As I skier, I can get trapped in a box. I have my favourite hills—the ones I return to over and over whenever Ullr summons.
Thankfully, as a Vancouverite, the hill I call my own is pretty good.
From my house, I’ll pull into the Creekside parking lot at Whistler Blackcomb in less than two hours. (Creekside is still a local’s secret—don’t tell anyone about the free underground parking and 100-metre walk to the gondola, OK?) I’ve taken this for granted for years: having what’s largely considered to be the best ski resort in North America within an easy day-trip of my home.
Despite Whistler Blackcomb offering 3,300 hectares of terrain—I know where the untracked powder stashes are found; where the crowds congregate and the areas they forget. That’s why I consider it my local hill, even if from a true Whistlerite’s perspective I’m likely still a tourist.
But it’s also a box from which I rarely escape—especially since I started getting an Epic Pass shortly after Vail Resorts bought Whistler in 2016. As for a time, Whistler Blackcomb was the only Vail property Vancouverites could access without an airplane. Now, Whistler passholders like myself have a second, easy option.
Stevens Pass, in Washington State (pictured at top), is an Okanagan-like four-hour drive from Vancouver. So—why haven’t I been? I'll remedy that this season. However, getting this resort on my radar has me thinking—are there other cross-border hills accessible from Canada’s largest cities?
Vancouver, British Columbia
So You Should Try: Stevens Pass (290 kilometres from Vancouver)
Stevens Pass/Vail Resorts
Vancouver skiers often make the trek to BC's Okanagan—but this cross-border resort is even closer. Located in the Cascades of Washington State, Stevens shines with 11 metres of snow that annually falls over its 455 hectares of terrain—and a fraction of the crowds you’ll find at larger resorts around the continent. Stevens Has, for 80 years, been a locals’ hill known for powdery dumps and excellent glades. Plus, stay the weekend and you’ll have the chance to experience the Bavarian charm of Leavenworth, the nearest town.
You Likely Ski: Blue Mountain
So You Should Try: Hunter Mountain (635 kilometres from Toronto)
Hunter Mountain/Vail Resorts
Collingwood’s Blue Mountain is a year-round recreation destination for southern Ontario. Just two hours north of the Big Smoke, it’s an easy get-to. If you have a long weekend free, however, consider making the 6.5-hour drive southeast to New York State’s Hunter Mountain. It’s worth the drive, with more than twice the vertical of Blue, more lifts and more marked trails. Accommodation is available on-hill or in one of the quaint nearby towns.
So You Should Try: Stowe (170 kilometres from Montreal)
This one’s just a half-hour further from Montreal than Mont Tremblant (depending on border waits), so the secret is pretty much out. Quebeckers know that crossing to Vermont pays off when you visit Stowe. Its 720-metre vertical aces Tremblant by a handful, and the eight metres of annual snowfall translates into plenty of deep, light powder over its near-200-hectare expanse. On a deep-day, hit the Forerunner quad and ski fall-line on runs like Nosedive and Goat—you’ll thank me.
Ski Whistler Blackcomb, Stevens Pass, Hunter Mountain and Stowe with the Epic Pass—on sale until November 24, 2019.