The Best Backcountry Ski Resorts
When it comes to heading Hors Piste, not all ski resorts are created equal, so we asked our expert staff of backcountry power hounds, ski tourers and seasonaires for their personal recommendations. If you're looking to hit tree lines, pillow lines or endless slopes of untracked, pristine powder, these destinations are for you...
PICOS DE EUROPA,
"The Picos de Europa is located in Northern Spain close to The Cantábrico Sea. This is a remarkable limestone mountain range it's not a ski resort but does have good access by car. There are no chairlifts, pommas or T-bars - you don't need them. You will skin up amazing slopes above 2000m."
"Through its three massifs - The Western, Centre and Eastern - there are hundreds of beautiful skiing lines, some steeper than others. The proximity of the mountains to each other means you can cover a huge distance in one day. If you're looking to explore for longer, you can stay in one of the basic mountain huts that dot the unforgettable landscape."
"The best time to organize a ski touring-backcountry trip through Picos de Europa is April - May when the sunny days are more regular, there's nice spring snow and the avalanche hazards are very low."
"Picos de Europa is the perfect location for playful ski mountaineering which suits every type of skier looking for a new astounding off-piste ski location, from intermediate to advanced."
- Dani, Aviemore Store
"The Tatra range is an alpine environment with great touring routes, and very diverse, too! You can go to the western part and enjoy rolling hills or to the High Tatras for granite rock and more jagged landscape. The accommodation is second to none with a great network of huts in the mountains offering possibilities of big tours or just one day outings. It's cheap, diverse, and accessible and gives you eastern European exotics!"
- Simon, Manchester Deansgate Store
"Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia boasts North America's largest vertical (5620ft). Although the resort only has three main lifts, the terrain accessible from the lifts is incredible. With some of the best tree skiing in the world and powder that is only a dream for most, Revelstoke should be on everyone's list. For those who want to venture out of bounds there is incredible riding to be had in the surrounding bowls, and this is where Revelstoke runs its cat skiing operation. The north bowl of Revelstoke is where the magic really happens and there are some amazing lines to be found. A small hike from the top of "The Stoke" chair bring you into the bowl and as you descend you are treated to lovely cliff drops and BC pillow lines the whole way. The town itself is a proper ski town with lots of its railroad heritage still on show. The resort is a Mecca for freeriders and seems to encourage everyone who rides there to progress."
- Barry, Braehead Store
Image: La Plagne
"I really enjoy the backcountry La Plagne has to offer. Twinned with Les Arcs it is not only now a massive ski area but also has a lot of terrain. Most resorts i find you need to go up high to find the off piste. I was there when the snow didnt stop dumping ( I know, how frustrating is that!). A lot of the higher lifts were closed and we ended up finding some great valleys underneath the Arpette lift. I find tree skiing and glades are hard to find in France, but La Plagne definitely had enough to keep us going. Whilst there, we met a French couple who lived there. They assured us that there is some seriously epic off piste to be had up high, off the side of the Glacier Bellecote – its on the list for next time…"
- Simon, Cambridge Store
"Just 13km from Whistler and you feel like backcountry can get no more remote or pure than this. This area is only accessed by snowcat, skidoo or skinning. The website calls it 'a golden gem for the powder hound... And probably Whistler's best kept secret' and it's easy to see why. This place is spectacular and with just one lodge located within the area that can sleep 24 people you may not see or hear another soul all day. The skin up is about 2 hours and the area offers boundless and epic untracked tree riding. The average snowfall here is 6m and I guarantee once you've been riding here you'll want to return again and again."
- Mark Brigham
"The Dolomites are a superb playground for those who want to get away from the pistes and into the backcountry. Although not as well-known and well-established as an amazing Alpine ski area, the many valleys that thread their way through the towers and walls of the Dolomites give access to many great ski-mountaineering and touring objectives. Check out the Fanes-Sennes area, using the Rifugio Fanes as a base to reach many well-documented tours; the Val di Fassa, which has many routes leading off the main valley to the likes of the Vajolet towers and Val San Nicolo; and Lagazuoi – Cortina where axe and crampons will come in handy to overcome the ascent of Forcella di Lago before the descent into the stunning valleys beyond!"
- Ben, Fort William Store
"Treble Cone nestles in the Southern Alps beside Lake Wanaka. The largest of New Zealand's ski fields, it is the hub of the country's backcountry scene, playing host to some of the world's finest lift-accessible off-piste terrain. When the powder arrives, Treble Cone comes into its own, opening its legendary Motatapu Chutes - a series of patrolled couloirs that offer advanced skiers and snowboarders a chance to sample legendary lines with only a short hike back to the lifts. For touring purists a discounted backcountry access pass is super cheap. Dropping off the back of the summit ridge takes you into Mount Aspiring National Park, and miles of untouched valleys as far as the eye can see!"
- Mike, Web Dept
"My favourite resort for touring/backcountry is Zermatt, Switzerland. The sheer amount of skiing is incredible with 38 peaks, 360km of pistes and more than 10 itinerary runs. One of my favourite things about this place is how easily accessed a lot of the backcountry is and that you can ascend over 2000m and descend back-country over 1000m at a time. Zermatt's altitude means it always has snow and ensures that the views over the Alps are stunning. The town is lovely and traditional and quiet as only electric buggies can be used."
- Zak, Kensington Store
About the Author:
Mike Humphreys - Online Content
Mike is a keen cyclist, snowboarder, trail runner and hillwalker. He has travelled extensively, spending a year living out of a van in New Zealand before joining Ellis Brigham four years ago. Can usually be found walking his dog or tortoise.