As a snowboarder, you want to “surf” the mountain. Cat tracks, endless flat terrain, and predominately skiers isn’t a recipe for a fun vacation. This article focuses on the best places for snowboarding. From the terrain to the culture, we go into each place and what makes them a mecca for us Knuckledraggers.
What Makes A Resort One Of The Best Places For Snowboarding
There are mountains that get more powder days. Some that have endless terrain to shred. This list is focused on the “soul” of snowboarding. At its core, sliding sideways is still the “punk rockers” of the mountain. And just like this music genre has changed, be it good or bad, it’s still “prickly.” We focus on ski areas that are just as much snowboarding resorts. A place when you arrive, you can FEEL the culture in its bones. Less Hollywood and more Mom & Pop but with a few exceptions. And terrain that’s playful, allowing you to jump off features as you cruise down the mountain.
We know how much it sucks to start a new sport. You have to buy equipment. Figure out the do’s & don’ts. Probably get your ego bruised and maybe even your bum. After decades of snowboarding, we’ve tried our best to create guides to help first-timers or even grizzled vets learn a few tricks, like finding the best jacket or understanding what they mean by 10,000 mm waterproofing. Here’s a few of our most popular guides:
How could we name the best places for snowboarding in North America without mentioning Mt. Baker. Still hardcore to this day. Surrounded by sharp jutting peaks. An open boundary policy allowing you to shred any of them. A place that gets over 600”+ of snow. We’re not talking the soft, fluffy kind… but that maritime snowpack. Cascade concrete. Before skis became like two N.A.S. (narrow ass snowboards), actual snowboards ruled the roost. Their design allowed them to naturally surf the heavier snow. And it’s no wonder that to this day, Mt. Baker holds the most cherished snowboarding contest. No, not the X-Games or the Olympics. The Legendary Mt. Baker Slalom or LBS for short.
Packs A Big Punch
What you’ll find is a resort that isn’t trying to be someone else. All of its lifts are still fixed grip chairs. It only has 1,500 acres of terrain within its confines. Chairs 5 & 6 give access to Mother Nature’s terrain park which is filled with monstrous features. HUGE cliffs, tight chutes, and even pillow lines. The roaring wind during storm cycles create lips to get some air off of. For a mellower flow, head to Chair 8 where you can take some warmup laps on Oh Zone and Daytona.
Local Freshies® Tip: On your way up, keep your eyes peeled for the legendary Mt. Baker road gap which Shaun Farmer did shirtless.
Heading To Baker?
We spent over five seasons visiting this place, and to this day, it’s still one of our top five favorite mountains to ride. If you’re planning on hitting up Mt. Baker, be sure to check out our guide to the resort as well as the town of Bellingham:
In the late 90’s, Salt Lake City was the hotbed of snowboarding. Names like Jeremy Jones, JP Walker, and Bjorn Leines showcased how good it was in films like the Resistance. Snowbird is home to steep and deep terrain. Park City’s name fits, providing visitors 8 terrain parks and 2 pipes to shred. It’s the little Mom & Pop of Brighton that shines the brightest for its love of snowboarding.
Greatest Snow + Shreddy Terrain
It’s calm demeanor, affordability, and 500 inches of the “Greatest Snow on Earth” make for a perfect place for beginners to try snowboarding. Despite it not having the steep consistent stuff you’d find at Snowbird or other larger Utah resorts, it more than makes up for with its natural playful terrain. The upper mountain is filled with drop and cliff bands to float your favorite 360. To put the cherry on top, the tree runs off of Great Western will have you frothing at the mouth. For experts that have avalanche training, similar to Mt. Baker, Brighton has an open boundary policy giving you access to the legendary Wasatch peaks.
Anyone that has skied the Sierra Nevada can tell you – it’s feast or famine. There can be long stretches (weeks or more) where not a single snowflake falls. But when it does, snowstorms deposit FEET of snow. Mammoth averages 400 inches of snow. In between storms, you’ll find plenty of sun. The mountain preserves what it gets too. Even in a BAD winter, the season starts in early November and lasts until at LEAST Memorial Day with some of the bigger winters going into August. It’s no wonder that so many world-class snowboarders call this place home. You’re either shredding pow, honing your skills in the world-class terrain parks, or harvesting corn.
One Of The Longest Seasons
On the list of the best places for snowboarding, Mammoth Mountain is the king of spring. Besides having the highest elevation in California, this part of the Sierra Nevada is home to the BEST weather for producing a spring type of snow. While temperatures can reach the 50’s or 60’s mid-day, at night the lows get below freezing, creating luscious “corn.” Even when weather doesn’t cooperate in late June or July, they salt their runs providing a perfect surface to ski on.
Big Bear Mountain Resort / Snow Summit
If you name one, you have to name the other. Like yin and yang. Salt and Pepper. These twin resorts located just two hours from LA have played a BIG part of snowboard culture. With southern California’s love for surfing and skateboarding, it makes sense that the culture would ascend to Big Bear. In fact, many of the big brands in snowboarding such as Oakley, Signal Snowboards, and even 686 are based in LA.
Sun, Park, And Apres Ski
Southern California’s winters are even more unpredictable than Mammoth’s. To combat this volatility, both Big Bear and Snow Summit supplement their snowfall with huge snowmaking systems. Two things you can count on is meticulous parks, which is why the 1st X Games was held here. And secondly, plenty of sunshine. That means a party-like atmosphere allowing Big Bear Mountain Resorts to kick off the shredding season in North America with a contest called Hot Dawgs & Handrails. One part snowboarding. One part music festival. Held the 1st week of October, this contest features some of the best riders testing their mettle on unique obstacles in So. Cal’s summer-like temps.
Snowboarding and the Midwest go together like peanut butter and jelly. This part of the country has been pumping out pro snowboarders like they’re harvesting bushels of corn. Some say it’s because of the short winters. Personally, I think it’s the tow ropes. Instead of riding up a mountain via a chairlift, park rats literally spend hours riding down AND up the mountain strapped in.
Time On Board = Crop Of Pros
There are a bunch of resorts you could name that have created legends like Dan Brisse, Louie Vito, and Joe Sexton. When it comes to history, there are a few that bubble to the top like Tyrol Basin or Raging Buffalo (snowboard only park), but in today’s world there’s one shining star that continues to wave the vibe of snowboard culture – Trollhaugen. What it lacks in size it more than makes up in vibe. Snowboarding is supposed to be F-U-N first and foremost. Here’s a perfect example of Troll’s culture:
For almost THREE decades, Burton held the US Open in its own backyard on the slopes of Stratton Mountain. It was THE event of the year. This is where Craig Kelly floated big airs over a pipe to beat out legends like Shaun Palmer and Jeff Brushie. Where a playful snowball fight became a full-on brawl. It was wild. It was… snowboarding at its core. Sadly, the US Open moved to Vail and has become a shell of itself and only about the cash purse.
A Resort Of Opposites
Fast forward to present day and while the heart isn’t beating as fast, Stratton still has snowboarding in its soul. They’ve created an event called the Vermont Open that harkens back to the good ole days of “The Open” and celebrating that history. Out of the New England resorts, this might have the biggest split personality. You’ll find New York’s elite getting in laps on gorgeous corduroy. At the same time, the après scene is still alive and kicking along with knuckledraggers getting their 3’s dialed in one of the East’s best terrain parks. For some reason it works.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort
Let’s be honest… the East Coast has a TON of resorts that could make the list of one of the best places for snowboarding. But there’s one that stands head and shoulders above the others for its dedication to shredding – Seven Springs. It’s home to the East’s ONLY 22ft superpipe. This passion rewarded them by being the FIRST and ONLY East Coast resort to host Snowboarder Magazine’s gathering Superpark.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room – Whistler Blackcomb is now owned by Vail. Long lift lines on powder days and its reduction in spring / summer skiing have ruffled the locals beyond the point of frustration. Even so, Whistler has and will always be Canada’s destination for snowboarding. And it’s still home to one of the longest seasons for snowboarding (Blackcomb closes on May 23rd). The two mountains provide you more than 8,171 acres, 200+ trails, and nearly a mile of vertical. From high alpine bowls to tree skiing and everything in between, you’ll find it on the slopes of Whistler-Blackcomb.
This resort produced the legend Travis Rice. A place that pro Bryan Iguchi loved so much that he quit his snowboard career so that he could dedicate his life to riding these peaks. Out of all the ski resorts on the continent, Jackson Hole might have the best combination of steep terrain and cold smoke pow. You’ll find 4,000 vertical feet across 2,500 acres accessed by one of the most iconic lifts in America – the Jackson Hole Tram. It’s so consistently good that Rob Kingwill has created an annual gathering called ShaperSummit to test snowboards specifically designed for powder.
Honorable Mention: Sierra-at-Tahoe
Before the devastating Caldor fire, our Lake Tahoe vote for the best places for snowboarding would’ve been our home mountain – Sierra-at-Tahoe. The 2,000+ acres of gladed terrain were filled with endless boulders, chutes, and cliffs to huck off. The terrain parks were meticulously groomed, and it was the only ski resort left on Lake Tahoe’s south shore to still have a half pipe. On top of it, John Rice the manager of Sierra endlessly gives back to the community and is dedicated to the rebuild efforts.
It’s so easy to create a list of the best places for snowboarding that just iterates what the ski magazines talk about. We wanted our list to be different. To not just focus on the snowiest or the largest ski resort. But places that care about snowboarding in their soul not as a second-class citizen but as an equal partner in the winter sports world. Who would you add to this list?