You don't need big alpine mountains and 30 minute runs to have a great day snowboarding, some of the best resorts I have been to have modest mountains to offer and there is no reason why they should be overlooked!
In this blog I would like to take you through the top 5 small mountains which I have recently experienced and what made them special.
Smaller resorts tend to be more quiet and give you more of a community and hometown feel. So without further ado here is my list:
5. Niseko (Japan)
This one is probably a surprise. Niseko is actually a very small mountain compared to the likes of Whistler (BC, Canada), Jackson Hole (Wyoming, USA) and the European Alps. Niseko has a mellow vertical slope and limited terrain with no alpine snowboarding.
However, what makes this resort special is the ridiculous amount of snow it receives due to its location (read more about Japan's snowfall) and its freezing temperatures keeping the snow consistently light. It makes every unforgettable, specially through the trees where it is deep top to bottom.
Check out the gallery page for some photos from Japan.
4. Cardrona (New Zealand)
At number 4 we have Cardrona. Even though the mountains in New Zealand are big, the ski-able terrain is very small - you have to drive through winding roads for 15 minutes before getting to where the snow line starts, so you are basically riding the tip of the mountain.
What makes this small area so special is the snowboard terrain park set up, which runs throughout the top and bottom of the chairlift.
The park is perfectly built for progression with a great consistent flow, from beginner to intermediate and the very advanced features. Whilst the park run is not long, everything is well shaped and kept.
Cardrona's vibe is very friendly and welcoming too.
3. Corralco (Chile)
This tiny resort is located about 10 hours south of Santiago, and it's actually centered around a volcano rather than a mountain, which is quite typical in Chile. It can be definitely considered off-beat when comparing it to the ski areas around the capital Santiago with the likes of La Parva, Valle Nevado and El Colorado.
Malalcahuello is nearest town and many people would consider that the town adds to the resort's character, and this one does it complete justice, it's an incredible place.
The highlight was the unique terrain and the volcano backdrop (we climbed it!) we were presented with. It was perfectly pitched, smooth, and also very quiet during the peak season. We were able to lap non-stop with literally no waiting time and able to find untracked areas within the resort.
Check out the gallery page for some photos from Chile.
2. Mt Hood Timberline (OR, USA)
This might be a surprise but Mt Hood is second on my list. It's also another volcano and whilst the mountain range is big, the snowboarding area is very compact, a small triangle at the top.
There's a very small and friendly community located at the base of the mountain called Government Camp.
The Mt Hood Timberline resort has excellent tree riding, gullies, and a terrain park during the winter, but I think the highlight of this resort is at spring time. For around 100 odd USD you can almost get 2 months of snowboarding.
They are also open in the summer and have summer camps for kids and adults. It's a special place that offers the opportunity to snowboard nearly throughout the year.
1. Mt Bachelor (OR, USA)
Mt Bachelor checks all the boxes of what makes a small resort exceptional - reasonable price tickets, the people who work there are very friendly (probably all locals who live next door!), and the effort they put on service to make your experience great really shines through.
The resort also receives a good amount of quality snow from the weather storms and wind that comes from the pacific northwest, and this creates some incredible natural surf wave like wind-lips. Some of my best powder days have been in Mt Bachelor.
The layout is really cool too with a pyramid type of shape, and surprisingly, another volcano! You can hike to the top and snowboard around the mountain in 360 degrees before eventually getting back to the chairlift.
The trees are well spaced out to weave through and they also have a good terrain park. It's not surprise we have been here 3 times already and made some good friends every time we visit.
Mt Bachelor definitely matches head-to-head with some of the larger resorts.
Video version of this blog: