Through attitude, design or happenstance, some resorts strike skiers as more authentic than others. Here are six that deliver goods-each in its own way.
1 Alta, Utah
SOUL FOOD There's a difference between loyalty and obsession. But not at Alta. With terrific terrain, snow as dry as a perfect martini and a shamelessly retro attitude, it's the right place to find your inner skier.
STATS 2,200 acres; 2,020 vertical; 500 annual inches; 8 lifts; 0 snowboarders
CHATTER Alta may be the only resort that posts 13 years of snowfall statistics on its website-including water content and snow density. Braggarts.
2 Sugar Bowl, Calif.
SOUL FOOD Sugar Bowl boasts one of the finest racing programs in the nation and some of the deepest, least-heralded snow in skiing. (In 1998, 24 feet fell in February.) Home to the first chairlift in the state, the first gondola in the U.S. and an investor named Disney, the resort set the early pace for the industry.
STATS 1,500 acres; 1,500 vertical; 500 annual inches; 13 lifts; 4 peaks (including Mt. Disney)
CHATTER In the 1940s and 1950s, the Hollywood set often stayed at the Sugar Bowl Lodge while they waited for Nevada divorce papers to be finalized.
3 Howelsen Hill, Colo.
SOUL FOOD Proving that bigger isn't better, Steamboat's in-town hill has produced more Olympians (57) than any other ski area in North America. This little-engine-that-could boasts an FIS-sanctioned slalom hill, 20 kilometers of nordic trails and six ski jumps-all steps from a classic Western town.
STATS 30 acres; 440 vertical; 250 annual inches; 57 Olympians; 6 jumps; 3 lifts
CHATTER You can't call yourself a skier until you've witnessed the skijoring competition down Steamboat's main street during winter carnival.
4 Jay Peak, Vt.
SOUL FOOD Jay Peak is the Jackson Hole of the East, with its unforgiving terrain, hardcore attitude (performers, not pretenders, please) and signature tram. Crowned king by the East Coast cognoscenti but missed by the masses, Jay Peak is the insider pick of the serious Eastern skier.
STATS 325 acres; 2,153vertical; 351 annual inches; 8 lifts
CHATTER Jay is blessed: Western-size snowfall and some of the East's best glades to enjoy it in.
5 Hunter Mountain, N.Y.
SOUL FOOD Loud, brash and totally New York, "Hun-tah" is the antidote to ski snobbery. The mountain is steep and ledgy, its slopes mangled and moguled. Customers come to ski hard but not pretty. You got a problem with that?
STATS 240 acres; 1,600 vertical; 11 lifts
CHATTER The lifts open at 8:30 a.m., but the base-lodge doors are unlocked at 6 for the sports-section-and-coffee-while-putting-on-their-boots crowd.
6 Arapahoe Basin, Colo.
SOUL FOOD The average skill level among A-Basin skiers might be the highest found anywhere. Not coincidentally, Pallavicini, its signature run, is one of the toughest on the continent. And consider this: A-Basin is surrounded by world-class resorts, but guess where local resort workers ski on their days off?
STATS 490 acres; 2,270 vertical; 367 annual inches; 6 lifts; 1 very long season
CHATTER With its summit at 13,050 feet, A-Basin offers the highest terrain in North America.