Ready to get your goggle tan on? A recipe of snow and sun on the slopes can do it. Traipse northward through the Rocky Mountains and you’ll find sunny surprises for skiing and riding.
1. Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Sun Factor: Sperling’s Best Places counts 290 days per year of sunshine in Taos Ski Valley. By the resort’s estimation, the slopes surpass more than 300 sunny days. The 12,481-foot summit of Kachina Peak collects the snow while the southwestern latitude pops the sun back out as soon as snowstorms pass.
Why go? Taos increased its snowmaking capacity to get an earlier jump on the season. But machine-made snow also beefs up the snowpack to stand up against the warming temps of spring, especially in high traffic zones. To dive into deeper natural snow head up the Kachina Peak Lift installed last year, where higher elevations harbor the goods. Capture the sunshine at Taos through April 3.
A snowboarder enjoys a groomer at Aspen Highlands.
Copyright: Scott Markewitz Photography, Inc.
2. Aspen Snowmass, Colorado
Sun Factor: West of the Continental Divide in Colorado, the Elk Mountains around Aspen garner 246 days of sunshine, according to Sperling’s. Although lower elevation conditions soften early, the snow at higher elevations can stay. Go to Aspen Highlands, or to get to the highest elevation ski or ride Snowmass to 11,852 feet in elevation.
Why go? At Snowmass, High Alpine Chair was converted this winter into a high-speed quad. The new lift whittles the ride time down to 5.6 minutes, about twice as fast as the previous lift; that means more laps up high where the snow stays in better shape. Hiking can take you to higher elevations where you can soak up the sun well into April. Buttermilk, Snowmass and Highlands close first, but Aspen Mountain is slated to stay open until April 17.
Reconstruction of the iconic Sun Valley Lodge brought out a more modern look.
Copyright: Kevin Syms/ Sun Valley Resort
3. Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Factor: Sperling’s tallies up 205 days annually of sunshine in Sun Valley. Sun Valley’s immense snowmaking system fortifies the snowpack to survive the stronger rays and additional daylight of spring. Atop the 9,150-foot summit of Bald Mountain—which retains the snow—play in the immense, high-elevation bowl from Seattle Ridge and Mayday lifts. Then, on the long descent to the base, revel in corn snow turns.
Why go? To celebrate its 80th anniversary, the resort renovated Sun Valley Lodge. No longer a vintage luxury hotel, the iconic lodge now sports an updated look with larger rooms and modern amenities. Upgrades include a grander entrance, updated lobby, revamped restaurants and a 20,000-square-foot spa. Nab the sun at Sun Valley until closing day on April 15.
Fresh powder and sunshine in the new zone at Sun Peaks.
Copyright: Sun Peaks Resort
4. Sun Peaks Resort, British Columbia
Sun Factor: As the name suggests, Sun Peaks garners its share of sun despite its northern home in British Columbia. The sun shines an average of 2,000 hours per year (Sperling’s only covers U.S. cities, so we’ll rely on the number given by Sun Peaks). Tod Mountain, the highest mountain at Sun Peaks, tops out at 7,060 feet. The northern latitude on the 50th parallel sustains the snowpack.
Why go? Canada’s second largest ski area bumped out its boundary by 500 acres last winter. That expansion added in Gil’s, a backcountry zone high on Tod Mountain. You can explore it on your own or take a new private tour of the acreage with guides that tailor routes to individual skills. Chase the rays at Sun Peaks until April 10, the final day of the winter season.
Hit the Rockies for your goggle tan, you’ll find plenty of places to soak up the sun and sink turns into corn snow.