The American snow scene is huge in every sense. They have the largest number of riders, a huge number of resorts, the most popular magazines and videos and by far the biggest influence on skiing and snowboarding culture of any nation. It is big business, with the companies that make the kit enjoying huge turnovers and almost every resort in America embracing skiing and snowboarding enthusiastically in some way. Perhaps an even more telling indicator of the sport's popularity is the way that snowsports culture has infiltrated the mainstream. Here, pro riders such as Shaun White and Bode Miller have the status and influence of rock stars. Yet beyond the glitz and the behemoth-like stature of the industry, the grassroots are still discernable. The powder chargers of Baker, Salt lake City's jib kids, the park rats of Mammoth and the heli hell-men of Alyeska – each has a claim to be one authentic aspect of riding in the States. And as the sport continues to grow, the essence of what it means to be a skier or snowboarder in America will remain refreshingly difficult to pin down.
American ski areas are situated in three distinct areas: the east coast, the west coast and the Rocky Mountains. The west coast (roughly, Alaska down to California) is affected by storms from the Pacific, which drop vast falls of heavy snow. The Rocky Mountain range is affected by a different range of conditions, mainly due to their vast scale. But generally speaking, the Rocky climate is cooler, making for lighter and drier snow. In contrast, the east coast, being flatter and subject to sub-Arctic systems, is generally far colder and icier.