SKIING STANDOUTSHere are six standout places to add new experiences to our lift-served skiing or riding this winter:
JACKSON, WYOMING: With the highest vertical in the U.S. and renowned expert terrain, Jackson already offers skiers a lot. But it also has the full array of non-lift options, including daily heli-skiiing in the Snake River Range with High Mountain Heli-skiing (heliskijackson.com). Full-day cat-skiing on less aggressive terrain, perfect for first timers, is available at nearby Grand Targhee Resort (grandtarghee.com). Jackson Hole Mountain Resorts offers an extensive guided backcountry skiing program using its summit tram and wilderness access gates (jacksonhole.com).
Dine: Local Restaurant & Bar is a modern take on the classic Western American steakhouse featuring grass-fed steak and house-ground burgers with an assortment of beers n tap. localjh.com
Luxury needn’t take a backseat when you’re traversing uncharted terrain. Several upscale dude ranches in Colorado offer winter guests private cat-skiing.
The Lodge and Spa at Three Forks Ranch, a five-star property on the Colorado/Wyoming border with just 15 guest rooms, has 200,000 acres for its snowcats (threeforksranch.com). Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, near Winter Park, also offers guests full-day cat-skiing nearby (devilsthumbranch.com). And the highly regarded C Lazy U Ranch (pictured) in Granby has private cat-skiing (clazyu.com).
TELLURIDE, COLORADO: Famous for its in-bounds mogul skiing, Telluride also has guided backcountry programs, and in the past two years added major hike-to terrain including Bllack Iron Bowl and Palmyra Peak (tellurideskiresort.com). Telluride Helitrax offers daily heli-trips in the nearby San Juan Mountains (helitrax.com).
Stay: Ski the back country, but stay in town at The Hotel Telluride, a small (59-room) but sumptuous inn in the center of the charming town of Telluride.
CANYONS RESORT, PARK CITY, AND SNOWBIRD, UTAH: In the past three years Canyons Resort has invested more than $50 million in improvements such as heli-skiing. "Our 4,000 acres offer some of the best variety of in-bounds steeps, glades, and bowls in Utah," says managing director Mike Goar. "But in our quest to also provide a truly unique mountain experience for even more extreme skiers and riders, we are thrilled to offer heli-skiing." Wasatch Powderbird Guides, which operates daily heli-skiing, also flies out of the Snowbird resort near Salt Lake City. powderbird.com
RUBY MOUNTAIN HELI EXPERIENCE, ELKO, NEVADA: Although most lodge-based, multiday heli operations are in northern Canada or Alaska, this one is accessible from Salt Lake City, Reno, and Las Vegas. Its shorter three-day and one-day programs are the best intro to lodge-based immersion heli-skiing, with cat-skiing as a backup. Many guests combine it with resort skiing around Salt Lake City. helicopterskiing.com
WHISTLER/BLACKCOMB, B.C.: North America's largest ski resort also offers every option for leaving its trails. Whistler Heli-Skiing offers half and full days, including programs for intermediates with no powder skiing experience (whistlerheliskiing.com). Whistler Ski Guides runs backcountry trips (whistlerskiguides.com), while Powder Mountain Catskiing does cat and heli trips (powdermountaincatskiing.com).
POWDER MOUNTAIN, UTAH: In sheer size, this sleepy resort outside Ogden is the largest in the country at 7,000 acres and offers four unique options. There are single-ride snowcat trips to 700 acres reserved for cat-skiing. Full-day guided cat-trips to another 3,000 acres are also available. Powder Country, included in lift tickets, is a 1,200-acre area of ungroomed powder skiing, but no matter where you go, you hit a road with free shuttles back to the lifts -- and no special equipment necessary. Powder also offers free guided backcountry tours (powdermountain.com).