I have never been an advocate of annual ski area rankings, equating them with the same insight as rating the earth’s top four oceans.
Every annual list pegs the usual heavyweights: Whistler, Vail, Aspen, Squaw Valley, Mammoth Mountain, Stowe, Killington, Jackson Hole, Steamboat Springs and Sun Valley. Never are there any curveball entrants like Colorado’s Ski Cooper or New Hampshire’s Pats Peak.
As an alternative to the predictable the following is an all-inclusive list of ski area rankings based on long road trips and zero lift ticket kickbacks.
Ski Resort Least Likely to have a Cologne or Car Named After It
Idaho’s Bogus Basin.
Ski Area Whose Trail Names are Least Likely to Attract New Participants
California’s Mammoth Mountain wears the crown with Avalanche, Stump Alley and Lost in the Woods.
Ski Resort Name That Most Resembles a Batman Punch Sound Effect
Splat! Kapow! Banff!
Best Road Leading to a Ski Area
Whitefish Ski Resort’s Big Mountain Road in Whitefish, Montana. Winding and steep,the approach heightens anticipation with every corkscrew turn that you’re about to enter an idyllic ski village where everyone’s breath smells of cheese Danish, every trail possesses first tracks quality, and every apré ski guitar doesn’t treat Margaritaville or American Pie as musical mandates.
Finishing a close second and third would be Vermont’s Route 125 to the Middlebury College Snow Bowl and New Mexico’s Route 150 which dead ends deep in the Carson National forest at the Taos Ski Valley.
(The road to Arizona’s Mount Lemmon, outside of Tucson, would had grabbed top honors for its mountain vistas and undeveloped tracts of forest, but I couldn’t champion a ski road that invites the possibility of hearing, “Lookout for that javelina!”)
Ski Town Most Likely to Cause You to Lament 10 Years from Now, “I should had bought a place there in 2017”
Silverton, Colorado. Despite being only slightly more accessible than North Korea it has the look and feel of Telluride but without Oprah and Telluride’s odd compulsion to add the word “fest” to every noun in the English language.Old West storefronts and Victorian homes ornament Silverton with refreshing authenticity. And its ski area, Silverton Mountain, has Etcher-Sketch quality where every carved track is quickly erased by more powder.
The Ski Area You are Least Likely to Hear, “Dude, I think I have altitude sickness”
Rhode Island’s Yawgoo Valley. This ski area sports a base elevation of 70 feet. To put this in perspective Yawgoo is only 63 feet taller than Shaquille O’Neal.
The Most Liberal Use of the Word “Mountain”
in a Ski Resort Name
The entire Midwest snatches top honors. Colorado, the state synonymous with high altitude skiing, has only two areas–Sunlight Mountain and Copper Mountain–that employ mountain in their names. Wisconsin, however, the dairy state, has seven ski areas that liberally use mountain in their names. Michigan has eight. Minnesota four. And even Illinois, the geographic version of a floor tile, whose highest point–1,235 feet–is 2,115 feet lower than Colorado’s lowest point–3,350 feet–has a ski area named Chestnut Mountain.
This type of Midwest geographic chicanery prompts question if the Great Lakes really are great. Maybe they’re not great, but rather just okay.
Most Unpredictable Ski Area
Arizona’s Mount Lemmon north of Tucson. Because of erratic snowfalls it’s the only area in the nation where a one-day lift ticket could conceivably turn out to be a season pass.
The Ski Resort You are Most Likely to Experience Irony
Any ski area located on an Interstate. Last winter while speeding to Vail on Interstate 70 I was issued a ticket for driving too fast. Three hours later I had my lift ticket taken away for skiing too fast.
The Ski Area You are Least Likely to Hear, “I spent all day looking for you.”
Villa Olivia, northwest of Chicago. It offers 15 acres of skiable terrain, making it the skiing world’s version of miniature golf. If it provided snowmaking it would use a snowmaking pistol.
Best Ski Town that Really Isn’t a Ski Town
Missoula, Montana. You can zoom down blue-ribbon mountain runs at the Montana Snow Bowl just 20 minutes north, and then sip Fat Tire drafts at Stockman’s, the Top Hat, or the Missoula Club, all thick with local character, without having to share the bar with some drunken rube still in his ski boots at 9 p.m. and whose chin is raw from his lift ticket, which was attached to the top front zipper of his parka, flapping off his chin all day.
Ski Area You are Most Likely to Hear the Sentence, “The savings on this half-day lift ticket price makes me feel like I’m stealing.”