Snowboarding is one of the most exciting winter activities on the mountain. First emerging in 1965, the sport really rose in popularity in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and has been radically modernised from its original patent of two skis strapped together, to the single board we know of today.
Most snowboarders can appreciate that resorts that work so well for skiers, are not a “one-size-fits-all” for their boarder friends, and so we’ve put together a handy guide to the best resorts for snowboarders out there.
Best for: Snowpark fanatics
One of the first European resorts to embrace snowboarding, Avoriaz is now one of the world’s leading snowboarding destinations. The resort is ideally set up for boarders, with very few draglifts and plenty to keep you occupied all week.
Avoriaz is fantastic for freestyle boarders, having a range of brilliant snowparks. Not least of them is the Burton Stash, where the modules are built from completely natural materials. The Arare snowpark features an airbag, ideal for practicing your tricks. And there are even halfpipe and boarder cross areas for boarders who enjoy a technical challenge.
The resort is also highly regarded for its off-piste, and expert boarders can hire a guide to explore some of the more challenging areas of the mountain. With access to the wider Portes du Soleil region, a grand total of 650km of piste, there is also plenty for intermediate snowboarders to explore as well.
Best for: Après lovers
Mayrhofen has always been a popular destination for snowboarders. A favourite resort for British, professional boarders like Jamie Nicholls and Katie Ormerod, it’s not hard to see what makes Mayrhofen so attractive.
The resort is home to one of the best snowparks in Europe - the Vans Penken park. The wide ranging facilities include a rainbow-box and a huge wallride. The park is suitable for all abilities and has five sections: the funline, the public line, the proline, the half-pipe and the kids park.
On piste, Mayrhofen continues to impress. The Hintertux glacier provides reliable snow conditions throughout winter, and ambitious boarders will relish the opportunity to attempt Austria’s steepest run, the Harakiri.
But, it is Mayrhofen's thriving après scene that really draws the crowds. Lively bars and nightclubs make Mayrhofen a fun place to visit throughout the winter. And incredible festivals, the Altitude comedy festival in December and the infamous Snowbombing in April bookend the season. It’s a great resort for a party.
Best for: Thrill seekers
A bustling resort and town, Davos is an exceptional destination for advanced snowboarders. The linked region of Davos and Klosters has six areas, five of which are covered under one lift pass, to choose from, so there’s no shortage of pistes to savour. The five main areas are Parsenn, Madrisa, Jakobshorn, Pischa and Rinerhorn. The sixth is Schatzalp, the smallest in size of the group.
In Jakobshorn you’ll find plenty of freestyle options at Jatzpark, with its excellent two line terrain containing tables, kickers and rails, along with a 120m halfpipe and a 22 foot wall superpipe, known by “O’Neill Evolution”, near the base, just above the Bolgen après ski bar. This snowpark offers fantastic evening boarding Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, until 9:30pm.
Freeriders have plenty to choose from, with Davos being coined as one of Europe’s best freeriding resorts. The lifts and cable cars conveniently transport you up to secured routes that have been signposted by the piste-grooming services for beginner and intermediate freeriders. In Pischa, advanced boarders will find one of the largest and sunniest freeride areas in Switzerland. There, it is all untouched terrain and no slopes are marked, groomed or protected from alpine risks - a paradise for thrill seekers. Boarders who would prefer a day tour can hire a guide to take the Madrisa round trip, a classic tour that has been around for decades. The tour takes just under seven hours and goes from Klosters into Austria and back again. You can expect fantastic descents on varied slopes and an exceptional natural experience.
Best for: Freestyle novices
One of Italy’s oldest ski resort, and the first purpose built, Sestriere has certainly improved since it was originally built in the 1930’s by FIAT founder Giovanni Agnelli. He initially built a few hotels and four cable cars as a holiday retreat for workers in the FIAT factory in Turin, but this has since been developed into the resort we know today. Part of the Via Lattea (Milky Way), 146 pistes total 390km of runs, it is the largest linked ski area in Italy.
Freestyle enthusiasts will love to be able to test themselves in one of the 5 Snowparks across the Via Lattea area. The Snowpark in Sestriere itself focuses more on beginners, and they have their own dedicated area where they can enjoy themselves safely while learning the basics of freestyle.
Experienced boarders can really push their limits by exploring the wide range of off piste options in Sestriere's back bowls and steep couloirs. You can find a lot of easily accessible bowls in the Monginevro Pass, or if you’re a fan of a challenge, the Pitre de l’Aigle has a breath taking descent, well worth the hours hike.
Image © Justa Jeskova, courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb
Best for: Anyone and everyone
Widely regarded as one of the best snowboarding resorts in the world, Whistler caters for a diverse range of snowboarders. From first-class snow parks, to world beating off piste and amazing, groomed slopes (it’s a cliché but) there really is something for everyone.
Whistler is an ideal place to begin your snowboarding hobby. There are a wealth of green slopes and dedicated ‘go slow’ zones. There are over 200 runs in the resort, making it one of the most extensive in North America.
The mountainside is dotted with terrain parks, all of which are clearly labelled based on the required ability. Pro-freestylers love the Olympic standard half pipe, on Blackcomb Mountain and the Choker park provides incredible views as you tackle those medium and high jumps.
We’d also be remiss if we failed to comment on the amazing backcountry. Heli-boarding is a fantastic way to experience the Canadian wilderness: the beautiful scenery and incredible powder. Whistler truly is a stunning snowboarding resort.