Dream snowboard trips for 2012
WHILE WANDERING AROUND a parking lot last season, dragging a shovel behind me and trying to determine which vehicle-shaped mountain of snow might actually be my tiny hatchback, I looked up at the sky and silently begged the snow gods to please just stop shitting all over my face every time I needed to leave the house.
And now look what I did.
Coming off a brown Christmas, ski resorts across the nation are feeling the effects of my bad vibes. With far below average snowfall this year to date throughout much of the US and even Europe, skiers and snowboarders like myself are spending a lot less time on the hill and a lot more time daydreaming.
Here are the trips I’d rather be taking during my snow drought:
Someplace with snow
Not normally “fantasy snowboard trip” material, BC ski resorts have been on my radar these days — namely because actual snow is currently falling out of the sky there. Whistler, with their fancy-pants 17 feet of snow this season, is an obvious selection, but I’m more interested in local spot Revelstoke and its comparable 16 feet of cumulative snowfall, even when budget isn’t on my mind.
More of an earn-your-turns type of mountain, Revelstoke’s best terrain requires a bit of hiking and traversing. Based on legends propagated by Revelstoke returnees, their back bowls are well worth the effort on a snowy day.
And just to take this dream trip up a notch, Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing operates out of Revelstoke and provides day trips or multi-day baller packages to another half-million acres of glaciers, glades, and bowls.
Snowboard to the beach
In complete California snowboarder fashion, my number one snow-related dream has always been to cruise down a snow-covered slope that ends at the ocean’s edge, where I hop on a lounge chair and enjoy a fruity cocktail. Turns out, this is completely possible in Greenland — minus the lounge chair/warm weather part anyway.
Heli-trips out of Maniitsoq are reputed to provide the the best polar snow conditions in areas so vast and untrafficked that experiencing a first descent on a heli-tour is not unheard of. Extra-long arctic daylight hours mean more time and better visibility while you’re slashing turns down frosty glaciers almost directly into the Davis Strait below.
With Greenland Extreme, the only heli-skiing company operated locally, make this dream even more rad: sleep aboard the Kisaq, an 83-foot wooden ferry boat, while a helicopter dutifully follows the group, ready to pick you up and put you at the top of one of the surrounding peaks.
Ride Japan with a local pro
One of the few ski and snowboard destinations with enough snow to actually issue an avalanche warning this winter, Hokkaido, Japan has no idea what this snow drought business is all about.
Japan’s northernmost island receives cold air from across Siberia, which combines with warm water currents over the South China Sea and creates a seemingly constant stream of “lake effect” snow. Niseko United, Hokkaido’s best-known resort, just experienced their deepest December in 50 years.
Navigating a new mountain can be hard enough even when you do speak the language. For my imaginary snowboard trip, I’d like a local’s help with finding the best powder and Japan’s famous perfectly spaced trees. Cloudline Tours runs excursions to Hokkaido and Nagano, led by pro-snowboarding vet J.P. Martin, adventure travel enthusiast Ako Martin, and Aki Matsumoto, one of the pioneers of the Nagano snowboarding scene. They’ll even point your powder-fatigued muscles in the direction of the closest onsen.
Snowboard in the desert
Ski Dubai combines two of my all-time favorite things: snowboarding and climate control.
The first indoor ski resort in the Middle East, Ski Dubai is open all year with 22,500 square meters of real snow boxed in by 16.4-foot-thick walls. The snowmaking systems here blast out 30 metric tons of snow daily.
Even with its multiple runs of varying difficulty and a few park features, I don’t expect to be stretching any technical skills here — but who cares? Who else do you know who is snowboarding in the desert inside a gigantic refrigerator?
Forget about pow
Backcountry and tree riding are out of the question, and it doesn’t look like there’s any significant snow in the forecast here in the west. So, just go with it. There’s one place on the mountain where warm weather and a lack of powder is fine with me: the park.
Other highlights on the list include Keystone, Colorado, which is currently advertising over 50 features and jumps in their A51 terrain park; Mammoth Mountain, California, where snow shortage or not, an Olympic-sized halfpipe still dominates the Main Lodge landscape; Bear Mountain in California, where they are adding new features and jibs daily, including their 18-foot Superpipe, which just opened on Saturday; and Breckenridge, Colorado, where they’re currently building features I wouldn’t even daydream about hitting.
And while we’re fantasizing, let’s also pretend I actually can pull some fancy maneuvers in the park.