Big Runs Small Resorts  


By Kim D. McHugh

EXPERIENCE BIG WINTER FUN at small resorts in New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming

Photo courtesy of Tourism Santa Fe | Santa Fe Ski Resort
As the Greek storyteller Aesop once said, “Good things come in small packages.” If value (lift tickets, lessons, meals, lodging) and shorter or even non-existent lift lines are of interest to you and your family, smaller resorts are great alternatives to the big guys. 

Here are three out-of-state options that provide both a change of scenery and some extra-ski-icular activities. When you visit Ski Santa Fe, you can also partake in visiting more than 250 art galleries and a dozen museums. Indulge your creative side by taking painting, jewelry making and silversmithing classes at Sundance. Or enjoy professionally guided backcountry tours at Grand Targhee. 

Just 16 miles from the enchanting town of the same name, Ski Santa Fe has 86 trails on 660 skiable acres served by seven lifts. Blanketed by an average of 225 inches of annual snowfall, the resort rewards guests with a variety of terrain, some groomed corduroy, others untracked powder, if you time your visit just right. 

Since it isn’t on the radar quite like Taos further north, you may feel as if you have the place all to yourself. Advanced skiers and snowboarders gravitate to the upper slopes where Big Rocks Glade, Bozo’s Glade and T-Bird Glade delight. Easier runs like Lower Burro, Lobo, Sunnyside and Santa Fe Trail run from mid-mountain to the base. 

A full-day ticket ranges from $64 (children six to 12) to $105, but guests can save on multi-day passes and special packages. Chipmunk Corner offers lesson programs and has snow play areas for kids. La Casa’s Food Court serves breakfast and lunch with offerings like pizza, pasta, cheeseburgers, chili, soups and deli sandwiches. Totemoff’s Bar & Grill, the mid-mountain eatery, sports the hearty Super Chief cheeseburger, barbecue, tamales, salads, soups and, of course, Frito Pie. Numerous lodging options are down the road in Santa Fe.

David Richards Gallery, Santa Fe | Photo courtesy of Tourism Santa Fe 

Grand Targhee Resort | Photo by Sophie Danison
You’ll be wowed from the Dreamcatcher and Colter lifts at Grand Targhee Resort, which showcase stunning views of Mount Owen (12,928 feet), Middle Teton (12,804 feet) and Grand Teton Peak
(13,770 feet).  

Below are 95 trails spanning 2,602 acres served by six lifts. Skiers and snowboarders have a trio of playgrounds to explore. Fred’s Mountain, Mary’s Nipple and Peaked Mountain offer a mix of advanced and intermediate runs, including Nasty Gash, Cornice Interruptus, Bird Woman and Wild Willie. The Shoshone lift provides access to easier trails like Papoose, Huckleberry and Pie Highway. 

Grand Targhee Resort | Photo by Laura Obermeyer

Quirky weather patterns produce more than 500 inches of powder annually. Nordic skiers can glide over nine miles of trails, while cyclists can explore those same tracks via fat tire bikes. Lessons with the Ghee’s Powder Scouts or Mini Moose programs, a Kids’ Fun Zone and a licensed daycare center are popular with families. 

Snorkels Cafe is a must for its Wyoming-style breakfast burrito, hefty sandwiches and homemade soups. Wild Bill’s Grill dishes up monster burgers, tasty Mexican fare, hand-tossed pizza and thick stews. Full-day lift tickets are $120 to $150, though bargain, multi-day packages are available. Base lodges accommodate guests in style, as do condos and guest ranches.

Left: Sundance | Photo by Sierra Kinkade Right: Sundance | Photo courtesy of Sundance Resort

Founder, Robert Redford, named Sundance in honor of the role he played in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”  Tucked beneath Mount Timpanogos, otherwise known as the Sleeping Princess, the resort treats skiers and snowboarders to 540 acres and 72 runs. Experts seek trails like The Sting, Wonderboy and Shauna’s Secret, slopes like Amy’s Ridge, Bearclaw and Cassidy’s Traverse attract intermediates, while Outlaw Trail, Sidewinder and Bandit are among the easiest runs. 

Tree Room, Sundance | Photo by Collective Studios

Six lifts deliver visitors to the varying terrain. While well-manicured trails are prominent, enough are undisturbed for those craving fresh powder. You’ll find a selfie-worthy panorama near Red’s Summit, as well as Bearclaw Cabin, where Mexican-oriented menu items are favorites at lunchtime.

A must-do experience for dinner is the Tree Room, an elegant spot for seasonally inspired starters and entrees. While there, make a point to admire Redford’s collection of Native American art. The Foundry Grill Room whips up breakfast, to-die-for lunch entrees and scrumptious dinners. 

Full-day tickets cost $89 to $149; specials and discount packages are available. Cottages, private homes and hotels in nearby Provo are lodging choices. If you’re a movie buff, plan a mid-January trip when the Sundance International Film Festival is in full swing.

Sundance Resort, Mount Timpanogos | Photo courtesy of Sundance Resort

Ski Cooper

The 64-run resort near Copper Mountain welcomes beginning and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. Those more advanced can cruise 1,800 acres on Chicago Ridge via snowcat.

Only 21 miles from Boulder and 49 miles from Denver, its 61 trails are inviting to skiers and snowboarders. A family-friendly vibe makes it an area fave.

Granby Ranch

Just west of Winter Park, the resort has 43 trails spanning two mountains. It is unquestioningly a family-oriented place and offers night skiing.


Angel Fire Resort
Only 296 miles from Denver, the resort features 81 runs, tubing and sledding hills, 7.5 miles of Nordic trails and night skiing.

Red River Ski
Just 277 miles from Denver, the resort has 64 runs, tubing, three terrain parks, and a cool ski-town, small-town vibe.

Ski Apache
South of Albuquerque and 526 miles from Denver, the resort has 55 runs, a terrain park and a direct tie to the Mescalero Apache Tribe.


Brian Head
A 573-mile drive from Denver, the resort has 71 runs covering 650 acres, terrain parks, tubing hill and Utah’s famously dry powder.

Brighton Resort
Just 35 miles from Salt Lake’s airport, the resort has 66 runs, terrain parks, snow and Sno-Go biking and a 1,875 vertical foot drop.

Only 35 miles from Salt Lake’s airport, the resort has 82 runs, terrain parks, 12-plus miles of Nordic trails and the Solitude Mountain Spa.


Snow King Mountain
Approximately three blocks from downtown Jackson Hole, this resort has 41 runs on more than 500 acres, a tubing park and a Cowboy Coaster.

White Pine
Just 90 minutes southeast of Jackson Hole, this mountain has 29 runs on more than 500 acres, a terrain park and 35 kilometers of Nordic trails.

Snowy Range
About 28 miles west of Laramie, this area has 33 runs on more than 250 acres, a terrain park and cross-country trails.