The current El Niño has already tied 1997-1998 as the strongest on record, and winter sports lovers are praying that it will dump epic quantities of snow onto North American slopes. But which are the best destinations when the snow is in peak form? We spoke to Dan Sherman, vice president of marketing at Ski.com, to find out where to be this winter for snow- and ice-related fun.
Mammoth Mountain, California/Nevada
“Mammoth is home to 3,500 acres of skiable terrain adjacent to millions of acres of public lands open to snowmobiling, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing,” Sherman said.
For kids, there’s the six-lane Woolly’s tube park, plus a recently expanded snow play area. Après snow, downtown Mammoth Lakes is lined with eateries, boutiques and galleries.
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
Canada’s largest ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb enjoyed nearly seven feet of snowfall in the first half of December alone. As well as skiing and boarding, it offers sleigh rides, backcountry adventures, snowcat tours and even heli-skiing.
“One not-to-be-missed experience is taking a Ziptrek Ecotour … up to 2,000 feet and 15 stories high through evergreen-forested canyons,” Sherman said.
Heavenly Mountain Resort, California/Nevada
With 97 runs and 30 lifts, Heavenly is a state-of-the-art winter sports paradise with dog sledding, horse-drawn sleighs, snow tubing and nearby ice fishing.
“For a more a serene activity, head for a renewing soak at one of several developed or rustic hot springs within driving distance from Heavenly,” Sherman said.
Southwest U.S. resorts could benefit most from El Niño, according to forecasters.
“Beyond skiing, Telluride offers glider rides, fat biking, horseback riding through snow-laden aspen groves and backcountry hut expeditions for intermediate through expert skiers,” Sherman said.
This famously picturesque resort marries Old West charm (“The Hateful Eight” was filmed locally) to contemporary cosmopolitan swagger.
Powder Highway, Alberta
“For the ultimate ski safari, hit southwest Alberta’s Powder Highway — a bucket-list road trip accessing Red Mountain, including its 18,900 acres of nearby cat-skiing terrain,” Sherman said.
While Ski.com recommends allowing at least 17 days to enjoy all seven of Powder Highway’s resorts, even a couple of these should justify the drive.
Alyeska Resort, Alaska
Conveniently situated 40 miles south of Anchorage in the Chugach Mountains, Alyeska offers not just world-class skiing but also glacier ski trekking and snowmobiling, snowshoe canyoneering, guided heli-skiing and cat-skiing tours.
“Serious skiers have a staggering 750,000 acres of heli-accessed, untouched powder at their fingertips,” Sherman said.
Park City, Utah
“Park City is a hot destination this winter, thanks to Park City Mountain Resort’s newly minted status as the largest ski resort in the U.S. after acquiring neighboring Canyons [Resort] for a combined total of more than 7,300 skiable acres,” Sherman said.
There’s also bobsledding at Utah Olympic Park, snowmobiling, snow tubing and winter fly fishing.
Nestled in the Canadian Rockies, Banff boasts three world-class ski resorts, guided ice-walking, ice fishing and spectacular ice climbing.
“Don’t miss the chance to tour part of the Columbia Icefield on the Ice Explorer, a six-wheeled all-terrain shuttle designed to access Athabasca Glacier’s intriguing glacial formations,” Sherman noted.
– Paul Rogers, Tribune Content Solutions Writer