Alyeska Resort, Alaska
Credit: Kate Siber

It's true that the view from the top of the Alyeska Resort's tram, a vast panorama that includes glaciers, swaths of the world's northernmost rain forest, and the white flanks of the Chugach Mountains, is dumbfounding. But the vista from the top of the ski area's headwall, about 1,000 feet higher, is even more astonishing. To get there, skiers boot-pack up a powdery trail that might as well be a stairmaster, but the hardest (and most fun) part is the way down. Choose between two rocky chutes or a bowl that, in some spots, approaches 60 degrees. "It's so steep you can only see two or three turns in front of you, and the hill keeps dropping away as you go," says Brian Burnett, mountain services manager. "You can't see quite to Russia, but pretty close," says Burnett. Far below, multicolored skiers zigzag down Alyeska's trails, blankets of fog shift around a giant glacial fjord, and rows of paper-white peaks rise straight from the sea and disappear into the distance.

More information: Lift tickets run from $70 a day. Fly into Anchorage on Alaska Airlines, and make the 40-minute drive south to the town of Girdwood.