Sweden for downhill daredevils
Riksgränsen is “where the sky and land become one,” said Christopher Solomon in The New York Times. The tiny, rustic village on the Swedish-Norwegian border offers some “unusual” views, mostly due to the “refrigerated, pale, polar blueness” that spreads in every direction. The barren snowscapes in this area, 130 miles above the Arctic Circle, seem the “very reason a word like ‘windswept’ was invented.” The town is a “fairly modest affair”—little more than a handful of “barn-red buildings” resembling teeny “red Monopoly hotels” amid the vast Arctic landscape. Don’t expect snow bunnies and lavish amenities; the first road here wasn’t built until 1984. The six-lift ski mountain still has only 15 marked and groomed runs, but skiers “don’t schlep here for the pistes.” What beckons them here year after year are the unexplored spaces in between—“cliffy, rock-chipped faces” marked by signs that read simply, “Avalanche Danger.” Riksgränsen’s season lasts well into June, when you can ski beneath the “midnight sun.” Starting in May, the lifts close at 4 p.m., only to reopen from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m.—or whenever the sun finally disappears behind the horizon.
Ogden, Utah: A tale of two slopes
Visiting Ogden is like having “Your Own Private Utah,” said William Triplett in The Washington Post. Located just north of Salt Lake City, Ogden became the “crossroads of the West” after transcontinental railroad tracks were laid through the area in 1869. While the small town doesn’t have the “same cachet as Park City,” skiers and snowboarders have long been attracted to its Old West charm. The unique mix of offbeat locals and affluent outsiders helps explain why its ski resorts reflect such different “powder personalities.” Snowbasin and Powder Mountain “might as well be in different states, if not countries.” Snowbasin is “an exercise in splendor” with top-of-the-line amenities and efficiency. The slope was the starting point of the 2002 Winter Olympics, and skiers flock here for the “ungroomed, deep-powder trails with nearly 3,000 feet of vertical” descent. Atop the 9,500-foot Allen’s Peak, skiers can catch stunning glimpses of Nevada, Idaho, and Wyoming in the distance. Powder Mountain, on the other hand, is the “picture of austere localism.” It isn’t as high as Snowbasin, but the terrain is “more spread out,” making its 114 trails seem endless. And there’s no snowmaking machinery: The powder on its 5,500 acres of terrain is “dumped only by clouds.”
California’s swanky ski town
Mammoth Lakes is set to become the “Aspen of the West,” said Hugo Martin in the Los Angeles Times. But for now, it’s still affordable. Located just east of Yosemite National Park, the booming ski town in the Sierra Nevadas is a short trip from any of California’s major cities. Each year it gets an average 33 feet of snow and “300 days of sunshine,” and the ski season lasts until July 4. Once a quaint town of local shops and mom-and-pop eateries, it underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation last year. Non-skiers can indulge at the resort’s “crown jewel,” a “European-style pedestrian hub” on Mammoth Mountain. Skiers can hit the “spruced-up” slopes and seven terrain parks, then give their bodies a rest in the “magma-heated” water of Wild Willy’s, a hot spring with a “hot tub–size pool.” For now all this “hedonism on the hill” is going for a discount: Starting in late April, rates for lift tickets on all 48 trails drop from $83 to $69 per day for adults.
Norway for cross-country explorers
Scandinavia is the “cradle of cross-country,” said Belinda Archer in the Financial Times. Geilo, Norway, nestled in a snowy valley between two mountain ranges, is a wonderland for those who prefer the horizontal style of skiing. Located about 155 miles northwest of Oslo, it’s been a frequent stop for international travelers since 1890. The region is a mere 2,625 feet above sea level, and its highest skiable peak, Havsdalshovda, is only 3,900 feet. The mountains are less an attraction in themselves than an element of the wintry scenery. Geilo is home to more than 135 miles of marked, well-prepared cross-country trails, each of which reveals magnificent views of untouched snowscapes “reminiscent of a sort of Norwegian-style L.S. Lowry painting.” Skiers glide past snow-capped hills, across “majestic snowy wildernesses,” through the woodlands of the Hardangervidda plateau, and along the banks of the “glorious” Ustedalen fjord.
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