Whether it’s the steeps, big jumps or good old-fashioned deep powder or those ubiquitous terrain parks that gets your blood pumping, our top 10 best snowboarding resorts have it all (and they’re all great… not listed in any particular order). How many can you tick off your list? Hurry up, or as famed sports cinematographer Warren Miller once said: ‘Do it now or you’ll be one year older when you do.’
1. Tignes, France
Tignes and its all-linked up sister Val d’Isere Tignes is among the best places in the world for snowboarders seeking enough new terrain to keep them going for days on end. Tignes has hosted the European X-Games and Amy professional snowboards call it their home base. Look for lots of terrain parks and tons of freeride space. Check out the snow school for a guide and you’ll really expand your game.
2. Cervinia, Italy
Italy’s Cervinia has extensive terrain for beginners and everyone else 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 that guarantees good quality snow. Cervinia is much cheaper than glitzy Zermatt in Switzerland and if the lift linking the two ski areas is open you’ve got yourself a real bargain and more advanced terrain to explore. The decent Indian Park will occupy freestylers.
It is indeed possible that advanced or expert riders may get bored. But it is terrific for beginners and intermediates.
3. Val Thorens, France
You won’t find more snowboard terrain to keep you happy than at Val Thorens, at the top of France’s Three Valleys. Its slopes are ideal and its snowpack and access to Meribel and Courchevel make it a must-ride resort. There’s plenty to do on the mountain and at night where the club scene may also be called unrivaled.
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 itineraries 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 are 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.
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. Very well deserving of its place on our ‘best snowboarding resorts’ list, it offers 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 a 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.
6. Mammoth Mountain, California, USA
OnTheSnow readers give Mammoth Mountain a top rating as a “Family Friendly Resort” every year. Mammoth Mountain delivers epic skiing and riding as well as a plethora of other activities. Mammoth will be a highlight of your USA travel adventure to the West Coast.
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 U.S. to open and one of the last to close – incredibly, as late as 4 July. A wide variety of grub and decent après-ski completes this all-round great resort.
7. Squaw Valley, California, USA
One more from the USA and not all that far from Mammoth if you’ve made the trek across the pond. Squaw, host of the 1960 Winter Olympics, offers freeriders steep lines to blaze down. There is also terrain for beginners, but most runs favour skilled riders.
Squaw draws big crowds on weekends and during holidays. However, they normally disperse during the week. 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 the SnoVentures Centre, Adventure Zone and Family Cross Course via the Big Blue Express (6-pack) chairlift. Squaw recently gained a Burton Learn to Ride Centre.
8. Ischgl, Austria
All the snow school operations at Ischgl have an internationally good reputation and if you’re looking to learn to ride or get even better at it, you’ve come to the right resort.
There is great snowboarding terrain for every level rider and the extra fun part is you can ride back directly into town at the end of the day.
The town is among the most charming in the Alps and when you add its all up, this is a winning trip for riders.
9. Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
Oh, yes – it’s well worth the flight for winter vacation from the UK. With such an abundance of choice, this giant 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.
10. Saas Fee, Switzerland
Saas Fee is one of the most family-friendly ski resorts in Europe. And when it comes to snowboarding, it’s a winner. The resort is the home base for the British Snowboarding team for most of the year. The blue terrain is relatively easy and the red is fun for those looking for new challenger or even for experts.
There’s year-round skiing and Saas Fee oozes charm all through the resort. Everyone in the family will be happy here.