Where can you catch fresh tracks in the morning and be back for the Econ exam at 3 p.m.? Or, drop the English term paper off at 10 a.m. and be on the hill by noon for four solid hours of powder? This website is your source for choosing a school that matches your academic and recreational needs. If you’re looking to complement your degree with such electives as the “Fundamentals of Powder” and “Steep and Deep 101,” you’ve ventured to the right place. The Snow and School Report features the top universities from the top states to ski, snowboard and learn. Get the story, stats, and rankings for places where the term “higher education” applies beyond the classroom.
With 12 major mountain resorts statewide, the “greatest snow on earth” also happens to be the most accessible.
The University of Utah is less than an hour from seven different mountains, with public transit available up both Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons. Little Cottonwood is home to Alta and Snowbird, which, combined, offers 4,700 skiable acres and ranks No. 2 for “Best North American resorts” by Skiing Magazine.
This proximity to world-class skiing and snowboarding -- after all, Salt Lake City was home to the 2002 Winter Olympics -- attracts many out-of-state students who often stay after graduation, contributing to the region’s role as a major economic player in the West. Providing top-tier education, world-class mountains, and a burgeoning urban setting, Utah is the number one option for a “higher education.”
The state of Colorado receives a good amount of publicity for the amenities that its mountains offer – and for good reason. The Rocky Mountain state has a plethora of posh resorts, Vail, Aspen, and Steamboat Springs among them. Unfortunately, for those attending the University of Colorado-Boulder, or Colorado Sate University in Fort Collins, these nationally renowned resorts aren’t exactly in their own backyard.
Aspen and Steamboat are more than three hours from both CU and CSU, and Vail is two hours away. CU’s rec services does offer a ski bus to Breckenridge and Keystone. Tickets for the three-hour ride are cheap at $10, but better get up early – the bus departs at 6:30 a.m., Saturday and Sunday only.
For those who prefer a private education, Colorado College in Colorado Springs offers courses that span only three-and-a-half weeks with a four-day weekend at the end of each. Better hit the slopes. It may be the only time to go to the mountain.
The state of Vermont knows a little something about skiing, snowboarding, and higher education. The state boasts more colleges and universities per capita than any other in the U.S. and has 17 mountain resorts.
Many of Vermont’s colleges are small, liberal arts schools, and are relatively expensive. The University of Vermont (UVM) is the state’s largest school with over 10,000 students. UVM is a few hours from Killington, Sugarbush, and Stowe mountains, Vermont’s top resorts. While popular with many New Englanders because of their close proximity, Vermont’s resorts pale in comparison to those out west.
With only 250 natural inches a year, many of Vermont’s mountain resorts make up for any lack of snowfall with the artificial stuff. Thanks to the arsenal of snow guns, and the state’s chilly temperatures, Vermont boasts one of the longest ski and snowboard seasons in the country, which gives you plenty of time to master the state’s 5,000-foot “mountains.”
Most people think of Nevada as an endless desert with pockets of showgirls and slot machines, anchored by Las Vegas. For the most part, this is an accurate description, but at the desert’s edge is the winter oasis Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Mountains.
The nearest beneficiary of Lake Tahoe’s tourism is Reno. Like the state, the “biggest little city in the world” is also famous for its casinos and showgirls, and its university rides the recreational wave.
Heavenly Mountain – an hour-and-a-half south of University of Nevada-Reno – is king of Tahoe and boasts the largest vertical drop and most acreage in California. Art and photography majors can take advantage of the views from Heavenly’s summit – 10,000-foot peaks surrounding the 22-mile long mountain lake. The photographs can be pretty amazing and are definitely not your standard college shots.
For those going to school in the state’s other university, UNLV, Tahoe’s only an eight-hour drive. Something to consider for spring break if there’s any money left over from a semester’s worth of clubbing and cards.
Make no mistake, Montana is big country with its share of big mountains. Most of the good riding occurs along the western edge of the state as the Rockies climb up the border to Canada.
Just north of the Wyoming border, Big Sky Resort is the steepest in the state. Bowls of snow and rock plunge from the 11,166-foot Lone Peak. Buoyed by Moonlight Basin on the eastern face of Lone Mountain, Big Sky is also the state’s largest resort.
Not all the mountains in Montana can boast such stature. Bridger Bowl (an hour from Big Sky) and Whitefish Mountain (near the Canadian border) are closest, but still only have about half the vertical drop. Between Big Sky and Whitefish are a slew of smaller mountains with some reaching 2,000+ feet of vertical.
In the nation’s fourth largest state, nothing is exactly “close.” Bring your car and good music, and hope for cheaper gas and canceled classes.