We may rarely see snow in Central Texas, but it’s not hard to find a dedicated group of skiers almost always ready to hit the slopes.
Austin Skiers has been around since 1970 and has remained remarkably active since, boasting nearly 400 members all across town (and some former Austinites), as well as hosting bimonthly happy hours and taking six to eight organized member trips per year. And they’ve become quite the experts on some of the best places to travel for those craving winter thrills instead of 80-degree January afternoons.
We chatted with Austin Skiers President Gary Armstrong, whose been involved with the club for more than 18 years, about the places worth a trip from Austin.
Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored by JSX, your hop-on jet service with nonstop flights from a private terminal in Austin to Taos, NM, and Gunnison/Crested Butte, CO. Check your skis at no charge and hop on a spacious 30-seat jet—no crowds, hassles, or lines. Upgrade your ski lift and let JSX get you to the slopes faster. Book your trip today.
Snowmass Village, Colorado
Snowmass Village is not far from Aspen, and its mountains, with lots of variety in terrain, make up one of the most well-known ski spots. Plus, there’s plenty to do outside of skiing. This is Armstrong’s personal favorite.
“Our first trip of the season this year was to Snowmass. We’ve offered that trip every year for the last 15 years, and it almost always is the first one to sell out every year,” Armstrong says. “Aspen’s a well-known [ski destination]. It’s got four mountains, and it’s got great skiing for beginners to advanced. It’s also got a lot of apres-ski stuff to do. Entertainment, nightlife, shopping… We have some people who go on trips like that that don’t ski. It’s a domestic destination for skiers.”
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Aside from its reputation as a great ski resort, Steamboat is the home of Billy Kidd, the first American to win an alpine medal at the 1964 Winter Olympics with his teammate Jimmie Heuga. Kidd has served as the director of skiing for Steamboat Ski Resort for more than 50 years. According to Armstrong, you can spot the statue of Kidd with his cowboy hat at the base of the mountain near the lifts.
Steamboat is also known for its special “champagne powder” snow on its mountains and trails.
“It’s a light powder; it’s not the heavy stuff that you hear about in the western part, like Mammoth Mountain in California, the snow that it’s like shoveling concrete in some places,” Armstrong says. This is just very light and champagne-y. It’s kind of the best way to describe it.”
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
For those looking for true thrills, Taos might be your best bet. And if you’re really committed, it’s driving distance from Austin.
“What I’ll say Taos is known for is it has the most vertical mountain in North America. It’s steep; you gotta be a really good intermediate to advanced skier to go there,” Armstrong says.
A favorite resort of Austin Skiers who travel to Taos are the Snakedance Condominiums, which boasts a big plus for diehard skiers.
“[In Taos,] they have ‘ski in ski out,’ which means that you could literally walk outside your condo and you’re looking at the mountain,” Armstrong says. That’s a really big appeal to our membership—they love ski-in-ski-out condos because you don’t have to schlep your skis for a block or two or half a mile.”
“It’s a way of venturing outside of typical Colorado. Vail owns a lot of stuff and it’s nice to go someplace else,” Armstrong says. “But it’s a small, small town with not a lot to do, so you don’t go there if you’re not gonna ski.”
Park City, Utah
East of Salt Lake City lies Park City with one of Austin Skiers favorite higher-end resorts for those who want some luxury with their slopes.
“Deer Valley Ski Resort is an upper-end ski resort adjacent to Park City,” Armstrong says. “When we went there, our folks loved it. I skied there for several days and really, really enjoyed it.”
Deer Valley has more than 2,000 acres of idyllic terrain, as well as an award-winning ski school if it’s your first time or if you need to brush up on your skills (something Armstrong highly recommends if it’s been a few years since you’ve set foot on a mountain). And if you go at the right time, you might catch some real professionals competing.
“In fact, while we were there, they were having the [a competition] to qualify for the Olympics,” Armstrong says. “So one day, a good friend of mine and I went over there, and we just hung around everybody who was trying to qualify that day. And you talk about some of the amazing skiing they do, going down those pikes and doing flips and turns and all that stuff … I’m too old. I can’t do that.”