Category Archives: Ski School Tips

8 Top Local Ski Areas Untouched By Ikon and Epic

local ski area in NM

Has American skiing sold out? The pressure is on right now to choose Ikon, Epic, an individual area season pass or skip it altogether because you won’t ski more than five days anywhere. Decisions, decisions. Every month you put it off, the price goes up.

But epic liftlines, parking nightmares, crowded slopes make plunking down $1k+ unejoyable. If you’re sick of making up the cost of your cheap Epic and Ikon pass savings with a $24 frozen burger, $6 coffee and $1000 ski lesson then rethink how you ski and consider a pass to a mom and pop spot; untouched by corporate America. Brown bag it to these 8 local ski areas where pricing comes second to homegrown spirit and an unpretentious vibe. 

Where The Soul of Skiing Still Lives

Beaver Mountain, Utah

Beaver Mountain Trail Map

Opened in 1949, The Beav is the oldest continuously-owned family ski resort in the U.S. and a place that will always welcome families of all abilities. It’s run much the same way Marge Seeholzer’s father-in-law, Harold, had when he realized his dream for this Logan Canyon hideaway. The original warming lodge is today’s ticket office and you can find Marge still selling those tickets through the walk-up window. They may not cost $.25 anymore but at $60 it’s still the cheapest ticket in Utah.  A 2-hour group lesson with rentals and a beginner lift ticket will set you back $80. Inside the day lodge, a cheese burger with fries is $11.50 but feel free to splurge on the famous ​​Big Beav Double Bypass Burger (two patties, cheese, bacon and BBQ sauce) and fries. It may not be the biggest ski area around but with 800+ acres, four lifts, two terrain parks and a 1700-foot vertical drop there’s enough terrain for beginners to experts. They are even open for night skiing on scheduled days throughout the season. Even for non-skiers, there are miles of groomed trail systems, open spaces for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 

Powderhorn, Colorado

Let Aspen and Vail have the big spenders; Real Janes and Joes head to this Western Colorado gem on Grand Mesa, 50 minutes from Grand Junction. Powderhorn’s widely-spaced aspen glades offer some of the West’s best tree skiing, while the Mission: Affordable program provides beginners with three days of free rentals, lift tickets, and lessons. Non-skiing parents can watch their kids log laps from the lodge’s sprawling deck, where sack lunches are A-OK—though the aroma from the on-site smoker (and its locally-raised beef, chicken, and pork) makes Powderhorn’s BBQ seem more appealing than any PB&J. Day ticket from $79.

Snowy Range, Wyoming

Owned and operated by the Maddox family (and a small team of investment backers), Snowy Range keeps prices low with old-school amenities. Slow, fixed-grip lifts serve friendly runs suitable for beginners and intermediates. A small Nordic trail network makes it convenient to explore the snow-laden spruces sans chairlifts. You can find the trailhead at the northeast corner of the ski area’s overflow parking lot. A popular hangout for nearby residents—not just day-tripping lift-riders—the day lodge feels more like a community fish-fry than an impersonal resort. Its kitchen simmers up homemade chili and the taps feature local beers (really local, as the crowd-pleasing Virginia Pale Ale is brewed on-site). Day ticket from $49.

Red River Ski Area, New Mexico

Although little Red River changed hands a few times since opening in 1959, the Judycki family has been in charge since 1980. Uniquely located three and a half hours from Albuquerque and directly adjacent to the town of Red River, you’ll feel like you stepped back into a time when your parents took you on your first skiing road trip. You can smell the fireplace smoke and the boys in the bar. The town itself has year round recreation but at the mountain you will find an even split of the 200 acres between beginner, intermediate and expert terrain and snowmaking on 85 percent of it. The high elevation and low temps keep the snow of the southern Rockies light and fresh. The five lifts help you access all of that including a 1600 vertical-foot drop. Lift tickets are $98.

Bogus Basin, Idaho

If only we could make Park City Mountain a non-profit like Bogus Basin! Located 16 miles from Boise, Bogus became a 501 c3 is 2013 with all of the revenue invested straight back into the resort and the community. The board of directors are all volunteers.  Locals can park for free in the downtown lot and take a free shuttle straight to the mountain if the upper lots are full. The feeder resort may sound like it’s just for Boise locals but it beats its glitzy neighbor Sun Valley by 300 acres and sells tickets for half the price ($73). Inbounds, there’re 11 lifts, 2600 acres and an 1800 vertical potentially taking you to 40 percent black and double black runs but backcountry skiers drool for the extensive backcountry network just outside the ski resort boundary. Did we mention, there’s 175 acres of night skiing, tubing and a mountain coaster? Who needs corporate greed to get things done on a ski hill?

Mt Rose, California

We popped over to Mt Rose after an epic day at (BVR- Before Vail Resorts) Kirkwood many years ago. Had we not ridden a lift with a long-time local we might have missed why this little hill, 22 miles from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport with a base elevation of 8,260 feet, the highest in the Lake Tahoe region, is the hidden gem of California. Our local guide showed us up and down some of the best expert terrain we had played in that whole trip. The 200+ acres Chutes offers more than 1000 vert on 40-55 degree, north-facing pitches. With extensive snowmaking and that high elevation, Rose can open early and remain open when other Tahoe resorts struggle. To be honest, the Buser family tried to sell the resort in 2017 but didn’t get asking price so they decided to hang onto it. Lucky for all of us. Locals’ lift tickets are $99 but for visitors, tickets are on the pricey side ($155). However, they do have regular specials like 2-for-1 Tuesdays that make a side trip more realistic.

Montana Snowbowl

This Missoula ski area is that expert’s unicorn – relatively no lift lines, untracked powder even on weekends, 80 percent advanced and expert runs all for a $60 lift ticket. They only have three chairs and a T-bar but you can easily access all of the 950 acres and 2000 vertical feet. In itself, Snowbowl isn’t really a destination for out of towners but plan a roadtrip along Montana’s Powder Highway-Highway 93- and you will have the adventure of a lifetime. We’re talking Lost Trail, Montana Snowbowl, Blacktail and Whitefish Mountain Resort. 

Mt. Ashland, Oregon

Skier going down the mountain at Mt. Ashland.

When southern Oregon residents heard in 1992 that their beloved Mt. Ashland was folding, they spent a year raising $1.7 million to buy it and keep it operational. Now run by the non-profit Mt. Ashland Association, these slopes include a high-alpine cirque with steep chutes and bowls, but learners also find their wings. Families can carry sleds to the Grouse Gap toboggan hill, a half-mile walk beyond the resort’s back parking lot before heading back to the cityDay ticket from $64, free for kids under six and seniors 70 and older.

What are some of your faves? Leave me a comment below!

Your 2020-2021 Season Ski Pass and Covid Assurances

Kids and the Ski Utah Passport

If you’re anything like me when it comes to buying, you don’t pull the trigger until you have all of the factors laid out. But buying a season ski pass and Covid protection for 2020/21 is anything but simple.

The global pandemic and dictator of physical distancing swooped down upon us like the plague of the first born in the Ten Commandments; leaving ruined businesses and devastated economies in its wake. People bought a season pass expecting as usual to ski a full season and Covid left us with a useless pass two and three months early and no one to reimburse them for the loss. Yes, a ski pass is a contract. You pay the mountains and they promise to let you ski there. If they close, they shouldn’t be entitled to keep your money. Not all of it anyway.

Season Pass and Covid shut skiing down

Ultimately, most resorts and the megapasses like Epic and Ikon came up with a way to placate consumers and not lose their shirts in the process. They gave you a “credit” to use towards this season’s pass. Of course, they increased the price for 20/21 which offset your “credit” and minimized their loss. Plus, if you didn’t buy for this season, the credit is worthless.

It really makes one think about where you should be spending your money. Even with making a pros and cons list, you are left scratching your head and wondering, should you even bother with skiing this season? 

The ski landscape will be nothing like we’ve ever known. Long lift lines, strangers won’t ride on the same chair lift, cafeterias will be relative ghost towns, you’ll need to make some sort of reservation just to get on the mountain at most resorts and what was once a very social sport will feel isolated. And don’t get me started on the lack of après.

There is less than a month till ski season and, while the diehard skiers have made that commitment, here is some info that might help those still on the fence when purchasing a season pass and Covid is still around. These are the policies of the main season pass players along with any refund deadlines:

Ikon Season Ski Pass and Covid Coverage–

The Ikon comes with Adventure Assurance. If you don’t use your 20/21 Ikon Pass, for any reason, you will be able to defer the purchase price paid toward the purchase of a 21/22 Ikon Pass, no questions asked. You can decide anytime up to April 11, 2021 so long as you have not used your pass.

If you have used your pass but the destination you ski at closes due to Covid-19 you may get credit towards next year’s pass based on the percentage of days it was open. It all gets VERY complicated from here, unless you’re a math major.

The Ikon season pass is $1049 until Oct. 14, 2020. The base pass which has blackout dates sells for $749. For daily reservation policies, see the individual resorts.

Epic Season Ski Pass and Covid Coverage

Epic Coverage provides cash refunds for just about any reason- illness, job loss, injury and certain resort closures, including those due to COVID-19 based on how much you have used your pass. If you used your pass more than seven days, you are SOL. No refund for you! If you only skied three days you would get a percentage back, Again, math whizzes have at it. You have until April 4, 2020, to get your refund.

Also, the Vail Resorts season pass requires all guests to make a reservation to ski. Only passholders will be able to ski before Dec. 8, 2020. You can reserve up to seven Priority Reservation Days for the core season (Dec. 8 – April 4), and after that you can make more priority reservations as you use up the ones you have. You can make as many week-of reservations as you want and they don’t count toward those 7 priority days. The full Epic Pass sells for $999.

Mountain Collective Season ski pass and (no) Covid Coverage

For $489, you get two lift tickets to each of their 23 destinations and 50% off of the ticket window price after that. If you purchase this pass and back out before Nov. 16, 2020, you can get a full refund. After that, you are SOL. Their website mentions that they will “monitor the Covid-19 situation throughout the North American ski season and will make adjustments to our policies as necessary should Covid-19 significantly impact the operations of our member resorts” however, last season they refused to issue refunds or credits to passholders. In SPL’s opinion this is the worst pass option you can choose. Given the reality of COVID-19 shutting everything down after Nov. 16, you take a huge risk with your money.

Indy Pass      

The $199 Indy Pass covers 56 resorts across N. America. You get two tickets per resort then get 25% off additional tickets. The resorts are all mom and pop type places like Snow King and Beaver but if you live near one of these it would make sense to buy it and stay closer to home this season. Advance reservations are required and if you fail to cancel, it will count as one of your tickets. If things shutdown due to COVID you will get credit towards next season’s pass sla you have not skied more than 4 days.  

Powder Alliance

PA is an add on pass that’s free with your main season pass if that pass is one of the resorts within the Powder Alliance family. For example, if you have a pass to Bogus Basin, you get three free tickets to any of the other resorts in the collection.  Covid-19 contingencies are up to your home resort.

Ski Play Live TV Talks Covid Season Skiing

To hear more about what this ski season will look, like take a listen to this chat I had with Ski Writer and YouTuber Marc Guido-

Getting and Staying In Ski Shape


You planned your ski trip months ago; penned it into your calendar and swore you would start that pre-season ski conditioning back in August to be ready for five days of five+ hours on the hill. Where did the time go? You’re here already and it’s too late…

or is it?

Ski Conditioning

For those who show up to the mountain sans uber fit, although this isn’t ideal, you’re not a lost cause or prime candidate for soreness and injuries.

According to certified fitness coach and two-time Olympic mogul athlete Jillian Vogtli, if the fluffy flakes are already flying and you haven’t made the time to make your fitness a priority, don’t punish yourself – emotionally and physically. And don’t “hit it hard” assuming you’ll just have to ski yourself into shape, muscle tweaks be damned. You can do things to ease your way into your winter folly.


It starts with water. More important than that first gym workout, consider hydration. Water helps you adjust to the altitude and dry mountain clime so you won’t miss that first ski day nursing a pounding headache.

BTW, if you would rather not ski around with a large plastic water bottle, scope out the snack shacks and restaurants on the mountain at the start of your day so you know exactly where to grab a sip.

Prep For Altitude

Steer away from or cut down on the caffeine, alcohol and hot tubs. Instead, take a brisk hike or snowshoe to get the blood flowing or hop on a gym bike before suiting up for the day. When you pedal, use the full stroke so as to target both quads and hamstrings.

If you have more time, take a total body conditioning or Pilates class for core, hip and glute strength. “Many people see skiing as a lower body sport and think of it being all quadriceps,” says Vogtli. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of core (abdominals, obliques and back strength), strong glutes (butt) and abductors/adductors (inner and outer thigh).”

Don’t look at it is as “exercise”. Look out the windows and take in the beautiful Park City views; enjoy the moment. Appreciate the sense of doing as the locals do.

Next, make sure you stretch in your hotel room or gym before your first run and after your last. It will keep you from stiffening up. 

DIY Ski Workout

Do these tried-and-true exercises throughout your season if you hate gyms or don’t have one handy-

Lunge variations. Straight out, straight back, to the sides. Focus on a tall upper body with your knee tracking above your toes.

Forward Lunge

Photo by Rance Costa/Global Fitness Media

Plank variations. Balance on forearms, straight arms, lifting arm and leg together (i.e., right arm/left leg), side planks.

And don’t forget to stretch!


Jillian Vogtli is a Two Time Olympian in the sport of skiing and a Certified Fitness & Wellness Coach. For additional information and coaching, contact her at


How To Be A Ski Model

ski words

I have a secret. It’s more like a confession. I always wanted to be a ski model. I began taking ski lessons when I was 6 and because my family had a condo in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., we skied at least 20 days a season. I grew up idolizing those iconic skiers of the 90s and wishing I too had a cover shot in Powder or Skiing.

One day, while living and working in Aspen, Colo., I spied a group of one-piece clad chicks waiting on top of a mound of snow for a photographer below to signal to them. I watched them turn. They all sucked. So I skied up to the shooter and introduced myself. Soon I was hiking in a one-piece at 7 a.m. to get that perfect shot.

And I actually did it; convinced professional photographers to take my picture skiing; for a little bit. I did everything I could to meet the top sports action photographers in Utah and convince them to shoot me. After all, they didn’t have to pay me (it’s rare that a photographer pays their ski models) and I was willing to show up at first light and hike my butt off for that one turn wonder. I had a fun attitude, a decent sense of humor and a flexible schedule. Plus I was reliable. All I asked for were copies of the shoot (which most of the time I didn’t get). Some refused to even return my calls but a handful were terrific humans.

Back in the day… photo by Mark Maziarz

I was able to work with some amazing brands like Head and Obermeyer. But there was a little voice that made me feel like I was chasing a cab that didn’t notice my wave. Who was I kidding? I am a “pretty skier” but every time I had to step up for a blind launch off a cornice or wiggle through tight, steep trees, my stomach turned over. I feared that those around me would notice and that those not-so pretty skiers next to me took better pictures than I because they had bigger ugly balls. Still, I kept at it. I even wound up on a cover on #SnowcountryMagazine that my mom had permaplaqued. I got free gear, made great friends (Rich Cheski, Sherri Harkin, Rachael Hodson) but after 10 years, it was still me hustling and hucking for no pay and no workers comp.
I would wake up at 6 in the morning, check to see if the skies were blue and call down my list of photographers to see if they were going out to shoot. I would head out before the lifts opened, suit up in the clothes and gear that were given to me, hike (a lot), make a turn or two for the camera, then hike back to the spot and do it again. Be done by lunch. I had routinely given up epic powder days for this.

When you just can't take it anymore, you lie down and reevaluate your priorities
Photo by Ryan Freitas

Dreams Change

Then one day a light bulb went on. How could I be depressed about skiing every sunny day? I had begun to doubt my talent. I needed a photog to want to shoot me to prove to myself that I was a good skier! If I heard that other people were shooting but no one called me, it hurt my feelings. Fomo would set in.

And just like that I stopped making those phone calls, hunting for outside validation, and trying to stroke my ego. Instead, I focused on sharing my passion with others through writing and teaching; I nailed my PSIA level 3 cert. Bluebird days were for skiing not shooting. I didn’t go home deflated or sore. I went home knowing that I had a little money in the bank and had turned more people into skiers. I loved skiing again.

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Ski Model FOMO Still Exists

I wish I could say that I don’t care if I ever shoot. But the truth is, I enjoy being in front of the camera whether it’s on the hill or on set. I’m sure I’ll throw a mini pity party for myself if I miss out. Operative word being ‘mini’. I don’t have to have it all. Or at least I remind myself of that. LOL.

When something you love starts twisting you up inside and the long game doesn’t exist, you evolve. You aren’t quitting on a dream, you’re just realizing that your dream was flawed and needs tweaking.

Yesterday, while wrapping up a lesson at the base of Park City Mountain, a woman skied past me and said, “I just loved watching you in the bumps off Thaynes.” The irony was that I didn’t know anyone was watching me. I was just doing my thing and loving every minute of it.


How To Speak Skier: Snow Conditions

ski words

Ever wonder what the heck those ski bums are talking about when they say things like, “Yeah, I was expecting bulletproof but rode out the wave on 2″ of blower on top of cream”? You’re not alone. Like lawyers, doctors, and IT technical support, the industry has a lingo all its own. Ski words are another language.

Here is a glossary of most common idioms in a skier’s vocab used to describe snow conditions:

Powder a.k.a Blower
Cold, new, loose, fluffy, dry snow that has not been compacted.
Tracked up powder. Can still be fluffy but nowhere near untracked powder. 
Packed Powder
Powder snow that has been packed down by skier traffic or grooming machines. The snow is no longer fluffy, but it is still quite soft. Setting an edge in packed powder is easy, and skiing the surface does not make noise.
New Snow
Fresh snowfall that is too dense to be called powder, but isn’t quite Cascade Concrete.
This is an often-misunderstood snow term. When fresh snow becomes densely packed, it is hardpack. The snow has never melted and recrystallized, but has been tightly compressed through grooming, skier traffic, or wind exposure. You can plant a pole or set an edge in hardpack, and it is a relatively quiet skiing surface. Hardpack retains a white color, unlike frozen granular snow.
Frozen Granular
Snowsports folks often call this surface “icy”, but it is different from ice in many ways. Frozen granular is a hard surface formed when melted and refrozen snow forms granules that freeze together after rain or warm temperatures. Frozen granular is noisy to ski, but will support a pole plant or allow you to hold an edge. Frozen granular snow will often return to an easier-to-ski loose granular state after grooming. Frozen granular snow has a gray tint.Ice a.k.a Bulletproof Snow a.k. East-coast Powder
Not to be confused with frozen granular, ice is a hard, glazed surface created by freezing rain or large quantities of rain followed by sub-freezing temperatures. Ice will not support a pole plant, will not support an edge for most riders, and will chip when hit. Ice is generally translucent and may have a blue color.

New powder snow that has been blown into dense ridges by strong winds.

Windblown snow
A windy day can compact and drift surface snow, leaving an inconsistent skiing surface that can be either densely packed, keeping a rider on the surface, or leaving deep, soft drifts of heavy snow formed when snowflakes are damaged by strong wind. These are usually creamy conditions.

Strong winds can remove all surface snow, leaving an ice-like surface in wind-affected areas. It is hard to set an edge in windscoured snow.

Loose Granular / Sugar Snow 
This surface results after new snow thaws, refreezes, then recrystallizes. This is also created by grooming of frozen or icy snow.

Wet Granular
Loose or frozen granular snow that has become wet and soft after exposure to warm temperatures or rain. This is a fast, soft, easy-to-ski surface.

Corn snow
Corn is similar to wet granular in that it is composed of large, loose granules of snow that freeze together at night and loosen up during the day. It is a soft, fast and consistent surface to ski.

Breakable (or unbreakable) Crust
When rain falls on top of new snow, followed by freezing temperatures, a crust forms on top of the snow. The crust makes for inconsistent skiing conditions, as it may be breakable or not breakable.

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