After traveling out of the United States for the majority of 2016, I returned home for Christmas and when deciding whether I should start out on another adventure abroad, or stay home, It felt right to stay home and really experience winter. Which surprised even me, I’m definitely more of a summer person and have been trying to escape winter my entire life. Brandon and I bought a Mountain Collective Ski pass, which gave us two ski days at multiple resorts in North America, and one in Europe. The pass included two days at Snowbird in Utah, which was our first stop.
Utah was experiencing a very good winter, or bad, depending on who you are and powder days were numerous. During a midweek day, the mountains were receiving tons of snow and we decided to call it a “snow day” and head to Snowbird. It was one of the best powder days I’ve ever experienced. We spent the day with my friend Tracy and she was able to teach us the true techniques for skiing through so much fresh snow.
If you get to ski at Snowbird, be sure to take the tram to the new lodge at the top and enjoy the views and a beer. There is also a one of a kind ski tunnel with a conveyor belt in it that transports you from one mountain area to another. As you ride the conveyor belt you pass historic pictures with music playing and get to learn the history of the mountain and human activity in the area.
Sun Valley, Idaho
Our next stop was Sun Valley over President’s Day weekend, which is usually an extremely busy weekend but at Sun Valley it felt very elite and there weren’t many crowds at all, no lines for any lift.
The theme of this winter continued to be more and more snow. As we pulled into town we realized that they were trucking snow out in dump trucks. The roads were cleared, but on either side of the road, the snow was stacked higher than most houses.
While the actual slopes in Sun Valley weren’t my favorite, the town was adorable. All of the Christmas lights were still on the pine trees and when they put lights on trees, they go all out. I’d like to see a normal bulb to tree ratio and see how many lights were packed onto these trees.
After skiing each day we’d seek out the best happy hours in town and quickly found our favorite at the Warfield. Their happy hour included a selection of their own beer, a gin cocktail, and a vodka cocktail. They make their beer, gin, and vodka in-house. The appetizers were also great, a fancy twist on normal bar fare like the pretzel with duck fat gravy dipping sauce. Their beers were only $3 and vodka/gin cocktails were only $5.
For dinner one night we were able to meet our friend Kelsey at the Pioneer Saloon. The Pioneer was super busy and we waited about an hour for our table. They are known for their huge, and I mean huge, baked potatoes. They are usually sides, but we ordered it as our entrée. You also have to get their asphalt pie for dessert.
If you are looking for a cheap dinner and dive bar go to Lefty’s Bar and Grill or Grumpy’s. Pitchers or Rainer beer are only 7.50 at Lefty’s. For coffee, check out the Starbucks in Sun Valley, it is one of the best looking Starbuck’s interiors in the world.
In addition to eating out, we’d also packed food to make our own meals for lunch and breakfast to save money. For breakfast, we packed yogurt, oatmeal, bananas, almonds, and walnuts. For lunch, we packed bagels, tuna fish, noodle cups, and premade wraps from Trader Joe’s. We also packed our own cocktail kit and beer. Moscow Mules were our go to drink so we had a bottle of vodka, limes, and ginger beers.
Our next stop was Lake Tahoe to spend a week with Natalie staying at our friend Lex’s in South Lake Tahoe. The plan was to use our passes for Squaw Valley, but there ended up being too much snow to realistically drive to Squaw Valley from South Lake. We skied one day at Heavenly with amazing snow! It seemed to be the theme of this winter, more and more snow, and it would only continue.
We flew to Reno and shuttled to South Lake, then had quite the adventure on our Amtrak ride back to Salt Lake. We’d booked regular seats on the nine-hour journey for $47 each, but after our train was delayed by more than eight hours make our journey from midnight to 9:00 a.m. instead of 4:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. we upgraded to a sleeper cabin. Taking the Amtrak in the sleeper cabin felt more like taking a cruise, but on land. Our cabin came with pillows, blankets and our train car had a shower room and coffee and tea service. That morning, since we had a sleeper cabin, breakfast in the dining car was included.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming
This was the stop on the ski tour that I was most excited to visit. We’d been to Jackson in the summer and skied there in the winter before as well. It is my favorite little mountain town and I think the Tetons are absolutely gorgeous.
On our way to Jackson, we stayed the night in Idaho Falls and then spent the first morning at a dog sled race in Driggs with my cousin Jordan. After the race, we drove over the pass to Jackson and skied a half day. Skiing on our pass was really more enjoyable because when we’d paid full price for ski days before I always felt pressure to get all of my money’s worth and be the first person on the lift and the last person off the mountain. With the pass, we were now able to enjoy our days a little more and not have to completely fill them with lift/slope time. We were also able to meet Brandon’s cousin on the slopes in Jackson and for dinner.
We stayed in Jackson and spent our nights enjoying our favorite restaurants and bars in the little town. These are my favorite; Silver Dollar Bar for the live music they have most nights, Thai Me Up for their happy hour and late night happy hour, and you can’t really go wrong here, it’s a brewery and Thai food restaurant. Pinky G’s has great pizza and beer specials and is open past midnight if you need a late night snack, which I usually do. For breakfast, I love the Bunnery and we tried a new place, Persephone Bakery which was really great!
Mammoth Mountain, California
Again our winter theme continued as we pulled into Mammoth, California. More snow than I’d ever seen in my life! Snow was stacked higher than most two-story buildings and our hotel was basically hidden behind drifts.
Our first ski day didn’t work out too well because of a wind advisory that closed most of the lifts. We opted to hang out in a coffee shop catching up on life. The second ski day was a success, but it had seemed all of the fresh powder had been blown off the mountain. There was still a record amount of snow but the freshly fallen snow was missing in the winded areas. After skiing, we headed to South Lake Tahoe for round two of skiing next to the blue lake.
Lake Tahoe/Squaw Valley
During our second round at Lake Tahoe, we used our passes for two days of skiing at Squaw Valley. After all of the snow we’d received while skiing this season, we finally saw some sunny days. Squaw Valley had excellent runs, and amazing views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada range, plus, they had a ski-in/ski-out Starbucks on the slopes.
For après ski and happy hour we visited the Hacienda Del Lago in Tahoe City and the California Burger Company in South Lake Tahoe. Both had great beer specials and highly discounted appetizers. Try the sweet potato tots at California Burger Company and their coleslaw (I usually don’t like coleslaw, but loved their version.)
The final stop on our ski adventure was a few days at Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France. Our pass included a couple of bonus days at a few resorts outside the United States and timing worked out perfect for us to visit this resort on an already planned trip to Europe. Even if you don’t ski, I’d recommend a trip to this mountain town. Chamonix is the main town in a long valley and is set in the middle of the stunning Alps. These mountains were spectacular and felt like the climbed at an impossibility vertical incline from the base of the valley to the pointy peaks. From the town, you can take two gondolas up into the ski areas or just take them up for site seeing.
We stayed at the Hotel Gustavia, in their finest attic room, all of our walls were slanted with the pitch of the roof. We had one skylight window and spent the first night watching and listening to the rain and then eventually snow as the night progressed.
After arriving in Paris from the US, we took a train and then a mountain tram to Chamonix. The tram stopped right in the town and our hotel was across the street from the station.
Across from the hotel was the 1904 bar and restaurant where we spent each night. In the tradition of making our own food like we did during our ski trips back home, we bought our own après ski snacks each day at the grocery store. For about 8 euro we were able to get a baguette, bottle of wine, cheese, olives, jam, and dried meats.
Overall, we skied a total of 12 days on our Mountain Collective pass, which made each ski day about $34.
Next year, we are eyeing the same Mountain Collective Pass, mainly because it has been upgraded with more Utah ski days and is still only $399. They have added Snow Basin in Utah as a resort and you now get two days at Alta and two days at Snowbird. In addition, you can choose a resort to receive a bonus day. If you choose one in Utah, that would give you seven ski days (with no blackouts) in Utah for only $399, a little over $50 a day if you just use the pass for resorts in Utah.
Fantastic adventure, Austin!!! Thanks for all the info and the great photos. 👏🏻👏🏻💕
Oh my gosh , what fun!!! I’m not a ski buff, but I sure do appreciate and enjoy your adventures, whatever they may be. I am though, fond of all the food, snacks and spirit sharings!! Definitely a fan there!
You go guys!