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Things to know about Skiing in North America

The next winter is on it’s way! As passionate skiers we are planning our personal season. For us, it will be the second season on the North American continent and we are pretty stoked about that. Nevertheless, there are some points you should know about skiing in the US and Canada.

We want to share our experiences with you and like to give some information and tips. We will mention some resorts that are worth a visit, give some hints about ski tickets and present some lessons we learned about the differences between European and North American ski resorts.

Places to go

The United States and Canada are huge! At least, that’s a fact you will find out as soon as you travel through the continent. We are not able to cover all resorts. But, we try to give a brief overview of the areas we have been to.

Last season, we started our road trip in Denver, Colorado. A main reason for that is the circumstance that Denver is located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Thus, it’s a perfect destination to start a trip like ours.

Sure, Colorado is an eldorado for winter sports. There are so many places to go and they are not too far away from Denver. One of our favorite resorts is the Arapahoe Basin. It’s an informal resort with affordable prices and nice lines for backcountry skiing. You should get there early in the morning to snatch a parking lot at The Beach.

Not far from Arapahoe Basin is Copper Mountain. Day passes are not cheap, but the area is nice and easy to reach when you are coming from Denver on I-70. Also, Breckenridge and Keystone are in that area – but we have not been there, so far.

When you are travelling further into the Rockies you can go to Aspen and Snowmass. That area offers four ski resorts whereas each of them has it’s own character. There is Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands. We had a wonderful day at Aspen Mountain with a lot of a off-piste runs and luckily fresh powder.

Another awesome ski resort is Crested Butte. We went there for several days and enjoyed the atmosphere. The people are very relaxed and you have a variety of runs.

In Colorado, of course, there are more awesome ski resorts like Vail, Breckenridge and Winter Park. For sure, you could spend the whole season in Colorado having a lot fun. We did not go skiing in other states of the US. But, there are so much more resorts in other regions!

Whistler Blackcomb might be the most famous ski resort in Canada. It is well known as a scene of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010.

Another resort we recommend to visit is Sunshine Village which is near Banff (Alberta). It is pretty popular for its events during the season. We celebrated the season ending of 2015 at the Slush Cup and had so much fun!

It’s said, that Kicking Horse Mountain, which is close to Golden (BC), has the best snow in North America. Slopes are very steep and if you like shoots, this is the place to go.

Not far from Kicking Horse Mountain is Roger’s Pass. It is popular for ski touring. In case you are an experienced backcountry skier you definitely will find some awesome lines over there. We have never been there. But, the snow conditions seem to be amazing.

Sure, there are so much more skiing resorts in Canada. We won’t ever be able to visit all of them and we just want to give a kind of an overview.

Differences to European Ski Resorts

We grew up in Germany. Therefore we know the Alps pretty well and have been to several ski resorts in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France. There are quite a lot of differences between the resorts in the Alps and the North American resorts.

› Boundaries

In Europe, there are a lot of boundaries. Often, you are not allowed to ski through forests. In North America however, the lift brings you up the mountain and you can ski down pretty much everywhere you want. Obstacles that could become dangerous are marked. If it snowed fresh powder, the lifts do not start running until the Ski Patrol declared them as save.

› Ski Patrol

In North America, there are people called “Ski Patrol”. They have one of the best jobs in the world. They get to ski the whole day. The Ski Patrol makes sure, that nobody is skiing too fast or careless. They have the right to take your lift pass away. Also, they are the first people to help if an accident happens and make sure that all slopes are safe.

› Hüttenkultur

While skiing in North America is a sport, it is a whole experience in the Alps. There is a whole culture around skiing, we were not able to find in North America. During the day, people meet in so called “Hütten” (huts) – really quaint restaurants on the mountain. After an exhausting day of skiing, you can party on the hill – Aprés Ski. In North America, restaurants are way more fast food style.

› Snow

You might have heard about it already – the snow between both continents is different. Not for nothing resorts in North America advertise with “Champagne Powder”. Especially in the Rocky Mountains, which are located far from the ocean and on a pretty high altitude, the snow seems to be a lot drier and powdery than in the Alps. As this might be subjective cognition, you’ll definitely feel the difference.

› Lift Queues

Lift queues in the Alps are very uncivilized while lift queues in North America are very civilized. Often, there are hardly any queues at all. Lifties scan tickets manually in most resorts, while scans in Europe are automatic.

› Pricing

Ski resorts in North America are way more expensive than ski resorts in Europe. Even resorts with old chair lifts charge a lot of money. Day tickets at the big and popular resorts are at around US$ 50 in Europe. In North America you definitely pay way more than US$ 100 for a day pass in the big resorts. That’s a huge difference. Read the next paragraph to get some hints for possibly saving money at North American resorts.

Get your tickets early

When we came to the US last season we had no idea about ski tickets and season passes. Pretty early, we had to learn that the prices for day passes are very high. And we did not want to stay at just one resort.

In case you want to travel to more than one ski resort and you don’t want to spend too much money you have only one chance. Book your tickets early! Depending on your needs there are some possibilities to save money as there are tickets that combine several ski resorts for a fixed price. The only problem is that most of them are sold out before the season really starts. So, be careful and book early!

In the following we represent you a range of passes that are available in general.

The Epic Pass is available in different versions and covers ski resorts in the US but also worldwide. Most of the basic resorts are located in Colorado, Utah and California.

Another concept is offered by the Mountain Collective Pass. It gives you access to 11 ski areas with a limited time of 2 days for each resort. That sounds like the perfect pass for a road trip with low budget. The pass includes areas in Canada as well as in some west coast states of the US.

In case your travels are limited to Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Super Pass might be interesting for you.

If you like to go skiing at the east coast you might choose the M.A.X. Pass which offers 5 days in each of 11 west coast and 11 east coast resorts.

So far, we have covered a lot of areas within the United States. But what about Canada? Probably, the best way to save money for skiing in Canada are the ticket bundle by skicanada.org. It’s available in different versions and offers depending on your choice a lot of included ski resorts. One bundle gives you an amount of 20 day passes.

Finally, your choice is depending on your needs. Where do you want to go and for how long? How much are you able to spend? Check out the linked passes and get your own impression.

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