I used to be the person who hated winter. My body temperature tends to run naturally cold and so the snowy season would really get to me. Canadians love to complain about our weather extremes and I was no exception.
That is until I learned to snowboard. Finding a winter sport gave me a reason to look forward to winter. Or at least a way to make the season pass enjoyably.
Earlier this week, Toronto witnessed its first snowstorm of the season. On a personal level, I just booked flights for a ski trip out west.
So, with all this winter on the mind, this week’s post will take a look at each and every ski resort I’ve hit all over the world. Strap in, it’s a long run.
The only resort on this list where I’ve gone skiing instead of snowboarding. That’s because my one and only visit to Blue Mountain was in the 6th grade. At that time I’d never been on skis (let alone a snowboard).
I suffered through a morning lesson, impatient to get out on the slopes with my peers. Of course, their skill level was way beyond mine. My day ended with a concussion and an aversion to skiing. Good thing I found snowboarding years later…
I visited Beaver Valley for the first time earlier this year. The club’s annual Banked Slalom Competition brought me out to the resort for a fun day with friends. I wasn’t expecting much from an “Ontario mountain” but the day didn’t disappoint.
I met my partner in Montreal. He’s a terrific snowboarder who grew up on his local mountain. Let’s just say that the success of our early relationship was contingent on my learning his favourite sport.
Enter The Students’ Society of McGill University Ski & Snowboard Club. This club proclaims itself the ‘raddest at McGill.’ And they’re probably right:
“We offer our members transportation and discounted lift tickets to local mountains every Saturday and some Sundays throughout the winter season. Thanks to the large size of the club, we are able to secure the cheapest lift tickets as possible with the best mountains in the area. We choose the hill with the best snow on a weekly basis to ensure that you never miss the freshest powder around.”
I joined the club with zero snowboarding skills and finished the season as a capable beginner. Jeff was “my coach and not my boyfriend” while on the slopes. Every Saturday my curves and turns gradually improved. You could say the rest (about our relationship, and my love of snowboarding) is history
Here’s a list of the resorts I-think-I-remember-visiting. It was a while ago…
This was the first west-coast riding I did. We caught the tail-end of the 2007 spring season before spending the summer living in Jasper.
My Vancouver friends all agreed that Cypress, located north of West Vancouver, is the best of the city’s three local mountains. I loved the view of the city lights and ocean seen while riding down those runs.
Tiny in comparison to Cypress, Seymour was a great night-skiing escapade with a crew of friends visiting from ‘back east.’
The sheer size of this 2-for-1 mountain blew my mind on my first visit. I was beginning to understand why “west is best” when it comes to Canadian skiing.
I got to visit Big White a lot when I lived in Vancouver. I worked for S-Trip!, a grad trip travel company that at the time offered weekend ski trips for high school students. Known for its white-out snowy days, Big White can be wonderful when the weather cooperates.
This interior BC resort felt like a locals’ best-kept-secret. Two lifts are all you need to access terrain that was never busy during my two visits. And ohh that champagne powder!
Aptly named, Sun Peaks isn’t far from Kelowna’s Big White, but you’re more likely to encounter sunny days at this resort.
I skied Revelstoke on my 24th birthday. North America’s Most Vertical mountain was the-most-challenging–ever for me at that time. But that made it all the more fun. I can’t wait to get back to this resort now that I’m a bit more comfortable on my board.
My visit to Jay Peak was during my time with McGill’s Ski & Snowboard Club. This international adventure to Vermont was an extra special day out.
Across the border just south of Vancouver, Mt Baker is located in the state of Washington. I did a weekend away with friends to this mountain. Our best times were had riding the resort’s Legendary Banked Slalom course.
Tignes is where my partner and I lived and worked as ‘seasonaires’ after we moved to Europe. Known as the more fun little brother of Val d’Isère (see below), Tignes is another resort that blew my mind in terms of scale. As adopted locals, we were some of the only Canadians amongst a sea of Brits looking to spend winter in the mountains.
Tignes and Val d’Isère are interconnected resorts. This means that you can ski between the two, but the villages are on opposite sides of the mountain base. The best thing about riding over to the Val Village was hitting up the Maison Chevallot bakery for hangover-curing fougasse.
Mont Blanc, the highest summit in the Alps, towers over the village centre of Chamonix. We took a trip out to this famous locale for my 25th birthday. An intense snowstorm nearly stopped us from getting up the hill to our Airbnb. It was worth it though because this trip is when I experienced the best powder day of my life (and that’s saying something for someone who’s done a ski season in Japan)!
During our winter season in France, we took another trip out to Courchevel to visit a friend. Courchevel is part of Les 3 Vallées. Dubbed “the world’s largest ski area,” Les 3 Vallées form a series of interlinked resorts accessed using a single ski pass. I’d love to get back here one day and explore more of the terrain.
During a solo research trip to Poland (from my tour guiding days), I spent a day spring-riding at Kasprowy Wierch. Located in the Zakopane region, the facilities at Kasprowy Wierch were a far cry from the flashiness available in France. Nevertheless, I’m glad I gave Kasprowy a go. Not too many people can say they’ve been snowboarding in Poland!
I spent the winter of 2015-16 living and working in Japan’s north island, Hokkaido. World-renowned for epic dumps of powder, the conditions of Japan are what brought my snowboarding skills to the next level. Ours was a “bad season” – only 15 metres of snow fell that winter!
We took a day trip out to Kiroro during our winter in Japan. I loved being able to explore the resorts surrounding the more westernised Niseko. Kiroro was an especially challenging resort as a snowboarder in deep powder. Lots of snow and relatively flat terrain meant that I was constantly unstrapping.
I spent the day of my 27th birthday snowboarding at Rusutsu. Empty in comparison to the more popular Niseko, we had a blast riding this resort. Much of the mountain’s terrain funnels back into a central homerun chute. The epic day was fueled by a hearty omurice lunch back at base.
After my two-year Working Holiday in Australia, we just had to visit New Zealand on our return home to Canada. As a perk from my employer at the time, we hopped on Haka Tours’ South Island Snow Safari which enabled us to ski six mountains in seven days.
For more on the above resorts, see my article about The Best Places to Ski and Snowboard in New Zealand’s South Island.
Where to next?
In February, I’ll be flying out to San Francisco with a view to experiencing some of California’s best skiable terrain. I was surprised to learn that some of the best snow conditions in California occur in February and March. I’m stoked!
There are no concrete plans yet, but I’m hoping to get to a good portion of the following resorts:
- Mammoth Mountain
- Northstar California
- Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
- Heavenly Ski Resort
- Mt. Rose
- Bear Valley
Beyond next February, my snowboard plans are vague. I know I’ll get out to more resorts on Canada’s Powder Highway due to its relative proximity to my home base. I’d love to ski in South America and get my backcountry skills fine-tuned enough for heliboarding in India. And I’m definitely going to Japan. This list could go on and on.
So, what’s your favourite ski resort? Let me know in the comments below.