Powder. You either love or you hate it.
And while I can’t say I understand the haters, I do commiserate with those who spend the winter tracking storms, cancelling work, jettisoning class and driving overnight to score fresh snow.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, powder snow is technically “dry new snow, comprised of loose, fresh ice crystals.” To put an even finer point on it, dry snow usually falls in dry areas, and has a very low snow to liquid equivalent. That means if you melt it, it won’t provide much water.
It’s also terrible for making snowmen.
We Asked, You Answered.
In our quest to feature North America’s favorite resorts, covering everything from the best tree skiing to the best mogul runs to the best groomed terrain, we put up a social media query this fall asking followers of Liftopia.com and Braveskimom.com to share their favorite powder stashes.
Not surprisingly, one of the first responses we received read thus: “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.”
Silly us. No one is willingly going to give up the goods. As with the best places to hunt wild mushrooms, the precise location of powder stashes is something that skiers and riders take with them to the grave, or share only with their closest friends.
Ask a more general question however, like “which resorts have the best powder skiing” and you get some good results.
Because our lists are based on suggestions gleaned from social media, they are far from exhaustive and definitely not scientific. Without a doubt, we missed your favorite resort. So please, help us out and leave information about your favorite tree skiing in the comments.
Utah Tops The List
Not surprisingly, Utah, home of the “Greatest Snow on Earth” led our poll.
In particular, the aptly named Powder Mountain, located 55 miles north of Salt Lake City in East Eden, Utah got the most mentions.
As one person put it, “Powder Mountain has the most skiable terrain in all of Utah, this means it has the most powder to explore.”
Powder Mountain is a unique resort. First, it is an “upside-down” mountain, with the village on top and the runs below. Next, it’s massive, with over 7,000 skiable acres, including 4,000 acres open to backcountry touring. Finally, it gets a ton of snow: over 500 inches in an average year. That’s a lot of pow.
To find out a little bit more about Powder Mountain, we reached out to Jean-Pierre Goulet, the resort’s Marketing Coordinator.
For beginners, JP recommends heading to the Sundown and Hidden Lake areas of the resort. The runs in these areas are mostly green and blue, and 50% of the trails are groomed. While this isn’t great for powder hounds, it does make it easier for less experienced riders to explore the fresh, without totally burning out their legs.
Intermediate riders also enjoy the Hidden Lake area as well as the Sunrise area. The terrain here is low angle, dotted with sweetly spaced aspen glades. It’s a perfect place to rip deep snow, in or out of the trees, without much risk.
For experts, JP recommends Lightning Ridge, accessed by a single ride snowcat from the top of Sundown lift. Here you’ll encounter some of the steepest terrain at Powder Mountain, with cliffs to launch and trees to dodge. From the bottom of Lightning Ridge, access Paradise lift, to find more steeps and natural features.
Right behind Powder Mountain, were Little Cottonwood Canyon favorites, Snowbird and Alta. Just a quick drive from Salt Lake City, these neighboring resorts average 500 and 560 inches, respectively, of perfect Utah powder each year.
Alta in particular has a cult-like following. Partially, this is because the resort doesn’t allow snowboards on the lifts.
Or as one of our good friends, Marc Guido, publisher of First Tracks Online puts it, “Alta is the kind of unique, magical place where powder isn’t just a blessing, it’s a way of life.
“The energy at Alta on a powder day is absolutely palpable. It all begins with the buzz in the pre-opening lift line on Collins or Wildcat, where the narrowest skis in line are 120mm underfoot. And while the young bucks speed past everyone else to score freshies on High Rustler, here’s a hint: drop into one of the earlier lines off the High Traverse or head for Greeley Bowl. You won’t be disappointed.”
Rocky Mountain Runners-Up
Utah isn’t the only arid state in the interior U.S. blessed with high peaks and deep, dry snow. Other resorts getting shouts in our social media poll include:
- Telluride Ski Resort, Colorado,
- Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado,
- Whitefish Mountain Resort, Montana,
- Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming; and
- Grand Targhee Ski Resort, Wyoming
Drive the Powder Highway
Just as Utah isn’t the only state with great powder skiing and riding, the U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on it either, with plenty of Canadian resorts holding their own and then some, in the powder sweepstakes.
Topping our poll for Canada is Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, BC.
Located on British Columbia’s famed “Powder Highway,” Kicking Horse is just one of seven amazing resorts along Canadian Route 95A.
At the end of November, in what is still considered “early season,” Kicking Horse had already received 111” of snow, giving it the fourth highest total in North America, behind Alyeska, Alaska, Revelstoke, BC, Wolf Creek, Colorado and Whitewater, BC.
In addition to perennially deep powder, Kicking Horse is a bit remote, meaning you’ll ski with only a handful of other people on any given weekday. Yes, weekends are busier, but it’s all relative. The biggest plus for being remote: powder that lasts for days and days.
Located near Golden, BC, a small town of less than 4,000 people, Kicking Horse has over 2,800 skiable acres, 60% of which are rated advanced and expert. With 4,133 feet of vertical, the 4th highest in North America, the resort also has 85 in-bound chutes, plenty of tree skiing and is divided into four Alpine bowls.
Looking for an insider’s perspective on where to ski at Kicking Horse, we turned to Powder Matt, of PowderMatt.com, an expert on skiing in the Canadian Rockies.
For beginners, Matt suggests a warm up run off of Catamount Lift. Intermediate skiers and riders should jump on the Eagle’s Eye Gondola and explore the top of the mountain, starting with some powder-groomer fun in Crystal Bowl.
Finally for experts, PowderMatt suggests heading to Feuz Bowl and “trying your fancy.” See Kicking Horse lift tickets.
More Stops Along the Road
As we mentioned above, Kicking Horse is just one of seven amazing, deep powder playgrounds in southeastern British Columbia.
Here are the other six resorts, each fantastic in its own way. Each of these resorts is definitely worth a visit, either one at a time, or on an extended tour. You know, perfect for when you quit your job and take to the road to chase powder.
- Revelstoke Mountain Resort,
- Panorama Mountain Resort,
- Kimberley Alpine Resort,
- Fernie Alpine Resort,
- Whitewater Ski Resort, and
- Red Mountain Resort.
As with our other “North American favorites” posts, we are well aware that we’ve left many notable ski areas and resorts off the list.
Please help us build a better and more complete list by sharing your favorite resort for powder skiing and riding in the comments.