Snowboarding has a curious pull. A single lucky day, when the skies part after a driving storm, or you rock up to a freshly cut superpipe, or even when you link a pair of turns on the beginner hill, and the cycle begins. You’ll do anything to ride. The financial deathgrip of a hardcore addiction sets in, and Bam!, bank accounts are drained, and credit cards are maxed-out as if the bills will never arrive. I’ll just keep moving, you think. There are so many mountains.
Yesterday’s shreddin’ dirtbags now make up more than 70 percent of resort-riding populations at some mountains (the rest are mostly skiers and snowlerbladers, some sledders and “scenic chairlift rides” should also be factored in). Snowboarding’s still the “fastest growing sport in America”—the number of snowboarders in the U.S. increased to over seven million during the 2000/01 season, and those riders bought somewhere around 16.1 million lift tickets—a pretty decent sum of money when you consider that a ticket at even the lamest resorts costs about 50 bucks.
What does this have to do with the best parks and pipes in North America? There’s power in numbers. Remember that time you showed up at fill in the blank resort back in ’91 and got denied access because you were a snowboarder? How about the rich homeowners or ski patrollers who made a day of riding less fun for you and your friends? What about the last time you shelled out 60 bucks—60 damn dollars that you had to work for—to ride a mountain where the pipe gets groomed less often than your dog and the park is made up of a handful of second-rate obstacles, all with predictably flat landings? No, no, no. None of these places deserve your money. The fat presidents of resort conglomerates won’t pay for that third wife’s “augmentation” with snowboarding dollars.
But some resorts cater specifically to snowboarders as if we were snow-slidin’ royalty. They dream up better parks than we could during a whole day in school; they invest the money in a staff to maintain hits and rails; and they don’t skimp on pipe-cutting machines when transitions get bigger … and bigger. Resorts do all this because they recognize the value of snowboarders, and they know we have choices.
Where are the best parks and pipes in North America, and which are the best overall mountains to ride? Listen to what your snowboarding brothers and sisters—locals everywhere—had to say, these are the mountains worth riding.
TransWorld SNOWboarding is only a few editors, some art people, and a 10:00-a.m. photo editor, so we can’t make it to every mountain every winter. That’s why we called on the mag’s readers—the consumers of lift tickets, season passes, and all those slices of greasy day-lodge pizza—to let everyone else who rides know what’s up and where to go.
We mailed out thousands of surveys and asked readers to rank up to three resorts they’d actually ridden during the 2000/01 season. Readers scored each mountain in three main categories: Park, Pipe, and General Resort Info. Because parks and pipes are the clearest way a resort can show its dedication to snowboarders, both weighed heavily in the survey—park and pipe scores led us to the Best Park and Best Pipe titles, and they made up two-thirds of the overall rankings.
Each category had a number of criteria that were judged. Parks were scored on both jumps and handrails—a total of eleven different aspects. Halfpipes were scored in five categories: Design, Grooming, Variety, Challenge, and Overall Halfpipe Rating.
The third piece of the pie was General Resort Info. This section took into account things like: Value, Challenge, Lifts, Nightlife, Lodging, etc., a total of ten categories.
The number of times each resort was scored also factored-in. If a resort didn’t show up on at least 20 ballots, it wasn’t included. This minimum keeps that one rider, who works for the mountain, from throwing things off and rewards the mountains more of our readers ride.
For in-depth scoring and a break down on each mountain’s high and low scores, go to transworldsnowboarding.com/parkandpipesurvey. You’ll also find the actual specs to the best park and best pipe online.
(number one icon)
Snow Summit, California
Park Score: 8.81
Snow Summit’s number-one ranking in the park category needs no explanation. It all started at the So Cal hot spot back in ’94, when the notorious mile-long Westridge became the first full-run park in the country.
The commitment hasn’t waned, as the resort’s five parks (including the limited-access Ego Trip Super Park) continue to act as a laboratory for designer Chris Gunnarson and Snow Park Technologies.
Summit does its part to keep the exposure coming by hosting events like the Vans Triple Crown, and TransWorld SNOWboarding’s Team Challenge. In turn, more pros cross the handrails and air space of Snow Summit than almost any other resort, and their input keeps the mountain one step ahead.
To see what Dave Downing has to say about Snow Summit, check out page 80.
1. Snow Summit, California: 8.81
2. Mammoth Mountain, California: 8.79
3. Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C., Canada: 8.78
4. Breckenridge, Colorado: 8.64
5. Timberline, Oregon: 8.36
6. Vail, Colorado: 8.25
7. The Canyons, Utah: 8.1 (tie)
7. Mt. Hood Meadows: 8.1 (tie)
9. Mt. Snow, Vermont: 7.81
10. Okemo, Vermont: 7.8
(number one icon)
Pipe Score: 8.625
With consistent dedication to snowmaking and terrain, and the burgeoning Freeway Eight park scene, Breckenridge is on track to reclaim its late-80s stature as the snowboarder’s mountain.Not only has Breck been backing snowboarders and erecting killer pipes since 1986, it was also the first resort in the country to buy a Super Pipe Dragon.
It’s quality, not quantity that marks Breck’s approach to the pipe and park. Early-season contests ensure that the superpipe is up and running by the beginning of December (Breck traditionally hosts the Vans Triple Crown and the Chevy Trucks U.S. Grand Prix.), and a healthy crop of local pro riders like Nic Drago, Chad Otterstrom, and Doran Layborn feed park designer Kurt Rein with input.
A typically Colorado town, cool local scene, and well-endowed life after dark complement Breck’s overall package, but the number-one pipe and solid park scores are what landed the king of Summit County in the top three overall, just ahead of parent-company sibling Vail.
See page 88 for more on Breckenridge.
1. Breckenridge, Colorado: 8.625
2. Mammoth Mountain, California: 8.62
3. Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C., Canada: 8.56
4. Vail, Colorado: 8.25 (tie)
4. Timberline, Oregon: 8.25 (tie)
6. Okemo, Vermont: 8
7. Copper Mountain, Colorado: 7.92 (tie)
7. Mt. Snow, Vermont: 7.92 (tie)
9. Mt. Hood Meadows: 7.73
10. Killington, Vermont: 7.72
Best Overall Resort
(number one icon)
Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C., Canada
Total Overall Score: 8.94
When you tally up the combined offerings of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, it’s a hard-to-beat package. Park and pipe points played a big role in the rankings, but it was the General category—upped by peerless freeriding and the village of Whistler—that pushed the mecca past Mammoth Mountain, making it the number-one overall snowboard resort in North America.
Open early, with a snowpack that makes most other resorts look stupid, Whistler/Blackcomb is predictably the home of many pro transplants.
Third-ranked parks and pipes are reason enough to make your way to Whistler/Blackcomb, not to mention the surrounding backcountry (there are two heli-operations in town) and near
ly year-round riding on the Palmer Glacier.
To top it all off, Whistler Village is one of the coolest places to play hacky sack in the whole snowboarding world—you hippie. Shopping, sushi, and a smorgasbord of visiting “talent,” all add up to a memorable stay at half the price. That’s right, Canada’s economy is just slightly stronger than that of our Southern (and less cocky) neighbor, so the price is definitely right.
For more on Whistler/Blackcomb, check out Lukas Huffman’s story on page 64.
Top-Ten Overall Snowboard Resorts
1. Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C., Canada
2. Mammoth Mountain, California
Total Overall Score: 8.89
3. Breckenridge, Colorado
Total Overall Score: 8.5
4. Vail, Colorado
Total Overall Score: 8.45
5. Timberline, Oregon
Total Overall Score: 8.36
7. Mt. Hood Meadows, Oregon
Total Overall Score: 8.05
8. Copper Mountain, Colorado
Total Overall Score: 8.03
9. Mount Snow, Vermont
Total Overall Score: 7.83
10. Okemo, Vermont
Total Overall Score: 7.73
Mammoth Mountain, California
This hurts. Like any smart and proud Americans, we put our money on Mammoth Mountain. The Eastern Sierra giant has stepped to the plate over the last few years, bettering its unequaled freeriding terrain with a bewildering array of parks and pipes.
Mammoth is the official runner-up in this year’s poll, placing second in all three categories: Park, Pipe, and Overall. With a long season, and more attention to maintaining its riding features than almost anywhere else, Mammoth is one of the surest bets in snowboarding. The beast has also shaken its wrap as a commuter resort—LA drivers don’t think twice about pounding the pavement of Highway 395 for six hours—now it’s all about destination. More pros have ditched their hometowns and emigrated to Mammoth than anywhere in the history of snowboarding. Want to check out the new pool of young East Coast talent? Just exit Mammoth Lakes Junction 203; they’re up there riding with Kevin Jones, Tara Dakides, and other locals.