“Expert” can be a relative term. The best skiers or snowboarders at a local ski hill may stand out from the pack, but they are not necessarily signing ski-movie contracts. However, a few resorts seem to draw a high-percentage of really good skiers and snowboarders with a few even in the movie-star category.
Largely thanks to terrain and snow, certain ski areas are simply expert magnets. These are the places where you look from the chairlift and say, “I thought I could ski pretty well until I saw these folks ripping down the slopes.”
Nearly every skier and snowboarder on Aspen Mountain (or “Ajax” to the locals) has solid skills. Illogically bucking the fine print that trail ratings are relative only to that mountain, the trail map does not have a single green run. Novices and families flock to nearby Buttermilk and Snowmass. That leaves Aspen Mountain with a clientele of strong skiers and snowboarders.
Given the area’s demographics, these experts tend to have textbook form from years of private lessons. The scruffier expert locals who manage to scrape by in the pricey community gravitate more toward Aspen Highlands.
Usually the first resort in Colorado to open and last to close each season, Arapahoe Basin, or “A-Basin,” draws a high percentage of excellent local skiers and snowboarders. Families and less-skilled “one-trip-a-year” destination skiers stay down the road at Keystone Resort, so the “average” skier or snowboarder at A-Basin stays well above average.
The terrain off the Pallavicini chairlift is the prime attraction for the area’s faithful.
With the slogan of “Ski It If You Can,” Mad River Glen obviously embraces experts. This ski area also takes pride in its “old-school” expert reputation. From its iconic single-seat chairlift to a reliance on natural snow, Mad River Glen likes to do things the old-fashioned way.
While you’ll find lots of expert skiers there, you won’t see a single expert snowboarder (or any snowboarders for that matter). Mad River Glen remains one of three U.S. ski areas (along with Alta and Deer Valley in Utah) to stay skiers-only.
Looking up at Snowbird from the valley floor of narrow Little Cottonwood Canyon can be rather intimidating. Not surprisingly, expert skiers can’t wait to try those steep slopes.
Neighbor Alta also boasts plenty of excellent skiers, but tamer sections at Alta create a broader range of skill levels among typical visitors.
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“Squallywood” refers to Squaw Valley’s scene of star skiers. In this case, the best skiers and snowboarders on the mountain are actually in ski movies. Jonny Moseley, Julia Mancuso, Shane McConkey and Scot Schmidt are just a few of the big names who have called this Lake Tahoe resort home.
The natural layout just begs for bravado. Unlike a place like Crested Butte, Colorado, where the extreme terrain is tucked away, Squaw Valley has prime proving grounds to show off in plain view such as The Fingers and The Palisades.
Those planks you see on the Tram at Jackson Hole are not a pair of really long snowboards. You’ll see some really wide, big-mountain skis on a powder day at Jackson Hole. The mountain is big. The mandatory air is big. The adrenaline is big.
While the resort has been ramping up its marketing to a broader range of skill levels, Jackson Hole is still a good place to see some amazing skiers and snowboarders show their stuff.
Silverton Mountain tops the list without any green or blue runs. Opened solely for advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders in 2002, Silverton’s terrain ranges from tough to extreme.
This ski area is located in a remote part of Colorado, so it isn’t the kind of destination you stumble across by accident. If you’re on Silverton’s only chairlift, you made an effort to get there and by all accounts you’re a pretty darn good skier or snowboarder.