Published: December 2008/January 2009
Mountain States
Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.
Text by Contributing Editor Robert Earle Howells
Climbing: Climb Hyalite Ice

Dribbles is guide Mike Cooperstein’s favorite frozen climb in Hyalite Canyon. "It’s a multipitch route, pretty mellow, just beautiful, and it goes on forever up big fat ice." By "fat ice," Coop means that it’s uninterrupted by rocky stints. And by "forever," he’s talking 607 vertical feet. Dribbles is typical of the 150 or so routes in the two square miles of Hyalite Canyon in the Gallatin National Forest just south of Bozeman, making Hyalite one of the hottest cold spots in the lower 48. The canyon has plenty of easier options too. Coop and his fellow Montana Alpine Guides lead it all—and instruct climbers of any level ($300 per person, including gear; Hit town the weekend of December 5 to 7, when the Bozeman Ice Festival offers ice clinics by day and slide shows of icy derring-do by night ($75;

Hiking: Reach a Higher Plane

"I guarantee our outing will be the highlight of your visit," says Dennis Andres, who modestly calls himself "Mr. Sedona." As a hiking guide and guidebook author, he earns the title leading clients on challenging routes through the sandstone beauty that surrounds this high-desert capital of western mysticism ($350; The author of What Is a Vortex? even speaks the local New Age dialect fluently. So a hike with Andres up, say, Bear Mountain (five miles, 1,803 feet of elevation gain) or a 4.6-mile secret loop past seven sacred pools is more than a scenic jaunt; he says it’s an energizing experience that can include the option of a meditation session, "ideal for both the skeptic and the spiritualist." In a town rife with supernaturally expensive places to sleep and eat, Sky Ranch Lodge stands out for humble prices and great views (doubles from $80;, and the nearby Cowboy Club serves up heavenly prickly pear cactus fries.

Skiing: Mine Silver Mountain

Statistics don’t tell the whole story of a resort like Silver Mountain just east of Coeur d’Alene in the Idaho panhandle. Sure, the ski area has 73 downhill runs on 1,600 acres of slopes that get 300 inches of snowfall each year (the runs stayed open till June 1 last season, a banner year throughout the West). But the real gems are hidden inside the monster. Wardner Peak, for example, requires a 15-minute walk, but the payoff is an ungroomed stash—a mountain all to yourself, as if you were choppered in. Or check out Happy Jack, another secluded run where you can lay fresh tracks on a steep, wide slope in the morning, and then use the chairlift to bomb through the trees over and over again all afternoon. Afterward you can exchange your snowboard for a surfboard and catch a perfect, never ending wave in Silver Rapids, the resort’s epic indoor water park (doubles from $163, including lift tickets;

Snowboarding: Ride Kachina

The day that New Mexico snowboarders thought they’d never see is here: Riders can at last cohabitate with skiers at Taos ($66, or $40 until December 19;, which also lists lodging options). So now what? Well, for starters—or for the whole weekend—check out Kachina Peak in the upper east bowl of the ski valley. It’s a 45-minute hike from the top of Lift 2 or 6 to the 12,481-foot summit, from which powderhounds can plow through pristine puff, legally and gleefully, all the way to the base area. There’s also a newly opened snowboard school (lessons, $51) and an intensive snowboard camp ($160). Plus, the resort has added its first new piste in years, and it’s a doozy: a double-black-diamond glade run called North American that plummets 1,400 feet. Pick it up at the top of Lift 1. Afterward, lie all about it at Tim’s Stray Dog Cantina over potent margaritas and not-for-the-faint green chili.