The Ultimate Winter Bucket List
Every skier has their list: the snowy places they’d like to go, the lines they plan on riding, the mountains they hope to climb. Well, here’s ours, and it’s chock full of some of life’s grandest adventures and simplest joys. If you start now, you could make this winter your best ever.
Nobody knows Aspen’s peaks and hidden powder stashes better than Chris Davenport, a long-time Aspen resident. The world famous ski mountaineer recently climbed and skied the 100 highest peaks in Colorado. Now you can spend three days making turns all over Aspen with Davenport as your guide. From March 6-to-9, 2016, you and Davenport can rip gondola laps at Aspen Mountain, go cat skiing, and linger over dinner at Element 47 and the Ajax Tavern. The five-star ski camp includes lift tickets, meals, and luxury lodging at the ski-in, ski-out Little Nell ($5,999, all-inclusive).
You don’t have to sign up for the graveyard shift grooming your local hill to get into the driver’s seat of snowcat (although that is one way to learn). At Crested Butte, Colorado, you can sign up for their Snowcat Driving Experience ($199), where you’ll get a crash course in operating heavy machinery from professional groomers, then hop behind the wheel of a Prinoth 275 Snowcat for an hour-long drive. Classes run twice a day throughout the ski season.
Dismal snow conditions? Hop on a fat bike instead. This growing trend is taking over ski resorts from Grand Targhee to Killington. Nordic ski trail systems all around Colorado—Winter Park, Aspen, Breckenridge, Steamboat, and more—now allow fat biking. Rent a bike from Crested Butte Fat Bike (from $35) and hit the snow-covered trails. “Fat biking makes cycling a four-season sport, even in snow country. It’s opening up a whole new world for people,” says Sean Riley, co-owner of Crested Butte Fat Bike. “When we rent our bikes we offer direction about all of the appropriate places to ride and the places that are riding the best, based on ability.”
Every mountain has its closing day festivities, but none do it like Alta, in Utah. Locals congregate atop High Rustler in tutus, feather boas, and retro one-pieces for the annual High Boy party, a notorious closing day hurrah. You’ll toast to powder days, shred spring corn in costume, then end the day—and the season—grilling sausages on your truck’s tailgate in the parking lot.
Sure, a hot tub after a day of skiing is nice. But you know what’s even better? A soak in a natural hot springs, steaming with minerals and surrounded by river rocks. Good thing ski country is littered with hot springs. We like Steamboat Springs’ Strawberry Park Hot Springs, a developed zone with natural hot pools, plus showers and a massage therapist on site. Or try Mammoth Lakes’ dozens of rustic hot springs—scattered amongst dirt roads with views of the eastern Sierra Nevada range.
Moguls are inevitable at a ski resort, so you may as well learn how to master them. Best way to do that? Sign up for a three-day mogul camp at Winter Park, Colorado ($529), or have Olympic gold medalist Donna Weinbrecht school you in a bumps clinic at Killington, Vermont ($399). Once you’ve dialed in your skills, enter Heavenly’s Gunbarrel 25 ($50), a classic spring tradition that challenges skiers to 25 laps on the resort’s legendary Gunbarrel, a steep, bumped-out chute made famous by 51-year-old freestyle skier Glen Plake.
A week-long all-inclusive heli-ski trip to Canada or Alaska is a life-altering experience, but with price tags in the realm of $10,000, it’s not one most of us can afford. Good thing there’s Silverton Mountain, Colorado, the only spot in the lower 48 that offers single drop heli ski laps. For $179, plus the price of a lift ticket, you can get picked up by a chopper and delivered to the top of a nearby backcountry peak, where one blissful run of untracked powder awaits.
Let a panel of judges determine how good a skier or snowboarder you really are by entering a big-mountain freeride competition. The Freeride World Qualifier tour is a good place to start, with North American stops in places like Revelstoke, BC, Grand Targhee, Wyoming, and Taos, New Mexico. Or check out the East Coast’s Ski the East Freeride Tour and put your steep-skiing skills to the test in classic events like the Castlerock Extreme Challenge, a friendly entryway into the world of big-mountain contests.
You’ll start inbounds at Vail, Colorado, then head out the backcountry gate at the top of Lost Boy Trail, accessed via Chair 7 or Chair 3. You’ll need appropriate gear and avalanche knowledge, but the ski terrain is relatively mild. You’ll be treated to a long, meandering descent—it’s actually more than a mile—with open bowls and tight trees that ends on a run-out through a slick gully into the old mining town of Minturn. The best part? The Minturn Mile ends at a bar. Order a salted margarita and enchilada con carne at the historic Minturn Saloon.