Ski like a champ: Jonny Moseley’s top 10 ski towns
It’ll come to no surprise that Lake Tahoe, California, is ZOZI Guru Jonny Moseley’s favorite ski area. He did grow up there—and still calls it home—after all. Tahoe aside, we doubt you could guess all the nine other places that round out his top 10. Give it a try, and then give this a read.
1. Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
I am a Tahoe guy. Squaw Valley. Truckee. Tahoe City. It’s where I’m from, where I grew up skiing, so it’s definitely my favorite. Skiing is the backdrop to the whole area, and the reason skiing is great there is because you have a lot of vertical very quickly. Squaw, in particular, has two mountains—Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley—right next door to each other. Right now you can travel between the two by bus (or car), but plans are in place to connect the two via a base-to-base gondola, pairing a massive acreage of skiing right next to an incredible lake. In addition to top skiing opportunities, it’s just a fun place to hang out year-round. Pretty much anything you could want to do outdoors.
2. Zermatt, Switzerland
At the base of the Matterhorn, Zermatt is known as Europe’s highest altitude ski area, and there’s always some snow on the 14,693-foot mountain. I spent some time in Zermatt on the World Cup Tour, and the village is this majestic place with hay wagons pulled through the streets by horses. I love towns with no cars in general—Zermatt is old-school, and it should remain that way. I didn’t get to explore a lot of the skiing because we trained up there on a limited terrain in early fall, but everywhere you look there’s this amazing looming mountain, with a cable car to the top.
3. Telluride, Colorado
I have such a strong affinity for Telluride that my wife and I got married there (or maybe I have such an affinity because we got married there). It's the best of all worlds: 2,000-some acres of great skiing and spectacular majestic mountains cradling the town, which is tucked in the San Juan Mountain Range. Nice restaurants, a lot of cool residents who make you feel welcome. Festivals throughout the year. I’ve been going there since I was a kid, and sometimes people get down on its growth and change, but I’m not one of those people. I think Telluride gets better every year.
4. La Clusaz, France
We used to compete on the World Cup Tour in La Clusaz, France. I’d never heard people talk about it much before I started going there to compete, but it’s a cool town with great skiing. It's in the Alps and has all the slopes that you could desire, with plenty of vertical. It’s also the home of Edgar Grospiron, a famous freestyle skier who won the Olympics in 1992. He was kind of my idol growing up when I watched skiing, so not only is it a bit of an enclave for freestyle skiing, but it holds a special place in my heart.
5. Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
When Whistler gets snow in the winter, they can get huge dumps like Tahoe does and massive amounts of powder skiing, but you can also summer ski there and get practice time in on the Horstman Glacier. One of the most spectacular views is from the glacier looking down on these mineral green lakes. Whistler has a little bit of everything: mountains and forestland. Skiing and hiking and mountain biking, but it's also a little rowdy, with some raging nightlife. Whistler is also impressive because they’re on top of adding new elements. They built a killer skate park; when mountain biking took off, they built some of the best mountain bike trails in the world; and for freestyle skiers, they built a great water ramp.
6. Park City, Utah
Deer Valley Resort in Park City is the full package. Some people give it a hard time because they do things like take your skis off your car for you when you get there and deliver them to the slopes. But they’re all about the customer service, and I think that's awesome. Their staff members are some of the coolest people who have been there for the longest time. Deer Valley ownership takes really good care of their staff, and in return they take good care of the guests. And I like their runs. They have some really long, fun runs. Go there with sharp skis, and just go fast on some of Olympic Gold Medalist (and Deer Valley’s Director of Skiing) Stein Eriksen’s runs—every once in awhile you'll see Stein skiing. They have some good challenging runs as well, but that's not really what Deer Valley all about.
7. Girdwood, Alaska
About an hour southeast of Anchorage, Girdwood is home to Mount Alyeska. The area gets a ton of snow (average annual snowfall of 650 inches at the top) and skiing here is awesome for my type, because it has a lot of vertical, and it’s easily accessible via an aerial tram right to the top. The bonus about Alyeska is that when the weather is conducive and safe, you have some of the best heli-skiing in the world right out the back door. You can ski everything you see in the movies right from the hotel. And besides, the town’s got its own funk to it: It's the type of place where you’ll find caribou meat on the menu, and sometimes you’ll be in the bar, and everyone will clear out and run outside in the middle of the night to look at the Northern Lights.
8. Wanaka, New Zealand
The skiing at Wanaka’s Treble Cone (the largest ski area in New Zealand) is all above treeline, so it's a little bit different. You ski on a moonlike topography, and the scenery, which looks down the gorgeous Lake Tahoe-like, mineral green Lake Wanaka, is insane. The signature for that place is these huge naturally formed half-pipes. I can just spend days in there hitting all of them, cruising up and down the sides and getting little jumps. The area itself is very rustic. You're putting chains on every morning to drive up the dirt road. And then down in the small town of Wanaka, there are a lot of characters. You’ll be hanging out with a bunch of freestylers like me and some campers from Japan and some guys from the Norwegian Alpine Race Team there to train, and then of course you’ve got the local Kiwis, the farmers and such who are a funny and welcoming bunch and who generally just like to have a good time.
9. Hakuba, Japan
I’ve talked with probably five people in the last few months who have travelled to Hakuba just this year to ski. So while it may still be a bit under the radar, the word is getting out. Known as the Japanese Alps, the area features big mountains and great skiing, and an environment in which everything is just a little bit different. The trees have a different look to them; there's interesting wildlife walking around—they have this bear that they protect that walks under the chair lifts and looks like no creature you would ever see in our part of the world. Stay in traditional guesthouses called ryokans, and enjoy soaking in an onsen, their version of a hot tub but with naturally fed spring water. It's amazing. The Japanese people are great skiers, have a general love for ski life and culture. They're just fun to hang out with, and very welcoming and you feel it when you’re there.
10. Lake Placid, New York
Nothing quite compares to being at Lake Placid, New York, in winter. It’s like a Norman Rockwell scene in the Adirondacks. Back when I would go there to compete, us skiers would gripe about the cold, but as I’ve gotten older, I go there every year and I realize how awesome it is. It’s a pretty good-sized mountain with great vertical and if you're a decent skier, it's really fun. Bring sharp skis, and just ski nonstop, long top-to-bottoms. You’ll go super fast and rip. They’ve also got good moguls. The lodge for the ski hill is still the same one they had when they built the Olympics there, so it's got a lot of cool history. And then the town of Lake Placid is very quaint. It's just what you think of when you think traditional winter, which I guess I appreciate because I’m a California guy. We get snow at home, but out there it feels like hard-core east coast winter. It gets cold. Really cold. (And I kind of like that.)