When OnTheSnow embarked on a quest to put together the ultimate bucket list of snowboarding resorts we enlisted the help of living legend, Tom Burt. Tom has been riding big mountains for more than 30 years at a level that most of us can only dream about. He’s ridden with all of the pro riders including Travis Rice and Jeremy Jones – in fact he takes them to Alaska to ride treacherous cliff lines.
Named one of the top 20 influential riders of all time by Snowboarder Magazine and presented with the Transworld Rider Poll’s Legend Award in 2010 there is no better shredder to share his mountain expertise on what to look for in a snowboarding resort.
OTS: Tom, what makes for good snowboarding terrain?
Tom Burt: Generally resorts that have good fall line riding make for a good snowboard mountain. If there is a lot of traversing than the mountain tends not to be as friendly to snowboarding. That being said, if you learn to traverse well on a snowboard then it does not matter and it all comes down to the terrain that a mountain has to offer.
OTS: Do you think that some resorts are better for snowboarding than they are for skiing?
Tom Burt: I cannot say that a resort is better for snowboarding or skiing, but I can say that some resorts have better set ups as far as lift placement, and terrain that is better for snowboarding than other resorts.
OTS: Where have you experienced good fall line riding?
Tom Burt: Squaw Valley is the best example of a fall line mountain.
OTS: What was Cortina, Italy, like?
Tom Burt: Cortina is a European area. It is not one resort but a whole valley of resorts with towering rock walls of dolomite at the top of the mountains that produce some of the most spectacular couloirs. It has great off-piste couloir descents from the main runs. The biggest thing is if the storms make it to the Dolomites – the best are southerly storms that bypass the Alps.
OTS: You’ve ridden in exotic places such as Bolivia. What was that like?
Tom Burt: Most of my exotic travel for snowboarding had a mountaineering side to it. So in Bolivia we went to ride in a part of the Andes that doesn’t normally get traffic from skiers or snowboarders but rather mountaineers. It is a wonderful experience to ride in new mountains and do descent of lines that may have never been ridden. As far as the ski field of Bolivia it was on a glacier and just like glaciers around the world it is receding and so there is no glacier where once there was one. Global warming is at its core.
OTS: Do you think you need to be confident on park terrain before you can tackle the steeps?
Tom Burt: NO, park terrain is not necessary to ride the steeps. It helps with air and tricks though.
OTS: How confident do you have to be to get up on the big mountains?
Tom Burt: It helps to have lots of practice on all terrain at your local mountain in all conditions. It is best to be able to ride steep terrain with harsh conditions so when you encounter that out on a big mountain you are confident.
OTS: Which resorts have particularly steep lines?
Tom Burt: Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood, Sugar Bowl, Mammoth, Snowbird, Jackson, Bridger Bowl, Whistler/Blackholm, Baker, Crystal, all of the European resorts for the most part, South American resorts as well.
OTS: And which ones do you think have particularly good parks?
Tom Burt: Here in Cali, Snow Summit, Mammoth Mt., North Star.
OTS: Can you name some good practice resorts for talented riders who want to cross-over into backcountry snowboarding?
Tom Burt: Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, Sugar Bowl, Kirkwood, Jackson Hole, Whistler/Blackholm, Mt Baker, Crystal Mtn, Snowbird, Brider Bowl, Red mt., Whitewater, Kicking Horse, Baldy, Mammoth Mt., the list gets longer than this in North America, and also this list does not include anything is South America, Europe, or Asia.
OTS: In terms of what you look for in a mountain, how have your tastes changed?
Tom Burt: Not much has changed in what I look for in a mountain. Terrain and access to terrain that I like to ride and snow quality to ride is what I look for.
OTS: You have your own family – do they like to ski or snowboard? And can you recommend a family-friendly resort?
Tom Burt: Yes, my family likes to slide on snow. My wife telemark skis for the most part, one daughter snowboards and skis while the other skis and telemark skis. We also all cross country ski as well. As for a resort I personally like Alpine Meadows in Tahoe for the family.
OTS: And finally, can you name five of your favourite resorts and what it is about them that makes them so special?
Tom Burt: Alpine Meadows, fun for the family, and great terrain and access to the terrain that I enjoy riding as well. Squaw Valley, for the best lift access terrain on an everyday basis weather it is sunny or storming. Jackson Hole, great terrain, access to terrain and the tram. Snowbird, for the terrain off the tram. Mt. Baker, for the unique terrain and access to it along with a family owned operation that has always supported snowboarding making the mountain a home away from home for any snowboarder.
Next article: Top 10 snowboarding resorts