Mount Baker, Washington
WASHINGTONDodge an Avalanche
A game of hide-and-seek with avalanche beacons can be a whole lot of fun--if no one is attached to the beacons. Enroll in the American Alpine Institute's three-day avalanche safety course on Mount Baker and practice probing for buried victims through snow and ice and reading rutschblocks, layers in a carved-out hunk of snow that can tell you if the stratum is likely to slide off that day. Besides two days in the field (out-of-bounds at the Mount Baker ski area), the course includes classroom instruction and culminates in a very safe half-day ski tour ($235; mtnguide.com
). The dorm-style Mount Baker Lodge is your avalanche-proof retreat ($30; mountaineers.org/lodge/baker
OREGON Cross Nordic Powder
At Ski Anthony Lakes, stats tell a big part of the story: 1,100 skiable acres, 300 inches of annual snowfall, 7,100-foot base elevation (highest in Oregon), 25 miles of sweetly groomed cross-country and skate tracks ($12 for a Nordic pass; anthonylakes.com
). But the numbers fall short when describing the Elkhorn Range's glacier-scoured peaks or how XC trails are designed for maximum solitude. The time-warp Geiser Grand Hotel ($79; geisergrand.com
), 35 miles away in Baker City, has views of the mountains and Saturday bus pickups for $8.
CALIFORNIA Kick Up Your Heels
You choose: Head to your local ski hill and search out a guy named Knute who teaches telemark every other Thursday, or matriculate in the Mountain Adventure Seminars Telemark Ski School, a master's program that focuses on the sport's essence: controlling speed on steep terrain and skiing ungroomed powder or crud ($145 for two days; mtadventure.com
). The school is in Bear Valley, an unsung ski area in the Sierra between Tahoe and Yosemite. Go February 8 to 10 for freeheeling heaven: The Bear Valley Telemark Festival ($45).
ARIZONA Run a Red-Rock Marathon
When the red dust settles on the hilly, high-altitude (4,100 to 4,600 feet) Sedona Marathon, you may not have bagged a personal best, but you'll have substantially boosted your cosmic mojo ($88; sedonamarathon.com
). The race, which takes place on February 9 and also includes a half-marathon and a 5K, undulates through the piñon pines of Coconino National Forest, passing beneath red-rock spires and traversing one of Sedona's famous energy vortexes, Boynton Canyon--said to be the birthplace of the Apache tribe. Forty percent of the course is on a joint-saving dirt road that winds through parkland. Recover afterward with a sport-specific massage at Thunder Mountain Wellness Center, which offers a 20 percent discount on bodywork (tmwc.org
IDAHO Go Yurting
The XC trail and yurt system in the Boise Mountains, 60 miles from the state capital, is one of Idaho's pretty little secrets. A tangle of interconnecting pistes fans out from parking areas off State Route 21 and will get you to within hiking distance of five yurts. Five miles from the road, for example, through a forest of ponderosa and lodgepole pines, sits Banner Ridge yurt, which has views downvalley to the south fork of the Payette River and up to the spires of the Sawtooth Range. Each hut rests on a platform above deep powder and comes equipped with a woodstove and firewood, futon and bunk beds, and a fully stocked kitchen. Out the front door lie 2,000 vertical feet to telemark and--within 200 yards--60 miles of trails, 26 miles of them groomed. Can't get a reservation? Try for May. The snow'll still be there ($75; idahoparks.org/lodging/backcountryyurts.aspx
UTAH Pull 3 g's Headfirst
"There are no brakes. You'll feel panic boil up inside you. Resist it. Just stay on that sled." That's how Steve Revelli, western regional director for the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, describes a first-run experience at the Utah Olympic Park's Bobsled Fantasy Camp in Park City ($1,500 for five days of bobsled and skeleton runs; olyparks.com
). The course starts with a track walk and lessons in "curve theory"--the principle that explains how your bobsled safely and naturally follows the lines of the track as it reaches 3 g's of pull for as long as three seconds. Curve theory, however, applies only if you're in a perfectly balanced position, a skill imparted by your instructors, some of the best sledders in the world. Day by day, campers start farther up the track (the bottom is the flattest part) until they hit speeds of 70 miles per hour.