As any fairly experienced snowboarder or freeskier can likely attest to, the quest for the best resorts during any given winter riding season can be a complicated one due to the sheer level of variation that can be seen across yearly conditions. There are many seasonally varying conditions that must be evaluated and taken into account when making considerations for the best resorts of any given year, including snowfall totals, snowfall frequency, temperature averages, storm intensity, and other similar weather-related parameters.
While there are definitely valid arguments on either side of the global warming or climate change coin, few people in the realm of freeskiing and snowboarding will argue with the premise that in the last decade or so, winters have been becoming much less predictable, more sporadic, benefitting certain regions some years and severely punishing other regions in other years. Although this relative winter season instability has been a source of confusion and frustration for many riders out there, it is also making things a bit more exciting in some ways, considering the reality that you never know anymore if your local region is going to be this year’s major snowfall lottery winner.
The west coast resorts have been suffering a fair amount over the last handful of seasons, and the meteorological rationale for why this has been happening has to do with an persisting ridge of high pressure parked off the United States west coast. Meteorologists have been referring to this high pressure ridge as the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” of high pressure, and it has been wreaking absolute havoc on the normal flow patterns of atmospheric moisture migrating in from the Pacific that would normally be contributing to major snowfall totals and snowpack generation across the western United States.
While this weather pattern involving this resilient ridge of high pressure has caused problems for the west coast over the last several seasons. It has actually been a boon to the usually-starving-for-snow east coast resorts. This is because the advent of a weather pattern known as the “polar vortex” has been bringing frigid arctic air down from the high northern latitudes and dumping it across the northeastern United States along with the Great Lakes region as well.
A pattern like this is the dream of east coast freeskiers and snowboarders, and as a result of the polar vortex weather dynamic, many east coast resorts have been becoming much more viable over the last handful of seasons. While many freeskiers and snowboarders already know how amazing west coast riding can be, there are some gems on the east coast that are still very much undiscovered by a lot of riders out there. For the benefit of freeskiers and snowboarders all over the world, a forecasting guide for some of the best east coast and west coast resorts in the 2016 riding season will now be presented here.
Best West Coast Resorts for the 2016 Season
As was previously mentioned, the west coast resorts in the United States have suffered a bit in terms of gross snowfall totals over the last several years, but in 2016 this trend appears to be turning around for some major freeskiing and snowboarding resorts. Some of the best states for western U.S. resorts include Colorado, Utah, Washington, Nevada, Wyoming, and yes, even California in certain places. Out of that quick rundown of western states with nice snow resorts, a few of those will be included in this 2016 analysis of the best resorts in the running currently.
Those western states focused on here will be Wyoming, Washington, and California; all of these states are home to amazing resorts that are looking great in terms of snowfall totals in 2016. Referring to this helpful guide can be a major assistance to freeskiers and snowboarders who are still on the fence about where they would like to go for the best riding in winter of 2016, and will seek to break down this season’s hotspots and why they are doing so well thus far. Given that the western U.S. resorts tend to be a bit more expensive to travel to and purchase lift tickets, rentals, and other necessities, choosing your destination wisely can really end up making the difference between the trip of a lifetime, and one that leaves something to be desired.
Jackson Hole – Wyoming:
A western resort that really needs no introduction among many freeskiers and snowboarders, Jackson Hole in Wyoming is consistently slotted as one of the premier riding destinations in the entire world. Jackson Hole is a fantastically scenic resort, offering riders views of the dramatic Teton range that are truly unparalleled in their scope and unique perspective. Truly a mecca for freeskiing, but snowboarding as well, Jackson Hole’s vertical comes in with an excess of 4,000 feet in total. This provides ample space for all kinds of riding styles, although Jackson Hole is definitely geared toward freeskiers and snowboarders whose preferences revolve around true mountain riding, backcountry experiences, and extreme conditions.
Not only are Jackson Hole’s lifts some of the most technologically advanced and comfortable in the world, they are also quite efficient allowing for very limited wait times in lift lines. With this being said, Jackson Hole is also a very high-demand resort and can see an extreme amount of riders when conditions are good, meaning that the best powder can often be tracked out in a hurry. Jackson Hole is looking great moving into the 2016-2017 riding season, and is already highly ranked in terms of snow total. Right now, as of Christmas Eve 2016, Jackson Hole is looking at a strong early season base depth of 77” in total.
Crystal Mountain Resort – Washington State:
In addition to offering freeskiers and snowboarders some of the most amazing alpine scenery in the world, along with tremendous views of stunning Mount Rainier and its corresponding National Park lands, Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington is definitely one of the top resort picks of the 2016-2017 season. The region of central-western Washington that is home to the Mount Rainier wilderness and Crystal Mountain Resort is known for receiving some of the highest snowfall totals in the continental United States, which is obviously a major draw for freeskiers and snowboarders.
Those riders who prize powder riding above all else will absolutely fall in love with Crystal Mountain, as its broad range of different powder chutes and large scale tree glade skiing provide riders with an outstanding template for so many powdery runs. Crystal is home to roughly 2,600 acres of available terrain, boasting one of the best backcountry setups in the entire west coast serviced by ten lifts in total, plus a state-of-the-art gondola for highly efficient traversing of the mountain. Featuring an open boundary policy for advanced snowboarders and freeskiers, this is definitely a must-visit west coast resort for those riders who prefer to get off of the beaten path and explore the wilderness.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area – California:
Although California may not be the first state that pops into the heads of freeskiers and snowboarders when they are considering new places to go ride, it is actually home to some pretty amazing world-class resorts. At the top of the list in terms of high-end California resorts is definitely going to be Mammoth Mountain, which as its name would suggest is a simply massive resort offering great conditions when the weather is right. Mammoth is one of the Sierra resorts that has been hit hard in the past few years in terms of low snowfall totals, but that appears to be turning around in a major way now that winter 2016-2017 is really getting underway.
In fact, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is leading the most prominent United States resorts so far in 2016 in terms of the snowfall totals they have been getting. Featuring an expansive 3,500 acres of available riding terrain, and 3,100 feet of vertical drop, Mammoth is able to offer riders the highest altitudes for skiing and snowboarding in the entire state of California at 11,053 feet high in total. Another thing that can make a trip to Mammoth Mountain such a fun experience is staying at the awesome ski town of Mammoth Lakes, California, where the vibes are laid back, carefree, and perfect for hanging out before or after an intense day out on the mountain. With 132” of snow already making up the total snow depth at Mammoth, it is looking like an excellent resort destination for 2016.
Best East Coast Resorts for the 2016 Season
Known infamously and somewhat affectionately among fairly experienced snowboarders and freeskiers as the “ice coast”, the east coast of the United States is definitely not always what snow riders immediately think of when considering the best places to hit the slopes in the U.S.A. during winter. While being known for less than perfect riding conditions may be a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to attracting skiers and snowboarders from around the country and from abroad, it also has positive aspects such as allowing for the truly special east coast resorts to become something like guarded secrets among the riding community.
There is no doubt that the gem resorts of the east coast are much more sparsely populated than their western counterparts, and for this reason they can offer a very serene, peaceful and solitary riding experience which is great if that’s what you’re after. When the best east coast resorts really get hit hard with light, fluffy, champagne powder snow, they can offer some of the most unique and interesting terrain to freeski and snowboard on. With the polar vortex weather pattern returning with a vengeance in 2016, some of the best east coast resorts are awakening and reaching their true unbridled potential in terms of great snow and great riding conditions all around.
Mount Bohemia – Upper Peninsula of Michigan:
One of the truest “hidden gem” resorts of the eastern United States, Mount Bohemia is located on the tip of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This is yet one more east coast resort that borders quite closely with Canada, and the high northern latitudes allow for some pretty awesome snow and winter weather conditions to pass through the resort area. Mount Bohemia actually surprises a lot of freeskiers and snowboarders in terms of the sheer mass of snowfall that annually graces the region. While its 900 foot vertical may not sound too extreme compared to the larger western United States resorts, it makes up for the smaller vertical with some of the most extreme backcountry riding in the world.
This is a mountain that prides itself on being a deadly, no-joke kind of backcountry freeskiing and snowboarding, and there is signage all over the mountain alerting riders to some of the very real and very dangerous hazards that are scattered all throughout the landscape. With tons of sheer cliff drops, steep angled slopes, and densely packed trees, Mount Bohemia offers riders what they call “Extreme Backcountry” conditions. This is a truly remote riding area, where the annual snowfall totals of 273 inches on average create a genuine winter wonderland for freeskiers and snowboarders to take full advantage of. The lake effect snow can pile up fast at Mount Bohemia, so riders visiting this resort should have their safety as a primary concern.
Jay Peak Resort – Vermont:
Without a doubt one of the best freeskiing and snowboarding resorts on the east coast of the United States, Jay Peak Resort is known for some pretty amazing tree, glade, wilderness, and backcountry style riding that can be difficult to find on the east coast. Nestled within the Green Mountains of Vermont, Jay Peak Resort is quite close to Canada since the small community of Jay, Vermont is just south of the United States-Canadian border region. Moderately priced and fairly accessible, Jay Peak Resort is somewhat well-known but also sort of low-key at the same time.
This is to say that on pristine powder days, the only people you will have to share the mountain with are locals most of the time, as opposed to the bigger resorts where people from all around surrounding states will flock in when the powder really starts flying. At this point in the 2016-2017 winter freeskiing and snowboarding season Jay Peak is looking at about 50” of snow to start, so they are dealing with a pretty solid start to the season as far as the east coast is concerned.