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Mar

6

A powder skier’s guide to some of our favorite resorts in North America.

Mammoth Mountain, California 

 Acres: 3,500 | Vertical: 3,100′ 

Snowfall: 400″

Overview: Per its moniker, Mammoth skis big, with a playground for every skier type, from the steep trees and cliffs on Lincoln Mountain, to the chutes down Hangman’s Hollow, to the solitary sidecountry, to the expansive terrain parks. Just feel like ripping? You can in 360 degrees from the summit. And wind-buffing—nature’s grooming—keeps the hill fresh for weeks after storms.

What’s New: Mammoth boasts some of the best bang-for-your-buck ski touring in the Eastern Sierra. New introduction to backcountry clinics and sidecountry tours, led by AMGA and PSIA guides and instructors, will help get more skiers exploring safely.

Local’s Take: Gabe Taylor moved to Mammoth from Colorado 20 years ago to join a vibrant community of pro snowboarders. The new standout community? Rad dads. “There are so many of them in their mid-thirties,” he says. “They were wild kids and now their lives revolve around their families and scoring classic Mammoth turns.” mammothmountain.com 

—Matt McDonald  | | skier Bernie Rosow

photo Peter Morning

 

 

Jay Peak, Vermont

Acres: 385 | Vertical: 2,153′ | Snowfall: 377″

Overview: A decade ago, Jay epitomized tucked-away Northeast Kingdom stomping grounds. It still gets the most annual snow of any eastern resort, and in its hairier tree-studded shots the saying goes, “ski good or eat wood.” But the resort has come of age as a self-sufficient destination, complete with water park, ice arena, hotels, restaurants, and even a cinema and drafthouse. Communications director JJ Toland says, “Now if the wind’s howling, you’re not stuck in a hotel room with screaming kids.”

What’s New: Jay wants to grow new skiers. Never-evers can show up at 11:00, buy a half-day rental, and hit the magic carpet for free tips from instructors and coaches. If they get hooked by 1:00, they can opt-in for a $20 lesson. If not, they can return the rentals for a full refund and break even.

Local’s Take: Geoff McDonald used to film and edit movies for Meathead Films. Co-owner of Burlington-based Ski the East, he still heads into the field on big shoot days. At Jay, that means skinning to the cliffs beyond Beaver Pond or scoring wind-deposited bounty down steep chutes off the Bonaventure Quad. jaypeakresort.com —M.M. |  photo courtesy Jay Peak Resort

 

 

Alyeska, Alaska

Acres: 1,610 | Vertical: 2,500′ | Snowfall: 669″

Overview: Alyeska rivals Washington’s Mount Baker for the title of America’s Snowiest Resort. The big difference? The Alaska factor. Here, you’re 40 minutes from Anchorage, but a long way from everywhere else. Spines and chutes drop toward the steel turquoise of Cook Inlet. And Chugach Powder Guides picks up skiers from the on-mountain heli-pad. Because you booked a heli-ski day, right?

What’s New: The resort turns 60 this year. Look for retro ski days, vintage schwag, and open mic nights where locals sip Midnight Sun Pleasure Town IPA and share Alyeska stories.

Local’s Take: Randy Kanady learned how to ski at Alyeska in the early ’70s after his family moved to Anchorage from San Diego. “It was the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he says. He recommends the Christmas Chute. “It’s an elevator shaft. It’s where you make sure you still have what it takes.” alyeskaresort.com —M.M. | photo courtesy of Alyeska Resort

 

 

Snowmass, Colorado

Acres: 3,339 | Vertical: 4,406′ | Snowfall: 300″

Overview: With a bigger footprint than sister resorts Aspen, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk combined, Snowmass is where you go to get lost. When patrol drops the Cirque Headwall rope on stormy mornings, the blower will make you forget what color your skis are. Follow that euphoria with a sit down lunch at the woodsy Lynn Britt Cabin.

What’s New: The new Limelight Hotel puts an exclamation point on the Snowmass base area, adding 99 guest rooms, hot tubs, lounges, dining, and the longest happy hour on the mountain. “The base area used to be a ghost town,” says Assistant Public Relations Manager Xanthe Demas. “Now it’s a happening space with a cool mix of locals and visitors.” 

Local’s Take: If you ever mountain biked the aspen corridors of the Government Trail in summer, you’ll love returning to the mountain’s western flank for stashed powder shots in sharp, clean winter air. aspensnowmass.com —M.M. | photo Matt Power

 

 

Aspen Highlands, Colorado

Acres: 1,040 | Vertical: 3,635′ | Snowfall: 300″

Overview: Aspen’s famed Highland Bowl, a half-hour hike from the top of Loge Peak, is loaded with pitches steeper than 40 degrees. Because it’s hike-to terrain, it doesn’t get bumped up. Because it’s elevated, it stays chalky. For leftover powder head far skier’s right. For a steep line try the south-facing Hot Y’s. 

What’s New: Adventure skiers can now fly direct to the Aspen Pitkin County Airport from a handful of major cities. That saves four hours of driving from DIA—time that can be reinvested in alpine bootpacks.

Local’s Take: Don’t sit around waiting for Highland Bowl to open after a storm. Phil Appling, assistant rental manager at Four Mountain Sports, makes for the Cloud Nine chair. “There are so many fun tree runs and natural jumps. They’re short, so you can get a lot of laps.” aspensnowmass.com 

—M.M. | photo courtesy of Aspen Resort

 

 

Telluride, Colorado

Acres: 2,000 | Vertical: 4,425′ | Snowfall: 280″

Overview: Rising out of one of the most storied towns in North America—Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank here in 1889—Telluride the ski area is sandwiched between the towering peaks of the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado. Considered by many to be one of the most breathtaking places in the Colorado Rockies, expect to stare slack jawed at the area’s natural beauty. Telluride also holds the most direct (almost no traversing) and well pitched fall line skiing in the state.

What’s New: This year Telluride joined the Epic Pass and invested in upgrades to its beginner area, The Meadows, including a 320-foot covered surface lift. It’s also easier to get here thanks to Boutique Air, which launches new year-round service from Denver International Airport to Telluride.

Local’s Take: “Hike the Drain to Palmyra, that’s where all the snow piles up,” says local Americo Velez a bootfitter at Telluride Boot Doctors. “Or hit any of the hike-tos on Lift 14, especially Andy’s Gold or Chute 7 on a powder day.” tellurideskiresort.com —S.P. | photo Dave Cox

 

 

Lake Louise, Alberta

Acres: 4,200 | Vertical: 3,250′ | Snowfall: 200″

Overview: Named after the iconic Canadian Rockies lake where locals play pickup hockey and banter with neighbors and friends, Lake Louise is known for its charm. A 40-minute drive from Banff, the resort sits inside Banff National Park, with over 4,000 acres of pristine terrain including back bowls, chutes, and gullies.

What’s New: Famed as a family resort, Lake Louise continues to expand its offerings to appeal to the entire gene pool, including guided snowshoe and sightseeing tours with interpretive guides. Entering the public feedback phase of its proposed expansion, the resort hopes to reveal finalized plans for new lodges in January/February 2019.

Local’s Take: Longtime local Bill Keeling, player/coach at Wilson Mountain Sports, offers the following: “Don’t rent a car, there’re lots of shuttles that will drop you off right in front of the lodge which leaves more money in your pocket.” This advice dovetails with his second tip which is to take that saved money and try something different, like exploring the town, ice skating, or snowshoeing on a down day—which he also recommends. Last, follow Keeling’s advice to plan your trip in late January or February for the best powder skiing, “when the days are longer and your legs are stronger.” us.skibig3.com —S.P. | | skier Garrett Capel | photo Dave Cox

 

 

Vail, Colorado

Acres: 5,259 | Vertical: 3,450′ | Snowfall: 353″

Overview: The sun never sets on the Vail Empire. From Hakuba, Japan to the Italian Dolomites, this means unprecedented access for Epic Pass holders. But Vail Mountain is still the U.S. mothership. In terms of acreage, it’s Colorado’s granddaddy. No matter how fast the lifts run, you can’t ski the whole place in a day.

What’s New: Vail follows up a slow snow year with expanded snowmaking for 18–19. Ten new large-capacity guns along the Born Free Trail plus mountain-wide pump upgrades bolster the contingency plan.

Local’s Take: This writer still traces one of his best all-time powder days to Vail—and I’ve skied Japan. That day, we spooned tracks in two feet of fresh off Ptarmigan Ridge before wandering to Siberia Bowl and Blue Sky Basin to earn continuous freshies. vail.com —M. M. photo courtesy Vail Resorts

 

 

Tremblant, Québec

Acres: 755 | Vertical: 2,116′ | Snowfall: 154

Overview: Tremblant’s snowfall and vertical may be a fraction of Europe’s, but the color-popping chalets and Bavarian trappings feel Alpine. “It’s Europe in your backyard,” says Public Relations Advisor Annick Marseille. 

What’s New: A $17 million on-mountain investment transforms the Lowell Thomas Express on Tremblant’s north side into a high-speed quad that whisks 600 skiers per hour to some of the mountain’s best tree shots. Six new runs also open in 2019, five of them glades that mix steep adventure skiing with soul turns through open birch groves.

Local’s Take: After the lifts power down, order an Extreme Unction, a boozey trappist brew, at La Diable and sample maple duck wings at La Forge. The real party goes off at Le P’tit Caribou, where lakeside aprés on the porch gives way to discotheque laser lights for late night. tremblant.ca —M. M.

photo courtesy Tremblant Resort

 

 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Acres: 2,500  | Vertical: 4,139′ | Snowfall: 459″

Overview: Home to a colony of local pro athletes, the most famous run in America, and gates that access more than 3,000 acres of backcountry terrain, Jackson Hole is where you take the gloves off—figuratively. It’s pretty cold up top. 

What’s New: When the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center forecasts RPK 3, you bust out the fatties—six or more inches is coming to Rendezvous Peak. So a logical name for the new Tramside restaurant? RPK3. Head there for a Zonker Stout from Snake River Brewing after you track up the hill.

Local’s Take: Pro big-mountain skier Owen Leeper has the best Instagram handle in skiing—@o_leeps. Ski Jackson and you might see him sending it off cliffs and straightlining pinner couloirs off the Sublette Chair. “The best airs and a bunch of hidden lines are around Casper Bowl,” he says. “Jackson just has the best terrain anywhere.” jacksonhole.com —M.M. | photo Amy Jimmerson  

 

 

                               

Crested Butte, Colorado

Acres: 1,547 | Vertical: 3,062′ | Snowfall: 300″ 

Overview: Don’t be put off by its extreme skiing legacy. Though revered for its steeps punctuated with drops, spines, and couloirs, Crested Butte’s trail map points out that less than 20 percent of the terrain is advanced or expert. There’s plenty of skiing for the whole family. Unless, that is, you’re skiing off the High Lift or North Face Lift T-bars, where you’re most likely skiing runs with names that end in “chute” or “cliff.”   

What’s New: Vail Resorts purchased CB in the off-season, and your Epic Pass now applies. Many a Vail skier might have a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment, when they’re looking up at steep faces and mountaineering style couloirs for the first time.

Local’s Take: There’s a lot of grizzle to chew: Crested Butte local Rob Dickinson often opts for “Skadi Ridge, to The Edge, then to Dead End or Body Bag, all of which are in the Spellbound and Phoenix Bowls.  Easier options abound amongst these heavy-hitters. Always important to throw a Rambo lap or four into a pow day too, as it goes from a gnarly tourist-mangler when hardpack to a magical wall of mini spines and pillows when covered in new snow.” skicb.com —Dave Cox | photo Nathan Bilow

 

 

 

Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

Acres: 1,200 | Vertical: 3,281′ | Snowfall: 300″

Overview: Nestled in the Sangre de Cristos, the southernmost chain in the Rocky Mountains, Taosanos enjoy 300 days of sunshine a year, but not in a row. When these mountains are coated white, it falls in the form of some of the lightest snow on the planet with three percent moisture content. With its famed Highline and West Basin Ridges, Taos could lay claim to being the first American resort with now-de rigueur hike-to terrain. 

What’s New: The $300 million renovation didn’t just change the base-area footprint and add a new hotel, snowmaking capacity has surged (see note above about sunshine), but the biggest news is uplifting. Chairs One and Five at the base are gone, giving way to one high-speed, detachable chairlift—a first for the resort—nearly cutting ride-time in half.

Local’s Take: Long time patroller Dave Hahn has spent more time at altitude than most. When he’s not clearing terrain here, he’s a mountaineering guide with 15 successful Everest summits. Hahn says over-the-summer work has been done to further glade the Wild West, at the end of West Basin, as well as Ernie’s and North American, skier’s right of the new quad. “I’m hungry to get back into this terrain this season,” says Hahn. “The Wild West is a big, wonderful run, and it’s been cleared of slash, an improvement over its natural state.” skitaos.com —D.C. | | skiers Nick Heil and Madeleine Carey | photo Dave Cox

 

 

Revelstoke, British Columbia

Acres: 3,121 | Vertical: 5,620′ | Snowfall: 470-630″

Overview: Roughly two hours from Kelowna International Airport, Revelstoke boasts the most vertical in North America. But it’s not a giant flat hill either. Every line is steep enough for powder skiing. The alpine bowls grow cornices the size of two story buildings. And mini-golf chutes hide on multiple aspects. With 69 runs buried in Selkirk powder, expect to get worked. It’s also the only resort—possibly in the world—that offers lift, snowcat, heli, and backcountry skiing.

What’s New: Look for improved spacing and new lines this winter in Powder Monkey and the Lower Back 40 Glades thanks to an extensive glading program. Also new, the resort adds two snowcats to its grooming fleet.

Local’s Take: Head to the top and stay there, says Angus Fraser, Owner of Valhalla Pure Outfitters. “All the high north facing stuff is preserved longer if the sun’s up and you want to ski powder.” Après, hit The Village Idiot, a town favorite for casual food and beer. revelstokemountainresort.com —S.P. | photo Ian Houghton

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