Crested Butte(1) vs. Steamboat(8)
In the entire illustrious history of the Ski Town Throwdown, not one representative has been able to repeat as champion. Fresh off filming the weirdest beer commercial in history, Crested Butte will get that chance, and it will be up to Steamboat to stand in their way. Colorado's Last Great Ski Town has Mother Nature's supreme blessings heading in, proving that trading core shots for face shots is the key to a successful run in this tournament.
Steamboat has elected to stop picking on Ski City U.S….err…Salt Lake City, and focus its snow guns on this classic in-state rivalry. The birthplace of champagne powder (I didn't know you could give birth to a word, but after a night of partying at the Tugboat, I guess anything is possible), Steamboat keeps its goods in the woods, and an upset may be brewing somewhere in the belly of Christmas Tree Bowl. Can Whatever U.S.A pull it out over Ski Town U.S.A.? Let’s get throw'd!
Bozeman(4) vs. Telluride(5)
After attempting solo careers, Bridger Bowl and Big Sky are once again united under the Bozeman flag hoping to rekindle some of the magic that they experienced during their dream run in the inaugural Throwdown in 2012 (Bozeman took second overall). The reunion adds some spice with the addition of Moonlight Basin and all of the Headwaters goodness that comes with it, and the Bozos have organized cold smoke dances on every one of the Four Corners (yeah, even at the gas station/casino/truck stop).
Telluride is hoping that its cowboy legacy will be enough to ride off into the second-round sunset. Telluridians know it takes a special type of giddy-up to charge Gold Hill Chutes on a blustery January morning, but that's the type of determination they'll look to bring to the digital voting booths. The southern Colorado resort has a little bit of momentum heading into this matchup after a pre-season victory over the U.S. Forest Service reopened Telluride's legendary Bear Creek backcountry zone.
Aspen(2) vs. Jackson(7)
Aspen Jackson. I like the ring of it. Kind of sounds like the next 12-year-old triple-throwing grom or the ski-based sequel to Johnny Tsunami (yeah, I went there). Unfortunately that name combo won't get much time to marinate, as one of these mountain stalwarts will be sent packing early. Between the Alta Chutes and the played-but-still-friggin'-scary Corbet's Couloir, Jackson hosts some of the sportiest inbounds terrain anywhere, and has access to some of the most iconic backcountry just beyond its gates. But the Jackson secret is out, and with increased crowds and the installation of a lift next season to the top of The Crags, powder is getting a little harder to come by—a factor that could be the undoing of the Teton titan.
Aspen is an intriguing pick, a resort that may seem Colorado glam on the surface, but is also home to a straight-ski revolution and the one and only Party Mountain U.S.A. Aspenites haven't been able to pull out a win in two years of competition, but rumor has it that a hike up Highland Bowl decreases motor function just enough to make mobile voting impossible. Or maybe that was the Bear Fights at the Red Onion. Yeah, it was probably the Bear Fights.
Sun Valley(3) vs. Alta/Snowbird(6)
This Sun Valley-Alta/Snowbird match-up is like watching Sammy Davis Jr. song-battle Frank Sinatra at Radio City Music Hall—just an absolute clash of classics. On the one hand, we have the smooth operator, Sun Valley, a quintessential ski hill in the original ski town. On the other, Alta and Snowbird hit (chest) deep notes like only Little Cottonwood Canyon can.
So how do you pick an icon over an icon? How do you choose between Challenger laps and shots off the High T, between a bloody at Apple's and a shotski at the Peruvian, between the birthplace of POWDER and the birthplace of…well…powder? It's not easy, these things never are, but just like there is no crying in baseball, there are simply no ties in Throwdown.
(Voting is closed. Congrats to Telluride, Steamboat, Aspen, and Sun Valley for advancing to the Sweet 16.)