Top 10 Ski Resorts in North America: The best of the 2014 Freeskier Resort Guide
Based on what we’ve seen and what we love about these ski resorts, we’ve ranked the top 10 ski destinations; this information is originally presented in our 2014 Resort Guide. We made this list by trying to answer the questions our friends ask us: I have a week of vacation, where should I go? I want to ski a badass park, where should I go? I want to stop at the end of an epic t-to-b run and have a delicious drink, where should I go? I just got fired from my job and I want to move to a ski town for a year (and maybe stay for twenty), where should I go? The below is just one example of what you’ll find in the Resort Guide—there, the information is spread across 17 pages, including lists like “Best on a powder day” (Pg. 076), “Best after the storm” (Pg. 077), Parks (Pg. 078), Towns (Pg. 080), Après and Nightlife (Pg. 081), Steeps (Pg. 082), Deets (Pg. 083), The East (Pg. 084), The In-Between (Pg. 085), Gettin’ Up (Pg. 086) and Gettin’ There (Pg. 088).
At the bottom of this page, we’ve created a poll—we’re inquiring where you might like to spend an upcoming ski vacation, or just let loose for a few days. While it’d be an enormous challenge (time suck) to include all of the ski areas in North America, we’ve simplified things by including only those spots which received editorial mention in the 2013 and/or 2014 Resort Guide issues. So, browse through the available destinations, and let us know: Where would you go to spend your hard earned cash? And, of course, please enjoy our top 10 resort ranking and the accompanying beta.
Gavin Phillipson in Whistler, BC. Shot by Eric Berger.
01. Whistler Blackcomb
Surprise, surprise, Whistler Blackcomb tops the charts once again. When it comes to our annual Resort Guide, we often hear a complaint from the masses, something like, “Great, I paid my $5.98 only to find Whistler Blackcomb No. 1 again.” And yeah, Freeskier has ranked the famed BC resort at the top of the charts for the past eight years in a row. But, seriously, who’s going to argue that? It comes down to one simple matter, when folks ask us where they should spend their top dollar to go shred, our response is always the same, “Have you been to Whistler Blackcomb?”
Complete with 8,171 acres of skiable terrain, an average of 462 inches of snow per year, 5,280 feet of vert (Blackcomb), 200+ marked runs, 16 bowls, three glaciers, five parks, endless backcountry and a mighty long ski season, the resort puts up impressive stats, to say the least. Bolstering those figures, two new lifts are going in this season—improving access to Blackcomb’s Crystal zone, Spanky’s Ladder, and Whistler’s Harmony zone.
Whistler Blackcomb’s sheer size can be overwhelming, yet its appeal is best captured through a more personal set of numbers. Consider the number of face shots you might receive while skiing off Whistler’s Peak Express on a blower morning. When you’ve had your fill blazing bottomless pow in Glacier Bowl, Whistler Bowl or the West Bowl, think about the number of iPhone photos you might snap while riding the world-famous PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola—suspended 1,427 feet above the ground—en route to Blackcomb, where the CBC Trees await. You’ve got an afternoon of pure tree-skiing bliss ahead of you.
Park shred more your thing? Ponder the collection of banger GoPro shots you could capture while lapping the Nintendo Highest Level Terrain Park on Blackcomb. Revamped last season, it features massive, pristine features and a smooth, curving flow, giving it a feel that many athletes say rivals the best in the world. Of course, beginners will find themselves right at home in the Big Easy or Habitat parks, too.
Or how about the number of jugs (Canadian for pitchers) consumed in a single afternoon at GLC, Longhorn, Merlin’s, Dusty’s or any of the phenomenal après spots scattered about the world-class village? Or the number of new, random contacts you’ll find saved in your phone’s address book after an evening on the town. Between the dance parties at Maxx Fish and Tommy Africa’s, you’ll wake up to find things like, “Stephanie, hot, red hat” or “Super cute, blonde, black leggings” attached to area codes from 604 to 212.
The bottom line: Whistler Blackcomb has something for everyone, from the baddest of shredders to total beginners (lessons and guided tours abound). You can do it up big, or you can do it on a budget. Either way, once you go, whenever somebody asks where they should spend their ski vacation, your response will be, “Have you been to Whistler Blackcomb?”
Much like our number one, Aspen/Snowmass has been consistently picked as a top destination over the years, for many good reasons. It consists of four different mountains, each offering its own highlights, including top-to-bottom laps of over 3,200 vertical feet via the Ajax gondola; steep and deep turns down the Highland Bowl or Steeplechase zone of the Highlands; meticulously maintained parks and sprawling terrain reaching above treeline at Snowmass; and each January, Buttermilk plays host to the X Games with one of the biggest, baddest parks in the biz. When it comes time to hit the town, Aspen entertains both ends of the spectrum with steak and sushi or shot-and-a- beer specials right around the corner from one another. Fly directly here or make the quick drive from Denver. You won’t be disappointed.
03. Jackson Hole
A 12-minute ride in the iconic red tram at Jackson Hole grants you access to 4,139 vertical feet of varied terrain that skews heavily to the wild side. The infamous Corbet’s Couloir sits atop this behemoth of a mountain and may earn you a t-shirt, but there’s so much more. Lap the Thunder or Sublette chairs for all sorts of terrain, take a hike up the headwall for unlimited launch pads through Casper Bowl or the Crags, or come back year after year if you’ve got the knowledge to take advantage of the backcountry access. When the lifts stop spinning, the lovely ladies of the Mangy Moose will serve you spicy margs to your heart’s content, or you can head in to town to eat at one of the many fine establishments before bellying up next to a cowboy at any given bar.
04. Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows
Eight peaks, 47 lifts and more than 8,000 badass acres; that’s what you get when you combine Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. And that’s just what they did last year for our skiing pleasure. Alpine Meadows provides wide open terrain and some of the best backcountry access gates imaginable. Meanwhile, Squaw is a breeding ground for some of the gnarliest rippers out there because of its 450 inches of annual snowfall and infamous terrain such as The Fingers off of KT-22. When the lifts stop turning, head down to Le Chamois or PlumpJacks for some celebratory libations.
Just a hop, skip and a winding road out of Salt Lake City will bring you to this skier’s paradise, so close to the airport that you can fly in midmorning and be on the hill by lunchtime. These two mountains have options galore for ripper who are looking for steep and playful lines to challenge their abilities—hence the freeskiing competitions held at Snowbird every year. Conveniently, the mountains share a boundary, and you can easily ski back and forth between them. The Cliff Lodge at the base of “the Bird” offers rooftop hot tubs with a view, while The Peruvian and Gold Miner’s Daughter offer a classic après vibe at the bottom of Alta.
Breckenridge features some of the finest park features in the world, for everybody from the beginner to Bobby Brown. In addition, the resort will be adding a fifth peak this year, expanding the already vast amount of terrain with aspects that provide great snow on every day of the season.
Nine top-notch parks and two pipes make Mammoth a top contender on the freestyle circuit. Add to that vast terrain options and a season that lasts well beyond winter, and you’ve got a mountain that knows how to please.
This evolving gem is situated in southeastern British Columbia and grants access to some of the rowdiest terrain and longest continuous vertical you’ll find around a resort. Even better, it’s got a small- town feel that’s free of fur-ists and never-ending timeshares.
09. Mt. Bachelor
Just a quick drive out of Bend, OR, Mt. Bachelor offers everything from terrain parks and a halfpipe to gullies and amazing tree skiing that allow you to surf and slash your way down the mountain. The resort has all the amenities you will need without the feel of Big Mountain Inc.
10. Park City Mountain Resort
Three sick parks, along with an exquisitely maintained superpipe, make PCMR a worthy destination for any freeskier. Rising straight out of downtown, this resort affords the opportunity to ride all day and party all night without sacrifice.
About the author:
Freeskier Magazine—This is skiing.