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Best Powder Skiing

Best Powder Skiing in North America

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It's a classic question among skiers, powder hounds in particular: "Where's the best pow?" Although it all depends on seasonal snow fall, when you want to find the fluffy stuff, there are a few factors to take into account:
  • Amount of snow: The quintessential experience that most skiers imagine when they think of "powder skiing" requires a good amount of freshly fallen snow - at least six inches, to start with. When you're looking for a resort with great powder skiing, be mindful of their average annual snowfall rates.
  • Type of snow: Like a good white wine, the best powder snow is light and dry. That's why the West - with its stable temperatures and low moisture content - is famous for its powder snow, whereas Eastern snow dumps tend to be wet, heavy and difficult to ski, and thus far less favorable.
  • Vertical drop: Powder skiing is a lot different from cruising those groomed runs. You really need a trail with at least some degree of steepness to make those floaty turns, because in powder, you need momentum to find your sweet spot.
  • Crowds: When people pound down ski runs, fresh fields of powder turn into bumps and moguls. Mountains that aren't insanely busy (or have enough terrain, on-piste or off-) are the best choices for prime powder skiing.

With these points in mind, I have compiled a list of some of the premiere powder skiing spots. Read on for an overview of resorts where you can find the best powder skiing in North America.

Pure Powder Skiing at Alta Ski Resort

Copyright Mike Doyle
Alta Ski Resort in Utah's Little Cottonwood Canyon is the legendary birthplace of powder skiing. Since its opening in 1939, Alta has drawn skiers (and skiers only - it is one of the few remaining ski resorts that bans snowboarders from its slopes) who crave a good dose of genuine ski country.

Alta's marked trails accommodate beginners and intermediates, but the mountain also has great steeps. It's also surrounded by virgin backcountry terrain that draws hardcore powderhounds.

To stay updated with Alta's plentiful supply of powder, you can sign up to receive powder alerts via e-mail.

Big Powder Skiing in the Little Cottonwood Canyon: Snowbird Ski Resort

Copyright Snowbird Ski Resort
Snowbird Ski Resort is practically joined at the hip with Alta, and the AltaSnowbird One Ticket allows access between the two, opening up a whopping 4,700 acres of skiable terrain.

Of course, Snowbird on its own is something to reckon with, too. When the snow falls, Snowbird becomes a haven for deep powder skiing. With its classic Utah snow - dry and light - and vast variety of trails, it accommodates all levels of skiers eager to get knee-deep into the pow.

Snowbird's Mineral Basin is a favorite powder place. The steeps that descend from the peak of Mount Baldy are also great spots to enjoy the snow.

You can monitor Snowbird's snow report here.

Steep and Deep Skiing at Kirkwood Mountain Resort

Copyright Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Kirkwood Mountain Resort is known for its frequent powder storms, which can provide a great learning experience for Eastern skiers getting used to Western powder.

Kirkwood's "Big Mountain" reputation really holds up. With an average annual snowfall that usually tops 600 inches, Kirkwood receives a lot of powder on its big lot of terrain. It is one of the top-ranking resorts on SkiReports.com list of biggest powder days in North America.

So Kirkwood gets a lot of snow - what can you do with it? The mountain's lower half has a nice selection of blues and blacks, but the upper half offers plenty of steeps that really comes alive in the powder. The Wall at Kirkwood is an experts' only steep that is a signature run at the mountain.

You can follow Kirkwood's snow conditions here.

Powdered Gold at Jackson Hole

Copyright Mike Doyle
Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a resort steeped in its history as a mining town, and it is indeed a gold mine for power skiing.

A consistent recipient of deep powder, Jackson Hole is widely known as a top powder destination.

With 2,500 acres of skiable terrain and an annual snowfall of nearly 500 inches, Jackson Hole is the "Big Mountain" skiing experience. It's particularly beloved by hardcore skiers, as there's no sugarcoating the mountain's "steep and deep" terrain. The best of the mountain - and most of it - caters to experts and advanced intermediates.

You can find Jackson Hole's powder report here.

Big Cottonwood Canyon Pow at Brighton Ski Resort

Copyright Per Breiehagen / Getty Images
Brighton Ski Resort, in Utah's Big Cottonwood Canyon, might be called a hidden gem among Utah ski resorts. With an average snowfall of over 500 inches annually (sometimes, that number even tops 700 inches), the locals love Brighton because it draws far less crowds than neighboring resorts.

Although Brighton is popular among snowboarders (in part due to its extensive terrain park features, but also because their type is not welcome at nearby Alta), it is still a skier's mountain, too.

Located at the tip-top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, Brighton receives some of the best of Utah's snow. There are 66 trails to explore, with backcountry options, too. You can keep track of Brighton's snow report here.

Skiing Powder in Solitude

Copyright Solitude Mountain Resort
Neighboring Brighton Ski Resort is Solitude Mountain Resort, also located in the Big Cottonwood Canyon. Similar to Brighton, Solitude's trails are uncrowded and the mountain is an eager recipient of very generous snowfall.

Although Solitude is smaller than many of the other Utah ski resorts, it has a great range of terrain - from the Honeycomb Canyon, with its numerous double-diamond chutes and glades, to groomed runs, to steeps for single-diamond skiers. With its vibe in key with its name - "Solitude" - the mountain feels a lot bigger than it seems, as it still flies largely under the radar.

Solitude also offers guided backcountry tours at reasonable rates, making their top-notch backcountry terrain available to all able skiers.

Stay in tune with Solitude's snowfall here.

The Canyons - Where The (Powder) Skiing Goes On And On

Copyright Mike Doyle
Although the powder skiing spotlight usually falls on the five-star foursome in Utah's Cottonwood Canyons (think Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude), the more "mainstream" skiing over in Park City shouldn't be overlooked.

While Canyons' snowfall of 355 inches per year is slightly less than its neighbors in the Big, and Little, Cottonwood Canyons, when the powder does come to the Canyons, you can find some great skiing.

That's because the terrain at Canyons is so vast. With nearly 4,000 skiable acres, when the snow falls and the Park City powder hounds roll in, the mountain is roomy enough to accommodate lots of snow and lots of skiers. As a result, the trails remain untracked despite the mountain's popularity.

Follow the Canyons' snow report here.

Cruising Canada's "Powder Highway"

Courtesy of Dennis Taufenbach
A selection of the British Columbia ski resorts - including Kicking Horse, Fernie, Red Mountain and Kimberly - are quietly known as the "Powder Highway."

With both marked trails and extensive backcountry terrain, the Powder Highway is a concentrate of the best Canadian skiing, powder included. If you're interested in taking a ride down the Powder Highway, read up on it here.

Don't Forget About the Green Mountains: Powder Skiing in the East

Courtesy Jay Peak
There's no doubt that ski resorts in the west overshadow their eastern counterparts in terms of powder. But, two Vermont ski resorts challenge that notion.

Both Jay Peak and Mad River Glen are each in their own "micro-climates," which tends to hold snowstorms and thus generate a lot of powder days.

Jay Peak ranks as the snowiest eastern resort due to its location and the local weather patterns. The mountain boasts a surprising number of deep powder snowstorms. You can keep track of Jay Peak's snow reports with their in-depth weather reports.

"Mad River Glen: Ski It If You Can." That's the motto of one of Vermont's best ski resorts, Mad River Glen. Famous for its ungroomed trails and powdery glades, Mad River's gnarly terrain works great with lots of snow. You can also follow Mad River's live weather updates.

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