Powder

HEART of GOLD

INSIDE THE BASE LODGE AT TERRY PEAK, SOUTH DAKOTA, TWO DADS, each wearing beards and white camo, applied lift tickets onto wriggling kids. A little girl in fuchsia wailed as her mother braided her hair. Another dad and his sulking teenage son bickered about a face-warmer. With the early morning arrival of a storm, temperatures in the northern Black Hills had dropped to the single digits. On the snow, skiers largely ignored the cold or the crowds of President’s Day weekend. New accumulation was still too scarce to feel, and the skiers’ turns were fast and precise on the firmly groomed trails. The tremble of storm-day expectations was unmistakable at the Heartland’s biggest ski area.

People have called the region around Terry Peak the richest 100 square miles on Earth. The nearest town, Lead, exists because its miners wrested millions of ounces of gold from the ore buried below. Smack in the middle of downtown is the shuttered Homestake Mine, which was the deepest and largest gold mine in North America until it closed in the early 2000s. The Wharf Mine, South Dakota’s last remaining operational gold mine, shares an access road with the ski area. Open pits dominate the summit view. Terry Peak is full of gold, too. Skiers venturing into glades must watch out for the holes of abandoned mining claims. One old claim, located near a funnel-like feature that skiers call the Toilet, is covered with chicken wire to keep unsuspecting out-of-towners from falling in.

Skiers and miners go way back. Nearly every ski town in Colorado grew from the gold rush. Alta, Utah, was founded on a silver claim that at one time had 10,000 residents.

The trajectory in most places was mining camp to ghost town to hippie hideaway to resort village. In the Black Hills, the mining boom lasted longer, and over decades, local mines have invested millions into the development of Terry Peak. Today,

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