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White Lines: North American Ski Resorts

For those in search of perfect North American powder, look no farther than these 10 ski resorts
Larry Olmsted
From the Print Edition:
Vince McMahon, Nov/Dec 99

They are the ultimate resorts, entire communities devoted to recreation. These places exist simply because they happen to be next to great mountains, mountains where avid skiers flock to do what they love. Entrepreneurs move their businesses there and telecommute. Celebrities can't stay away. This is the magical hold great mountains have over skiers: build a ski resort and they will come.  

While the proximity to and selection of luxurious hotels, restaurants, après-ski hangouts and boutiques are important when planning a ski vacation, the most significant consideration is the quality of the skiing, because that is, after all, your reason for being there. The rest is just window dressing.  

The very best slopes are skiers' mountains, where skiers can spend a day, a week or a month without having to wipe the smile off their faces. So, wax those skis, sharpen those edges and head for these 10 resorts, my picks, in order, for places with the very best skiing in North America.    


Its nickname says it all: The Big One. With the highest vertical drop in the United States, Jackson Hole is a monster of a mountain, beautiful in its simplicity: one ski area, tall, wide, steep and deep. Terrain defines greatness, and Jackson has it, from cruisers and bumps to bowls and chutes, with plenty of snow to cover it all.  

What sets Jackson apart is its wide-open layout. More a series of bowls and slopes than a set of trails, the runs defy mapping. The printed map the resort provides barely scratches the surface. With few trees, Jackson is a huge open slope, and one big bowl empties into another, and so on down the mountain, with choices at every turn. This layout cannot get boring: you could ski a whole season without taking the same line twice. Jackson takes the very best part of most western mountains--the above-tree-line terrain--and multiplies it by 10.  

Jackson has a reputation as an expert's mountain, and not undeservedly. It has some impossibly difficult terrain, including the famed Corbert's Couloir, probably the hardest marked trail anywhere. But Jackson offers terrain for skiers of all abilities, and the right side of the map offers some truly superb blue (intermediate) runs. With fewer than 5,000 skiers on busy days, Jackson Hole is also wonderfully uncrowded, and skiers have entire trails, or even bowls, to themselves. If there is any drawback, it is the distance from town (about 12 miles).  

Despite Jackson's charms, nearby Grand Targhee draws many skiers for a visit, and they aren't disappointed. Even locals head to "The 'Ghee," as it's called, after a snowfall, because it gets better powder. Grand Targhee is laid out much like Jackson Hole, but is less steep and without cliffs. Beginners and intermediates will love Grand Targhee, which is among the most snowed-on resorts in the country.  

Planning a trip: Nonstop jet service from Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Chicago makes Jackson surprisingly easy to reach. The airport is just minutes from town. The best lodging in Jackson is found at the Wort Hotel, home of the SilverDollar Bar & Grille. Skiers can also stay slopeside in Teton Village.    


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