On this forum it seems like a lot of the emphasis is on the big ski resort destination areas. I have spent a lot of time at some of the big resorts. Whole seasons at some and several years at a few more. The reputation for most of them is deserved for sure but at this point in my life I don't care much for the crowds or the hour of powder. It's like a rat race at some of those ski areas. I left New Jersey twenty years ago because I knew I didn't want anything to do with that lifestyle and I sure don't want to experience it when I'm out in the mountains.
This is why I'm a huge fan of the smallish areas, places that don't get on most people's radar. These places are special for all kinds of reasons. The community, the terrain, or access to big mountain ski touring are a few things that make some of these smaller overlooked places so great. I'll start off with naming a few.
Plattekill, New York. I skied here as a teen on the weekends during the early 90's. We had a lot of snow during those years and I thought Plattekill was pound for pound as good as anything in the east. Sure it's only got 1000 vert but it's 1000 vert of consistently good pitch. Perfect for a pow day or spring bump skiing. I loved the T-bar too (no longer in use), you could get your legs burning descending and riding that lift all day. The best part is that even as close as it is to the tri state region hardly anyone skis there.
Arizona Snowbowl. I gotta give some love for my home hill. It's not big, the snow is inconsistent as hell, the lifts suck, but.....when we have the snow the terrain and immediate side country powder skiing is incredible. The touring into the Inner Basin is amazing and with some serious effort you can get into steep chutes, bowls, and wide alpine faces on any and every aspect you can think of. It's not Jackson back country sure, but it doesn't have the Jackson crowds either. Often there is only 2 to 4 people on any given day touring among the thousands of acres of back country ski terrain.
So those are two that I have skied at.
Some others I hope to visit are to name a few:
1. Anthony Lakes Ski Area, Oregon. http://anthonylakes.com/stats-maps/
Check out the side country.
2. Shames Mountain, BC. http://backcountryskiingcanada.com/index.php?p=page&page_id=Shames%20Mountain%20Backcountry
A T-bar and one chair accessing the most insane ski touring of maybe any ski area in North America.
3. Mount Cain, BC. http://www.mountcain.com/
Another little area with some beautiful looking side country terrain.
So what are your favorite little areas that rock and why?