1. SUGAR BOWL, CALIF. With its ripple-effect snow, The Palisades has an extreme backcountry feel within the relative safety of the ropes. It features plenty of fun spines and steep lines, with a nearly 40-degree pitch. Because conditions can be variable, patrol often closes the area, so be sure to check the trail directories before setting out. To get there, head up the Mt. Disney Chairlift and traverse five minutes along the ridge heading skier’s right, or ride the Mt. Lincoln Chairlift and traverse skier’s left past the Silver Belt Run and The 58s, named after an avalanche that raged through the gully in 1958.
2. POWDER MOUNTAIN, UTAH With an average of one skier every two acres—even on a busy weekend—Powder feels like it’s all off the map. Hitch a $15 ride on the cat to Lightning Ridge and drink in the 700 acres of ungroomed, tree-speckled gully. From Lightning Ridge, the summit of James Peak is a 20-minute hike across the saddle that connects James and Cobabe Peaks. From the top, drop into Y Chute and ride it all the way to Candy Land, which will deliver you back to the base of the Paradise chair.
3. WHISTLER BLACKCOMB, B.C. The Symphony Chair, added two years ago, accesses 1,000 acres of open bowls and trees in Symphony Amphitheatre on Whistler Mountain. From the top, follow the ridgeline skier’s left through the Flute Bowl avalanche control gate. Drop in from any point along the spine for blue, black and double-black pitches that get progressively steeper and spill into the tightening trees in Glissando Glades. Or continue all the way around the spine and follow Encore Ridge to the lift.
4. MAD RIVER GLEN, V.T. Octopus Garden, “Octo” to locals, requires no hike and is inside the resort’s boundaries, but it’s not easy to find and isn’t listed on any trail map. If you do uncover the trailhead—off the Paradise trail and marked by an orange sign that reads “Not a Ski Trail”—prepare for a very steep, very twisty, very narrow ride that will take you over frozen waterfalls, mandatory airs and through tight glades.
5. TAOS, N.M. Its appearance could fool you into thinking it’s backcountry terrain, but Kachina Peak is actually inbounds. It does require a hike from the top of Chair 2. The hike to the very top is 45 minutes, but you can drop into any one of five K-Chutes. K-4 faces north, so it tends to hold the most snow. Just don’t be too gung-ho when you drop over the cornice because after about three to four turns, the chutes narrow to widths of about 20 yards. The runout is mellow and open and will put you back at Chair 4.