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END OF THE ROAD - James Cove
Tuesday February 28, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

The month long PlanetSKI North America road trip ends where it started – Utah. No prizes for guessing which ski area James Cove visited to spend his last day on US snow.

Tuesday March 7th - Day 29

Alta and Snowbird of course.

The two resorts linked a while ago and offer some of the best advanced skiing on the continent.

But it is more than just the skiing – they compliment each other perfectly and are full of people with a deep passion for snowsports.

Snowbird has the steep terrain and large vertical, while Alta has that old-fashioned charm and some great groomers and tree skiing.

The slopes ooze variety and challenge.

I don’t know Jackson Hole well enough yet to make an accurate US comparison, but for me it all comes together in Alta & Snowbird.

Plus it is about 45 minutes from Salt Lake City international airport and with a flight at 20.30 a final full day on the slopes could be had.

And we were desperate to get there quickly up the Little Cotton Wood canyon:

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And what a day it turned out to be.

It was a bluebird day with a little fresh powder and some fabulous piste skiing.

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I cruised the slopes and reflected on the past 4-weeks as I criss-crossed some of North America’s finest.

I spent the first week with my friend and journalist colleague, Alf Alderson.

Despite our banter on Facebook he is a perfect road trip companion, but this is definitely his best side.

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And the last week I was travelling with PlanetSKI’s, senior reporter, Katie Bamber.

She has helped me enormously with the videos, photos and life on the road.

She will also be posting some longer features about the resorts we visited later - Jackson Hole, Sun Valley and Alta/Snowbird.

She knows how to make a turn - whether behind the wheel or on the slopes.

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Checkout Katie's video on our last day in Alta:

Otherwise I had been travelling alone – meeting old friends and making new ones.

I skied a few resorts;

Utah Park City, Deer Valley, Alta, Snowbird, Snowbasin and Powder Mountain.

ColoradoBreckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Vail, Aspen and Copper.

Wyoming Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee.

Idaho - Sun Valley.

And then there was Canada and the resorts around Banff – Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Norquay.

I’d had adventures along the way and seen some sights – the journey between Sun Valley and Grand Targhee springs to mind as we tried to find Atomic City and visited Craters of the Moon.

I will remember the many people I met along the way – from Pat and Martin in Vail, Colorado.

PlanetSKI road tripPat, James and Martin














To Nigel (with friend) and Bert in Sun Valley, Idaho.

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PlanetSKI road tripBert - PlanetSKI road trip
















The wonderful Nina who took me on an historical tour of Aspen in her electric buggy.

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And the ski instructor, Jacqui, who likes to judge people on the colours they wear (lucky I had my blue jacket on that day and not my black one):

Jacqui and Yours TrulyJacqui - the colour queen
















There was Chris at the Silver Dollar bar in Wyoming:

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And the giggling girls in Breckenridge taking in extra oxygen as the resort has an altitude of just under 3,000m and it is in short supply.

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And I bumped into some fellow UK ski hacks who were in town as I passed through Aspen.

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I blogged daily during the trip.

People have asked if I can post them all in a single place so they can be read and enjoyed at leisure: they can all be found here if you want to re-live the journey – all of it, parts or just to dip in.

And then again if you find it difficult sleeping at night some say they are the perfect cure for insomnia... Wink

I loved life on the road, moving from resort to resort as the whim took me:

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PlanetSKI road tripColorado - PlanetSKI road trip
















PlanetSKI road tripAlberta, Canada - PlanetSKI road trip
















PlanetSKI road tripWyoming - PlanetSKI road trip
















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And I will remember the snow.

Huge, huge amounts of it:

And some...And some...
















I was lucky enough to hit the USA and Canada in some of the best conditions in recent years with record amounts of snow in many resorts.

From the powder of Powder Mountain:

To the chutes in Alta:

The particular chute is top left in the photos and I still don’t know its name.

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I gave a brief overview of conditions this winter in the USA for the PlanetSKI snow report with my one word conclusion to the snow:

So, the inevitable list has to be done:

Best resort – Alta/Snowbird.

Best single moment – Skiing the steeps in Jackson Hole for first time and on a powder day.

Worst moment – Filing up with petrol and realising I had lost my credit card in a bar the night before (long story).

Hardest moment – Hiking Highland Bowl in Aspen – it's at an altitude of 3,777m.

Funniest moment – Laughing hysterically at our utter incompetence in map reading as Alf and I spectacularly failed to find the base for cat skiing – it was due to be one of the highlights of the trip.

Biggest surprise  – Arapahoe Basin. What an amazing ski area - I could have stayed for days rather than a single morning.

Best drive of road trip – Sun Valley to Idaho Falls.

Worst travel moment – Any airport I had to visit to take an internal flight  (memo to myself - avoid airports at all costs on a road trip even if it involves a 2-day drive).

Best hotel – Limelight (Aspen and Sun Valley) and The Wort in Jackson  - sorry can't split them and if you visit you will see why.

Proudest moment – I was in Sun Valley when I got a call from my 22-year old son that he had passed his Level 3 ski instructor exams. He lives in Banff and I'd been sleeping on his floor the week before as he trained.

Best powder – Powder Mountain.

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Now a few people have asked me to award a prize for the best meal I had.

Well I am not going to.

Those people that ski with me and know me well will be familiar with the fact that I am fairly underwhelmed by food and all the absurd fuss around it.

I genuinely can't understand why people spend so much time and money on it when they could be skiing.

I tend to eat what is put in front of me and I can't bear looking at menus with all their choice and silly descriptions so tend to ask whoever I am with to order for me.

"I'll have whatever you are having or something light and vaguely healthy," is my request as I order a large beer and/or a bottle of wine.

But for the record the breakfast at Toulouloo's in Banff wins hands down.

I hadn't eaten for 24-hours when this was placed in front of me.

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And the muffins at Powder Mountain were rather tasty.

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At Grand Targhee in Wyomning I'd missed breakfast to get on the first lift and heard a huge snowstorm was coming in early afternoon so I had my one and only burger of the trip.

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I never quite knew if people would want to read my personal exploits every day for four weeks, but it appears they do as the numbers of readers rose as the trip progressed – 15,000+ to date.

I've had many private mentions of appreciation and advice of where to go and which runs to ski.

I even met up with readers en route by sheer chance as they messaged me when they saw I was in resort. 

Thank you to every one of you and I just hope my exploits inspire you to get out there, push the envelope a bit and have some ski adventures in the mountains.

So, plans are already underway for 2017/18 - I’m going further afield and deeper into The Rockies.

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The mountains are calling...The mountains are calling...




















Next winter I'm also going higher when the road stops:

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But for now it is back to the Alps where I hear some rather good snow has fallen.

Next stop is Cortina in Italy at the weekend – I am attending the International Ski Travel Market, ISTM, as the international snowsports world gathers to do business and assess the state of the industry.

Got to get the advertisers in for next season on PlanetSKI after all,  and I'll probably have a ski too.

And guess what?

I have never skied Cortina and I can’t wait to see it.

Then it’s on to the Pyrenees – taking in the resort of Arcalis in Andorra which is a personal favourite of mine.

After I’m off to the French Alps for the first part of' Spring.

And after that I have no idea…. But there's currently 2-months of the season left and I’ll be somewhere in the mountains until early May.

My colleague at PlanetSKI, Jane Peel, has just posted an article about skiing at Easter - see here if you want to see the huge fun you can have way into April.

And then there is the summer.

Did someone say South America?

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Monday March 6th - Day 28

It was an early start for the penultimate day of the 4-week US and Canada road trip and we awoke to a powder day in Grand Targhee. But we were supposed to move on elsewhere...

It was a good dilemma to have, but a dilemma nonetheless.

The plan from Grand Targhee was to set off early and to drive the 4 and a half hours south to Utah so we could ski the resort of Powder Mountain by lunchtime.

Powder Mountain is a fabulous resort, in fact more of a ski area, with huge amounts of terrain and very few people know about it.

I had spent 2-days there at the beginning of the trip and was looking forward to skiing it again - see here for the posts from the time.

The only problem was we had 20cm of fresh snow on our doorstep and a powder day awaited in Grand Targhee, Wyoming.

Brush the snow off or go and ski it?

Grand Targhee, WyomingGrand Targhee, Wyoming
















What would you have done?

After much discussion with my travelling companion, PlanetSKI's senior news reporter Katie Bamber, we decided to go.

To turn our backs on a powder day.

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It proved (as far as we know) to be the right call and here's why:

The 280-mile journey down the I-15 gave us spectacular views.

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This was the penultimate day of the road trip and we wanted to be back in Utah for its end.

Tomorrow we have a flight at 20.30 and a day ticket to Alta/Snowbird - one of the best ski areas in North America and just an hour from Salt Lake City airport.

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But back to today.

By 12.45 we had arrived in the car park of Powder Mountain and got kitted up.

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It seemed the snow in Powder Mountain would be just as good as at Grand Targhee.

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And it was:

Good call.

And here is Katie's video take on the day:

Thank you, Powder Mountain. Smile

Sunday March 5th - Day 27

The PlanetSKI road trip rolls into Grand Targhee in Wyoming. Our first impressions proved to be completely wrong.

It was always going to be a hard act to follow.

And so it turned out to be.

In the last few days we'd had the fabulous skiing surprise of Sun Valley and it was preceeded by the highlight of my whole 4-week North America road trip - Jackson Hole.

And yesterday we'd had the most interesting and adventurous day on the road as my travelling companion for this leg of the trip, Katie, and I crossed from Idaho to Wyoming - see the blog below from Saturday.

And here is Katie's video of arriving.

Grand Targhee had its work cut out to compete.

This was the sight that greeted us at the base of the resort and it was hard to get inspired by the small hill in front of us.

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The lifts were so slow - a brand new quad, Blackwood, replaced an old 2-man but it hardly took us up the slopes at much speed.

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Then Katie had binding problems and her ski kept popping off.

We had to go back to the village to get it fixed.

Ski time lost but big thanks to The Ski Repair Shop.

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Katie and I went back up but we were both going through the motions - perhaps not surprising after skiing hard and fast for so many days in world-class resorts.

I had been on the road for 26 days and Katie had clocked up 14.

And then something white and flakey fell out of the sky.

And then another one.

And yet more.

And it looks even better in slow motion:

"You guys ought to head over to Sacajawea area. There's some steep skiing over there and powder in the trees," said a patroller we were riding the lift with.

So we did.

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Our opinion of the resort changed immediately.

We lapped the Sacajawea lift half a dozen times.

Each time we found a different line and each time more snow.

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Grand Targhee, WyomingGrand Targhee, Wyoming
















Grand Targhee, WyomingGrand Targhee, Wyoming
















We had misjudged Grand Targhee.

And Katie had the same view.

Check out her video here.

And we had an après drink raving about the slopes and powder of Grand Targee and ticking ourselves off for jumping to conclusions.


We were the last to leave The Trap bar - we heard some great music and met many of the locals who have made Grand Targhee their home resort.

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Grand Targhee averages 500 inches of snow each winter and is well on target with 400 so far.

If you are visiting Jackson Hole it is only just over an hour away over the Teton pass.

It is worth it for the scenery along and has some stunning views.

"We have runs for families and beginner skiers, but our secret is the runs in the Sacajawea area," said the marketing manager of Grand Targhee, Jennie White.

"We also have cat skiing and you should give it a go next time you are back," she added.

It has more than 600 acres and people can get 15,000 feet of vertical.

The resort is also good value for money - $80 for a day lift pass and you can get lunch for $10.

I recommend the beef burger - the first one of my trip

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We had both misjudged Grand Targhee - first impressions are not always correct.

And the next morning we woke up to this:

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20cm had fallen overnight and it was set to carry on through the day.

I had a dilemma: My plan had been to head back to Utah to finish the four-week road trip where I had started and to hit the resorts of Powder Mountain and Alta/Snowbird.

But there was some of the best powder of the whole journey waiting for me here.

Do I scrape the snow off the car or go ski it?

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I'll let you know tomorrow...

Saturday March 4th - Day 26

An abandoned nuclear town, alien landscapes and life on the road. One of the best days of the PlanetSKI North America road trip didn't involve skiing. Idaho to Wyoming...

In my opinion there are 3 rules you should be guided by on a long ski road trip:

1.     Have a plan but change it at will and always go where the wind takes you.

2.     Don't worry about anything as the Lord will provide.

3.     Choose a good partner to travel and ski with.

All three came into play today.

The plan had been to head to Big Sky in Montana but instead Katie and I found ourselves heading from Sun Valley in Idaho back to Wyoming to visit the ski resort of Grand Targhee.

"Grand Targhee gets the most snow of anywhere I know and it has been puking it down this season," said Bert Witsil as we skied the trees in a base of 10ft of snow in Sun Valley on Friday (see below for details of one of the best ski days of the entire trip).

"Oh, and you should check out Craters of the Moon and the city of Atomic on the way," he added.

Atomic City turned out to have a population of 29 and was certainly the strangest place we have visited.

I'm travelling this leg of my 4-week road trip with PlanetSKI's senior news reporter, Katie Bamber.

Katie needed no persuasion to ditch all plans and head off in another direction altogether. 

She also knows how to ski.

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Now rather stupidly I assumed Atomic City would be, er, a city.

This was the dirt road leading to it as we left the tarmac of the I-20 and it turned out that it was far from a city.

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We passed by some ramshackle buildings after a few miles and carried on.

And on.

The road got progressivley worse.

Do we turn back?

Let's see what's round the next corner.

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And over the next brow of a hill.

After 10 miles or so we cut our losses and turned round fearful the vehicle would get stuck in the sodden dirt road.

We had 4-wheel drive but it was not an off-roader and the gravel track was becoming distinctly off road.

As we drove back past the collection of ramshackle buildiings we'd passed half an hour earlier Katie noticed a sign.

"This is Atomic City!" she proclaimed and got out for a nose around.

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Atomic City was the site of the nuclear Experimental Breeder Reactor in the 1950s - the world's first electricity-generating nuclear power plant. 

Where we were standing was the first urban conurbation powered entirely on nuclear energy.

It was designed as a city and project of the future.

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But things didn't quite pan out for Atomic City and instead it has a current population of 29. 

It's a ghost town, but at least it is up in numbers from the 25 people who lived here at the time of the 2000 census.

There is one store and one bar; the store no longer sells gasoline, due to new laws concerning underground gas tanks.

Thankfully we had filled up earlier in Arco or we would have been rather stuck out here in the middle of nowhere.

The 29 people that live here occupy 17 households and there are 9 families residing in the city.

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Rather bizarrely it has a speedway track that apparently operates in the summer months.

We saw no-one.

Not a soul.

The café was closed.

Only a few deer roamed about the place.

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Earlier we had driven through Craters of the Moon on the I-20.

The landscape approaching it seemed from another world.

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Thousands of years ago molten lava under the Earth's crust broke through spewing lava across this vast area of Idaho. 

Covered in snow it was perhaps not as impressive as in the summer months but that is where a little imagination is handy.

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And a trip to the Visitor Centre.

We parked our black SUV up against a somewhat cooler vehicle.

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There was more evidence of the huge snowfall this area has seen.

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The area had been made a National Monument in 1924 and President Calvin Coolidge described it as "a weird and scenic landscape peculiar to itself."

Inside we soaked up the information about the place.

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I vowed to return one day in the summer months.

As this is what it looks like without snow.

Craters of the MoonCraters of the Moon














Now another 'rule' I have when travelling is don't have a Sat Nav and preferably leave all decent maps at home. 

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Getting lost is part of the experience and you get to meet the locals.

Plus it gives proceedings a bit of an edge.

We were travelling with a photocopied page from Where to Ski and Snowboard and the map of Salt Lake City (and wider area) provided to us by our car rental company.

We had to stop at Dave's Pubb in Tetonia to ask the way to Grand Targhee (neither on the WTSS map or the car hire one).

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"Keep going for 8 miles and then take a left at the first set of traffic light you come to. Can't miss it," said Dave.

We got talking to the locals.

"Where you guys from?" asked a lady at the bar who had clearly been sitting there for more hours than she cared to remember.

She was next to a man with his head in his hands who'd perhaps been at the bar even longer.

"Well there are five of you at the bar so let's have a show of hands," I replied.

"I either come from Sydney, Australia or London England," and carried on talking about our trip to give them further evidence to reach their decision.

It was 3-0 to Sydney with 2 abstentions (one was the man with his head in his hands).

If I am accused of being an Aussie in the US when I ask the question I have a simple retort that usually gets a smile.

"Sorry, wrong I'm from London. And which part of Canada are you from?"

They burst out laughing and wished us a safe and pleasant journey to Grand Targhee.

The other rule is that if you see a strange site that triggers your curiosity stop and ask because you won't get a second chance.

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It turns out that when kids leave High School in Arco they climb up this rock face and scratch in their date of departure.

The tradition started in 1920 and there will no doubt be a 17 in a few months time.

Also keep your eyes peeled if you fancy pawning your skis or any guns you may be travelling with.

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