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Ski Town Secrets: The Rockies

THE ROCKIES

ALTA, UTAH
The well-worn wooden benches at the Sitzmark Club (801-742-3500) give it a character all its own. This timeless skier's lair, located upstairs at the Alta Lodge, is the perfect place to lounge by the fireplace or to watch the sun set over the legendary mountain while sipping a local concoction.

ASPEN, COLO.
When in Aspen do as Aspenites do and head to the Yoga College of India (970-925-7276) for a round of Bikram "Hot Hatha" yoga. The new local rage requires you to perform intense yoga postures in a 98-degree humid room. Newly limber, tackle Steeplechase on Aspen Highlands before heading to Cloud Nine (800-525-6200). This rustic hideaway-reminiscent of a classic European mountain refuge-serves an haute cuisine lunch and has a smart wine selection. Linger over the banana caramel crepes-they're worth it.

BANFF, ALBERTA
Thank God for demanding Japanese tourists. They're the reason that the best sushi and sashimi this side of Kyoto can be found at The Samurai restaurant (403-762-2211) in the Banff Springs Hotel.

BEAVER CREEK, COLO.
Celebrate cocktail hour where it is elevated to an art form-at The Hyatt. Grab a chair and a blanket, and warm your feet by the slopeside circular fireplace while sipping a Schnapps. Or head to the new Overlook Bar, where oversized leather armchairs, sofas, a fireplace and a glass of fine bubbly make for prime viewing of the ice rink.

BIG SKY, MONT.
Trailblaze on Moose Tracks, Big Sky's first snowshoe trail. Tucked between Andesite and Lone mountains, the 4-mile route starts at the ski area base and quickly delves into the trees, following a streambed. In the words of the local who divulged this secret, "You'd never know it was there unless you asked, and even if you asked, you might not find it."

COPPER MOUNTAIN, COLO.
Greet the day at Lizzie's Bagelry and Coffeehouse. Lizzie serves up a steaming cup of Joe and a bagel for only a buck each. Plus, her extensive collection of classic novels, current magazines and jazz CDs are yours to peruse-just don't touch the stereo.

DEER VALLEY, UTAH
The best-kept secret in Utah is the tree skiing at Deer Valley. Yes, the resort that's known for brilliantly groomed corduroy cruisers actually has a private powder stash, one that locals who terrorize Little Cottonwood Canyon or Jupiter Bowl at Park City rarely ski. It's the savvy hardcore types who come to Deer Valley four days after a dump, knowing that even not-so-hidden stashes are untouched. Follow the crowd wearing duct-tape, not Bogner, or check out the "Expert Only" trail map.

PURGATORY, COLO.
If you want to be closer to heaven in Purgatory, book a room at the Apple Orchard Inn (800-426-0751). Set on five acres, the inn has four guest rooms in the main house as well as six cottages, some of which boast woodburning fireplaces and Jacuzzis. Located in the scenic Animas River Valley, 8 miles from Durango, the inn's elegant country decor has strong European touches. While there are five herds of elk moving through the valley, it's the mule deer outside the dining room window that command attention.

SKI APACHE, N.M.
Inge Cahill, a bartender at Ski Apache (505-336-4356), will not only fix you a stiff drink but can also custom-knit you a warm, great-fitting, good-looking, chamois-lined ski hat. Cahill has outfitted many of the groomers, snowmakers and Apache locals with similar lids.

STEAMBOAT, COLO.
The opening of the new ski-in/ski-out Sheraton "Morningside" (800-325-3535), a deluxe 23-unit condo tower, is just one example of why Steamboat is now attracting a more upscale clientele. Its appeal is in the subtly extravagant details, which include such luxuries as granite countertops, leather sofas, gas fireplaces and a private rooftop hot tub deck. An exclusive concierge can arrange lift tickets, sleigh rides, aand just about anything else you desire.

SUN VALLEY, IDAHO
A sleigh ride whisks you to the Trail Creek Cabin (208-622-2135), a 1937 log-and-stone charmer where the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Ava Gardner and Gary Cooper preceded you in the pursuit of barbecued ribs, trout and prime rib.

TAOS, N.M.
Long on tradition and short on finery, The Bavarian (800-776-1111) is one of ski country's most authentic ski lodges. Located at the base of Kachina Peak, it serves imported beer and hearty German fare and has soft benches that face the mountain. Book one of the four rooms and walk less than 50 feet to the Kachina lift.

TELLURIDE, COLO.
Holly Sergeant (970-728-0282) offers coveted LaStone therapy in a town where massage is high art. She heats the rocks in water and then uses them to warm the muscles she's working on. Once you're relaxed, head to the Cosmopolitan restaurant at the Hotel Columbia (800-201-9505) and relax some more. Chef Chad Scothorn serves some of the most innovative food in the West. A favorite is the black risotto with sea scallops, carrot sauce and Parmesan crisp.

WINTER PARK, COLO.
It's tiny and it's packed, but the Moffat Bagel Station (970-726-5530) in Park Place Center has the best bagels this side of Central Park West. Après-ski, quench your thirst with a pint of Mary Jane Ale at the Club Car.

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