Does the spring equinox officially bring an end to winter? Does that mean your ski and snowboard season is over? The answer to that question is absolutely not! Think we’re crazy? Don’t know what we’re talking about? Let us prove it to you. Put down the bathing suits and grab the snow gear. Put that trip to the Caribbean on hold. This spring, head to the mountains! Why you ask? The days are longer, the crowds have reduced to a trickle, and the winter storms have given way to sunshine and warm temperatures. If you haven’t taken a trip out West this year, now is the time! Here are the 10 best spring skiing locales in North America!
Why You Should GO!
Great deals to stay & ski
Sunny weather and warm temps
The ability to do other stuff like golf, mountain bike, AND ski in the same day
Chance to get in a sneaker pow day
Before you pick your resort, there are a few things you should know about spring skiing. First, don’t expect to ride a full day. Instead, focus on the full experience. The Après ski is almost as important as the skiing in spring. Is there a cool town to hang in? Do you have a place to grill and a patio to chill? How about a mountain bike park or a golf course? Now you feelin’ it? These are quite different questions to ask than a winter trip, right?
Next, don’t expect the resorts to be at full operation, but this is good news. It means you’ll have a ton of terrain all to yourself and can lap those runs until you can’t feel your legs. Lastly, even in April or early May, there’s still a chance for a sneaker pow day. We’ve had quite a few, and they are awesome! If you want to learn the in’s & outs of spring skiing, what gear to bring, & why it’s our favorite time to go on a ski vacation, check out our comprehensive spring skiing guide:
Where should you go? Here are the things to consider when picking a resort:
Historically open late into the season
Large amount of terrain above treeline
Ski resort that’s received lots of snow for the season (at least annual average)
Best Spring Skiing Resorts in North America
Average April/May Snowfall: 24 inches
Projected Closing Day: Typically May dependent on weather
We had to at least tip our hat towards the East. Besides Mammoth on our list, Killington also pushes the envelope on extending their season as long as possible. Through mid-April, there’s a good chance the majority of the mountain will be open for you to shred. Killington has even been known to stay open into late May and even into June. With a summit elevation of only 4,241 feet, how can that be? They do this by making snow on one run called Superstar all winter long. The snow on this trail stacks up to nearly three stories tall. Talk about dedication to skiing and snowboarding!
Average April/May Snowfall: 71 inches
Average Maximum Snow Depth: 70 inches
Terrain Open: 100% open through end of April conditions permitting
Projected Closing Day: Early May
Most people zoom past as they head to one of the major resorts like Keystone, Copper, or Winter Park. A no frills destination, Loveland is a great example of a mountain still tapped into the soul of skiing and snowboarding. The focus is all about the mountain and not about real estate. Receiving some of the highest snowfall counts in the region and hugging the continental divide, this translates to a season that starts in October and lasts into May or longer. Powder days still happen often in April! By this time of year, the snowpack is deep enough, allowing you to access all of the cool terrain Loveland has to share. This quaint mountain packs quite the punch and is highly recommended. The only reason it’s low on the list is because of its early closing date.
#8 Whistler Blackcomb
Average April/May Snowfall: 43 inches
Average Maximum Snow Depth: 106 inches
Terrain Open: As much as possible through April 18th and approximately 1,300 vertical feet of terrain serviced by only the Emerald Chair after April 18th.
Projected Closing Date: May 23
Whistler embodies what every ski resort wishes to be. The village is car-less and there’s a plethora of different priced options to eat, drink, and hang out across town. The bad news first is the weather. With close proximity to the coast, there’s a possibility of overcast/rainy weather but this is more likely mid-winter than in the spring. Don’t worry though. Whistler makes up for it in spades with how many things you can do besides skiing.
Over the past few years, Whistler’s dedication to spring skiing after April continues to dwindle so they’ve moved down the list. Before Vail’s purchase, they used to have AT LEAST 2,500 vertical feet of skiing and thousands of acres of glorious alpine terrain accessed by three lifts. Now, it’s just one. Good news is if you visit in May, you can still ski in the morning and mountain bike in the afternoon.
Average April/May Snowfall: 74 inches
Average Maximum Snow Depth: 109 inches
Terrain Open: 100% open through end of April conditions permitting but typically only Little Cloud and Mineral Basin Express in May to closing
Projected Closing Day: Still to be announced but traditionally at least through Memorial Day
If Alta is the powder capital of Utah then Snowbird is the spring skiing locale. Being the highest ski resort in Utah and most of its terrain facing north, these attributes help keep the snow in its best condition possible. In April, they receive on average nearly 64 inches, meaning the base actually gets refreshed. Finally, with it only being 30 minutes outside of Salt Lake City, the gateway to what some consider the richest and most diverse natural surroundings of any major city, you have access to hiking, mountain biking, and even hot springs. Good times for sure!
#6 Timberline / Mt. Hood Meadows
Average April/May Snowfall: 37 inches
Maximum Snow Depth: 131 inches
Terrain Open: 100% open through closing at Mt. Hood Meadows and 1,500 vertical feet on the Palmer snowfield (@ Timberline) which is skiable all summer
Projected Closing Day: May 7th (Mt.Hood Meadows) / September (Timberline)
The actual Mt. Hood contains four major resorts that sit on its flanks each offering different terrain and feel. One of those is Timberline. Is stays open all year round except for a few weeks of maintenance in September. It’s THE home for summer skiing and snowboarding in North America. Summer camps such as Windell’s build their own private parks for campers to shred. And the public gains access to groomed corduroy off of the Palmer chair. If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, Mt. Hood Meadows just down the road is open through at least the first week of May.
If comparing Oregon for the spring season, Mt. Bachelor offers more extensive terrain with far superior snow conditions to either of the Mt. Hood areas. Think about timing if heading to Oregon so you get the best spring skiing for the time you plan to hit the slopes.
#5 Lake Louise / Sunshine Village – SkiBig3
Average April/May Snowfall: 35 inches
Maximum Snow Depth: 81 inches
Projected Closing Date: May 23 (Sunshine Village) & May 8 (Lake Louise)
Always one of the first to open and last to close, spring is prime time for Lake Louise and Banff Sunshine Village. The extremely cold weather has retreated and the sun has begun to shine. Don’t fret about the snow conditions though. Even now, mid-winter powder conditions prevail due to its northern latitude. And for those looking for a party scene, Banff is only a few miles down the road. This town is filled with amazing cuisine, great shopping, and awesome watering holes. If that wasn’t enough, the views of Lake Louise from the summit are some of the most amazing in the world. One thing to consider with Alberta is to make sure they’ve had an average to above average winter for maximum coverage. One additional thing to note is that Banff Sunshine Village and Lake Louise are 36 miles apart.
#4 Alpine Meadows
Average April/May Snowfall: 46 inches
Maximum Snow Depth: 115 inches
Terrain Open: As much as possible
Projected Closing Date: Mid-May
Its bigger brother to the North, Palisades Tahoe, may get all the glamour, but this resort is nothing to sneeze at. Alpine Meadows is a big craggy mountain with most of its terrain above tree line. Tahoe’s climate of cold freezing nights and warm sunny days plus the ski resort’s topography creates some of the best corn you’ll find anywhere. Palisades Tahoe may be open longer but Alpine’s terrain lends itself to be the one you should try to hit before it closes for the season. For more about corn snow, check out our spring skiing guide found here.
#3 Arapahoe Basin
Average April/May Snowfall: 66 inches
Average Maximum Snow Depth: 81 inches
Terrain Open: 700+ acres through closing (almost all of the terrain)
Projected Closing Date: At least end of May but most likely longer
Arapahoe Basin could be considered the “King of Spring” for the Rockies. Always pushing the envelope to stay open until the snow melts, there have been years that they’ve been skiing until July 4th. Typically in April, it’s less about the corn and more about skiing and snowboarding their packed powder with the steep Palivaccini terrain facing more north and ranging from 10,800′ to 12,200′. The parking lot is called the “Beach” and you can watch people skiing down the mountain as you grill right in front of your car. If this isn’t on your bucket list to visit… it should be!
#2 Mammoth Mountain
Average April/May Snowfall: 68 inches
Average Maximum Snow Depth: 133 inches
Terrain Open: 100% in April; at least 2,000 acres through May; 500-1,000 acres through June and July
Mammoth is a unique mountain compared to the others on our list. First, due to it close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, they receive snowfall with higher moisture content. Second, it’s elevation is comparable to the resorts in Colorado. What these two facts translate to is a deep snowpack with warm days and freezing nights, helping ensure that the best conditions are possible even into May! Mammoth’s dedication to grooming and having at least 2,000+ acres open makes it a great candidate to hit in late spring.
#1 Mt. Bachelor
Average April/May Snowfall: 68 inches
Average Maximum Snow Depth: 145 inches
Projected Closing Day: May 29th
Terrain Open: 100% in April and at least 2,000 acres with over 3,100 vertical feet through closing
This place should be on everyone’s bucket list for spring skiing and snowboarding. It could even be argued that it’s better to visit Mt. Bachelor in the spring than in the winter. This is mainly because of the Summit chairlift. Accessing 1,700 vertical feet all above treeline, it’s closed at least 30% of the time during the winter due to storms barreling Mt. Bachelor. In the spring though, this sometimes elusive terrain is wide open and ready for shredding.
Find Your Basecamp For Spring Fun
With nearly 2,000+ acres available to you, Bachelor has some of the largest terrain footprints open in late season. In between storms when the temperatures rise, you will find plenty of corn ripe for the harvesting. The resort is a giant dormant volcano, allowing you to use it as a sundial finding the perfect conditions based on day & time. When the snow begins to sour in the afternoon, the Après scene heats up. Being next to Bend, OR, an outdoor mecca, there’s plenty to keep you busy. From hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, paddle boarding, and even golfing, you’re sure to find an activity to occupy the rest of your day. After you’ve worked up a good thirst, there are dozens of breweries with relaxed atmospheres to sit back and wind down.
For more about Bend and the breweries, check out our write up here. If you’re looking for a guide to Mt. Bachelor, we got you covered there as well! Read our Ultimate Guide to Bachelor here.
March shouldn’t be the end of your season but rather the time for you to turn up the volume! What will you plan for April, May, and even June? Happy Spring Shredding!
Even after more than five years of ski touring, I still consider myself a green horn especially when it comes to picking new backcountry ski gear. Luckily, a good friend and mentor of mine is the owner of Outdoor Adventure Club – Richard Bothwell. Since 1996, they’ve been helping people recreate outside safely from backcountry skiing to rock climbing adventures. He helped guide me on what to look for in the best backcountry ski jacket. This article is a consolidation of our research to find the best jacket for both Jaime and I. Instead of keeping our journey to ourselves, we decided to share what we learned. Be sure to comment on this article if there is one that you thoroughly enjoy or vice versa.
Get The Gear, Get Educated, And Come Home Safe
As with any time we speak about backcountry skiing, we want to highlight that when heading beyond the boundaries of a ski resort, it becomes YOUR responsibility. While it’s rewarding, we urge you to take an AIARE class, obtain the proper safety gear (beacon, shovel, and probe), and find a mentor. To help you in this process, please visit our backcountry guide which contains everything we’ve learned, events, and even our experiences like having a person break their leg a mile from the trailhead.
Common Theme For All Backcountry Gear
Compared to resort skiing where having things like extra pockets, powder gaiters, and season pass stashes are a good thing, this couldn’t be further from the truth for the best backcountry ski jacket. You want to keep it simple, ensure its bullet proof, and as light as possible. This is the case for backcountry ski pants as well as any other piece of gear you take out into the mountains. All things considered, if you have the budget, having the right tool for the job will bring your ski touring to the next level. Here’s a rundown of each type of backcountry ski jacket and what they’re used for.
Why A Resort Shell Is No Bueno
For the first few years of touring, we just used our resort shells. They worked ok, but each time we went out, we realized how much of a pain they were. Resort ski shells are normally a bit longer, come with a powder skirt, and tons of pockets. A good example is the North Face Eco Snow Triclimate. It took up WAY too much space, so I had to up the size of my backpack just to fit it. It was heavy as well and made me overly sweat on most tours because it wasn’t breathable at all.
Touring Shell Aka Hard Shell – Mr Versatile
Looking over at my mentors who’ve been ski touring for decades, I realized that their backcountry ski jackets were TINY like everything else in their kit. For touring shells, the ideal layer is to be as thin as possible. We can’t stress this enough – MINIMAL. All it’s supposed to be is a barrier between you and precipitation be it snow or the dreaded “R” word – rain. We suggest steering away from an insulated jacket.
Snow/Sleet/Wind It Will Protect You
This means you don’t want any inside pockets. There should be no insulation. No powder skirt. Within the jacket, you’ll find a detached hanging liner. Its function is to protect the outer membrane from the oils of your skin and wear. This jacket is used only when it’s actively snowing/raining or if it’s brutally windy. If it’s a beautiful sunny day in the mountains with almost no wind predicted, you can even consider leaving this at home or roll it up and store in your backpack.
Local Freshies® Tip: Hard Shells should roll up to no bigger than a Nalgene bottle in your pack.
Other Jackets To Consider
Besides the hard shell which we will go into MUCH more detail, we want to highlight a few of the other ones that you may want to consider if you begin to spend A LOT of time backcountry skiing. They aren’t required but they add flexibility to your clothing making for a better time out in the wilderness.
Puffy – Warmth When You Need It
Before we even purchased a hard-shell, we got a puffy. This is our go-to for mid-layer. Typically, when we’re ascending, we don’t even have it on. Even so, it’s ALWAYS inside of our backpack. Once we summit and it’s windy, we’ll throw this on to keep us warm. Similar to the hard-shell, this garment should also pack down to the size of a Nalgene bottle.
How Heavy To Go With It?
Depending on where you live, this doesn’t need to be a super heavy down jacket. The Patagonia nano puff is only 60-g PrimaLoft® and it works just fine in the coldest days in Tahoe on a dawn patrol.
Local Freshies® tip: When getting ready for your tour at the car, rock a puffy. Once you’re geared up and ready to move, pack it away. You should feel a little chilly as you leave the trailhead because you’ll heat up quickly as you ascend.
Soft Shell – For Those ‘Nice’ Days
I can’t stress this enough, up hilling is a strenuous activity. I run hot and even on the days when temps hover in the 20’s, a hard shell is a bit too much for me. In comes the soft shell. I picked up the Adlerm Maloja soft shell and I couldn’t be happier. A soft shell is the perfect coat to wear when it’s sunny out, and you are in need a bit of protection from the wind. Other great soft shell options include the Dynafit Beast Hybrid Jacket.
Features And Construction In A Hard Shell
Hard shells come in three layers of construction: 2 layer, 2.5, or 3 layer. Depending on the brand or type of jacket, the materials used can be proprietary. For example, Patagonia’s is H2No® and Mammut’s DRYtechnology Pro.
As the term suggests, these types of jackets have TWO layers. The first layer is made of a nylon or polyester fabric that’s bonded to another layer below. The 2nd layer is comprised of a material that acts as a membrane to wick moisture away from your mid-layers or base layer. At the same time, it prevents water or snow from seeping in.
We know what you’re thinking, how can this be possible? This is when a 2-Layer jacket has a third moisture-wicking layer. This layer isn’t bonded and rather hangs loose within it. The idea is to add a bit more protection between your skin’s oils and the jacket, so it doesn’t degrade the performance.
The best of the best. Unfortunately, you have to pay for it too. Although the construction is similar to a 2-Layer where the waterproof/breathable membrane is bonded to the underside of an outer shell fabric, it adds another layer of protection as well. Whereas the 2.5-Layer has a third one that hangs loose, these jackets have a bonded third layer. You would think the 3L versions would be heavier… they normally aren’t. This is because it doesn’t include the weight of the hanging layer.
Is 3-Layer The Best Then?
Just like everything in the backcountry world, “it depends.” Companies make the decision based on the layering system on what they’re being used for and the material technologies IN the jacket. For example, some GORE-TEX® varieties don’t use the 3-Layer construction.
Although we said to avoid interior pockets, having external ones are a godsend. The best backcountry ski jacket varieties have pockets that are on the front of them. This allows you to access them with your pack on. And those pockets should be big enough so you can stash your skins in them. Why? Having a little body heat on the glue of climbing skins will ensure they keep sticky through multiple transitions.
Water will ALWAYS find even the tiniest gaps to seep into and on a ski touring jacket that means the seams and zippers are where they have the highest likelihood of leakage. There are three ways manufacturers deal with this.
Taping coats is an expensive procedure. To make jackets more budget friendly, many will only seal the most critical seam locations. This typically includes the hood, neck, and shoulder areas. For sunny days or resorts skiing, that’s fine, but for touring where you could be out in inclement weather for twelve hours, we personally would avoid these jackets.
Fully Taped Seams
A BIG step above critically taped, these are jackets that have ALL their seams sealed. This is where every spot a sewing needle has touched has been locked up tighter than a Swiss bank vault. This level of protection also comes with a bigger price tag.
As the name alludes, this is like when two pieces of metal are welded together but instead with material. And just like metal, where these two pieces of material meet can even be stronger. Instead of stitch holes for liquids to find, the bond is created by heat and pressure. Even so, not all materials can be welded together.
Nearly every ski jacket has some sort of venting available especially under the arm pits. Even so, there are some that provide the ultimate in ventilation such as Outdoor Research’s Hem-To-Bicep TorsoFlo Venting. You can literally unzip from the bottom of the jacket all the way up to the middle of your tricep. If you run hot or do a lot of spring skiing, this is a great option to keep you dry AND cool.
Yet another way that manufacturers have found to get jackets lighter. The higher-end premium jackets will have a waterproof zipper instead of a storm flap over any openings with zippers.
I’m a person that enjoys a VERY baggy fit, but when picking the best backcountry ski jacket for you, be sure to consider the added weight. Getting one that fits a bit snugger if you’re wearing a puffy underneath isn’t a bad thing. You may be able to ski with a smaller backpack too. In summary, our experience is it’s better to concentrate on finding one that fits within your price range and then focus on the features.
Best Hardshell Jackets On The Market
Now that we’ve gone through what to look for in the best backcountry ski jacket, let’s take a look at what some of the biggest brands are offering.
Since the beginning, Arc’Teryx is focused on making the best products on the market. For example, it takes 259 minutes to construct each Alpha SV jacket from start to finish. It’s a 217-step process, which includes seven steps on the hood brim alone. That kind of attention to detail doesn’t come cheap. If you want nothing but the best and only the best will do, then Arc’Teryx is always at or near the top for the best backcountry ski jacket list.
As nature makes a diamond, Arc’Teryx has made the Alpha SV Jacket. This starts with choosing the highest quality materials such as using GORE-TEX Pro. From there, they use the e3D patterning and an articulated construction to ensure you can move freely. After two decades of being the premier model along with a refresh in 2016, this is still what the most serious backcountry skiers use as their go to.
AR stands for all-round meaning that for this part of their product line, it’s focused on versatility. Be aware that some of them in our mind come with a bit too many bells & whistles like the AR Sabre jacket sacrificing on weight. With that being said, the Alpha AR Jacket is a great option – it’s a bit lighter than the Alpha SV. Starting off, this version of the Arc’Teryx still comes with the 3-Layer Gore-Tex Pro. Instead of the 100D nylon material that the Alpha SV has, this one is made with 80D. Still tough and made with the attention to detail that you’d expect from Arc’Teryx but for a few hundred less.
Founded in 1862 as a mountaineering and trekking company, since day one they’ve focused on creating products that can be relied upon, even the worst situations in the mountains. They’ve designed their garments around the movements of the athletes using them. Which is then applied into a three-dimensional cut of the fabric allowing for maximum movement even when the material is tough. We own two of their backcountry touring bags, and we can’t say enough about them. In simplest terms, you get what you pay for.
One word can describeBackcountry.com: Rugged. This is the closest anyone has gotten to the O.G. of backcountry touring jackets from Arc’Teryx. If you’re thinking about some serious backcountry summits filled with craggy granite, this will do. It’s 3-Layer GORE-TEX Pro along with its heavy duty 80D x 80D denier will in fact LAUGH at it. Similar to the Alpha SV, you have to pay for all this technology as well.
Made with their proprietary membrane called DRYTechnology, this 3-Layer jacket still provides the 20,000 mm waterproofing you look for with a jacket. In addition, the breathability rating is at 15,000 g/m² but for a few hundred less than the Norwand Pro HS. Like most Mammut jackets, they fit true to size meaning a bit snugger.
If there are two companies that are polarizing more than any other, it’s Arc’Teryx and Patagonia. It’s like Ford and Dodge pickup truck owners. Those who LOVE Arc’Teryx tend to disapprove of Patagonia. And people that love Patagonia think Arc’Teryx is unworthy. The truth is BOTH manufacture great products so you won’t go wrong with either. Over its half century, Patagonia’s assortment of jackets, pants, and accessories has become quite dizzying. From the ever-popular Patagonia Powder Bowl jacket to the nano-puffy, they literally have EVERY option available to you. They’re also well-known for their efforts at minimizing environmental impact.
Our friend who has been backcountry skiing for almost a decade can’t stop raving about this jacket. He’s had the Pluma for almost eight years and is still his go-to for alpine objectives like Mt. Tallac or Mt. Shasta. Super thin, it packs away easily. The 3-Layer GORE-TEX pro shell provides the ultimate in protection from wind, snow, and rain.
The Pluma is the King Kong of backcountry hard shells in the Patagonia line, but it comes with a steep price tag. Another great option for those that can’t stomach the prices is the Calcite. Still light weight and comes with a GORE-Tex membrane that can still easily fit into your bag, all for a few hundred dollars less. Reason? Instead of 3-Layer protection, this model is 2.5-Layer. It’s also made with GORE-Tex Paclite Plus which isn’t as bullet proof as the Pro. Unless you’re going to be fighting off a black bear on your descent, this backcountry ski jacket will be perfect for you. For a 3-Layer option in that price range the Triolet is a great alternative.
Since ’81, Outdoor Research has been based in Seattle creating high-performance outerwear at a reasonable price point. Anyone that has spent time in the Emerald City knows the vocabulary to describe how rain falls is unparalleled. They have some high-end options available such as the Archangel but our focus will be on their moderately priced options since that is where they really shine.
This might be the SOFTEST hardshell you’ve ever felt. This is due to the AscentShell technology where through an electrospinning process, charged polymers gather into a breathable membrane. In simplest terms, it’s a stretchy 3-Layer jacket that’s breathable and yet waterproof as well. At 30,000 g/m² breathability and 15,000 mm waterproofness, it breaths a bit better than GORE-Tex Pro but with a little less waterproofness. A good compromise for those that don’t like the feel of a hard shell but want most of the protection you’d find in one. It makes sense that this backcountry ski jacket keeps winning awards year after year for its unique design, creating the perfect balance between hard shell and soft and yet at a fraction of the price.
This work horse on the Outdoor Research product line has been winning awards since the beginning. Although it’s focused on hiking, this is a great option for those that want protection at a fraction of the cost. You’ll still get a lightweight option. The left-hand pocket doubles as a stuff sack so you can pack it down easily when you don’t need it. This is another example of one that lets you unzip your jacket from hem to bicep to let out excessive heat without having to take off your pack. In summary, this 2-Layer GORE-TEX Paclite is the best backcountry ski jacket shell for a little over $200. The women’s version is the Aspire Jacket.
Black Diamond Equipment
Its roots start in the 1950’s in Yosemite Valley when Yvon Chouinard began hand forging pitons and selling them from his trunk. Due to lack of profitability, he had to place the business into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1989. Luckily, a group of former employees led by Pete Metcalf purchased it and made it Black Diamond Equipment. Using Yvon’s technology as well as inspiration, the company has become a power player in the climbing and skiing world.
At a feathery amount of 12.8 ounces, this bad boy is INSANE for the price. Like a boxer or MMA fighter, to get it to cut weight they’ve removed a bunch of the features some of the others have. Even so, based on our minimalistic requirements for the best backcountry ski jacket, you can’t go wrong. It has the standard 3-Layer GORE-Tex to ensure you stay dry. Packs down easily to fit into your bag when you’re not using it. And yet it still has pitzips and even twin alpine pockets to store skins in for the descent. This is definitely one of the best options for the dollar amount.
My father always talked about his Norwegian friend that he skied with. Even in the 1960’s, he HATED most ski resort skiing except for places like Mad River Glen because it was too tame. Through it all, his heart was always in the mountains and fjords of his homeland. To combat Norway’s harsh and rugged landscape, you NEED durable outdoor equipment and that’s where Norrona comes in. Founded in 1929, to this day this four generation family-owned company makes extremely tough and mountain-ready jackets.
Although it’s one of the heaviest hard shells on our list, you have to remember WHERE these were tested. Norway’s winter are long, harsh, and brutal. Named after the islands off of Norway’s northwestern coast, the focus is on toughness and use in all conditions. The 3-Layer Gore-Tex Pro provides great breathability and waterproofness in any conditions Mother Nature throws at you. At the same time, it includes a longer back length at 33.5 inches to help ensure the snow and wind don’t creep up from underneath when shredding pow on your descent. Lofoten is one of the few that Function AND Form are combined for one of the more stylish options.
Yet another company started in Norway. Founded in 1877 in the town of Moss, as of 2009 it’s become a subsidiary to Canadian Tire. Literally every major ski resort has their employees rocking a Helly Hansen. They come in fantastic colors. Provide great protection against the elements. And most of all, after 140 years you can expect a professional grade protection to make sure you stay dry and comfy.
Always thinking outside the box, the Verglas shell doesn’t come with a 2L or 3L but a 3.5-Layer system. In addition to the 3-Layers of protection, they’ve added a hanging liner between you and the fabrics. Using their breathable and waterproof LIFA INFINITY technology, this shell jacket focuses on the most important items for touring. It’s designed in a way that fits well if you still wear a helmet, backpack, or harness. The underarm ventilation allows for the zippers to open either way. The only downside we see is that there aren’t pockets on the front.
As the “Air” in the name describes, it’s their lightweight model. In fact, on our list it’s one of the lightest too. Using Helly Hansen’s proprietary breathable / waterproof fabric called HELLY TECH® Professional makes it waterproof, windproof, and yet breathable. Similar to GORE-TEX which has multiple levels, this is Helly Hansen’s highest protection. While GORE-TEX might give you 28,000 mm, Helly Hansen’s Pro fabric is one that comes the closest with a 20,000 mm rating. Marked as a 2.75-Layer jacket, HH states that it “combines the lightweight benefits of a 2.5L but with the durability of a 3L.” Yet another great option if you want a high quality backcountry ski jacket but without the steep price of the higher end models on our list.
If you hadn’t noticed, most of these brands have been around for decades or even centuries. This is because people have been venturing into the backcountry way before the first chairlift even existed. Exploration and adventure are in everyone’s soul. As John Muir so well penned, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” To do this, you need equipment and clothing that won’t fail when things go sideways. To reiterate, backcountry skiing is an inherently risky activity. We HIGHLY recommend visiting our All Things Splitboarding and Backcountry Skiing to get the scoop on what to expect, tips on gear, and more.
Over the past few years, it feels like we’re in the movie Highlander for skiing. The concept being that these ski areas must either be bought or die until only one remains standing. It’s a difficult subject to approach to say the least but we did it back in 2018. Instead of adding emotions into the discussion, we took a look at the “Gold Star” things Vail has done as well as a few of the not so popular “Business Decisions.” Four years later, we circle back to see what has changed.
The Gold Stars
Wilmot Mountain Resort – Long Overdue Upgrades to the Lifts & Snowmaking
About 65 miles north of downtown Chicago is a small ski area by the name of Wilmot that’s been family-owned since 1938. It wasn’t until Vail showed up with its pocketbook that LONG overdue upgrades could finally be made. As part of the 2016-17 season, they dropped over $13 MILLION into improvements. ALL the lifts were replaced and lift capacity had increased by 45 percent. And to top it off, they also decided to renovate the lodge’s Iron Kettle restaurant with a new bar and lounge. This has been the story line pretty much with every resort purchased.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort – Long Awaited Ski Patrol Hut
For those unaware, most of Kirkwood’s ski resort is in Class A avalanche territory. This means when one of the fabled Sierra storms comes barreling through the U-shaped canyon depositing feet of snow, it takes a ton of patience and time for the ski patrol to open up the resort. Luckily, as part of the 2013-14 season, the long awaited upgrade of the structure at the top of Chair 10 was made. The new two-story building allows them to store a vehicle used for clearing snow and allow ski patrol & operations to use it as a place of refuge, protecting them in the event of large storms. In Coop’s words, “By having this facility up there, it’s really going to add to our ski patrol and mountain operations efficiency.”
Park City and Canyons – Combining both resorts to make the Largest Ski Resort in the U.S.
As of the 2015-16 ski season, Park City and the Canyons resorts were combined to make the largest resort in the United States at nearly 7,300 acres in size. The centerpiece of this connection is the interconnect gondola named Quicksilver. It allows people to ski down three new runs on the Canyons side or gate-accessed terrain into Thaynes Canyon on the Park City side.
Breckenridge – Approval of 4.5 percent Sales Tax Increase On Lift Tickets To Go To Road Improvements
Asking a company to help fund parking projects can be a tough pill to swallow. But, the town of Breckenridge and Vail Resorts actually came to a precise agreement. Vail Resorts guaranteed the tax will raise at least $3.5 million a year to do just that. The Denver Post reported that the goal of these taxes is to help improve congestion during peak times.
Cheap Season Pass
Let’s be honest… with Vail picking up resort after resort, the options of unlimited skiing are simply endless. $899 for an Epic Pass will get you unrestricted access to 18 blue-ribbon ski resorts across North America and one resort in Australia, multiple days in Japan, and the Canadian Rockies. Talk about a great bargain for those who want to be flexible on where they ski.
The Business Decisions
Park City Mountain Resort – Removes Night Skiing Completely
When the sun set at Park City Mountain Resort, they used to offer night skiing until 8 pm. That was until December of the 2015-16 season. Over subsequent years after Vail purchased the resort, they’ve continued to reduce the hours until they officially removed it as part of the 2017-18 season due to financial reasons. However, they continue to offer night skiing ONLY to youth clubs that use it to train.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort – Closes a Month earlier
This Lake Tahoe staple has always been known to close late in the season. As an example, the 2003-04 season had over 130″ of snow in April and another 30″ in May allowing Kirkwood to stay open through Memorial Day weekend. While even after a Miracle March in 2018, the decision was made to close the resort on April 8th even though the snowpack was deep enough to allow skiing into the normal late April time frame.
Boston Mills – Shorter Hours
In past years, the slopes at Boston Mills normally would’ve been open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. Due to staffing shortages, they’ve decided to reduce the hours and keep two of the sister resorts closed in the region. At Boston Mills, they’ve limited their hours from 3:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Park City Mountain Resort – Removal of Volunteer Ski Patrol
Over the last several decades, Park City Mountain Resort has had a volunteer ski patrol working alongside the paid staff. As of 2017, the resort decided to remove the ninety volunteer patrollers, who traditionally helped staff the mountain during busy times like weekends and holidays. The reason? Supposedly, it was to improve the customer experience. Based on this winter, it did the total opposite and aggravated the paid patrollers. So much so that they actively voted to strike against Vail. The good news is that it led to a better contract.
Whistler – Alienating the Locals
Even after one season, you can see a major alienation of the locals. Simple things such as the adoption of an on-mountain app that features Fahrenheit and inches rather than Celsius and centimeters. Or Whistler Blackcomb’s tickets being priced with a base rate in U.S. dollars instead of CDN. If that wasn’t enough, they’ve cancelled Whistler’s popular one- and three-day prepaid lift tickets, which were discounted exclusively for Canadians and Washington state residents.
Delayed Openings – Steven’s Pass
A few hours south in the state of Washington locals are even more upset. Many skiers were frustrated that the ski resort was not open entirely. Especially when other resorts such as Mt Baker or Crystal in the the region were fully open. According to a resort spokesperson, “Heavy snow and avalanche dangers” were the reason for limited operations. As of Tuesday February 1st when we looked at Steven’s Pass’s Lift & Terrain status page, it stated that on that particular day they still were only open with five lifts and 40% of the terrain skiable. The community has boiled to the point that there are now 81 consumer complaints filed with the Washington Attorney General’s Office as well as an online petition with more than 40,000 signatures.
Goal Of A Corporation Is To Make Profit Not About The Skiing
No matter how you look at it, Vail is a profitable publicly traded company. That means they’re held accountable by shareholders not skiers/snowboarders. So, what’s the problem with that? The issue is Vail is trading at 81.76-times its earnings while the stock market average is 32-times earnings. This means investors expect HIGHER earnings than what it’s doing today. You can’t sustain the price of $278 per share (as of February 1st) unless you continue to reduce expenses, buy more resorts, and increase prices.
Bottom line… expect your seasons to get shorter, less lifts to run during slow periods, and possibly pay more in the future – A LOT more. When? Not in the next few years the way they’re buying spree is going, but once they stop buying, expect those prices to catch up to them in the form of lift tickets, lodging, and everything else.
Heavy Is The Head That Wears The Crown
No matter what category you’re in, being Numero Uno is always difficult. Translation: There are many naysayers. In an era of ballooning infrastructure costs and more inconsistent winters, you need diversity to “weather” the storm. That’s what Vail offers these ski areas. A chance to stay afloat without worrying about a bad winter.
So, is Vail bad or good? It depends on your viewpoint. If you’re a visitor from New York or Chicago and only get a handful of days in, then it’s awesome. If you’re a local that skis 100 days/year, you might have a different perspective.
For some reason, most skiers & snowboarders visit ski resorts mid-winter. In December, there’s a good chance most terrain isn’t open yet. January may have a break in-between storm cycles causing icy conditions. February can be good, but it can also be fickle. Skiing In March is perfection. Despite the calendar saying it’s spring, it’s the BEST month to plan a ski trip and here’s why.
Biggest Snow Month For MANY
No matter how bad of a snow season it’s been, for some reason March is magical. For a LOT of regions in North America, this is their BIGGEST month of snowfall. This includes resorts in places like Colorado, New Mexico, and even Lake Tahoe.
Shout Out To Miracle March
Lake Tahoe’s Marches are so legendary that they’ve become colloquially known as “Miracle March.” Even in a “famine” year, you can pretty much be guaranteed that storms will return and provide some of the good stuff from up above.
What About Utah?
We know someone will ask the million-dollar question. What about Utah? Well, based on the long-term averages, Utah’s snowfall is VERY consistent so there really isn’t a BEST month to go for snowfall. Nearly every month from December through March averages around 80”.
Another thing that makes skiing in March the best month to go is that it’s the deepest the snowpack will be in the season. When people visit a destination, you want the chance to ski EVERYTHING, but if you visit too early, a lot of terrain might be closed. For example, in Taos you need at least six FEET of snow before most of the terrain is skiable. This time of year, you’re pretty much guaranteed every lift and trail will be open.
Sun, Sun, & More Sun
We’re suckers for storm skiing. We live for soft snow… but we have to admit, if it isn’t snowing, it’s pretty nice to be out there in the warm sunshine. By this time of year, storms seem to arrive quickly, deposit a bunch of snow, and depart even quicker. In between these storms you’ll find plenty of sunshine, and even if the temperature reads cold, it’ll feel MUCH warmer due to how high the sun gets in the sky.
Corn Hunting Season Arrives
After powder, our second favorite type of snow is corn. Instead of waiting for the next storm, corn snow is all about timing. If Mother Nature whips you up a batch and you do get to experience it, you’ll be hooked for life.
The snow is soft. The sun is high up in the sky. There’s plenty of daylight left after the lifts close. You can enjoy sipping a barley pop on the deck. BBQ some great food. Soak in a hot tub. If you’re an active person that needs more outdoor time, there’s a good chance you can combine your ski vacation with other activities like hiking, shoving off on a bike ride, or even getting a round of golf in.
Crowds Are Dwindling
People’s minds are beginning to drift to other activities like baseball. Heading to the beach. Riding their bike. Even the busiest destinations are finally letting out a sigh of relief. Skiing in March usually means shorter lift lines which translates to more vertical. There’s also a good chance you’ll find bigger discounts.
Where To Go
Now that we’ve got you interested in the idea of skiing in March, the question is where? Instead of an exhaustive list, we opted for sharing a good sampling from across the nation that most often offer great skiing this time of year.
Ever since we visited Taos Ski Valley, we’ve been hooked. Skiing in March means the temps are a bit warmer than winter but due to its elevation and prominent northerly aspect, expect to find the deepest snowpack of the year and mid-winter conditions. And once you’re done skiing, you have the town of Taos which in itself is worth a trip.
If you’re looking for a great mountain in the front range that has an easy-going atmosphere, Winter Park will hit the spot. Although it has a reputation for good intermediate slopes, there’s also quite a bit of expert goodness to be had. You’ll find the legendary bumps and steeps on Mary Jane but don’t forget to dip your toe into Vazquez Cirque. And since March is their snowiest month, if it does snow be sure to head to Summit Express to sample the powder in the chutes and glades.
Palisades Tahoe | Alpine Meadows
Self-proclaimed spring skiing capital Palisades Tahoe lives up to that moniker by always trying to have the longest season in Tahoe. In good years, this means skiing until at least Memorial Day. Open terrain with multiple aspects means that in-between storms, it creates perfect corn snow to harvest. And then once you’re done for the day, be sure to head to the “Chammy” for a few brews.
Local Freshies® Tip: Get a Buddy Pass at Le Chamois for $100 which is good for 20 beers of domestic and save yourself $20.
Although the East Coast doesn’t see its deepest snowfall typically in March, you’ll usually find quite a bit of the white stuff still falling this time of year. The “Loaf” as it’s known has two main factors helping it be a great spot for skiing in March. It has elevation AND a northerly location. During the mid-winter months, it can be frigid so this is your opportunity to enjoy what is called the “Beach.” Located in front of the base lodge, you’ll find sun, snow, and some Adirondacks to enjoy the spring days.
Just like the East Coast, it’s all about heading north to find the best spring skiing conditions in the Midwest. As a kid, I remember my father taking me on my first spring break getaway. The warm temps, tons of sunshine, and my first ever experience of corn snow. With their dedication to snowmaking and location near Lake Michigan keeping the temp’s cooler in the spring, they typically push the closing into April.
So, if you want to learn the in’s & outs of skiing in March, what gear to bring, & why it’s our favorite time to go on a ski vacation, check out our comprehensive spring skiing guide.
For those that have ever watched a Warren Miller flick, a Travis Rice movie, or a Matchstick Productions film, you’ve seen the amazing terrain that’s available when you heli ski Revelstoke. Don’t be scared off by the mega-sized cliffs or the scenes of them jumping out of helicopters. In fact, if you’re an advanced intermediate or better, Selkirk Tangiers is a great option. How so? Well, they match skiers and riders of the same skill level so the day is one to remember! Located just a few minutes outside of Revelstoke, BC, it’s a great choice if you want to try heli-skiing.
Access to over 500,000 acres of terrain:
Selkirks (North and South)
40+ years in business
Up to 7 helicopters that can access the goods
Extremely high fly-rate: On an average winter, typically only have 1-2 days/month of down days
This is based on the fact that they forested and opened bowl terrain, so if the weather is inclement, then you ski in the glades. If it is blue-bird, then you ski in the alpine.
How It Works
Depending on your bank roll or the amount of time you have, there are several options to choose from. Regardless of which package you select, all include Selkirk Tangiers epic cuisine. Items like eggs, waffles, and bacon fill the breakfast buffet while gourmet soups and delectable sandwiches take care of your lunch in the mountains. So, what are your choices if you want to heli ski Revelstoke?
The Basics Of Heli Ski Revelstoke
This is by far the most expensive option and truly the “Rolls Royce” of heli-skiing. If you pay this much, you get to use the smaller helicopters which are more maneuverable and quicker, which translates to:
More vertical since you get out there faster
Lower probability of a down day
Consider yourself “The Man or Woman” for a day
This is a good option if you have a few days to kill and would like a better chance of skiing/snowboarding a decent amount.
All multi-day packages have a minimum amount of vertical you are guaranteed to ski as well as a maximum amount of vertical you can ski during your stay
Less chance of being cancelled – since it is a multi-day trip, the heli-ski operation can wait out inclement weather such as fog or snow when a single day trip couldn’t
This is a good choice if you’ve never done heli-skiing before. You get an idea what it’s like along with a good intro on how a typical day feels.
Helicopter assigned to more than one group: For multi-day and single-day outings, each helicopter is assigned two to three groups. Don’t worry, the helicopters are so fast that you won’t be waiting to get picked up at the bottom.
Pay to play: You get a set amount of skiing in a day. This means once you hit your threshold like 5 runs or 50,000 vertical, you will be charged an additional amount to ski/snowboard.
Snowboarders bring retractable poles: There will be at least a few runs where the helicopter will land in a flat valley. Instead of trudging through waist deep powder to get to it, bring a retractable pole to help you easily navigate through these flat sections.
Is Heli-Skiing Safe?
As you may have read in our Back to School series, the backcountry is a dangerous place if you’re not prepared. Like all things in the wilderness, safety is subjective, but at the same time, it’s paramount. That being said, there’s a TON of energy exuded by each heli-skiing operation to make sure that each guest is kept out of harms way. No matter how much effort is put in, it comes down to the fact that you must follow your guide’s instruction.
How They Keep Everyone Safe
Local Freshies® was fortunate enough to get a quick low-down from Emma Mains, the Sales and Guest Services Coordinator at Selkirk Tangiers, on some of the highlights of how they keep everyone safe.
Continuous Discussions: Every morning @ 7:00 a.m. and evening @ 4:30 p.m., the guides meet to discuss what they have observed in the backcountry. They talk about things like are there certain aspects that should be not ridden? Has anyone seen any avalanche debris from natural triggers? Based on these discussions, the terrain that’s available to them gets opened and closed. These decisions are constantly being developed, re-iterated, and confirmed over and over again to make sure everyone gets home that night.
InfoX: This is the computer application that all Canadian mechanized operators such as catskiing and heli-skiing operations must use to enter and record their field findings. A very useful tool to know what’s going on across the region and country.
Mandatory Certification and Guide Experience
All guides must be ACMG certified which is a globally recognized association for guiding tours into the backcountry
Mentorship program to get their first level of certification
Typically each of the guides at Selkirk will have over five years of experience guiding as a tail gunner before becoming a main guide
What Happens On A Day You Can’t Heli-Ski?
As stated above, in a typical winter there are only 1-2 down days a month. Unfortunately, the season we were here was a rough one. Since helicopters don’t have radar, they need to visually see where to fly. During our stay in Revelstoke, there was too much valley fog and no helicopters could fly that day. When this happens, you are given a refund. Selkirk Tangiers keeps a $100 deposit. This deposit can then be used any time that year or next season. In this instance, you are also provided free shuttle service and a lift ticket to Revelstoke ski resort. That way, you still get a day of skiing in.
When Should You Go Heli-Skiing?
Selkirk Tangiers Heli-Skiing usually starts traveling into the backcountry to assess the conditions around the first week of December. Depending on snowpack, operations start around mid-December and last until the second weekend in April.
Quick guide on what to expect based on time of year
Early season: Expect to ski/snowboard deep powder in perfectly spaced glades with tons of fresh snowfall. Storms come in at a furious pace, so the opportunity of getting into the alpine is slim. Mid-season: Storm tracks slow down and give the opportunity of getting a nice mix of both tree and alpine skiing. Of course, this is also the most expensive time to visit. Late-season: Weather becomes warm and sunny which means nice corn skiing in the alpine. On average, around the last week of March into April they will have one to two weeks of HUGE storms that can make it feel like it’s mid-winter. They have more than enough snow to go much later, but the demand wanes.
Why Choose Selkirk Tangiers?
In summary, Selkirk’s number one priority is great service. Their goal is to provide a stress-free environment that is enjoyable for everyone to make it a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even on the busiest day, there are only 100 skiers accessing 500,000 acres of slopes meaning first tracks for everyone. If it’s your first time or you’ve gone many times, Selkirk is a great option to heli ski Revelstoke for all those hungry powder hounds across North America.