Ski special: Summer snow

'Everyone is in a celebratory mood'
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The Independent Travel

Finding summer snow in Europe isn't a problem but in North America the opportunities are much more limited. The majority of Americans demand a quality of snow and service that neither Mother Nature nor corporate ski resorts can offer past April. So Americans searching for snow fly down to Chile, or even New Zealand, for real winter conditions.

But there is snow to be had at home if you know where to look. The continent's biggest resort - Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada - is open for summer glacier snow sports over Canada Day, 1 July, and the US Independence Day three days later.

The resort's Horstman Glacier doesn't have conventional ski runs. Instead it's divided into lanes with individual summer skiing and boarding camps (a popular phenomena in North American) each assigned their own. There are three public lanes, one entirely devoted to a terrain park with jumps, rails and spines or quarter pipes depending on the amount of snow, along with a superpipe.

"The glacier doesn't open specifically for Canada Day, Canada Day events generally take place in the village." explains resort spokeswoman Michelle Comeau Thompson. "There's always a parade through the village with a kids' bike decorating contest. The bars get into the spirit with Canadian-themed parties. Since it is a long weekend everyone is in a celebratory mood."

The best-known summer ski centre south of the border is Mount Hood in Oregon, based at the Timberline Lodge. This is the only North American area that opens year-round, bar a fortnight for maintenance in September.

Timberline's terrain is accessed by the Palmer Express, a fast quad chairlift up to 2,600m (8,540ft). Here you can carve turns on a glacial snowfield that typically receives 450-plus inches of snow annually. It's recommended for advanced intermediate to expert skiers and boarders.

Less well known is the Red Lodge ski operation at Beartooth Pass in Montana. Here one of the most scenic roads in the world provides access to high-elevation snowfields where skiing is normally available up to 4 July.

The mountain is open to the public with controlled daily use - which means you must prove your ability and sign an insurance liability waiver before being allowed free rein. The two lifts cling to the mountainside 3,300m (10,800ft) up, and runs are rated advanced to expert.

Beyond these two US summer snow draws, you may get lucky at one of the regular resorts, if snowfalls deep enough for them to keep running the lifts into July. In Colorado, with record snow-accumulation-to-date statistics reported in January, it's looking good for both Arapahoe Basin which has a reputation for Independence Day skiing, and for newcomer Silverton Mountain.

In Utah, Snowbird has managed to open through to Independence Day twice in the past decade, most recently last season. Other regular late-season openers include Mammoth Mountain in California, which has made it to August on occasions, and Mount Bachelor in Oregon.

A final twist is provided by New Hampshire's Tenney Mountain which has used hi-tech Snow Magic snow making to create enough white stuff for an afternoon's fun in July, in temperatures up to 60šF. The resort normally creates terrain park features including jumps and rails to enhance the fun.

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