North America's Best Snowboarding
There comes a point at the end of summer when the water starts getting colder, and that's around the time snowboarders start wishing it would get a lot colder a lot more quickly... In fact they're about ready for the snow season. And have been since the end of the last one. The only real issue is deciding where to go boarding. While we at World Reviewer can't bring on the snow, we can help decide which slopes, parks, or terrain to hit this season.
Best Natural Terrain for Freeriders
Kirkwood, Lake Tahoe
At 2380metres above sea level, Kirkwood is Lake Tahoe's highest resort, with the highest lift heading up to 2990metres. But it's the epic variety the natural terrain that this resort is known for: it's given cause for some people to call this the largest natural snowpark in the US – the chutes, wide bowls, drops and long ridges and gullies are all larger than life versions of snowpark play things. They do have a snowpark as well though, it's got a half pipe, table top jumps and a snake.
The tube park is impressive, but so is the number of half pipes and pipes and the sheer spread of the area: around 8000 acres of terrain with more than 200 different trails and runs round bowls, over lips and ridges, under glaciers and though the trees. Blackcomb's big bowls, right under the lip of the glacier, and the largest vertical drop in North America also add to the appeal. It's also venue of the 2010 Winter Olympics, and proud parent of a new peak to peak lift system that transports people from Whistler to Blackcomb without having to go all the way down the mountain and back up it again.
To call this terrain varied is an understatement. There are tree heavy sections, and steep sections and runs with lots of ridges, and trails with lots of boulders and cliff jumps, and all sorts of things going on. For bowls, couloirs, vertical drops and steep runs, the North Face terrain is supposed to be the way to go. The terrain is varied enough to have hosted the US Extreme Snowboarding Championships a couple of times, which means that is must be some of the most challenging in America.
There 85 runs – which is supposed to be enough for the relatively comfortable sized crowds that show up here.
3,500 acres spreading over two mountains almost guarantees variety! There's always been easy access to the intermediate terrain, but it's only the addition of a few more lifts in the last few years that's opened up the top of the mountain round Lone Peak where even the gentlest incline is about 50 degrees, and the experts play. There's plenty of space for everyone, and people say there's only really one lift you have to queue for. The terrain park is supposed to be pretty good, and fairly empty, too.
The two peaks seem to attract any snow in the area, but it tends to get slushy early. Scenic all year though.
This is supposed to be some of the most epic looking countryside in the US: sweeping views from the Snake River to Rendezvous Mountain. It's also supposed to have the second largest vertical drop in the US on Rendezvous-of-the-double-diamond-runs. Lower Mountain is more appropriate for your intermediate boarder, as is the bottom half of Rendezvous where the trees start to shoot up protecting the snow from early melts.
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe
Squaw offers some pretty exciting terrain over its six peaks and ridges. There's vertical drops to soar off, tree filled gullies to negotiate and bumps and runs to get you travelling pretty fast. If you want more than just moguls and epic natural terrain they also provide you with a snowpark, complete with pipe, rails, jumps and boxes etc.
Best Snowparks for Freestylers
Alpine Meadows, Tahoe City
While many boarders know about Squaw, and Alpine Meadows is pretty close by, it's always been known as a skier mountain – but that was before they got the Shreadows terrain park, which has jumps, boxes, lines and its own lift to get up to them. But even without the park there's still a lot of good terrain, improved by the fact that there were always more skiers than snowboarders playing on it. Bowls and chutes, mountains, thick forests and ridges dot the 2,400 acres of ski and board-able terrain.
This resort has a 400 foot Superpipe with 18.5 foot walls – supposedly one of the best in the US, as well as a mini amusement park of rails and ramps and other play things. They also have a run called the 'Air Chamber', which is a mile long with rails and booters along the path: drama. More experienced boarders can also play in 'Slopestyle', which has the largest features on the mountain: tables, step-ups and more rails. A lot of these entertainments were added in 2006 when they had the Olympic qualifier here.
Killington's superpipe is 430 feet long with 18 foot walls, it has six parks and 87 miles worth of trails running all over and around the seven mountain peaks the resort calls its own. The natural terrain offers the 'something for everyone' cliché of runs as long as they are wide to narrow and steep as they come.
Best Slopes for Carvers
Mount Hood Meadows has slopes high enough to board on all year round. It's also got a superpipe called Meadows, which is 500 feet long and 18 feet high. Mount Hood is close enough to Portland to make it a comfortable day trip. It's right by Timberline and the Mount Hood Skibowl – the other local boarding destinations.
Sugarloaf's newest snowpark is called The Yard, and has three sets of jumps, as well as all the other features boarders want to play around on – rails, boxes etc. Before the park was built Sugarloaf was still the tallest skiable peak in the area, with a great swathe of terrain up above the treeline. Their good snow cover is due, in part, to the serious snow making machines they brought in a few seasons ago, so the season here is only getting longer.
Snowbird gets about 500 inches of snow a year – which is a lot. It's the high altitude that does it, and it feels high after you take the tram 11,000 feet up in only eight minutes, but it's also the mainly north facing slopes with their steep angles that seem to catch snow and allow it to accumulate – it's white magic. But what Snowbird is best known for are the double black diamond runs.
The resort got a new superpipe in 2008, called Zaugg, but before that it had the natural terrain – huge bowls and steep slopes dropping into the trees – as well as a park with a half and quarter pipe, rails, table tops and kickers etc.
This is supposed to be one of THE best places for late season boarding – the nights are apparently freezing, but the days sunny and lovely, and the highest slopes stay white and open very late. There's a gondola from the top to the village - which isn't huge, but is cozy.
For more inspiring Snowboarding Travel Options get in touch with one of World Reviewer's Wintersports Travel Specialists.
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