Powder Mike and his family are Edmonton-based skiers; his real job is a director of an Edmonton-based engineering company, but he's packed the family and equipment into a Class C Winterized Motorhome to spend three months touring the United States' finest ski spots. He's recording his travels for Vue Weekly.
It's an amazing thing when a dream becomes a reality. Over two years ago my family started planning an extended ski trip to the States and it was hard to imagine at the time it was possible. With two young daughters, a busy life in Edmonton and plenty of commitments, leaving for three months to ski would take a lot of planning. The key to our trip is a Class C winterized Motorhome. Having a portable ski condo means we can follow the snow and set our own agenda.
Now three weeks into the trip—we are in the States—the skiing has been superb with the best snow conditions in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and California in recent years. We have found powder and our timing has been perfect.
Backing up a bit, it was three ski seasons ago when we saw that our girls were getting old enough and strong enough to ski the hard stuff at Marmot Basin. My wife and I realized that a trip to all the classic resorts was possible so we signed the girls up with the Jasper Ski Team Nancy Greene programme to sharpen their skills and were amazed at the results. Suddenly, the Tram at Jackson Hole, WY, deep powder at Alta, UT, long runs at Big Sky, MT and backcountry terrain at Silverton, CO were within reach.
As the trip planning progressed, a U-shaped route through Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and California would hit all the major Western resorts with a mandatory stop at Disneyland. I had grown up seeing my parent's organizing a yearly ski patrol and friends ski trip to places such as Sun Valley, Jackson Hole and Alta. The images of their black-and-white Super 8 movies showed wooden-seat, no-safety-bar chairs rising over massive snow banks. Below, nylon clad White Stag skiers with shiny metal poles and safety straps kept their heels together while carving up virgin power slopes. With childhood impressions such as these, I had a deep desire to see the same places.
Now that the route was set it was time to research the areas to go to. Many areas were a given: Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee, Steamboat, Aspen, Vail, Tahoe, Alta, Squaw and even Taos, New Mexico as a start. According to Wikipedia there are over one hundred ski areas in the six states we would be visiting. This would take some digging. From my ski patrolling contacts at Marmot Basin I had a chance to interview many people that have gone Stateside. Unfortunately after many stories of epic powder days, I came to the conclusion that the best area to go to was the one that got over a foot of snow the night before. Without exception, I heard that you have to go to Telluride/Aspen/Snowbird/Copper/etc, as it snowed like crazy and you can't miss it.
In the end the tick list had 16 must-go areas and nine like-to-go, as time and conditions permit. With 12 weeks of skiing and 25 areas, perhaps the plan was a bit ambitious. It was time to get serious: as the French alpinist Gaston Rébuffat said, "A goal without a plan is just a wish." The mitigating factor, however, is a saying I heard long ago: "Never leave snow to find snow." With this as a motto, even though we may not hit 25 resorts, the ones we will get to I'm sure will be spectacular. V