Though skiing has been utilized as a method of transport for almost five thousand years, our snow loving predecessors didn’t really start utilizing the fluffy white stuff for purely recreational purposes until the end of the 19th century. The first rope tow was strung up in 1910 in Truckee, CA as a part of a winter carnival; in 1914, Howelsen Hill first opened for recreational skiing. You can still visit Howelsen Hill and take a few turns on the oldest continuously operating ski resort in North America in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Nowadays, many ski resorts are bastions of progress and innovation: high-speed chair lifts and WiFi-enabled gondolas; lift tickets that are scanned from within your pocket; and smart-phone apps that not only tell you how many vertical feet you skied and how quickly, but also allow you to stalk your ex-boyfriend around the mountain.
It’s a brave new world, kids.
So in order to properly appreciate how far we’ve come, let’s take a little trip into the past. Back to the days when lift tickets were $5, there were no such things as iPods, and 20 minute chair ride just meant that you had more time to chat up the ski bunny perched beside you.
In 1936, the world’s first chair lift was introduced at Sun Valley, Idaho. Looking at these trail maps, not much has changed in terms of terrain, but you know that the lift situation has improved.
In this trail map from 1969, skiers could enjoy a total of 18 acres for the price of a $5 lift ticket. Now there are 171 skiable acres and lift ticket prices have risen accordingly, but you can still snag a ticket for less than $40—not bad when you take in account inflation.
Mount Baker is known for having (unofficially) the highest average annual snowfall of any resort in the world, but perhaps it should be known for having a great deal of warning language on its trail maps. With challenging in-bounds routes and tons of backcountry access, it’s interesting to see how much the mountain has changed since 1936.
When Mammoth first opened in 1965, the name definitely referred to its mascot Wooly Mammoth and not to the amount of terrain you could ski. Now, Mammoth really is mammoth-sized, with terrain on both the front-side and back-side of the mountain combined for more than 5,000 skiable acres.
Magic Mountain is one of the few resorts that remain relatively unchanged in today’s ski resort world. You’ll still find 1960s style runs where volunteers pitch in to help clear trails and create new glades.
Jackson Hole will celebrate its 50th anniversary during the 2015-16 ski season and these trail maps show the progression of the resort, complete with the famous aerial tram and famous Corbet’s Couloir.
The integration of Moonlight Basin into Big Sky Resort made Big Sky Resort the largest ski resort in America with 5,750 acres in 2013. Now, due to glading projects, Big Sky Resort has 5,800 acres of skiable terrain. Looking at the trail maps, it’s showing off quite a change from its 1973 origins.
Though many resorts have changed over the past decades, the joy of skiing hasn’t diminished. And those ski bunnies? They’re still waiting to hear your best pick up lines on the lift. Do yourself a favor, take the head phones off and chat up the person next to you. All of this progress just means you’ll just have to make your move a bit faster these days.