PlanetSKI is on a 4-week road trip round 20 or so ski resorts in the USA and Canada. We have been blogging each day and here we re-produce the first week in full and in chronological order.

It’s a long read in one go but do come back to dip in and dip out as our editor, James Cove, meanders round the resorts near Salt Lake City –  Park City, Deer Valley, Alta and Snowbird.

See here for the second part of the week as James skied the resorts near Ogden – Snowbasin and Powder Mountain.

Tuesday February 7th – Day One

It’s been a while since I have felt like an excitable and slightly naughty schoolboy.

But I do now.

My plane has just touched down in Salt Lake City, Mr Trump’s border officials let me in with the usual rudeness of the US Customs and Border Protection and I’m driving the 33-mile journey to the ski resort of Park City.

The first stop on my latest ski adventure.

The jet lag adds a hazy feeling to proceedings but I can safely say there is nowhere else I would rather be in the whole wide world.

In a few weeks I will probably give pretty much anything to be where I am right now as my journey begins.

I’m excited.

Super excited.

Let the journey begin!

Let the journey begin! Image © PlanetSKI

I’ve just taken the new direct flight from Heathrow to Salt Lake City run by Delta – on my three previous visits to Utah I’ve had to go via Chicago or another gateway.

And the plane is half empty so there is plenty of room to stretch out, but more of that later.


Space at altitude.Image © PlanetSKI

“You look like a skier so you may like to know we are having one of the best winters ever with 4 feet of snow in the last week alone,” said an air stewardess to me.

Even taking into account the national American characteristic for exaggeration it sounded impressive.

As were the views out of the window as we passed over the frozen Atlantic near Greenland at 30,000 ft.

In fact for most of the journey there seemed to be reminders of winter as I looked down on the USA contemplating the month ahead.


Looking down. Image © PlanetSKI


More snow. Image © PlanetSKI

I have a plan for the next 4-weeks but there is much that’s not organised.

‘The Lord will provide’ is always my motto on my ski road trips as I like to make things up as I go along.

Strict itineraries tend to get in the way of things.

I shall mostly be heading where the wind and snow take me.

In the past such an approach has led me to Fortress Mountain in Canada on a previous road trip in Alberta, Canada – a ghost ski resort stuck in time.


Fortress Mountain, Canada. Image © PlanetSKI

And playing pool in Beaver Creek in the home of the former US President, Gerald Ford, as I meandered around Colorado a couple of years back.


Presidential pool. Image © PlanetSKI

Then there was a 5-hour drive along the Icefields Parkway to Japser in Canada as I decided to head north rather than south as the snow seemed better that way.


#theultimateskiroadtrip. Image © PlanetSKI

It is the most stunning ski drive imaginable with the wonderful ski resort of Marmot Basin at the end.

I even became a knob muncher, but you’ll have to click on the link above to see exactly what that means. Wink

On this trip I do have a plan, albeit a rough one.

First stop Utah and a week or so in the resorts of Park City, Deer Valley, Alta, Snowbird, Snowbasin, Whisper Ridge and Powder Mountain.

Then it is the first of two separate visits to Colorado as I’m heading to Breckenridge, Keystone and A-Basin.

I was in Breck on the day they opened the Peak 6 ski lift a few years back and was one of the first to ride it.


Breckenridge, Colorado. Image © PlanetSKI

Next it’s crossing the border to Canada to visit my 22-year old son, Alex, who lives in Banff where he works as a ski instructor.


Father and son. Image © PlanetSKI

So, it’s the resorts of Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Mount Norquay in Alberta.

Nowadays he takes me round the slopes, not the other way round.


See above caption 😉 Image © PlanetSKI

Alex is hopefully joining my road trip as we take in Fernie and a few local hills in British Columbia.

Then it’s back across the border to Colorado for the US resorts of Aspen and Copper.

Aspen has been high on my tick list and is a resort I have never skied in.

I’m hoping to swing by Vail to see the man I played pool with at the President’s place in Beaver Creek.

My good friend Pat Barrett – he owes me a pair of gloves, but that’s a long story. Wink

“I’m coming to get ’em Pat!”

By chance PlanetSKI’s senior reporter, Katie Bamber, is in Whistler on holiday later this month so she may join me as my road trip heads to Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Big Sky in Montana.

I’ve wanted to ski Jackson Hole and Big Sky even more than Aspen.

Sun Valley in Idaho also beckons and no-doubt a few resorts I’ve never heard of.


The only thing for sure is the plan will change.

Regular readers of PlanetSKI know that I’m rather partial to road trips, taking in as many resorts as possible and leaving myself open to life.

I’m also partial to dropping plans and heading off in a different direction.

Last month I was on a week long trip in Switzerland – it was by rail but I had the same experience including staying all alone in a closed hotel after I persuaded the owner to keep it open for me.

Last winter I did a road trip round the little known resorts of the French Pyrenees with adventures along the way and then the big one for last season – a 12-day trip trip in a motorhome in British Columbia with my friend and colleague, Alf Alderson.


Alf and Yours Truly. Image © PlanetSKI

We talked about a big USA road trip while in Canada last year but Alf can only manage a week in the USA this season as he’s ski touring in Norway later this month (as you do), so I had a thought:

“Sod it, I’ll just book up a monster road trip on my own as see what happens.”

So I did.

And here I am.

I have four weeks ahead of me and Alf just the one.

And it started off very well for me – Alf bought an upgrade on the Delta flight for £85.

He wanted a wider seat and the free booze.

Well he got his drinks but his wider seat was rather hemmed in by others.


Cheers! Image © PlanetSKI

I had a choice of 7 seats in my row back in cattle-class with many more options in front and behind – and the drinks were complimentary.

“Spread yourself out there’s plenty of room,” said the skiing stewardess.


Same to you! Image © PlanetSKI

I could feel £85 sitting re-assuringly in my wallet for the whole 11-hour flight.

Cove 1 Alderson 0.

I selected one of the many window seats on offer as we came into land at Salt Lake City.

And what a time to have chosen the USA – it’s had the best snow in many, many years.

There is decent snow in Utah and even more is promised elsewhere.

Utah makes the rather spurious claim to have “The Greatest Snow on Earth” but I have visited three times and spent around five weeks in its resorts.

I have yet to see any evidence of its claim.

Hopefully that will change and the words of the air stewardess will not prove an exaggeration.

As I pull into the first of many hotels that I will be staying in over the coming week it all looks rather promising.

The 11-hour flight and 7-hour time difference can take their toll on a North American ski trip

But I have a well-practiced routine when I cross the Pond.

The key is to stay up as late you can on the first night in order that you don’t just wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to get back to sleep.

Park City has a main street littered with bars & clubs and is well-known for its nightlife.

Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah. Image © PlanetSKI

Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah. Image © PlanetSKI

Let the journey begin…

For further details on Utah then see the web site Visit Utah


Wednesday February 8th – Day Two


Well, that proved me wrong.

You will remember that my cure for jet lag is to go out for a few beers and stay up as late as possible.

And then a decent night sleep is ensured.

It has worked in the past but not this time.

We did the first two (beer and staying up) but the latter did not occur.

I woke just after 3.30AM and couldn’t get back to sleep.

Fellow transatlantic travellers will know the feeling.

10.30AM in the UK

10.30AM in the UK. Image © PlanetSKI

It is the biggest pain of crossing the Atlantic to ski and normally hinders the first 2 or 3 days.


Sleeping is also not helped by the high altitude of many resorts in the US.

I am in Park City and it is close to 2,000m.

Breckenridge, where I am next week, is 2,950m, Apsen where I am later is 2,500m.

Jet lag and altitude are rarely, if ever, mentioned in the tour operator brochures but they have a significant impact on US ski trips.

In Breckenridge there is even an oxygen bar in town for people to top up their supply!

Getting more O2 on board

Getting more O2 on board in Breck. Image © PlanetSKI

After hitting the sack shortly before midnight I have concluded that 3 and a half hours of sleep is not enough to prepare for a full day’s skiing so I will not be doing it again tonight. (Well only two drinks. Maybe).


Cheers! Image © PlanetSKI


Now while we are on the subject of the demon drink there are some very odd rules here in this Mormon state.

I was here in 2002 when Salt Lake City held the Winter Olympics and I was working for the BBC.

I wrote a feature for the Today programme on Radio 4 and reported for the radio programme at the time about the State’s laws on the matter. (It’s worth a look at the link just for the mugshot photo of yours truly!)

There were some bizarre by-laws at the time so, for example, in a restaurant the waiter was not allowed to offer the wine list to diners as this is deemed to be encouraging drinking. However he could give it to them if they asked for it.

We updated our understanding here on PlanetSKI as the laws changed in 2010.

But still they seem rather bizarre in 2017.

When we arrived back in the hotel on our opening night we were informed that unless we ate we had to pay another $1 to have a beer at the bar.

It was apparently to encourage people to eat food to absorb the alcohol and the money went to the state (Pardon?)

I could buy a beer from the bar to take to my room but the staff could not take the top off fro me. (It encourages drinking if the top is taken off I was told).

Draft beer cannot be more than 3.5% proof.

Spirits can only be bought in single measures of 1 ounce (likely to evaporate in the glass IMO).

Buying two at the same time is not allowed. (worth a try)

In a bar in town we had to buy bread to go with our beers – for the princely sum of $1.

Bread with beer - it's compulsory

Bread with beer – it’s compulsory. Image © PlanetSKI

Alcohol can only be bought in state run liquor stores and is not on sale in supermarkets, convenience stores or anywhere else (and guess who takes the profit from the state-run stores?)

The local offy

The local offy. Image © PlanetSKI

I could go on…

But I can report on the wonderful traffic wardens they have in Park City.

This is the ticket I was issued with today.

Thank you Mr Traffic Warden

Thank you Mr Traffic Warden. Image © PlanetSKI

Now why can’t traffic wardens in London be so generous?

For further details on Utah then see the web site Visit Utah

Thursday February 9th – Day Three


At last.

I have my skis, am on snow and have collected my Epic Pass from Park City in Utah.

Though I still feel a bit tired with jet lag.

Park City, Utah

Yours truly goes Epic. Image © PlanetSKI

I’m kicking off my month-long USA/Canada road trip that will take in around 20 resorts in the biggest of them all in the USA – Park City Mountain with 265kms of slopes.

The ski area covers 7,300 acres with 300+ trails, 41 lifts and 8 terrain parks.

In North America only Whistler in Canada is bigger.

I am pleased to say the Epic Pass includes all the resorts owned by Vail Resorts and on this trip I’m planning on seeing Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail and Arapahoe Basin, that are all covered by the pass.

This is a bit of a digression but I got my pass as a press event in London last summer.

The International Marketing team  from Vail Resorts was over and invited a small number of specialist snowsports journalists for lunch to tell us all about the Vail Resorts news.

In the goody bag we were given was an Epic Pass – a season pass for all their resorts.

Normally we just get a few stickers and an undrinkable bottle of the local tipple.

I don’t expect they believed any journalist would take them up on their kind offer, but I have.

And now here I am:

Park City, Utah

You were issued your pass where? Image © PlanetSKI

Park City Mountain came into being after the resort was taken over by Vail Resorts and it then swallowed up the neighbouring resort of Canyons – it was a long-running and bitter dispute that we followed closely here on PlanetSKI.

I shall be writing a separate news article shortly about the consequences and the changes that are taking place in the main news section, so more of that later.


What I want to talk about here is mining.

You see Park City is an old mining town and it is exactly this sort of historical heritage that makes me enjoy visiting North America.

It is a completely difference experience to the Alps.

Which resorts in the Alps have disused silver mines liberally dotted about?

Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah. Image © PlanetSKI

Mining boomed in the late 19th century as silver was found by prospecting Army soldiers in 1868.

In 1869 the trans-continental railway was finished and it took people a week to reach Park City from stepping off their boat in New York.

23 millionaires were made, including George Hurst and “Silver Queen” Susanna Bransford.

The mines under the ski slopes yielded more than $400m.

The population of Park City rose to 10,000 as people floocked in to seek their fortune.

Park City, Utah

Mining heritage – Park City, Utah. Image © PlanetSKI

Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah. Image © PlanetSKI

Nowadays you can have a tour of the mining spots on skis to learn about the mining history.

And talking of skiing, that is what I am really here for – to ski the newly created largest ski resort in the USA.

Park City, Utah

On the slopes. Image © PlanetSKI


Right – first things first.

Park City would fit into a tiny corner of the mega resorts in Europe – Les3Vallées, Les Portes du Soleil and Paradiski in France, the Dolomiti Superski region in Italy, Les4Vallées in Switzerland or even single resorts like Zermatt.

Ski areas in North America are generally much smaller than their European counterparts.

Park City is comparable in size perhaps to the joint area of Les Gets and Morzine in the Portes du Soleil.

There is less variety of terrain and the restaurants leave much to be desired.

The Utah state claims to have “The Greatest Snow on Earth”.

It is their marketing catchphrase and adorns the number plates of all locally registered vehicles.


Pardon? Image © PlanetSKI

Another thing that needs to be made clear is that it does not have the greatest snow on earth.

No single resort or ski area does as I explained in an article on PlanetSKI on a visit back in 2012. 

“Probably some of the better snow on earth” was how one resort official put it to me when I pressed him to be more accurate.

This is my fourth visit, spread over 7 weeks and I have yet to ski good powder.

I’m not complaining as no-one can control the weather, but the claim to have the greatest snow on earth is ludicrous in my opinion

On this trip there is evidence of all the good snow from earlier in January but precious little powder snow.

On Thursday it was +7ºC up on the mountain – the top of the mountain, at around 3,000m.

So, why do I keep coming back?

Check back for the next update and I’ll tell you.

There are many, many reasons.

For further details on Utah then see the web site Visit Utah

Friday February 10th – Day Four

As I chuck skis in the back of the car before heading out for a day at Park City Mountain I couldn’t help noticing the name of a shop next to our hotel.

Only in America

Only in America. Image © PlanetSKI

I had to go in and ask why.

“Cos I’m a Trout Bum and you are one too,” was the response.

Only in America.


As mentioned in yesterday’s blog I am kicking off the trip in the biggest ski resort in the USA – Park City Mountain resort.

So, why do I like skiing in North America?

In part it is stumbling across places like the shop above, what we did for apres ski today (more of that later in this blog), plus the fact it is so different from Europe.

But it is mainly for the skiing.

It may not be as big as the Alps, with far smaller resorts and less vertical descent, but it has the wonderful concept of ‘Inbounds’.

‘What is that?’ I hear you ask.


In the Alps there are marked runs, the pistes, and then there is off piste.

The runs are prepared, patrolled and assessed for avalanche danger while the rest is not – you ski it at your risk.

In North America they simply open whole sections of the mountain, after ensuring it is safe, and you go wherever you want.

A few European resorts have copied this concept, Avoriaz in France and Livigno in Italy, spring to mind.

Then a few other resorts have so-called itinerary runs – Verbier and Zermatt included.

But that is it.

‘Inbounds’ and a different shape to the mountains is what makes North America special.

You can ski slopes and terrain knowing it has been assessed by the ski patrol.

Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah. Image © PlanetSKI

And so to Park City Mountain Resort.

Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah. Image © PlanetSKI

As I mentioned in my previous blog it may be the largest resort in the USA, but is about the size of Morzine and Les Gets combined – you can ski from one end to the other in a couple of hours.

For the largest areas in the Alps it takes a full day.

But that is not really the point. 

There is more than enough skiing with runs cut through the aspen trees that cover the mountainside.

Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah. Image © PlanetSKI

I have mentioned the mining past of Park City in yesterday’s blog below.

Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah. Image © PlanetSKI

For me the best skiing is undoubtedly off the Ninety nine 90 peak. 

Steep and difficult terrain.

One of the downsides of North America is the après ski.

Or, rather the lack of it.

So after skiing we decided to head into Salt Lake City and set off on the 40-minute journey down Interstate 80.

We wanted to see the home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir so we simply headed for the biggest dome we could see (I don’t do sat navs and maps).

It turned out to be the State Capitol building, the home of Utah government and we weren’t even allowed near it.

But across the road was this building – The Pioneer Memorial Museum and it turned out to be a fascinating place to stumble across

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City. Image © PlanetSKI


Inside was the history of the settlers who entered the Great Salt Lake Valley from 1847 until the railroad came in 1869.

They came from 2,000 miles away in Illinois seeking their religious freedom.

Among the 2,000 artefacts in the museum were records of that journey.

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City. Image © PlanetSKI

Those who made stared down on us from history.

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City. Image © PlanetSKI

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City. Image © PlanetSKI

With the tools that helped them.

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City. Image © PlanetSKI

The central focus of the museum is the carriage house with a selection of vehicles.

I felt I was in the Wild West.

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City. Image © PlanetSKI


Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City. Image © PlanetSKI

Pride of place was the vehicle used by their leader, Brigham Young.

It was hard to find at first as it was surrounded by numerous other items.

But I found it in the end.


Pride of place. Image © PlanetSKI

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City. Image © PlanetSKI

Who says you need to spend the whole time skiing when in the mountains?

And now it’s round to Alta and Snowbird – the resorts that have some of the best snow and steepest slopes in this part of Utah.

Am I looking forward to getting back on the road and off to more ski resorts?

You bet.

On the road again

On the road again. Image © PlanetSKI


For further details on Utah then see the web site Visit Utah

Saturday February 11th – Day Five

Problem: I am flying up to Calgary in Canada next Friday to see my son who works in Banff as a ski instructor.

I’m planning to stay five days or so, however the days are not the problem, it’s the nights.

I have been meaning to sort out accommodation but never quite got round to it (he shares a very small place and there is no room except in a dire emergency).

I have just learnt next weekend is Family Weekend in Alberta and Banff is packed (plus a recent fire destroyed one of the main hotels in town).

It also co-incides with President’s weekend in the USA and the end of the UK half-term holiday.  Banff is full.

Solution: There isn’t one at the moment.

Do I care?

Not yet as it’s a powder day where I am at the moment, Alta.

And anyway my motot on this trip is ‘The Lord will Provide’.


Well what an afternoon!

I have seen one of the most bizarre events in my entire skiing life.

Picture the scene (and do not miss out on the two videos lower down this article!).

There has been 20cm of fresh powder in Alta and Snowbird in Utah and word goes round that one of the best areas is about to open after avalanche control work is carried out.

When we stumbled across the queue at the entrance gate there was almost 100 people and the number was growing by the minute.

Queuing for powder

Queuing for powder. Image © PlanetSKI

Then more and more turned up and lined the side of the area where we joined them.

Hungry for powder

Hungry for powder. Image © PlanetSKI

Pretty soon there were around 400 people.

And here was the prize – and that’s just a section of it.

Powder awaits

Powder awaits. Image © PlanetSKI

All that separated around 400 people from the best powder imaginable was one person to declare it open and a thin rope.

People waited patiently for the order to be given but the rope was ignored.


“Stop! You must go through the gates in a controlled fashion and not duck under the rope,” screamed the ski patroller next to me as 100s and 100s of people just charged it.

He was left a forlorn figure, but dutifuly undid the rope to access the slope.

There was no need – everyone had gone.


Charge! Image © PlanetSKI

It was a feeding frenzy that made piranha fish tucking into their lunch look like a vicar’s tea party.

I have never seen such a sight.

Wave after wave of them charged down.

I suspect that in the apres ski bars today around 100 will claim to have been in the first group down at the front of the mayhem. Wink

It was all a long, long way from how my day had started thinking about accommodation in Banff and this little incident:


I was just about to click into my Atomic Vantage powder skis and I remembered my son, Max, was the last person to ski on them so the bindings were set to his boots not mine.

Not a problem as there was a ski shop 20m away.


“Of course can do it but we can’t set bindings without a full diagnostic test on them and that takes an hour,” said the technician


“I haven’t got an hour there’s fresh powder out there. Can I borrow a screwdriver and I will do them myself,” I replied.

“Sorry sir we are not allowed to do that,” and he pointed to a sign confirming the store’s unhelpful policy.

“There’s another shop just over there that might do them,” he said after I politely told him what I though of his shop and his policy.


“Yes we can do your bindings without a full test but it will cost $25,” said the next shop.

“$25 to make one and a half turns with a screw driver on each ski – that is a rip off of the first order!” I retorted.  Again no screwdriver was able to be borrowed.

I then trudged off to the bottom of the lift to see if there was a screwdriver hanging around.

There was.

30-seconds later and with one and a quarter turns on each ski and I was off.

And to think Alta prides itself on its old-fashioned charm and good nature.


But up top 20cm of powder awaited.

There was though the small matter of a large queue.

Apparently the journey from nearby Salt Lake City normally takes 30-minutes or so – today it was an hour and a half.

Avalanche control work was going on so we headed to the trees.

Powder in the trees

Powder in the trees. Image © PlanetSKI

Then more terrain opened so we headed higher.

It was easily the best snow I have had on the road trip so far.

Alta itself is on my personal list of Top Ten favourite resorts in the world.

It gets huge amounts of snow and attracts like-minded people to me.

It average 500 inches of snow per season whereas Park City gets 350 inches.

“The people that come to Alta come to ski. They are not into all the services and we have no big hotels, just lodges. They come to ski and to ski hard,” said Patton Murray from Visit Salt Lake.

Patton Murray

Patton Murray. Image © PlanetSKI

And ski hard we did.

I am staying in the Alta Lodge, one of the oldest ski lodges in the USA that was opened as a day lodge in 1939 – a year after the first lift was put in.

It remains true to its core values of giving skiers the best and most hospitlable place to stay to access some of the best ski slopes of any resort in the world – if you like powder and freeride skiing.

It is about authemtic as you can get and for further details on this mountain gem then see here.

It is a personal favourite of mine.

The Alta Lodge

The Alta Lodge. Image © PlanetSKI

Alta is abiout 45-minutes from Salt Lake City airport – where I will be leaving as my trip ends in a few weeks time at the beginning of March.

Perhaps I will come back to make my final turns of this month-long road trip in perhaps my favourite US resort.

Last turns in Alta just an hour or so before I check in.

Now there’s a thought…

For further details on Utah then see the web site Visit Utah

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