Photo by Stocksy. Design by Erik Mace for Yahoo Travel.
When you think ski vacation, the big names come to mind first. There’s nothing wrong with that. Those resorts are household names for a reason. But there’s a secret dedicated skiers know that they don’t often share: sometimes the special mountain vacation moments come at places you may never have heard of before.
Small, quaint, historic, less crowded, funky and cool. So many adjectives can be assigned. With that in mind, consider these less heard of but wickedly cool ski spots for your next day on the hill. You’ll take something special away from each.
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Suicide Six, Vermont
A day at Suicide Six, located just up the road from the quaint town of Woodstock, Vermont, is like a day of skiing in a living museum. From the lifts to the base lodge to the folks hanging out there, little at Suicide Six has changed in decades. And that’s by design. The location of the first lift-serviced trail in eastern America, this mountain is proud of its heritage. There’s even a tiny ski museum in the base lodge. True, the lifts are slower, but that’s all the more time to let the wonder of nature – and what skiing was like – sink in. You can also take on the racecourse of the nation’s oldest still-running ski race, the Fiske Trophy Race. True American champions, including Bode Miller, brag about winning it.
The drive alone to Powderhorn, about 45 minutes outside of Gunnison, is worth the trip. You wind uphill through canyons and past rivers and the pop out at once into a wide open space where the ski resort, smaller but skiing big, looks out over the Grand Mesa. Powderhorn is quieter, drawing mostly day skiers from the small city below. But there you’ll find awesome terrain – from the winding intermediate trails to the challenging steeps on skiers right, to some beautiful glades. Mostly, though, it’s about the view. The Grand Mesa is a unique visual and one that shapes a special ski day just right. Dinner in the cool city of Gunnison after rounds it all out well.
Grand Targhee, Wyoming
Tucked behind famed Jackson Hole, on the back side of the Tetons, is Grand Targhee. A mecca for powder skiers, their cat skiing operation is known to provide snorkels (snorkels!) on fresh dump days. Even in lift accessed spots, you’ll find fresh tracks most days and plenty of light, amazing snow. Once a day trip destination from Jackson, Targhee now boasts slopeside lodging, great dining and a kickass spa. But consider a ride to Jackson or back. Often, your bus drivers are cowboy poets who recite their works along the way. And P.S.: locals know when you are craving powder, this is where you’ll find it.
Black Mountain, New Hampshire
In the back corner of tiny Jackson, New Hampshire, where sprawl was stopped at the gate, Black Mountain is rural, adorable and wickedly fun to ski. Trails wind narrow and interesting in that way that just screams “New England.” A lumbering double chair takes you to the top; perfect chance for romance or just soaking in the vibe. At the base, the owner’s horses frolic in the snow and in the base lodge, regulars notice a newcomer and say hello. Black is ancient and special, a place where you feel like a regular the moment you arrive. They also have ridiculously affordable lift ticket deals.
Le Massif, Charlevoix, Quebec
The highest peak in the eastern Canadians, Le Massif tucks up against the St Lawrence Seaway and does something magical: when storms roll in they slam against the peak, stall, suck up that river water and Dump snow – capital D intended. Le Massif is so known for powder days, they barely have any snowmaking and never sweat it. The mountain’s trails (55 percent are advanced or very advanced!) wind around, giving you a new breathtaking view of that river at each turn. Seagulls have been known to swoop in, and the bright colored roofs of houses down the river dot the landscape like scattered Skittles. They have a French word they like to use there: Decroche. It translates to “unhook,” which is exactly what this deep powder, away from the world ski locale helps you do. Bonus: the cafeteria food is like a high-level French cuisine restaurant. So good.
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