Updated: Jan 10
Not a powder day? Is it crusty? Beginning of the season? End of the season? Craving a carve? Trying to find some rhythm? Is it speed you're after? Turn to the often overlooked groomer. Our contributors have shared their most revered groomers across the U.S.
*Resort names in blue link to the related Avant Ski Resort Guide.
1. Best For: Consistent Pitch with Views Upper College is a classic at Sun Valley— it's flat, wide and perfect for easing into a rhythm while enjoying views of Ketchum and the Wood River Valley. Upper College starts near the summit of Baldy and merges into Lower College, which narrows and steepens while winding its way to the base. There are a couple of rollers, great for catching some air and some roundhouse turns to keep you on your toes. Your legs will be burning by the end. When to go: In the sun for most of the day, Upper College is best in the morning for fresh corduroy and tends to get crowded at the end of the day.
2. Best For: Easing into the Day with some Nice Views and Blues Werner at Jackson Hole. While known for its steep and deep terrain beloved by experts, Jackson Hole has a surprising amount of intermediate terrain. If you’re feeling intimidated by Jackson’s more famous runs, start your day on the Après Vous Lift (accessed by taking the Teewinot Chair and scooting over) and taking Upper Werner to Werner. The gradual pitches are interrupted by a few steeper sections, but the run is wide and groomed, giving you plenty of room to maneuver while you warm up for the day. You’ll also catch some gorgeous views on your way down.
3. Best For: Fun, Fast Lap
Ruthie’s Run at Aspen Mountain rolls its way down the west ridge of Ajax. It was the start of the F.I.S. Downhill Course, last raced in 2017. Ruthie’s is flanked by Aspen Groves and offers stunning views of neighboring Aspen Highlands and Highland Bowl. The run starts at the top of Ruthie’s Lift and ends at the bottom, making for a fun fast lap.
4. Best For: Diversity of Terrain St. Anton/Gremlin’s Gulch at Mammoth Mountain is long, winding, flowy run in the sun. It's not steep but makes up for it with a diversity of terrain — ramps, rollers, cat tracks, wide fields, gullies, a natural halfpipe, and side hits. St. Anton’s/Gremlin’s is best skied with friends. It caters to beginners just as much as experts. Play follow-the-leader. Straight line the wide open second half and fly off the side hits, all while enjoying the views of the Minarets, Mts. Ritter and Banner.
5. Best For: Speed Elk Park Ridge at Big Sky is the spot for those craving speed, wanting to feel some G-Force or needing a leg burner. Elk Park Ridge is on the east side of Andesite Mountain. A steep to very steep groomer with rollers, it’s fairly narrow with trees on the skier’s left and a mogul field on skier’s right. Elk Park Ride boasts views of the Spanish Peaks all the way down. Beware, this is more of an expert’s groomer and it's easy to get going too fast.
6. Best For: Long, Winding, Classic New England Run
Jester to Snowball to Spring Fling at Sugarbush meanders from the top of Lincoln Peak to the base village. This is one of the longer runs in New England AND it has some exciting pitch. Starting with the narrow, winding Jester, the beginning of this run is a New England classic with incredible views of the Mad River Valley. As the run transitions from Jester to Snowball, the trail widens into a sun-splashed expanse of fun rollers and excellent snow (this is often the trail first targeted by snow guns at Sugarbush). Finally, veer left onto Spring Fling for some GS turns into the base village. You can really get some speed going!
7. Best For: Real Estate Tour with Lake Views Jordanelle at Deer Valley is a narrow groomer that winds through a slopeside neighborhood of ski-in-ski-out houses. Skiing Jordanelle is like taking a luxury real estate tour and a ski run all in one. You’ll want to stop and ogle the ornate entrances. Steep and long. Winding. Narrow. Don’t go flying off the side of the run into a hot tub or a floor to ceiling window. Almost like a roller coaster. The view isn’t half bad either.
8. Best For: Racking up Vert Mountain Run is Palisades Tahoe's main street, it’s Interstate-80, it’s Mississippi River. It starts near the summit and winds all the way to the base, spanning 3.2 miles. If you’re trying to rack up vertical feet and miles skied, this is your run. Most of the other runs merge into Mountain Run, therefore it gets crowded, especially towards the end of the day on weekends. If you are lucky enough to catch Mountain Run on an off-day, you’ve scored a downhill race course. A test of your endurance with rollers, roundhouse turns, compressions, cat tracks to launch, and flats to straight line.
9. Best For: Leg Burner Chopsticks to Poppyfields at Vail is a steep leg burner that runs directly down the middle of Vail’s Back Bowls. Open at the top, this run narrows into a gully and eventually becomes a cat track. The top portion is quintessential Vail skiing — no sight of civilization, it’s just you and your skis in the heart of the Rockies.
10. Best For: Scary Speed White Heat at Sunday River. There are many trails on this list which you can leisurely cruise or straight-line without a worry in the world. This isn’t one of them! White Heat is billed as the “longest, steepest, widest, lift-serviced trail in the East” – an admittedly confusing designation. This thing is a beast. The trail starts out calmly enough, but quickly drops into a headwall that is nearly 36˚ at its steepest point. Careful not to get too much speed, as you can catch unexpected air off the small rollers below the headwall. Running directly under the White Heat Quad, quickly lapping this trail is the perfect way to get the heart pumping and legs burning.
Summary of our Top Ten Groomers (by category)
Upper College, Sun Valley (Consistent pitch with views)
Werner, Jackson Hole. (Easing into the day)
Ruthie's Run, Aspen Mountain (Fun, fast lap)
St. Anton/Gremlin’s Gulch, Mammoth Mountain (Diversity of terrain)
Elk Park Ridge, Big Sky (Speed)
Jester - Snowball - Spring Fling, Sugarbush (Classic New England Run)
Jordanelle, Deer Valley (Real Estate Tour with Lake Views)
Mountain Run, Palisades Tahoe's (Racking up Vert)
Chopsticks to Poppyfields, Vail (Leg Burner)
White Heat, Sunday River (Scary Speed)
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