I asked, What are the most beautiful mountains on Planet Earth? Not the best snow, not the best grooming — the most beautiful.
And you answered. Boy, did you answer. Here’s what you said:
You showed me yours, I’d show you mine. Here’s mine …
Let’s start with this: Skiing (and when I say “skiing,” that includes snowboarding, monoskiing, alpine and telemark, and everything else that gets you down a snowy mountain using skill and gravity, muscles and verve) is the most beautiful sport on Planet Earth. Bar none.
Try to think of an ugly ski area. Can’t, can you? Even at the tiniest resort, you’re surrounded by snowy loveliness after a few minutes on the chairlift.
It’s the same everywhere. As I oohed and aahed over the 360-degree views of endless peaks from Trois Vallee in France, the guide wryly replied, “It is just mountains covered with a bit of snow.”
I riposted, “Yes, and the Mona Lisa is just canvas covered with a bit of paint.”
On the backside of Northstar in California, the view of the valley below and the mountains beyond was so stunning, I had to stop in my tracks and slowly drink it in.
Skiing Stowe, Vermont on a blue-sky morn, I first uttered the words I’ve repeated a dozen times since: “I feel sorry for people who don’t ski.”
But I haven’t told you my picks for the most beautiful mountains on Planet Earth. Here they are.
5. Ski Apache in New Mexico
It’s a high and sacred peak of pure white that looks down on pine forest, distant towns, high-desert browns. And it’s owned and run by almond-eyed, blue-black haired, caramel skinned Mescalero Apaches. Beauty near and far. See New Mexico lift tickets.
4. Telluride in Colorado
You’re standing on the main street of a 19th century western mining town nestled below high peaks that, at night, feel so close you’re sure you can reach out and touch them. See Colorado lift tickets.
3. Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada
The mountains surrounding Mark Twain’s favorite lake gobsmack the skier with views of deep white snow high above deep emerald water. Among the best of the best: Heavenly, Homewood and Diamond Peak. See Lake Tahoe lift tickets.
2. The Dolomites of Italy
Jagged dragon teeth tower over perfect alpine villages and soar piercingly into the clear Italian sky.
1. Banff in Canada
The nearness of the Canadian Rockies and the wildness of a great national park fill the eye and sear the soul. Banff is my pick for most beautiful mountains on Planet Earth. See Banff lift tickets.
Jules Older’s ebook of travel tales, DEATH BY TARTAR SAUCE: A Travel Writer Encounters Gargantuan Gators, Irksome Offspring, Murderous Mayonnaise & True Love, touches the beauty mark; more often, it taps the funny bone.