I think of the suits in New York who hold Intrawest debt, and I wonder if any of them has ever ridden a snow bike, picked up trash, or cleared trays in the cafeteria. I wonder if they’ve ever watched several generations of kids learn to ski, grow up, and then get local jobs at any of their mountains. I wonder if they even ski.
It’s not that you can’t find great service and fantastic skiing at places like Whistler or Vail. You can. But there’s something different at these family-owned mountains. I think about the tallboys in the parking lot. The barrage of lift-line greetings. The guy in the bar who made room and the owner who made time to rip with me. It’s the all-inclusive vibe where everyone—from rookie cafeteria workers to longtime customers and tourists like me—is family. A small difference, perhaps, but a big one too. And then, done wondering and out of time because the lift is depositing me at the top of the mountain, I do what any true skier—or resort owner—would do, given the fact that it’s snowed more than 40 inches in the last 24 hours. I go skiing.
(This article ran in Skiing's 2010-11 Resort Guide)