So it appears that El Niño has started to fulfill its promise of sending hefty snow storms to the western ski resorts of North America. Across the West, resorts have been measuring snow in feet rather than inches for weeks. What the 2015-16 ski season will look like by mid-winter is anyone’s guess, but it is looking really, really good so far.
And when the pow hits, where do Inspirato members want to be? Definitely these bowls, where the natural contours of the mountain trap deep amounts of powder that can stay untracked for days. Here are the top bowls to ski and ride.
Liberty Bowl at Big Sky Resort (More Difficult)
Big Sky Resort in Montana is one of Inspirato’s newest destinations, and if you haven’t been there yet, I know you’re going to love it. Newcomers to this mountain are often stunned at just how enormous it is; at 5,800 acres, it is second only to Whistler-Blackcomb in North America.
The showstopper terrain-wise at Big Sky Resort is Liberty Bowl, accessed off the Lone Peak Tram from the 11,166-foot summit of the gondola’s namesake. On clear days, views from Liberty Bowl stretch into Wyoming and Idaho. You can even see the Tetons if you look close enough (which means everything in between you and the peaks is Yellowstone National Park). After a 2,000-foot descent, you reach the sublime gladed terrain of the Bavarian Forest. View Big Sky residences.
Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands (Expert)
While the four mountains of Aspen Snowmass each have their own personality, there is no denying which mountain is the favorite for locals. Aspen Highlands — with its abundance of expert terrain, views of Maroon Bells, and crazy aprés ski scene at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro — is the place to go on a powder day. And this is not just because of the stashes of pow hiding in the trees off the Temerity Lift (which are incredible). It’s because of Highland Bowl.
From above the Loge Peak lift, skiers and riders must hike the exposed ridge of 12,392-foot Highland Peak until they see a line down the bowl that is suited to their liking. Each line is rated double-black diamond, but the reward for all this effort is truly paid back in full. Few mountains in North America can deliver such a backcountry feel within-bounds as Highland Peak. View Aspen residences.
Inner & Outer Mongolia Bowl at Vail (More Difficult)
Mention the word “bowls” to any skier or snowboarder in North America, and they will probably think of the legendary Back Bowls of Vail. Here, a series of undulating depressions in the mountain range offers up six bowls that take days to explore.
Sun Up, Sun Down and China Bowls rightly get a lot of the attention. It’s not often that intermediate skiers can enjoy bowl terrain, but that is exactly what some of the more central lines in these bowls offer. The issue? They get “tracked out” in a hurry on powder days.
The same cannot be said for Inner and Outer Mongolia Bowls, the two bowls situated furthest east on the ridge. They take a bit of effort to reach — including a long but easy ridgetop traverse to the Mongolia Lift — but once you are there, untouched deeps and steeps are yours for the taking. Oh, and the views are stellar, too. View Vail residences.
Rendezvous Bowl at Jackson Hole (More Advanced)
It’s been said that there are two types of people who travel to Jackson Hole for skiing or snowboarding: those who love the area, and those who want a challenge. In other words, you don’t just end up in Jackson Hole without a purpose.
If you are here for a challenge, then you will fulfill your purpose from the very top of the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram. As tempting as it may be to hang to skier’s left to see the action at Corbet’s Couloir, instead proceed to skier’s right for one of North America’s most legendary bowls, Rendezvous. It starts off broad, steep and deep, eventually revealing some serious expert challenges (think chutes and trees) toward the bottom. You can then complete your epic “T-to-B” run by connecting to the steep Hoback runs for excellent glade skiing. View Jackson Hole residences.