Two things I learned this winter break: how to live for a week and a half in a 20-foot space overflowing with three people, two dogs, and ski gear for miles, and how not to freeze to death in -27 degree weather. (Also how much I truly despise the US’s high drinking age, but for my parents’ sake we’ll not go into that.)
Instead of your typical holiday, this year my family decided to spice things up with a western US winter road trip. I love to snowboard and my family skis, but we live near Lake Tahoe where the scenery is stunning, but recently the snow has alternated between shitty and nonexistent. Fortunately, this thing called the Vail Epic Pass exists that lets you ski at 15 Vail resorts, mostly in the West, but also two in the Alps and one in Japan (a great option for any avid skier). So we packed up the camper and hit the icy road headed for Utah and Colorado in what will here be known as the Tour de Coldasfuck 2014.
As per usual, we started out with a bang when we all missed our alarms and overslept by several hours. However, by midday we were well on our way, headed down the aptly named Loneliest Road in America. This section of US Highway 50 crosses 400 miles through the middle of the Nevada desert, passing through just five towns. To put this in perspective, that’s the same distance as Edinburgh to London. With. Just. Five. Towns. It’s an area so desolate that drivers are advised to brush up on their survival skills before heading out, but we hardened Nevadans see this as a tourist attraction to rival the Las Vegas Strip. There’s a shoe tree, a sand dune, a few ghost towns – it’s great, trust me. After spending the night near Great Basin National Park (a small, often overlooked, but really lovely place I highly recommend), we woke up to snowy, unplowed roads and another long day of driving. Despite some slippery passes and many picture stops, we got situated in our RV park in time to walk the dogs before dark.
Park City, home of the 2000 Winter Olympics, is a ski and board hotspot. This is ironic as it’s here where our blankets began to freeze to the walls of the camper. We were prepared with a grand total of 5 heaters, 9 coats, 17 blankets, and 13,000 socks, but -27C is still brutal. None the less, the slopes were still packed. Off the main routes, I managed to find some open powder and had a blast, but my family didn’t have the best time. So the next day we headed to nearby Canyons Resort, also a great option and a fantastic, ice cold day.
After two full days of skiing and boarding, plus a cheeky snowshoe, we were ready for a rest day. Not wanting to waste a precious vacation day, we headed down to Arches National Park. Famous for its red rock arches, the stark landscape here is beautiful in a completely foreign way. Patches of snow enhanced this effect, contrasting dramatically with the red of the rock and the blue of the sky. A long day here was enough to see the highlights and drive the scenic route back up to the highway before staging a necessary John Denver sing along as we crossed into beautiful Colorado.
Next resort on the list was Vail – where I proceeded to get very lost, very quickly – and then Breckenridge – my absolute favourite. The sound of avalanche control explosives reverberating off the slopes greeted us as we rode the gondola up to this massive mountain. Lots of student groups make this their destination, so I’m sure the nightlife is great, and an equal amount of families and locals give the place a nice atmosphere and make for some good ski lift chat. Breck, as it is affectionately known, has almost 200 runs which allows space for all of the crowds and enormous variety in terrain. We spent three days here and didn’t tire of the space in the least.
Our vacation, while definitely not orthodox, was incredible fun and a true adventure. The Epic Pass was a huge success as it allowed us to come and go as we pleased, truly enjoying ourselves and not feeling pressured to ski till we dropped. We managed to get a taste of several different resorts and fit enough skiing in to hold us over for another year. The scenery was amazing and the slopes were even better.
I should add a bit of a disclaimer, though, and let you know that this opinion could be swayed by the fact that on my very last run down before flying out of Denver and leaving my parents with the camper, I managed to get myself a nice little concussion and some pretty impressive bruising. Thanks to this handy brain damage, the whole trip could have been absolutely awful and I wouldn’t know any better. I guess I’ll just have to repeat the whole thing to make sure.