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Mad, Agoraphobic Skiers In Search of Mad West?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
This year it's my turn to pry my wife away from our beloved Mad River Glen. Last year she treated me to my first Western trip, Snowbird and Alta, where (let's not start an East vs. West thing) I actually started to long for the top of the single when I found out that I must suffer from an ailment which can only be described as skier's agoraphobia.

I felt at home most at Catherine's and Wildcat Areas of Alta, and especially enjoyed getting lost returning to Snowbird through the Keyhole. The chutes behind the Cirque were interesting, and I liked the Gad 2 lift a lot. In short when there were trees near by.

But to throw myself into the Cirque- no way! (I was OK after a stiff wind blew me in and had to concentrate on skiing, however). I had the same problem with the expanse of Mineral Basin and the top of the Little Cloud lift. I just didn't feel comfortable with such vast expanses.

The accommodations at the Cliff lodge were not our cup of tea either (we're more the bed and breakfast types), and I guess the whole resort scene was as vast and expansive as the mountains there. Other mountains we enjoy, by-the-way, are Magic and Plattekill.

Also the sheer size of all the stuff I didn't even get to ski after seven days of lift open to lift close skiing has been bothering me ever since. But that’s perhaps another disorder- ever heard of a ski-obsessed compulsive?

I’m sure there are some of you out there who are familiar with our home turf and might make some recommendations or help narrow down my search for a suitable “Mad West” destination spot which might feel like home after about a weeks stay.

From my perusals of this forum I am intrigued with the following list of possibilities. Some are very small, some a bit larger, and things I’ve read about resorts like Mary Jane and Telluride make me think they might fit the bill even though they (to me) are certainly vast compared to a place like MRG.

Mt. Bohemia, MI
Snowbowl, MT
Red Mountain, BC.
Kicking Horse, BC.
Apex, BC.
Discovery Basin, MT
Red Lodge, MT
Whitewater, BC
Beaver Mountain, UT
Mt. Baker, WA

Why so many in Montana? Colorado? Utah?

I should also point out that conditions aren’t a concern as we are pretty free spirits and could head out at a short notice. Also, who says we have to go for one trip or to one place anyway? This could be the start of our very own “must ski” list

Thanks and sorry about the length, JTripodi
post #2 of 11
Based upon your description I wold say you want:

post #3 of 11
Fly into Missoula, rent a car and enjoy all 4 local ski hills. Snowbowl is 1/2 hour out of town, Discovery is 2 hours to the east, Lost Trail is 2 hours to the south and Lookout Pass is 2 hours to the west. All four areas are empty during the week. They are old-fashion resorts with few touristy amenties. Discovery has some of the wickedest terrain in the west. Lost Trail gets lots of hero snow. Lookout Pass gets lots of big dumps of snow. Snowbowl is where VA skis, need I say more?

Another option is to fly in Bozeman and head down to Big Sky/Moonlight Basin. Both areas are empty during the week, even on powder days with Moonlight being the sparsest. I would add Bridger Bowl to the list except it gets some of the pushiest crowds I've ever experienced on powder days....it is very friendly the rest of the time.
post #4 of 11
Haven't been to any on your list, a lot of Easterner's haven't. But Red Mtn, Snowbowl and Baker seem like candidates by gnarly reputation.
Believe it or not, if the glitzy off-slope aspects don't kill it for you, I think you'd really like the terrain at Aspen Highlands and Ajax for glades, steep tree lined runs, lots of bumps, Aspen Highlands unspoiled scenery, and sweet 3000'+ verts. And there's some great open stuff like Highlands Bowl or parts of Snowmass that might tempt you to ignore your agoraphobia.
Things have changed, but not much more than 10 yrs ago the base of Aspen Highlands wasn't much different looking than the base of MRG!
Agree that Taos is also a good suggestion for your tastes, and if you went that direction hit Ski Santa Fe too.

PS: got to admit this review of Montana Snowbowl sounds awesome:
post #5 of 11
Originally Posted by volklskier1 View Post
Based upon your description I wold say you want:

Absofreakinlutely. Steep, tough, treed and Al's Run which should remind you, a bit, of Chute at MRG.
post #6 of 11
Wow some excellent choices in Beautiful British Columbia.
Apex is my home mountain. Excellent expert terrain. Few crowds.
Kicking Horse has the most difficult in-bounds terrain in BC. It also has the longest laps.
Red Mountain has the steepest glades. Rossland is a cool little ski town.
Never been to Whitewater but I hear good things.

A few suggestions to add to the list:
Fernie: some of the best terrain and snow in NA but always a little risk of rain
Mt Baldy: cool little mountain near Oliver. Closed Tue-Wed and then open for Big Pow Thursday. It usually gets a big dump when Mt Baker does.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort: new hill to open Dec 22 2007, will be huge.

My favourite road trip for about ten days:
Fly into Calgary, rent a car and drive to Banff. Ski Sunshine and Lake Louise a couple days (week days are better if you want to avoid the crowds, weekends better if you like the nightlife). Drive to Golden ski Kicking Horse a couple days. Drive south and stop at White Swan Provincial Park with free natural hot springs (it is pretty far up a logging road so have a good vehicle. or pay for hot springs in Radium) Drive on to Fernie (stop in Kimberly if you want to try a smaller family hill). Ski at Fernie a couple days. Drive to Castle Mountain and ski, then drive north to Calgary and fly home.
post #7 of 11
Well, it's worth repeating again-- TAOS.

We spent 2000-2006 skiing in upstate NY and a couple areas in Vermont, and understand where you're coming from. Never made it to MRG (always wanted to go), but enjoyed Plattekill many times, as well as Whiteface, Gore, & Jay Peak, among many other smaller hills.

After a couple visits to Colorado resorts, I find I don't care for the "Disneyland" setting, and the open-your-wallet policy. Taos is our home mountain, and I appreciate it even more after seeing what some of the other places are like. It is a big, steep SKIER's hill. No parking fees, no fancy-schmancy garishly lighted "village", and no outrageously priced restaraunts. Taos lift tickets are reasonably priced ($63), and the runs range from moderately wide blues to tree-lined narrow blacks. No gondolas, no trams, and like MRG-- no snowboarders). Taos-- ski it if you can.
post #8 of 11
I interpret this request to avoid high alpine open terrain. Which are in abundance at Lake Louise, Sunshine, Kicking Horse and Castle. So I think we're looking for areas where the tree line goes up high, or at least to the top of the lifts.

Taos is indeed an obvious answer. Bumps, slow lifts/low density, steep, decent glades up high.

For tree skiing, I think the best is in the Kootenay region along the U.S./Canada border. Red for the steepest, Fernie for the most snow, Big Mountain is a bit higher and gets less rain. Schweitzer is very good too. Whitewater has excellent snow but is much smaller unless you do a lot of AT/tele above the lifts or in the sidecountry. The numerous snowcat ski operators around and north of Nelson in B.C. offer primarily tree skiing also.

Utah, Whistler, the Sierra: the best snow/terrain tends to be above treeline, as you saw at Alta/Snowbird. Colorado: the tree line does go up very high, but as LoriK says, the ambience is far from MRG at many of these places.

Steamboat does have the trees. Aspen Highlands, Crested Butte, maybe Telluride you might like. And there's always Silverton.
post #9 of 11
What about Durango, CO?
post #10 of 11
Baker is sort of the MRG of the west. Local, funky, challenging, small, inexpensive. In a week, you could ski all the inbounds - If you can.

Most of Baker's inbounds is below treeline. Although it doesn't really have the narrow runs that MRG does, it has far more chutes, cliffs, steep trees. Worth a warning - challenging at MRG doesn't measure up to challenging at Baker.

Where Baker's reputation comes from is the out of bounds, though. Thousands of acres of wide open bowls and abundant snowfall.

The other side of Baker is the lack of amenities. It's a 30 minute drive to the nearest lodging.

I would also look to the Okanogan resorts - Apex, Big White, etc. Which have good treeskiing, narrow runs, but are a fair bit more disneyesque.
post #11 of 11
You want the big-mountain Western North America ski haven for agoraphobes?

No problem!

Do you want small but good resort? or do you want small small town with great skiing?

For small resorts: Big Sky/Moonlight (never crowded, even on weekends, and hardly small), Taos, anything in the BC interior (more interior than WB, that is), Durango/Purgatory

For small towns: Discovery (the skiing is unreal--you'll wonder why it's "undiscovered"), Whitefish.....that's my list. I'm obviously Montanacentric

The West is a big place, go where there's lots of room.
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