Skiing on the West Coast varies drastically from the deep powder bowls of Whistler Blackcomb to the erratic weather that plagues Idaho resorts like Sun Valley.
These massive Western resorts have something for every skier from easy slopes to steep chutes. Powder hounds will find more than enough snow at resorts like Deer Valley in Utah. Those looking to catch some sun in California will be able to do so slope side, unfortunately it's sure to leave the dreaded goggle tan.
Here's a preview of what West Coast skiing has to offer this year:
Whistler Blackcomb truly lives up to the hype. Let the stats do the talking: 8,100 skiable acres, one vertical mile, 36 lifts, 16 bowls, and over 200 trails. Impressed? The resort is just getting started. Whistler Backcomb boasts 5 terrain parks, impeccable grooming, gourmet food, and deep back country powder over the two amazing mountains. There is even heli-skiing and cat skiing for those who want to create their own unique trail. Generally, beginners should stick to Whistler, while high intermediates and advanced skiers should venture into the less-populated Blackcomb. The La Niña weather pattern does, however, mean constant clouding precipitation which blocks the otherwise spectacular views.
Best Feature: On a sunny day, the views from the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola are out of this world amazing! The gondola is the world's longest and travels 4.4 km (2.7 miles).
2011-2012 Season Dates: Whistler Mountain opened on Nov. 18 and Blackcomb will open on Nov. 24. The closing date is yet to be announced.
Rates and more information: http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com
Getting There: To reach Whistler Backcomb, fly into the Vancouver International Airport and drive two hours to the resort on the scenic Sea-to-Sea highway.
Mammoth lives up to its name with 150 trails, 28 lifts, 3,500 acres of terrain, and the tallest peak in California at over 11,000 ft. The skiing here is incredible with over 300 days of sun. Yet, the snow still remains until June. Advanced skiers should work their way to the top of the mountain for natural terrain with dramatic verticals. Beginners should stay closer to the mountain center for easy greens.
Best Feature: The gondola ride to the top of Mammoth is a ride not to be missed. Expert skiers can drop in to one of the many steep, narrow chutes off the top, while those who want to relax can enjoy year-round views from the Panorama Lookout.
2011-2012 Season Dates: Nov. 10 - June
Rates and more information: www.mammothmountain.com/
Getting There: Mammoth Yosemite Airport is just ten minutes from the resort and there are daily connections from major California airports. For those driving, it will take between six and seven hours from Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Heavenly resort straddles both California and Nevada. For those looking to be less than heavenly, give into devilish desires at the casinos on the Nevada side. The mountain has 94 trails, 30 lifts, and over 4,300 acres of terrain, the largest in California. Due to the sheer size and the layout, have a map handy or take a guided tour of the mountain. Make sure to have your camera ready! The views overlooking Lake Tahoe aren't to be missed.
Best Feature: Venturing to Heavenly isn't just about the skiing. There are plenty of other activities to create a rounded vacation like hot air balloon rides, hot springs, and a wild night life.
2011-2012 Season Dates: Nov. 18 - April 15
Rates and more information: http://www.skiheavenly.com/
Getting There: Visit the getting here section of Heavenly's Web site for directions and buses that service the mountain.
Deer Valley's strength really lies in service from a well-trained ski patrol to impeccable grooming. There are also some great perks to skiing Deer Valley, like the free overnight storage and top notch dining. Skiing Deer Valley is more about the great experience rather than simply the terrain. The six mountains, 100 runs, 21 lifts, and five bowls are just added incentive to come. There is a huge downside for some here - Deer Valley is one of just three resorts that prohibit snowboarding, making this destination automatically out for families mixed with both skiers and snowboarders. Skiers rejoice the lack of snowboarders stopped on the side of trails or at the start of moguls, yet avid snowboarders find it discriminating.
Best Feature: The grooming here is first class- there's nothing like a perfect top to bottom run on freshly groomed Utah powder.
2011-2012 Season Dates: Dec. 3- April 15
Rates and more information: http://www.deervalley.com/
Getting There: Deer Valley is just 36 miles from Salt Lake City International Airport.
Since most head to Deer Valley, this leaves Canyons quieter and less crowded. Spread out through the nine peaks, you may even find a lift without a line. It's perfect for a couple of quick runs. Now on to the important stats - this resort has 182 trails, 19 lifts, and 4,000 total skiable acres. The mountain does cater more to the intermediate and advanced skier, with only 10% of the trails adequate for beginners. The future looks bright for Canyons, as the resort is in the process of a $50 million upgrade.
Best Feature: Convert a boarding pass to a free ticket, as part of the Quick Start vacation program. Bring your registration email, out-of-state ID, and ticket (must be into Salt Lake City International Airport) to Canyons, Deer Valley, or Park City Mountain Resort to receive a free same day ticket, easily making the early morning flight worth the time.
2011-2012 Season Dates: Nov. 25- April 15
Rates and more information: www.canyonsresort.com
Getting There: A quick 32-mile drive brings skiers and snowboarders from Salt Lake City International Airport to Canyons. The mountain is also just 25 miles from downtown Salt Lake City.
Sun Valley is a hidden skiing gem in many aspects. Most don't necessarily equate Idaho with great skiing or a memorable vacation, which works out great for the locals. It's true, Idaho lacks the snow storms neighboring Utah gets, but Sun Valley makes up for it with top of the line services and plenty of sunshine. The service here is just part of the reason the resort has been around for 75 years, making it one of the oldest ski resorts in America.
Sun Valley is spread between two mountains, the main Bald Mountain and the more beginner-focused, Dollar Mountain. Bald Mountain has a summit of 9,150 ft., 66 runs, 14 lifts, and over 2,000 acres of terrain. The smaller Dollar Mountain has just 10 runs and five lifts.
Best Feature: Stop in at the Seattle Ridge Day Lodge for brick oven pizza with amazing 360-degree views of Wood River Valley or take a break warming up to the large fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate.
2011-2012 Season Dates: Nov. 24 - Mid April
Rates and more information: http://www.sunvalley.com/
Getting There: Skiers can fly directly to Friedman Memorial Airport from Seattle, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City. This small airport is located just 14 miles from the resort. Visitors can also fly in to the larger Boise Airport and take the Sun Valley Express Bus to the resort.