Ski resorts often spring up in mountainous areas where once thriving mining communities gave way to devastating emigration and boredom. Skiing was often all these locales had left. Depending on their location however, tourism can transform ski towns into sprawling theme destinations. And quickly resorts realize that if they cater to children then parents will promptly flock. While parents sip hot totties fire-side in peace and leisurely cruise slopes, little Timmy and Sally can be kept out of trouble by Dora and Diego on skis.
Every once in a while we’ll stumble on a less common ski destination that seems oblivious to the draw of the activity elsewhere. Though resisting the spoils of popularity is getting harder and harder in an ever shrinking world. Only here are we reminded how great the sport is when experienced in it’s more pure form.
- Telluride, Colorado– It helps that Telluride is simply difficult to get to. This dead-end mining town was only kept alive by their skiing possibilities. With no room for expansion it has resisted the throngs of development for the most part but I don’t know how long it can be able to remain at the top of my list. The now idyllic grassy valley floor is being aggressively pursued by developers. A feisty contingent of preservationists have fended off the attackers with great success however and Telluride remains largely unchanged since its Victorian era golden age.
- Jackson Hole, Wyoming– Even though the town of Jackson has embraced it’s old west roots and exercised more kitch than I prefer it is quite true to it’s ancestry. This authenticity can nearly entirely be attributed to the local residents that continue to go about their business. It’s not rare to see cowboys moseying over actual boadwalks, dusty pickups with Blue Healers in the back and evidence of horse-back transportation on dirt roads. There are a number of surrounding burgs that are untouched by tourist dollars and the resort itself is just far enough away from town that it hasn’t developed as a gingerbread Alpine replica.
- Park City, Utah – Park City is quite different than the first two on the list. With such close proximity to a major metropolis and being a bonafied classic ski Mecca it is busy and rapidly developing. And hosting the Olympics doesn’t help. But even with all this, restrictions against chain businesses and other preservation efforts have left Park City relatively in tact. Amazingly, it wasn’t long ago that Park City appeared on a registry of American ghost towns.
- Breckenridge, Colorado – With the high traffic of Summit and Eagle counties towns like Frisco, Dillon and Vail have sprawled out with strip malls, gas stations and chain restaurants and no longer bare resemblance to their former days. But Breckenridge has somehow kept its original character and is still one of America’s first ski towns.
- Big Sky, Montana –Number 5 is where I started running out of ideas. I’ve heard great things about the original ski destinations like Sun Valley or Taos but I just haven’t been to them. Big Sky comes next on my list for the simple fact that it’s the destination you’re most likely to hit a deer driving to, that evening entertainment is a Bud at the bar with true locals and where breakfast is wild boar pate on toast. Even their local celebrity is everyone’s favorite redneck billionaire Ted Turner.
Up next: Charm