SKIING ADVENTURES WITH “THE GUY FROM TAHOE” & DANNY BOY
Friday, January 27, 2017: Soldier Mountain
We packed up and checked out by 9:00am this morning heading to make turns at Soldier Mountain out of Fairfield, Idaho on our way to Sun Valley, Idaho…
Soldier Mountain was once owned by Bruce Willis in 2012, to which I had the pleasure to ski it… If you recall, this resort was up for sale last year and a couple out of Bend Oregon, Matt & Diane McFerran, purchased it. Dan had not skied this mountain and was looking forward to checking it out.
The drive from Boise to Fairfield was pretty straight forward until we entered an area where there was an inversion layer and outside temperature of -3F, Plus, total white out & fog, limiting my visibility. We also got lost, turning on a roadway that was signed Soldier Mountain Resort. Snow Covered roads and a bit higher in elevation brought us out of the fog and at a junction. We stopped a cigar-smoking guy, who was working with a plow that was clearing side roads, and asked directions to Soldier Mountain Ski Area… He pointed us further up the road another 7.3 miles… He said that sign was for Soldier Mountain Ranch Resort and is confusing and wished that he would run over that sign so as to not cause future confusion. 6 to 8 foot snow banks were on the side of this road and many cross roads were not plowed. We finally found the main junction that came out of Fairfield and headed up the road to Soldier Mountain Ski Area…
We pulled into the parking lot under beautiful blue skies and an outside temperature of about 20F and noticed a couple of school buses and about 150 cars parked. We booted up in the parking lot and took or groomed snow skis to the base lodge to pick up our tickets.
We met the new owner, Matt, and due to an injury; he was not able to ski with us to tour the mountain. Soldier Mountain has 2 Chairs & 1 Surface servicing 36 runs within 1180 acres of terrain offering 1400 vertical drop. An adult all day lift ticket was priced at only $40 with Half day at $34 and if only wanted to ski from 3-4pm, the last hour of the day, the lift ticket was only $12. This ski area is open Thursdays through Sundays, and you can rent the area Monday-Wednesday for your own private Idaho ski party for $2500 a day.
The real opportunity at Soldier Mountain is their Snowcat Skiing & Tours… They have 3 different peaks permitting another 2000 acres for guided backcountry snowcat skiing. For as little as $149 you can spend a 6-hour experience snowcat skiing with their Cat Scratch promotion. You can also rent the required backpack, shovel, probe & transceiver bundle for $20. As a Cat Skiing participant, you can also reserve overnight accommodations in the on mountain Smokey Dome Yurt.
We headed up the Bird’s Eye Lift and then up the High Trail Express to the top of the mountain. There was great machine groomed runs and lots of off-piste skiing with tracked powder… We skied down to a wide-open bowl below Sten’s Run to taste the off-piste snow… it was a little set up, but good and decided to ski down to the parking lot to grab the fatter skis. We headed back up and did multiple runs down this snowfield as well as doing laps off the High Trail Express…
We took a break to grab some lunch in the main lodge cafeteria, to which it also had a full bar and outside sundeck… Got a grilled ham & cheese, fries and Gatorade for $11. Prices were very affordable for locals & families and surprisingly low for visitors who are accustomed to paying $15+ for a burger and $13+ for a beer.
We had a great day rediscovering Soldier Mountain and recommend this to anyone as a side trip heading in or out of Sun Valley. Speaking of which, was our next destination.
We checked into the newly renovated and legendary Sun Valley Lodge around 4:30pm. Lobby filled with somewhat older folks (What am I saying? I fit right in) coming in from skiing and those in full robes heading to or from the outside pool or spa.
Before checking in, we were greeted by Kelli Lusk, Sun Valley’s Communications Manager. She took us on the tour of the newly renovated Sun Valley Lodge and it was mind blowing…
I had the opportunity to stay in the Sun Valley Lodge and Inn in past years, but have not been back since their renovation in 2015. The Lodge was totally gutted, redesigned and reconstructed with new suites, many with fireplaces, large bathrooms, sitting room with wet bars, custom build furniture and lamps, etc…
The lobby area was expanded and kicked out with a large sun-room with views of the skating rink and the Duchin Room, now call the Duchin Lounge was totally redesigned with beautiful custom wood carvings and now allowing kids to enter. The tradition of a baby grand piano and pianist continues to set the mood. The entrance to Gretchen’s Restaurant was moved and this is still the place for breakfast, lunch & dinner. The historic displays and photos continue to adorn the hallways and continue to reflect the heritage of the Sun Valley Lodge. The outside skating rink was redesigned as a full on sports arena & pavilion and the Pool was enlarged & redesigned to accommodate more guests.
The addition of the new spa was the bomb! Added to the poolside of the lodge, it has it’s own circular driveway from the street entrance. Beautiful two story high granite slab fireplaces adorn both sides, inside the spa entrance.
The Heated Pool area now has the Poolside Café, a restaurant & bar adjacent for a true après ski experience and a state of the art exercise room is located with in steps.
Spa rooms were located above accessed by a private appointment only elevator and revealed relaxing views and in the men’s spa area, it had a shower that had at least 18 shower heads coming from all directions with separate temperature controls for a 360 degree therapeutic water experience.
But wait, that’s not all… A floor down from the main level reveals a total playground for families and kids… Bowling Alley, Snack Bar, Game Room, Billiards, Dance Hall, etc…
We checked in to our room and it was well appointed with a separate sitting room, with custom built desk & lamps, large flat screen TV, wet bar, refrigerator and separate room with two beds, large flat screen TV and private reading lamps above each bed… The bathroom was huge with a separate water closet; two sinks with back-lighted vanity mirrors, dressing area, whirlpool bathtub and separate walk in shower… This was truly a treat to be able to stay in the Sun Valley Lodge.
Later that evening we headed out to the village and grabbed a meal at Bald Mountain Pizza & Pasta… Pasta sounded good and so spaghetti & meat balls was the call for dinner…
Saturday, January 28, 2017: Sun Valley with Friends
Up early, dressed & booted up, with skis, poles, helmet & gloves at the bus stop at 8:12am to Warm Springs Lodge. Good friend, former NASJA Member and local Sun Valley Photographer, Karl Weatherly was to meet us to hit the hill at 9:00am when the lifts started turning. We got to the Warm Springs Lodge by 8:30am and grabbed a coffee & pastry, met up with Karl and headed up the Challenger Lift that offers 3174 vertical feet.
View from the Warm Springs Day Lodge
We skied down Ridge Run as it was freshly groomed and Karl was concerned to get it early as it gets scrapped off down to the hard pack machine made snow… We rode up back up the Look Out Express and zoomed down this run again… Back at the top we skied down College to the base of Frenchman’s Lift to ride up and ski down to Look Out and rode back up to the top of the mountain.
We then took the Chair to “No Where” – Look Out to the top of Bald Mountain and skied down Broadway and rode back up the Seattle Ridge Chair, from the top of this chair we skied all 3 runs; Christin’s, Muffy’s & Gretchen’s and rode back up the Mayday and headed back over the Warm Springs side of the mountain, via Warm Springs & Greyhawk. We rode Greyhawk Lift and skied down to the base of Warm Springs Lodge, to which we said goodbye to Karl… He skis everyday for about 3 hours and was done, but Dan and I many more runs in our legs, so we headed back up to the top of Challenger, took the Look Out Lift and skied down to the base of Seattle Ridge and rode back up for lunch in the Seattle Ridge Lodge. I remembered many years ago after this lodge was constructed, stopping in for mid morning coffee and admiring the “older” silver haired, Bogner cladded, skiers who met everyday to socialize amongst themselves… Wow, reality check that I fit right in but they are still a little older… We were lucky to find a table with a view and I opted for the French Onion Soup that didn’t disappoint.
On our way out, I ran into Jim Garrison, who is a former Pro Freestyle Skiers, great friend of Wayne Wong (my Brother from another Mother) and good friend for many years, as he was calling and texting me that morning to get together to make some runs. He was skiing with a group of business associates and is the project manager overseeing the construction of the new Limelight Hotel in Ketchum, bringing a little bit of Aspen to Sun Valley… I told him that we would stop by the hotel later that evening and catch up and most definitely get some turns in the next day.
We skied several more runs off the Seattle Ridge Chair and my legs were starting to feel the accumulation of skiing hard and regaining powder legs over the past 11 days on the road and hitting it hard for 9 days… We rode the Frenchman’s Chair back up and I skied back down to the Warm Springs Lodge, while Dan decided to go back for a couple more. I took the bus back to the Sun Valley Lodge and took a stroll through the Village checking out the shops and Hula-Gan thought it would be fun to do a snow angel and he found his dream car in valet parking in front of the lodge.
Later, we took the bus into town to meet Karl for dinner and to watch the Warrior’s game at the Warfield Distillery & Restaurant. Karl helps produce some fun events in Ketchum including their Santa Pub Crawl and works with this restaurant as one of the venues and he recommended this would be the place to meet. The Double Springs Ranch Burger was the call and one of the best burgers I have eaten in a while, included smoked bacon, white cheddar and a fried egg on a potato bun… Could barely finish it! After the ¾’s of the game, the Warriors had the game well in hand, so we headed out to new Limelight Hotel. As mentioned, Jim Garrison is the project manager of this newly constructed Hotel and it is a sister property to their Limelight Hotel in Aspen, to which I stayed in, last year in April for the US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame Induction.
The lobby was impressive… very modern and somewhat industrial but well appointed with a beautiful bar and diverse seating from comfy chairs, to bench tables with stools to lounges with coffee tables and more…
We ran into Charlie McWilliams and his beautiful bride, Nadine, also old friends and he, a former Pro Freestyle skier that skied the circuit and was featured in several of the K2 Performer movies in the 70’s and said that Garrison just left… I got on the phone and called Jim, but he was already down the road and we agreed to meet the next morning to catch up and make some turns…
Sunday, January 29, 2017:
Bitter Sweet to pack up and check out of the Sun Valley Lodge this morning, but this will be the last day of skiing on this road trip…
We headed over to the River Run Day Lodge to access Mt. Baldy this morning and Karl was to meet us for early morning turns. Jim Garrison had texted me that morning to meet in the lodge at 9:00am… So, Dan & Karl headed up the Gondola, while I stayed to meet and catch up with Jim.
Jim was right on time at 9:00am and we enjoyed catching up and decided to call my “Brother from another Mother”, Wayne Wong… I forgot we were in mountain-time and called Wayne, not realizing that it was 8:00am in Reno… I think we woke him up and he was not feeling that well, having celebrated Chinese New Year the prior evening… The good thing is that he skied that week and his back was in good shape having recovered from back surgery last summer… I told him I would catch up with him after I returned from the road trip to get together to make turns…
View from the River Run Day Lodge
Karl & Dan skied back down and joined us in the lodge and then we headed up for some turns on the upper mountain.
Jim Garrison, Karl Weatherly, Dan Giesin & Me
We did some fast paced cruising down the groomed runs… For me, I do not ski fast anymore but wish to carve each turn and feel the ski work… and, I’m always the last one down to the lift line… Another friend, William (Bill) J. Fallon, was also on the mountain and wanted to catch up with us and found him at the top of the lift. We skied a in group with his wife and did so many laps… just following everyone and didn’t take note of the runs we were cruising… but, we did a lot of laps from one run to another and one lift to another… And, my legs were screaming… Sun Valley is a Big Mountain and most of it’s trails are much steeper with good drops and pitch… I had to angulate my skis much more to get on edge and hold that edge through finishing the turn… This takes a little more energy and balance.
Flash, Sue & William J Fallon
We skied over to the Warm Springs side of the mountain, where Karl departed the mountain. Jim Garrison was to meet up with his group of business associates and Bill and Sue were taking one more run before departing the mountain…
Photo: Billy Fallon
Dan and I headed back up to the top and broke for lunch in the Look Out Bunker where the food choices were a little more affordable and served cafeteria style and where you can get a couple of Taco’s for under $10…
We headed over to get a few more runs off Seattle Ridge and I worked my way back over to the River Run Lodge while Dan took one more run. We changed out of ski pants in the parking lot and headed out around 3:00pm with great memories of skiing with friends and staying in Sun Valley.
We Drove back through Twin Falls and headed south to Elko, NV where spent the night at the Red Lion Inn and the next day, Monday, January 30, we completed the drive back across I-80 with a stop at the Griddle in Winnemucca for breakfast.
This year’s road trip was a lot of fun with great snow conditions everywhere we went… from the well groomed runs at Park City; Off-Piste skiing at Powder Mountain; Fresh snow and powder turns at Grand Targhee and the Great NASJA West Western Winter Summit meeting hanging in Boise & McCall with fun turns at Bogus Basin, Brundage & Tamarack… And, that’s not all… We rediscovered Soldier Mountain with some great Off-Piste turns and totally enjoyed skiing with friend in Sun Valley…
We’ll be hitting the road again in late February, heading to Steamboat Springs, CO to attend our National NASJA Meeting and we’ll get a couple days in Park City / Deer Valley on the way up and will be coming back to cover the World Cup at Squaw.
Sunday, January 22, 2017: On to Boise and the NASJA West Western Winter Summit… Bogus Basin / McCall Idaho / Brundage / Tamarack
We headed out of Twin Falls on the road by 8:00am to Boise, Idaho and get an afternoon of skiing at Bogus Basin Resort. Brad Wilson, former do everything ski industry guy from Tahoe and most recently transplant from GM of Diamond Peak and now GM of Bogus Basin, set us up with tickets. We headed up the slopes to get warmed up with a couple of runs off the top with fresh snow. We met up with another friend, Lynne Wieland, who handles PR for the resort who I have met when she was the Team In Training Director the Boise Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and attended America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride in past years.
Bogus Basin is a 501 C(3) created by the Boise Community in 1942 and governed by the Bogus Basin Recreation Association, Inc. It is run by an all-volunteer Board of Directors. The Resort offers 8 Lifts & tows leading to 78 named runs encompassed in 2,600 acres with 1800 vertical. It is located only 16.5 miles from Boise but takes a little time to drive up the roadway with many curves and switchbacks. Once there, the mountain layout of ski pods is easy to negotiate.
We skied several runs off the Superior Express, including Bonanza and head to their Pine Creek Express… Snow was groomed and there was still freshies to be had, off-piste along the side of Paradise Run.
We skied till about 3:30pm and headed back down the hill to Boise to check in at the Holiday Inn Express near Boise State University. By the way, Bogus has introduced a special College Nights promotion for several Friday Nights offering $19 Lift Tickets, $14 Equipment Rentals & $10 Meal Special.
Fellow members of NASJA West were checking in this day at Holiday Inn Express for the start of our annual Western Winter Summit meeting which started with a nice Welcome Reception at the nearby Baracoa Restaurant. This reception was sponsored by the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau, Holiday Inn Express & Bogus Basin Resort. Also, Southwest Idaho Tourism Association sponsored a full size Tour Bus to help transport members to McCall Idaho and back to Boise.
Risa Wyatt, Larry Turner & Dan Riesin enjoy the reception
Lee Juillaret & Peter Schroeder Lynne Wieland
Lynne Wieland, Steve Giordano, Greg Snow, Dino Vournas & Lynn Rosen
This was fun gathering, meeting and talking with the many individuals representing their interests in hosting our media meeting.
Boise will host the FWSA (Far West Ski Association) Annual Convention, June 7-11, 2017 and the Convention Center folks were really jazzed to have ski clubs from all over the west region come and visit Boise.
Monday, January 24, 2017: Another Bogus Day
Breakfast came early as members loaded their gear on the bus. Dan and I loaded up the Subaru and headed up to Bogus Basin. Weather had cleared up this morning and it looked like were in for a blue bird day… okay a few clouds up there…
We gathered on the third level of the J.R. Simplot Lodge and booted up and met up with guides to ski the mountain…
Brad Wilson welcoming NASJA West Members to Bogus Basin
We headed up the Deer Point Express and skied down to determine the different levels of skiers before breaking off in groups with a guide. We enjoyed fast paced cruiser runs down the corduroy and headed to more runs off the Showcase Chair.
Deer Point Express – Bogus Basin
Eventually we skied down to the base of the Superior Express for some great runs, on and off-piste. Former Pro Freestyle competitor and friend who resides in Boise and is a member of the Bogus Basin Recreation Association, Steve Youngerman, met up with our group and skied several runs before lunch. Lunch was included and we got our pick from the cafeteria food service area and continued after lunch for a few more runs before heading to McCall, Idaho. All I could say after this day of fast paced skiing was “Shut Up Legs!”
Steve Youngerman Morning Star Chair
The Bus was loaded and so was my car and we headed down the mountain and on the road to McCall, Idaho… This route follows up the drainage of the Payette River with a curvy up and downhill that had snow on the road… We were amazed that the Bus had beat us out of town as we did stop to refuel and they pulled in to the Holiday Inn Express in McCall, ahead of us.
We scrambled to check in our rooms and get cleaned up to head out to a Welcome dinner at the McCall Brewing Company. Dinner was hosted by the McCall Chamber of Commerce, Brundage Mountain Resort and Tamarack Resort. April Thomas Whitney, Communications Director for Brundage , welcomed everyone with open arms along with representatives from the McCall Chamber & Tamarack Resort. Dig Chrismer, Marketing Manager from Schweitzer Mountain also joined our group as we will most likely be heading in that direction next year for our Western Winter Summit. The food selection was diverse from Sirloin Steak to Chicken Marsalla to Bangers & Mash!
McCall, Idaho was getting ready to kick off their Winter Carnival and lots of folks were coming into town to build their famous Snow Scupltures and celebrate in the fun activities…
Tuesday, January 25, 2017: Bring On Brundage!
Brundage Mountain Resort is one of my favorite secret mountains in Idaho… Plus, I really like the town of McCall. It reminds me of Lake Tahoe about 50 years ago as a thriving mountain & lake community, offering skiing and water sports with only a few blocks of businesses catering to the mountain lifestyle.
We opted to ride the bus this morning and load our ski gear and boot bags and headed up the roadway… Brundage skis a lot bigger than it is… and it’s not exactly a small mountain… From a base elevation of 5882 feet to the top at 7803 feet, this mountain offers 1921 feet of vert and is serviced by 5 lifts leading to 46 named runs with in 1920 acres of terrain, plus another 420 acres of lift serviced-hike to backcountry terrain, but that’s not all… They also offer Snowcat Guided Backcountry tours with 18,000 acres accessible!
Another Flat light day, but was able to negotiate the runs and see enough with my glasses and not use goggles… although much colder without goggles… April Thomas Whitney along with a couple of guides led our group to some great groomed runs and side of run off-piste powder…
Dan Giesin cruising at Brundage
Photo: April Thomas Whitney / Brundage Mountain Resort
Dig Chrismer and I were lucky enough to be the Brundage Picture of the Day on their social media posts.
We broke for lunch at Smokey’s in the base lodge and couldn’t resist their sweet chili wings… absolutely the best around… Old friends from Tahoe, Pat Burba Basset and Michael Basset, who live and play in McCall, met me after lunch for a few turns and it’s always great to ski with old friends and catch up.
Oh Yeah, Did I mention that the McCall Winter Carnival was getting ready to kick off? And yes indeed, even the Pro Patrol at Brundage enters a sculpture into the competition:
Later that evening, we were treated to special progressive dinner starting at the Shore Lodge for cocktails & appetizers and a grand tour of their newly renovated property… I’ve been fortunate to stay in this luxury property in the past and was totally impressed with their recent improvements. This lodge sits on the Shores of Payette Lake and the rooms have commanding views of the lake & mountains.
We continued our progressive dinner for the main entrée at Rupert’s Lakeside Restaurant & Bar, in the Hotel McCall, another gem property next to the lake with an elegant but historic atmosphere.
Who can’t resist Bacon Wrapped Filet with Mac & Cheese Potatoes?
But wait! That’s not all… For Dessert, we headed across the street to Steamers. Cozy setting that features Steak & Seafood, but the desserts were the bomb!
These were the choices and this is the Warm Apple Crisp with a scoop of vanilla! Sooo Yummy!
Later that evening, I needed to walk off a few calories and hit the streets to capture some images of the lights of McCall and getting ready for Winter Carnival>
Wednesday, January 26, 2017: Tamarack Resort
We packed up this morning and our members loaded the bus as this day was set aside to ski Tamarack Resort and transfer back to Boise by end of day.
We got up to the mountain early to avoid a couple of hundred school kids that were scheduled to arrive… the roadway to the resort still have lots of snow on it so the drive was cautious… We beat the school buses up and met up with Brad Larsen, General Manager of Tamarack Resort. Brad had also spent time in Lake Tahoe in his earlier years in the hospitality and ski resort sales business.
Another cold and flat-light day, but everyone was anxious to ski this resort. We had skied this resort after it first opened and experienced snowcat skiing and all the runs with it’s original lifts in place. The resort had gone through some challenging financial times but is now in good shape with the home owners association purchasing and running the resort.
Tamarack has 6 Lifts & Tows leading to 42 runs within 1000 acres, offering 2,800 vert. Tamarack Express and the Summit Express are the two main lifts that get you to the top of the mountain. I really like the wide open groomed runs that have varied pitch and rollers as well as tree islands with in the runs… most all runs are cut on the fall line and this makes cruising more fun!
We skied nicely groomed runs as well as some pitches off-piste with broken powder… There were not too many others on the mountain this day and it was like we had the resort to ourselves… except, of course not counting the 80-100 kids at the bottom learning to ski…
Photo: Dino Vournas
We took a lunch break in the Seven Devils Pub. Most of the base area is comprised of efficient and well-designed “Sprung Structures” and these have been on location since the beginning of the resort and once inside, you would never think this is a tent.
After lunch, Pat & Michael Bassett met me and we took a few runs together from the top of the mountain…
This was also a great day skiing Tamarack and most likely, will return this resort soon. I also picked up the latest information on real estate for this area and who knows?
Before departing Tamarack, fellow journalists, Lee Juillerat mentioned that he had an old pair of “The Ski” and that he would turn them over to me as I continue to collect old freestyle skis… We already had 4 pairs of skis loading in my narrow profile roof box and we just managed to fit them in.
Photo: Larry Turner
We hit the road heading back to Boise and Holiday Inn Express to complete our Western Winter Summit Meeting. It was great to see the sun come back out as we headed east to Boise.
We checked back in to the Holiday Inn Express in Boise and our NASJA West Membership meeting was set for that evening.
This was a working – dinner meeting and we ordered Pizza & Salad, plus had snacks, beer, wine & soft drinks. Dan Giesin, President of the West Region, Martin Griff, President of NASJA and Vicki Anderson, Executive Secretary of both NASJA & NASJA West presided over the agenda. Lively discussions followed as to the future of NASJA… It was determined by unanimous vote that the West Region would pursue a new direction for a Snowsports Media Association governed by a 5 member board with no weighted votes based on active membership of the existing regions. This was huge step in maintaining credentials and credibility for independent journalists, photographers, film makers and book writers. This proposal will be carried forward to the NASJA National Meeting set for March 1-6, 2017 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The West Region also proposed to cover the cost of a Barbecue dinner, inviting all attending region members and corporate members to attend.
Bob Cox, Brad Wilson at Bogus Basin & Curtis Fong
Bob Cox, April Thomas Whitney at Brundage Mountain Resort & Curtis Fong
Bob Cox, Brad Larsen at Tamarack Resort & Dan Giesin
All in All… it was great NASJA West Western Winter Summit and we Thanked all our host mountain with the NASJA West Hospitality Award.
My winter travel plans have always been in conjunction with attending the (NASJA) North American Snowsports Journalists Association’s West Region’s Western Winter Summit meeting that was set for January 23 – 27, in Boise Idaho, and all the early January storms and atmospheric river event contributed to deep snowpacks, not only in Tahoe, but in all the destinations that we were planning to ski. Here’s an account of this year’s 2017 Road Trip.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017: Interstate 80 Across the Great Basin
The morning started out early as I jammed to produce the Lake Tahoe Mountain Resort Report on my website: bikeandskitahoe.com. This was the Tuesday following the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday and the weather had settled down allowing most all resorts to dig out and gear up for that weekend. Dan Giesin, my ski buddy since the 80’s drove up from the Bay Area on Sunday night and we did get out to Kirkwood on Monday to sample the new snow and especially them opening the backside of the mountain…
After having the Dude picked up and loading the Subaru, we headed out from the Carson Valley around 10:00am with the evening’s destination set for Ogden, Utah. This time I decided to see if driving 580 from Carson to I-80 East in Reno was shorter, time wise, then taking 50 from Carson City to Silver Springs and then onto Fernley to catch I-80 East from there… it was about the same amount of time but about 15 miles further taking that route… regardless, there was more heavy interstate truck traffic in Reno heading east than I expected…
The drive out from Fernley was more interesting this year with snow on sides of the roadway and surrounding mountains… more than in previous years heading east on the Interstate… But, mostly clear skies prevailed across this corridor… We stopped in Winnemucca for a quick bite of lunch and I took a break from driving to let Dan have a turn at the steering wheel…
I-80 east of Winnemucca
We’ve driven this strip many times and the roadways is well maintained by NDOT and the speed limit is up to 75mph for cruising… Not too much truck traffic heading out.
We stopped to refuel in Elko, that was preparing for the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering, but didn’t hang out and continued east heading for Ogden, Utah, with Wells & Wendover in route.
I-80 east of Elko / Hula-Gan enjoying the scenery
The skyline of the Ruby Mountains loom upward from the valley floor and this majestic range was covered in snow with perfect conditions for the first weekend of the season for Ruby Mountains Heli Experience to start their operation the following week. Their snowpack was 200% of normal for this time of year… We were fortunate several years ago to ski with them for an article in Nevada Magazine and longed to return for more turns… Good friend, Joe Royer and his guides have been flying out of Lamoille for 40 years, since 1977 and they have the web domain: http://www.helicopterskiing.com
I-80 – Ruby Mountains
We continued east and crossed over the mountain-time zone at Wendover and drove over the salt flats towards Salt Lake City, then north to Ogden where we checked into a Holiday Inn Express… We use to travel with tight budgets in mind and Motel 8 was one of the first inexpensive chains to offer free wi-fi, then we upgraded to Best Western properties where they offered not only free wi-fi, but also a continental breakfast and now we prefer all that and more, including a hot breakfast at Holiday Inn Express. Most all that we have stayed at in recent years are hospitable, clean and good quality…
Wednesday, January 18, 2017: Park City, Utah
We got up early and hit the road to Park City / Canyons to make turns there, since we were not able to ascertain media lift tickets at Snowbasin.
The Canyons (Park West) was purchased by Vail several years ago and with Vail also purchasing Park City Mountain Resort, they have joined both resorts with a Gondola and have rebranded it as Park City.
Dan Giesin & Hula-Gan enjoying the ride up the Gondola
We rode up the Gondola to the mid mountain and decided to ski over to the Park City side of the mountain… Getting there was fun and groomed runs with great packed powder made cruising even better. There are several runs that cruise through mountain home developments with bridges that you ski under and always cool to see what new homes are being built and imagine the budgets that it takes to build your own mansion in a ski resort.
We stopped for a break and lunch at the Mid Mountain Lodge:
We skied several of our favorite runs and headed back to the Canyons Village side of the mountain and found several runs in great shape with no one else skiing them.
Beautiful open run at Park City
My legs were shot and we skied down to the Canyons Village, but Dan wanted to take one more run so he boarded the Orange Bubble Chair.
Riding the Orange Bubble Chair
Later that evening we headed to a sports bar in Ogden, “Bout Time Pub & Grub” to wind down and watch the GS Warriors Game…
Hula-Gan the Wing Man.
Since I’ve had my 2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R, I have continued to enroll with XM Radio and listen to NBA information. I started following the “Dubs” a couple of years ago as they are fun to watch and have an incredible team and I really haven’t followed much of any other sports teams for many, many years. The Golden State Warriors have gotten my attention…
Thursday, January 19, 2017: POW MOW
The next morning we head up the canyon to Powder Mountain. Cloudy skies and light snow falling this morning when we arrived at their base lodge. We met up with their marketing manager, Jean-Pierre (J.P.) Goulet, who welcomed us and set us up with a guide to explore the mountain. We’ve skied here in the past but with addition of two new lifts and new terrain, this was going to be an adventure.
Powder Mountain added two new lifts accessing over 1,000 acres of new terrain and is the largest lift-serviced resort expansion in North American history. “Pow Mow” as the locals refer to it, now has a total of 8464 skiable acres with over 7900 Lift accessible skiable acres… the largest in the US. Plus, tons of side and back country accessibility and options for guided snowcat and heliskiing… You can also ski terrain back down to their access road and catch a bus back up to their base lodge.
We skied with Roscoe, who led us up the mountain on the Paradise Quad. Conditions were great snow and plenty of untracked off piste, but visibility was prohibited by clouds lingering on the mountain. Flat light – vertigo, etc… you didn’t know if you were sliding or standing still at times… Skiing down the Hidden Lake Express was an adventure in itself as I thought there was a mouse running across the run, then realized I was skiing past a small pine cone on the snow… didn’t think that I was skiing that fast or ?
Riding the lift into the clouds at Powder Mountain.
Dan decided to sit out a few runs because the flat light visibility, so Roscoe and I went up to find some tree lined runs with broken powder. It was fun and challenging and all I could do was to keep him in site and follow him down mountain. We did ride up the new Mary’s Lift and skied down through the trees and several runs in the trees off the Hidden Lake Express.
We had lunch at the base lodge and met up with J.P. to talk about the future of Powder Mountain and with a planned Village on the upper-mountain and more new lifts, the future is Bright for this resort.
After skiing Pow Mow, we decided to do après in one our favorite spots… the famous Shooting Star Saloon in Huntsville. This historic saloon is a must stop for any skier or rider if you are in the area skiing either Snowbasin or Powder Mountain. It’s a fun hang out with lots of character with over $5000 in $1 bills signed and attached to the ceiling, hats, posters, signs, photos and animal heads adorning the walls, including a stuff head of a St. Bernard from a former owner. Hula-Gan felt at home with all the critters on the wall.
Shooting Star Saloon, Huntsville, UT
Julie Summers – Bartender & Sheriff with Hula-Gan
Later that evening, I had to have my Asian Food Fix and we dined on Chinese Food at the Golden Dragon… It was rated high, but the food was just okay.
Friday, January 20, 2017: On the Way to Grand Targhee, WY
This morning we packed up and hit the road heading for Grand Targhee… It was snowing this morning and there was snow packed on the I-15 from Ogden all the way north to the Idaho border and driving was challenging and slow going… A few miles into Idaho, the snow ceased and roadway became a lot better and the further we traveled the sun broke out and made this travel day much less stressful and more enjoyable.
On the road to Grand Targhee
We drove up the roadway from Driggs, ID and with mostly clear skies were able to see the Tetons… I have only seen the Tetons once before while skiing on this mountain as they are usually covered by clouds.
We arrived at Grand Targhee about 3:00pm and couldn’t check in until 4:00pm. So we headed to the local après ski hang out, the Trap Bar & Grill. The joint was packed with skiers & riders finish up their day with Fresh Snow, Blue Skies and Big Smiles… A live band was finishing up their sound check and the scene was set for Friday Apres Ski evening at Grand Targhee.
End of day shuffle at Grand Targhee
We were hosted by the resort to stay in the Tweeinot Lodge in the Grand Targhee Village Base and this was greatly appreciated and so convenient, only steps away from the lifts and all the base services. We headed back to the Trap Bar for some dinner and to catch the game, Dubs vs Rockets.
Prime Rib French Dip was a good call.
A challenging and long travel day and now time to hit the hay!
Saturday, January 21, 2017: Grand Targhee WY
Woke up to cloud covered gray skies and headed to Snorkels for some coffee. Lots of locals and visitors getting ready for the lifts to open. Visibility or lack there of, was again going to be a factor in letting the skis run today.
Grand Targhee is a good size resort serviced by 5 Lifts leading to with over 2600 acres of terrain and a vertical drop of 2270 feet. Fred’s Peak (9862’) and Peaked Mountain (9830’) are the two main peaks with a variety of trails offered off these two ski pods. We rode up the Dreamcatcher Express to the top of Fred’s Mountain and skied several groomed runs, including Rock Garden & Big Thunder, down back to the base.
Had Great fun skiing down Chief Joe Bowl and doing laps off New Blackfoot Lift. We broke for lunch with a quick bowl of chicken noodle soup at the Trap Bar and headed back out to ski more runs as snow started to fall in the afternoon. Nice big fluffy flakes floating from the sky…
Later that evening we dined in the elegance of the Branding Iron & Grill, where I opted for the Egg Plant Soup and Cobb Salad… We knew there was going to be Freshies the next morning.
Sunday, January 22, 2017: Freshies at Grand Targhee
This morning started out early as we packed up and loaded the bluebaru and check out of the Tweeinot Lodge. We headed to Snorkels to meet up with Jenny White (Formerly, Bartlett) who is Grand Targhee’s Marketing Manager and old friend from Sugar Bowl’s PR Department. Great to catch up with her and to ski the mountain… We skied freshies off the Face and down Sweetwater and several runs in the trees down Chief Joe Bowl and worked our way across the mountain to ski Bird Woman & Pow Wow off the Sacajawea Lift.
We got off the mountain around 2:00pm and changed clothes in the parking lot and headed to Twin Falls, Idaho to spend the night… The drive was a bit challenging as snow continued to fall as well as gusty winds blowing snow over the roadway… Near White Out conditions at time…
We checked in to the Holiday Inn Express in Twin Falls and later got my Asian food fix at a Panda Kitchen.