Top 10 snowboarding resorts

15th September 2013 | Monica Adorno

Freeride World Tour 2013 - Chamonix (FR)

Freeride World Tour 2013 - Chamonix (FR)

Copyright: freerideworldtour.com

Whether it's the steeps, big jumps or good old fashioned deep pow that gets your blood pumping, our top 10 snowboarding resorts have it all. How many can you tick off your list?

1. Snowbird, Utah, USA

Go to the bird for loads of diverse and easily accessible terrain. Located in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Snowbird is great for both skiing and boarding and boasts over 4700 acres of skiable slopes. It also has the most vertical terrain in Utah so you can seriously charge the steeps.

The snow at Snowbird is famed for its incredible lightness. Two years ago, the bird was blessed with more than two metres of light dry Utah powder, although, on average, annual snowfall is still an impressive 1,270cm. For the best fall-line riding, hit Mach Schnell off the Snowbird tram which has up to 45-degree steeps through open glades and bowls.

Snowbird also offers a complimentary orientation tour of the mountain departing from the Plaza Deck every morning at 9.30am and 10.30am.

Snowbird, one of Utah's premier resorts, is a playground for advanced skiers and boarders looking for steep and deep terrain.

Copyright: Liam Doran

2. Cervinia, Italy

Another one that has extensive terrain for beginners and is a little closer to home is Cervinia. Located on the border of Switzerland and Italy, near the top of the Aosta Valley, Cervinia offers miles of long gentle runs and breathtaking views of the Matterhorn. The peak, just across the border into Switzerland, is over 3,600 metres – an altitude which guarantees good quality snow.

Cervinia is much cheaper than glitzy Zermatt and if the lift linking the two ski areas is open you’ve got yourself a real bargain and more advanced terrain to explore. Intermediates will enjoy themselves here too and the decent Indian Park will occupy freestylers.  

The downside of Cervinia is that, with the exception of the magnificent Matterhorn, it’s a bit plain Jane and advanced riders may get bored. But like we said, it’s one for beginners.

Snowboarder carving up the powder in Cervinia - Breuil

3. Telluride, Colorado, USA

Quiet slopes, non-existent queues and a vast open space waiting to be conquered. But what really stands out about this resort is the ample terrain suitable for beginners. Telluride is something of a novice heaven offering regularly groomed runs that are wide and gentle even at the highest peaks. Beginner trails are well marked and easy-peasy to manoeuvre. And open glades provide for many scenic runs.  

That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of challenging terrain – there is; 41 percent of the trails are classed as “advanced” or “expert”, and there are some pretty steep lines to ride including the now infamous Black Diamond Run: “The Plunge”.

A snowboarder coming down Telluride in powder

4. Verbier, Switzerland

The freeriding at Verbier can be summed up in one word: Superior.

Expert riders hoping to get the most out of their stay should consider hiring a guide to fully appreciate the extent of the steeps, although, for most, the variety of piste options and itineraires will more than suffice.  Located in the Four Valleys the lifts connect the ski areas of Verbier, La Tzoumaz, Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Val de Bagnes, so there is heaps to discover.

For extreme off-piste head to the Mont-Gelé cable car where there’s a ton of unfathomably steep couloirs and open slopes from which to bomb down. Some of the best powder can be found at the Mont-Fort Glacier; ride into Tortin and you’ll discover an epic open bowl. The main intermediate ski areas, Les Attelas and Les Ruinettes, generally suffer from overcrowding so be savvy and head to Savoleyres which offers tree lined pistes and challenging reds. 

Verbier attracts a global clientele and as would be expected from a world-class resort the après-ski rocks.

Freeride World Tour at Verbier

Copyright: Freeride World Tour

5. Chamonix, France

Ploughing the snow against the incredible backdrop that is Mont Blanc on steep and rugged terrain, Chamonix is not for the faint-hearted. It is however a mecca for boarders who crave adventure and freeriding. There are excellent glacial runs, steep tree-runs and couloirs, plus a half-pipe and loads of natural freestyle features. The downside of a resort as popular as Chamonix are the crowds so if you prefer your slopes less trampled go after the New Year.

Chamonix is an historic ski town with charming French features. The ski areas are fairly spread out along the valley but with such inspiring scenery it won’t seem like a bother. 

There are blue runs but these, more often than not, feel like reds. Intermediates should head towards Brevant, where the steep and varied runs also test experts. If you’re feeling really brave, head for Argentieres Grands Montets – you’ll be skiing alongside the experts.

Freeride World Tour 2013 - Chamonix (FR)

Copyright: freerideworldtour.com

6. Mammoth Mountain, California, USA

Voted the No.1 ‘Family Friendly Resort” by OnTheSnow visitors, Mammoth Mountain delivers epic skiing and riding as well as a plethora of other activities.

First though, the riding: Serious effort has gone into developing Mammoth’s park terrain with suitable features for all abilities. Virgin freestylers can take advantage of the Discovery Park, full of unthreatening jumps and jibs, before progressing to Wonderland which features a 12-foot pipe leading to the lower rail garden. At the main park, with 21.5 acres to play in, there are technical jumps and super-sized jumps. There are nine parks in total plus an Olympic-sized pipe that gets a lot of action from competitors, and an ever-evolving boardercross course.

As for snow, it dumps here and the quality is top-notch. It’s typically one of the first resorts across the US to open and one of the last to close – as late as 4 July. A wide variety of grub and decent après-ski completes this all-round great resort.

Mammoth Unbound Terrain Parks

7. Squaw Valley, California, USA

Over the hill from Alpine Meadows is Squaw Valley which like its neighbour offers freeriders steep lines to blaze down. There is also terrain for beginners but most runs favour skilled riders.

Squaw is glitzier and more popular than Alpine and as such crowds gather, however, they normally disperse during the week. The terrain is similar to that of Alpine’s but with more vertical rise. There are lots of natural and man-made hits, cornices, cliff bands, and technical chutes. Skilled boarders battle it out in the Snowboard King of the Mountain competition each winter, which always draws the crowds.

Kids are well looked after at Squaw, there’s the SnoVentures Centre, New Adventure Zone and Family Cross Course via the brand new Big Blue Express (6-pack) chairlift. Like Alpine, Squaw recently became a Burton Learn to Ride Centre.

Snowboard King of the Mountain at Squaw Valley

8. Alpine Meadows, California, USA

Alpine Meadows has a chilled-out vibe, a snowboard-friendly set-up and awe-inspiring views of the beautiful Lake Tahoe. There’s heaps of ample terrain to suit everyone, 25 percent for newbies, 40 percent for intermediates, and 35 percent for pros which makes for a pretty decent balance. Beginners can enjoy smooth, wide open runs off of the Weasel Chair while experienced riders can enjoy the glades and access to some of the finest backcountry in North America. Getting there is easy as the Summit Six will transport you to over 70 percent of the mountain’s terrain.

Recently, the guys at Alpine hooked up with Snow Park Technologies (SPT) who have previously designed parks for the Winter X Games. SPT have combined the medium and large terrain parks at Alpine Meadows resulting in a mile-long park run. There are new jibs this season, including four new beginner boxes, two intermediate boxes and four new snowmaking pipe jibs. There are plenty of natural hits too such as the Hotwheels gully and Kangaroo gully.

This year the resort became a Burton Learn to Ride Center (for adults) proving that it’s never too late to start shredding!

Alpine Meadows

9. Whistler Blackcomb, Canada

With such an abundance of choice this place easily takes the crown for the Glastonbury of ski resorts. And just like the mother of all festivals the Whistler/Blackcomb experience has something for all tastes and levels.

Located in the Coast Mountains on the West Coast, the resort is made up of two side-by-side mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb. Blackcomb was among the first resorts in North America to welcome snowboarders and has been passionately committed to progressing the sport ever since.

In terms of park terrain, there are 99 acres. Five diverse parks, some of which are further divided according to ability, have been designed with all the features a pro would train with – which they do here, regularly. There are jumps, spines, rails, jibs and there are smaller versions for those new to freestyle. If, in the style of Tom Burt, you’re after speed, the Nintendo Terrain Park will sort you out. Naturally, there’s an Olympic sized pipe, used by the top pipe athletes in the world, and a 15’’ mini-pipe.

For the best fall-line riding on a powder day head for the mid-mountain on Blackcomb and ride the Jersey Cream Express or take hit runs off of the Crystal Chair until the alpine opens. Then, head over to the Glacier Express chair and get a few laps through Spanky’s Ladder. You can take the Peak 2 Peak gondola over to Whistler Mountain in the afternoon, and take the Peak Express chair to ride Peak to Creek, from the Peak of Whistler to the Creekside base, the longest intermediate run on the mountain.

Snowboarding in summer on Horstman Glacier on Blackcomb Mountain. Photo by Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler.

Copyright: Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler.

10. Mt Baker, Washington, USA

If you want to ride hard, Mt Baker is quite simply epic, but après-ski heaven it is not. The reason for its reputation is this: dumps of snow, deep, untracked pow, superb downhill terrain (voted No.1 by OnTheSnow visitors), and a progressive open boundary policy. Add to that the diversity of its natural terrain – gullies, canyons, tree runs and hits – and you’ve got a true snowboarders’ mountain.

Another reason for its immense popularity is that amid the commercialisation and hype of snowboarding the family-run resort has managed, to its credit, to preserve a grassroots feeling about the place. “Each February, top professionals like Tom Burt, Terje Haakonsen and Victoria Jealouse pass up the television exposure and big purses of mainstream contests elsewhere in the world just to compete in the Baker slalom and celebrate the simple and unsullied passion for riding that brought them to the hill in the first place,” says the NY Times.

A snowboarder enjoys Mt. Baker. Photo by Cocoa Dream/Flickr.

Next article: Snowparks: If you build it, they will come

Previous article: OTS interview with pro rider Tom Burt

 

 

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