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The 2014/2015 winter brought epic conditions to all of the resorts on the Mountain Collective Pass.

I was lucky enough to experience it first hand, having just completed a Rocky Mountain road trip that hit all 7 resorts in a single loop. (Planning your own Mountain Collective road trip? Here are some tips on how you can make it happen too.) After a 3-month cycling trip through Europe to get my legs in shape, I was ready to hit the road.

If you’re already starting to plan your own Mountain Collective road trip (or if you have any reservations about purchasing the pass next season), we hope these resort highlights and tips will help guide your process.

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PHOTO: Gant Morgner

1. First Stop: Snowbird 

5:30am on December 26th was when I started the first leg of my road trip. The drive was an easy 11-hours from San Diego to Salt Lake, with my mother as co-pilot. (Thuggish, I know.)

After a day of riding with family in Park City, I saw a huge storm in the forecast and knew Snowbird was set to get the most snow of any mountain in the area.

The next day, we awoke to mountains of snow. The drive was going to be a rough one if we were going to make it through before the roads closed at 6am for avalanche blasting. Luckily, we were just in time and arrived at Snowbird at 5:45am to the melodious sounds of avalanche cannons and an estimated 19 inches of new powder.

Since the roads were closed to all traffic until 8:30am, we had the Bird to ourselves, and were able to do 5 laps on the tram before the crowds started to arrive. What a great way to begin the trip!

PHOTO: Gant Morgner

PHOTO: Gant Morgner

Snowbird Highlights

  • 3,240 vertical feet
  • 2,500 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 11,000 feet
  • Base elevation: 7,760 feet
  • Average snowfall: 500 inches
  • 13 lifts
  • Terrain: 35% advanced/expert, 38% intermediate, 27% beginner

Alta Highlights

  • 2,020 vertical feet
  • 2,200 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 10,550 feet
  • Base elevation: 8,530 feet
  • Average snowfall: 514 inches
  • 12 lifts
  • Terrain: 35% advanced/expert, 40% intermediate, 25% beginner

Pro Tips

  • During times of heavy snowfall, the pass into both Snowbird and Alta (UT-210) is closed from 6-8am for avalanche blasting. If you do not want to wait in your car at the base of the pass, get up early and have breakfast at The Cliff Lodge.
  • If a big snowfall is imminent, check the Utah Avalanche Center website for up-to-date estimations of what roads will be closed in the morning.

Après & Nightlife 

  • Both mountains offer a few quality pubs and restaurants right on the mountain.
  • Snowbird has a culinary village situated at the base of the tram where you can order food and cocktails to be enjoyed on the courtyard. There are also a number of great sit-down restaurants and bars in the area including: The Tram Club, General Grits, Birdfeeder, & Tram Car Pizza
  • Salt Lake City is only a short 30-45 minute drive from both resorts if you are looking for more variety.

2. Second Stop: Off to Jackson Hole

After meeting up with a friend who was also a Mountain Collective Pass holder, we left Snowbird on an absolute powder high and knew there was plenty more snow in the forecast for Jackson Hole.

The 5-hour drive from Salt Lake City can be approached in one of two ways, the uneventful high-speed route along the I-15, or the scenic yet slightly hazardous way through the mountains. Since I had all wheel drive and snow tires, we chose the US-89 and I-80 route that meandered long the Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho state lines.

Once in Jackson Hole, we met up with another close childhood friend, Jake, who showed us everything the mountain had to offer.

PHOTO: Gant Morgner

PHOTO: Gant Morgner

Jackson Hole Highlights

  • 4,139 vertical feet
  • 2,500 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 10,450 feet
  • Base elevation: 6,311 feet
  • Average snowfall: 459 inches
  • 13 lifts
  • Terrain: 50% advanced/expert, 40% intermediate, 10% beginner

Pro Tips

  • The best way to get acclimated to the mountain is to take the tram to the top and soak in all the breathtaking views the valley has to offer.
  • Just off the tram you can find Corbet’s Couloir, one of the most dangerous and awe-inspiring runs in North America. (This run is currently #4 on the list of top 50 things every skier has to do before they die.)
  • If you are feeling adventurous, but maybe not quite up to the immense challenge of Corbet’s, you can ski down from the tram and traverse over skier’s left until you hit the base of the headwall. From here it is a 15-20 minute hike up the headwall into some of the best terrain the mountain has to offer.

Après & Nightlife 

  • The resort is situated in the heart of Teton Village, which has many bars and restaurants that cater exclusively to skiers and snowboarders. The best local spots include: Nick Wilson’s (at the base of the tram), Spur (best place to watch the big game), The Mangy Moose Restaurant and Saloon, and Corbet’s Cabin (at the top of the tram which serves the best gourmet waffles).

3. Third Stop: Aspen with Friends 

Jake had never been to Aspen, so he gladly hopped on the bandwagon when I took off for the city where “the beer flows like wine and beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano.”

The 9-hour drive was beautiful, yet not for the feint of heart as you need to constantly be on the lookout for deer, elk, and even bears that wander onto the highway.

Considering that there are four mountains to choose from, knowing what each has to offer gives you a leg-up on properly planning your adventure. Also, in my humble opinion, there is no mountain-town this side of the Alps that even comes close to matching Aspen’s après and nightlife. My college water polo teammate, Dave, lives in Aspen and we were in superb hands to guide us around this jewel in the Elk Mountains Range.

PHOTO: Gant Morgner

PHOTO: Gant Morgner

Aspen Ajax Highlights

  • 3,267 vertical feet
  • 673 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 11,212 feet
  • Base elevation: 7,945 feet
  • Average snowfall: 300 inches
  • 8 lifts
  • Terrain: 52% advanced/expert, 48% intermediate

Snowmass Highlights

  • 4,406 vertical feet
  • 3,132 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 12,510 feet
  • Base elevation: 8,104 feet
  • Average snowfall: 300 inches
  • 21 lifts
  • Terrain: 44% advanced/expert, 50% intermediate, 6% beginner

Aspen Highlands Highlights

  • 3,635 vertical feet
  • 1,028 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 11,675 feet
  • Base elevation: 8,040 feet
  • Average snowfall: 300 inches
  • 5 lifts
  • Terrain: 52% advanced/expert, 30% intermediate, 18% beginner

Buttermilk Highlights 

  • 2,030 vertical feet
  • 470 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 9,900 feet
  • Base elevation: 7,870 feet
  • Average snowfall: 300 inches
  • 8 lifts
  • Terrain: 26% advanced/expert, 39% intermediate, 35% beginner

Pro Tips

  • Aspen Ajax is the patriarch of the bunch, being opened in 1947, and offers an amazing variety of black diamond runs. On a big snow day, it would be hard to not choose Ajax.
  • Snowmass boasts the most vertical feet in all the US and provides a huge variety of terrain for all levels of riders.
  • Aspen Highlands is a locals’ favorite with some of the most challenging big mountain terrain in the US. One could spend a whole season at this mountain and still not know every epic line. Hiking to the top of Highland Bowl is a must for every backcountry enthusiast.
  • Buttermilk has one of the best terrain parks in the world and currently hosts the Winter X Games.

Après & Nightlife

  • Just steps from the base of Ajax, 39 Degrees Lounge offers an amazing après atmosphere with cheap drinks and great food that can be served to you in the chalet, on the patio, or in the giant pool/hot-tub. Does it get any better than this?
  • If you are in the mood for live music, The Belly Up Aspen consistently has some of the biggest talent in the music industry at affordable prices.
  • Aspen also fully participates in the Green Revolution that has swept across Colorado. Top-self dispensaries share walls with high-end clothing boutiques.

4. Fourth stop: Banff 

The drive from Aspen to Banff was the longest single leg of the trip. However, I broke it up by driving back to Jackson Hole for a bonus day of riding with Jake.

From Jackson Hole, it’s an 11+ hour monotonous drive to Calgary and I would highly recommend staying along the I-15 if you do not have an off-road vehicle. Some of the passes are often impassable with only the slightest of weather conditions.

After a short day of sightseeing in frigid Calgary, I picked my dad up from the airport and we headed for Banff. He had spent many seasons heli-skiing in Banff so he knew the area well and was my own personal tour guide.

PHOTO: Gant Morgner

PHOTO: Gant Morgner

Lake Louise Highlights 

  • 3,250 vertical feet
  • 4,200 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 8,650 feet
  • Base elevation: 5,400 feet
  • Average snowfall: 360 inches
  • 10 lifts
  • Terrain: 30% advanced/expert, 45% intermediate, 25% beginner

Sunshine Village Highlights 

  • 3,510 vertical feet
  • 3,361 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 8,960 feet
  • Base elevation: 5,450 feet
  • Average snowfall: 360 inches
  • 12 lifts
  • Terrain: 25% advanced/expert, 55% intermediate, 20% beginner

Norquay Highlights

  • 1,650 vertical feet
  • 190 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 6,998 feet
  • Base elevation: 5,348 feet
  • Average snowfall: 300 inches
  • 6 lifts
  • Terrain: 44% advanced/expert, 36% intermediate, 20% beginner

Pro Tips

  • Lake Louise offers the most challenging terrain in the area and a hike to the top of Mount Whitehorn is a must when there is heavy snowfall.
  • Sunshine Village has the most varied terrain and absolutely breath-taking views on a bluebird day.
  • Norquay is the closest to the town of Banff.
  • If you can swing it, Banff National Park offers the most extreme adventure tours in North America including: heli-skiing, ice climbing, cat-skiing, snowshoeing, hot springs hiking, and white water rafting to name a few.

Après & Nightlife 

  • The town of Banff is a maximum 45-minute drive from all resorts and provides a center of activity in the area.
  • The Bison and its sister restaurant Bear Street Tavern offer a great combination of high-end dining upstairs with a great bar and pizza restaurant downstairs. One can easily grab a drink at Bear Street Tavern while waiting for a table at The Bison upstairs.

5. Fifth stop: Whistler

After a great week of skiing in Banff with my dad, I set off for Whistler. One cannot get lost on this route, as it’s a straight 10-hour shot west on the Trans-Canada Highway BC-1. However, I knew this drive would be quite perilous, so I decided to break it up and stop halfway in Revelstoke.

A storm closed the roads while in Revelstoke and I was forced to “suffer” through three days of waist deep powder before I could resume my travels. Emily, an old friend who moved to Squamish to chase the endless winters, was the best tour guide I could ask for in the Whistler/Blackcomb area.

PHOTO: Mitch Winton Coast Mountain Photography

PHOTO: Mitch Winton Coast Mountain Photography

Whistler Blackcomb Highlights

  • 5,020 vertical feet @ Whistler and 5,280 @ Blackcomb
  • 8,171 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 7,160 feet @ Whistler and 7,494 @ Blackcomb
  • Base elevation: 2,140 feet @ Whistler and 2,214 @ Blackcomb
  • Average snowfall: 458 inches
  • 37 lifts
  • Whistler Terrain: 25% advanced/expert, 55% intermediate, 20% beginner Blackcomb Terrain: 30% advanced/expert, 55% intermediate, 15% beginner

Pro Tips

  • Both mountains have endless amounts of unique terrain any you could spend a season exploring everything they have to offer.
  • The 7th Heaven region of Blackcomb is a great place to end the day as it gets the most amount of sun, yet maintains great conditions throughout the day.

Après & Nightlife 

  • Dusty’s Bar & BBQ at the base of the Creekside Gondola is the ultimate après destination with a huge bar, live music, and great food.
  • The Longhorn Saloon in the heart of the Village is the best après choice on for those staying in the Village.
  • If you can, spend one night in Vancouver while you are at Whistler/Blackcomb. It is one of the most beautiful and eventful cities in North America.

6. Sixth stop: Family Reunion in Tahoe

The drive from Whistler to Squaw Valley is a solid 16-hours, but can be broken up in a number of ways; including stopping in Seattle, Portland, or Bend.

I heard a lot of good things about the breweries in Bend, OR and decided to stop there for the night since there was little snow pack in the local mountain ranges. What was going to be an easy pit stop turned into a brief hiatus as my fuel pump crapped out and I had to wait for another one to be delivered before I could be on my way.

Minor crisis adverted, I made my way for San Francisco to see a few friends and stop by the Liftopia Offices on Market Street to say hi. I couldn’t stay long though, as my mother and extended family were waiting for me in Tahoe.

PHOTO: Matt Palmer

PHOTO: Matt Palmer

Squaw Valley Highlights 

  • 2,850 vertical feet
  • 4,000 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 9,050 feet
  • Base elevation: 6,200 feet
  • Average snowfall: 450 inches
  • 33 lifts
  • Terrain: 50% advanced/expert, 35% intermediate, 15% beginner

Alpine Meadows Highlights 

  • 1,802 vertical feet
  • 2,400 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 8,637 feet
  • Base elevation: 6,835 feet
  • Average snowfall: 450 inches
  • 13 lifts
  • Terrain: 35% advanced/expert, 40% intermediate, 25% beginner

Pro Tips

  • The easiest and sneakiest way to park at Squaw is to valet your car at the Resort at Squaw Creek. It is $10 all day and you have access to their locker rooms as well as pool/spa complex. They have their own Squaw Creek chairlift that allows you to ski in / ski out.
  • Granite Chief provides access to some of the best tree skiing in the area but is often closed.
  • Siberia Express and Headwall Express also give you access to some of the best terrain on Squaw and Alpine Bowl Chair is the best on Alpine Meadows.

Après & Nightlife

  • The Resort at Squaw Creek provides an amazing poolside après environment.
  • Incline Village provides the closest casinos, yet the ones in South Lake are much bigger and more sinful.

7. Seventh stop: Final Day in Mammoth

My family was leaving the same day that I was to head south from Tahoe so we carpooled all the way to Mammoth before I split off from the pack. This final stop was bitter sweet as I really did not want the Rocky Mountain Road Trip to end, but was excited to finish on a high note at my home mountain.

For the first time, I was planning on riding solo as no friends were meeting me at this mountain. However this notion was short-lived as I met some awesome Mountain Collective pass holders at the Davidson St. Guest House Hostel whom I partied with that night and rode with the next day. What a perfect way to end the trip!

PHOTO: Gant Morgner

PHOTO: Gant Morgner

Mammoth Mountain Highlights 

  • 3,100 vertical feet
  • 3,500 skiable acres
  • Top elevation: 11,053 feet
  • Base elevation: 7,953 feet
  • Average snowfall: 400 inches
  • 28 lifts (includes 9 high speed quads, 2 high speed six-packs and 3 high speed gondolas)
  • Terrain: 15% expert, 20% advanced, 40% intermediate, 25% beginner

Pro Tips 

  • Weather permitting, a trip to the Top of the Sierra on the gondola is a must. From there you can head skier’s right and traverse to Dave’s Run, Dragon’s Back and Dragon’s Tail. Along skier’s left are some of the most memorable chutes the mountain has to offer, including Climax & Cornice, which used to be one of the gnarliest drop-ins to a run of all time before the top of Cornice was cut off.
  • Chair 23 provides access to another amazing ridgeline as well as the backside.
  • After a big storm, avoid the crowds and sneak away to Cloud Nine Express early to hit acres and acres of endless powder tree runs.

Après & Nightlife

  • The Mill Café at the base of Goldrush Express – Chair 10 provides and amazing après environment with a big fireplace and expansive patio.
  • Clocktower Cellar Pub is a local’s favorite, boasting stiff drinks combined with a pool table, pinball machine, foosball table, and many other quintessential bar games.
PHOTO: Dylan Crossman/Sun Valley Resort

PHOTO: Dylan Crossman/Sun Valley Resort

New Additions For 2015/16

If you thought it couldn’t get any better, you thought wrong!

For the upcoming 2015/16 season, the iconic Sun Valley Resort was added to this already-impressive roster, and additional benefits for pass holders include 2 days each at Valle Nevado in Chile and Hakuba Valley in Japan. Check the Mountain Collective for more info on availability and pass details.

TMC Purchase

 

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