Suz Graham takes a steady break in the Blackcomb backcountry. PHOTO: Eric Berger
Suz Graham takes a steady break in the Blackcomb backcountry. PHOTO: Eric Berger

The Best West Coast Colleges for Skiers

From the PNW to Alaska, the West Coast has great schools and even better snow

Oh, college. It's the best four, five, or eight years of your life as you gain the education and social skills necessary to become a functional, contributing member of society in the post-graduate world.

While your parents and professors might assume you're going to college to get a degree, chances are you're hoping to spend a least some of your time studying that sweet powder when you shipping off to school in the fall.

With that in mind, we here at POWDER have selected the best schools that find that perfect balance between getting to ski and earning your degree. We chose these schools based on a combination of culture, tuition, academics, and closeness to the slopes.

This is the final piece of a three part series. Check out the Best Colleges for Skiers on the East Coast and the Best Colleges for Skiers in the Mountain West.

Welcome to Canada, the home of universal health care, delicious poutine, and beautiful college campuses. PHOTO: University of British Columbia

University of British Columbia
Tuition: ~$38,000 (for international students)
Acceptance Rate: 52.4%
Enrollment: 61,113
Where to Ski: Whistler Blackcomb

If being a two-hour drive from one of the top ski resorts in the world, Whistler Blackcomb, isn't enough for you to consider University of British Columbia, we're not sure you should be reading this list at all. Located in Vancouver, UBC makes its way onto our list as the only school where you will need your passport.

Located in one of Canada's biggest cities, UBC offers quick access to some of the most picturesque natural beauty in North America right out its back door.

The UBC Freeride Team is stacked with incredibly talented skiers and offers an instant friend group full of like-minded powder hounds. "For me, going to UBC is easily one of the best decisions I have made," says current student Cobo Alvarez De Toledo.

"The thing that makes UBC one of the best schools for skiing is the community of skiers you find through the UBC Ski and Board Club and UBC Freeride. The club members have a range of abilities from beginners to absolute shredders, so everyone is able to find a group that pushes their limits just enough with some friendly competition."

On top of access to universal health care and delicious poutine, you can tell your parents that heading north of the border for your education will also land you at a school that is constantly ranked in the top 20 public universities in the world. Be wary of having such easy access to amazing snow, however, as you might soon find yourself selling the car to buy a snowmobile to access the backcountry meccas of Squamish and Pemberton, both just a few short hours from campus.

Skiing at Whistler can be daunting. Here’s how to make the most of your time at the best ski town in the world.

Just an hour and a half from the deepest snow in the lower 48, Western Washington University ain’t a bad place to get some studying in, either. PHOTO: WWU

Western Washington University
Tuition: $6,249 in-state / $20,760 out-of-state
Acceptance Rate: 84.6%
Enrollment: 15,060
Where to Ski: Mount Baker

Located on the shores of Puget Sound, Bellingham's Western Washington University is an ideal place to soak up all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. An hour and a half east is Mount Baker Ski Area, home to the largest average snowfall in the lower 48 coming in at 641 inches a year.

WWU students in the late '90s were treated to 1,140 inches at Baker in 1998-99, marking the world's greatest snowfall recorded in a season.

If riding the lift at Mount Baker isn't your style, the backcountry opportunities surrounding Western Washington are endless, and finding someone to tour with is easier than finding a bearded bartender at a Bellingham microbrewery. Canada is also less than an hour's drive from campus, putting Whistler and other amazing B.C. mountains within your reach for long weekends or spring break trips.

Arguably known for its rivers more than its skiing, Western Washington is also home to many dedicated whitewater kayakers, so come spring melt, you might just find yourself swapping ski boots for neoprene booties to keep the PNW fun going year round.

While it might not be your traditional ski town, you'd be hard-pressed to find a community more full of folks who recreate outside than in Bellingham.

Quick access to Mount Hood at a school of only 2,000 students? Where do we sign up? PHOTO: Lewis and Clark College

Lewis and Clark College
Tuition: $48,988
Acceptance Rate: 63%
Enrollment: 2,209
Where to Ski: Mount Hood

This list wouldn't be complete without including a school with access to some of the best year-round skiing in the country at the one and only Mount Hood. Located 15 minutes south of downtown Portland, Oregon, Lewis and Clark College is a small, liberal arts school littered with dedicated PNW skiers.

Just an hour's drive from the ski bumming paradise of Government Camp, Lewis and Clark students have quick access to some of the most dependable snowpack in the U.S. at Timberline, Mount Hood Ski Bowl, and Mount Hood Meadows.

"It takes a hearty, rowdy person to be a dedicated skier in the PNW," says L&C Ski Club President Jake Sherer. "That is something we as Lewis & Clark students pride ourselves on."

Outside of the Ski Club shuttling skiers to Mount Hood almost every weekend, Lewis and Clark also offers a P.E. class where students can take a bus up to the mountains on Saturdays, ski all day and get college credit for it. It's a school that offers a class in skiing--need we say more?

When most resorts begin to close their lifts, May is one of the best times to ski Mount Hood.

It might be in Alaska’s biggest city, but UAA’s campus is just a stones throw away from unlimited skiing opportunities. PHOTO: University of Alaska Anchorage

University of Alaska at Anchorage
Tuition: $7,758 in-state / $23,576 out-of-state
Acceptance Rate: 82%
Enrollment: 17,962
Where to Ski: Alyeska, and backcountry

There are few places on the planet more fit for dedicating your life to skiing than the big mountain mecca of Alaska. Nestled in Alaska's biggest city, Anchorage, a 20-minute drive in any direction will have you quickly forgetting the city life as you're surrounded by seemingly unreal expanses of wilderness.

UAA's Gear Room offers students super cheap rates for renting outdoors gear, whether it's for kitting up for a ski tour or a week-long backpacking trip, and their Outdoor Recreation Club takes students on tons of awesome trips, including several multi-day backcountry ski trips.

UAA also plays host to one of the top Division I ski teams in the country, so it’s safe to say the ski talent around campus is top-notch.

Forty miles away from campus in the town of Girdwood (the new home base of big mountain badass Angel Collinson) sits Alaska's biggest resort, Alyeska. While a peak elevation of under 4,000 feet might be a red flag to those transplanting from Colorado and Utah, Alyeska's 640 inches of average snowfall and 2,750 feet of vertical will quickly change your mind.

But because moving to Alaska and only skiing the resort is even worse than going to apr├Ęs and only drinking club soda, save some space in your bag for a beacon, probe, and shovel to enjoy the hundreds of thousands of backcountry acreage just waiting to be skied.