The place: Gstaad, Switzerland
Why go now: Gstaad has long been a favorite for wealthy boomers from around the world. Now their kids are turning up. This winter you’re liable to find Zani Gugelmann, the ubiquitous Hilton sisters, designer Holly Dunlap (who cites Gstaad as the inspiration for her fall 2003 collection of Hollywould shoes), and Marisa Noel Brown. You don’t even have to ski. “You go because the streets are filled with beautiful people,” says Brown. “I once rented skis and boots for four days and never once put them on.”
Don’t miss: If you do decide to strap on the boards, the Gstaad SuperSki Region pass gives you access to the Gstaad, Chateau d’Oex, Rougemont, Saanen, Villars, and Leysin ski areas, and the Diablerets glacier—enough terrain to keep ten Jonny Moseleys entertained.
Where to eat: In December, Alain Ducasse’s newest restaurant, Spoon des Neiges, opens in the two-story Le Chlösterli chalet, Gstaad’s oldest. After dinner, the crowd will most likely turn up at the new, as-yet-unnamed après-ski club, also opening in Le Chlösterli.
Where to stay: With a new cinema, wine-tasting cellar, and wellness center, the newly rebuilt Grand Hotel Bellevue (41-33-748-0000; bellevue-gstaad.ch; from about $280) is where the elite meet to sleep.
FOR FRESH TRACKS
The place: Silverton, Colorado
Why go now: It’s not often that an entire mountain opens to skiers. Geared toward expert schussers and riders, Silverton (which shares a name with its former mining-town home) limits its 1,600 pristine acres of powder to 40 patrons a day. The developers vow that the cliff drops, open powder fields, and ungroomed skiable exposures—more Alaska than Colorado—will remain unspoiled.
Don’t miss: There are no trails per se at Silverton. Certainly none that are named. Think of this as a lift-served backcountry experience. After weighing the day’s conditions, your guide will lead you to the best secret powder stashes. Decompress from vertical overload at Grady’s (970-387-5706), a raucous bar right on the mountain.
Where to eat: There’s no fine dining in town, but Trails End Public House (970-387-5117), in a 100-year-old building, is a good bet for burgers, Tex-Mex, and Italian.
Where to stay: Next year, the resort will offer slopeside accommodations, but for now lodging is available in rustic inns and B&Bs in downtown Silverton. The Alpine House (970-387-5628) is simple, comfortable, and centrally located.
FOR DEEP SOLITUDE
The place: The Colorado Rockies
Why go now: For a true backcountry experience, wax up the X-C boards and head for the 10th Mountain Division’s hut-to-hut trails. Named for the legendary alpine Army unit that trained in the area, the network of 350 miles of paths and 29 huts links a fantasyland of powder-blanketed backcountry. Mind you, this isn’t X-C skiing in your local nature preserve: Depending on your route, you may need to knock off 1,500-foot climbs at altitudes of up to 12,000 feet. Paragon Guides (970-926-5299; paragonguides.com) offers trips ranging from three to six days; prices start at $990, including meals.
Don’t miss: At the trailhead for the Memorial Hut on the Continental Divide, at the 10,400-foot Tennessee Pass, you’ll catch staggering views of glacier-scoured peaks and aspen-dappled wilderness. Watch for elk as you ski through alpine meadows to the hut, situated at the edge of an untouched powder bowl hard up against 13,200-foot Homestake Peak.
Where to stay: The huts are relatively spartan, but four—Janet’s, Francie’s, Vance’s, and the Shrine Mountain Inn—are equipped with wood-burning stoves and saunas (970-925-4554; huts.org).
Where to eat: You have to melt snow for drinking water, but the kitchens are fully equipped—proper stoves and all. Paragon meals are hearty—think baked salmon with fresh vegetables, and fresh-baked bread in the morning. Last year, a group of guests hauled turkeys in a sled to one hut and fixed a Thanksgiving feast.
FOR PARTY SKIING
The place: Whistler-Blackcomb
Why go now: What Killington is to the East Coast, Whistler-Blackcomb is to the West. The mountain’s world-class powder and backcountry are matched by an equally excellent bar scene—96 restaurants and night spots in a town of just 18,000—that rocks nonstop from November till May.
Don’t miss: Speed freaks face off at the Dave Murray Olympic downhill course on Whistler Creekside, while boarders can be found catching air off half-pipes and jumps in the Terrain Park on Blackcomb. Cap off your day by skiing onto the patio of the Longhorn Saloon (604-932-5999). Later, move on to clubs like Garfinkel’s (604-932-2323) and Tommy Africa’s (604-932-6090), known for go-go dancers.
Where to eat: Araxi (604-932-4540), a Pacific Northwest fusion spot, is the best high-end restaurant in town. More laid-back options include Sushi Village (604-932-3330), La Brasserie des Artistes (604-932-3569), and Dubh Linn Gate (604-905-4047)—all attached to bars.
Where to stay: Book a room at the posh Fairmont Chateau Whistler (800-441-1414; from $166 until Christmas, from $462 for the rest of the season).
The place: Mammoth Mountain, California
Why go now: Snowboarders are second only to surfers in their worship of sun and fun, so it’s no surprise that Mammoth and its sister peak June mountains are considered holy spots. Tucked into California’s eastern Sierras, Mammoth and June offer postcard views of Yosemite, cutting-edge half-pipes and terrain parks, and A-list competitions like the Vans Triple Crown. Oh yeah: The sun shines more than 300 days a year at Mammoth, and the average annual snowfall tops 30 feet.
Don’t miss: Off the 11,000-foot summit, Huevos Grandes, Climax, and Hangman’s Hollow all earn their monikers. For gapers, ride the Thunderbound Express lift and watch the action below in the Main Park. When the boots finally come off, head to La Sierra’s on the access road (800-mammoth), where you’ll find loud music, cold drinks, and lots of shredders with goggle tan.
Where to eat: The Lakefront (760-934-2442) is arguably the area’s best restaurant (try the wild-mushroom-and-Swiss-cheese strudel).
Where to stay: Cozy and new, with gas fireplaces and Jacuzzis, the Village at Mammoth is choice (800-mammoth; from $155). The gondola leaves practically from your front door.