National parks are some of our greatest national treasures. From Glacier to the Grand Canyon and Zion to Acadia, there is no better display of natural wonder and downright awesome terrain in the United States than our federally protected park areas.
All preaching aside, it’s no secret that these outdoors hot spots get most of their love in the summer. With comfortable temperatures and long days, summertime is often deemed the perfect time for ticking prominent landscapes off the domestic bucket list.
But what the crowds tend to overlook is the fact that winter makes many of these wild locations, well, wilder. This is especially true for skiers, as many national parks border (or are a part of) mountain ranges that get dumped on for five months of the year.
It’s true that skiing a national park is not a resort experience, but for many, that’s the point. For those looking to get away from it all in some of the most beautiful natural spaces in the country (and not spend an arm and a leg in the process), here are a few of our favorite places to ski a national park this season.
For those looking for a break from Jackson Hole lift lines, Grand Teton National Park is a backcountry skier’s haven. Drive north past the resort and park near the Taggart Lake trailhead (there is a $30 fee for non-commercial vehicles).
From there, Wyoming’s most rugged range is at your ski pole tips. The area features many named and well-traveled routes like Maverick’s and 25 Short, but any skier entering the park should have avalanche equipment and knowledge, and consider hiring a local guiding service for a safe day in the backcountry.
Tip: Teton Backcountry Guides is a great place to start.
Turns out the nation’s deepest lake also has a pretty deep snowpack, and a few good views to boot. When this stratovolcano erupted thousands of years ago, its top collapsed, forming Crater Lake.
But that collapse also turned the single volcano into a circle of peaks surrounding the lake, making it the perfect destination for springtime backcountry missions. Park at the Park Headquarters and follow the snow-covered Rim Drive east to Garfield Peak, where you can score turns with one of the most breathtaking views in the world.
Tip: Round trip is roughly eight miles, so make sure to start early.
One of only three lift-serviced ski areas currently operating within a national park, Hurricane Ridge is one of the most unique experiences in skiing. From the park entrance, drive 45 minutes to the top of Hurricane Ridge and panoramic views of the Olympic Range, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Canada.
After buying a lift ticket from the single-wide trailer in the parking lot, patrons have their pick of three rope tows that access the area’s empty powder gulleys, trees and open bowls.
Unlike the neighboring Cascades Range that gets hammered by the Seattle crowd, Hurricane Ridge often holds fresh snow for up to a week after the storm. Plus, at $34, you can’t beat the price.
That’s right, the home of Half Dome and Ansel Adams is also host to its very own in-park ski area. Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area (formerly Badger Pass Ski Area) is a five-lift ski hill on the south side of the park.
Opened in 1933, the ski area is one of the oldest in the U.S. and also features 22 miles of groomed cross-country skiing within a day’s drive of San Francisco.
The most extreme option on our list, Glacier National Park in Montana is a rugged ski destination to say the least. Fly into Glacier Park International Airport and point it north on Highway 2.
Marias Pass on the south side of the park offers friendly, low-angle tree skiing for anyone new to the area, but terrain gets progressively gnarlier the further in the park you drive.
For those that don’t want to hike for turns, Great Northern Powder Guides offers cat-serviced backcountry skiing in some of Montana’s best terrain. If you’re looking for an overnight adventure, the group also offers yurt trips throughout the winter.
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