Every year about this time, I start planning my winter getaway to Maggie Valley, North Carolina. I get on the Internet and look up resorts, cabin rentals, even campgrounds. I start researching ski equipment, sleds, and snowboards. Then I begin thinking about cold-weather clothing, such as gloves, scarves, and coats. I’ve even gone so far as to write up an itinerary for this supposed ski trip I know I’m probably not going to actually take.
Most of my childhood was spent near Cocoa Beach, Florida. The outdoor sports I’m familiar with involve lots of water – boating, water skiing, snorkeling – but we lived for a short time when I was very young in Iowa, and I remember shooting down a hill on a sled and feeling completely exhilarated with the cold wind in my face and nothing but acres of white snow in front of me. So, once we moved to Atlanta, I was sure I could easily make that three-hour trip to ski country. Well, we haven’t quite made it there yet.
There are many reasons I still haven’t strapped skis to my feet and tackled the bunny slope. It’s the season of holidays, which means I’m usually too busy to get away this time of year. Lately, the economy has been a factor. And, as a Southerner, the thought of driving on icy, snow-covered roads is very intimidating. And yes, I’ll admit it, the fear of one of the kids (or, well, me) breaking an arm or a leg trying to stay upright on a pair of skis is definitely a concern.
Since I’m in the midst of creating my fantasy ski trip anyway, I decided to share some great ski and snowboarding locations across the country. If you live near one of these places, don’t just plan a trip – do it!
Aspen, Colorado is synonymous with “snow” and “ski.” This amazing location is breathtakingly beautiful and the perfect place to spend the day on the slopes. If you’re not into skiing, Aspen has beautiful shopping areas, top-rated spas, and a wide variety of restaurants to enjoy. Aspen Mountain is absolutely gorgeous and famous, drawing celebrities and world-class athletes from all over.
Lake Tahoe, California is another legendary ski area. I visited Lake Tahoe during the summer once, and it is a fantastic place. Little shops and restaurants line the pedestrian-friendly streets, and the mountains form a stunning backdrop. The crystal-clear lake is the second-deepest in the nation, making Lake Tahoe a great destination any time of year. This is literally Olympic-class skiing – the Olympics were held here in 1960. Mt. Rose, one of the highest elevations in the area, offers six very steep chutes -- 40-55 degrees steep. If that sounds more frightening than fun, Lake Tahoe also offers resorts, casinos, spas, shops, and restaurants.
Someplace a little less famous but definitely on my dream-itinerary is Bend, Oregon. This is not just a great place to go skiing and snowboarding – this little town has it all: hiking, rock climbing, trout fishing, white-water rafting, a historic downtown with shopping – including antique stores and farmers markets – and great restaurants. The stark, beautiful Cascade Mountains form a cocoon around the little desert town, giving it a somewhat isolated feel. Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort is a top-rated resort with amazing ski slopes – they also have beginner workshops, and they claim they’ll have me “out exploring” on my own after the two-hour course.
Park City, Utah looks like a great ski town. First of all, it is a truly spectacular part of the country, with tree-covered slopes against bright, blue skies and the most amazing downtown. The historic downtown looks like something out of a storybook, with elegant shops in brightly-colored, perky little buildings. There’s even a historic trolley cruising along the mountainous streets. If you can actually pull yourself away from this Norman Rockwell painting, the Park City Mountain Resort is a great place for snow-filled fun. They have something called an Eagle Superpipe – it is one of the largest half-pipes in North America. It was used during the 2002 Olympics for the first-ever snowboarding half-pipe competition.
Ready to strap on your skis and hit the slopes? Whether you choose Jackson Hole, Wyoming and its unique cowboy flair or the romance of Sun Valley, Idaho, great locations can be found across the country. Hang Ten! (Or whatever people on skis would say!)