenth Mountain division.

I also cherish adventures at other fine resorts in Colorado, such as Aspen, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Steamboat and Telluride.

Breckenbridge, too, but I cannot go back there with fiancée Connie. She can’t tolerate the town’s 9,600-feet altitude and doesn’t want to drag a portable oxygen tank again.

Nor can she handle Crested Butte Mountain Resort, almost as high. But it’s my favorite in Colorado Ski Country. It has trails for everyone, plus an ungroomed area of deep snow and hidden boulders.

The scenery is magnificent. A bonus is the town of Crested Butte, a short bus ride from the mountain. Like other villages in the state, CB has a mining heritage. A reputed third of the population has Yugoslavian ancestry, mostly workers recruited to dig for precious metals and coal.

The local museum blends nicely the histories of mining and skiing.

Skiers whose chief criteria are choice and convenience look farther to the west — to Utah and Salt Lake City.

The airport handles arriving passengers smoothly and it’s only about an hour on a shuttle bus to eight of the state’s 14 resorts, I have flown frequently from Philadelphia at daybreak to SLC and skied the same afternoon at Park City or Snowbird.

Big enough to host the 2002 Olympics, the region is blessed with snowfalls that in higher elevations can often reach 500 inches. The tourist offices tout the quality of snow, attributing its fluffiness to being dried as it comes over the Nevada desert.

I like the comfortable terrain of Alta, but my choice is Deer Valley, whose runs are not too challenging and are groomed like tightly waled corduroy. The surroundings and service give the area an aura that is hard to match.

However, farther north in Idaho is Sun Valley, which has a special charm too. Photos of movie stars and other celebrities line the halls of the main lodge. The movie “Sun Valley Serenade” is available on a bedroom TV all day and night.

Half of the manicured trails are classified as intermediate, but Jack Sibbach, director of marketing, likes to take visitors on more advanced terrain. Jack himself is an advertisement for the place.

He was a schoolteacher in Lansdale and 30 years ago took a sabbatical to ski in Sun Valley. He never came back.

Let’s end here with a list of other personal favorites in the west: Heavenly in California, Timberline in Oregon, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, Big Sky in Montana and Taos in New Mexico.

The standouts in western Canada are Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia and Lake Louise in Alberta.

These recommendations refer to 36 ski areas, but there are more than 400 others where you can, glide, slide and smile.

Ted Heck is editor of “The Blue Book of European Ski Resorts,” online at BlueBookSki.com. He also writes for GolfSkiandTravel.com.

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