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.

conditions

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.

when to go

As befits a country that is in reality a continent, opening times in US resorts vary depending on the location. Many Rocky Mountain resorts opening in early November, while some of the Californian resorts stay open until May (Squaw) and even July (Mammoth) if the season is particularly strong. In between these extremes, usual northern hemisphere trends are to be expected. December, January and February see low temperatures, heavy snowfalls and a dearth of sunny days, while March is usually a good bet for a mix of good snowy conditions and bluebird days. By April, most resorts see full spring conditions, although late season snowfalls are not uncommon.

off piste policy

A quick round-up of US resorts reveals that this is a confusing nation when it comes to off-piste riding. Modern America is a litigious nation indeed, and to avoid being sued in the event of an accident many resorts simply ban out-of-bounds riding altogether.

Where to Ski and Snowboard 2016

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