The final day of the Utah leg of PlanetSKI’s 4-week trip in the USA & Canada brings a bit of a disaster. In fact a total and utter cockup. So, what is the best way to react? UPDATED


One continent, two countries, five US States, two Canadian Provinces and 20 or so ski resorts:

The Journey continues as our content editor, James Cove, and his friend Alf Alderson wind up the Utah leg of the tour…

Tuesday 14th February – Day Eight

What a couple of utter, utter muppets, we are.

And that is putting it rather politely.

Alf and I had left the best to last.

Cat skiing at Whisper Ridge near Ogden.

“Some of the best ski lines on the planet await you in Paradise, Utah.


Cat skiing is not like any resort skiing you’ve ever done; there’s no waiting in lift lines, no fighting for untracked snow and no cold lift rides.


With over 60,000 private acres of skiable terrain you have fresh Utah powder all day, everyday.


Not to mention your ride to the top is in one of our warm, cozy, luxurious snowcats so after each run you can warm up with warm drinks, music and friends. “

It was even based in a town called Paradise.

“Please do NOT type in Whisper Ridge into your GPS, as it will take you to the wrong location,” ended the instructions on the page.

My alarm went off at 06.10 and by 06.30 we were on the road out of Ogden to reach the cat skiing operation by 07.30.

Early start

Early start. Image © PlanetSKI

It was a maximum 45-minute journey – what could possibly go wrong?

The views as dawn broke got us in the mood.

To say we were excited was an understatement.

Dawn breaks

Dawn breaks. Image © PlanetSKI

I put the address into my phone making sure I did not type Whisper Ridge as per the instructions and we followed it.

The cat skiing slopes await

The cat skiing slopes await

So, far so good.

Until we passed the town of Avon and got to this:

End of the road

End of the road

We then drove around frantically looking for signs for the cat skiing – there were none.

The clocked ticked by.


The next road we found ended in similar fashion.

Another dead end

Another dead end

“Never mind the breakfast starts at 07.30 and we depart at 08.00 so we have another half an hour,” I helpfully pointed out as we did yet another 3-point turn as we reached a dead end in our quest for a sign post.


And again...

And again…


At that point we decided to turn over the page of our instructions.

There was a hyperlink to a map of how to reach Paradise in winter and it was even helpfully printed out for us on the instructions too.

The right way to Paradise

The right way to Paradise

My Sat Nav had taken us on the summer route via Avon just below Paradise.

The only trouble is it is winter and many small roads are closed due to snow.

Like the one between Avon and Paradise.

And to think we have done more than a dozen ski road trips between us – not to mention how many pages of instructions and itineraries we have turned over.

“F*CK, F*CK, F*CK I screamed thumping the dashboard as we realised we would never make it in time.

“Fancy some breakfast somewhere,” said Alf.


I am very touched by umpteen messages of sympathy I have been sent on social media, but there really is no need.

Shortly after hurting my wrist thumping the dashboard Alf and I did indeed go for breakfast.

We sat in silence for about 10 minutes and then smiles crept over our faces as we recognised our utter stupidity and total incompetence.

The smiles became laughter and before we knew it we were both in uncontrollable giggles.

What complete and utter dickheads we both are!

At one point I could barely breathe and I had to leave the diner clutching my sides with tears running down my face.

We went straight back to Powder Mountain (my new favourite resort on the planet) and had THE best day before we had to head back to Salt Lake City.

I am continuing my road trip solo in Colorado for a few days before heading up to Banff in Canada.

Alf is flying back to Europe and his home in Les Arcs before a ski touring trip to Norway.

Things always go wrong on road trips and when they do the key thing is just to laugh and move on.

My next task is to transfer the same attitude to all other areas of my life. Smile

I hope you have had as much fun reading about our adventures as I have had experiencing them and blogging about them.

Next stop Colorado – I wonder what awaits?

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

Monday 13th February – Day Seven

In my experience Americans like to exaggerate.

But there is no exaggeration in the names of these two ski resorts: Powder Mountain and Snowbasin.

On my visit one is a mountain of powder and the other a basin full of snow.

First up Snowbasin.

It is worth visiting just for the approach road alone.

Snowbasin, Utah

Snowbasin, Utah

Snowbasin, Utah

Snowbasin, Utah

It has had huge amounts of snow this winter.

On arrival we headed to the highest point of the resort, at 9,645 feet.

Apart from the skiing perhaps the most memorable aspect of Snowbasin is the views.

They are breathtaking – and not just because of the high altitude.

Snowbasin, Utah

Snowbasin, Utah

You will not see this landscape in Europe.

Snowbasin, Utah

Snowbasin, Utah

Snowbasin has 3,000ft of vertical decent and 3,000 acres to ski – a very respectable set of statistics by US standards.

It is often overlooked by British visitors as they head to the better-known resorts of Park City and Alta/Snowbird that I visited earlier – see below for my blog from those resorts.

It is a mistake to overlook Snowbasin – a BIG mistake.

It is an hour or so from the main resorts near Salt Lake City and although there is no reciprocal lift pass, a day ticket is only $70 if ordered in advance online.

It has a variety of terrain.

From steeps – it has an Olympic downhill course after all:

Snowbasin, Utah

Snowbasin, Utah

Snowbasin, Utah

Snowbasin, Utah

To more gentle slopes.

Snowbasin, Utah

Snowbasin, Utah

Snowbasin, Utah

Snowbasin, Utah

Next up Powder Mountain.

Like Snowbasin the approach is an experience in itself.

Powder Mountain, Utah

Powder Mountain, Utah

Powder Mountain, Utah

Powder Mountain, Utah

It is an upside-down resort – the road takes you to the top of the resort and then you ski down.

If I had been asked to name the biggest resorts in North America yesterday I would have said Whistler, Sun Peaks and Lake Louise in Canada plus Vail and Park City in the USA.

Today I have to add Powder Mountain.

Technically Powder Mountain is the biggest of them all with 8,400 skiable acres.

Whistler claims the biggest with 8,200 skiable acres.

It doesn’t seem to bother Powder Mountain.

“We are not really into claiming this, that and the other but, yeah, I suppose we are if you include our cat that takes people that little but further up and gives access to some of the best skiing in the resort,” said the marketing manager of the resort, Jean-Pierre Goulet.

Powder Mountain, Utah

Yours truly

The cat is one of the highlights of the resort.

I had heard of Powder Mountain but never skied here before and I was bowled over by the place.

It has something for everyone with some easy groomers to something more challenging for advanced skiers.

Powder Mountain, Utah

Powder Mountain, Utah

Powder Mountain, Utah

Powder Mountain, Utah

And best of all it is deserted.  As I mention in the frst video it will only sell 2,000 tickets per day and that means you pretty much have the slopes to yourself.

Powder Mountain, Utah

Powder Mountain, Utah

“I grew up in Ogden and I have only ever skied in Snowbasin and Powder Mountain. Why would I want to go anywhere else?” said Jessica Bischoff, my guide round the resort for the day.

“Even if you are from the other side of the world the moment you get here you feel like a local.”

I could only agree.


Powder Mountain, Utah

Jessica – Powder Mountain, Utah

Like Snowbasin it has had huge amounts of snow.

This sign normally sits on top of the snow, but this year it had to be dug out.

Powder Mountain, Utah

Powder Mountain, Utah

The lifties say “have a nice day” and all the rest of it, but they do it with sincerity.

They have been doing it for a while.

Powder Mountain, Utah

Powder Mountain, Utah

The best adjective to describe it is one, sadly, I rarely use – “authentic”.

All the people here are real skiers and there are few frills.

“We are a community here and we want to preserve things the way they are,” Jean-Pierre Goulet said to me.

Lunch was at the Powder Keg.

Powder Mountain, Utah

Powder Mountain, Utah

I walked in with Iggy Pop being pumped out.

We continued through Devo, Blondie and a host of other tunes from my youth.

As I left it was The Clash  – “Should I stay or should I go?”

It seemed apt as tomorrow this part of the ski road trip ends.

Alf is heading back to Europe and I am heading from Utah to neighbouring Colorado – Breckenridge, Keystone and A-Basin await before I then head north to Canada.

Should I stay or should I go?

I will be going but I would sure as hell like to stay.

I have been massively surprised by Ogden and its ski areas.

However tomorrow should be a treat.

I am going cat skiing at Whisper Ridge and this time it will be more than a single run.

Bring it on!

Powder Mountain, Utah

Powder Mountain, Utah

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

Sunday February 12th – Day Six

Ogden may not sound the most glamorous of destinations – but it has the ski resorts of Powder Mountain, Whisper Ridge and Snowbasin under 30 minutes away.

The resorts, and Ogden itself, are more than worth a visit.

More of those later, but what about the road trip itself?

I love ski road trips as the journey itself becomes part of the experience.

Random things happen along the way and there are chance meetings with total strangers.

Too often ski resorts are in a bubble – on a road trip you break out of that bubble and get a real feel for the country you are in.

The views are pretty good too.


On the road again


Utah views

After the fresh powder of Alta and Snowbird the first task was an obvious one as we set off for Ogden.

My friend and travelling companion, Alf, and I had to dig the car out.


Digging out


Clearing up



But would the road down the Little Cottonwood Canyon to the highway be open?

We were lucky – we had the powder but not the closed access road.

“The road is often closed after a storm as there are steep slopes on either side of the road,” said Joni Dykstra from the Alta Lodge.

“That can have its advantages if you are staying with us as no-one can get up to the slopes, but the guests that are already here get the slopes all to themselves,” she added.


It’s open!

We were pleased to see the road clear and happy for those heading up to ski the slopes that we enjoyed yesterday (see below for details of our powder day).


Going up

The key thing with ski road trips is to assume you will get lost a few times.

Then when you do (and you will) you won’t get stressed.

Well, not too much.

Our journey to Snowbasin via Ogden took an hour and a half, but it should have been an hour.

Let’s just say map reading is not the forte of Alf and myself and our strengths lie in other directions.

We saw rather a lot of Washington Boulevard as we tried to find the canyon road up to Snowbasin.

No sign of Snowbird

No sign of Snowbasin

The next is to find a decent radio station to suit your musical tastes – I can thoroughly recommend Arrow 103.5 FM if you pass through this area.




#ultimateskiroadtrip. Image © PlanetSKI


#ultimateskiroadtrip Image © PlanetSKI


#ultimateskiroadtrip Image © PlanetSKI

I currently feel a bit of a fraud calling this part of my 4-week journey across parts of the USA and Canada a ‘Road Trip’.

We are visiting 7 resorts but most are within an hour of each other (taking away time getting lost).

“It’s more of a hop, skip and a jump trip,” said Alf who is travelling with me for the Utah leg of my month-long trip.

Alf is a veteran of ski road trips and I also have more than a few tucked under my belt.

Alf and I crossed British Columbia last year on 12-day trip in an RV.

We already have plans for a trip from New Mexico to California next winter taking in as many ski resorts as we can en route.

But if you want to visit a few resorts in the USA by road but not put in the monster journeys then Utah is for you.

It is short on journey time and long on ski time.

Alf heads back to Europe next Tuesday while I am continuing for another 3 weeks or so and my journey continues to Colorado, Wyoming and Montana where time behind the wheel will be longer.

I am also taking in Alberta in Canada and probably BC too.

That is when the road trip proper begins, but the Utah leg is a good warm up. Some days I’ll be driving for 8-hours and more.

But as we pulled up into Snowbasin I was delighted to be getting on to the snow rather than sitting behind a wheel.

Another advantage – you pull up, grab the gear out of the boot and go skiing.


Time to ski Image © PlanetSKI

So, what is Snowbasin like?

Check back tomorrow and I’ll tell you.

Oh, and what about Ogden?

The road to Ogden

The road to Ogden Image © PlanetSKI

It is a city of about 80,000 inhabitants and it has a past.

A dirty one.

The gangster, Al Capone, came here but left quickly.

“It is too rough for me,” he allegedly said of the city.

It is a rail road town and in the late 19th century every train going from East to West stopped here.

Ogden was one of the most important towns in the west.

There was drinking, gambling, prostitution and opium dens in abundance and most were in or around 25th Street.

Back in the day it was known as 2-bit street – you could get all of the above for 2 bits.

The street now has bars, restaurants, coffee shops and galleries, but it has its ghosts.

The town is is re-inventing itself and positioning itself as an outdoor town – a home for people and businesses that like the outdoors.

Amer sport that owns Salomon, Atomic and Arcteyrx has moved its North America HQ here and many specialist bike manufacturers are here as their testing ground is pretty much outside their windows.

Dinner was at Roosters Brewing Co with Caren Werner from the local tourist office and her husband.

Mr and Mrs Werner

Mr and Mrs Werner Image © PlanetSKI

Both were on their third marriages.

We talked skiing.

Then we talked religion, sex and politics.

“All this is off the record and if you print any of this I will break your back,” he said.

I think he was joking but I couldn’t be sure.

Then we talked more religion, sex and politics.

The benefits (or otherwise of President Trump) and the advantages (or otherwise) of the Mormon religion.

Alf and I unveiled our views of Brexit, The Royal Family and US ski resorts in general.

And then we talked more.

We were last to leave the restaurant.

One gets to meet some interesting people on a road trip.

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 motto 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 powderImage © 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 dutifully 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.

My friend and colleague, Alf Alderson, was in the lead group charging down the hill.

He was amoung the first ten down.

“It was like trying to outrun an avalanche – an avalanche of whopping skiers and snowboarders that I could hear behind me and I got to ski untracked powder for a few seconds before it was trashed by the masses. I dropped in lower than the main group so ended up near the front and kept thinking that I just had to keep going or I would be overrun,” said Alf.

“It was the softest powder and was one of the maddest and craziest moments in the mountains I have ever had.”

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 that 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 screwdriver 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 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 hospitable 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 authentic 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 about 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

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 (see below) 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



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

Those who made it stared down on us from history.

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

With the tools that helped them.

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

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

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

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

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

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

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

For a full recap on the blogs from Utah in chronological order then see here for the resorts around Salt Lake City and see here for the resorts around Ogden.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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