So you’re a surfer headed to a mountain town. Whether it be the call of the high alpine, or the call from a long-distance relationship that’s tired of the long distance, you’re trading the board shorts for Gore-Tex and giving up consistent swell for the elusive powder day.
Congrats, mountain towns are awesome.
But, seriously, we feel your pain. Surfing is not an itch that can go unscratched, and a couple of three-day weekends in Pacific Beach just aren’t going to cut it.
For the displaced wavehound in all of us, here are the best ski towns for surfers, and proof that the dream doesn’t die with a move to the mountains.
In recent years, Montana’s second largest municipality has not been shy about its affinity for surfing. Hundreds of miles from any discernible coastline, this Montucky mountain town features a rideable wave just minutes from downtown and the first river-specific surf shop in North America, Strongwater Surf Shop. The result of a manmade roll in the Clark Fork River, Brennan’s Wave attracts handfuls of surfers every spring, when runoff flow is at its highest and the local hill, Montana Snowbowl, is packing it in for the season.
Dedicated wave riders to the Loscha River for a wilder ride, but surfers can just as easily get their pittage within city limits and be dry by happy hour.
Tucked into southwestern Colorado, Durango is a mountain town known for its access to Colorado’s steep-ski gems of Silverton, Purgatory, Wolf Creek. But when the San Juan Range melts out around May, those waters of powders past fuel a different kind of adrenaline. Thanks to a municipal project in 2014 to bring a whitewater park to the Lower Animas River, a dedicated river surfer can throw on the neoprene and catch a ride right from Santa Rita Park along the town’s river path.
The Corner Pocket Wave is part of the larger Durango Whitewater Park, which has kayak and SUP-specific waves as well as a kayak slalom course. This park even hosted its first surf competition this past June.
The newest mountain town to jump on the surfing craze, Bend upped the ante in March of 2016, opening the Bend Whitewater Park along the Deschutes River bisecting Oregon’s favorite ski town. Featuring four waves that can be raised and lowered with automated steel plates, the park is home to a surf-specific wave graced by the likes of Pipeline legend and Bend resident Gerry Lopez. Central Oregon surfers are accustomed to commuting over the mountains to score coastal waves, but when the mountain biking, trail running, and skiing are just too good to pass up, high desert surfers can still get their daily wave fix after a long day on the trail.
With Jackson, Wyoming, vying for North America’s best ski town (and most crowded tram lines), the mecca of Lower 48 extreme skiing is also a landlocked surf destination. Along the Snake River’s popular summer hangout, Lunch Counter Rapids, wave riders can score green water every spring, if they’re willing to risk the superman entry off the rocks bordering the river swell. The big drawback of the Jackson wave is its frequency, as the Lunch Counter wave requires a combination of snowmelt and released water from the Jackson Lake Dam, meaning that the normal Jackson surf season is usually just two to six weeks long.
PORT ANGELES, WASHINGTON
While the rest of the mountain towns have figured out how to turn rivers into surf playgrounds, only Washington’s Port Angeles can boast an ocean wave just minutes from their sleepy ski town. Situated along the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula, this coastal town abuts the Olympic Range, with world class ski touring just a 45-minute drive up to Hurricane Ridge. When it’s time to give the ski legs a rest, the Strait of Juan de Fuca offers some of the tastiest lefts in the Pacific Northwest. The Strait is finicky and requires a strong Northwest swell, but since most of these larger storms spin in during the winter months, Port Angeles is the ideal locale for scoring powder and waves in the same day.
There are many waves along this stretch of coastline, but surfable days can be few and far in between, and locals hold spots close to their hearts. For the best wave info, visit North By Northwest Surf Co in Port Angeles. Don’t forget the burrito at Little Devil’s Lunchbox.
Of course, there’s a lot more wave action out there. Comment below.
Photo of Snake River by Bella Eats Books.