Resort Guide 2013-2014: Western States
Words: Ben Gavelda
Modest Mouse pegged it pretty damn well with the term and album titled The Lonesome Crowded West. The West is a desolate place, home to massive stretches of high plains, ranchlands, rocky plateaus, big basins, and burly mountains broken up by only a handful of roads and cities. When it came to defining the riding between Colorado and the Pacific states, there's a lot of ground to cover.
There's the undeniable hub of Salt Lake City, Utah—a thriving scene all in it's own that almost deserves it's own section. SLC is easy to get to/from, has the urban scene on lock, but then the comfort of Park City park laps, big dumps and steeps at the Bird, or out-of-bounds access at Brighton, and a solid community of pros and eager Ams to back it up. But then you have the big sky country of Montana and Wyoming, and the high desert and alpine of Idaho, too. There's no denying the force of a place like Jackson Hole, whose massive terrain, snowfall, backcountry access, vertical, and international presence is hard to compete with.
Like the rest of the regions in this guide, there are numerous mom and pop spots and riding areas off the beaten path, many rich in charm and snow and free of the faux village. There are probably a number of spots you've never heard of like Brian Head, Lost Trail, Maverick Mountain, Brundage, Grand Targhee, Schweitzer, Bogus Basin, Big Mountain—the list goes on. Perhaps the West is home to the vast majority of the last great snowboarding towns, the places we'd all like to put on the road trip map some day.
The following selections come from experience of living, working, and riding in as many areas in these Western states as possible between our edit staff, pro riders, photographers, and proud locals who claim the isolated beauty of these places as home. Take it as the rough outline, then pack up the rig and hit it.
Check out the next page for our top 3 freeriding resorts in the west…
Top 3 Freeriding Resorts in the West
The Bird really is the word in Little Cottonwood Canyon. From Baldy and Silver Fox—former Freeride World Tour comp runs—to side hits on Chip's Run, trees off Gad 2, and the always-popular (and ever-tracked-out) Cirque, there's something for every type of freerider.
Poll Terrain Variety Rank: 7
Standout Terrain: Baldy, Upper Cirque, Gad 2, Chip’s Run
Average Snowfall: 500 inches
Don't Miss: First Tram, drink deals at the Tram Club
Can't Miss: Deadlung
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Need we even mention the name? This is where Travis Rice hones his big mountain skills alongside a grip of other legends and up and comers who claim Jackson's rugged freeride terrain as home. Ample snow, backcountry access, a huge vertical drop (4,139 feet), and a Burton Stash park pretty much sum it up.
Poll Terrain Variety Rank: 1
Standout terrain: All the bowls: Cody, Rocksprings, Tensleep, Casper, Laramie
Average Snowfall: 459 inches
Don't miss: Corbet's Cabin breaky, first tram, Million Dollar Cowboy bar shenanigans
Bridger Bowl, Montana
Bridger is the real deal, not some prepackaged cowboy experience. A small, but potent area just outside of Bozeman, Montana with mellow to steep terrain and decent snowfall. With ample sidecountry access be sure to bring your avy gear and hiking legs.
Poll Terrain Variety Rank: N/A*
Standout Terrain: Schlasman lift, hike-to Ridge Terrain
Average Snowfall: 350 inches
Don’t Miss: Hikes, Starky's, Dave's Sushi, Over The Tapas, Ale Works
*Too few poll votes for sample size.
Check out the next page for our top 3 parks in the West
Top 3 Parks in the West
I Ride Park City 2013-2014 Episode 2
Park City, Utah
The 3 Kings park, open for night riding with its own high-speed triple, is your go-to for the setups you've seen in the I Ride Park City edits. Then there's Neffland—mellow, fun, low consequence, and the 12-foot Merrill Mini-Pipe, bringing transition riding back to the people, but PC also has one of the best 22-foot Superpipes in the country.
Poll Overall Park Rank: 8
Standout Terrain: Everything in the parks is sick except the skiers
Don't Miss: Happy hour at Baja Cantina, authentic Mexican at El Chubasco
The Canyons, Utah
With two parks that cater to beginner and advanced riders differently, Canyons has something for everyone. What we're stoked on is the super long main park with its own high-speed lift, featuring pretty much every type of rail, jump, and jib imaginable, from Jersey barrier ollies to storage containers.
Poll Overall Park Rank: 29
Standout Terrain: Park variety, jibs, heated chairlift, chicks in fur
Don’t Miss: Canis Lupis banked slalom race
Snowbasin is an up-and-coming player in the terrain park game with three parks catering to beginner to pro. The place has played host to past TransWorld Team Shoot Out and Dew Tour park builds, and the best part about laps here is the full run of natural hits before you even hit the park.
Poll Overall Park Rank: N/A*
Standout Terrain: Coyote Bowl park, Burlington rail replica, 65 jibs
Don’t Miss: Friday Night Jib Lights
*Too few poll votes for sample size.
Check out the next page for a few of our insider tips…
Salt Lake City has a lot of history in snowboarding. And if you're anywhere in Utah to snowboard, you're at least going through it. Here's a list of local attractions.
Milosport 3119 East, 3300 South
Rail Gardens Olympic Hills Park, Millcreek
Hector's (Formerly known as Molca Salsa) 2901 East 3300 South
Best Resort Value
This staple of the Utah snow scene is known both for it's creative jib setups as well as its ample backcountry access and light, champagne powder. Whether it's park laps on Crest, night riding, or slashes and side hits on Milly, you're getting bang for your buck at Brighton.
Near Beer? Sort of.
Buy PBR in a Utah grocery store and you'll see 3.2% ABW, that's alcohol percentage to weight ratio. This is almost the exact same percentage as PBR in your state; it's just measured by volume (4% ABV) instead of weight. To buy higher percentage brews or spirits, go to a state liquor store. Those are closed on Sundays, so plan ahead. Bars are only allowed to serve one ounce of liquor at a time. They're also not allowed to serve high alcohol percentage beers on draught, but they can serve you a 9% ABV Squatters Hop Rising in an unopened bottle.
Fly And Ride
Remember that rumor you heard about cashing in an airline boarding pass for a lift ticket? Yep, that's a go. It's called the Quick Start Vacation offer and it's good at Park City and The Canyons for out-of-state visitors on same day arrivals. Register before you go: visitparkcity.com/quickstart.