Skiing is big business and that can mean long lift lines, crowded slopes and high price tags. But nestled in the mountains are still a few “mom and pop” small ski areas – true town hills where the powder’s steep and the prices cheap.
1. Eagle Point, Beaver, Utah
Eagle Point offers some of southern Utah’s steepest runs along with tree-lined groomers for beginners and easy access through gates to some of the state’s best backcountry terrain. The ski area has been reincarnated multiple times through the years starting in the early 1970s as Mt. Holly and later Elk Meadows. It closed in 2002 and reopened to the public in 2010 as Eagle Point. There’s now five lifts accessing 40 runs over 600 acres. There’s also a lodge area with food and drink options and slope-side condos to make a complete vacation.
2. Pebble Creek, Inkom, Idaho
Nestled in the obscure Portneuf mountain range is a peak named Mount Bonneville. In 1937 the U.S. Forest Service classified the eastern slopes of the mountain as “superior” for downhill skiing. So, the Alpette Ski Club from nearby Pocatello, Idaho, put in a rope tow in the area and Pebble Creek was born. For years the rope was so heavy smaller skiers had to partner with someone bigger and stronger for the ride to ungroomed terrain. After changing hands several times, the ski area is now owned by a local group of investors which started putting in beginner and intermediate runs. The area now is made up of 53 percent advanced terrain, 35 percent intermediate and 12 percent beginner. There are 54 runs over more than 1,000 skiable acres.
3. Lost Trail Powder Mountain, Conner, Montana
Sitting atop the Continental Divide where Montana and Idaho meet, Lost Trail Powder Mountain gets its name from the more than 300 inches of snow it gets each year. Open since 1938 this ski area with five double chair lifts and three rope tows is still family owned. With a summit elevation of 8,200-feet and more than 50 trails across 1,800 acres on two mountains, it has a vertical drop of 1,800-feet and a run more than two miles long.
4. Wolf Creek Ski Area, Pagosa Springs, Colorado
For 75 years skiers have congregated at Wolf Creek Ski Area. It is one of the places that started Colorado’s ski industry, a feat that owner Kingsbury Pitcher was honored for with his induction into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in October. The newest lift, the Elma lift, which started operating this year, was named after the Pitcher family’s black Labrador. The lift will help service the 1,600 skiable acres that include a vertical drop of 1,600 feet. With a summit at almost 12,000-feet the area gets about 430 inches of natural snow each year.
5. Okemo Ski Area, Ludlow, Vermont
Okemo Mountain Resort rises above the village of Ludlow, Vermont in south-central Vermont. The family-owned and operated ski area offers southern Vermont’s highest vertical drop at 2,200-feet and a vast trail network of 120 options spanning five distinct areas. Nineteen lifts, including a high-speed six-pack bubble chair with heated seats, service 655 acres of terrain. Those lifts, which include eight quad chairs (four are highspeed) and seven surface lifts, can carry more than 33,000 skiers and riders an hour. Of its trails, 96 percent are covered by snowmaking and more than half the terrain is beginner and intermediate.
6. Arctic Valley Ski Area, Anchorage, Alaska
This largely volunteer-run ski area is located just 10 miles away from downtown Anchorage, Alaska. Arctic Valley Ski Area operates on weekends only giving the 9-5er a greater opportunity to get fresh tracks. It has a T-Bar and two chairlifts that access 500-plus acres of intermediate to advanced terrain. With an adult lift ticket setting you back a mere $35, it seems to harken back to a different time. And, indeed, the ski area has a rich history. Its first incarnation was in the 1930s as the “City Ski Bowl” and later included a collaboration with the military.