Showcasing the ten best snowboarding resorts in the world that fulfil most snowboarders demands for powder, parks and apres ski.
1. Tignes, France
The longest season in Europe, the closest slopes to the sun, some of the best powder and, as part of the Espace Killy, 180 miles of pistes: Tignes is the premier snowboarding resort. You will find more boarders here than anywhere else; the big motorway blue runs are perfect for beginners, while the vast off-piste plays host to the Freeride World Tour every year. The snow park at nearby Val d’Isère has great progression on the jumps, and there’s even a lost valley of tunnels and little jumps (great for children) down near the resort. There is also good summer boarding at the Grande Motte, and a summer fun park. The après-ski is preferable to that of Val d’Isère: it’s very relaxed and you can wear your snowboard gear in most of the bars at the bottom of the lifts. There’s no better functioning resort for snowboarding in the world. If you are looking for a cool hotel in Tignes then you won’t be dissapointed as there are loads to chose from.
2. Mayrhofen, Austria
In the heart of the Austrian Alps in the Zillertal valley, Mayrhofen has become the home of Austrian snowboarding. A superb mixture of high-quality freeride terrain, a welcoming and laid-back Tyrolean atmosphere and one of the leading terrain parks in Europe (Vans Penken Park) make Mayrhofen a necessity for any avid snowboarder. The resort also stages some world-class events: the Aesthetiker Jam is a five-star event, and the Snowbombing weekend every year is a great party. Nearby Kaltenbach is great for untracked powder; and the resort’s proximity to the Hintertux Glacier allows for year-round riding.
3. Whistler, Canada
Home to more pro snowboarders than anywhere else on the planet. Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are a boarder’s dream: trees, chutes, bowls, parks and perfect pistes. The town itself feels slightly artificial and twee but it is on the mountain that Whistler distinguishes itself from its competitors. Backcountry riding – accessed by snowmobile – has become very popular.
4. Verbier, Switzerland
Verbier has some of the best freeride and backcountry terrain in the world. The finals of the Freeride World Tour take place annually on the Bec des Rosses, which is one large and dangerous no-fall zone. Mont Gelé is a unique mountain experience in that a single cable-car takes you to more than 11,000ft and to a choice of descents down an unpisted mountain. Freestylers have the use of the 1936 Neipark, which has a good mixture of kickers, boxes and rails. Verbier is also a great place for British snowboard schools: for the best in friendly tuition, use Es-ride.
5. Snowpark, New Zealand
Located between Queenstown and Wanaka in South Island and built as a specific terrain park three years ago, Snowpark features more than 40 kickers, rails, boxes and a world-class superpipe, and has become a must-visit venue for snowboard freestylers. The resort has a selection of pimped condos on the piste with hot tubs and all mod cons. There is night riding on Tuesday and Friday, but the resort has no board hire – so you have to bring your own stuff.
6. Myoko, Japan
The Japanese have embraced snowboarding culture, leading the way with the sport’s innovations. This hidden gem, just two hours from Tokyo on the bullet train, receives 40ft of snow each winter. It offers floodlit terrain parks as well as the unique experience of riding through birch trees. The atmosphere is unmistakably Japanese: most households have mini JCB diggers to clear snow rather than shovels, while a dip in the local hot springs is the perfect way to unwind.
7. Hemsedal, Norway
Hemsedal is a picture-book snowboarding resort just over two hours’ drive from Oslo. It has 25 miles of runs and terrain to appeal to all standards, as well as accessible backcountry, a faultless snow park and even floodlit night riding until 9pm for most of the season. It differs from many other resorts in Norway in that beginners are not forced to use dreaded drag lifts everywhere: the lift system here is quite varied. Hemsedal has been attracting top freestyle riders for years and staged the Arctic Challenge in 2001. Sophisticated but quite expensive après-ski.
8. Avoriaz, France
Designed in the Sixties to blend in with the surrounding rock formations, Avoriaz is one of the first resorts to have a snowboarder-only section, including a pipe, park-and-ride area and its own lift; you can also get a snowboarders’ passport covering all aspects of the resort. Avoriaz is part of Les Portes du Soleil: one of the largest linked areas in the world, including Les Croisets and Morzine, which are top boarding locations in their own right. It is also home to a great array of terrain parks while Burton, the snowboard manufacturer, has created one of its five “The Stash” parks here. Also on offer are quad-biking, snowmobiling and climbing.
9. Revelstoke, Canada
Revelstoke Mountain Resort, located in British Columbia in the Selkirk Mountains, has opened for its second season and is still a work in progress – but might be worth a visit before the crowds get there. It gets on average 40-60ft of snow and offers North America’s greatest continuous vertical drop. Although it is very much a fledgling resort in terms of snow-park development, it offers extensive cat-boarding – riding caterpillar-tracked snowcats to access miles of untracked powder.
10. Livigno, Italy
Not many people think of going to Italy to board, but this is one of the best-kept secrets around. Situated in the northern Italian Alps, Livigno is a duty-free zone and remarkably inexpensive. The town is basically a long road along which free buses run, with wide pistes on either side that are great for beginners. Freeriders can access some of the most beautiful powder fields half an hour’s hike away. The one hitch is the long transfer – more than three hours from Milan – but unlike in duty-free Andorra, you can enjoy fine Italian cuisine.