The Best of Both Worlds

Skiing in Shorts
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It's your dirty little secret—your friends rhapsodize about the object of their passions, and you change the subject; a chance to consummate your own affair arises, and you make excuses. Alone, in private moments, you are prone to asking an agonized question: "What's wrong with me?—I love to ski, but I HATE the cold!" Fear not, all ye closeted sun-loving skiers and boarders, reprieve is at hand. If your holy grail is not chest-deep powder but a day on the mountain sans outerwear, take note of the following sun-drenched ski hills.

Taos, New Mexico
Perhaps the best place in the country to be you is Taos Ski Valley. Although the northernmost fingers of the Sonoran Desert don't quite reach into the fastnesses of the Sangre de Christo Mountains, Taos is pretty far south. Ski country just doesn't get much balmier than the deck of the Hotel St. Bernard in mid-afternoon, where everyone soaks the rays while watching exhibitionists crash and burn on the bumps of Al's Run.

Jackson Hole, on the other hand, seems an unlikely place to get a ski tan—it's as big-mountain as skiing gets in the United States. But in good weather its largely wide-open, treeless bowls and chutes can be very friendly to the circulation-impaired; unlike most ski areas, Jackson's skiable terrain faces east and even south, giving early-morning snowriders some warming sunshine instead of a deep freeze.

Park City, Utah
Utah's Wasatch Front ski areas have long lain undisputed claim to "The Greatest Snow on Earth," but Park City also stands out as a potential bonanza for T-shirt-clad strong intermediates. While Alta and Snowbird to the west are set into canyons, Park City sits more of a broad valley that gets good exposure; its base elevation is also about 2,000 feet lower than you'd find in the Rockies.

Arapahoe Basin, Colorado
Through the deep-winter months, Arapahoe Basin is no place for the uninsulated—its 13,050-foot summit is the highest in-bounds ski terrain in the country and the entire area has a wild, alpine feel. Just as ski season is winding down elsewhere, though, it finds another gear at A-Basin. Up this high, the snows can hold on into July or even August, and the truest believers, the ones who can't bear to put away their boards, flock here every year for the world's biggest spring-skiing party.

Sierra Nevada, Spain
Almost surely the best bet anywhere for shorts-weather skiing in mid-winter is Sierra Nevada, just a half-hour's drive into the mountains above old Granada on the perpetually warm Spanish Riviera. The dry climate makes it likely you'll be able to peer from the mountain's summit over the Mediterranean to Morocco, and then you can strip down for some relaxed carving on this very mellow cruisers' hill.

And there's always one solution for you unwavering hard cases, who can't abide even a slight nip in the air: "Carving the toothbrush," as writer Mike Finkel has observed the Brits referring to their country's artificial-slopes-only skiing. Our particular recommendation? Who could resist a ski hill called Llangrannog Ski and Snowboard Slope? It's in Llandysul, Wales.

Stubai Glacier
High above the heart of the Europe squats a massive sheet of ice thousands of years old—the Stubai Glacier. On those rare times when the snow gods fail to dust the Austrian Alps with enough white stuff, all roads lead to Stubai, where the skiing is always good, every day, every month, every year. When hikers are trekking across sunny alpine meadows in mid-summer and tourists are quaffing weissebiers in the heart of nearby medieval Innsbruck, skiers in shorts are sliding down the sides of Stubai. Austria boasts more than 600 skiing areas—more than any other country, but Stubai stands alone in its Spartan single-mindedness. Unlike many of its posh competitors, there are no saunas, no Jacuzzis, no outdoor heated pools, no ice rinks and no hotel rooms. People come here for one thing and one thing alone: to ski, whenever they feel like it.— J. Wouters

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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