Located above 10,000 feet in southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, it’s no wonder Wolf Creek gets so much snow—more than anywhere else in the state, in fact (which makes it the only Colorado resort in our list). Family owned and operated since the 1930s, this mom-and-pop mountain is known for its kid-friendly vibe and nonexistent lift lines. It took a minor hit last year, failing to hit 400 inches, but this year’s looking much better.
Claimed Snowfall: 465”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $56
One of two Canadian interlopers on our list, Whitewater is set deep in the interior of British Columbia, just outside of the former mining town of Nelson. Powder has called it “one of the best powder mountains on the continent,” and this accounting bears that out. It’s a charming, no-frills mountain with a single outdated lodge and three slow chairs hauling skiers up 2,000 vertical feet.
Claimed Snowfall: 12 meters (whatever that means)
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): CAD $56
It’s notable that Squaw Valley is considered Tahoe’s “locals” resort, especially given that they have seven resorts to choose from. Known for its steep terrain and strong, fast skiers, this is where you go when you want to really test yourself. Join the hard-charging locals doing laps of KT-22, huck cliffs beneath Granite Chief chairlift and find hidden stash on the Silverado side—there’ll be plenty of “Sierra cement” and, come March and April, perfect corn.
Claimed Snowfall: 450”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $104
L.A.’s closest big-mountain resort, Mammoth is still a five-hour drive and, with its deep Eastern Sierra snowpack, feels a world away. But, like SoCal, it’s drenched with 300 days of sunshine annually, setting up epic days on its nine terrain parks (including an Olympic-sized, 22-foot pipe) and varied, high-altitude terrain. There’s a reason pros Shaun White and Chris Benchetler spend so much time here. Once the Sierra snow machine turns on, Mammoth stays open deep into June.
Claimed Snowfall: 400”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $99
tie) Kirkwood, CA—467”
The most remote of Tahoe’s resorts, Kirkwood gets the most (and, supposedly, driest) snow and the fewest skiers and riders. Lift lines are short, but so are amenities and lodging options. But, then, that’s part of the charm of the place, isolated as it is in a U-shaped canyon with unreal terrain. According to Crocker’s numbers, it’s only averaging 467 inches in five of the past six seasons, but that’s likely due to last year’s 265-inch bust (2010-11 boasted 802”!).
Claimed Snowfall: 600”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $79
Tucked away in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Snowbird is known for its ample powder, which Utah tourism has, annoyingly, branded the "Greatest Snow on Earth®." With 3,240 feet of incredibly steep vertical, it hardly matters that the après scene isn’t great and the dining options limited. Anyway, it’s only 28 miles from the bright lights and breweries of downtown Salt Lake. As with many places, last year killed the Bird’s average snow, when just 275 inches of the white stuff fell.
Claimed Snowfall: 500”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $85
It’s probably fair to say that Whistler Blackcomb needs no introduction. The largest ski resort in North America sprawls 8,000-plus acres over two mountains with more than 5,000 feet of vertical (second only to BC’s Revelstoke). And what’s better? It gets nearly 500 inches of snow every year, albeit soggy snow (see 2010 Olympics for proof) so be sure to bring a geeky goggle squeegee. Showing typically Canadian humility, the resort claims less snow than Crocker gives it credit for.
Claimed Snowfall: 469”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $99 CAD
Just 75 miles northeast of Seattle in the Cascades, Stevens Pass gets mountains of snow, no matter how bad the season is everywhere else. Last year, amid the winter that wasn’t, Pacific storms still dumped 562 inches on Stevens. It’s a small resort, with just over a thousand in-bounds acres, but there’s plenty of backcountry access via gates and in wilderness areas across Highway 2. Beware and come prepared, though: Last February, three skiers died tragically in a single avalanche in the popular Tunnel Creek drainage off of the 7th Heaven lift.
Claimed Snowfall: 450”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $65
Crystal is Washington’s biggest ski area, with 2,600 skiable acres spread over 3,100 feet of vertical. Despite pouring $30 million into service and infrastructure improvements over the past decade, it still oozes a laidback vibe that’s common among Pacific Northwest resorts. Summithouse serves up gourmet eats, while the newly-constructed Rainier Express gondola serves up postcard-worthy views of the jagged, snowbound Cascades—all just a stone’s throw from Mt. Rainier National Park.
Claimed Snowfall: 486”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $74
Just outside of Anchorage above the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, Alyeska offers the best Alaska skiing that doesn’t involve a helicopter. With big mountain skiing at near-sea level elevations, this family-friendly resort makes it easy to keep shredding all day long (four days a week night skiing under the lights doesn’t hurt, either). It’s annual snowfall claim is nearly as big as the Alaskan frontier, though a couple of off seasons in 2010-11 (355”) and 2008-09 (467”) have hurt it’s batting average in recent years. Even so, it boasts fresh powder days through 33 percent of its season. Insider’s Tip: Start your day with $9 all-you-can-eat sourdough pancakes from The Bake Shop.
Claimed Snowfall: 650”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $65
Set into the western flank of the Tetons a few hours southwest of Yellowstone and accessible only through Idaho, Grand Targhee isn’t the kind of resort you stumble upon. But it’s worth the trek if you want all the powder of Jackson Hole with none of the lift lines (even with only five lifts). This is wide-open skiing with a rugged, western charm.
Claimed Snowfall: 500+”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $69
Just 23 miles southwest of the vaunted adventure town of Bend, Mt. Bachelor—a 9,065-foot stratovolcano—towers over the surrounding Deschutes National Forest. From the summit (accessed via the Summit Express quad), skiers and riders have terrific Cascades vistas in all directions and 360 degrees of every kind of terrain spread out beneath them. The entire volcano is your oyster—your powder-packed playground of an oyster. Yum!
Claimed Snowfall: 387”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $76
OK, OK—we know that Brighton and Solitude are two separate resorts. But they’re set side-by-side in Big Cottonwood Canyon where they share a boundary and, as Tony Crocker noted, a weather station at 9,400 feet that effectively measures the snowfall of both. They have all the light powder, clear skies and sheer runs that nearby Alta and Snowbird, with none of the lines. Laidback and friendly, both resorts cover roughly 1,200 inbounds acres, but have great access to the backcountry spoils of the Wasatch, including huge cirques and steep, narrow chutes.
Claimed Snowfall: 500+”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $64 at Brighton; $72 at Solitude
The shocking thing about Hood—besides the fact that it’s been blasted with snow in recent years—is that this chunk of volcano is still primarily a locals’ resort for shaggy Portlanders. It gets pounded by wet Pacific storms that lay down a deep base layer on its 2,150 acres of varied terrain. There are bowls, plenty of glades and, for that end-of-the-day long run, three-mile-long cruisers. From the top of Cascade Express, at 7,300 feet, you’ll feel like you can see to the end of the world, to where other Cascades volcanoes—Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters—poke their snowy heads above the clouds 50 miles away.
Claimed Snowfall: 430”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $89
Skiers-only Alta is right next door to #11 Snowbird, but has somehow averaged 130 inches more of Utah’s famously dry, deep powder. Relatively sleepy in comparison to its neighbor, this is a purist’s mountain, priding itself on its classic powder skiing with minimal grooming. In 2002, the two resorts formed a lift-served interconnect, allowing skiers access to a combined 4,700 acres with a single ticket ($104/day). The resulting mega-resort, AltaSnowbird, was voted the #1 resort in the U.S. by Skiing magazine for five years running.
Claimed Snowfall: 560”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $75
This low-key, family-friendly resort has, in recent years, beaten out even Jay Peak, its frozen neighbor to the North, for max snowfall. It may not seem like a lot compared to the rest of this list, but 324 inches is still 27 feet! What’s more, the terrain at Smuggs is as good as any you’ll find in the East—plenty of stash-rich glades and, just out of bounds, wooded bowls and burly chutes. It helps, when you’re puttering uphill on the sluggish double chairs, to think of it as respite for your burning quads rather than an inconvenience.
Claimed Snowfall: 312”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $66
It’s no surprise that Mt. Baker takes the cake; after all, it’s the world record-holder for the most snowfall in a single season—a whopping 1,140 inches that fell during the epic 1998-99 season. This is an old-school kind of place, located at the end of Rte. 542 in the North Cascades, where lift lines are short, amenities are few (there’s no on-mountain lodging, for instance), and skiers are responsible for themselves on terrain that’s nothing if not challenging. The trail map boldly declares “Your safety is NOT guaranteed” and labels deadly inbounds cliffs with skull and crossbones. As you can imagine, there’s great skiing just outside the boundaries, but the mountain’s backcountry policy is that you must always have a partner, avalanche beacon, shovel, probe, and know the avalanche forecast for the day, plus the name and location of your touring plans. In other words, skiing here is no joke—and neither is the snow.
Claimed Snowfall: 647”
Lift Ticket (adult, full day): $54