Reasons to visit a small ski hill

See and ski the roots of the sport. You don't need a high-speed quad, a fleet of groomers and a four-star restaurant to have fun. You just need a mountain, a lift to take you to the top and the right attitude.

Powder days. Some small hills are only open a few days a week, and when they're closed, all that snow piles up.

Exploring. You likely can see the whole mountain in a day, and possibly the nooks and crannies in between runs. It's a fun way to see new scenery and ski terrain you might otherwise miss or ignore.

No crowds. Hit them at certain times, like weekdays or nights, and it can feel like you have the whole mountain to yourself. By the end of your trip, you'll be on a first-name basis with the lift operator.

Cheap lift tickets. Don't expect small ski areas to give away their tickets, because they have overhead, too. But when lift tickets at top resorts are getting dangerously close to triple digits, a small hill is a bargain by comparison. Many have discount days, two-for-one deals or other specials to make skiing even cheaper.

Laid-back vibe. Nobody goes to a small resort to impress people or show off fancy ski gear and designer clothes. They're there to have fun, and it shows. Not to say people are grumpy at larger resorts, but smaller ones are more casual, and it's contagious. Expect to have a conversation with the person on the chairlift and see them repeatedly throughout the day.