Small Wonders: Cool Little-Known Ski Hills

by Dan Giesin | March 16, 2021

There’s an old saying that good things come in small packages.

Much the same can be said for ski resorts.

The United States is speckled with such ski hills, little mom-and-pop operations that cater to the local populace, have relatively inexpensive lift tickets/passes and generally have an old-fashioned vibe. They may not be on every skier and boarder’s bucket list, but they are both epic and iconic in their own way and deserve a look-see.

The following are a half-dozen such resorts, mostly family or locally run ski hills that possess a particular coolness factor that makes them extra special.

Magic Mountain

This southern Vermont hill (pictured above) revels in its throwback image, crowing that it is “virtually unchanged since the 1960s”. Though some modern amenities such as snowmaking and grooming can be found on portions of its 205 acres, Magic is well-regarded for its powder skiing, which doesn’t get too trashed as the resort has limited operations (Thursdays to Sundays and holidays).

Coolness factor: Magic has the feel of a classic Vermont ski hill, with narrow, twisting summit-to-base trails and plenty of tree and glade riding over its 1,500 feet of vertical served by three fix-grip chairs.

Mt. Baldy

Located just 20 miles from Los Angeles, high up in the San Gabriel Mountains, Baldy’s four lifts — all double chairs — serve a wide variety of terrain over 800 acres and Southern California’s biggest vertical of 2,1000 feet. Unlike some nearby resorts, this is a true skier’s/snowboarder’s hill, with topography and Mother Nature providing the biggest on-mountain thrills.

Coolness factor: Baldy is laced with chutes, cliffs and rock bands, making 60 percent of its terrain rated single or double black diamond.

Beaver Mountain

When the owner’s mother works the ticket window, you know you’re at a true mom-and-pop resort. And that’s the situation at Beaver, an 828-acre playground situated at the north end of Utah’s Wasatch range that’s been in the Logan-based Seeholzer family since 1939. Four lifts — all fixed-grip — serve the resort’s 1,700 feet of forested vertical.

Coolness factor: With an annual average of 400 inches of Utah’s No. 1 product, Beaver is a powder cache still providing face shots long after the resorts near Salt Lake and Ogden have been skied out.

Lost Trail

Straddling the Montana-Idaho border high above the Salmon River, Lost Trail — its name comes from the pass it sits on where the Lewis & Clark expedition got briefly sidetracked two centuries ago — is a delightful 1,800-acre playground with five double chairs providing access to two mountains in two states and 1,800 feet of vertical.

Coolness factor: The White House, an expert rider’s pocket paradise of chutes, cliffs, bowls and glades that doesn’t get all that skied out because Lost Trail is just open Thursday-Sunday and holidays.

Pebble Creek

Affectionately known as The Rock to long-time habitues, Pebble Creek is located in southeastern Idaho’s Portneuf Range about half-hour from Pocatello. It mostly caters to the  local crowd; indeed, its three triple chairs and single base lodge are often rented out on Tuesdays and Thursdays to church, civic and school groups, doctor’s offices and the like. 

Coolness factor: Pebble skis much bigger than its 1,100 acres and 2,200 vertical would indicate simply because more than half of its terrain is rated single or double diamond. And there is ample double-diamond side-country acreage to be sampled on the resort’s north and south boundaries.

Titus Mountain

Located in the northern Adirondack Mountains of New York about an hour or so southwest of Montreal, Titus is a very welcoming and friendly hill; after all, its official name says it all: Titus Mountain Family Ski Center.  It’s 200 skiable acres spread over three hills and served by six lifts are a paradise for the beginner/intermediate riders (62 percent of the resort’s 36 trails are rated green or blue and most of the advanced runs aren’t too challenging).

Coolness factor: Skibanas — Titus Mountain’s unique furnished, heated, slope-side huts with private washrooms that are available for daily rental.

Featured Resorts

More from the Blog