Snow patrol: North America's ski resorts made simple

After last year’s miserable European season, chances are winter sports fans will be looking further afield this time around for their annual snow fix.

After last year’s miserable European season, chances are winter sports fans will be looking further afield this time around for their annual snow fix.

And as more Britons head across the pond to the US, so the good news spreads to family and friends.

Yes, there’s the extra travelling time, but on the other hand, North America is a better bet for snow than the Alps. Transatlantic resorts also boast immaculate slopes, high standards of organisation and safety, shorter queues at lifts, excellent accommodation, and quality food and service.

With three provinces to choose from – Québec, Alberta and British Columbia – the Canadian Tourism Commission is understandably bullish about the 2011-12 ski and snow season.

South of the border, the US has New England, Colorado, Utah and California, where snow fans were still skiing this year on July 4.

Breckenridge, Colorado

When it comes to the nursery slopes, you’d have to go a long way to beat the gently forgiving run at the foot of ‘Breck’s’ Peak 9. The resort also has speedy six-seat chairlifts and plenty of longer runs once your clients get more confident.

When the slopes close, the town comes to life with shops, bars and restaurants. All in all, Breckenridge is a top choice to kick off a skiing career. Other good bets for novices are New Hampshire and Mont Tremblant (Québec).

Park City, Utah

Plenty of fine blue runs plus some relatively easy blacks and ungroomed glades make Park City perfect for clients who are neither novices nor experts. The city’s Main Street has a quaint feel and is typically lively after dark.

What’s more, with both Deer Valley and The Canyons just a bus-ride away, clients can easily go resort-hopping.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jackson brings together decidedly steep slopes with exceedingly generous snowfall in a high-adrenaline combination.

What the resort lacks in feet above sea level, it makes up for with frequent snowfalls. With its wood sidewalks and Wild West saloons, the town of Jackson Hole – 15 minutes’ drive from the slopes – will bring out the John Wayne or Clint Eastwood in your clients.

Mammoth Mountain, California

In a state celebrated for its surfers and skateboarders, snowboarding was bound to take off in California. Mammoth Mountain is the state’s highest ski resort and its snowboarding capital, with world-class terrain parks and a range of slopes from forgiving to downright mean.

There are seven parks, boasting 50 jumps, 65 jibs and a trio of half-pipes. If your clients fancy a bit of heli-skiing, send them to Tahoe or Whistler.

Big White, Canada

For sheer convenience, clients will struggle to beat Big White, British Columbia’s second-largest ski area. Nearly all its hotels and apartments are ski-in, ski-out, with the lifts starting below the village. Even the main street is officially a ski run.

A gondola links the village to Happy Valley, which offers ice skating, snowmobiling and tubing.

Whistler, Canada or Lake Tahoe

In addition to having North America’s biggest ski area, Whistler likes to party, as some Winter Olympians discovered. The fun typically starts in the bars and heated terraces, where bands often perform, before moving on after dinner to the clubs.

Clients travelling with teenagers should be aware that the drinking age here is 19, and it’s strictly enforced. Lake Tahoe’s various resorts offer spectacular slopes by day and casino fun and frolics by night.

Aspen, Colorado or Whistler

A former silver-mining town, Aspen cuts an elegant, Victorian dash – offset by the odd contemporary celebrity. The historic centre is handsome and a great place to stroll, window-shop or scout out a bar or restaurant. Four ski areas cater to every level of ability.

The resort will also play host to the ESPN Winter X Games next year. Whistler is still riding its Olympic wave and benefiting from new infrastructure as well as five-star hotels.

New England

Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine are New England’s key ski states, and all are within easy driving distance of Boston’s Logan airport.

The short flight, easy access, great service and accommodation, cheap eats and reliable conditions make a winter break in New England better value even than many European resorts. And regional competition means that New England’s resorts are constantly upgrading.

Keystone or Winter Park, Colorado

Both these resorts are within easy range of Denver and offer good value for families. Keystone has excellent childcare facilities and a variety of kids’ activities. Winter Park is relatively uncrowded – especially on weekdays – and has a good range of accommodation and beginner slopes.

Best of all is the 25-acre Discovery Park with its adventure trail through the woods – a perfect place to lose the kids for a few hours.

Funway Holidays offers 10 nights at the Inn at Keystone, Colorado, in November for £919 based on two adults sharing. The price includes return British Airways flights to Denver. 0844 557 0626, funway4agents.co.uk

Carrier has seven nights at the Four Seasons resort in Whistler this winter from £2,810, based on December?19-21 departures. The price is based on a family of four sharing a deluxe room and includes flights from Heathrow to Vancouver but not transfers. 0161 491 7640,carrier.co.uk

Virgin Holidays offers 10 nights’ bed and breakfast at the Best Western Station House Inn at the resort of Heavenly on Lake Tahoe this December from £1,039. The price, based on two adults sharing, includes return flights from Heathrow to San Francisco and car hire. 0844 557 3859, virginholidays.co.uk?

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