When I was a youngster in the 1960s there was a skin care product called Sea & Ski. It was a sun tan lotion that had a state-of-the-art formulation for the times offering an SPF of two at best! Being of Irish descent my parents often had a plastic bottle of Sea & Ski close at hand on family ski days. Us crazy, fair-skinned Virginians slathered that stuff on in the hopes of becoming brown as deep fried hush puppies. In my goofy teenage naiveté I thought the ultimate use for Sea & Ski would be while skiing shirtless in spring conditions on a slope within sight of the ocean.
I never realized that particular fantasy in my not-so-wild youth, but in recent years I have enjoyed fully attired skiing beside some beautiful bodies of water. Getting to the point, one of my favorite aspects of our sport is soaking-up the attendant outdoor scenery. I love clear mountain vistas, forests blanketed with snow to the far off horizon, and if all the stars align - making tracks while gazing at a spectacular alpine lake just beyond the ski trails.
My bucket list of dazzling ski layouts where sea meets snow is certainly incomplete, but I’ve seen and photographed enough of them now to trigger fond memories. There are countless gorgeous ski areas without lakeside settings, but you have to admit proximity to a deep blue lake or silvery frozen body of water adds a glamorous and exotic touch to any ski resort. With this in mind I offer descriptions and photos of my list of top ten sea & ski locations I have personally visited. Most of the photos that follow were taken by me (except Timberline and Gunstock) and reflect the evolution of my digital cameras and/or lousy picture taking skills.
Honorable mention - Timberline, WV. The Canaan Valley/Timberline area is not one that immediately comes to mind in the sea & ski category, but from the right angle, on the right day, and by the right photographer the view of Spruce Island Lake from White Lightning Trail is almost heaven.
10. Gunstock Mountain Resort, NH. It was so freakin’ cold and snowy the day two buddies and I skied Gunstock back in February 1995 that we didn’t spend much time admiring the view. However, it’s a stunner of Lake Winnipesaukee. It’s the largest lake in NH approximately 20 miles long and 10 miles wide in spots.
9. Alpine Meadows, CA. Pardon my hubris, but you know it’s going to be a good list when a Lake Tahoe resort is only number nine. Nearby Squaw Valley has similar views, just a little farther from the lake.
8. Snowbasin, UT. This is a bit of a cheat since Snowbasin is not really lakeside, but from the 9,366-foot summit of the Mt. Allen Tram you can look off the backside of the mountain for a peek at the Great Salt Lake about 15 miles to the west. It’s pretty dang awesome from a jet airliner sort of perspective.
7. Zell am See, Austria. “Zellon the lake” is the only lakeside resort I’ve skied in the Alps. This is an old, low-resolution 2003 photo and what you don’t get from it is that to the skier’s right there is an incredible complementary view of the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier (el 10,509’).
6. Keystone, CO. You don’t often hear about the terrific view of Dillon Reservoir from Keystone’s slopes and it was a pleasant surprise for me during a first ever visit there in 2007. I’m told this might be higher on my list if I saw this 9,000-foot seascape in early ski season before the surface freezes over. This photo was taken from Schoolmarm, which on a quiet day is one of America’s sweetest green circle runs.
Wisp, MD. I want to show some love for a local resort that cracks my top five. If you’ve never skied at Wisp, set beside Deep Creek Lake (~12 miles long), you need to get there on a pretty day and check out Eye Opener trail. In my honest opinion it features the nicest view in mid-Atlantic skiing. This is one of my favorite family ski photos, taken in December 2002 after an ice storm that was capped off by six inches of fluffy snow.
Heavenly, CA. Heavenly has a mini-Vegas at the base of its extensive trail layout, that and the sublime views imbue it with international drawing power. What makes Lake Tahoe extraordinarily scenic is that the water is always a piercing cobalt blue regardless of the season. The lake is 1,644 feet deep and never freezes. If you put on scuba gear and started from Heavenly’s summit you could (theoretically) ski a run with a total vertical drop of 5,400 feet!
3. Saddleback, ME. The Appalachian Trail transits Saddleback Mountain and the highest ski terrain has a pristine, side-country feel that during my visit in March 2012 included runs with deeply drifted snow. The panorama from the summit includes not just one lake, but a bunch of them as far as the eye can see deep into western Maine lake country. This one low resolution shot was all I got of the great view on a day when my camera kept freezing up. The picture doesn’t do it justice.
2. Le Massif, Quebec: This gem of a resort about an hour outside Quebec City ranks high on my list because of its singular mountain-maritime locale. The trail layout drops about 2,500 vertical feet to within a couple hundred yards of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, a river that becomes an ocean-like estuary nearly 15 miles wide in this part of Canada. Blocks of ice the size of 18-wheelers litter the shoreline in a magnificent setting that looks like something out of Lord of the Rings.
1. Homewood, CA. This photo of my son Vince taken on New Year’s Day 2013 says all you need to know about Homewood: good snow, good terrain, good weather, and mind blowing scenery. The lake feels close enough to dip your ski tips in it. The word that comes to mind is mesmerizing. Beware, on a clear day the scenery is so distracting at Homewood that you might forget to apply the Sea & Ski.
Other great sea & ski locations around the world: Alyeska-AK, Whitefish-MT, Schweitzer-ID, Big Squaw-ME, Mt. Snow (North Face)-VT, Sunapee-NH, Chestnut Mountain-IL, Mt. Bohemia-MI, Lake Louise-Alberta, Grouse Mtn-British Columbia, Mont Tremblant-Quebec, Bariloche-Argentina, Portillo-Chile, Treble Cone-New Zealand, St. Moritz-Switzerland, Tignes-France, Mottarone by Lake Maggiore-Italy.
Husband, father and retired civilian employee of the Department of Navy, Jim Kenney is a D.C. area native and has been skiing recreationally since 1967. Jim's ski reporting garnered the 2009 West Virginia Division of Tourism's Stars of the Industry Award for Best Web/Internet/E-Magazine Article.
Great pictorial Jim. You mentioned a few places I wouldn't have thought of and a couple that I couldn't agree more with. While Heavenly may not have the best terrain in Tahoe, some of the views you get of the lake are amazing and it is worth a day to ski there just for the views. I'd also echo that Wisp has some of the best lake scenery of any local resort.
“SEA AND SKI”, wonderful article and pictures!
I can quickly think of three other areas, one local and two in Quebec, Canada that fit the criteria you established.
LOCAL: The basin area at Snowshoe has Shavers Lake at the bottom, fully viewable from the top of some of the trails and lifts. This is especially true of the Ballhooter trail and lift, a spectacular view of the lake surrounded by mountains on all sides.
Speaking of Quebec City, this is a fantastic place to take a ski vacation/trip, especially during “Carnaval de Quebec” or “Winter Carnival”, a multi week cold weather celebration similar to Mardi Gras (in 2014: 1/31-2/16). With good skiing just a short drive or bus trip from the city center (Stoneham, Mt.St. Anne, La Massif) French and English speaking Quebec City is truly unique here in North America. The extensive old part of the city within the city walls is very reminiscent of a European city. And “Winter Carnival” (ruled over by King Bonhommen) with parades, full size Ice Palace, dog sled races in snow covered streets, “canoe” races on and around the ice flows in the St. Lawrence, outdoor ice rinks, carnival rides, outdoor winter playground with activities for all ages, snow sculptures, etc. is a wonderful experience for skiers and non-skiers alike. The food is remarkable and access to Quebec is readily available by plane. Before booking your trip be sure to go to the official website to see when the events you might want to visit are scheduled”¦the Carnival sort of starts out slow, and picks up the last two weekends and the week in between. Here is the website: http://carnaval.qc.ca/en/ . Of course the price of accommodations goes up as the final days approach! There are city hotel ski packages available throughout the winter.
Good Stuff Jim!
Question: Are there any lake views from Action Jackson? Hiking around Jenny Lake this fall, I thought I could see evidence of trails?
Comment: Good views of the Great Salt Lake, Ogden, and Antelope Island can also be seen from the saddle coming off the Strawberry gondola at Snowbasin. You can also see the Pineview Reservoir from some locations at Basin.
Mount snow has a nice view of a reservior on the north face side..
I've skied Owl's Head in Quebec numerous times. Commanding view from the chairlift of a very big lake whose shoreline also takes in Newport Vermont. Also has beautiful views of big Jay Peak as well.
This is the summer view of my home ski hill in Newfoundland and the blue water in the distance is a deep bay of the North Atlantic ocean that never freezes. Nothing like deep blue coloured water from the top (1200' above sea level). Typical daily winter temperature is in February is -3c or 26f.
This is the water views from the 1700' vertical feet "hill" on the other side of the island.
This is a shot with a lense that brings the background closer... again west coast Newfoundland
I've skied MSA and Mt. Snow's North Face and it's correct, very nice views.
Beautiful pictures from FarEastCanadianSkier. Owl's Head and Marble Mountain are two fine suggestions. Besides great scenery, both have vertical drops over 1700' making us from the the mid-Atlantic US very envious!
Two of FarEastCanadianSkier's photos:
Summer view of Atlantic Ocean from Marble Mountain ski area and Lake Memphremagog from Owl's Head ski area.
Just to clarify. I posted photo links as I was unsure how to embed the photos. The first photo (summer) you embedded (thanks!) was actually Ski Whitehills, a ski mountain owned and operated by the community of Clarenville Newfoundland population 6,000 and growing! The "mountain" crests at 1200' above sea level with beautiful views. The base is about 350' above sea level. The triple chair serves 750' but you can hike and ski close to 900' of consistent pitch with some rolls to make the terrain a lot of fun. There are about a dozen runs and only 6 of them are groomed. So it has a cottage variety of backcountry options when snow quantities permit. Because it is very rocky terrain it takes about 3 feet of natural coverage to make it enjoyable. The 6 or so main runs have extensive snowmaking. So when it is a go with good natural snow there are some nice pitches and drops that are very much a real mountain and not a hill. Boarders outnumber skiers about 2 to 1 and lift lines on the worst weekend days never exceed 5 minutes. Usually even on weekends you can ski many runs going straight onto the chair.
That luxury has me looking for this kind of Mom's and Pops experience elsewhere. My searching led me to Brian Head in southern Utah. Brian Head is weekend destination for Vegas skiers with 640 acreas and vertical drop of 1300' of mostly intermediate beautifully groomed cruising. It has has some on hill condos so it is a "resort" but an exceptional combo of high altitude dry snow, undulating terrain, friendly locals and a non destination resort vibe. Last time I was there I had 50% off mid week coupons and the two of us skied/boarded 5 days at $50/day for 2 people. That was 5 days of sunshine skiing for 2 for $250! What a find. Mid week there were zero lift lines. Zero. The only drawback was that with so few poeple they closed a lift that serves some very fun terrain there. They didn't do that the first time I was there but the second visit they did that to save money. Oh well still incredible. It is though an intermediate paradise so folks that like pitch and or bumps won't be that impressed. The sunshine and no lift lines makes up for that in my opinion and then some.