I can hear my own deep, heavy, full breaths. My heart is beating like a drum through my ears. My palms are sweating, the icy breeze glides across my face, and my nostrils burn from inhaling. I’m standing and watching the clouds move across the bluebird sky.
This is as close as I’ve ever felt to experiencing the presence of a higher being. I stand upon a mountaintop—beneath me, the snowcapped range gleams. For me, this is what living is all about.
I am a snowboarder, and these are the seven most epic runs of my life. All of them but the first (which could not be left out) are within a day’s drive of Las Vegas—so you can connect with something higher, too.
Blackcomb, British Columbia
Near the top of Blackcomb, it was a complete whiteout. I couldn’t see 5 feet in front of my face and crept down slowly until the fog cleared. Once at Xhiggy’s Meadow, I saw that every single tree was packed with snow. After departing the meadow, I rode into the trees that were so large they seemed to touch the sky. The world became silent, and I felt the sudden urge to stop right there in the middle of the tree run and lie down on my back and watch the sun beam through the branches. I lay there for nearly 10 minutes and just paid homage to Mother Nature. This was the most serene and quiet run I’ve ever taken.WhistlerBlackcomb.com.
The Bowl and The Abyss, Ninety Nine-90
The Canyons, Park City, Utah
Park City had just been dumped on, and in the morning we jetted over to the lift to catch fresh tracks. As we approached our run, we were greeted by a sign: “YOU COULD DIE.” “This is going to be totally worth it!” I thought to myself. We hiked the ridge of the mountain around the bowl. As I stood at the top of the bowl, I could see the entire mountain. Skiers looked like ants underneath, the trees were so small I felt like I could pluck them out of the ground. I strapped in and shot off the top of the bowl and glided through so much powder, the snow came at me like a wave, engulfing my entire body. After I shook the snow off my face, I came over a small ridge into a meadow called The Abyss. The board slowed, but still glided comfortably across the snow. As soon as I reached the trees I veered left. The remaining 20 minutes of the run, I followed small trails through the aspens, up and down next to a small frozen stream, and then it kicked me out onto a run right near the bottom of the lift. CanyonsResort.com.
East Face of Jupiter Peak
Park City Mountain Resort, Park City
After 24 inches of fresh powder, I hiked this peak five times in two days. The chutes are narrow and steep. While I stood at the top of Jupiter Peak, I second-guessed my decision to lunge over the edge into a chute with rocks shooting out on either side. But then I scooted my board forward, dropped off a cliff and caught fresh powder into my face through untracked snow. From the top of Jupiter Peak, the view made me feel as if I was on top of the world, glaring over the peaks of both the Uinta and Wasatch Mountain Ranges.ParkCityMountain.com.
Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
I endured a long traverse to get to Dragon’s Tail, but as soon as I reached the ridge, I experienced nearly untouched deep snow. The run was like a roller-coaster ride, thrilling and loaded with challenges. There were hips and bumps and whoopdies throughout the entire back of the dragon. Finally, when I reached the tail, I hit the epicenter of deep powder—untracked, super steep, full of cliff drops and beautiful tree runs. MammothMountain.com.
This was the most exhausting hike of my life. Access to Hemlock’s Ridge is through the backside of Mammoth. Along with a number of other extreme skiers and snowboarders, I took a 30-minute, single-file hike up a steep incline in snow that was sometimes up to my hips. When we reached the top, we sat down for a five-minute breather (my legs were already burning). Then I looked over the edge and realize it was a hell of a lot steeper than it had looked from the bottom. Scary stuff.MammothMountain.com.
The Park, Bear Mountain
Big Bear, Calif.
Bear Mountain is well-known for its amazing park filled with tons of features, including whoopdies, huge kickers, fun boxes, killer rails, and let’s not forget the infamous car in the snow that you can boardslide over. You can ride the same run all day and not duplicate the same line even once. It’s a park junkie’s dream: There are so many exciting features to try that you may be dizzied by the choices. Flying over the perfectly shaped jumps is exhilarating and makes me feel invincible every time. BearMountain.com.
East Ridge, Northstar
I got off the lift and slowly rode down a cat-track, looking out at the breathtaking view of winter-touched Lake Tahoe. I could see all the mountains surrounding the lake. The run itself is fairly easy, but the views made me want to stop again and again and just take it all in. This run is exemplary of those moments when overwhelming beauty reinstills a love for nature and life. NorthStarTahoe.com.