Big Trip 08

I was just about to write a blog post about our week in Les Arcs last week, when I realised we’d never blogged about last years Big Trip. So here it is, better late than never. I’ve created 5 blog posts, one for each of the 5 different states we visited as this blog post was getting way too long, so follow the links in the list below to find out more about each state.

Last February Richard and I headed off on an adventure, a month in the US/Canada, mainly based at or near snowboarding/ski resorts. We decided to fly as far West as we needed to, and head back inland over the course of a month. We’d started planning by buying a map of the US, and attaching post-it notes to the cities with airports, and working out where we could get to by plane. We sat down and consulted the internet, and copies of the World Snowboard Guide and Ski Snowboard America to find a shortlist of resorts to aim for and then started plugging together a month’s worth of flights, car hire and accommodation.

Big Trip

The states we visited over that month were:

There are a whole heap of GPS traces from our various snow days, and by my reckoning (with a bit of help from my Nokia 6110 Navigator and Sportstracker) we covered 506.09 miles on lifts and boards over 21 days on the slopes at 11 different resorts. We also ended up with a lot of photos and a couple of videos.

A great, great time, and something I’d love to repeat when I’ve saved up some more pennies.

Big Trip 08 – Wyoming

This was the fifth and final place we stayed on our BigTrip.

Driving to Jackson from Big Sky

The drive from Big Sky to Jackson took us past the incredible Yellowstone National Park – if our drive had been shorter, and it hadn’t been snowing, we’d have popped in to the park to take a look – maybe next time! Our accommodation in Jackson was at the Elk Country Inn, a reasonably well equipped log cabin within an easy, if cold (-20 deg C) walk of the many restaurants and shops.

Opening cabin door to another 5

Our first stop was Jackson Hole, a resort we’ve heard a lot about, but which we found somewhat disappointing. Yes, it was steep, but that was about it. No tree runs like we’d found at Moonlight, it was busy – even when it snowed it got tracked out really quickly, and I think we’d been totally spoilt by Montana. But we still had fun on our 2 days, and celebrated Richard’s 40th birthday there.

Birthday boy plans his route

The next day we headed off to Grand Targhee, in deep, fresh, powder, with really limited visibility. I wasn’t feeling great, and so we only managed a half day, but we had some great fun playing amongst the trees with almost no idea what runs we were on, and where we were heading for. After a day off for me to attempt a recovery, we returned to Grand Targhee, on a day when we could see and managed a couple of runs before I had to retire ill. It was a very different experience the second day, and we realised that Grand Targhee isn’t a very big hill, but it gets a huge amount of snow.

Grand Targhee

Wyoming was a bit of a disappointment – we’d expected Jackson to be amazing – it was the last stop on our trip because we wanted to improve so we were good enough to appreciate it based on it’s reputation. Maybe we didn’t reach a high enough level, or maybe we peaked at Montana and learnt more about what makes the perfect snowboard resort for us, but Wyoming wasn’t the amazing final stop we’d planned.

From my sportstracker log in Wyoming we did:

  • 2nd Mar – Jackson Hole – 23.64
  • 3rd Mar – Jackson Hole – 23.61
  • 4th Mar – Grand Targhee – 11.43
  • 6th Mar – Grand Targhee – 5.55 – a token gesture as I wasn’t well, but couldn’t leave without a return to Targhee

A total for Wyoming of 64.23 miles.

Big Trip 08 – Montana

This was the fourth place we stayed on our BigTrip and my favourite.

Gibson Mansion, Missoula

After leaving Lookout Pass, we drove into Missoula for the weekend, staying at the lovely Gibson Mansion bed and breakfast – the only place I’ve stayed which has a pre-breakfast tray delivered to the room, followed by a freshly cooked breakfast in the dining room. We’d decided that by this stage in our trip we were bound to want a break from the snow. The first thing we did on Saturday morning, however, was to get kitted up and head over to Montana Snowbowl to take a look. We did, and decided that the conditions didn’t look that great, and that we would, afterall, have that day off. So we spent the day wandering around Missoula, stocking up on gifts and postcards and the like, trying beers at the Big Sky Brewery before eating at the lovely, but hard to find, Red Bird restaurant.

Tea delivered to our room

After another incredible breakfast we headed from Missoula to Big Sky resort and our room at the Lodge at Big Sky. First impressions weren’t good, the room was big but soulless, there was no crockery or cutlery in our room despite the “basic kitchen facilities” (microwave and sink) and it was all beige – it looked a bit like a travelodge. Breakfast was a communal buffet style effort, served on paper plates with plastic cutlery. Again, not great.

Big Sky

But, we weren’t there for the accommodation (fortunately), we were there for the snowboarding and our first day was spent in fresh snow at Big Sky in conditions that are hard to beat. Our second day was clear and bright and so we made the hour long trip to Bridger Bowl for another fun day on the slopes, still finding patches of fresh snow to play in. Day three and a visit to Moonlight Basin, a resort which shares terrain and lift passes with Big Sky and which was my favourite resort of our entire trip – a resort with some amazing gladed tree black runs, and very few people. More fresh snow fell, and we re-visited both Moonlight Basin and Big Sky – having more great days at both.


Montana had great snow conditions, and some really good resorts – both Moonlight Basin and Big Sky are worth a return to, and even Bridger Bowl would amuse for another day. I’d probably base myself at Moonlight as it seemed to have a wider variety of self-catering accommodation than Big Sky.

From my sportstracker log in Montana we did:

  • 25th Feb – Big Sky – 35.5 miles
  • 26th Feb – Bridger Bowl – 25.75
  • 27th Feb – Moonlight Basin – 31
  • 28th Feb – Big Sky – 37.58
  • 29th Feb – Moonlight Basin – 31.19

A total for Montana of 161.02 miles.

Big Trip 08 – Idaho

This was the third place we stayed on our BigTrip.

When we were planning for the trip, we wanted to visit a lot of lesser known resorts, and places that were hard to get to from the UK without changing planes etc. We knew we wanted to go to Oregon, and to Montana, and so Idaho seemed like a good place to visit that was between the two.

The Red Express dropped us back at Spokane airport, and we collected our car for the next 17 days.

We’d decided to visit Silver Mountain – I’m not sure why Silver won out over Schweitzer but it did. We found ourselves some lovely, lovely lodging at the Morning Star lodge and had treated ourselves to a larger room so that we could have some domestic extras – like a washing machine and a fully equipped kitchen.
Richard in the corridor of the Morning Star Lodge

Silver Mountain isn’t really a destination resort – but it kept us busy for a couple of days. The snow could have been better, but it would have been hard to have had much more of the mountain to ourselves, the biggest lift queue saw us waiting for 10 people to load ahead of us – some of the lifts are a bit old but with the level of traffic it wasn’t a problem. There is a 20 minute or so gondola ride to get from Kellogg to Silver mountain but this was quick and new and caused us no issues.

The top of Chair 4

Whilst we were in Idaho, it was a total lunar eclipse, so we stood outside in the freezing cold to watch some of it, before heading off to nearby Noah’s canteen to warm up again.
Lunar eclipse

Would I visit again? Well I’d pop in for a couple of days on the way to somewhere else again.

As we left Idaho to head to Montana we decided, thanks to an OnTheSnow review I’d read, to pop into Lookout Pass – a small mountain on the border between Idaho and Montana. We spent a few hours exploring and playing in amongst trees before leaving Idaho behind us and moving on to Montana.

Lookout Pass: On the border of Montana and Idaho

From my sportstracker log in Idaho we did:

  • 20th Feb – Silver Mountain – 15 miles
  • 21st Feb – Silver Mountain – 26.49 miles
  • 22nd Feb – Lookout Pass – 19.26 miles

A total for Idaho of 60.75 miles.

Big Trip 08 – British Columbia

This was our second stop in our Big Trip.

We were concerned at how busy US resorts would be over Presidents Day weekend and so decided to hop over the border into Canada. We wanted to concentrate our trip on places that were hard to get to directly from the UK — what is the point in having a month in the US/Canada if you go somewhere that is a one hop flight? — so that ruled out Whistler. After a bit of research we decided on Red Mountain, British Columbia, and decided to base ourselves there for a long weekend. We flew from Portland, Oregon to Spokane, Idaho and took the Red Express bus service over to Red Mountain. This bus service worked out really well for us and saved us having the hassle of taking rental cars over national borders.

We stayed at the Ram’s Head Inn, a bed and breakfast at the resort, rather than down in Rossland. It isn’t quite ski-in/ski-out but there isn’t a long way to walk to get to the lifts.

The Ram's Head Inn

On our first morning we were offered the inn’s free ski passes for the day which is a great way to start a trip. There was a lot of races going on on Red Mountain itself, but having spent a few hours on Red Mountain we decided that Granite Mountain was the one for us — especially the back bowl (Paradise basin) near the struggling Paradise lift (it was on restricted capacity when it was running). There is a really lovely area called the mini bowls on the trail map which is graded blue and which is just spaced out trees with snow in between. This was my favourite area, and started my love for fresh snow and gladed tree runs together.

In the Mini Bowl

Overall, an enjoyable few days, the unreliability of the lifts caused problems and what lifts were working were generally pretty old. We exhausted all the restaurants during our stay, and if we were to return then we’d probably opt for self-catering rather than bed and breakfast. The breakfast was good at the Ram’s Head Inn, but the ability to cook does give some extra options.

From my sportstracker log, at Red Mountain we did:

  • 15th Feb – Red Mountain – 27.38 miles
  • 16th Fed – Red Mountain – 27.97 miles
  • 17th Feb – Red Mountain – 27.65 miles
  • 18th Feb – Red Mountain – 25.01 miles

A British Columbia total of 108.01 miles.

Big Trip 08 – Oregon

This was the first place we stayed on our BigTrip

We’d done a lot of internet research on Oregon, and spent quite a lot of time looking for a log cabin to stay in. Eventually we found Pappy’s cabin, in Welches, and we based ourselves there for a week.
Truck and log cabin
The cabin is on the banks of the river, and is down what is little more than a dirt track so was totally peaceful and a great place to relax. It is a short drive to 3 ski resorts—Timberline, Mount Hood Meadows and Mount Hood Skibowl—and we visited them all during our week, as well as having a day off to investigate nearby Portland. It was lovely coming back each night to a well equipped cabin with a cozy wood-burning stove.

We even had fresh snow on our first day.
Snowy Roads on way to Mount Hood Meadows

Our favourite resorts were Timberline and Mount Hood Skibowl: Timberline, as its name suggests, has lots of trees and I love snowboarding through tree runs, and Skibowl has night skiing, lots and lots of it and snowboarding at night in fresh snow was great fun.
Mount Hood Skibowl at night

A great week, and a place I’d love to return to sometime.

From my sportstracker log in Oregon we did:

  • 8th Feb – Timberline – 15.95 miles
  • 9th Feb – Mount Hood Meadows – 23.68 miles
  • 10th Feb – Mount Hood Meadows – 16.38 miles
  • 12th Feb – Timberline – 33.84 miles
  • 13th Feb – Mount Hood SkiBowl – 22.23 miles

A total for Oregon of 112.08 miles.

Sierra Nevada Laguina Lift

For a while I’ve been meaning to record an entire lift run at a ski resort.
On a trip to Sierra Nevada last March, Jane decided to make the recording — presumably because she was bored of me mentioning it and forgetting to
do it.

Unfortunately she picked the longest lift run at the resort. The original video
sequence was a finger chilling 10min 11sec, but you’ll be glad to know it’s been sped up here to just 2:10. There’s no sound on this clip, in case you were wondering if your sound was turned all the way down.

The only feature of interest here is that there’s a radio telescope
at the top of a hill
. When riding with that in the background, you half
expect James Bond bad guys with automatic weapons to start chasing you on skidoos. Well, I do.

Serre Chevalier – New Year 07/08

As we have done in recent years, we headed of for some snowboarding over New Year. Our destination this year was Serre Chevalier, mainly chosen due to a) it being a couple of hours drive from Turin and Grenoble, b) having hotels willing to have guests for a few days rather than a full week and c) World Snowboard Guide giving it a 10/10 rating.

We stayed in Monetier les Bains, also referred to as Serre Chevalier 1500, the highest of the villages, in the Hotel Le Rif Blanc. The hotel was on a half board basis with a continental buffet style breakfast and a 3 or 4 course dinner. Our room was small, (for only 4 nights this didn’t bother us) but clean and warm. Monetier was a lovely village, and wasn’t built up and as touristy as other resorts we’ve been to over the past few years. It had a supermarket, butchers, bakers, several bars and restaurants as well as ski and snowboard rental places.

Serre Chevalier as a resort is pretty large, with access along the valley floor by bus to different starting off points, and along the slopes via a series of interconnecting lifts and pistes. There are a lot of drag lifts around Serre Chevalier, but we managed 3.5 days on the slopes without having to go near one without compromising on our coverage of the mountain. The pistes are well marked, like the marker Richard is standing next to in the picture, with a count down from the top of the run to the bottom, and coloured according to the colour of the run – this is the same as the system used in Avoriaz and the Portes Du Soleil.

We’ll probably return to Serre Chevalier sometime, and will again try and base ourselves at Monetier.

More Snowboarding at New Year photos.

GPS tracks:
New Years Day
New Years Eve
30th December
29th December