Colorado's San Juans get some of the lightest powder on earth, but skiing the unstable backcountry requires serious avalanche skills. To get a safe taste, head to Telluride's 400-plus acres of new (over the past few years) "hike-to" terrain. It's avalanche-controlled but still plenty wild, including 13,320-foot Palmyra Peak and the Gold Hill chutes, which offer legit couloir skiing.
BRIDGER BOWL, MONTANA
This steep locals' hill outside Bozeman helped launch the extreme-skiing movement back in the early 1980s. In 2009, the resort opened backcountry gates and expanded lift service into the 311-acre, cliff-riddled Schlasman's drainage (locally known as "Slushman's"). Expect more of the short, doglegged, off-camber, punchy chutes that Bridger's Ridge area is famous for. Avalanche gear required.
POWDER MOUNTAIN, UTAH
This sleepy resort outside Ogden actually dwarfs Vail. It offers 7,000 acres of terrain—most of which is ungroomed and the perfect pitch for lazy powder skiing. And last year, Powder got even bigger, opening a 3,000-vertical-foot zone called Wolf Canyon (or D.M.I.), which is now home to the resort's steepest terrain. The only catch? You get picked up by a shuttle bus, not a lift, at the end of your run.
KICKING HORSE, B.C.
This overlooked and upscale resort just outside Golden, British Columbia, will drop the ropes on its fourth Alpine Bowl this winter. Guests access the terrain, which includes 15 chutes, via a ski traverse followed by some short boot-packs. It's the biggest opening of the year—dozens of 500-to-700-vertical-foot, rock-lined shots wrapping around a cirque.