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TR-3000 mile US Road Trip (long!)

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
In mid February my wife Helen and I completed a 7 week, 3000 mile road trip of the US, which covered 6 States, 13 resorts, and involved 41 days skiing and 6 days driving (plus of course the 20 plus hours flying time from and to Australia). A detailed TR would be much too long, (the journal I kept is around 12 pages long!) and would probably bore readers senseless. What might however be more interesting are the views of a couple of foreigners on the resorts we visited, the things we saw and the experiences we had. We had been to all the areas we visited before with the exception of Tahoe, but added a number of new ski areas and revisited old favourites.
I don't want to make this post any longer and will try to post some pics separately.
South Lake Tahoe
We flew into Reno mid December, picked up a 4WD rental (Ford Escape) and drove to SLT where we stayed at Heavenly. The drive was kind of interesting as our flight out of Sydney was delayed and we missed our connection to REN and finally arrived at 1am. Driving over a snowy pass to Tahoe in a strange car on the other side of the road (to us) while having been up for over 30 hours was kind of interesting! Unfortunately the snow at Heavenly was meagre and neither Mott or Killibrew Canyons were open, nor was there any tree skiing available. This limited our options, so we shared the groomers with hordes of holidaying Californians while enjoying the great views and sunny but cold weather, and regaining our ski legs after months off the snow.
We particularly enjoyed the bump run under the Gunbarrel Chair on the Cali side (East Face?) Skiing on Christmas Day was a new and great experience, as was dinner that night at Cafe Fiori which had great food, an excellent wine list and softly falling snow outside! Truly memorable.
Because of the paucity of the snow and because we had lift tickets for Heavenly for the duration of our stay, we decided not to visit some of the other resorts in the area who were reportedly suffering the same lack of snow. Of course immediately we left, the first of the January storms swept through dumping feet of snow over most of the region! Luckily this was the only area we visited where the snow was scant, and everywhere else served up record falls and great skiing.
Utah
After 10 days in Tahoe we climbed into the car and drove to Salt Lake City. 600 odd miles across Nevada was mind numbing with only two small towns en route. We are used to long distances in Australia but found the bleakness of the high plains and the lack of virtually any signs of habitation for hours relatively unusual. We entered SLC in a snow storm with the windshield icing up and having to deal with the evening rush hour traffic on the I15, which tested our driving and navigation skills for a while.
We stayed in Sandy and commuted to various resorts daily based on the snow reports and the weather conditions. Previously we have stayed at Snowbird and Park City as well as Sandy and we found the latter gave us the greatest degree of flexibility. It did of course mean that in some cases (to be honest all cases!) we missed first lifts, but with the number of days we were skiing this really wasn’t an issue. We visited a number of resorts in the area and our comments follow.
Solitude
This was a new experience for us and we ended up spending 3 days of our Utah visit there we liked it so much. It was never crowded, even on weekends, the snow was great and there was some interesting and challenging skiing to be had. We particularly enjoyed Honeycomb Canyon where we got thigh deep fresh powder down Navarone, a black tree run, and waist deep fresh (at least for Helen who was skiing on her 68mm waisted K2 TNines!) down the Canyon after a big overnight snowfall. We had intended to venture further up Big Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton but never made it.
Powder Mountain
Based on overnight snow reports of 7in overnight, 20in in the last 48 hours and a base of 75in,we drove the 65 miles to Ogden and up to Powder Mountain. This was the only area we visited on the whole trip that we did not enjoy. I’m sure on a great day it could be good but we found it cold, not a lot of fresh snow in spite of the reports and the facilities relatively old and primitive. Not worth the drive for us that day. After the return trip to SLC we had the delightful experience of Utah liquor laws. After several abortive attempts to find the only liquor store within about a 10mile radius, we had to queue for 5-10 minutes in freezing temperatures to get into a cement block building that looked like a cross between a car wash and a gaol. The selection of wines and beers was good but the State definitely doesn’t want you to enjoy the experience!
Snowbird
One of our favourite mountains in the US, The ‘Bird did not disappoint with great snow on each visit. As usual on the first day back we spent a while standing at the top of pitches saying ”F..k!” to each other before dropping in. Funny how soon you adjust though and it was good practice for Jackson Hole later on. What was new to us was the tunnel through to Mineral Basin (The Bass Hole!) from the top of the Peruvian Chair which certainly improves access to the backside and to Alta. The snow was awesome, on one day the resort had received 11 inches overnight and 22 inches in the last 48 hours. It took until lunch time for the patrol to open anything off the Tram and until that occurred we skied Regulator Johnson on the front side in knee deep powder in bright sunshine. The “Chinese Downhill” when access to the ridge was finally allowed was something to behold.
Alta
As always the snow was awesome and the crowds sparse. We had some great runs off the Collins Chair (skiers left) in good powder with some interesting terrain and found some nice tree runs as well. We had a nice lunch at the new Watsons Shelter which we have done each time we have been to Alta. The only concern we have is the old lifts and the lack of safety bars which is OK when the drop is small but on the Sugarloaf Chair we stopped and swung over a 100ft drop which freaked Helen out completely!
Park City
On separate days we skied The Canyons and PCMR, both of which we knew from previous visits. While the snow was not as good as on the front side of the Wasatch it was still OK and we had fun at the Canyons demoing new skis, K2 Outlaw for me and K2 Tough Luv and Nordica Conquers for Helen. Good clear weather on both occasions, although strong winds on the Interstate driving home made it interesting for the little rental.

Wyoming
We drove the longer way from SLC to Jackson, up I15 to Idaho Falls and then east on Route 26. Very pretty scenery along the Snake River, however over 100 miles of snow covered road did not allow for too much sightseeing. We stayed in a condo in Teton Village which was a 5 minute ride on the shuttle to the village. Very nicely furnished with lots of extras, however the climb up three flights of external stairs was quite an effort at the end of a day’s skiing. The snow cover was so much better than on our previous visit, and it snowed virtually every day we were there, offering lots of fresh powder to sample.
We had found our way around the mountain previously thanks to Bob Peters excellent guide to Jackson Hole and revisited all our favourites such as Saratoga Bowl, Moran Faces, the Hobacks and Rendevous Bowl, plus a few new experience like lower Sublette Ridge, Rawlins Bowl and others. The absence of the Tram makes it slower to get to some areas and adds to the congestion on the Gondola but generally we found it not too crowded at any stage with a few minutes delay getting on to any chair the norm. Our planned meeting with Bob Peters didn’t happen which was a shame. We also took a day to visit Grand Targhee which had received over a foot of fresh overnight and where it kept hammering down all day. We had rented fat skis in JH (K2 Seths for me and K2 Fat Loves for Helen) and had a ball particularly in the trees under the Sascajewa Chair which was very quiet all day.
Temperatures were low the whole 10 days we were in Wyoming, with the average maximum hovering around 6-10F and overnight temperatures down to -11F. The day we left was even colder with the car thermometer registering -26F as we drove in to Jackson at about 8.30am. That’s cold!
Colorado
We took two days to drive to Copper where we had booked a condo, staying one night in Provo and one in Glenwood Springs. We really like the Victorian atmosphere of Glenwood Springs and found a nice restaurant there, Riviera specialising in what they called American Eclectic. The next day we skied at Aspen Snowmass which was interesting. Big well serviced base area and easy access to most areas of the mountain. Skied most areas but probably enjoyed the trees in the Campground area the most. It was Australia Day and the resort had made a real effort to celebrate it, with most staff wearing koala badges and little flags .Even saw one lifty with a complete kangaroo skin around his shoulders.
We spent 8 days skiing in Summit County, all but one at Copper. I had spent two weeks there several years ago but Helen had only visited for a day so there was lots to explore. The snow was great and after a warm-up day we met up with Tom Burch who showed us some great spots and we got fresh tracks down Copper Bowl, Union Bowl and the bump runs under the Resolution Chair like Drainpipe and Sawtooth. Another day we met up with Ric Reiter (vailsnopro) and Chris Geib for some turns although it was very cold and Helen and I were both feeling the altitude so we called it quits early, but had a great dinner of Gulf Shrimps and steaks with a whole bunch of Bears at Katy’s (tsavo) place in Frisco which we greatly appreciated .
We went back to Vail for one day and again had fun in the back bowls, particularly China Bowl and Blue Sky Basin. It was a clear and cold day (-12F at 8am) which probably kept the crowds down and certainly we hardly saw anyone on several runs through the trees under the chair in Blue Sky Basin. At Copper we really liked Spaulding Bowl (and Spaulding Glades) and the runs through the trees in Union Bowl like Golddigger and Retreat.
After Copper we drove to Steamboat for our final two days of the trip. The snow was amazing, it snowed virtually continuously the whole time we were there and the powder stashes in the trees of Pioneer Ridge were virtually fresh every time we got off the chair. We took a mountain tour the first morning as this was our first time at Steamboat and that proved valuable in identifying areas we wanted to revisit. Our guide was very helpful in pointing out the best places to get fresh powder and we followed his advice and found plenty! On the second day we found too much when Helen got caught in 5 feet deep snow in tight trees close to a tree well. The snow was too deep for her to regain her feet and mindful of the fact that there have already been two deaths in tree wells at Steamboat this year, we called the ski patrol who had her out very quickly.
Helen got a great deal and bought the skis she had been demoing (Nordica Conquers). Our plans to drive to Denver and then fly home had to be amended when both Rabbits Ear Pass and the I70 were closed for hours with high winds and avalanche danger. We managed to drive to Hayden Airport and get out via SLC and made our connection in LAX and were home in Canberra some 40 hours after we left the condo in Steamboat.

Highlights
· Skiing deeper powder more often than we had ever experienced.
· Skiing steeper and more technically demanding terrain than we have been capable of skiing before.
· Taking our skiing to another skill level,
Lessons Learned
· Big SUVs and trucks are useful because of the winter driving conditions, at least in the West. A little 4WD like the Ford Escape just doesn’t hack it.
· Careful attention to weather forecasts is essential prior to any long drive.
· How to read the snowpack and how to select the appropriate places to ski according to the direction the slopes face and the prevailing weather conditions. (Not something we have to concern ourselves with much in Oz)
· A laptop with WiFi connection is essential for staying in touch as is a good cellphone. We took a laptop and bought a cheap US cell but in future would take an OZ mobile with international roaming SIM card.
post #2 of 13
Kerry and Helen- it was great to see you both again! I'm glad you had a memorable trip (except the Tahoe segment, you should see how much snow they have now!).

Thanks for joining us for dinner, it was a fantastic evening having everyone together.

Sounds like the trip home was only marginally exciting, but I'm sure it was a relief to finally get there.

Rest well, as the OZ season isn't far away! lol

With warmest regards!
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks Again

Thanks Ric,
It was great to catch up with you, Tom and the others and to see you back on skis again if only for a few days. The memories of the trip will certianly last a while and as you say, the Austraiian season isn't far away. The first snowfalls ocurred yesterday which is unseasonably early, and we have had an unusually cool summer and the start of autumn today is quite cool ( 7 Celsius overnight in Canberra and -4 C in the mountaiins.)

Made our lodging bookings to day at our Club in the mountains so that's a tangible reminder that our season is approaching!
Regards
Kerry
post #4 of 13
i'm envious, i've not done a ski road trip through the US yet. only a rail trip through the alps & bus through kiwi alps.
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

You Have to do it!

I would strongly reccomend it. Although both of us have been constant visitors to the US for many years, those trips have been confined to the East Coast (business)or the major Western ski resorts. A road trip gives you the opportunity to see small towns and spectacular scenery like the drive to Jackson Hole along route 26 , the rock formations along the I70 in Western Utah, and neat towns like Glenwood Springs in Colorado.

As someone's tag on this Board says (sic) "If you don't do it now, you'll be year older when you do"
post #6 of 13
sounds like an awesome trip... very jealous.

some pics would be good
post #7 of 13

Pick Me. Pick Me.

Enjoyed reading your trip report. I'm jealous :. Will you adopt me and take me with you next time?
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 

Pics are coming!

Quote:
Originally Posted by bigpmacd View Post
sounds like an awesome trip... very jealous.

some pics would be good
I didn't want to add pics to the already long post and promised to add them later but have yet to do it. Hope to add some in the next day or so.
post #9 of 13
Since you like Glenwood, you should check out Sunlight Ski area next time. Nice little ski area with some pretty decent expert terrain. Spend a couple more days there and hit the hot springs, vapor caves and a few more of the Aspen areas.
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 

Where's Sunlight?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post
Since you like Glenwood, you should check out Sunlight Ski area next time. Nice little ski area with some pretty decent expert terrain. Spend a couple more days there and hit the hot springs, vapor caves and a few more of the Aspen areas.
Thanks for the recommendation. Will bear it in mind next time we are in the area. Where is it in relation to Glenwood Springs? As far as Aspen resorts are concerned we skied Highlands the last time we were in CO and really loved the steeps although it was a very cold day and a longish drive from Vail.
post #11 of 13
Kerry, I am pleased to hear that you and Helen had a great time, and the drive ended without any major incidents - not that you have owned up to anyway - if it did not srcatch or dent it does not count. 3,000 miles is huge, well done. I think Adrian and I did 2,000 on one of our trips, only ended up on the wrong side of the road a couple of times but luckily no one else around. To me, the country is huge, you are used to travelling Ozzie distances so not so new to you. You'll be itching for it to snow across the ditch now. Has cooled down here in the last couple of weeks after the hottest summer in more than 10 years, fingers crossed we will get a bumper winter for snow.
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by gerathlete 1 View Post
Where is it in relation to Glenwood Springs? As far as Aspen resorts are concerned we skied Highlands the last time we were in CO and really loved the steeps although it was a very cold day and a longish drive from Vail.
http://www.sunlightmtn.com/

Sunlight is nine miles outside of Glenwood, on a bench above the airport.
The drive from Glenwood to Aspen isn't too bad and there is a bus if your so inclined.

On really cold days, I usually just ski the gondola on Aspen Mountain.
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by julie from nz View Post
Kerry, I am pleased to hear that you and Helen had a great time, and the drive ended without any major incidents - not that you have owned up to anyway - if it did not srcatch or dent it does not count. 3,000 miles is huge, well done. I think Adrian and I did 2,000 on one of our trips, only ended up on the wrong side of the road a couple of times but luckily no one else around. To me, the country is huge, you are used to travelling Ozzie distances so not so new to you. You'll be itching for it to snow across the ditch now. Has cooled down here in the last couple of weeks after the hottest summer in more than 10 years, fingers crossed we will get a bumper winter for snow.
Hi Julie,
No major incidents, scratches or dents although given the amount of snow we had and the driving conditions, the 4WD was very muddy and dirty when we turned it in! Only one minor wrong side of the road indiscretion when I went around a roundabout in Frisco the wrong way. Luckily avoided any mishaps!
The distance weren't any problem really although the drive across Nevada was extremely boring. By contrast the drive to Jackson was very pretty as was the drive through SE Utah and through Colorado.

Have made all our accommodation bookings for the OZ ski season already and they are getting some cold temperatures and have had some early snowfalls in the mountains so like you we are hoping for a good season.
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