Photo: Min C. Chiu/Shutterstock

North America's 5 Best Ski Highways and Byways

Ski and Snow Insider Guides
by Chris Weiss Nov 23, 2010
4. Route 100, Vermont

Ski Areas: Mt. Snow, Okemo, Killington, Sugarbush, Stowe, and nearly every other Vermont ski resort
Road Conditions:

This is one of the highways I grew up skiing. It cuts down the center of Vermont, roughly paralleling the Green Mountains to the west and passing by more than a dozen ski mountains on its way.

The mountains and countryside of VT-100 are full of U.S. skiing history dating back to the early 1900s. You’ll pass through the town where Jake Burton helped build the sport of snowboarding (Londonderry), by some of the first resorts to allow snowboarding (Suicide Six, Stratton), and straight through one of America’s first real “ski towns” (Stowe).

For ski purposes, Route 100 begins its 200-mile northward journey at the intersection of VT-9 in the small town of Wilmington. Here, it passes Vermont ski country’s version of raucous nightlife, with a first stop shortly thereafter at Mt. Snow.

Snow is VT’s southernmost resort and doesn’t offer the snow quality of those farther north, but it recently transformed its freestyle scene, turning the entire Carinthia mountain face into one monstrous park system with 12 individual park areas and a superpipe. From my experience, it also has some pretty nice tree skiing spread around its various faces.

Ten miles or so past Snow is the turnoff for Stratton, another one of the East’s top park/pipe resorts. And from there, you knock them off one by one: Okemo, Killington, Sugarbush… Between them it’s tiny towns you’d probably never visit on purpose and long stretches of lonely woods and moose crossing signs.

Eventually 100 rolls through Stowe, where it serves as Main Street, leading past the covered-bridge walkway, clinically white church, and requisite ski-town inns, restaurants, and shops.

To get a taste of the breadth of the skiing along Route 100 and within the rest of the state, stop for a visit at the Vermont Ski Museum in the middle of town. Or, turn left on Mountain Road and complete the journey to Stowe Mountain Resort, home of the Front Four and 4,393ft Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest.

Driving from the south, I’d typically end my journey at Stratton, Killington, Stowe, or another resort, but if you’ve still got time, keep trucking up through Morrisville and onward.

The ski-centric portion of Route 100 meets its terminus when you turn onto VT-118 or 58 for Jay Peak, where 350 annual inches of the East’s best snow await. Jay’s reputation has been growing, but there’s still plenty of glade-stashed powder to be had.

Detour: The Cabot Cheese Annex Store in Waterbury Center just outside of Stowe offers all kinds of delicious free samples — a great ski bum breakfast/lunch/dinner.

5. Powder Highway, British Columbia

Ski Areas: Fernie, Kicking Horse, Kimberly, Panorama, Red Mountain, Revelstoke, and Whitewater, plus dozens of cat, heli, and touring operations
Road Conditions:

The most famous ski highway on the continent — the one named in honor of the sport — isn’t even a highway at all. It’s a whole network of them.

But when those highways meander through the valleys of a handful of massive mountain ranges, connecting more than three dozen ski areas, backcountry lodge operations, and heli-ski services covered by Canada’s best powder, the asphalt earns the right to go by one name.

Since the Powder Highway twists and stretches in several directions, a more formal plan is in order for this trip. Begin at any of the region’s three airports: Canadian Rockies International in Castlebrook, West Kootenay Regional in Castlegar, or Trail Regional in Trail. You could also start in Calgary or Kamloops, depending where you’re going.

Last year, Delta added direct service from Salt Lake City to Canadian Rockies Airport, cutting out the need for connecting flights or long drives from Calgary or Spokane, Washington. Canadian Rockies is located at a major junction of the Powder Highway region.

It’s north on BC-93/95 to big mountain resorts like Panorama and the triple-ridged collection of chutes known as Kicking Horse, or east on 3/93 to the funky resort town of Fernie. Or west/north on routes BC-3 and BC-6 to Whitewater, a small, locals mountain buried under 45 feet of snow each year. Or way northwest up to North America’s biggest vertical at Revelstoke.

Whatever direction your Powder Highway journey takes you, don’t spend too long at any one mountain because there are dozens others waiting.

Spend at least one day heli- or cat-skiing; the disciplines were born here and you’ll find more of a selection than anywhere else in the world. Plus, you don’t come to the Powder Highway to waste precious time on groomers and tracked-out runs.

And remember, half the adventure of this road trip is the road itself. The enormous peaks and deep valleys of ranges like the Kootenay Rockies, Monashees, and Purcells have a way of making you feel like you’re staring down the Himalayas. There’s a wild, undomesticated quality to the Powder Highway, the small towns on it linked together by huge swaths of wilderness, national park lands, and armies of snow-caked peaks and foothills.

The only things limiting exploration potential around here are your vacation days and summer-job cash stash.

Detour: Cranbrook is the biggest city in the Kootenay Rockies region, so eat up at a Cranbrook spot before starting the journey.

Community Connection

Another idea for a ski road trip is to hit 6 American Ski Mountains You’ve Never Heard Of.

Discover Matador