8 Independent Ski Areas Still Locally Owned By Main St. Not Wall St.

Red Mountain rossland british columbia BC powder Highway

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Do you love skiing? We’re not talking about hitting the slopes if the snow is perfect. Or about making sure your gear matches & staying in ski-in/ski-out condos. We’re talking about places that have just a lift, some terrain and your skis. Based on the news reports, it sounds like this style of skiing is dead. Is that true? The answer is a resounding NO! It just takes you getting off the beaten path. Don’t believe us? Well, here’s eight independent ski areas that have given a big middle finger to the corporate world & are still owned by locals for locals. The way it’s supposed to be!


Mad River Glen

Invest in Mad River Glen

Mad River Glen Single Chairlift Vermont Skiing
Image appears courtesy: Mad River Glen

We couldn’t start this list without giving a salute to the O.G. of bucking the trend. Mad River Glen is one of the first major ski areas in Vermont shuttling people via the single chair. And in 1995, they became the first cooperatively owned independent ski area in America. Their focus is to preserve the lower skier density & 100% about skiing what ma’ nature gives you. From having minimal snowmaking (5 fans to keep the high traffic/low elevation zones covered) to still running a single chairlift, this is the ski area all others try and measure up to when it comes to focusing on the skiing.


Red Mountain

Become an owner

Red Resort Rossland British Columbia
Photo By: Lain Reid – Image appears courtesy: Red Mountain Resort

As Public Enemy once said, “Fight the power. We’ve got to fight the powers that be!” And that is true with Red Mountain. Of course, they could’ve gotten gobbled up by one of the corporate titans in the industry to expand their cat skiing & upgrade their lifts. Instead, they went the route of getting investment dollars directly from skiers and snowboarders. Why? Their goal is to preserve the soul of the resort, the alpine environment & most of all keep the community involved. It doesn’t hurt that the resort has nearly 2,900 vertical feet of skiing, covering a whopping 4,200 acres.


Sugar Bowl

Sugar Bowl Ski Resort
Image appears courtesy: Sugar Bowl Ski Resort

Perched atop Donner Summit is the resort that started the Sierra ski craze. When Hannes Schroll started the resort in 1939, his vision was to create a slope side Tyrolean style village. Privately owned and operated by the homeowners in the Village at Sugar Bowl, their focus is to keep to the character of the resort but bring in state-of-the-art equipment because nobody likes to stand in long lift lines. With 103 runs getting blanketed with more than 500 inches of snow annually, this is definitely a MUST see resort for anyone in Lake Tahoe.

Bogus Basin

skier enjoying fresh powder at Bogus Basin at one of the last independent ski areas
Image appears courtesy: Bogus Basin

Since the founding of this 75-year-old ski area, it has always been owned by the community of Boise. But this independent ski area wouldn’t exist without the help of J.R. Simplot. In 1953 when the resort was struggling to cover its debts, he bought the ski lifts & other mountain amenities and leased them back to Bogus Basin Recreational Association. More than half a century later, it’s still keeping Boiseans on the slopes & offers up a $99 season pass for night skiing.

Interesting fact: The site of the area was selected by the father of American Powder skiing, Alf Engen.


Bridger Bowl

Bridger Bowl Powder Skiing Steep and Deep Winter Sunshine at an independent ski area
Image appears courtesy: Bridge Bowl Resort

Another great example of the community owning their local resort is Bridger Bowl. Just outside of Bozeman, this powder haven offers up 2,600 vertical feet of skiing & 2,000+ acres that gets blanketed with over 350 inches of the good stuff. Just like the blue light installed on the Baxter Hotel in downtown Bozeman notifies residents when there’s more than two inches of fresh, this ski area is a shining beacon of light for areas owned by the community.


Whaleback Mountain Ski The East
Image appears courtesy: Whaleback Mountain

The 1960’s might have been the era of small ski areas in the Northeast, but there has been a resurgence in community support to bring back defunct ones. A great example of this is Whaleback. Due to high debt, the mountain was forced to close in the 2012-13 season. Luckily, a local non-profit organization named the Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation (UVSSF) was established to operate & eventually purchase the mountain. In 2017, there were major improvements to the quality of the skiing such as new snow guns & installation of a T-bar.


Red River

The Lift House at Red River Ski Area
Photo by: Local Freshies®

The Land of Enchantment could also be called the land of independent ski areas. Taos might bring you to ski in the state of New Mexico and rightly so, but be sure to extend your trip a bit longer to sample some of the other ski areas near Taos. One of our favorites is Red River. Family owned, operated & managed by Linton Judycki, the terrain drops right into town. This means once you’re there, you can literally walk to everything from your lodging. And if you’re on the slopes, there’s a good chance you’ll see Linton fly by on his daily “quality management” tours.

Caberfae Peaks

corduroy at Caberfae Peaks
Image appears courtesy: Caberfae Peak

Although a few ski areas in the Midwest have been gobbled up by corporations, many of them are still owned & operated by families such as the Meyer family at Caberfae Peaks. Since the early 80’s, they’ve focused less on providing the “shiny” hotel amenities and more on making sure the skiing is as good as possible. And that’s maybe why it’s earned the moniker by Ski Magazine as the “Alta of the Midwest.” From two peaks, they offer a variety of runs to choose from such as wide open cruisers to even a hike-to gladed section they call “Backcountry Terrain.”

Take a look at lift ticket deals available on Liftopia for Caberfae Peaks

Skip Gordon Gecko Skiing & Ride Real Mountains

It’s true that skiing’s becoming more about lining the pockets of Wall Street than enjoying the art of the turn. From California to the Powder Highway & beyond, there are still bastions of hope. And if you like the idea of saving the locally owned independent ski areas, be sure to checkout the Mountain Riders Alliance or better yet pick up an Indy Pass. I don’t know about you, but I think I found new places for my bucket list.


Looking for more trip ideas or inspiration for your next vacation? Check out our in-depth guide:

We give you tips on when to visit certain ski areas, highlight indy ski areas that feel less corporate and have big personalities, and even how to avoid crowds.

35 thoughts on “8 Independent Ski Areas Still Locally Owned By Main St. Not Wall St.

    1. Dave, who could forget Turner! That’s on our personal bucket list to hit in the next few years 🙂

  1. Can you send me a list of independent mountains in the northeast? I live in Connecticut and bought an a icon pass last year.

    1. Hey Gail,

      Pretty much any of the ski areas on the east coast are still independent (except those owned by Epic or Ikon -> Stowe, Loon, Stratton). It depends on how FAR you want to drive. For New Hampshire you can head to Waterville Valley. Vermont? Bromley is on our hit list when we do make a trip out East. They have access to a TON of backcountry as well. And you can’t forget about the original: Mad River Glen. The better question would be what exactly are you looking for in a ski area?

  2. Banff Mount Norquay; Castle Mountain Resort; Panorama; Revelstoke …. the list in Canada is quite long and the tradition and skiing excellent!

    1. Ken,

      You’re absolutely right and that’s our next upgrade for this article. Giving love to our Canadian favorites. Be sure to take some turns for us up in the Great White North. Fingers crossed that they’ll allow us Yankees to come up and enjoy what we think our the best mountains in the world.

    1. First, let me say that this is one of the coolest names I’ve ever seen. I could imagine a sticker with it on there. Anyways, you’re totally right on all three and we love all of them equally. In our personal perspective DP might have the best view of the lake followed by Homewood.

  3. Loveland Ski Area, at Colorado’s Eisenhower Tunnel on the Continental Divide, is still privately owned by the same family since the 40s or 50s from Mineral Wells, Texas. It is over 1,800 acres, has 94 runs of every terrain type, and is the one of the best deals to be had! Every time we go somewhere else, my kids ask to go back to Loveland the next time.

    1. Hey Brian,

      Thanks for sharing this info and hearing the stoke about indy resorts is still alive and well. Curious do you know if they now live in Colorado or still in Mineral Wells?

  4. most Australians get to ski 2 weeks maximum in a 12 month period, so season lift passes are a waste of money for them, when you can get lift passes at a major resort in Colorado for $39/adult with kids free.

    1. Hi Harry,

      I think that’s true for most everyone in America too (if they’re lucky). Curious, which major resort in Colorado is $39 / adult? You may also want to consider picking up an Indy Pass. A GREAT deal if you want to ski a lot of different places.

  5. Worked at Red River as an instructor and a coach from 1994 to 1996. I knew Linton when he was about 4 years old. His old man Drew was a good man and its awesome to see that they have kept it in the family.

    1. Shannon,

      Thanks for sharing a personal story. 🙂 That’s our goal with writing these articles to spark a positive memory so cool! We have to agree we met Linton and he’s the epitome of what a ski area owner should be. Passionate, skiing every day, and meeting up with visitors… not in NY stock exchange shareholder meetings.

    1. Came here to say this. They compete directly against Ikon, Epic, and New York State and are still better than all three.

    1. Hey Jim,

      Whoa! I’ve heard of Mt Baldy (on my bucket list) but Mt Waterman …. now that’s a new one I’m going to have to research. Thanks for the heads up.

  6. The oldest family owned and operated resort in the US SkiTheBeav! Beaver Mountain, UT – I mean talk about quality

  7. Greek Peak in NY’s Finger Lakes is family owned. Previous owners had grand plans for expansion but financed the new hotel and waterpark with a bank that went into receivership during the Great Recession. Greek went to auction and a pair of local condo owning skiers bought it for about 10 cents on the dollar. Savings went immediately into a new quad and snowmaking improvements every year since.

    Terrain at Greek is divided up between 4 different “peak” areas that serve different styles of terrain. Looking up the mountain:

    To the far right are longer black and blue steeps as well as a couple of greens, all served by the newer quad and an old Hall double (Chair1). This area has more terrain than most midwest and small eastern areas. At one point it was the entire resort. Spend all morning lapping Olympian, Olympus, Iliad, Elysian Fields, Stoic, Christy’s Run, Meadows, Karyatis Way and Platonic.

    After lunch take the novices up the old 1963 built double chair (Chair2). At a mile long it was the longest chair in NY when built. A renovation cut off the bottom (for more beginner space) and added a fast variable speed motor 20 years ago. It still serves one of the longest and most consistently sloped green trails in upstate NY (Castor). It also serves a terrain park on Pollex, a couple of fun black steeps, steep woodsy glades and an assortment of skier accessible mountain bike trails (bumps, ramps, jumps, and bridges included).

    Further to the left and above the bunny chair that serves Alpha is another Hall double (Chair 4) that goes to the highest point. From there you have a choice of two headwall blacks (Zeus and Hercules). Trojan offers a fast and steep blue. And yet another black glade tree trail is hiding off Hercules. Novices and cruisers take Marathon back to the middle of Castor.

    What you can’t see from the base is Greek Peak “East”, where you’ll find Arcadian Gate, Mars Hill, and more glades. Arcadian Gate is the longest trail on the mountain and a great place to take a novice after a snow dump because the right side is never groomed. They can get a feel for some deep snow but still escape to corduroy. Mars Hill starts off really easy but beware… it gets steeper and steeper as you go. This area is served by the only triple (Chair5) at Greek. Chair 5 is a longish ride, but the trails are even longer.

    Best of all, on weekends the Chair 5 parking lot is Barbeque Central. PARK HERE and start the grill and open the refreshments. Beware though, if you don’t park back there, Chair 5 closes early because there are no lights and it’s a long walk back. Fortunately you can call for the last shuttle back to base.

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