Ski Town Throwdown Matchup Preview: Whitefish v. Whistler & Fernie v. Mammoth

The line on the first round of battles

Ski Town Throwdown Round One

Full Bracket Here

11/19 Battles

Region: Mule Kick
(4) Sandpoint vs. (5) Ketchum
When: 11/19/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag
The Ketchum versus Sandpoint matchup is going to be closer than its six versus three seed designation. Ketchum’s baby is Sun Valley—a resort with some long, lap-worthy runs, friendly weather, and big, open bowls, which has drawn goodtimers from all walks of life to its slopes. POWDER traces it’s roots back to the winter village, so yeah, they get down. The proven history of ski town success is there, but its lift ticket prices and sheen of ‘city glam’ bring this area back to reality. Featuring cheaper tickets and more annual snowfall, in-state competitor Sandpoint thinks its time is now. While the area has relatively short vert, the slope is steep and the snow is cold. The town itself is on the rise, with fun restaurants and a vibrant party scene, which help place Sandpoint, however narrowly, on the top of this matchup.

Region: Daffy
(4) Durango vs. (5) Truckee
When: 11/19/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag
Both of these ski towns come with multi-faceted attacks, and it will be interesting to see who rises to this challenge. Truckee, the California kids, roll deep with Alpine Meadows, Northstar at Tahoe, Squaw Valley, and Sugarbowl, and offer legendary lines, bountiful snowfall, and quality terrain parks for the jibberwockies. If North Lake Tahoe gets stale, Truckee is close enough to their South Lake compadres to access the goods, but far enough to keep the casino crawlers at arm’s length. On the other end, Durango is home to some primetime players. Wolf Creek gets the most snow in Colorado and Silverton’s one double lift is the closest powderhounds will ever get to the Stairway to Heaven. Add to that a great college town vibe and low crowds, and Durango is sitting pretty in the San Juan Mountains.


Region: Backscratcher
(4) Whitefish vs. (5) Whistler/Blackcomb
When: 11/14/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag

This four-five matchup is a challenge to the P3 system. Whistler has traditionally been at the top of resort polls everywhere, but takes a tumble to the five seed here. The reason? According to P3, large crowds and expensive tickets hurt, even at the legendary Whistler/Blackcomb. That affects the seed, but possibly not the outcome. Whistler is still a giant, featuring some of the most versatile terrain on the continent with over 5,150 vertical feet on two peaks of mountain playground. Its matchup may represent the new era in resort town ranking. Whitefish is a town of hard-charging, deep-turning Montanans who hold their local mountain close to their heart. Residents receive near-weekly doses of cold smoke to keep them happy and shredding and, when nose hairs start to freeze, suck back on Grampa’s old cough medicine at places like the Bierstube and the Bulldog, home of the Big F*cking Pitcher. It’ll be an interesting battle of scale.

Region: Spread Eagle
(4) Fernie vs. (5) Mammoth Mountain
When: 11/14/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag
Our second Kootenay contender, Fernie takes on the bracket’s Southern-ish California representative: Mammoth. Fernie has long been a classic ski mountain that has recently faded toward resort destination. But despite the increase in second-home owners, the slopes have maintained their identity as challenging and deep. An old mining town full of rough-around-the-edges nightlife, Fernie’s culture makes it a tough contender. Our fast-break team of the tourney, Mammoth has a lot to offer. Cliffs, drops, and some of the biggest, baddest terrain parks in the nation help bring out a group that spends more time off the ground than on it. When they’re done battling gravity, Mammoth skiers take advantage of excellent snowfall at the highest elevation on the West Coast. Crowds hurt Mammoth’s ranking, but the area is the spot for racking up our frequent flyer miles. Up, up, and away. —Kade Krichko



11/12 Battles

Region: Mule Kick
(4) Salt Lake City vs. (5) Government Camp
When: 11/12/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag
Magic vs. Larry. Two titans, one winner. Did I mention it’s still the first round? Salt Lake City is represented by four of the nation’s best—Brighton, Solitude, Alta, and Snowbird—and the access can’t be beat. Twenty minutes and you rise from Utah’s capital city to powder paradise. Though their popularity has grown exponentially in recent years, the crowds disperse nicely, leaving plenty of lines to attack the 500-inch annual snowfall. On the other hand, Government Camp is the place where bucket lists get shredded. Want to ski on July 26? Year-round skiing at Timberline has you covered. Want to get pitted in deep pow under the full moon? Night skiing at Ski Bowl is as good as it gets. Unfortunately, the word is out on Govy, which is reflected by long lift lines, a P3 no-no.

Region: Daffy
(4) Santa Fe/Taos vs. (5) Park City
When: 11/12/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag
The four-five matchup is a game of inches. If those inches refer to snowfall, Park City has the initial edge. With 338 inches of Utah blower every year, Park Silly’s three resorts are stacked with the goodies. Worried about access? How about a chairlift from Main Street? PCMR has rewritten the terrain park game, Canyons offers supreme sidecountry access, and the land of groomers and fur coats known as Deer Valley boasts some of the best tree skiing in the region. But Taos and Santa Fe shouldn’t be slept on. Sure, their snowfall is a little less, but so are their crowds. Ski Santa Fe is basically within Santa Fe city limits and Taos is an eclectic ski bum dream. A hike up to the mighty Kachina Peak followed by a post-ski beer and brat at Eske’s Brew Pub might be enough to shift the voting in the New Mexico crew’s favor. -Kade Krichko



11/7 Battles

Region: Spread Eagle
(2) Seattle vs. (7) Jay Peak
When: 11/7/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag

A classic West versus East matchup, Seattle makes the tourney with a trio of rad resorts (Alpental, Crystal, and Stevens Pass) while Jay Peak, the king of the East, has arguably the most passionate fan base in the entire Ski Town Throwdown. Don’t mess with a Vermonter. Ever. Seattle benefits from the surrounding resorts averaging 495 inches a year and it’s likely that followers of the now-defunct Seattle Supersonics will vote because, well, Shawn Kemp and stuff. They hope to unleash the dogs on the small and mighty resort of Northern Vermont. Jay Peak will rely on its New England roots, incredible sidecountry, and the mystique of the Jay Cloud. It’s Tom Hanks, coffee, and Kurt Cobain versus Ethan Allen, maple syrup, and the guy that sold Rasta Monsta on the HBO series “How To Make It In America.”

Groomer Gary’s Take:
Seattle has been waiting on a title for a while now, and the Throwdown might be their ticket. The Spread Eagle Region’s two seed hopes to ride its 495-inch annual snowfall and the Big Three—Crystal, Alpental, and Stevens Pass—deep into the tournament. Crowds hurt their overall ranking, but the intangibles provided by an international hub may help late in the game. Standing in the way of Seatown glory is pesky Jay Peak, potentially the most well equipped eastern town in the game. Seattle knows clouds, but the Vermont resort has one named after it. The Jay Cloud blesses the area every year with the most snow in the East over some of its gnarliest terrain. If you’re looking for glades, cliffs, a cheap pint of Switchback Ale with a side of poutine, and an answer to the eternal question, “Where the stash at?” look no further than seven-seed Jay Peak.

Region: Backscratcher
(2)Bellingham vs. (7) Steamboat
When: 11/7/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag
On Wednesday, America will know who the next leader of the free world will be. Also of significant importance, Bellingham and Steamboat enter the Internet steel cage in this week’s 3 versus 7 matchup. Mount Baker dirtbags might fly the coop on this one because, really, who wants to share an average of 728 inches a year? That being said the Western Washington Vikings will have readied the ship for a full naval battle with Steamboat. Only three hours north of Denver, Steamboat happily watched Summit County/Vail and Telluride tear each other to bits in Monday and Tuesday’s battle. If they can sneak by Bellingham in this round, they’d be poised for a nice matchup against either Crested Butte or Bend. They can’t match Baker when it comes to snowfall, but Steamboat trumps the PNW in the light and dry department. Tree skiers will ultimately decide this vote.

Groomer Gary’s Take:

Two-seed Bellingham versus seven-seed Steamboat Springs pits the Cascade and Rocky Mountain Ranges against one another in a clash for geographic supremacy. Bellingham has Mount. Baker, the powderwhore of the PNW, which receives over 700 inches of snow every year. Its cheap lift tickets, low crowds, and steeper than steep lines make Belltown an attractive package for bracketologists, and many have them easing into the next round. But Steamboat Springs is 3,668 vertical feet of ‘not so fast.’ The resort is all about the trees, with shots like Closets, Shadows, and 3 o’clock highlighting a stellar cast. While the area isn’t the cheapest, the town’s hot springs are said to possess just enough magic to pull an upset.



11/5 Battles

Region: Mule Kick
(2)Telluride, CO vs. (7) Summit County and Vail, CO
When: 11/5/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag

The Colorado showdown pits the parks (and parking lots) of Summit and Vail against the peaks of the southern San Juans. On paper, T-Ride has it all: steeps, backcountry, The Buck, Oprah, but it’s isolated. Not a lot of people live there, and not a lot of people who do live there probably have Facebook. The I-70 corridor, on the other hand, is not lacking for fans. Every Denverite spends Sunday afternoon sitting in traffic on the way back from Breck diddling their iPhone. And people get passionate about the Summit/Vail area. Ask anyone in Texas. This one will be close.

Groomer Gary’s Take
It’s not often you get a civil-war battle in the first round, but Colorado’s Telluride and Summit County clash in what promises to be a bloodbath, and maybe, the bracket’s first real upset. Telluride is a tough number two, with 4,425 feet of vertical and legendary hike-to terrain like the Gold Hill chutes, as well as enough cowboy swagger to send Wyatt Earp quaking in his boots (To-Hell-You-Ride!). Unfortunately for the Telluride crew, they drew Summit County. One of the victims of the P3 scale, traditional heavyweight Summit County has a bone to pick with its seven-seed ranking. Featuring one of the most stacked rosters in the competition—Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, A-Basin, Breckenridge, Loveland, and Copper— Summit County was beleaguered by large crowds, high lift ticket prices, and low annual snowfall leading up to the tournament. Still, look for the Coloradan powerhouse to count on a legacy of success and cast of big-time players to make this one a contest.

Region: Daffy
(2) Girdwood, AK vs. (7) Stowe/Smugglers Notch, VT
When: 11/5/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag

Two-seed Girdwood, home of Alyeska, the resortiest resort in the Last Frontier, battles the classic New Englandia of Stowe and Smuggs. Alaska hits people right in the wanderlust, so Vermont is probably going to have to get off its Magic Hat-swilling behind to step up against the great white north. Killington got run over by Revelstoke in the first round, but Sandy might have taken the wind (and the Internet access) out of East Coaster’s sails, so now that power is being restored, the I-95 voting block will likely be more of a force to reckon with.

Groomer Gary’s Take
The Mule Kick Region’s number two, Girdwood, faces pesky seven-seed Stowe and Smugglers’ Notch. The Vermont sapsuckers pose an interesting challenge, as Stowe remains a right coast Mecca for sidecountry skiing. Home to the state’s tallest peak, 4,395-foot Mount Mansfield, and the steeps of the Front Four, the Stowe region also has several historic and tight ski runs cut by our nation’s CCC back in the ’30s (somewhere a history buff smiles a toothy grin). Stowe’s compatriot Smugglers’ Notch keeps its goods in the woods available to anyone willing to brave the Madonna 1 double. The pair dropped in the polls recently with increased crowds and ticket prices, but they continue to bleed classic New England. That in mind, an hour south of Anchorage, Girdwood stands ready to fight. In between the Alaska Range and the Turnagain Arm, G’Wood has climbed the ranks in recent years with 456 inches of annual snowfall, hikeable terrain like the Christmas Chutes, and big-boy parks at Alyeska Resort. Every once in awhile, Mother Nature even hosts a nice lightshow in the area, I’m told.



10/31 Battles

Region: Spread Eagle
(1) Ogden vs. (8) Mad River Valley, VT
When: 10/31/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag

Ogden’s overall number two ranking came as a surprise to many. However, its seeding, well-ahead of Salt Lake City and Park City, is not without merit. Snowbasin and Powder Mountain boast impressive acreage (7,000 at Powder) and snowfall (a 400-inch average) without the crowds that track out Little Cottonwood Canyon by 10 a.m. Still, they face a formidable foe in the first round. The numbers in Vermont don’t hold a candle to the skiing around Ogden, but it’s hard to measure culture. In August 2012, MRG became the first ski area on the National register of Historic Places. It’s one of those unique places that should be on every skier’s bucket list. This Vermont hole in the wall—single chair, co-op model, crunchy tele-skiing diehards, and all—is as unique as ski places come. We’ll see if its cult-like following can pull off the upset.

Groomer Gary’s Take

The whispers have already started surrounding Ogden’s high seeding in this year’s Throwdown, but O-Town can quiet naysayers with a strong showing in the first round against the wily 8-seed of Mad River Glen and Sugarbush. The Vermont crew is a burly bunch, featuring a dedicated following of freewheelers and freeheelers that measure success in beard density and flannels per acre. MRG’s name carries weight, with an old-school mystique that extends far beyond New England. The Green Mountain boys and girls’ real x-factor may be Sugarbush, a 4,000-acre giant that has quietly built a following of loyal bumpers and jumpers. But Ogden is a different animal entirely. Deep snow, seemingly endless acreage, and a town that continues to up its outdoor cred, the Utah haven was built for this competition. Nearby Salt Lake and its seven resorts has drawn most of the national hype (and crowds), allowing Powder Mountain and Snowbasin to pump up the base (depth), perfect for laying down some serious solo tracks.

Region: Backscratcher
(1) Rossland/Nelson vs. (8) Sugarloaf
When: 10/31/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag

If we were voting on who would win a bar fight, the weathered Mainers would win a game of knuckle throwdown over the hippie Canadians without losing a grip on their Geary’s. Fortunately, we’re voting on where we would rather go skiing, so it’s a bit more complicated than that. The ‘Loaf is an old soul whose following spans generations. The longest vertical in the East and an upcoming 405-acre expansion into Brackett Basin help its skiing cause. But they’re up against a tough, though quiet, first seed opponent. Rossland/Nelson got here on account of their snowfall, vertical, smiles per hour, and cute hippie chicks (strapping young bucks as well) per block. Do they even have pillow lines in the Northeast? What about poutine? Girls?

Groomer Gary’s Take
In order to be a calculated pro, it’s important to take emotion out of the Throwdown brackets. There is no clearer example than the one-versus-eight-seed matchup of Rossland/Nelson and Sugarloaf. The ‘Loaf is the epitome of East Coast ski lore—steep bumps, big-turn groomers, and tight-birch glades, all with a dash of frostbite. Days can be tough up in Maine, but the skiers that turn out are usually tougher, smiling no matter what the mercury reads. But, like I said, this is a competition, and as much as I respect the ‘Loaf, few areas are as geared for battle as the kooks in the Koots. The Powderfields at Rossland’s Red Mountain are what skiing is all about—2,000 vertical feet of trees, pillows, and cliffs covered in 387 inches of annual snowfall. Nelson offers up great local food, coffee, nightlife, and bohemian eye-candy to boot. With cheap lift tickets and a laid back feel that keeps the glitzy resorty types at bay, Rossland/Nelson has many of the tools necessary to make a serious run in the tourney. Plus, anytime you have a ski area bar like Rafters (rated the best ski area bar in North America in the November 2012 issue), it’s hard to beat that.— John Clary Davies and Kade Krichko


10/29 Battles

Region: Mule Kick
(1) Revelstoke, B.C. vs. (8) Killington/Pico, VT
When: 10/29/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag

Matchup Notes: Although POWDER designated Revy as the overall number-one seed in the inaugural Ski Town Throwdown for its empty slopes filled with endless cold powder, this will be a closer race than most people expect. Killington/Pico scored low on the P3 calculation due in large part to its snowfall, or lack thereof. But the Big East, especially Killington, can get out and rock the vote with the best of ’em. Residents in the cozy hamlet on the Columbia River have galvanized around Revelstoke Mountain Resort and, despite wanting to keep their stomping grounds under wraps, they’ll be keen to vote against a U.S. resort.

Groomer Gary’s Take: This is a more interesting matchup than meets the eye. Killington, the eight-seed and the Beast of the East, is nothing short of a contender in the eyes of loyal right coast constituents. Constituents there will argue that Revy can keep its wide open powder fields, because the icy bumps of Outer Limits are skiing’s real proving ground. While the Beast falls well short of Revy’s vertical and attracts more crowds, pride and tradition run deep in the Big East—two factors that even our sophisticated ranking system can’t account for. What we do know is this: Revy is a terrain juggernaut that revels in Mother Nature’s 500-inch-a-year bounty. Add to that a core of hardened Canadian downhillers that would rather eat caribou dung than crown a U.S. champion.

Region
: Daffy
(1) Bozeman, MT vs. (8) Marquette, MI
When: 10/29/12
Where: Facebook.com/PowderMag

Matchup Notes
: Two college towns square off in this first round matchup, which means a lot of Facebook refreshing in between late night beer pong matches. Bozeman features three ski areas—Bridger Bowl, Big Sky, and Moonlight Basin—while Marquette has a small ski area, with racer roots and an icy park, which shares the town’s name. The Midwest ski area has to be fired up for its inclusion in the 2013 Resort Guide, but unseating perennial contender Bozeman remains a tall task. Yet after a few cases of Keystone Light, who knows what can happen?

Groomer Gary’s Take
: Bozeman and Marquette open up first-round action in a classic one versus eight-seed matchup. The Montana guys and gals are early favorites, forming a strong contingent dedicated to shredding postcard powder and performing on big-time terrain. With low lift ticket prices and astounding vertical, Bozeman is a proven contender, and many have them projected to do serious damage in the bracket. Still, as we’ve learned many times before, don’t sleep on the little guy. Marquette represents the Big East, and more specifically Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—an area forged from rope tows, snowguns, and hardpack. The lone wolf from the Great Lakes Region, Marquette features the cheapest lift ticket and cheeseburger in the competition, although it may need more than that to topple the mighty Bozos.

Add a comment

  • cFli

    Oops……..Marquette Michigan is not the home of Marquette University ( Milwaukee). So your college town and Big East connection? Not so much. Nice try though.

  • http://twitter.com/johnnystifter John Stifter

    Actually, not true, cFli. Marquette is home to the fighting Wildcats of Northern Michigan University. And the Big East refers to the region we placed Marquette in the Resort Guide, not the collegiate athletic conference.

  • http://twitter.com/johnnystifter John Stifter

    Granted I’ve never had a beer, or Geary’s, in Maine, but I have a hard time believing it’s “tougher” than interior B.C. The Kootenays ooze timber and toil toughness.

    • jcd

      Would you rather fight a neck-bearded lobsterman or that guy wearing the dashiki that’s been playing guitar and selling hemp necklaces in downtown Nelson all day? I’ll take my chances with Sunshine, the Canadian zen-boy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/derek.taylor.790 Derek Taylor

    J-stiff, you’re lucky they don’t have internet in Maine, or you’d be in trouble. Maine was timber tough back when the Kootenai still owned the Kootenays. It’s colder in the winter, hotter in the summer and it’s America, so everyone has a garage full of guns. And you want toil toughness, belly up next to a lobsterman after he finishes a stretch on the boat. (that said, I’ll take Kootenay powder any day).

  • http://twitter.com/johnnystifter John Stifter

    Yes, DT, Americans like guns and Canadians like Kokanee. Actually, I believe you meant the native name Kutenai as opposed to Kootenai. It’s pronounced Koo-teh-nay from the Ktunaxa language, meaning “water people” as in delicious water used for tasty jugs of beer.

    • http://www.facebook.com/derek.taylor.790 Derek Taylor

      The Kootenai or Kutenai didn’t have the English alphabet, so it can be spelled either way.

  • http://twitter.com/bberwyn Bob Berwyn

    Umm, we here in Summit County definitely don’t claim Vail and Beaver Creek :)

    • Heather Hansman

      Bob, we had to do a little bit of bracket tailoring to work in everyone. You guys are going to have to team up with the gapers on the other side of the pass.

  • Eric Smith

    FYI: Girdwood is an hour south (not north) of Anchorage. And it’s a great ski town more commonly referred to by locals as Gird-weird or Gird-weed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/perman.sara Sara Perman

    Girdwood actually sits IN the Chugach range, South of Anchorage, while the Alaska Range is North quite a ways on the other side.

  • BCTAHOE

    How can this list not include Lake Tahoe? Truckee is close but it is not Tahoe. Come on the best weather for skiing in the world….huge Sierra dumps….Kirkwood, Squaw, Alpine, Heavenly, Sugar Bowl, Northstar, Mt. Rose….views….and annual snowfall totals that top 400-500 inches every year. Two years ago…Alpine, Kirkwood, and Sugar Bowl all had over 800 inches and California girls to keep you warm at night!!

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