Everyone is aware of the mega-ski-resorts, and in the day and age of Epic Passes, the Mountain Collective, and the new Icon pass resorts like Vail, Squaw/Alpine and Park City Mountain Resort are becoming the norm. If you are looking to avoid pricey lift tickets, expensive lunches and long lift lines you will definitely want to check out the ski areas on this list.
Little down-home resorts really bring back the soul of skiing and make it all about the on-mountain experience. Take a look at these hidden gems where the experience is all about the skiing and culture of the sport – off the beaten path.
Lookout Pass, Idaho
Lookout Pass sits directly on the Montana/Idaho border and provides an authentic experience for any type of skier. Three double chairs and a triple lift brings you up to 1,150 vertical feet of skiing. A future expansion was just approved by the US Forest Service, which plans to expand the resort by almost 2,000 acres in the next 20 years. This season Lookout Pass has been packed with powder and welcoming refugees from other snow-starved parts of the Rockies. An average of 400-inches of snow and plenty of tree pockets will keep you smiling with endless faceshots. Not to mention you will not have to compete with droves of other skiers for freshies. $45 weekend lift tickets are nearly unheard of these days, and if you happen to be in town on your birthday, show the ticket window your driver’s license, and you ski for free!
Red Lodge Mountain, Montana
Red Lodge is a little out-of-the way place in a large out-of-the way state. Five chairlifts allow you to access up to 2,400-feet of vertical that averages around 250-inches of snow each season. Sitting near the Montana/Wyoming border, Red Lodge is quiet with plenty of elbow room. A full day lift ticket will only set you back $57, and multi-day packages are a great way to save yourself some bucks if you are not worn out from spinning so many laps. The upper sections of Grizzly Peak and Nichols Peak are peppered with a healthy pitch and countless tree lines for you to test your skills on. The Triple chair on the lower mountain has plenty of groomer and family friendly options. Lodging in the nearby town of Red Lodge is impressively affordable, with good old fashioned Montana watering holes for an evening drink if you don’t mind saddling up to the bar with a real cowboy or two.
Wildcat Mountain, New Hampshire
Wildcat, New Hampshire sees a little more traffic than the previous two resorts on the list, but that is strictly due to its location in rich ski country and a devout following of skiers. Nestled in Pinkham Notch New Hampshire, the high speed Wildcat Express whisks you to the top of the mountain in 7 minutes. From the top, skiers of any ability can take in one of the greatest views in skiing, then ride down the terrain of their choice. Perfect for an outside the box Valentines Day date, Wildcat is offering 2 adult lift tickets for only $59 if you purchase in advance online. On Friday’s and Saturday’s throughout the season the Wildcat Pub is always hosting a lively apres party, with all kinds of good music.
Mount Sunapee, New Hampshire
This small, family owned resort has been welcoming skiers since 1953, and since 1998 owners Tim and Diane Mueller have been constantly upgrading the infrastructures including; lifts, snow making, and the lodge. The Sunapee Express Quad zooms you all the way up to the summit in 6 minutes to keep you going lap after lap on any type of terrain you want. The Summit Glades are the first to get shredded when a Nor’Easter drops down a foot or more of fresh snow. Goosebumps provides a challenge for the most hardened back East bump skiers, and the Sunbowl Express Quad allows you to make some high speed groomer laps. The lower mountain is packed with mellow greens for the kids and the new skiers in your group. Planed terrain expansions at Mount Sunapee in the next few years will only offer up more skiable acreage.
Not far from all of the giant resorts in Summit County sits the seldom traveled to Sunlight Mountain Resort. One triple chair and two double chairs prevent the slopes from getting too crowded (but you won’t have to worry about that anyway). There is plenty of space for you to let your skis run and test your speed limits. Any of the glades on the upper section of the mountain will keep your heart rate going and legs pumping, and the East Ridge keeps light and fluffy snow days after a storm. This is the spot to head to if you’re searching for a powder fix – even days after the storm. Be sure to prepare yourself for a lengthy traverse out. Full day lift tickets easily come in at half the price of even some of the discounted tickets you are going to find elsewhere in Colorado. Be sure to check out the “Slope and Soak” packages offered by Sunlight, they are a fantastic way for you to spend some time off the slopes hitting up either the Glenwood Springs or Iron Mountain Hot Springs.
If you have skied at large resorts across the country – and most skiers have, its time for you to check out some of the little known ski areas across the country. You may find yourself a dedicated local after just one visit.