The Best Snow Runs for 2015

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If… You dig cross-country skiing and mingling with strangers

Then… Join the party in Maine’s backcountry

Hut-to-hut ski systems grant skiers unbeatable access to remote backcountry terrain, allowing them to traverse mountain ranges and forests in solitude, alone but for the swish-swish-swish of their own skis. In some cases, though, that’s where the tranquility ends. Huts are sprawling, cold, crowded affairs, where sweaty skiers are stacked like cordwood into massive dormitories. Not so with Maine Huts & Trails, a relatively new system of four ecolodges in the mountains of western Maine. Here, lodges have hot showers and private bunkhouses, and incoming skiers are greeted by ice-cold beer and a hearty dinner made with locally sourced organic ingredients. After breakfast, caretakers send guests out for the day with packed lunches and shuttle their bags to the next hut down the trail. Take on the entire length for a four-night, 50-mile through ski over rolling trails through the magical snow-hushed forests.

4 nights from $360;


If… There’s nothing you hate more than runs clogged with inept skiers

Then… Snowboard the backcountry slopes of Colorado

Snowboarding is a great winter workout, at least when slopes aren’t too crowded and lift lines aren’t snaking out of control. That’s never a problem at southwest Colorado’s Silverton Mountain,  no-frills “resort” where a lone chairlift whisks snowboarders and skiers 1,900 feet into rugged terrain that’s best described as backcountry light. There are no groomed runs, no cut trails. just thousands of acres of avalanche-controlled but otherwise wild and woolly, experts-only terrain. Because of the nature of the place, Avy gear is a must (Silverton rents beacons, shovels, and probes), and hard-nosed guides typically take groups of skiers out for their daily turns. Runs are accessible directly from the lift, but up to an hour of hiking beyond grants access to the 13,487- foot summit, as well as large open bowls and steep, tight chutes along the way. A full day at Silverton might only include five or six runs, but you’ll get in an exhausting 10,000-plus feet of vertical.

1 day from $49;

If… You think you’ve skied everywhere worth skiing

Then… Shred powder in Japan

Skiing probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Japan; yet the northern island of Hokkaido is consistently pummeled by blizzards bearing some of the driest, lightest powder in the world. The best place to experience it is Niseko United, where a single lift ticket grants access to four adjacent resorts perched on the volcanic cone of 4,291-foot Mount Niseko Annupuri. Follow days of skiing chest-deep powder with locally brewed Sapporo and a soak in the volcanically heated natural hot springs. Or keep skiing: The resorts light their slopes at night.

From $62.50/day or $375/week;

If… Black diamond ski runs make you yawn

Then… Leap from a helicopter in British Columbia 

Heliskiing is the ultimate winter vacation, a way to rack up absurd amounts of thigh-throbbing vertical on untracked wilderness runs. Except, of course, when your bird is grounded by weather, and you’re stuck sitting around the lodge while the white stuff piles up outside. That’s not a problem at British Columbia’s Northern Escape Heli-Skiing, where snowcat backup is included in every ski package, so guests get a full day of skiing every day. It’s part of the reason Northern Escape has an industry-leading vertical guarantee of almost 21,000 feet per day (when you choose the Unlimited Vertical Option). The other reason is it’s located in Skeena Mountains, where more than 100 feet of snow fall each year, blanketing Northern Escape’s 1.7 million-acre playground with snorkel-deep blower powder.

5 days from $6,299;

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