Allow us to make an introduction: Meet Sweet Jane, our ski town advice columnist. Not her real name, also not that sweet. This sound advice originally appeared in the October 2017 (46.2) issue of POWDER.
Big Sky or Bridger, and why?
—Ron, Killington, VT
Oh, Ronny. Hasn't anyone told you that ski resort rivalries are bullshit? I suppose you think Killington is better than Stowe? Well, guess what—everyone thinks his or her home mountain is the end-all be-all, while simultaneously complaining the mountain is too busy and telling everyone else to stay as far away as possible. The best place to ski is wherever you are—or wherever it's snowing.
But since you're heading to God's Country, I'll ask you: Are you looking to ride the slowest chairlifts in the West or do you want to support a corporate behemoth for a chance to ski with the Kardashians? Big Sky is one of the largest resorts in the country and it provides: extremely gnarly terrain, chairlifts with heated seats, lodges around every corner, $14 Bloody Marys, hot tubs to poach, even sexy bearded men imported from Australia to scan your lift tickets. Sorry, if you aren't attracted to men, Ron, but it's 2017 and I can't assume you aren't.
Bridger is the opposite. The terrain is even more insane, but you have to take two lifts and bootpack a steep 400 feet to get to the money zone. There's $2 Montucky tall-boys that come with a raffle ticket, a ski patrol stacked with Montana's most badass women you don't want to mess with, and there's a high probability you'll witness an avalanche. And when the snow falls at Bridger, you'll be there with thousands of other college kids from North Dakota who all want to be the next Scot Schmidt. Either way, glad you're heading west. That's an improvement.
My new roommate is cool and all, but every time he meets someone, the first thing out of his mouth is how he spent last winter at Alta. All the time, it's Alta this, Utah that. It makes me and all our friends want to puke, and we call him "Utah Jack" behind his back. How can I nicely tell him to shut the hell up about Alta?
—Nicole, Boulder, CO
Your situation is bad, but it could be worse. Ever met anyone from Tahoe?
Dealing with someone whose entire identity is wrapped up in where they came from—especially if it was just for a season—is like dismantling a bomb. It's simple, unless you screw up. If you insult their home hill too much they will double their efforts to convince you otherwise. I made that mistake with my ex-boyfriend. I insulted Mount Washington, New Hampshire, one too many times and subjected myself to unsolicited lectures about how the East pioneered modern skiing and how Tuckerman Ravine is, like, so gnarly. Pass.
As far as telling Utah Jack to shut it about Alta, why don't you two sit in traffic and work out your differences? If there's anything you both have in common, it's that you know the struggle of sitting in bumper-to-bumper hell, whether you're on the I-70 or driving up Little Cottonwood Canyon. I'd start your conversation by asking, "If Alta is so great, why'd you move to Boulder?" and that should silence him, because I don't know why anyone would leave the Wasatch for the Flatirons.
I'm about to quit my well-paying job in the city to move to the mountains and be a real skier. Should I move to Jackson or Vail?
—Meg, New York City
Wrong question. If you want to be a 'real skier,' you should be asking: 'Should I move to Driggs, Idaho, or Crested Butte, Colorado?' These are the places where 'real skiers' live. They've got four roommates and a husky rescue crammed into a shack that hasn't been updated since 1980. They live paycheck to paycheck by running from the closing shift at the bar to the opening shift at the rental shop, and shovel a few Airbnb sidewalks between jobs for extra beer money.
But if you're moving from the Upper East Side and aren't quite ready to live in a garage, Jackson and Vail are great locations to find your NYC creature comforts. Jackson has a lot of art galleries, wannabe cowboy bars, and, surprisingly, lots of liberals. You'll find young guys who have never worked a day in their life and somehow own a ski-in, ski-out villa right outside the resort. Vail is similar, if you can afford $1,500-a-night rooms in the Vail Village and $40 lunches at the lodge. There's no subway, and don't expect the parking to be free.
Real talk: There's a way to live both lifestyles and still be able to call yourself a skier. Whether you pick Jackson or Vail, the corporate ski resorts rely on us 'real skiers' to polish up, get professional, and serve $60 entrees while giving oblivious tourists some textbook suggestions for their itinerary. We work over 70 hours a week, get over 150 days a year on snow, live in employee housing, and tread through glorified unemployment that we like to call off-season. You aren't on vacation, but you'll ski a lot more than you would in the city.