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Southwest skiing: lodes of fun.

Southwest Skiing: Lodes of Fun

The West is full of famous ski resorts--and many not so famous, which also have mountaintop views that stretch into neighboring states, snowfall that measures in hundreds of inches, and some of the best skiing in the continental United States.

But these lesser-known resorts stress their suitability for beginner and intermediate skiers and families: first-rate ski schools (some with a special emphasis on women or children); nonski activities that include spectator downhill racing, snow-sculpting contests, and torchlight parades; uncrowded conditions (save for the peak holiday seasons); an absence of ski freaks; and reasonable, if not bargain, rates.

Yet each has its own character: quiet fireside evenings, world-class restaurants, adobe buildings cloaked in pristine snow, or Victorian remnants of gold-mining towns. Their seasons range from Thanksgiving into April, a timetable with opportunity for all.

Telluride Ski Area: Trying to overcome an image problem as a preserve for the rich and expert, Telluride has made some changes, and now "you won't recognize Telluride today if you saw it five years ago," says the resort's Johnnie Stevens. "It was pretty rugged going back then." Now, he says, three-fourths of the 47 trails are dedicated to beginner and intermediate skiers, and six lifts have been built or relocated to come right into the ski village. Four times a year, Telluride's ski school holds Women's Week, designed for and taught by women. January visitors can see some of the best athletes in the country compete in the Men's Pro Ski Tour, and later in the month there's the annual Governor's Cup race, which attracts the likes of Daryl Hannah and Dennis Weaver.

Telluride is served by its own regional airport, five miles away, and Montrose Airport, 65 miles north, a commercial-jet facility.

Phone: 303-728-3856

Brian Head (Cedar City, Utah): A snowball's throw from Cedar Breaks National Monument in southwestern Utah, 25-year-old Brian Head bills itself unabashedly as a family ski resort. "Our most advanced run is really an upper intermediate compared to Snowbird or Vail or Steamboat," says Darren Hatch, business manager. "We like to think of it as 'no pain' skiing." But that doesn't mean the stay has to be a bore. You can take a four-hour drive to the north rim of the Grand Canyon or make it in less than two hours to Zion or Bryce national parks (barring extremely heavy snow). Cross-country tours of Cedar Breaks are available. At the new coin-operated course, four quarters enable weekend skiers to learn how they stack up against the national averages for age and skill level.

Phone: 801-677-2035

Santa Fe Ski Area (Santa Fe, New Mexico): Santa Fe is dedicated to "quality skiing without the ski-town environment or the hard-core skier." Translation: you have to commute from Santa Fe 16 miles into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for Santa Fe's predominantly intermediate skiing. Most of Santa Fe's destination skiers spend a couple of days checking out the sights back in the base city. The intermediate trails, wide and easy, are clear of trees and allow lots of turns. At "Chipmunk Corner," the children's ski school, Santa Fe takes children as young as three. It's a real ski school for young children--cnot a babysitting program," a staffer stresses--with instructors who specialize in teaching children. Santa Fe's winter festival, February 22-25, includes amateur ski races, fun races for children, a snow-sculpture contest, and gallery and museum tours in Santa Fe. The USA Express Jimmie Heuga multiple sclerosis charity event and the March of dimes Celebrity Ski Classic bring in the likes of TV's Alan Thicke and singer Marilyn McCoo. If you're crowd shy, the best time is after the Christmas-New Year holidays.

Phone: 505-983-9155

Crested Butte Mountain Resort (Mount Crested Butte, Colorado): Crested Butte takes some special effort to get to--either a flight out of Denver to the Gunnison airport, 28 miles away, or a long drive over some difficult roads. You'll spend the night, like it or not. Few skiers, however, express regret over the situation. Mount Crested Butte, the ski resort, and its namesake, the Victorian-era mining village of Crested Butte three miles down the road, occupy some of the most picturesque land in the Rockies and rank high among ski hto spots for dining, atmosphere, and luxurious accommodations. Yet "we are not a good resort for young singles," says ED Callaway, the resort's president. "The bar scene is not a real wild party. Unlike, that is, the skiing. If you're a great skier, fine. We have some real fire-breathing stuff for you," Callaway says. "It's so steep we can't get a machine on it to groom it." But about 80 percent of the mountain is for beginner and intermediate skiers. Crested Butte claims to have the biggest and most aggressive ski-free program in the United States. First-timers get free lift tickets, ski rentals, and lessons from November 27 to December 15. And with limited exceptions children under 12 ski free if an adult buys a ticket. Show up in late February for the vicarious thrill of the Subaru U.S. Alpine Championships, which bring the best downhill racers in the country schussing past your ruby-red nose.

Phone: 303-349-2333

Red River Ski Area (Red River, New Mexico): Such trail names as Cowpoke's Cruise and Gold Rush Hill marry this ski area, 170 miles north of Albuquerque, to the Old West. Almost everything is within walking distance of the main chairlift, which comes right into the old mining town. "Buckaroo Bob," a giant cowboy mannequin, watches over a children's area; the day-care operation, "Buckaroo Babies," takes children from six months to six years. Nearly three-fourths of Red River's 40 trails are beginner or intermediate, and it has the shortest, lowest, slowest, and "unscariest" chairlift in the Rocky Mountains. About 440 feet long, and rising 32 feet from bottom to top, it takes the fright out of that first chairlift ride.

The famous resort of Taos is an easy 37-mile drive south of Red River.

Phone: 505-754-2223
COPYRIGHT 1989 Saturday Evening Post Society
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Chaney, Dale
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Nov 1, 1989
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