SNOW TOUR DE NORTH AMERICA – by Melissa Clissold, Blue Powder Travel Consultant.
Each Northern Winter a few lucky travel agents are chosen to fly to our client’s fav destinations to experience the best of what the Northern Hemisphere Ski Resorts have to offer, starting with the airlines that fly us there to the transfers, car hire, hotels, restaurants, ski/snowboard instructors and guides who show us the best runs the mountains have to offer. We basically go on holidays for the benefit of our clients…tough gig I know!
I am currently on one of these wicked snow tours and the experience has rolled out like this..
First stop Steamboat!!
We flew from our home destinations of Sydney and Melbourne with United Airlines into LAX. Let me give you the tip – pay the extra to upgrade to Economy Plus…it gives you extra leg room and allows for a better sleep. This flight lands around 6am, so it’s worth having had a good sleep to keep your momentum going upon arrival.
We then took a flight from LAX with United Express that flew us into Hayden (approx 2 hrs) where we rented a car and drove ourselves into Steamboat (approx 30 mins & a really easy drive). Airport transfers are available if hiring a car isn’t your thing. The view flying in was spectacular.
We got lucky – it started to snow upon our arrival so Steamboat was a white Winter Wonderland. Yes it still snows in March! We got about a foot overnight so the next day was the most incredible day of riding trees, groomed and blue and black runs. This mountain has something for everyone though so beginners are well catered for also. I didn’t encounter any lift lines and would highly recommend paying for a guide/instructor to take you around the mountain. It makes your day so much more worthwhile. There are a few restaurants on mountain where you can stop in to refuel and who doesn’t like to stop for a hot chocky (especially with a dash of something special) 😉
We were fortunate enough to be accommodated at One Steamboat Place – right in the heart of Steamboat Village in one of the luxurious 4 bedroom residences. One Steamboat Place is comprised of 2, 3, 4 & 5 bedroom apartments that are richly decorated with every creature comfort including fireplaces and deep bathtubs to relax in after a day on the slopes. I was blown away by the amaze factor of this property. Incredible mountain views, luxurious, spacious & perfectly located – One Steamboat Place is perfect for families and groups of friends or families. My fav spot at the end of day (outside of Apres ski), is the hot tub and One Steamboat Place didn’t disappoint.
Steamboat is a very cool town filled with loads of restaurants and bars, catering to all different tastes. If your looking for something extra special – Cafe Diva is one restaurant not to miss and bookings must be made in advance. We can organise these kinds of reservations for you. The Shopping isn’t bad either and we found the most fabulous store called FM Light and Sons that had cowboy hats and boots in every shade and colour. Everyone needs a good pair of cowboy boots in their life!
If you don’t want to hire a car, transfers can be provided and most of the hotels in Steamboat have their own shuttles that can transport you to dinner and back, or anywhere else (if it’s not after 11 pm – otherwise there is a free town bus running till 2pm for the party animals). Other hotels/residences that we checked out that are also perfectly located include, Steamboat Grand, Sheraton, Edgemont Residences to name a few.
NEXT STOP BRECKENRIDGE
…or sometimes called Breckenfridge because it gets so cold – even in March. We drove from Steamboat to Breckenridge which normally takes about 2 hrs, however as we drove in a snow storm it took us about 3.5 hrs. In normal conditions this would be an easy and very beautiful drive, so it’s a great idea to consider 2 destinations or even 3 in your trip.
We arrived into another Winter Wonderland when we reached Breck and what a gorgeous sight. The town was lit up with fairy lights and the trees were laden with snow…we couldn’t wait to hit the mountain the next morning.
We woke up to another foot on the ground and it kept snowing all day (did I mention it’s March!!!) Again we had a guide to take us around the mountain and what a difference this made to our day as through all the snow and without knowing the mountain – we had someone to guide us around and take us to all the best spots – in my case – tree runs, blue & black runs. Guides will take you wherever you want to go – it seriously enhances your ski/board day experience.
I stayed at Beaver Run which was a huge resort hotel/apartment complex with ski in ski out access. Ski & Snowboard Rentals at your doorstep, restaurants, kids ski school – something for everyone. Did I mention that I love hot tubs – Beaver Run has 6 plus hot tubs and an indoor pool which is popular for the kids – you always meet someone interesting in the hot tub!
NEXT STOP VAIL
We road tripped from Breckenridge to Vail – a gorgeous drive (approx 1 hr). Very European inspired, Vail is a gorgeous village made up of winding streets (the footpaths are heated so it’s very easy to walk around without slippage) filled with top shelf shops, restaurants, service and bars and lots of Argentinian & Mexican people adding to the exotic vibe. I would classify this resort as exclusive with guests flying in from all over the world wanting to experience world class skiing, including wide open bowls, groomed terrain, tree runs. Again our guide enhanced our day on the mountain, taking us to explore whatever terrain we desired. The snow was amazing after having had numerous dumps, but we caught the most gorgeous bluebird days!!!
Vail has an abundance of spectacular hotels including the Ritz Carlton Residences, the Arrabelle, Sebastian, Solaris Residences, the Marriot, however, it is possible, to visit Vail without breaking the budget by staying at The Lodge in Vail.
We arrived for Burton US Open, so got to witness some of the snowboarders in action getting some crazy acrobatic air and we were lucky enough to stay in the multi million dollar residences of the Solaris which was right in the heart of the main village overlooking all the action.
We had a great casual meal at the Marriott with live music playing in the background to maintain a great vibe. We also drove ourselves to the Westin at Beaver Creek to experience the Mexican Restaurant there called Maya. An amazing restaurant who like to show you a good time – hello tequila tastings!!! That’s right – they have a wall locker of tequila where you choose the bottle you want and it’s kept under lock and key for the duration of your stay. Fun night to say the least!!
We were also lucky enough to catch an exclusive party, with International DJs that happens once a month, on top of the mountain at night time accessed by the Gondola.
We drove, in our rental car, from Vail to Aspen on a bluebird sweet, sunny day, last week. We did it in under 2 hours. It was a very pretty, easy drive and highlights how easy it is to plan two destinations into the one trip.
I stayed at the Westin Snowmass which is perched right on the run at Snowmass so I had skiers and snowboarders whipping past my bedroom window. Snowmass is perfect for everyone but families in particular as ski school is held in Snowmass. Great hotel with valet ski service so you can drop your skis/board off as you hop off the slopes and they are ready for you the next morning in the same place…magic! (Ski Valet Service is available in most top hotels in Colorado). Soaking in the Westin hot tub at the end of the day – looking out over the slopes with drink in hand – makes for a very relaxed evening!!
There are four mountains you can choose to ride on and my choice for the day was Aspen Mountain, known for it’s black diamond terrain. Bluebird day, packed powder, gorgeous long, soft runs and talk about the views from the chairlifts – magnificent. We ended the day with a late lunch of oysters, truffle fries and Veuve Cliquot at the Veuve Cliquot pop up bar at The Little Nell – quite the scene! Don’t worry if you forget your sunnies – buy a bottle of Veuve and they give you a pair.
Next thing you know it’s time to head off the mountain and into Apres Ski. One of the most happening places is at the Sky Hotel, just opposite Aspen Mountain. Completely rocking with tunes, hot tub and drinks, this place is one spot not to be missed for Apres. All ages welcome. For something a little more demure the Limelight Hotel offers Apres Ski with a little less party involved – perfect for families as they offer great food deals for the kids.
Before you know it, it’s dinner time and there are hundreds of places to choose to dine at. We were fortunate enough to experience the delectable delights of Kenichi – a small Japanese Sushi restaurant in Aspen town. This was a culinary experience with some of the finest Sushi I have ever eaten and the service was second to none. World Class! Reservations are required in advance.
Aspen has something for everyone – it’s ritzy yes, but it does have a very laid back vibe to it as well so everyone can fit in here. The terrain is varied so skiers/boarders of all levels will enjoy themselves. There is so much to do and see – Aspen is one of my favs! I’ll be back!
Next stop JACKSON HOLE
We flew out of Aspen’s small airport (which is lined with private jets of course) to Jackson Hole via Denver with United Express. Jackson Hole has to be one of the prettiest airports to fly into with it’s monumentous Teton Mountains surrounding the airport. I’ve never seen anything like it – just breathtaking. A shuttle collected us from the airport for the 30 minute or so commute to the Teton Village. There are two areas to stay in Jackson Hole – The Town of Jackson and the Teton Village. The town is a lovely old historic cowboy town that dates back to the early 1800’s (about 10 mins from the ski resort) and Teton Village is at the base of the Jackson Hole Ski Resort. I personally would prefer to stay at the base of the mountain (as we did) as all hotels ranging from 3-5 star, are just a minute’s walk to the lift and it makes for a hassle free stay. We arrived around sunset and the snowy Teton mountains were awash with a pink glow from the setting sun.
We stayed at the Hotel Terra and the Teton Mountain Lodge. Both at the base of the mountain, with incredible views, lush decor, outdoor hot tubs, tasty restaurants and great service, both just minutes to the lifts. We dined at Il Villagio Osteria Italian restaurant at the Hotel Terra and what a mouth watering experience it was and, of course, the extensive wine list enhanced the experience. You must try this restaurant when in Jackson Hole. All surrounding hotels are within minutes walk, so multiple dining and Apres Ski options are just a hop, skip and a jump away. The infinity hot pool at the Terra Hotel, with it’s incredible view over the town and mountains is one not to be missed (did I mention I love a good hot tub). Speaking of which – a special mention needs to go to the Snake River Lodge & Spa for their incredible indoor/outdoor hot tubs, stone sauna and outdoor grotto waterfalls. Pretty amazing.
Jackson Hole hadn’t had any new snow waiting for us upon our arrival, but the spring skiing/boarding was just wonderful. We caught bluebird days and by about 11 am, the snow was lovely and soft (not slushy) so riding all day is not difficult – particularly when you know that Apres Ski afternoons are waiting for you at the end of the day. Mangy Moose, at the base of the mountain, is a fun place that comes to mind with more moose memorabilia that you can poke a ski pole at. To refuel throughout the day – The Four Seasons, at the base of the hill, do a darn good hot chocolate, among other delectable delights. As with all resorts, Jackson Hole provide excellent ski/snowboard hire, so no need to lug all your equipment with you. It’s right at the base of the mountain, so you’re fitted out and boom you’re on the lifts. Jackson Hole Resort caters to all levels of skiers and boarders. You are really going to love the historic, cowboy infused town of Jackson Hole and it’s incredible mountains and like most people, once you’ve been, you’ll want to keep coming back!
Dreaming of your next great US ski adventure? Then Contact Blue Powder for more information.