Top 5 places the Jews should ski this year

(JTA) — Is skiing somehow inherently Jewish?

Think about it: There’s the snow, the oblong shape of the ski, the way the chairlift hoists you up in the air.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

Still don’t see it? Me neither.

But as a Jew who loves skiing, here’s what I can offer: Recommendations for five places in America the Jews should ski this year.

Keystone, for the kids (Colorado)

Keystone ski resort is brimming with kid-friendly activities, from the fireworks displays on weeknights to the terrain park for beginners to the tubing area and snow fort atop the 11,640-foot Dercum peak.

But the most kid-friendly thing about this 3,148-acre ski area — the second-largest in Colorado — is what it does for the pocketbook: Kids under 12 ski free.

As long as you stay at least two nights at a Keystone property, you don’t have to pay for kids’ lift tickets. And not just your kids, but anyone staying with you. There are no blackout dates.

This goes far beyond other resorts’ offers of a complimentary kid’s ticket for every paying adult. So if you’ve followed the Torah’s injunction to be fruitful and multiply, now’s your chance to reap some rewards.

There are two other good reasons to take your family to Keystone. Located just an hour west of Denver, it’s easy to reach. And most multi-day Keystone tickets are also good at Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek and Arapahoe Basin, giving you thousands more acres of skiing a few miles down the road.

Vital Stats:
Size: 3,148 acres
Trails: 135
Lifts: 20
Vertical: 3,128 feet (Base: 9,280. Summit: 12,048 feet)
Special features: Five bowls and a 60-acre terrain park consistently rated among the top five in the country. If your kids are too young for the slopes, the Mountain Top Children’s Museum at Breckenridge, less than 30 minutes from Keystone, provides some worthwhile distraction.

Mammoth, for the timing (California)

For several reasons, Mammoth is Californians’ favorite mountain. For one, it’s huge, with more than 3,500 acres of terrain. On holidays and weekends, when Angelenos make the five-hour drive here, its ferrying capacity of 59,000 skiers per hour becomes an obvious asset.

But Mammoth’s most remarkable feature is the length of its season, which usually runs from early November into June. In 2005-06, Mammoth got enough snow to open in October and didn’t close until July 4th. Most years, there are only four months out of the year when you can’t ski Mammoth.

Set on the eastern edge of the Sierras in the vicinity of Yosemite National Park, Mammoth is like a magnet for snow, with an average tally of 400 inches per year. All that takes a long time to melt. So if you find yourself in California after Passover and still have a hankering for the slopes, no problem: Mammoth will be open.

Vital Stats:
Size: 3,500 acres
Trails: 150
Lifts: 28
Vertical: 3,100 feet (Base: 7,953. Summit: 11,053 feet)
Special features: There are plenty of glades, so if you want your own private corner of the mountain, you’ll find enough powder to keep you busy and away from the crowds all day.

Canyons, for the food (Utah)

If you’re a kosher skier, lunch on the slopes probably means a tuna fish sandwich or peanut butter and jelly. Not tragic, but deeply unsatisfying when you’re sitting in a lodge surrounded by bowls of steaming chili, sloppy joes and French fries drenched in cheddar cheese.

The nation’s only kosher ski-in/ski-out restaurant, Bistro at Canyons in Park City, Utah, can’t help you with lunch — it doesn’t open till evening — but it does provide sufficiently delectable dinners to tide you over till the morning.

The cuisine is “new American,” featuring such dishes as duck breast with ragu of braised red cabbage, fennel and apple ($32); steak burger with onion rings, spinach and sea salt fries ($19); and curry spiced lamb shank with toasted Israeli couscous, chimichurri and beet chips ($40).

If your appetites extend from the gastronomic to the spiritual, the kosher restaurant is complemented by an onsite Orthodox shul with daily services.

And did I mention the skiing? Canyons is a 4,000-acre mega-mountain located less than an hour from Salt Lake City’s airport and just minutes from two other large, worthwhile mountains: Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley.

Vital Stats:
Size: 4,000 acres
Trails: 182
Lifts: 21
Vertical: 3,190 feet (Base: 6,800. Summit: 9,900 feet)
Special features: If you like gullies, Canyons has half a dozen “natural” halfpipes.

Windham, for a day trip (New York)

It’s not the biggest mountain in the world. But if you live in the New York area — as do more than one-third of American Jews, according to the recent Pew survey — you only have a couple of options if you’re a decent skier looking for a day trip.

Forget those places in New Jersey. Get up early and make the two-hour drive to the Catskills. When you see the sign on the Thruway for Hunter Mountain, you might be tempted to turn off. Hunter’s not a bad choice.

But if you hang on for one more exit you’ll find Windham Mountain, a lesser-known ski area of comparable terrain with only a fraction of Hunter’s crowds. At 279 acres, Windham is actually 40 acres larger than Hunter, and the snow is just as good. Which is to say, even when Mother Nature is not being helpful, there’s plenty of snowmaking to keep the trails covered.

Yes, it might get icy. And no, you won’t mistake it for the Rockies or the Sierras. But if you don’t have a week to kill and a couple thousand dollars to burn, and you just need to skip out on work for a day, Windham will feel sublime.

Vital Stats:
Size: 278 acres
Trails: 52
Lifts: 12
Vertical: 1,600 feet (Base: 1,500. Summit: 3,100 feet)
Special features: You can get there from Manhattan by bus.

Jay Peak, for non-skiers (Vermont)

Chances are, if you’re a non-skier paired with a loved one who skis, you’ve probably endured more than your fair share of ski village shopping, hot chocolate in the lodge and movies in your hotel room.

Jay Peak, hidden away in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom not far from the Canadian border, has something else for you: a water park!

The resort’s football-field-size indoor water park is no afterthought. It’s got surfing, slides, pools, a river and a 300-foot chute that includes a 60-foot drop where riders can reach speeds of 45 miles per hour. Get ready to scream.

The park, which opened two years ago, is part of Jay Peak’s long-term plan to become a four-season resort. But if winter is still your preferred weather for a mountain escape, fear not. Jay Peak has some great terrain: steep glades, a 3-mile-long trail and a tram to get you up the mountain quickly.

Vital Stats:

Size: 385 acres
Trails: 76
Lifts: 9
Vertical: 2,153 feet (Base: 1,815. Summit: 3,698 feet)
Special features: Unlike many eastern ski resorts, Jay Peak encourages skiing the trees as part of its “liberal in-bounds policy.”