What does it take for a resort to make it into this top ten list? The resort has to meet or exceed our reader's high expectations—we're not talking about expectations involving slopeside concierge service or five-star dining, we're talking park maintenance and epic powder conditions. We want fast lifts that open early and close late, good inexpensive food, a great park, and a mellow place to sleep so we can wake up and do it all over again. We want to have a pow-slashing, park-bashing, hot-tub-splashing, nightlife-thrashing good time—that's how you get to be a top ten resort.
* About The Poll: The online Resort Poll is voted on by both subscribers and the online readers of twsnow.com—in total over 1,600 readers logged on to cast their votes. Readers were given the opportunity to vote on the three best resorts they visited during the 2007/2008 season, ranking them on 21 different categories. Some 154 resorts across North America and Canada were judged, after the numbers were crunched, ten in each category rose to the top.
Whistler/Blackcomb has an unbeatable formula: Take 8,171 acres of terrain and over 200 trails, add an average annual snowfall of 402 inches and more than 93 restaurants and bars in the village, top it off with a Peak 2 Peak gondola spanning 1,400 feet in the air connecting both resorts and you’ve got the winningest resort in the Readers’ Poll. PHOTO: Dave Steers
Host of the forthcoming 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler/Blackcomb has been working overtime for the past few years to expand and prepare for the ultimate wintersports exposé. Yet despite the feverish preparations, the resort itself is already the world's best. With a whopping 8,000-plus acres of terrain and a mile of vertical, it's the biggest resort in North America offering the ultimate riding experience. Through constant fine-tuning of the lift access, park terrain, and on-hill amenities, the Whistler/Blackcomb complex is an enormous playground with a mind-numbing array of good-time potential. Snowboarders relish the miles of varying terrain: from the steep chutes and alpine powder of Whistler's Peak and Blackcomb's 7th Heaven, to the all-out shred party runs of Peak To Creek and the Nintendo Terrain Park. There's so much mountain and so much snow; the annual snowfall average is over 33 feet—it hit this amount in 2008 and felt anything but average. With the sheer volume of terrain, the park scene at Whistler could easily be an afterthought, but no way. Last season saw a renewed emphasis on made-for-shred terrain under the direction of a new park manager, Brian Finestone, and his dedicated crew of park rangers and groomers. With the unveiling of their new Peak To Peak gondola this year—an unprecedented lift project that links the two mountains—Whistler/Blackcomb propels itself further into the lead as the best and most progressive resort in North America.
2. Mammoth Mountain, California
Mammoth is the place to escape to for Southern Californians. With everything from steep cliff drops and lines to epic park and pipe and late-night restaurants and bars in the village-Mammoth meets the needs of SoCal shredders. Jonas Michilot blasts off in excitement. PHOTO: Tim Peare
Maybe Mammoth earned its name because it's huge. There are few resorts in North America that offer the vastness and variety of terrain that can be found here. For years Mammoth has been a haven for pro riders and the apparent epicenter for park-design progression; but there is a lot more mountain outside all the parks. From a summit elevation at over 11,000 feet, the mountain drops steeply down alpine powder faces to an expansive, undulating maze of world-class groomers. These trails roll off in all directions of the compass to different base zones that feed riders back up to the top for more. Dollar for dollar, foot for vertical foot, Mammoth really is hard to beat.
3. Northstar-At-Tahoe, California
It's all right here. Northstar-At-Tahoe resort is a self-contained little snowboard paradise. You can reap all the rewards of the Tahoe experience in one place. From powder pockets on the backside to the au naturale Stash park, there's a flow to the trail layout that makes for hella fun shred laps wherever you point it. Local pros like the Moonshine park and the sun-drenched 420-foot-long Superpipe. In the Pinball park there's so much sht to hit, your head will spin. Northstar's got shred-ready terrain for all abilities, and the resort village is set up so you never even have to leave.
4. Buttermilk, Colorado
Sour cream? Half and half? Naw, Buttermilk-it’s the home of the X Games and the place to head to for the best buttery-smooth pipe in the country. U-tube jumpa Antti Autti attests to this by pouring out a delicious spin down the walls. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen
There's a reason Buttermilk is hosting the Winter X Games through 2010. The standard-setting competition halfpipe and pro-level Snow Park Technologies terrain park are among the world's best. Factor in the nightlife and amenities of the Aspen locale and it's easy to see why people just love to ride this little nugget of a resort.
5. Bear Mountain, California
Maybe like Gabi Viteri here, your idea of an awesome overall resort is on that’s stacked with park features, sunny, and filled with all your friends. If so, Bear Mountain is the right call. PHOTO: Christy Chaloux/ See What I See
Where else can you step out of your flip-flops and into your snowboard boots in the parking lot in January? Nowhere. But there's more to Bear than consistent sun and soft, slushy landings. Fact is, the entire mountain is a terrain park. With upgraded snowmaking, constant park maintenance, and continual enhancement of rails and features, Bear is forever fresh.
6. Snowmass, Colorado
As the largest of the four mountains that comprise the Aspen resort complex, Snowmass has the most to offer the hyperactive shred set. The upper mountain offers endless options, while world-class shred-specific terrain is spread all over the lower mountain. The addition of the new Sheer Bliss lift opens up 700 more acres of pure fun in this legendary destination.
7. Breckenridge, Colorado
Breckenridge is home to some badass snow sculpting-the smooth trannies of its legendary Superpipe loft you up there where you need a nice lien method to pull you back down to earth. Our boy Keir Dillon shows you how it’s done. PHOTO: Frode SandbechYou've gotta go to Breck; the historic town captures the Old West and the mellow Rocky Mountain ski-town vibe pervades the whole area. Up on the hill, 30 lifts deliver you to dry, high-elevation snow on nearly 2,500 acres of wide-open bowls, well-kept parks, and a whopping 155 trails.
8. Park City, Utah
This pic is proof that there’s nothing shitty about Park City, or Peetu Piiroinen for that matter. Their crispy U-jump has what it takes to host Olympic-quality events and holds up nice with that bubbly Utah fluff. Photo: Justin L’Heureux
Close proximity to Salt Lake City (32 miles) makes Park City one of the most easily accessible big-mountain resorts in the nation. The East Side zone offers aggro Wasatch vertical while total terrain variability from peak to parking lot makes for dynamic days on the hill. Five terrain parks, a Superpipe, and the convenience of every imaginable amenity at the base just adds to the goodness.
9. Keystone, Colorado
You need at least a couple days to cover all the terrain at Keystone. Three broad peaks, vast bowls, and the Area 51 park zone offer an overdose of rippable terrain. Add in some night riding and a few après sodas at The Goat and the action is pretty much nonstop at this Summit County hot spot.
10. Vail, Colorado
A Western classic, Vail is a perennial feature on every "top ten best" list. When the Colorado storm cycles start to roll through, Vail gets hammered with the light and fluffy. Topping out at a peak elevation of over eleven-thousand feet, those back bowls fill in for some of the best inbounds pow roosting in the Lower 48.