MagazineOctober 2009Is Recreation in the Appalachians Better Than Out West?

Is Recreation in the Appalachians Better Than Out West?

Illustration by Wade Mickley
Illustration by Wade Mickley

46% No

Call me a traitor, but as I am getting ready for ski season, all I am thinking about is huge vertical, knee-deep powder, and runs that last for miles. This winter, my lift tickets will be purchased in Utah. It’s just too good.
—Jenny Swenson, Charlotte, N.C.

It’s simply a matter of scale: the mountains are bigger and the public lands far more vast and expansive than anything on the East Coast. While I love the accessibility of the Appalachians, the size and grandeur of the High Sierra and the Rockies inevitably dwarfs even our highest Southern Appalachian summits.
—Jeremy Youse, via e-mail

I love our area, but nothing compares to the Southwest. Arches, Canyonlands, the Colorado River, Zion, and Moab are the most awesome places I have ever been. I ache to go back and see more.
—Mike McCall, via e-mail

Because there is so much more open space out West, I prefer it to the crowded Appalachians. You can truly get away in the giant wilderness areas of Montana or Wyoming. The waterfalls are far more impressive and overpowering. Even the national parks out West are far larger and more magnificent. Don’t get me wrong: I love the Smokies and Shenandoah, but both would fit inside the tourist loop of Yosemite.
—Michael Wylie, via e-mail

54% Yes

There’s something to be said for being able to ski on Tuesday and mountain bike on Wednesday. That’s often my adventure itinerary in December or January when the temperatures remain relatively mild here in the Mid-Atlantic. Sometimes after a few days of hard skiing at Whitegrass, I’ll have my bike on the car and hit Torrey Ridge on the way home for a quick ride. I enjoy that kind of variety and know it wouldn’t be possible in the long hard winters out West.
—Jane Miller, Richmond, Va.

For me this question all relates to the Appalachian Trail. As an avid hiker and a former thru-hiker, I love the close-knit culture and camaraderie that comes with the A.T. community. We’ve created something that has yet to be replicated when it comes to a long trail hiking community. From the quirky traditions to the generosity of trail magic to the annual reunion party at Trail Days in Damascus, Va., we have put together a special community in the outdoors that spans many generations. Something about a hike on the A.T. just always feels like home.
—Alex Mulhavey, Roswell, Ga.

Enjoyment depends on the mindset of the person, not the place. My best place for recreation is where I am at that moment. I have had a great hike on city sidewalks in Chicago. Since I live in Appalachia, it is better here now.
—Ingles Alexander, Independence, Va.

The answer to that question is the same as the answer to the question a married man might ask himself: “Who is hotter: my wife or Angelina Jolie?” The true answer is: the one you’re with. Both the Appalachians and the Rockies have so much beauty, wonder, wisdom, and therapy to offer. The one that is better is whichever one you’re in. Since most readers are in the Appalachians, that’s the answer in this case, unless you prefer standing in a bookstore flipping through picture books of the Rockies instead of getting out and immersing yourself in West Virginia’s Dolly Sods or the Upper Creek Falls of North Carolina. Then you might also prefer flipping through tabloids for pictures of Angelina.
—John Rudmin, Harrisonburg, Va.

Places to Go, Things to See: