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Top 10: Skiers and Boarders


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You see it more and more these days: mixed company. Cats hanging out with dogs. Democrats and Republicans. Skiers and snowboarders. But sliding with your snowboarding brethren doesn’t mean you’re destined to spend your vacation navigating the world’s biggest halfpipe. Most snowboarders look for the same things skiers do — deep snow, fun runs, few crowds, and a kick-back attitude. They just don’t want mazes of flats and leg-cramping traverses. Here are 10 spots where everyone will be happy, whether you worship the Pipe Dragon or not.

Even if it’s raining at the base, 250 feet above sea level, it’ll be dumping on top, high above tree line. Alyeska draws its equal mix of skiers and boarders mainly from Anchorage, 40 miles away, and locals are happy to point you to the goods. If you have the huevos, head for Lolo’s Leap, a series of 10- to 30-foot launches through a cascading tree run.

BIG SKY, Montana
Forty-five miles from Bozeman, Big Sky isn’t really near anywhere; that and its vast terrain keep things uncrowded, something any snow slider will appreciate. Expert boarders go for the highly technical, above-tree-line steeps of Lone Peak — no traversing involved. The white knuckles many experience at the top of these runs don’t discriminate on the basis of gear. Neither does the perilously winding staircase of Lolo’s Saloon, one of the mountain’s hardest descents.

Top riders flock to this area near Salt Lake for magazine and video shoots; natural hits everywhere make it an ideal spot for launching air. But there are also plenty of long groomers — not to mention the hike-to chutes of the Wolverine Cirque. The Big Cottonwood Canyon location means the dumps can equal those of Snowbird and Alta, one canyon over, but without the same accumulation of people.

Few other North American resorts offer the same top-to-bottom thigh-burning vertical, with just about every kind of terrain on the way down. Snowboarders head for places like Dick’s Ditch, a naturally formed halfpipe, and the OB of Rock Springs Canyon, from which they can coast out to the lower Hobacks without having to hike — something that any skier can go along with.

KIRKWOOD, California
Let the mobs go to Squaw or Heavenly. A sometimes sketchy 35-mile drive south of Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood has one of the highest base areas, some of the shortest lift lines, and the most down-to-earth attitude in the region. Traverse over to Palisades Bowl for widely spaced trees and board-worthy gullies, where stashes last up to four days after a Sierra storm. On Thunder Saddle, choose your width: 1-Man Chute or 2-Man Chute. Or leap off The Wall’s cornice into double blacks.

With a monster season from October to July, Mammoth is the top choice of snow bums of any stripe looking for turns when everyone else is at the beach. Three terrain parks — each for a different ability level — mean there’s plenty of room for skiers and boarders to throw their tricks. On powder days, Scotty’s, Climax, and the Paranoids are just a few of the many reasons for Mammoth’s stellar rep.

MOUNT BAKER, Washington
Bottomless snow (almost 650 inches annually), steep terrain, easy-access backcountry, and snowboard legend Craig Kelly have all put Baker on the map. “There’s no tension here — just hardcore skiers and boarders feeding off each other’s energy,” says former snowboard world champ Amy Howat. Check out Baker’s natural halfpipe, site of the annual Banked Slalom, the world’s longest-running international snowboard race.

STRATTON,, Vermont
Stratton’s long snowboarding pedigree dates back to when Jake Burton was developing the modern board. Each year the resort hosts the U.S. Open, still the world’s most important snowboard competition. A 1930s diner is plopped in the middle of one terrain park — huck that. The whole mountain is chock full of hits. In fact, when Microsoft used Stratton as a model for its new snowboarding video game, Amped, every single foot of the area was filmed.

With three halfpipes and four terrain parks, sprawling Sunday River is a new schooler’s dream. If you wanted to, you could lose your snowboarding buddies for good among the resort’s seven peaks. But you’ll see eye to eye on the snow quality. The snowmaking capacity and grooming horsepower is among the burliest in the East, ensuring that you’ll spend happy hours carving up the corduroy together.

WOLF CREEK, Colorado
Retro-style Wolf Creek, in southern Colorado, feels a lot bigger than it is — the whole front side of the mountain is like one enormous, untamed terrain park, with endless glades, steeps, and gullies. Located atop Wolf Creek Pass (a name that strikes fear into truckers), the ski area sucks in storms that reliably produce more snow than anywhere else in the state. Bonus: It often gets early-season powder.