You don’t have to be Shaun White to have a great time skiing or boarding. It’s not like tennis where not only do you have to consistently get the ball over the net but you need a partner that can do the same. Otherwise you’ll be chasing balls all day and not actually playing tennis. Whether you’re doing sick Chicken Salad Air or just trying to keep your feet a good time can be had by all on the slopes. So, I’m not about to judge a skier’s enjoyment based on terrain as nearly all the top destinations have something for everyone. But that doesn’t mean that all terrain is created equal. Some resorts are so diverse and expansive that it’s impossible to not put them at the top of the list. That is just statistics and statistics don’t lie. But I have some personal favorites that I think need to be recognized for producing unique skiing experiences.
- Alta, Utah– Alta is unlike any other mountain I’ve skied. Typically, you get off the lift, look up at a cluster of big blue signs, choose your path and repeat. Not at Alta. Well, they still have the big blue signs but runs quickly lose shape and melt together like water running downhill. What the skier is left with is a fluffy sandbox of rolling hills, sudden drops and rocky outcrops. It’s a smorgasbord of craft-your-own terrain that will be different every trip off the same lift. Now throw in 43 feet of, literally, the best and driest snow in North America, the fact that they stick by their no snowboarders mantra and the cheapest lift tickets of the Rockies and you’ve got an unbeatable skiing experience.
- Whistler Blackcomb, BC, Canada– Not only have I not skied Whistler but I’ve never even been to Vancouver. But the stats and rave reviews don’t lie. It has 8,100 skiable acres, more than 200 trails, 12 bowls and a 1 mile vertical. Everyone should be able to find their perfect line there.
- Deer Valley, Utah – Deer Valley gets much deserved credit for the spectacularly groomed and manicured runs but it actually has great diversity as well. The terrain is designed more like a world class golf course than a ski resort with runs lined with multi-million dollar homes that expertly compliment the landscape. Crowds are never an issue do to lift ticket limits and the dry Utah snow makes for some of the smoothest skiing around. Deer Valley is like riding the newest high-engineered metal roller coaster making everything else feel like 60-year-old wooden filling rattlers.
- Telluride, Colorado– Telluride is another personal favorite. “See Forever” precariously balances the mountain ridge and cruises for miles down the mountain while a variety of terrain shoots off it’s side. It’s the Via Sacra of Telluride.
- Vail, Colorado – There may be some swearing at me right now but I’m going to stand by this one. Vail has great terrain and it’s simply huge. The back bowls vault Vail into the top 5 alone. But there is one thing that is holding this giant back that can’t be overlooked: crowds. I mean really. You’ll spend a good portion of your day standing around and avoiding on-slope collisions with designer ski-bunnies. This mountain resort more resembles an amusement park with it’s shoulder-to-shoulder snaking ski lift lines. Warning: patience required.
Up next: Authenticity