What goes together better than summer snow and fireworks? If you plan on celebrating Independence Day with your boots on, this is the year. Record snowfall in many western states this winter/spring means there are still plenty of turns for the taking.
Lift-served options span California, Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon and Utah. Four California ski areas are spinning lifts for the holiday weekend: Mammoth, Squaw, Alpine Meadows and Sugar Bowl. Arapahoe Basin in Colorado is open on the Fourth, as is Snowbird, Utah. Mt. Hood is running summer camps all the way into September.
In Jackson Hole, the tram fired up again around Memorial Day, opening up lift-served access to the area's heralded terrain and backcountry. Jackson rider Don Watkins has a number of late-season shred days under his belt. He offers a glimpse into what's cooking for the Fourth.
"After a great winter and snowy spring, there's a nice lineup to choose from around Jackson," Watkins explains. "If you want to limit your hiking time and make the afternoon BBQ, you can't go wrong catching a ride up the tram at the resort. A short hike south gets you outside the closed resort boundary into a variety of incredible terrain with great snow coverage for this time of year. If you're feeling more adventurous and welcome an early morning departure, Jackson Peak will reward you with some incredible north-facing couloir riding, and quite possibly the best Teton and valley views around."
Lift-served options aside, there are the classic all-access passes, including icons like California's Tioga, Colorado's Independence, North Cascades Highway in Washington, and Beartooth Pass, Montana. All offer real-deal backcountry terrain, roadside access, and above-average snowpacks for this time of year.
This was the second latest opening (May 25) for North Cascades Highway in the road's 39-year history. The latest ever was June 14, 1974. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, the clearing effort took more than six weeks, compared to just three-and-a-half weeks last spring. The highway was buried in up to 75 feet of snow.
Montana's Beartooth Pass is notorious for Fourth of July throwdowns, and "Backcountry Magazine" editor Drew Pogge says you'll see it all at there, including marmots that will "eat your radiator" at the Rock Creek campground: "Camping up Rock Creek is like hanging out with binge-drinking circus bears -- riders and skiers co-mingling with rednecks and cowboys and the odd mid-western tourist who can't seem to believe the spectacle of snow on the 4th of July.
"For the laziest lot of riders, Rock Creek Headwall offers road laps, and hitch-hiking usually isn't much of a problem," Pogge continues. "By the 4th, the line choices may be limited, but not this year. Bring a camp chair and cooler to leave at the bottom, and ride slush 'til you can't stand anymore. Further up the Pass, Gardner Headwall provides some steeper, more exposed lines, with huge cornices and some chutes, if you're willing to hike. You drop in from the road, but have to climb back out."
If all this sounds like too much effort, there's always the dirty snowpile jib that's probably still lingering on the north side of your house. Even when it's dirty, there's nothing sweeter than corn on the 4th of July.