Finding the perfect ski resort is like finding the perfect boyfriend--in many areas, the odds may be good, but the goods may be not-quite-right for you. Do you go for the one with the large...acreage...or do you opt for the one that everyone else has already dated? It's a difficult dance, one that takes years to master. Not to fret: There's the perfect ski resort waiting in the wings, patiently biding his time until you've gotten tired of the bad boy and realize that sometimes heated lifts aren't everything.
The First Love
My first love was Beech Mountain Resort in North Carolina. My parents took me skiing there when I was a toddler, but the real love affair began when I was in college. I visited Beech Mountain as part of a fraternity trip and strapped on skis for the first time in 15 years. The result wasn't pretty (the boys were great teachers for going straight and fast--not so good with turning or explaining how to stop), but I was enamored with the camaraderie on the slopes, the cute town of Boone and a crazy thing called snowboarding.
When I moved to Colorado, it was like leaving high school boys and finding the appeal of college boys. Lots of college boys. I was thrilled by the sheer number of and decided that I would try out as many ski resorts as I could, traveling to different states if necessary. After all, searching for the perfect match takes time and often the guy (oops, ski resort) that you're with might not be the right one.
The Boy Next Door
I moved to Breckenridge based on the online description of its historic main street and three peaks of skiing (when I moved there, Peaks 7 and 6 hadn't opened yet). Breckenridge was in my backyard and became the guy that lived next door that would borrow the vacuum cleaner before his mom came to visit. Breckenridge was comfortable due to its familiar runs and oft-ridden lifts. I learned a lot about myself as a skier on the slopes of Breckenridge.
I learned so much about myself as a skier that I became a snowboarder.
I loved Breckenridge, and while it still holds a special place in my heart, I knew that there were other--possibly cuter--boys to check out.
The Random Hook Up
It started as all good random hookups do. I was on a business trip to Idaho and had the opportunity to visit Schweitzer Mountain Resort, which is about 10 miles north of Sandpoint. I didn't know anything about Idaho ski resorts--I didn't even know that there were ski resorts in Idaho until I got there.
It had been a tough March--the snowpack was disappearing and Schweitzer had actually closed for the season. But then the snow came, magically erasing all of the brown bits and creating a fluffy, gorgeous scene that was the snowboarding equivalent of beer goggles. I was smitten. For that magical day (the resort reopened just for that day), I reveled in the knee-deep powder with hardly a soul in sight.
As is often the case with hookups, I haven't seen Schweitzer since. However, it's better this way--reality can never live up to the memory.
The Bad Boy
In every life, a bad boy must come. You know the one--he's tough and rough and probably spent some time in prison (or rehab). Your friends tell you that he's not right for you but you find yourself inexplicably drawn to his steep chutes, his rocky cliffs and that je ne sais quoi known as a coulouir.
Jackson Hole Resort was the bad boy in my life. I heard stories about the extreme terrain, the crazy nights at the Mangy Moose and Silver Dollar Saloon and I just had to see for myself. It took just one ride up the tram to realize that Jackson Hole actually lives up to its bad boy reputation. The snow is deep, the bowls are big and the opportunities to launch yourself off of a cliff are multitudinous. I gazed at the mountain and wished that I was hardcore enough, cool enough and crazy enough to impress Jackson Hole resort.
But I'm not. I realized that a Jackson Hole would never really satisfy my needs in a ski resort, but goodness, he's certainly fun to look at.
The Long Distance Relationship
If Jackson Hole is the bad boy in my life, Grand Targhee is his funnier, smarter and better-looking brother with an impressive 500" of powder a year. Grand Targhee is my long-distance boyfriend.
I love everything about Grand Targhee. I love the fact that there are only five lifts but the resort has what seems like unlimited terrain. He's supportive, not mocking or condescending. I've done some of my best riding there, carving up fresh powder on steep terrain, feeling like a badass the entire way. Of course, the Trap Bar is always there to serve up a few beverages along with the stories.
Like most long distance relationships, it's a frustrating one. When we get together, it's fantastic but the logistics of us staying together in the long run are just too difficult. We've made a pact, though--if we're both still single in five years, we'll marry each other.
The Friend of a Friend
There's always that one guy that you see at every party that's friends with your friends, but you never really get to see him in real life. Copper Mountain is that friend of a friend for me. I lived in Summit County for eight years and never rode at Copper. Sure, I would hear how epic the snow was and I would see the half pipe and beautifully groomed runs on my I-70 drive, but somehow Copper and I never made a connection.
I still look longingly at Copper when I drive by or when I see posts on Facebook, but we're still at that awkward we-know-each-other-but-haven't-hung-out stage. I still have hope, though. So, for now, I'll keep Copper as a drive-by crush until he gets up the nerve to ask me out. Or vice versa.
The One You've Got Your Eye On
Even if you're in a happy relationship, there's always someone that you have your eye on. Not in a cheating, duplicitous way, just in a, "hey, I've heard a lot about you and you seem really cool...we should hang out sometime."
Crested Butte seems to have it all: a great ski town, tons of snow, challenging yet accessible terrain and a laid-back charm that exudes confidence while avoiding douchebaggery. I'm putting it out there, but Crested Butte is one that I have my eye on. There's no harm in looking, is there?
I'm still in the search for that perfect ski resort relationship, but I'm confident that it just takes time and a lot of powder research. After all, that's why the multi-resort ski pass was invented.
This post originally appeared on the Liftopia blog.