To make it as one of the ten best, a resort has to rank high in both the park and pipe categories, as well as in other crucial areas such as nightlife, snowfall, vibe, lodging, food, et cetera-all the other stuff that matters when you’re getting after the best shred experience possible.
1. Aspen/ Snowmass, Colorado
Back in the number-one sport for the third year in a row, Snowmass kills it. Its got a badass mountain to go with an equally badass park, next to what everone from celebs to blue-collar shreds would agree is a badass party town. The resort puts a lot of resources into keeping everything top-notch- from new upgrades to the terrain-park snowmaking system, which gets the park open earlier, to replacing its 18-foot Zaugg machine with a 22-foot pipe cutter.
When it comes to freeriding, Snowmass has a ton of rad terrain throughout its 3,132 rideable acres- and it’s one of the least crowded of all Colorado’s mega resorts. When it dumps, hike Hanging Valley Head-wall (a.k.a “the Wall”), which spits you into some sublime tree glades below. When it doesn’t dump, ride groomers-Snowmass has nature’s own rhythm section and nice, soft Colorado corduroy.
As for the park, the Lowdown Park’s got beginner-level jumps and jibs, plus a 12-foot halfpipe. Makaha Park is the intermediate stage, and Snowmass Park is the main, expert-level park with a Superpipe right under the speedy Coney Glade lift.
In Snowmass Village, the high-end Viceroy Hotel is always running discounts. For eats, Zane’s is the local favorite, or hit up Bucci’s for sushi. A Free shuttle runs into the town of Aspen where you’ll find a grocery store and cheap grub at Johnny McGuire’s and Big Wrap--Jen Sherowski
2. Mammoth Mountain, CA
To say that Mammoth is anything less than full spectrum would be unjust. The 3,500 acres of terrain includes everything from massive bowls to epic windlips and gladed trees. And it’s all backed by a team that supports investment in snowboarding. That’s why, aside from the extensive park and pipe setup, it added the Stomping Grounds Terrain Park, which is dedicated to learning with two acrobags. When the lifts close, hit the slopeside Yodler bar, or The Village at Mammoth also awaits with easy access to apres at Gomez’s, Clocktower Cellar Pub, and The Westin Bar among others. When you’ve had all the fun you can handle, save yourself the walk of shame and hop the free transit back to your hotel, or just stay in the village condos.
3. Buttermilk, CO
Compared to the other three mountains in the Aspen valley, Buttermilk is light on freeride terrain, but the vibe makes it a great place to ride. From the lift staff and park crew to the kids lapping, people are chill and keepin’ it positive. Plus, the Buttermilk park and pipe reign supreme. The Main Park and S3 are both littered with progressive features (including some from the Burton Team Shoot Out photo shoot) and cool, creative stuff, including large steel drums and old lift towers. To help you get more laps, the Tiehack Express quad has replaced the Eagle Hill and Upper Tiehack lifts for a ride time of seven minutes. For Powder, head to what the locals call the “West of the West” bowls. Don’t forget happy hour at Eric’s in downtown Aspen --J.S
Make a list--it’s the only way you’ll come close to doing half the things that Whistler/Blackcomb offers. Here’s an example to get you started: buy Fresh Tracks breakfast tickets for early access on pow days, ride the burn trees off Crystal Chair, send it in the Highest Level Park, straight-line Shale Slope, eat at Satchi Sushi, hang with pros at the back bar in Garf’s, tell your parents you’re dropping out of school and moving here.
5. June Mountain, CA
Does June’s appearance in the top 10 stem from the fact that, on a pow day, “The Face” rivals any catboarding operation? Or is it their commitment to a perfect park and pipe from December until April? Could it be their laid-back vibe and friendly staff? Perhaps it’s that lift lines are almost nonexistent, even though June is just 20 miles north of Mammoth. There’s only one way to find out-- make the trek.
6. Breckenridge, CO
The top of the Imperial Express chair, the highest in North America at 12,480 feet, is a prime spot to get an overview of the resort. From your location, near the peak 8 Summit you’ll see wide open bowls in either direction. Off Peak 7 you’ll find rollers and side hits that will leave your legs burning. And below the tree line awaits Brecks parks and pipes, laid out for all abilities.
7. Sierra-At-Tahoe, CA
Pillow lines, five sidecountry exits, and tree runs through rare old-growth forests are just a few reasons why this South lake Tahoe snagged the seventh spot. And for the first time, riders can skip the one-and-a-half mile hike to the goods in Huckleberry Canyon by opting for the Huckleberry Cat tour. Add in its parks and arguably the best Superpipe in the Tahoe basin, and you’ve got a damn fine resort.
8. Northstar-At-Tahoe, CA
The riding is one thing, but with ever-expanding village amenities this place gets sweeter and sweeter every season. Good food, apres digs, and a new movie theater make the action almost as nice as on-snow. But you come to shred- and so does Shaun White. Northstar is not only Shaun’s new training zone, but he’s also helped design a 22-foot Superpipe. If that’s not your thing, the top-notch parks, sidecountry stashes, and long groomer laps won’t let you down.
9. Crested Butte, CO
Home to some of the most epic freeride terrain in Colorado, Crested Butte is the Rocky Mountain’s hidden gem. The front side featuressteep and fast rollers, and a slew of glades. If you’re looking to get really sendy, roll up the High Lift and drop in on Teocalli Bowl’s Alaska style chutes and headwall. It’s not all about shredding the gnar though- there are three levels of parks to get tricky in, plus a 17-foot pipe. -T.L
Widely known for its innovative A51 terrain park, Keystone also has three main freeriding zones-Dercum, North Peak, and The Outback. Duck into the tight trees of the Windows and the steep lines on the North and South bowls. If you somehow still have energy after a full day of shredding, keep it going with the only night riding and night park in Summit County. Open until 9:00 PM-T.L