Mammoth Instead of Truckee, California
Unlike ski towns in the Tahoe region, this lively hub (which underwent a massive renovation in 2004 and now houses two-dozen restaurants, bars, and boutiques) sits on the skirt of Mammoth Mountain—linked to the base area by gondola—making the entire village ski-in-ski-out. A bustling live music scene and the world’s only high-elevation tiki bar, Lakanuki (6201 Minaret Rd.; 760-934-7447), all help fuel the town’s nightclub-meets-nature vibe. Book an upscale condo—from a studio to a three-bedroom—complete with gas fireplaces and gourmet kitchens, in the heart of town at the Village Lodge (from $149; thevillagelodgemammoth.com).
Fernie Instead of Whistler,British Columbia
How Fernie—with warmer temperatures than Banff and more consistent snow than Whistler—continues to fly under the Canadian-ski-scene radar is a head-scratcher. It’s the only town completely encircled by the Canadian Rocky Mountains and blessed with a microclimate that dumped more than 37 feet of snow last season. An average temperature of 25 degrees Fahrenheit ensures the light, fluffy flakes known as “Champagne powder.” And Fernie has more than just snow—Yamagoya (741 Seventh Ave.; 250-430-0090), widely regarded as having some of the best sushi in the province, is here. The cozy Alpine Lodge (from $135; alpinelodgefernie.com) is modeled after a European chalet.
Salida Instead of Aspen, Colorado
As lift lines and prices at Colorado’s top ski resorts continue to skyrocket (an Aspen lift ticket costs $117), Salida’s Monarch Mountain is like a breath of crisp Rocky Mountain air. Tickets cost $65 at the window, or $57 online, among the lowest prices in the state. The resort may not be large or fancy, but it gets a whopping 30 feet of snow per year, and you can walk from your car to the lift. Lines are nonexistent, especially on weekdays. Stay at the recently renovated Palace Hotel (from $139; salidapalacehotel.com), built in 1909. A few steps away is Laughing Ladies (128 W. 1st St.; 719-539-6209), owned by two former Napa Valley chefs.