The newest buzzword in the travel vocabulary is "staycation." It means staying home and still doing the things one loves to do. That's difficult for skiers and riders who don't live in tiny mountain towns and villages.
OnTheSnow.com's 17 regional editors, based in alpine regions around the world, have selected 10 excellent ski and snowboard options, all within a tank of gas, from a metropolitan area. That's staying, at least, close to home and still indulging in a favorite sport.
1. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Wasatch Mountains are so close to the city that skiing and snowboarding are a birthright shared by locals and visitors. The Park City resorts of Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, and The Canyons are a 30-minute drive. The Cottonwood Canyon resorts of Snowbird, Alta, Solitude, and Brighton are only 45 minutes away. Sundance is an hour, and one tank of gas will get you to Powder Mountain or Snowbasin and home. No reason to go anywhere else with the Wasatch as your backyard.
2. Innsbruck, Austria: Are you are lucky enough to call Innsbruck home? Then you live in a virtual skiing and sports embarrassment of riches with 300 miles of ski trails in 25 villages. Even better, they are all interconnected by a free ski bus system. Culture, history, and skiing combine to make a fine staycation. Axamer Lizum is a fulfilling ski area. It's about a 30-minute drive from downtown. Night skiing awaits at Mutters and Igls. Patscherkofel is close by, as is the Stubai glacier for summer skiing and boarding and Seefeld, a superb cross-country venue.
3. Denver, Colorado: Winter Park Resort always has felt like Denver's "home base" for skiers and riders, but never more so than now. The venerable resort is 70 miles (about 90 minutes drive) from downtown. A fun way to avoid the car altogether is to ride the Train from Union Station. Other good bets on the Denver side of the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 are Arapahoe Basin and Loveland. Live in Boulder? Eldora is "home."
4. Rome, Italy: The San Grasso region, east of Rome, means skiing and riding at Campo Felice. The area is 116 km. from the city, about an 80-minute drive. The resort provides varied skiing and snowboarding experiences, and there are a surprising number of challenging pistes. The weekends get crowded, but there are 16 lifts. There's not much nightlife at Campo but, after all, home is Rome.
5. Albuquerque, New Mexico: Sandia Peak is just nine miles off I-40 on the east side of the state's largest city. It's famous for its 2.7 mile-long tramway, one of the longest in the world, taking tourists and locals alike 11,000 feet over the canyons to some quality skiing and boarding. Intermediates love the long cruisers. Live an hour away in Santa Fe? Santa Fe is merely four miles away. How close can you get?
6. Vancouver, British Columbia: Cypress Mountain is 30 minutes from Downtown in the North Shore Mountains and is served by four quad chairs. Add snowtubing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing to the mix. Freestyle and snowboarding events at the 2010 Winter Olympics will be staged here. Smaller Grouse Mountain is 15 minutes from home and, while it can get crowded, two high-speed quad chairs can move the traffic along. Whistler Blackcomb, among the finest resorts in the world, is just 70 miles away, about a two-hour drive, and less than a tank of gas.
7. Boston, Massachusetts: Wachusett Mountain is one of the most accessible areas close to big metros (1 hour from Boston; 1.25 from Providence; 1.5 from Hartford, and 20 minutes from Worcester). This family-owned gem is 2,006 feet high, but still gets help from the resort's "Department of Mother Nature" to assure good conditions. Try the Train from Boston's North Station to Fitchburg and grab the free shuttle to and from the lifts and forget the car.
8. Los Angeles, California: There's a reason Mountain High has become one of the nation's most visited "close to home" areas. It's 1.5 hours from Downtown L.A., and 75 minutes from Orange County. Even San Diego is but 2.5 hours south. But here's the rub: There's no mountain driving involved. The resort is as hip and board-oriented as it can get, offering three distinct riding (and, ok, skiing) experiences.
9. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Buck Hill is so nearby that skiers and snowboarders feel like they can toss a snowball from their car window on I-35 in the suburb of Burnsville and hit the slopes. It's no slouch in size, either, with 11 chairs and 15 runs. The little area churns out U.S. & Snowboard team racers, boarders, and freestylers. Another choice close to home is Hyland & Snowboard Area in Bloomington.
10. San Francisco Bay Area, California: Family-owned Dodge Ridge is a popular pick for families living in California's Central Valley or Bay Area. The area averages between 300-500 inches of snow each season. The Family Lodge that opened last winter is a plus. Terrain is ideal for beginners and intermediates, and there are some black diamond challenges. Dodge is 30 miles east of Sonora off Highway 108 near Pinecrest. That's about 160 miles from San Francisco and San Jose; 140 miles from Fresno. This resort has become a popular "tank of gas" option in the region.