“Whoever is having the most fun wins.”

I say that every time lift conversations veer into the territory of the age-old skiing versus snowboarding debate.

I find the topic intellectually vacant, its discussion fruitless. I’d rather stick my head in a tree well than rehash that tired argument. 

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And as is true about preferred modes of downhill travel, we tend to also have opinions on what makes one resort gnarlier than another: One is quicker to open the best terrain; the beer is cheaper at another; somewhere else the locals aren’t totally agro. 

I get it. Like movies, IPAs, and kids, we all have our favorites. And your reasons why are equally valid with another’s. 

Brad Eccles of Truckee, for example, prefers a mid-week Alpine Meadows day over all other options. 

“That’s when the crowds are down,” he said. “I’m fortunate enough to work from home and re-arrange my schedule for when the mountain is at its best.” 

Eccles relocated from the Bay, and believes he has a tip-up on lift-line competition. “I have a pretty good idea of when they’re going to show up,” he told Moonshine. 

Emily Setzer is a resident of Kings Beach, and she prefers to head over Brockway Summit to get in her turns. Sorry Northstar, Ms. Setzer shreds at Sugar Bowl. 

“It’s just not as crowded as the bigger name resorts and it has sweet powdery tree runs,” Setzer said, and she’s not wrong; I myself have often enjoyed carving up the glades and gullies off of Crows Peak chair. When operable.

James Paul lives in Truckee and his top choice is tackling the challenges of Squaw “… for the one time a year they open Broken Arrow,” he said. “When I ski elsewhere, I feel like a stronger skier. Everything else seems like baby-cakes.” 

Paul’s assessment seems on par with that of others I spoke to regarding resort preferences. Truckee-ite Lexie Lynn offered another anecdote in support of the idea that Squaw is not for the faint of heart.

“One of my more humbling moments at Squaw was when a 10-year-old girl on the lift up Granite Chief asked me, ‘Are you guys looking for any cliffs to drop?’” 

3-2-1, DROPPING: Decisions, decisions … A skier assesses the gnarly terrain of the Palisades at Squaw Valley, looking for that perfect line. Photo by Sarah Miller/Moonshine Ink

Lynn likes that Squaw offers progressively tough terrain. “Every time you conquer a new piece of terrain, there is another one to test your skills on,” she said. “Any time you feel you’re a strong skier, someone stronger skis past you. You can’t help but feel inspired.”

Inspiration is all relative, of course. Tahoe Donner’s runs may not challenge Lynn or Paul, but you would be hard-pressed to tell a smiling child who made her first turns on its mellow slopes not to be inspired. 

Rising between Tahoe and Reno is the unmistakable Mt. Rose, the surrounding wilderness of which is now a backcountry hotbed. But for those who prefer their fun lift-assisted, its namesake resort offers plenty of tough terrain in its Chutes, and has more than enough room for the rest of the crowd to pizza and french fry it up to their heart’s content. 

SKI BETWEEN THE LINES: Cruising through a creamy pow field at Northstar California Resort. Photo by Sarah Miller/Moonshine Ink

And while Mt. Rose has some lake views, they’re not quite the vistas offered by Homewood and Diamond Peak — alone worth the cost of a lift ticket. In town, Northstar’s backside tends to thin out the crowds and the cattle-crossing beginners. (No shame though, we were all there once.)

Of course, we can’t forget Boreal, whose team has done an excellent job leveraging location and the Woodward facility to lure in park riders and high-performing freeride competitors. The mountain’s variety of man-made features, off-highway access, and unwavering dedication to keeping downhill snowsports all about fun go a long way toward reminding us why we love living here. 

The respective dogmas underlying our choice of instrument or hill to ride them on are based largely on hollow opinion and stereotypes.

Ask me how I know.


Main Image Caption: SENDING IT: A hungry powder hound gets some good air at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe. Courtesy photo

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