Want to ski the very best resorts on the planet? We asked 16 top athletes and photographers to reveal their favourite shred spots. Let the powder hunt commence
Professional skiers and photographers. They spend more hours on the snow per year than many of us will in a lifetime. And get to globetrot their way across some of the raddest, snowiest, most sought-after ski spots in Europe, North America, Japan and beyond. So, bearing all that in mind, if they had to choose one ski resort that was their ultimate ride-for-the-rest-of-their-lives favourite, which would they choose? We decided to find out.
It was a question that left many stumped. “Nicola, you are making this hard for me,” declared photographer Brent Benson. “Beyond my home resort [the only rule – no home resorts allowed], picking a favourite ski area is really difficult!” said FWT gold champ Drew Tabke. “That is a hard, hard question,” admitted photographer Adam Clark.
But, after some gentle prodding and probing, we managed to squeeze some answers out of them. And the results were brilliantly varied. Yes, there are the classics like Chamonix, Revelstoke and St Anton, but there are also some little-known gems too. Ever heard of Monts Jura? What about Les Marecottes? Or Alpental? You have now.
Adam Clark, USA. Pro photographer – Whistler/Blackcomb, Canada
This is a hard, hard question. But if I was to choose, based off when it’s at its best, I would have to choose Whistler/Blackcomb – a good day there really is special. Amazing vert, and when the alpine is open and you can do a little hiking you can access some ridiculous lines that are usually saved for backcountry/helis.
I also love Alpental, Washington. A small little spot that is so much fun! When it’s good, it’s so good. Amazing features and terrain.
Seb Michaud, FRA. pro skier – Chamonix, France
Why? First reason is the steepness of terrain from the top of the Aiguille du Midi to the bottom, and there are so many corridors to climb up and ski. During all the winter and spring you can find really good snow every day; you just need to find the right exposure. The panorama is beautiful too.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is another one of my best places, with lots of big cliffs to drop. Backcountry in the US is prohibited, but in Jackson you can use the special backcountry gates when ski patrol decide to open them.
Elliott Bernhagen, USA. Pro photographer – Whistler, Canada
I have barely ridden resorts in the last six years, preferring to stick to the endless terrain and deep powder of the backcountry. That being said, I would say that Whistler seems to be the best overall resort I have ridden. It has wild terrain, huge parks and good backcountry access.
A close second would be Revelstoke, with over a vertical mile of incredible terrain, when it’s pow to the bottom you can’t beat it. I love powder. The huge boulder ridden mountains of British Columbia create pillow skiing unrivalled in the world.
Revelstoke, home of epic lift-served backcountry | Eric Berger
Samuel Anthamatten, SUI. Pro skier – Valais resorts, Switzerland
My Number 1 ski resort? The whole Valais region! Every year I get the ski pass for the whole area. This allows me to ski over 15 resorts, including places like Verbier and Zermatt. So depending on snow conditions you can choose the best spot for the best snow. Sometimes I ski deep powder in the morning at one resort, and change to another for perfect spring snow in the afternoon. Second in line would have to be Hakkuba, Japan: deep powder, long runs and sushi!
Graham Bell, UK. Former Olympic skier & TV presenter – St Anton, Austria
My Number 1 resort? St Anton, for the accessibility of the off-piste and ski touring.
Brent Benson, USA. Pro photographer – Engelberg, Switzerland
Why? Because of the Steinberg glacier, a huge off-piste run you reach when you step out of the Titlis Rotair cable car. It has everything from steep chutes to mellow powder fields. Engelberg has great snow and great lighting for photos too.
My second favourite would have to be Revelstoke, Canada, because of the terrain and snow quality. Revelstoke is like skiing lift-served backcountry – it has big terrain and lots of short inbound hikes.
Engelberg: great snow, great lighting |Roger Gruetter
Drew Tabke, USA. Pro skier – Courmayeur, Italy
Beyond my home resort (Crystal Mountain, Washington State), picking a favourite ski area is really difficult! I like small ski hills for the relaxed vibe. I like huge resorts like Chamonix for the extreme terrain and super-high athletic level of the local riders and guides. I love resorts in Chile because they give you access to the high Andes where there is unlimited potential to explore.
But, if I have to choose one resort it would be Courmayeur. It seems like it is either really sunny, or snowing an incredible amount. The views of the south side of Monte Bianco are some of the most impressive in the world. There is some really good ski touring accessed off the top of the resort. The vibe in town is really relaxed and a great place to hang out and have a coffee or gelato, and the food is unbelievable. Plus, the Helbronner cable car offers access to huge descents in an uncontrolled, high-mountain environment.
Stef Godin, FRA. Pro photographer – Monts Jura, France
It is a small French ski resort in the Jura mountains, just an hour from Geneva. It is not a big resort like the ones you can find in Alps. It’s more like a north European resort. It can be cold, it can be windy. The mountains aren’t steep, the slopes aren’t long, and the chairlifts aren’t fast, but it is a wonderful place for ski touring. I love making fresh tracks through the frozen firs, a tremendous panorama in front of me: views over the Swiss Alps towards Geneva and Lac Léman, Mont Blanc in the distance.
Katie Summerhayes, UK. Pro skier – Breckenridge, USA
It just has so much different terrain and such a good park with so much to do! It’s also a beautiful place with lovely people. When I’m not in the park in Breck, you will probably find me skiing in the trees. There are so many fun options and tree lines. But I also love cruising the piste!
Breckenridge: A freestyler’s haven | Aaron Dodds
Ingrid Backstrom, USA. Pro skier – Whistler, Canada
It’s huge and it has amazing terrain – steep and long runs with really easy access to everything. Plus it has great tree and pillow skiing, as well as good chutes and wide open runs in the alpine, and excellent backcountry access. Also, I like the snow to be a bit more maritime with some moisture in it so it sticks to the steep stuff, and Whistler has this kind of snow most of the time. It will be raining down in the village, but you head up to the top of the mountain there’s powder and no one skiing!
I also love Chamonix. The area is massive and has incredible mountains, plus the craziest system of lifts and access I’ve seen anywhere. When the snow is good all the way to the valley floor, it has some of the longest, steepest, most interesting runs I’ve ever ridden.
Grant Gunderson, USA. Pro photographer – Revelstoke, Canada
Revelstoke truly is a special place. No place else has such consistently good snow conditions, as is evidenced by the majority of BC’s heli skiing outfits being based out of there. But you don’t have to heli to get great skiing. With the large vertical and huge acreage available at the ski area, all serviced by just three lifts, there is no shortage of powder to go around. Think of Whistler 30 years ago before the crowds discovered it.
My favourite aspect of skiing the area is the large vertical you get on each lap, skiing to the valley bottom, all the while taking in the amazing backdrop of some of BC’s most impressive mountain ranges (the Selkirk and Monashee’s come together at Revelstoke).
Paddy Graham, UK. Pro skier – Arlberg resorts, Austria
It has to be the Arlberg region and the resorts of St Anton, Zürs and Stuben. It’s a huge area with great lift access and something for all weather and conditions. There’s a new lift system going in up at Zürs this summer which will open up a lot more terrain that was only accessible by foot before, so maybe the good stuff will be getting a little more crowded… but there’s plenty more to explore!
High alpine eat your heart out – The Arlberg|TVB St. Anton am Arlberg/ Josef Mallaun
Reine Barkered, SWE. Pro skier – St Anton, Austria
My favourite ski resort, if I can’t say my home (Åre, Sweden), would be St Anton. Great terrain with everything from high alpine to pillow lines. I love to ski mini golf terrain, places where you can bomb down and send a huge drop without have to worry about too much exposure below. Also, it’s easier to stay safer from avalanches. My second favourite has to be Squaw Valley, California, mostly for the stoke factor – people are sending it and are equally stoked when you are.
Jeremy Bernard, FRA. Pro photographer – Chamonix, France
Chamonix is definitely not the place for a family ski trip on the groomers, but for freeskiing it is absolutely the one resort I consider as the best in the world. Everytime I go there, I’m always amazed by the beauty of the place. And even when faced with the worst conditions ever, you’ll be able to ski something and have fun. You have massive glaciers all around and a gondola that brings you from 1000m to 3800m in 30 minutes. From the mellow Mer de Glace to steep skiing around the Aiguille du Midi and the rest of the Mont Blanc massif, there are endless possibilities.
My second favourite? Les Marecottes. It’s very small (one chairlift) but it often gets more snow than anywhere else in the Swiss and French Alps. I can’t say more about it since it’s too small to share with thousands of skiers. I can only say one thing: I’ve done my best powder runs there over the past five years.
Pat Sharples, UK. GB Park and Pipe head ski coach – Courchevel, France
Courchevel, 100%! It was the first place I did a winter season and I ended up calling it my home for over 12 years. It has some of the best terrain in the world and never gets boring; I can always find new areas to challenge myself and I still know all those little secret areas to get some fresh pow even if it hasn’t snowed in a week. The Chapelets area by the Signal chair in Courchevel 1650 is a favourite – after a snow fall there is some great tree skiing to be had.
Courcheval gets Pat Sharples’ vote |David Andre
Tatum Monod, CAN. Pro skier – Whistler/Blackcomb, Canada
Every day I ski that mountain I find new lines, hits and areas I’ve never been to before, which keeps things interesting. I like skiing steep technical terrain. Even if there’s not a ton of pow I find it fun when I’m skiing the resort to challenge myself in difficult terrain with tough snow conditions. I’m a big fan of Revelstoke too. It has some of the funnest terrain and the snow always seems to be deep.