It’s that time of the year again. Temperatures drop, days shorten, and snow covers the landscape. While it may be enticing to stay inside, blanket up, and sip hot cocoa by the fire, the call of the wild is louder than ever. It’s ski season, so stop sitting around. It’s time to get your edges sharpened and your bindings adjusted so you can hit the slopes.
If you live in the western portion of the U.S., you benefit from some absolutely killer terrain. Let’s take a look at a few mountains you need to check out if you’re into getting the absolute best downhill experience. For the sake of simplicity, we’re not going to be taking things like nightlife or accommodations into account – just the sheer quality of the terrain you’re bound to encounter.
1. Jackson Hole
Let’s start with this legend. Jackson Hole is world-renowned for a reason. Located in Western Wyoming, just south of Grand Teton National Park, the quality of snow and intensity of the terrain makes it a proving grounds for anyone who fancies themselves an expert skier. With over 4,000 feet of vertical for you to enjoy and averaging 450 inches of snow each year, you’re not going to be lacking for quality or quantity while you’re here.
Apres Vous and Rendezvous, the two mountains that comprise Jackson Hole, boast some of the most extreme vertical lines you can ski in North America. Though there are more intermediate and beginner trails today than in years past, it’s still not a mountain for the novice. With over 3,000 acres of backcountry to explore, Jackson is a destination for the confident skier who wants to push their boundaries (literally) and explore new aspects of their sport. Just make note; if you see a sign posted indicating a cliff, pay heed. They mean it.
2. Big Sky
Less than 200 miles to the north of Jackson Hole resides another treasure of Rocky Mountain skiing: Big Sky. Stunning 360 degree views are to be had from the top of the mountain, and as you descend, it feels like an almost infinite amount of lines are at your disposal. In 2013, Big Sky bought Moonlight Basin, its neighbor. As a result, skiing at Big Sky now means you have access to the most terrain a single lift ticket can buy you in the United States. With over 4,350 feet of vertical and 400 inches of snow every year, there are a lot of things that make Big Sky “big”.
The mountain’s signature line is Big Couloir. With a 50-degree sustained pitch over 1,400 feet of descent, you need to find a partner who’ll take the leap with you. Then head over to the patrol shack at the top of the tram, sign in, and take an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe with you. Needless to say, this run is no joke. Enjoy the bounty of backcountry, bowls, and glades Big Sky has to offer, and stay safe out there.
3. Bridger Bowl
Drive an hour north of Big Sky and you’ll hit Bridger Bowl, a legendary mountain right outside of Bozeman, Montana. This place is definitely a bit of a hidden treasure, with nowhere near the widespread fame mountains like Big Sky and Jackson Hole enjoy. But ask any Montana native: this place hangs right in there with those big resort mountains in terms of skiing quality. Populated by local young guns and seasoned pros, Bridger lives on in Montana myth and legend for good reason.
With 350 inches of snowfall every year, Bridger packs some serious pow, and a wide variety of terrain. The bottom half of the mountain is wooded and filled with runs anyone from a beginner to an expert can enjoy. As for the upper half of the mountain, well, it’s a whole other story. The extreme ridge that defines the peak of Bridger is adorned with several bowls that are filled with seemingly endless powder. To get to the most extreme runs, you need to ride the Schlasman’s Lift, and to hop on that, you’ll need a beacon that has to be checked by the lift assistant. It’s an extreme environment with extreme rewards, and is definitely for experts only. Bridger Bowl is epic, and we’d be remiss not to mention it.
Snow, snow, and more snow. Just outside of Salt Lake City lives a giant of the skiing world. Snowbird receives an average of 500 inches of snowfall each year, and with a base elevation of 8,000 feet, this is some high quality powder we’re talking about here. If you’re an advanced or expert skier or boarder, Snowbird simply must be experienced. With varied, advanced, and steep terrain, there are just so many lines to be discovered and new levels of skiing for you to push yourself to. There are tons of small cliffs to send it off of, so be aware of your surroundings and enjoy. Sometimes it takes a great mountain to bring out your inner greatness.
5. Too Many To Name
Tahoe. Whitefish. Vail. Alta. Squaw. The western U.S. is blessed with a simply ridiculous amount of amazing mountains and sweet, deep drifts of snow. As with any tradition with a deep, passionate fanbase, people will always debate the merits of each. Some might argue many resort towns have become prohibitively expensive for locals, and while there may be some merit to those arguments, that’s not what this blog is about. It’s a celebration of just a few of the amazing options we have for skiing in this great, big country. We’re so excited it’s ski season again, and we hope you’re even more excited to hit the slopes after reading this. Now get out there and tear it up!