Choosing where to go snowboarding isn’t always an easy decision. The combination of expense, a huge variety of resorts, and variable snow conditions make it tough. You don’t want to make a bad choice when you’re spending a lot of money! So what is it that you’re looking for in a resort? What makes a snowboarding destination tick for you?
Snow record. Will the snow be good? Will there be fresh snow? You don’t want closed runs or patchy areas. If it hasn’t snowed for a while the slopes will be icy in places. Snow is a fundamental aspect of snowboarding and some resorts have more of it than others – they’ve got a better track record.
Easy to travel to. Being close is a bonus. It will take less time to get there, and most likely, it will cost less. And what about the transfer at the other end? Are you put off by a 4 hour transfer after flying already? Some resorts are close to airports, and some of those airports are good for flying into. Is that a consideration for you? Or does the travel pale in significance compared to the quality of the resort?
Falling within budget. A similar consideration to travel, cost can be a huge factor in the decision making process. If you’re based in the UK for example, France is simply easier and cheaper to get to than other destinations, further afield. Has that stopped you from trying the USA, Canada or even Japan?
Within a country, some resorts are more expensive than others. Are you drawn to areas that provide good deals, or do you like the “up market” feel that some places have? How important is a cheap deal?
Piste, Park or Powder? Miles of piste, acres to explore, complete as many runs as possible between first and last lift: is that your thing? Or you perhaps more interested in the snowboard park? Freestyle is the top priority, whether it be the man made park or the natural hits scattered around the mountain – interesting pistes with a lot of good side hits?
Powder – is that the top of the list? This goes hand in hand with a decent snow record, but it’s also important for there to be good terrain. Are you interested in resorts with easily accessible off-pitst? Or do you prefer to adventure a little more, hoping for a resort with good slackcountry? Maybe you want an area that has a catboarding operation near by?
Beginner suitability. Are you new to snowboarding? Maybe you’ve got some beginners in the group? If so, you’re probably looking for a destination that’s got some decent slopes for the beginners. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck on narrow trails or greens with too much flat.
Accommodation options. How important is the roof over your head? Are you looking for a top class, luxury chalet with all the nice touches like a hot-tub; or is a tiny appartment crammed with you and your mates just fine? Some resorts offer predominantly hotels and apartments, others have a good selection of chalet-style accommodation. Then there is the choice of being close to the slopes, perhaps even ski-in ski-out. Do you have a particular favourite?
There’s no doubt that nice accommodation can make your snowboard trip more comfortable, relaxing, and perhaps enjoyable – but it’s also more expensive. How secondary is that to the snowboarding itself?
A good town. Apres beers, eating out, partying – is that the other half of a snowboarding trip for you, or is it a smaller portion? Maybe you like to soak up a traditional atmosphere – a town or village with real character… Some resorts have an interesting town at their heart, others are more man-made, while some have not much more than a few apartments and a hotel. How heavily does the town feature in your plans, and what things are you looking for?
My Short List
For me, a resort needs to be good for freestyle. A good park is always a good starting point, but natural hits are important too. I’m not down with loads of flat, empty, motorway pistes. I want variation; I’ve been impressed by places like Chamonix and Fernie with their range of natural hits around the slopes.
I’m also looking for a good snow record, with good off-piste potential. I’m happier in this regard if I or someone with us knows the area. I don’t like the prospect of a powder day with nowhere to go.
I like good accommodation: it’s a holiday and I’m travelling, so it’s nice to have somewhere good to stay at the other end. That said, I’d happily swap that for less-good accommodation if the location was good, and there was somewhere decent to get drinks and food on the evening. I want the evenings to be fun – and that could come from either a good apartment or a good town. A good pint off the hill ranks highly in my book.
Ease of travel and budget do factor into the equation, but if I can afford it, it’s the other stuff that’s most important. If I’ve found the place I like, I won’t look somewhere cheaper just to save cash.
Of the places that I’ve visited, Chamonix, Morzine/Avoriaz, Tignes and Fernie fit the bill well. I’m not sure about Fernie because of the resort/town setup and the lack of park. That said, the mountain is awesome. I’d like to refresh my opinion of Tignes, especially now that I’m more comfortable off-piste. I had one of my best trips ever in Laax, despite it not fitting the mould as closely as others.
As for where I’d like to go next, the two places that spring to mind that I think will fit the bill, are Whistler and Breck.
What’s on your short list?
Have your say. Which of those issues are important to you and which are you not that interested in? What can’t you live without? Which resorts have delivered for you, and which haven’t quite measured up. Drop a comment.