A candid account of my experiences in Montana and Vermont.
There’s no question that skiing and snowboarding are the quintessential winter activities. Every year thousands of people wait for the first snowfall to frost the mountaintops, eager to dust off their skis and boards.
The spirited rivalry between each sport remains lively, but as winter activities grow in popularity, so does a new competition: West versus East Coast. Anyone who has grown up skiing and snowboarding in the United States knows the battle for superiority between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. Some praise the ranges of the east while others maintain a strong alliance with the west.
Growing up, my family was strictly “West Coast best coast” when it came to skiing. We explored different Colorado resorts, desperate to find the best slopes and conditions every year. The ranges of Colorado were where I learned to ski and snowboard, and I will forever hold them in my heart.
I had the privilege to snowboard on each coast in the last few weeks. First at Big Sky Resort in Montana during mid-December, followed by Jay’s Peak in Vermont during early January. Both trips were exhilarating, but neither was perfect. Each resort had its pros and cons.
For one, Big Sky had more natural snow, whereas Jay’s Peak had to compensate with artificial snow, creating icier runs and less enjoyable conditions. The Rocky Mountains’ high elevation and ability to ring out moisture from the atmosphere cause heavier snowfalls, thus prime conditions for skiing and snowboarding.
In Big Sky, it snowed six inches the night before our first day, and the next day I felt like I was floating down the mountain, effortlessly gliding through the fresh powder. Almost every run was open, which is rare so early in the season. Late January and February usually have the best conditions on either coast due to increased snowfall.
Unfortunately, Jay’s Peak was not as lucky. Vermont had yet to experience a massive storm, and it showed. For most of the trip, many runs were closed, and those that were open were covered in branches peeking through sheets of snow or coated in ice. Even the experienced skiers and snowboarders had trouble finding their rhythm down the mountain.
It was any skier or snowboarder’s dream to get down the mountain and, in under 10 minutes, be back at the top. But Jay’s Peak made up for it with its lack of lines. For the entire trip, I never waited longer than 45 seconds to get on a chair lift which is unheard of. Even Montana was barely crowded, with incredibly short lift lines.
There were times on both trips I was one of the only riders on a run. Openness on the slopes is a blessing. For once, I didn’t need to worry about other riders or my surroundings. I raced freely down the mountain, wind whipping against my jacket, board cutting through the snow. It was exhilarating and empowering.
Growing up going to Colorado, I was used to crowded runs and extremely long lift lines. I always assumed it was the cost for the state’s pristine mountains. But I realized in Montana and Vermont that much of Colorado’s congestion came from fluff people. Those who loved the idea of a ski trip more than the actual activity. Big Sky and Jay’s Peak didn’t have any fluff. The people there were no-nonsense skiers and snowboarders who genuinely loved the sport.
My favorite part of snowboarding and skiing is the views, and both resorts did not disappoint. Vermont’s mountains were painted with iced pine trees. Soft peaks appeared mellow, and the ridges blended into each other like the older sibling of rolling grassy hills.
Montana’s mountains were sharp and striking. Prominent peaks jutted upwards, piercing the clouds. Trees peppered the sides, but some places were so steep that only sheets of rock and ice were there.
Though each was beautiful, I am partial to Montana. Somehow the grandiosity of it all was calming. I was reminded of our inferiority comparative to the planet, and it momentarily relieved the pressure of daily life. So often, people stress about the future and uncontrollable things that they forget to live in the present. On the mountain top, taking in the vastness of the Earth, I let the present moment wash over me, thinking of nothing else.
Big Sky and Jay’s Peak were fantastic experiences that I am very fortunate to have. These are just some of my personal opinions from my time on each coast, but I encourage anyone reading to hit the slopes this season and make your own memories. And for those who have never skied or snowboarded, maybe this article will inspire you to give it a try. I promise it’s worth it. Until then, keep exploring.