The best winter sports in North America

Fat biking, pond skimming, baseboarding, high-speed zip-lining: we've selected the best ways to master the mountains, in Canada and the USA

By Sam Lewis
Published 5 Dec 2017, 15:00 GMT, Updated 12 Jul 2021, 14:21 BST
Winter Sports

Lake Louise, Alberta

Photograph by Getty Images

Sun & ski, Mount Bachelor, Oregon
The opening of the $6.5m (£5m) Cloudchaser high-speed chairlift last year added 13 new runs, making this Oregon ski area the fifth-largest in the US. The dramatic volcano-shaped mountain has a season that often lasts until July and a spectacular surrounding forest. With no piste or base village lodging, skiers stay in nearby Sunriver, or the funky town of Bend, known for its microbreweries. Packages from £1,265pp based on seven night's accommodation, return flights and car hire.

Cat/heli-ski, Revelstoke, BC
Fluffy powder and epic alpine bowls are the norm at Revelstoke, the world's only resort to offer lift, cat, heli and backcountry skiing from a single village base. Queues will be shorter this season thanks to 24 new cars on the Revelation Gondola — increasing lift capacity by 25%. Newcomers to cat- and heli-skiing can book a lesson with a pro ($128/£100pp) to learn how to weave through the trees and save energy turning in tricky terrain.

Bargain in Banff
The Moose Hotel, Banff National Park's newest property, is offering 25% discounts on room rates this season. The nearest ski area, Mount Norquay, is five miles away, with Sunshine and Lake Louise resorts nearby, plus numerous other winter sports to hand. Room rates include a buy one, get one free ski rental. From £1,285pp based on seven-nights room-only, Air Canada flights to Calgary and airport transfers.

Uphill skiing & downward dogs, Aspen, Colorado
Whether you're in search of pristine powder or an all-over workout, there's a growing trend at this resort to skip the chair lift and hike to the top on your skis (see previous Aspen feature). Sign up for a range of special events, including moonlight dinners where you uphill to a mountain-top restaurant, have dinner and ski back down. To ease muscles join mountain-top yoga (9am Wednesdays and Saturdays) at the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain. Simply pop yoga wear under ski gear, skin up to the top and pay $5 (£4) to join in.

Silverscreen ski in Sundance
Upmarket operator Scott Dunn has introduced Sundance Mountain Resort, Robert Redford's rustic-chic lodge in Utah, to its US ski portfolio this season. An exclusive winter playground on the slopes of Mount Timpanogos in Utah's Wasatch Range, it has 450 acres and 41 runs of sprawling powder bowls and woodland trails, while backcountry enthusiasts can explore over 20 miles of scenic skiing, day and night. Seven nights from £2,125pp, based on four sharing a Mountain Loft Cottage, including return flights with Delta and private transfers.

Baseboarding, Whistler, Canada
To try the latest trend at this resort, take a chairlift from Olympic Park, minutes from Whistler Village, and lie face down on an aerodynamic baseboard. It's basically extreme tobogganing, developed by British former World Champion and four-time Olympian, Kristan Bromley. No prior experience needed but newcomers start on a 200m practice area before hitting the one-mile course where professionals can reach speeds of 37-43mph. One-week from £899pp including flights and six nights' accommodation.

Over 50s fun at Big White, BC
There's a growing trend for North American resorts to run masters' week programmes: specially designed ski camps for the over 50s. The Big White Ski & Board School's dedicated weeks include wine tastings and happy hours at local restaurants. The resort, four-five hours' drive from Vancouver, is famous for its dry powder and ski-in/ski out access.

Powder and pond skimming, Utah
Last season saw Utah's best snowfall since 2010-11, and while many European resorts were positively green at Christmas, this state was blanketed in the white stuff. Utah averages more than a foot of snow every five days between December to March. For a bit of fun, visit towards the end of the ski season (March) for the Spring Grüv event at Canyons, which includes fancy dress pond-skimming competitions — on skis or snowboards.

Craft beer and fat bike tours, Breckenridge, Colorado
Ride a fat bike through the snow — it's just 3.5 miles from Breckenridge to the Broken Compass Brewery, for innovative brews such as chili pepper pale ale and coconut porter. Cycle on to Breckenridge Distillery to try speciality vodkas, gin and spiced rum. Thankfully, a shuttle takes you home. From $99/£78 (four hours) including lunch (not alcohol).

City & ski, Lake Tahoe, California
The recent launch of British Airways' new route from Gatwick to Oakland, San Francisco Bay, just three hours' drive to Tahoe, gives Brits a good city and ski combo. Heavenly Ski Resort's high altitude (7,200ft) means it's one of the country's most snow-sure, with a season that runs November-May. It's also where you'll find Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, with vibrant apres ski at South Lake.

Published in the Winter Sports 2018 guide, free with the October 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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