How to Execute the IDEAL Ski Season = Whistler, Japan, India, Chamonix, Alaska

SnowBrains | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
Real ski bums have been searching for the ideal season for a long time photo:  loomis dean

Is there an equation for the perfect snow season?  Is there a way to NEVER go wrong with powder?  Never say never, right?  But, there certainly are ways to be in the right places at the right times in order to maximize your powder potential.  Just think of what the pros do all season.  They jump from place to place hitting the best spots at the best time of year.  It’s pretty do-able and here’s our 5-month breakdown on how to do it.


Whistler generally doesn’t disappoint in December. photo: mason mashon/ski canada magazine

December in Whistler, B.C.

December is Whistler’s biggest snow month.  In the past 10 years, Whistler has averaged 98 inches in the month of December which is the highest snowfall average of any month of the year in Whistler.

– Whistler can get busy.  On powder days it can be packed.  But in December, before Christmas, it’s a ghost town.  This is the best month to get lonely amid Whistler Blackcomb’s 8,000+ acres of varied terrain.  The in-bounds only here scratches the surface.  Easy side-country access can catapult you into an array of impressive lines that take just a short hike to get to.

Lee Lyon getting absolutely SHACKED in Hakuba, Japan. photo: zach paley

January in Japan

“January is like clockwork, you get your 300 inches,” says Lee Lyon, professional ski bum who’s spend the past 3 winters in Japan.

January 2013 in Hakuba, Japan was dangerously deep.

– January is the month to be in Japan.  Frigid northwest winds come off of Siberia, rip across the Sea of Japan, pick up moisture off the ocean (like lake effect snow), and unleash that moisture on the endless array of mountains that grace the West Coast of both Honshu and Hokkaido Islands.

“If you want gauranteed powder, you go to Japan in January, everything else is crap-shoot.” – Lee Lyon

Check out the snow spikes just before & during January the past 3 seasons in Hakuba, Japan.  charts:  damian banwell –


Monkey tree skiing, Gulmarg, India.  photo:  yves garneau

February in Gulmarg, India

Skiing trees with monkeys eyeing you suspiciously.  That’s how you want to spend your February.  When the gondola is running, the powder runs are 4,000 vertical feet and there is more fresh snow than can possibly be skied by the amount of skiers there.  $5 per gondola ride keeps prices down, if you can find the wandering guy who sells them.

February in Gulmarg is reported to be the best month for snow.  January can be very dry and March is usually ok, but February is when you’ll get the quality low pressure/high pressure cycle that will make you a believer.

–  “At the 2001 India census Gulmarg had a population of 664, though many people are required to leave by nightfall. Only tourists and those working in the tourism industry may stay overnight. Males constitute 99% of the population and females 1%. Gulmarg has an average literacy rate of 96%, higher than the Indian national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 97%, and female literacy is 22%. In Gulmarg, 0% of the population is under 6 years of age.” – wikipedia

Chamonix will force you to decide if you’re an extreme skier, or not.   photo: christian pondella

March in Chamonix, France

The bigger lines of Chamonix are too exposed and avalanche prone to ski most of the year.  By March, the snowpack is deep enough and has experienced adequate bonding to make skiing some of the scary stuff possible.  We’re talking about 8,000 vertical foot lines from the to of the Auguille du Midi all the way down to the valley floor and straight into a pub.

You know that you can’t consider yourself a hardcore skier until you ski Cosmiques Couloir in Chamonix, right?  Don’t worry, it’s not too bad if it has snow.  After you do, even if you didn’t enjoy it at all, you better say you did and try to talk about how you can’t wait to go back there and do it again.  Cham is like a boy scout badge; you’ve gotta have the Cham badge to show you’re hardcore.

Alaska. photo: andrew miller

April in Alaska, USA

There isn’t a lot I need to say here, is there?  Even if you’re new to skiing, you know that Alaska is the ultimate.  What many don’t know, is how do-able it is.  Fly to anchorage rent or temporarily buy an RV, get to where the skiing is good, and laugh a lot.  There’s tons of easy access backcountry skiing & riding and the helis are cheap.  Ok.  No.  No, they’re aren’t.  But, one day in a heli in Alaska will entirely change your perspective on what good skiing truly is.

The Chugach range in Alaska very likely averages more annual snowfall than any other mountain range on Earth.  It’s wet snow that sticks to steeper terrain than anywhere on Earth and then it gets clear, the cold nights suck the moisture out of the snow leaving you with that Alaskan Velvet that you don’t find anywhere else.  It doesn’t get anymore perfect.

Alaska is and always will be the ultimate ski and ride destination.

Related Articles

8 thoughts on “How to Execute the IDEAL Ski Season = Whistler, Japan, India, Chamonix, Alaska

  1. Ummm. replace Whistler with Revelstoke, BC and Rogers Pass, BC and you have yourself a game plan.

    November in Antartica and May in the Canadian Rockies or Norway / Iceland, June at Mount Hood in Oregon and Argentina in July, Chile in August and NZ in September. October… Glacier in Europe??

  2. This is very definitely too Northern Hemisphere. We all know the PERFECT, Ideal, ski season starts in December and ends in September, and includes multiple stops in Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

  3. Well, I can add a little bit of an update for Gulmarg, as some of the info seems a little dated. The ticket situation is improving, you no longer have to go hunt for the guy with the briefcase. There is a separate ticket office at the bottom of the gondola where you can buy season passes, weekly passes, individual rides and re-charge cards. The system has definitely gotten better, though I think the weekly pass is the most convenient way of going, though it’s not the cheapest way. It is the least frustrating way of purchasing a ticket and will cost you about $110 a week. If you are there for the season and can afford it, the VIP season pass is still super cheap at approx. $650 USD and gives you lift line priority. As long you can put up with all the booing when you cut the line, it’s a pretty amazing deal and you will ski an absolute ton of powder whilst everyone else has to queue….

    Secondly, there are a lot more females skiing in Gulmarg now, which is great. If you go to the poma lifts in town, you’ll see a lot of girls learning to ski now, something you wouldn’t have seen several years ago. There are a lot more local kids learning to ski now in general, go hang out at the pomas and see the development of Indian skiing in Gulmarg. It’s pretty cool to have seen the change just in the last 3 years.

  4. What? No march in Squaw? you guys are slippin’! oh, unless you look at the past two marches in squaw, then you’re righg on

    1. ya, 160″ in March 2012 at the high camp sensor didn’t suck. And 240″ in 2011 didn’t suck either.

Got an opinion? Let us know...