Don't let the Europeans snow you with tales of skiing the Hahnenkamm, the Vall�e Blanche and the Parsenn. America has in its enormously varied mountain terrain ski runs second to none in the world. To prove it, Sports Illustrated has selected the 10 top ski runs in the country after skiing them all, as well as a hundred others. They add up to more than 20 miles of powdered bowls and moguled slopes, of glacial heights and twisting trails that plunge through aisles of spruce and birch. No country can provide a wider variety of skiing, as well planned and as easily reached by excellent uphill facilities. A top ski run should thrill the superskier and challenge—without fear—the hardy weekend stemmer Its beauty should be nature's own, with man stepping in only to fell a tree or bulldoze a boulder. The 16 pages of color that follow not only illustrate in photographs and diagrams the 10 best runs, but also show how American ski resorts have developed in 30 years. Some of the runs have become legendary, and others are known only to a handful of skiing explorers. On the following page, the skiing begins where American skiing began, in the Green Mountains of Vermont. The runs sweep from there across Rockies, Sierras and Cascades—the glorious geography that makes American skiing so diverse.
THE NOSE DIVE, STOWE
There are two things to understand about eastern skiing: 1) the mountains are not Alps-high, which does not really matter, and 2) most of the skiing is below the tree line, which matters very much indeed. The result is trail-skiing—sailing down through aisles that cut across everything on the hill, including rocks—and the East over the years has developed it into a snowy art form. The chill, northern location of most eastern resorts means that plenty of snow, the fat, prepacked variety, makes up for any lack of height. And when skiing is as good as it is in the maple-syrup hills of Vermont, the trail means everything.
The Nose Dive is all that its name implies. For one thing, it starts at 3,600 feet on a rocky formation which—if you look at it just right—forms the profile of a sleeping giant. For another, it drops 2,025 vertical feet from the giant's nose at a sharpening pitch. And that's diving, brother.
But nose-diving is a venerable tradition in the East, and this run is the classic. It was opened in the winter of 1935-36, a pioneer U.S. racing run. For years the course snaked through the corkscrewlike Seven Turns and across Upper Schuss, then careened into Shambles Corner—which was usually just that. Early-day racers, seeking more speed than control, often took the high road—through the timber. The Dive had a reputation as the country's wickedest—the trail was only 25 feet wide in some spots—and just plain skiers stayed away.
They need not stay away any longer. The Nose has been remodeled, reworked, retooled in a massive earthen plastic-surgery project, and the result is one of the most majestic ski runs in the nation.
The chart at left shows Nose Dive revisited—with the trail mapped from the Octagon at the top. To one side are two chair-lift lines. That hook at the beginning is the start of the racing trail—which you may run by hiking up. And ahead lie a mile and a quarter of wider, smoother, steadier hillside.
In widening the run to 66 feet—to meet FIS downhill safety standards—Mansfield's Sepp Ruschp made a great run greater. The Seven Turns have been eased into a continuous wriggle. You can snake through them, as the Swiss racer does at right during last winter's international competition. Upper Schuss still schusses, and Shambles Corner (at midpoint on the map) can still undo you—if you let it. When Ruschp unveiled the new Nose last year, some of the first racers dived it at 60 mph, and for the first time in ski history the old belly-breaker also was full of intermediates.
Tradition has been served, not set aside. In those old days, eastern skiers were run-droppers. "I skied the Nose Dive," they would say proudly. A grand old custom. I skied the Nose Dive. And you should, too.
RIVA RIDGE, VAIL