On a weekday morning at 11am about 400 people gathered at the Taos Mesa Brewing…
12 months of pure powder pleasure – How to pull off spending a full year on the slopes
Being able to ski or snowboard every single month of the year is an accomplishment seen to be achievable only by the very wealthy or the very dedicated. Chasing the fluffy white stuff around the
globe in an inexplicable attempt to satisfy an endless craving to plummet at breakneck speeds down long, steep drops of near vertical mountainside on two little sticks, or one fat one, is the kind of illogical quest that would have alien observers of our species scratching their bald, grey heads in bewilderment. Skiing and snowboarding is an addiction, however, unlike most other addictions, the constant craving to be flying down freshly powdered runs in an amphitheater of soaring peaks and frozen trees is one addiction that is actually good to maintain. Of course, like all addictions, there are varying degrees of severity and for those who have it hardest there really is no other option but to set out a plan to get your daily fix of riding all year long.
Pulling off a full year of time on the slopes is all about migration between the Northern and Southern hemispheres for each hemisphere’s traditional winter months and then using altitude as your main determining factor in deciding where to go for the transitional months of spring and autumn.
Northern Hemisphere Winter
The US and Canada
The months of November through March are prime powder time for northern hemisphere skiing and snowboarding. Boarders and skiers are spoiled for choice between the top resorts in North America, Canada, Europe, and even Japan.
The US is prime skiing and snowboarding country with many, many great ski resorts to choose from. Our pick of the lot would be Solitude Ski Resort, Utah simply because it boasts fabulous terrain, plenty of powder (averaging 500 inches / 12.7meters of snowfall annually) and un-crowded slopes. It’s only 45 minutes away from Salt Lake City International airport and there are a host of other resorts well within striking distance. The main appeal here is the priceless combination of plenty of powder and awesome terrain with no crowds, because if you’re planning on spending a full year in the snow you sure as hell don’t want to be weaving through mountainsides teeming with people day in and day out.
Skiing and snowboarding in Canada is not so much a pastime as a way of life. It’s as if Canada was created with the sole purpose of skiing and snowboarding in mind, and judging by the number of world class resorts, the Canadians have made good with what nature has provided them. The mega-resorts of Whistler and Banff are the exception to most other resorts in Canada in that they are heavy with crowds. Travel a bit further afield and you will find yourself faced with the enviable dilemma of having too many awesome resorts to choose from. From the family friendly, mellower Sun Peaks, Silver Star or Big White in British Columbia to Sunshine Village, Norquay and Lake Lousie resorts in Alberta. Throw into this mix the option of going on a true alpine adventure by taking to the skies for a heli-skiing trip and you will soon discover why Canada is regarded so highly by skiers and snowboarders the world over.
Hopping across the pond to Europe for the winter is also an enviable position to find yourself in because you will be able to have your pick of some of the finest skiing and snowboarding on offer anywhere, coupled of course with the rich, exquisite cultures of the big four; Austria, Italy, France and of course Switzerland.
Skiing in Europe is synonymous with vivid scenery, high altitude and wide, sweeping runs. The incredible food and wine on offer doesn’t hurt either. What’s even better is the close proximity of the countries to one another and the ease with which one can travel between them. There are far, far worse things one could do in the Northern Hemisphere winter months than travel around these four countries sampling some of the best food and wines in the world, savoring their distinctive cultures and most importantly sweeping down runs overlooked by unforgettable backdrops, such as Mont Blanc in France or the Matterhorn in Switzerland.
As the Northern Hemisphere winter draws to a close and the vast majority of seasonal skiers and boarders pack their kit away for the summer, but those looking to keep the powder high going turn their gazes south, towards the snowfields of South America and New Zealand.
Southern Hemisphere Winter
Apart from world class soccer players, dark-eyed seductive salsa queens and ancient Mayan ruins, South America has a lot to contribute to those in love with the sport of riding mountains. The Argentinian and Chilean Andes from Mid –June through to October offer a plethora of powder providing playfields not to mention a seemingly endless expanse of backcountry ski terrain. Argentinian resorts to look into include Las Leñas, Cerro Catedral (Bariloche), Chapelco and Cerro Bayo. Whereas Chilean options include Portillo, Valle Nevado, La Parva, El Colorado / Farellones and Nevados de Chillaneñas, Cerro Catedral, Chapelco and Cerro Bayo.
If you’re looking for the perfect blend of awesome skiing, scenery so beautiful it’s just silly, lively ski towns, authentic culture and more adventure activities to do on down days than you can shake a ski pole at, well then New Zealand will not disappoint. Another great bonus about skiing in New Zealand is its affordability. For most travellers to NZ the exchange rate is a godsend and makes any trip here a relatively inexpensive one. Queenstown is world-renown for its tourist buzz and nightlife with Coronet Peak and The Remarkables ski field a stone’s throw away. Take your pick from the resorts in the high Southern Alps, such as Mt Hutt, Treble Cone, Cardrona and Snow Park NZ or the North Island resorts of Whakapapa and Turoa on Mount Ruapehu.
All in all, there really is no shortage of options when it comes to spending almost every day on the calendar carving down mountainsides with a silly grin on your face. The only trick is to navigate your way between the Northern and Southern hemispheres in a timely fashion, making sure to spend time in the intermediate months of spring and autumn at higher altitudes because they provide those much needed extra bouts of stubborn snow that thaw out later than the rest. Of course cost effective travel and accommodation is key to pulling off a venture as ambitious as this so once you’ve decided on just where you plan to spend the year, it’s time to get hold of a decent travel agent and get on with the process of making it all come together.