AdventureSnow Sports

Powder Skiing

The Classic

Powder Skiing

Once you experience Alta's powder, you too will be an Altaholic

ALTA SKI AREA, Utah: Not only does Alta get twice as much snow as less blessed resorts—it averages 500 inches—but its flakes are also lighter and drier. Maybe that's why nearly 80 percent of Alta's skiers return each year to the resort's old-school lodges.

The Ride
They measure storms in feet, not inches, at this low-key Tahoe resort. New this year is Burton's Powder Progression Program, the first U.S. school that teaches boarders how to ride knee-deep powder.

The Secret
It's the anti-Whistler: no crowds, virtually no nightlife, and no wet snow. But the gondola system, which rises 3,800 vertical feet, might very well be North America's single best lift.

The Exception
Because it sits just south of the Canadian border, Jay receives an average of six feet of snow a month in winter, nearly twice as much as any other Eastern resort. Plus it boasts some of state's longest, rowdiest runs.

The Mystery
MT. BAKER SKI AREA, Washington:
The Pineapple Express (a subtropical jet stream) can be cruel to Northwest resorts. But when cooler temps prevail, it can be glorious: Last year, Baker received almost 350 inches before Christmas.


Telluride City
Telluride nightlife (Photo: courtesy, Marketing Telluride, Inc.)

Total Package
Award-winning terrain parks, impressive (and unsung) big-mountain terrain, and, thanks to the town's lax attitude, the best nightlife in the state. Tip: Fly in early, bring your boarding pass to the ticket window, and ski for free the day you arrive.

With 8,000 acres of terrain and 33 feet of snow per year, this B.C. mainstay is the epitome of big-mountain skiing. The annual Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival (April 11 to 20) is the biggest snow-sports party on the planet.

High Variety
VAIL, Colorado:
Vail's 5,000 acres of trails have something for everyone, from immaculately groomed cruisers to famed powder-filled back bowls. Nightlife is equally diverse, with everything from five-star dining to Mardi Gras–like mayhem at the season-ending CarniVail (Feb. 3–5).

Sandwiched among the jagged San Juan Mountains, this tiny, surprisingly hip old mining town boasts as many restaurants per block as Manhattan. But unlike in the Big Apple, there's a gondola that accesses 3,500 feet of vertical just a few steps from your hotel's front door.

East Meets West
In terms of reliable nightlife (100 bars and restaurants) and variety of terrain, the East Coast's largest resort (1,200 acres spread out over seven hills) can't be beat. No new snow? No problem. The mountain has one of the most extensive snowmaking systems in the world.


Copper Mountain
A boarder rips up the pipe at Copper Mountain (Photo: courtesy, Colorado Ski Country)

High Variety
Can one resort have it all? Copper makes a strong case. Carve groomers, hop on the snowcat that accesses Tucker Mountain's wide-open bowls and chutes, or take a lap through the Catalyst Terrain Park—all in one morning.

Park & Pipe
With a dedication to maintaining one of the best pipes in North America, Breck has established itself as a perennial favorite among the jibber crowd. This year, the resort adds a new park progression system on Peak 8.

Easy access (it's an hour from the Salt Lake City airport), mellow crowds, and 500 inches of great snow annually are three good reasons to hit this resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon. But it makes our must-go list because of its diversity, from three linked top-to-bottom terrain parks to sidecountry access with cliff drops and chute squeezes.

Thanks to runs like The Stash, a top-to-bottom tree run, all-mountain freeriders can hone skills on natural jibs, bounce down a pillow line, or clear a road gap at this 2,490-acre resort near Truckee.

This historic hill is home to snowboarding's marquee event, the U.S. Open, and served as the proving grounds for the first Burton snowboard. The reason on both counts? It's a boarder's paradise, thanks to few traverses and the best terrain park in the Northeast.

Backcountry Skiing

Backcountry Skiing
Backcountry skiing (Photo: Digital Visions)

With its wall-tent base lodge, lone double lift, and seriously badass big mountain, this "resort" is the scruffy soul of North American skiing. Early and late season, experienced skiers can now opt to go self-guided for just $49.

Cat Power
BALDFACE LODGE, British Columbia:
There are dozens of cat-skiing operations in the province, but those in the know head to Baldface for its combination of wickedly steep and vast (36,000 acres) terrain and gourmet cuisine.

Powder Hunters
If there's fresh snow out there, these guys will find it: Their 750-square-mile playground includes three mountain ranges. Packages include unlimited vertical feet daily. Tip: Fly standby for just $625 day (normal rate is $925).

Get Schooled
Hire one of the resort's guides ($235 a day) and sample the chutes and bowls just outside the resort's boundaries, or sign up for the Grand Slam smorgasbord, a four-day package that includes heli-skiing, cat skiing, touring, and freeskiing ($1,895).

High Variety
Mixed group of nordic and downhill skiers? This helicopter-accessed eco-lodge has something for everyone, from snowshoeing to guided backcountry tours.

Nordic Skiing

Nordic Skiing
Nordic Skiing (Photo: Getty)

Set a personal best or take in the scenery at these top nordic races and resorts.

Royal Gorge, California: Snow dumps by the foot on Donner Pass, near Tahoe, where you'll find over 9,000 acres of skiable terrain. The resort's Ice Lakes Lodge now has free wireless to go with the trailside location.

Soldier Hollow, Utah: Got a pro and a newbie in the party? You'll find trails for everyone at this lodge, site of the nordic events for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Stowe Derby, Vermont: This fast and fun 16K race starts at the top of an alpine hill and ends in downtown Stowe. February 17;

Crested Butte Alley Loop, Colorado: Ski the town's streets and alleys in this high-altitude classic. February 2;

Trapp Family Lodge, Vermont: Yes, that Trapp family. It may be in New England, but the lodge and impeccably groomed trails are straight out of Austria.

Devil's Thumb Ranch, Colorado: Gently rolling terrain surrounded by the Rockies makes this a skier's paradise.

Ice Climbing

Ice Climbing

Ice Climbing

From parks to peaks, here's where to find vertical ice near you.

Ouray, Colorado: Ouray Ice Park is home to the country's preeminent ice festival; this winter's is scheduled for January 9 to 13.

Mount Washington, New Hampshire: No surprise that the mountain with record cold temperatures is a good bet for ice. Get pointers from the local International Mountain Climbing School, or join others for the Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival in February.

Hyalite Canyon, Montana: South of Bozeman, Hyalite Creek seeps into steep crags and drips down sheer faces, creating ice routes from beginner to pro level.

Canmore, British Columbia: For natural waterfall ice, a long season, and some of the hardest multipitch routes in the world, go to Canmore. Local guides at Yamnuska Mountain Adventures can get you started.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan: There are hundreds of world-class ice routes up the frozen waterfalls that ring Lake Superior. The Sunday ice-climbing socials offered by Marquette outfitter Down Wind Sports are a great place to start.


Winter Camping

Winter Camping

Winter-camping newbie? Here are five beautiful backcountry spots.

Boundary Waters, Minnesota: Cross-country-ski three miles north across Sawbill Lake and camp on one of the many unnamed islands in this Scandinavia-like wilderness. Tip: Rent a pulk in Ely at Piragis (

White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire: Join the hundreds of adventuresome (and often downright rowdy) skiers who make the annual pilgrimage to Tuckerman Ravine every spring. Trek in from Pinkham Notch Camp and set up your tent a half-mile from the Bowl at Hermit Lake Shelters.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: This classic destination sees just a handful of winter visitors. Snowshoe or ski 3.5 miles from Glacier Gorge Trailhead 760 feet up to the 10,000-foot Glacier Gorge campsite, where you'll have views of Longs Peak all to yourself.

Yosemite National Park, California: Cross-country-ski Wawona Meadow Trail until you hit Mariposa Grove. The towering sequoias here are among the largest living trees in the world.

Winter Cycling

Winter Cycling
Winter Cycling (Photo: PhotoDisc)

From lunchtime quickies to official events, there's a winter ride that's right for you.

Boulder, Colorado: The famed Morgul-Bismarck 13.1-mile circuit is an anytime torturefest that ends with a climb up a 12 percent grade.

Seattle, Washington: This February join the Cascade Bicycle Club for the Chilly Hilly, a well-named ride (there's 2,600 feet of climbing in 33 miles) around Bainbridge Island.

Boston, Massachusetts: The Charles River trail, a 14-mile out-and-back loop to Watertown, is our favorite.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: Frigid temps don't deter too many folks here: Layer up and try the designated one-way Chain of Lakes trail (3 to 20 miles).

Chicago, Illinois: Whenever there's two-plus inches of snow, a hardy crew heads out for an urban ride from Wicker Park's Handlebar Bar and Grill (

Tropical Getaway

Belize to the rescue (Photo: courtesy, Belize Tourism Board)

Stick your toes in the sand this winter.

The Tides, Zihuatanejo, Mexico: Lush gardens, modern suites finished in traditional Mexican hues, and the mighty Pacific a few steps away. Doubles from $330;

Cayo Espanto, Belize: Six new five-star villas, but with an intact pastel Caribbean soul. Bonus: You get the bonefishing (and beach) to yourself—it's a private island. Doubles from $995;

The Moorings Village Resort, Islamorada, Florida: The quick fix: a long weekend at this luxe Florida Keys resort, which fronts more than a thousand feet of white-sand beach. Doubles from $250;

The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand: Sea-kayak or snorkel on the Andaman Sea, or relax in your suite's freestanding stone tub at this swanky spa and resort. Doubles from $185;

Maho Bay Camps, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands: Allergic to all-inclusives? This rustic camp's 114 tent cottages dot the hill above a secluded white-sand beach. Propane stove, cooking utensils, and bedding provided. You bring the rest. Doubles from $80;

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Filed To: Snow SportsTelluridePark CityKillingtonSun ValleyJacksonCrested ButteIce ClimbingBozemanYosemite National ParkRocky Mountain National ParkBikingBoulderChicagoBostonSeattleThailandIslamorada
Lead Photo: courtesy, Alta Ski Area
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