You've seen the photos -- the ones where the skier looks like he or she needs a snorkel to breathe in the powder so deep that it flies overhead. So where do you go to get those powder face shots?
A couple hints, first. Head away from large metropolitan areas where everyone calls in sick on powder days, tracking up the goods too fast. Look for tree pockets and bowls at the resort, in the lee side of winds where the snow deposits. North side bowls also keep powdery longer without the snow transforming consistency from the sun's heat. Ski with a buddy to be safe, as inbounds avalanches do happen.
The front runs at Lake Louise may get scoured by winds smacking into the Canadian Rockies from the Pacific, but not the back side, where the snow deposits. Over the past several years, the resort expanded its Powder Bowls, a series of open east-facing basins extending across Mt. Whitehorn. Access requires riding the long Summit Platter, no feat for the weak-legged. Bowls closest to the lift ski out first, but then the inbounds hiking fun begins as skiers and riders push northeast into the untouched powder.
Wet coastal weather streams collide with arctic cold at Fernie Alpine Resort to create conditions that drop on average 29 feet of snow each year. Fernie's extensive avalanche program - one of the largest in North America - attests to the powder it receives. Five immense treed east-facing bowls act as collection pots with some stashes retaining freshies well into day two or three. Lift configurations make for easy access to powder shots without hiking.
The Cascade Mountains get slapped in the face with Pacific storms so much that Mt. Baker Ski Area holds the world's ski resort record for snowfall at 1,140 inches in the 1998-99 season. Unfortunately, due to low elevation, sometimes the snow falls in big, wet flakes creating what is nicknamed "Cascade Cement." But at lower temperatures, powder amasses with skiers and riders slicing fresh tracks in Sticky Wicket and trees pockets on White Salmon. Those who fling headers into snowbanks look like white yetis.
The high Teton Mountains keep the powder coming light and dry. After a storm, skiers and riders can find breathing room at Grand Targhee while crowds at Jackson Hole jockey to be the first to nab the slots. Glades on every aspect of the resort trap powder, offering combinations of places to float through thigh-deep pockets. Pick through the Powder Cache on the resort's west end or the Quiver on the east end. In between, every ridge hides places tucked behind trees where you can plunge into powder.
The sheer volume of snow, high elevation, and immensity of Mammoth Mountain combine to make it coveted by powderhounds. When it dumps, it dumps big-sometimes up to five feet of snow in a couple days. Due to high winds during storm cycles, the summit gondola may not open, so head instead to runs protected in the trees off Broadway Express and Cloud Nine Express. Then, hit the east-facing bowls off the summit, which sit in the lee of the blast, on the second day when the sun shines.
Tahoe is notorious for getting storm cycles that dump deep, and Squaw Valley is one resort you can find fresh powder all day. Not all chairlifts open in the morning, as patrol controls for avalanches and crews dig out lifts. Begin in the trees on Red Dog triple until the KT 22 Express opens. As more lifts open, move onto the upper mountain heading for open powder in Siberia and Chicken Bowls. Watch for the opening of Granite Chief in the afternoon: When many skiers bail to the lodge with noodle legs, that's where you'll find afternoon pristine snow.
Utah's Wasatch Range sucks in storms that drop an average of 500 inches of snow each winter. Alta, which does not allow snowboarding, limits the number of skiers, thereby ensuring a powder experience with freshies to be found even into the second day. Natural terrain with abundant features turns the resort into a powder park with spacious bowls like Ballroom garnering tracks as soon as it opens. Protected high elevation gullies and pockets of trees harbor untracked stretches even several days after a storm cycle.
High elevation plus moistures equals dry powder. That formula aids Wolf Creek in garnering the most snow of any of the Colorado resorts. The resort's location off the main Colorado ski corridor and more than 250 miles from Denver protects the powder for those willing to go the distance to get there. Runs drop from a long ridge into the Water Fall area, a powder playground with bowls, trees, and ever-undulating terrain full of often waist-deep pillows.