Snow sports is an addiction. You start with a taste. Most often, a family trip where you ski-wedge your way down a bunny slope. One day becomes two, the seasons start to multiply, and then you realize that the first trip was your gateway drug into a lifelong affection for snow-covered mountains.
It’s a ravenous, intoxicating appetite that may never be fully quenched. But these ten trips, the apex of skiing and snowboarding, may offer a bit of tantalizing solace – or at least a defined goal to achieve.
Tuckerman Ravine | Sargent's Purchase, N.H.
An icon of New Hampshire backcountry skiing, this bowl in Mount Washington nestled in the White Mountains doesn’t get the most snow when it comes to backwoods locales. But at an average of 50 feet each year, it boasts enough snow for epic yo-yo loops through its gullies and chutes.
Come spring, it’s both a party and an East Coast rite of passage – more than 1,000 people have been known to carve it up on a March weekend. It’s a group worth joining, but know this ain’t a lift-serviced experience, so bring your skins and backcountry kit.
Snowcat skiing at Baldface Lodge | Nelson, B.C.
A ten-minute helicopter ride out of Nelson, B.C. delivers you to Baldface Lodge, home base for three- and four-day all-inclusive, guided snowcat skiing and boarding. The stats – 500-plus inches of snow each year carpeting more than 32,000 acres of skiable terrain – tell the tale.
The cats run in almost any condition, delivering skiers and riders fresh turns through open bowls, vertiginous peaks and evenly-spaced glades for as long as your legs can muster.
Corbet’s Couloir | Teton Village, Wyo.
While this is a single run rather than a multi-day getaway, Corbet’s still populates most extreme skiers’ must-conquer list. To be fair, most of the runs off Jackson Hole Resort’s famed Aerial Tram could qualify for this list, but Corbet’s is…special.
Sitting skier’s left after exiting the tram, you’ll find a ten-foot-wide opening carved into the mountainside, with a cornice drop that can stretch to 30 feet, leading to a narrow, 50-degree slope that eventually, mercifully, opens out into a wider bowl. Those who dare are best off waiting for when it’s packed with forgiving powder.
Mount Yotei | Hokkaido, Japan
Skiers and riders who hit Japan’s famed island of Hokkaido typically plant themselves at the resorts around Niseko, or the kooky Rusutsu Resort, which is why the daring skiers and riders branch out to skin up, ski a few laps inside the volcanic crater, and then carve back down to the mountain base. At 6,227 feet, this volcano is the highest peak in the region, proffering the most vertical feet on the island.
Only the most experienced backcountry explorers need apply. Snow Locals, a U.S.-based outfitter who specializes in custom ski and board trips to Japan, can help with logistics.
McConkey’s | Olympic Valley, Calif.
Looming like a silent dare at the top of Squaw Valley’s famed KT-22 Mountain, this singular run traverses an extreme 120 vertical feet on a 68-degree pitch, one of the steepest in the country. And while the rule of Squaw still applies – if you see it you can try to ski it – McConkey’s is ultimately a Tahoe rite of passage.
Once called Eagles’ Nest, it was renamed in 2009 in honor of Squaw legend and extreme skier Shane McConkey, and it remains just as formidable as it was when the resort first opened.
Snowwater Heli-Skiing | Nelson, B.C.
Heli-skiing offers easy access to unlimited terrain and a quintessential James Bond experience – unless you get stuck in base camp waiting for the weather to clear so that the birds can fly. Thankfully, Nelson-based Snowwater has you covered.
Their HQ, nestled in the snow-choked Selkirk Mountains, provides plush lodging, amazing food and two guest helis. But if weather grounds the birds, you can still access the expansive backcountry on Snowwater’s fleet of snowcats and get in countless powder turns while the snow falls, rather than waiting for Mother Nature to change her mood.
La Grave, France
As its ominous name evokes, this resort isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s positioned on a steep hillside facing the glacier-encrusted slopes of La Meije, with pitch that exceeds 50 degrees for more than 3,000 feet. Only one "run" is marked. The rest, an expert’s humbling off-piste playground.
Silverton Mountain | Silverton, Colo.
This one-of-a-kind resort near Durango, Colo. offers access to more than 1,800 skiable acres – plus another 22,000 acres of hike-in terrain – all of it accessed by a single lift. The amenities are bare-bones, including a yurt-style lodge with a truly convivial, we’re-all-in-this-madness-together vibe.
And the terrain is 100 percent expert-only. All skiers are required to have an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel, and most outings are accompanied with a resort guide (though there are a few unguided dates each season for seriously experienced backcountry skiers).
They also offer a single-drop heli outing, as well as a six-day heli-ski package. Better still? With more than 400 inches annually, the snow never quits.
Hut-to-Hut | New Zealand
More than 62 huts dot the expansive landscape of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, offering countless options for DIY backcountry skiers and riders to connect the dots and traverse to as many huts as one’s itinerary allows. Cross high-mountain passes, polish your mountaineering skills, ski unfettered lines and then appreciate the plush, heated confines of your perfectly rustic accommodations each night.
A ski/sail expedition in Antarctica
Deemed the last snow-covered frontier by most extreme skiers and riders, you can make this intimidating landscape slightly more accessible (and live out your millionaire dreams) by signing up for a 17-day ski and sail excursion with Ski Antarctica.
The package trip includes flights with DAP Airlines from Punta Arenas, Chile, passing over the Drake Passage to reach the frozen wonderland of Antarctica. From there you’ll board the Icebird sailboat and navigate the thorny coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula, going on as many daylong ski ascents as conditions, the itinerary and your fitness level allows.
Want to go even more hardcore? They can provide you with tents and equipment to camp on a peak. Rest days – which you’ll need, even if the weather cooperates – are spent kayaking, before you sail back across the Drake Passage to reach the southern tip of Argentina.