Everyone has their favorite mountain. We love Mammoth Mountain because it’s in our backyard. You might love a mountain on the east coast because it’s where you learned to ride or ski. Your best friend may swear by a mountain in the Midwest because they love the terrain park set up there.
No matter where your favorite mountains are though, you have to ski or snowboard in the American West at least once. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Rockies, Cascades, or the Sierras, there is enough snow, terrain, and incredible resorts in the American West to make it a required pilgrimage for snow lovers regardless of how they choose to get down the mountain. To help out, the ASO Mammoth team has put together a few tips to help you prepare for your first trip out west!
Blues are Not Blues and Black Diamonds are Not Black Diamonds
Although it depends on where you’re coming from, there’s a chance that what you think of as a black diamond or a blue is something different from the black diamonds and blues in the west.
For example, the mountains in the American West are bigger than the mountains in the American East. As a result, there is more, often steeper, terrain that requires different levels of skill to ski or ride safely. For this reason you won’t see nearly as many double black diamonds on the east coast as you will out west, and if you do then chances are they aren’t as steep or technical as a double black that you would find out west. Similarly, a blue run in the west may be called a black on the east coast.
If you’re familiar with mountains that are smaller than those in the American West, take some time to figure out what type of run qualifies as a blue, green, and black so you don’t end up on a run you’re not ready to ride. Runs may actually match your expectations once you ride them, but you should always ride carefully when you’re unfamiliar with them.
Get Ready for Elevation
You can be an expert skier or snowboarder anywhere else, but if the mountains where you’re from don’t have high elevations then you might be left breathless when you’re riding the mountains out west.
Many of the mountains in the American West rise to above 10,000 feet which means that if you’re visiting from the East Coast then you’ll at least have a hard time catching your breath and may even get altitude sickness. There are medicines that can ease the strain high altitude puts on the body, and acclimation over a few days or more will go a long way towards making sure you don’t get sick. However, the simplest way to combat altitude sickness is by drinking plenty of water on your trip. Your body works harder at high altitude, help it keep up by supplying plenty of water.
Bigger mountains may mean more challenging terrain and higher altitudes, but they also mean longer runs.
If you’ve only ever ridden smaller mountains and are visiting the American West for the first time, then get ready for long runs that will leave your legs burning. You may not notice the difference on your first few runs, but if you’re completely unprepared for the longer runs you may feel sorer the next day than you’re used to. While we always recommend exercising before a trip to make sure your body is ready to ride, if you’re visiting the American West at least stretch ahead of your trip, before you hit the mountain, and at the end of the day.