“Pack emergency calories so you can get yourself out of trouble!”
Mt. Rainier, WA: Winter workout on a volcano
Starting from the Paradise winter-use area at Mt. Rainier’s base, snowshoers have options ranging from 1.5-mile warm-ups to 8-mile missions and beyond. Joe Horiskey, a guide with Rainier Mountaineering, recommends the Mazama Ridge trail, a moderate 3-mile round-trip offering majestic views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams to the south. When the avalanche danger is low and air pressure is high, more adventurous trekkers might want to explore the upper flanks of Rainier, which offer more vertical challenge and views of the Nisqually Glacier. Horiskey cautions against recreational travel higher than 6,500 feet near the base of Panorama Point and urges planning for weather and avalanche conditions.
PARK RANGERS offer guided group tours on weekends and holidays from late December through March, leaving from Jackson Memorial Visitor Center in Paradise. The 1.5-mile walks include snowshoes ($4 suggested donation). Or stop in at Whittaker Mountaineering in Ashford on the way to Rainier to rent snowshoes and poles (from $27 per day).
“When heading uphill, carry momentum and commit with a lot of speed.”
Two Top Mountain, MT: Groomed Trails, Powder playgrounds, 360-degree views
While much has been made of the snowmobiling restrictions inside Yellowstone Park, few are aware of the vast network of 400-plus miles of trails outside of the park connecting the small towns of West Yellowstone and Island Park, Idaho. Eric “Jr.” Heaps, a backcountry guide at HiCountry Snowmobiles, recommends the popular Two Top Mountain loop: “Besides perfect groomed trails, you’ll find great off-trail riding with small rollers and jumps and an excellent chance for good powder snow.” The 30-miler weaves through powder fields while gaining 2,000 feet of elevation. At the top, riders are greeted by frozen “snowghost” trees, windswept features and 360-degree views of Yellowstone Park, Wyoming’s Teton Range and Idaho’s Centennial Mountains.
HICOUNTRY SNOWMOBILES offers rentals (starting at $139– $199 per day plus $20 for avalanche safety gear). Guides available through Ace Powder Guides; services starting at $250 for a 3-person group.
“It’s the mentally tough who are fit that get up mountains, not necessarily the super fit.”
Mt. Washington, NH: Battle the elements to win the summit
During summer, New Hampshire’s 6,288-foot Mt. Washington is easily accessed via road or an 8.2-mile round-trip hike. But in winter the orientation of the Presidential Range puts it in the direct path of fierce storms. Climbers often train here for Everest or McKinley. Keith Moon of Eastern Mountain Sports says, “What makes this so difficult is the high wind and low temperatures.” Indeed, wind speeds routinely reach 70 mph, and temps can plummet to minus 40 in the self-proclaimed “Home of the World’s Worst Weather,” cold enough to freeze exposed skin in minutes. Ice axes and crampons are a necessity, low visibility is the norm, and with over half of the 4,280-foot vertical ascent above tree line, there’s no hiding from the elements. Most winter climbers are guided; experienced climbers should come with weather forecasts and emergency shelter supplies.
EASTERN MOUNTAIN SPORTS offers both group ($150) and private ($275) guided ascents, including equipment. Winter season traditionally runs from Thanksgiving through mid-April.
“Have a plan B. The summit shouldn’t be the ultimate goal; it should be one goal.”
Mt. Whitney, CA: Shred the highest peak in the lower 48
Rising to 14,494 feet, Mt. Whitney’s granite peak beckons in the Southern Sierras with a 6,000-foot vertical ascent. Skiers typically head out of Lone Pine and follow the Mountaineer’s Route up. S.P. Parker of the Sierra Mountain Center says, “Skiers can begin their descent from the top of Mountaineer’s Gully with a 40-degree slope angle and minimal exposure. Experienced skiers can climb the last 300 feet past the notch to the summit and challenge themselves with high- consequence turns above exposed cliffs.” Snowpack tends to be more stable during spring, but in winter there’s a better chance of scoring blower powder turns. Be prepared for all weather and avalanche conditions, and bring ascent skis (or snowshoes or a splitboard), crampons, an ice axe and the required permits.
SIERRA MOUNTAIN CENTER offers guided winter trips ($995 for five days). For unguided trips, walk-in permits are issued at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine.
“The vibe is more local, a little raw and rugged, and the people are all about being outdoors.”
INTO THE BARS
Jackson, WY: A cowboy, a tourist and a snowboarder walk into a bar
Riding, climbing, partying … motivations for being here vary, but it’s a shared awe of the jagged peaks of the Tetons that brings everyone together. “It has better scenery than than any other resort town in North America,”says Landvick, who offered up some of his fave joints.
APRÈS SKI: TETON THAI is the best kept locals’ secret is this cozy Thai restaurant. Warm up with spicy dishes like fresh green curry noodles (Ka-Nom Jean) or stick to the flavorful chicken satay and egg roll appetizers and, of course, a local microbrew.
DINNER: SUDACHI where fresh fish is flown in daily to be expertly crafted into the popular “C-Monster” unagi-and-yellowfin- tuna rolls and melt-in-your mouth sashimi. You might even see pro snowboarder Bryan Iguchi behind the bar expertly preparing sushi on occasion.
LATE NIGHT: MILLION DOLLAR COWBOY BAR offers a mix of young and old, crusty locals and happy tourists alike that slide into the saddle bar stools at the silver-dollar- inlaid bar, throwing back Grand Teton Brewing beers and whiskey to a country soundtrack or live music.
“The mountain is actually kind of empty during Sundance, so it’s a good time to come up.”
Park City, UT: A quaint ski town with big-time events
With three major ski resorts surrounding the town—Park City Mountain Resort, The Canyons and Deer Valley—the draw to Park City is obvious. But once the chairs stop spinning for the day, there’s still plenty to get excited about. Take it from 2010 Olympic snowboarder Louie Vito, who says, “Start by just walking around Main Street—there’s always something going on.” Vito’s idea of a great night out is dinner at one of Park City’s 100-plus restaurants, then live music or a DJ—he’s seen Lil Jon, 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg in the local venues.
“Sundance is an amazing time to be here,”says Vito, but if snow- sports watching is your thing, there are plenty of options. Check out boarders blasting out of the Superpipe at Park City during the annual Grand Prix (Feb. 23-Mar. 1), or catch the pinnacle freeskiing event, the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup at Deer Valley (Jan. 7-10). Regardless, follow Vito’s lead and go hard all day and night at some of his favorite places:
APRÈS SKI: NO NAME SALOON
The slogan for this locals’ hangout, “Helping people forget their names since 1903,” is a good indicator of how your visit might go. Hit the heated rooftop for burgers, apps and a big selection of beers on tap.
Southwestern-style bistro located on bustling Main Street. Signature items include the pork ribs and elk and, of course, one of the best margaritas in town. Reservations are highly recommended at this popular hotspot.
LATE NIGHT: PARK CITY LIVE
The two-level venue books all types of music, from jam bands to hip- hop—spanning the range from Macklemore to Stevie Nicks. Of late PCL is also becoming a go-to spot for EDM, featuring an electronic artist every Saturday night throughout the winter. Buy tickets in advance through parkcitylive.net.