Skiing stateside is a very different experience to skiing in Europe, Sure, it lacks the tradition and most resorts are constructed in a formulaic fashion but it does offer fantastic snow conditions, great lift systems, deserted trails and overall a well manufactured ski experience.
The ski resorts across the states do take on an indentikit feel but there are some that have a more historic curb appeal such as Jackson Hole, Aspen, Telluride, and Steamboat amongst others. Recent ski resort developments in the US seem to have followed what Intrawest have done in Whistler with a Disneyesque but not at all unpleasant feel to them. The ski areas tend to be much smaller than European resorts with shorter verticals but this doesn’t deter its popularity amongst the Brits, especially as the snow levels and quality by far exceeds that of Europe.
Whilst the ski resorts on the Eastern seaboard of America are lower the resorts in places such as California, Montana, New Mexico and specifically Colorado are much higher. This is a good thing as far as snow depths and snow quality go but it can be a bad thing when dealing with altitude sickness. Breckenridge, Colorado stands at almost 4000m at resort level. That can mean severe dehydration, dizziness, sickness and the need to travel back to Denver to acclimatise. One great benefit is that the tree line is much higher in the US which means that glade skiing and forest settings are easy to experience.
Piste grading in the states is different from Europe as there are no red runs. Runs are graded green blue and black. Green runs are similar to European greens and blues, Blue runs are similar to European reds and single black diamond runs are the equivalent to stiff reds and easier black runs. Double black diamonds and very steep blacks and challenging off-piste/itinerary routes.
Nightlife stateside isn’t great by European standards. Some resorts are better than others but the Americans just don’t quite get it and if you’ve ever skied in resorts such as Ischgl, St Anton, Solden, Meribel, and Val d’Isere then you will be disappointed with the après ski that is on offer. This means choosing wisely and heading for places such as Aspen, Vail, and Breckenridge.
Large hotels and condos tend to dominate across North American ski resorts. There are the odd smaller hotels and bed and breakfasts but we are in the land of the huge corporate and that is primarily what you’ll get here. Service levels are typically excellent but you will not experience the family run hotel experience that many of the Austrian resorts will offer.
Chalet Founders Cabin in Winter Park is a superb 5 star retreat for 8 – 10 guests. The Chalet Ptarmigan in Vail is a good 4 star catered option for this huge ski area. Chalet Chloe in Breckenridge is a picture postcard wooden chalet with a forest setting.
Mostly excellent and ranging from three to five star luxury. Room only is the order of the day and in a country of choice it makes sense and the eating out opportunities are immense. The apartments or condominiums are really just large apart-hotels. Here you can experience studios all the way through to luxury 6 bedroom units. The beauty is that you have hotel service in many together with the usual high grade facilities of hot tubs, swimming pools, saunas etc. For luxury accommodation and service to match then The Hotel Sonnenalp in Vail has a prime location. Breckenridge’s Corral residence provides fantastic self catering.The Village at Squaw Valley in lake Tahoe provides superb ski in ski out accommodation. Winter Park’s Zephyr Mountain Lodge also offers slopeside luxury.
North America beats Europe for snow hands down. Consistently, the US receives volumes of snow that we in Europe can only dream of. It is not uncommon for resorts to accumulate 6m- 13m of the white stuff across the season. Weather systems can and regularly do bring in huge snow storms that batter resorts bringing very dry and light powder, the holy grail of skiers and boarders alike. Temperatures can vary massively depending on the time of year, location of the resorts and altitude. It is not uncommon for temperatures to dip in to the minus 20s, 30s, or even 40s at the very coldest points of the season but with careful planning this needn’t be an issue and can be avoided.
Well, it’s flying, flying, or flying but the question is how and where to. There are a plethora of flight options but if you are looking for direct non-stop flights with a straight forward transfer then most Snowfinders clients opt to ski in Colorado. Denver offers access to a number of ski resorts such as Keyston, A Basin, Breckenridge, Winter Park, Vail, Copper Mountain, Beaver Creek and many others. There are numerous airports across the states including Burlington and Boston for the Eastern ski resorts; Denver, Aspen, Eagle, Montrose in Colorado;, Salt Lake City in Utah, Los Angeles and San Francisco inn California; Reno in Nevada; Bozeman in Montana; and Jackson in Wyoming.
The ski schools in the USA are amongst some of the best in the world. Progression is assured with no language barriers for us Brits and coupled with the customer focus leads to a fantastic experience. Overall holidaying in the States is a wonderful occasion and is highly recommended by Snowfinders.