Here’s something you may have already guessed: I’m the mom who let’s her kid skip school on powder days.
When they were entering grade school, a teacher/friend told me this was a bad idea. “It makes it hard on the teachers. They have to repeat material just for your kids,” she explained.
I didn’t listen (sorry, friend).
My mom, their grandmother, expressed concern about their future work ethic. “If you let them skip school when it’s snowing, how will they ever learn to stay at their jobs?”
You see, I “get” the powder day. I can commiserate with others who rearrange their schedules, cancel long-standing appointments and drive overnight to score fresh snow.
We don’t do that very often (even I have a work ethic!).
But once or twice a year? Who is that really going to hurt?
And as for any future work ethic? Well, the boys will have to determine that for themselves.
My job is to make sure they ski.
Our 2015-16 Powder Poll
For the last three seasons, I’ve teamed up with Liftopia.com, posting queries on social media and at TheSkiDiva.com forum asking skiers and snowboarders to nominate their favorite North American ski resorts in a variety of categories.
First, we focused on the best views from chairlifts. Then we moved onto the best mogul skiing and groomed runs. This year, we’re upping it a notch looking for the most memorable glades and deepest powder.
Today, we’re all about pow.
The “Greatest Snow on Earth”
If you love powder, you need to get to Utah, home of the “greatest snow on earth.”
Long-time Alta skier and publisher of First Tracks Online, Marc Guido, explains.
“Alta is the kind of unique, magical place where powder isn’t just a blessing, it’s a way of life.”
And that’s true, not only for Alta, but for Utah in general.
Powder is a way of life, with many resorts receiving well over 500 inches of snow each year. Look around the lift lines in Little Cottonwood Canyon and you’ll have a hard time finding anyone with less than 120mm underfoot.
And while no one who skis Alta or Snowbird is going to give up their secret stash, Guido was willing to proffer a few tips.
“Don’t get caught up in the race to High Rustler. Instead, drop into drop into one of the earlier lines off the High Traverse or head for Greeley Bowl. You won’t be disappointed.”
As for Powder Mountain, a low-key, yet enormous, resort 55 miles north of Salt Lake City, near East Eden, my son and I visited in late December.
Here’s what we found.
Receiving the Utah-norm of 500+ inches of snow per year, Powder Mountain is massive with over 7,000 skiable acres. 2800 acres are lift-served, while the remaining terrain is served by a shuttle, snowcats and via inbounds backcountry tours.
As you might expect, the shuttle, snowcat and touring areas see fewer guests and the powder lasts for days. My son and I did three cat-served laps on Lightning Ridge and by traversing just a little bit further than everyone else we found an untouched bowl beyond Big Kash. And this was 4 days after the previous storm.
Even the snow on the lift-served terrain lasts a surprisingly long time. Powder Mountain is a bit further afield and less well-known that the other Salt Lake area resorts. It’s a whopping 1.5 hours from the Salt Lake airport. While this short distance seems laughable, it means fewer people on the mountain and more snow to score in the trees.
Ah, the trees. That’s the other secret at Powder Mountain. The entire resort is on private land and the owners are continuously improving and thinning the glades. Add these wide-open glades to some of the mountain’s low angle terrain, and you’ve got perfect training grounds for budding tree and powder skiers (and everyone else, too).
Rocky Mountain Runners-Up
A necessary condition for consistently light and dry powder is a consistently dry climate. This makes resorts in the interior Rocky Mountain states a good bet when you’re hunting pow. Here are some of the other mountains that made our list.
- Telluride Ski Resort, Colorado,
- Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado,
- Whitefish Mountain Resort, Montana,
- Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming; and
- Grand Targhee Ski Resort, Wyoming
Take a Ride on the Powder Highway
Just as Utah isn’t the only state with great snow, the U.S. isn’t the only country in North America where the powder falls deep. Canada also lays claim to some fantastic skiing, especially along British Columbia’s so-called Powder Highway.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, BC was at the top of our poll. Not surprising as they had one of their best openings in years, with 111” of snow by the end of November.
Like the other Powder Highway resorts, Kicking Horse is remote, located near Golden, BC, a small town of less than 4,000 people. With over 2,800 skiable acres, 60% of which are rated advanced and expert, and 4,133 feet of vertical and 85 in-bound chutes, Kicking Horse is a favorite with expert skiers seeking a potent combination of adrenaline and deep snow.
Seeking a local perspective, we turned to Powder Matt, of PowderMatt.com.
According to Matt, Kicking Horse isn’t just for experts and has welcoming terrain for skiers and riders of all levels. He recommends a warm up run off of Catamount Lift for beginners.
His choice for intermediate skiers and riders? Take the Eagle’s Eye Gondola to the top of the mountain, and indulge in powder-groomer fun in Crystal Bowl.
Experts have myriad choices. But to get started, PowderMatt suggests heading to Feuz Bowl.
Other Resorts Along the Road
Kicking Horse is one of seven powder playgrounds in southeastern British Columbia. Each of these resorts is definitely worth a visit, whether you ski them one at a time, or take an extended road trip.
- Revelstoke Mountain Resort,
- Panorama Mountain Resort,
- Kimberley Alpine Resort,
- Fernie Alpine Resort,
- Whitewater Ski Resort, and
- Red Mountain Resort.
While others might wonder, I won’t question your work ethic.
I know it takes dedication to sample this much snow.
I feel a powder day coming on. Do you?
As with our other “North American favorites” posts, we know we’ve missed many, many great resorts. Help us build a better list! Share your favorites in the comments.
Portions of this post originally published at Liftopia.com.
More North American Favorites:
- More of North America’s Favorite Ski Runs, December 28, 2015.
- Get Lost in the Woods: North America’s Best Resorts for Tree Skiing, February 15, 2015.
- An Unofficial, Totally Random List of the Best Groomed Ski Runs in North America, March 23, 2015.
- An Unofficial, Totally Random List of the Best Bump Runs in North America, March 30, 2015.
- The Biggest, Best Ski Lift Views in North America, April 14, 2014.
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