This winter may be winding down (although the spring skiing is still excellent and resorts from Colorado to California are still getting hammered with storms), but it's never too soon to start planning ahead for next winter. If you could go anywhere in the world to ski, where would it be? That's a fun game to play anyway, even if some of the trips (first descents in Antarctica!) seem a little unrealistic. To help aid the brainstorming, we've put together a list of 10 places every skier should check out during their lifetime so far, some close. So get started checking off the list, or better yet, create your own!
1. Anywhere in Utah. The state's slogan is "Greatest Snow on Earth" and it's not far from the truth. For more low-key powder stashes, check out Alta, Powder Mountain or Solitude. For hard-charging, tram-accessed steeps, Snowbird is the place. And for the best seafood buffet this far from the ocean (plus some untouched powder that the groomer set seems to ignore), head to Deer Valley. Or hire a guide and step into the legendary Wasatch backcountry.
2. Silverton Mountain, Colorado. Flylow got its start in the Rocky Mountains and we still haven't found a place in the world quite like Silverton, Colorado. One double chairlift and some short hikes deliver you to 3,000-vertical feet of heart-in-your-throat steepness. With 400 inches of snow each year and the rowdiest terrain around, you won't be disappointed. Plus, the "base lodge" is a yurt with a keg in it.
3. Japan. It seems to snow in Japan every day in January in February, plus the food, the hot springs and the welcoming culture make it the kind of place you won't ever want to leave. For proof, check out this edit from Eric Balkan, who was in Niseko, Japan, recently filming with Powderwhore Productions.4. Verbier, Switzerland. You could go to Verbier just for the raclette, fondue and the lively apr s scene at the Pub Mont Fort. But you'll stay for the skiing steep, expansive mountains that go as far as the eye can see. It's expensive to stay in Verbier (the cheapest place is the Bunker hostel, a classic ski bum's choice), but lift tickets are cheaper than in the U.S. Hire a guide on day one so you don't end up cliffed out or completely lost. (Our recommendation for a guide: Jack Shaw and Sue Magruder of Epic Europe, www.epiceurope.com) 5. Crystal Mountain, Washington. We're not sure why people still haven't discovered Crystal Mountain, two hours from Seattle in the shadows of Mount Rainier, but this place has some of the best terrain and deepest snow in the Cascades. Plus the nachos at the Snorting Elk will feed you for a week.
6. Mad River Glen, Vermont. This is all you need to know about the historically charming Mad River Glen: When their aging single chairlift was due for an upgrade, the cooperatively-owned ski area voted to replace it with a brand new single chair.
7. Bridger Bowl, Montana. Sure, neighboring Big Sky gets all the attention, but if you're looking for challenging terrain, consistently light and deep snow and a funky, local vibe, Bridger is your place. Take the short boot pack up the Ridge or explore the paradise that is the Slushman's zone.8. Alpine Meadows, California. Flylow's new design lab and marketing office is based at the bottom of Alpine Meadows Road, and there's a reason why: Alpine has a vast array of hike-to steeps, north-facing bowls and an uncrowded, unpretentious scene. Plus, the backcountry access from the ski resort is unrivaled in the Tahoe area. 9. Portillo, Chile. People compare staying in the Portillo Hotel to a cruise ship in the mountains you'll wine and dine with the same skiers for an entire week. But on the mountain, the place feels empty. Ride the five-person poma lift, the Roca Jack, and then traverse out to freshly-coated bowls or take the backcountry hike to Super C Couloir, one of Chris Davenport's favorite lines. Stay at the El Oct gono Lodge if you want a less expensive option. 10. Whitewater, British Columbia. Stay in the quaint town of Nelson and explore neighboring Whitewater, Red Mountain and loads of cat-skiing and backcountry options nearby. At Whitewater, be sure to dine at the base lodge's Fresh Tracks Cafe, which is so tasty it's one of the only ski area cafeterias with its own cookbook.