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North Dakota Ski Area Guide -- Very Complete
- Bears Den Mountain, Ft. Ransom • 30 skiable acres on 290' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 1190'; Base elevation: 900'. 3 Lifts: 1 double chair, 1 t-bar, 1 magic carpet. Uphill capacity: 2500/hr. Terrain Mix: 25-50-25. Longest Run: 2000'. Season: usually December to mid-March; Wed, Fri-Sun, holidays. Night skiing W & F. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 35". Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Formerly Fort Ransom Ski Area. Great little ski hill with uncrowded slopes. They pack in something for everyone: Groomers, terrain features, ungroomed slopes, tree skiing, narrow trails and wide open slopes. This place is really a hidden gem. Beautiful prairie surroundings.
- Bottineau Winter Park, Bottineau • 40 skiable acres on 200' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 2080'; Base elevation: 1880'. 5 Lifts: 1 triple, 2 t-bars, 2 handle tows. Uphill capacity: 2500/hr. Terrain Mix: 40-40-20. Longest Run: 1200'. Season: usually late November to late March, Thu-Sun. Night skiing. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 18". Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Calling itself "The Jewel Above the Prairie," Bottineau is a smallish but pleasant ski area. Not much here to get your blood pumping, but decent skiing considering this is North Dakota. Seldom crowded, cheap tickets, quaint 60's era ski lodge. The triple added a few years ago, along with the always efficient t-bars keeps things moving, although there are rarely enough bodies to move.
Signature Trail: Al's Run .
- Frostfire Mountain, Walhalla • 30 skiable acres on 350' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 1350'; Base elevation: 1000'. 3 Lifts: 1 triple, 1 double, 1 rope tow. Uphill capacity: 2600/hr. Terrain Mix: 25-25-50. Longest Run: 2600'. Season: usually late November to late March; Fri-Mon. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 35". Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Located by the Pembina River Gorge, this is a beautiful, remote, get-away-from-it-all kind of place. Uncrowded, plenty of snow, unfortunately can be icy at times. Takes hits for being small, but if you want big, you've got to head a little further west. Really a spot for developing skiers, but not much else.
Signature Trail: Prairie Smoke.
- Huff Hills Ski Area, Mandan • 80 skiable acres on 425' vertical
Specs: 2 double chairs. Uphill capacity: 1600/hr. Terrain Mix: 40-50-10. Longest Run: 2600'. Season: usually late November to late March; Thu-Sun & holidays. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 40". Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Tends toward low ticket prices, small crowds. Liftlines can get long once in a while. Nice hill, scenic; a pleasant if somewhat easy day of skiing.
Signature Trail: Liftline.
Best all-around Skiing Guide for Women...
Mom has a pretty raw deal on the average ski trip. They're expected to make sure every child is geared up and ready to go...settle the arguments, feed the family, prepare the snacks, pack the chapstick, and so on...and then ski the black diamonds with dad after the second lesson.
The book, Skiing: A Woman's Guide by Maggie Loring and Molly Mulhern Gross ought to be mandatory reading for every ski mom. It not only provides the basics for managing the gang, it also gives a step-by-step instructional guide from a woman's point-of-view. This link is to amazon.com, where you can usually pick up a used copy for about two bucks. Mom, it's the best two bucks you'll spend all winter.
Hotshots are skiers who can ski anywhere, anytime, in any conditions, and generally enjoy showing off those skills. Wanderers are skiers who like to go exploring, to essentially get "lost" and move from face to face, seldom skiing the same trail twice. Newbies are the girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband who has never skied before, but gamely insists on going along. Obviously, Blues represents intermediate skiers, while Blacks refers to experts.
A note about ski area statistics: Although it's hard to believe, some ski areas are (gasp!) less than truthful with their numbers. Like the guy who lies about his, uh, shoe size, some ski areas believe that inflated numbers make their resort sound more appealling. When these numbers are obviously questionable, we put a note: (?!) and will attempt to verify the legitimacy of the claim.
A Signature Trail Is mostly subjective. Whether it's history, reputation, the view, or degree of difficulty...it's the run you have to do, even if it isn't necessarily the best the resort has to offer. If a ski area calls a trail by two names (one at the top, and another at the bottom) in an effort to claim more trails, we go by the upper name. If a trail is called "Upper Whatever" and "Lower Whatever," we simply list it as "Whatever" in this index.
Use this to get Lift Tickets at Discount: There is a "clearinghouse" of sorts that many ski areas use to raise cash by selling discount tickets in advance, called Liftopia . If you haven't used this service, it is important to know for certain that you are going on a specific date. The deeply discounted tickets must be purchased in advance; generally up to two days out. The sticking point is that some ski resorts only make a limited number of tickets available to Liftopia for any given day, so they might be sold out if you wait too long...so, as soon as you are absolutely, positively sure that you will be skiing on a certain day, click this link to get deeply discounted tickets . I've used this service many times, but again, ONLY when I am absolutely certain I will be skiing on a specific date. You need to have access to a printer to print out your receipt, and you have to take identification with you to the mountain. I've knocked a third off the price of some tickets. Not every area participates, but it's well worth checking if you've got a date nailed down.
A tiny portion of your Liftopia purchase helps fund this website, at no added cost.
If the ski resort business interests you, I strongly recommend a book by Hal Clifford called Downhill Slide: Why the Corporate Ski Industry is Bad for Skiing, Ski Towns, and the Environment. It provides an inside look at the marketing logic behind clocktower villages, and the dubious practices of the US Forest Service that enables these resorts to be built. Fascinating reading.
Did you ever feel like those big money ski movies are often a big let-down? You get all pumped up for the new release from some ski film company, and it's mostly incredible footage of guys jumping out of helicopters and shredding down some un-named mountain on the far side of the globe. They're neck deep in powder, skiing lines that you'll never, ever see. If you want ski movies you could actually relate to, a bunch of guys called The Meatheads, from Burlington, VT have made a series of "Ski The East" films. They film at real resorts like Sugarloaf, Blue Mountain, Big Boulder, Mount Snow, Ski Sundown, Stowe, Jay, Mountain Creek, Killington, plus some backcountry New England stuff, as well as a few urban locations. It's simply fantastic -- and since it's the same terrain we can get to, it's inspirational!
Their most recent release is Wild Stallions, although the one that is probably their best is from a year ago, called Head For The Hills. Both DVDs have hours of "bonus" footage, so it's like getting three ski movies for the price of one. The links go to Amazon.com, which enables you to order and return if you don't like them. And a small percentage of the sale helps us pay the expenses of this website, at no extra cost to you.
Here's a preview, courtesy Youtube...
Masthead photo courtesy Bears Den Mountain.