SKI ANTHONY LAKES

North Powder, OR

WITH JUST ONE triple-chair lift, two surface lifts and a 900 vertical feet, diminutive Ski Anthony Lakes, located across a nameless ridge in eastern Oregon’s Elkhorn Range, hardly looks like great skiing on paper—until you find out that it boasts the lightest, driest snow this side of Salt Lake City and that days of crisp, bright sunshine follow all-night powder dumps with uncanny reliability. And though they may be loath to admit it (or spill their secret ski haunt), many are the Benders who regularly drive the 250 miles past Bachelor in search of a less hectic mountain experience with deep, backcountry snows.

Beginners will, no doubt, find all the black-diamond runs on the trail map daunting (10 of 21 trails are ranked expert), but with free (yes, free) lessons accompanying rentals, enormous south-facing picture windows in the lodge and batch after batch of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls sliding out of the oven, even milquetoasts will find their spot in the sun here.

But it’s the off-piste possibilities that pique most Anthony Lakes skiers’ interest. Three separate peaks are within hiking distance of the parking lot or accessible by traverse from the top of the chair with an $8 single-ride ticket. If you catch the mountain right after a big storm, consider booking passage to the unblemished backside vertical on the Sno-Cat. While it’s not quite as inexpensive as it was six years ago—when locals used to squeeze hayride-style into the old open-air cat wagon for $20—the new closed-cabin, heated ride, which once plied the backcountry at Vail, still delivers enthusiasts to legendary powder runs for $190 per day.