Injury, dismemberment and death aside, nothing-and I mean not one single other thing-will ruin a perfect day on the slopes quicker than a crowd... except maybe a crowd that doesn't know how to ski.
That may seem bitter and sour and non-inclusive but rest assured, we're speaking from experience. We've broken equipment (and rented new stuff), we've been through less than perfect conditions and though we weren't there, we heard Jackson Hole ran out of Snake River beer that one time. Do we let that ruin our day? Hell no-well, the beer is pretty essential, actually.
For those who haven't yet had the horrific experience, a crowded ski slope is more aggravating than an LA traffic jam and a wailing baby on an international flight-combined. It's also extremely dangerous. There is a reason mountains outline responsibility codes, and it's not because they're bored. Dear guy parked on your butt in the middle of the run, did you not read it or do you just not care?
The reason for these codes is so everyone can share the mountain safely. That's hard to do when there are approximately 600,000 people on one trail.
Skiing and snowboarding are a lot like golf. Fringe sports with a drinking subculture, and do you know when it's best to play golf? In the late afternoon, when the players are drunk and the course is empty. Unfortunately, there is no designated time slot for snow sports so we're forced to battle the crowd-or are we?
If buying your own mountain isn't in your budget and you're not into skiing at midnight with a headlamp, than you'll need to break with the well-known resorts. We've got you covered.
#1 Mt. Rose-Reno, Nevada
Lake Tahoe skiing is world famous for its snow-packed slopes and incredible views; Mt. Rose is Nevada's best kept secret. A little known mountain technically located in the bustling city of Reno, Mt. Rose cashes in on the best of both worlds with unobstructed views of Reno's city life and Tahoe's lake. Its location makes travel easy for out-of-towners and the trails are divine. With a grand-total 1,200 acres and an 1,800 foot vertical drop, Rose rivals popular nearby mountains for a fraction of the cost and foot traffic.
#2 Schweitzer-Sandpoint, Idaho
Named on National Geographic's list of "Top 10 Emerging Ski Towns," and home to only around 7,000 people, Sandpoint is the definition of a hidden gem. Overlooking Lake Pend Oreille, three states and British Colombia, the views are almost as amazing as the flawlessly groomed runs. Sitting at 2,400 vertical feet, on 2,900 privately-owned acres, the 92 trails and back country terrain won't likely be a ski secret for long.
#3 Mauna Kea-Big Island, Hawaii
Hawaiian for "white mountain," Mauna Kea is somewhat of a contradiction, as it is actually a volcano that only occasionally gets enough snow for skiing and boarding. Be warned: only those looking for extreme adventure and novelty should make the trip; this is not your average ski vacation. There are no lifts, there is no resort, and the snow is completely natural and ungroomed. You'll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get you to the top of the mountain which sits at almost 14,000 feet above sea level. Once on top, the air is extremely thin so prime physical fitness is essential for a safe trip down. Add to the mix a strange snow texture, steep sections and snow cover that sometimes ends abruptly. You won't want to fall on this run, as there is no grass under the thin layer of snow-just hardened lava.