In the words of Ned Stark, “Winter is coming.” In our case, however, winter means ski season. Instead of polishing swords, we’ll be waxing boards. But, the choices to be made are just as serious: where to partake of some powdery pleasure? If you choose to align with the Mountain Collective Pass, you’ll get two days of skiing and riding in six regions in two countries and four states, which should keep your footloose and fancy free nature content. But how do you eek every last moment of pleasure from this golden opportunity? How do you roll into a new resort and know that you’re living like a local?
It takes research. And stealth. And lots of bribing to get locals to give up the goods. But never fear: we’ve got you covered. Here are the tips and tricks for living like a local with the Mountain Collective Pass.
The Locals: Erme Catino, local skier and writer, living in Alta. Jonathan Scoville, front desk manager at Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge in Alta. Elisabeth Osmeloski, a nine-year resident at Snowbird who frequently works FTCL (from the chair lift).
Day One: Alta
If you’re staying at a lodge at Alta, breakfast and dinners are included, so take advantage of the free fuel before you hit the slopes. Alta Java, located near the Albion Lodge is the spot for coffee and homemade pumpkin bread; order a “Susie,” a chai with a plenty of espresso. Then continue on with your day, fully charged.
The best place to be on a powder morning is Collins Chair. The High Traverse (High T) is where everyone wants to be and, for a first-timer, it can be intimidating. Like being on a highway, everyone’s racing and once you get on, you either stay on or merge off. However, High T is also the best access to terrain like The Backside and the West Rustler area. Head to High Rustler first thing in the morning. Even if it doesn’t snow, West Rustler gets a lot of wind and it tends to smooth out, creating great opportunities with a variety of nooks and shoots. For a taste of Alta’s old school charm, ride the Wildcat double chair for great tree skiing and a mixture of micro-terrains.
Après and After
When it’s time for après, head to upstairs to Goldminer’s Daughter’s saloon for pizza, beer and views of the High T as the sun sets on the mountain. The Peruvian (known as the P-Dog to locals) has an après scene that even draws folks from Snowbird, with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and popcorn. For a stiffer drink, head to the Sitzmark at the Alta Lodge, a classic ski bar serving up cocktails and free appetizers, complete with a cozy fireplace and plenty of classic ski sweaters.
Interlodge happens. This is a phenomenon that occurs when it snows so much that the road closes for avalanche control and you’re lodge-bound until it’s safe. You run the risk of receiving a fine if you leave without permission. However, this can also be an amazing experience as you’ll not only get to know your fellow lodgers, but you’ll also be primed and ready for amazing snow when you’re released.
Day Two: Snowbird
Start off with breakfast at the Forklift on the Plaza Deck—it’s the closest spot to the lift at Snowbird and is famous for its dill hash browns.
Those lines you see where everyone’s waiting for patrol to drop the ropes to Mineral Basin or Road to Provo? They can be worth it, but you’ve got to be ready for it and move fast. Have a strategy, know where you are going to drop in and don’t hesitate. If you drop in early on the first lap, do your best to make it back to the lift before the masses traverse out. Then keep moving further out on each consecutive lap.
Of course, for the best secret powder stashes, you best bet is to chat up a local Bird on the lift. Many Bird locals are actually transplants from other states, so the odds of finding a connection are high. Just play it cool and maybe you’ll have a few new friends to show you the ropes (or where they drop the ropes).
Après and After
Make sure to partake of après ski at the Tram Club, which is located—wait for it—under the tram. This sports bar is not only known for its après festivities, but also for its late night hours. To ease those tired muscles, take a soak in the hot tub in the Cliff Spa—there’s a $15 access fee, but it gives you access to the rooftop pool, hot tub and locker facilities to freshen up. Then head up to the Sushi Bar in the Aerie for 50% off apps from 5 p.m. – 6p.m. or check out the Martini Monday, Whiskey Wednesday and Sake Sushi Sunday specials. More in the mood for Mexican? El Chanate has half-off appetizers from 2-5 pm, on the patio; Thirsty Thursdays is the place for $3 margaritas and $2 drafts all night long.
Didn’t get enough of Alta? Take advantage of free after 3 p.m. skiing at the resort or check out Alta’s Nordic skate track, which is free to use (rental equipment is available for about $15). It’s short, but you can make multiple loops the little hills seem like monsters if you’re not used to this alternative snow sport.
The Locals: Carl Pelletier: Served as a ski host at the Village; also worked as a night auditor, which allowed him to “ski all day and cook the books all night long.” Cory Carlson, former World Cup Skier and Director of Sales and Marketing at Four Seasons Resort & Residences Jackson Hole. Andrew Whiteford, Jackson athlete and local.
From Jackson, get ready for the day by making tracks to D.O.G. (Down on Glen) for a handmade, spicy, over-stuffed burrito. Burrito procured, head just down the street to Pearl Street Bagels for a large Shot in the Dark.
You’re ready to drive out to the Village, but first, cruise the numerous bus stops to offer a fellow skier (or skiers) a ride. Not only is it good karma, but parking is free in the Ranch Lot if you have three or more in your car. Otherwise, parking is $5.
If you get there early enough or the line is small, take the Tram to the summit. Once you disembark, you have two choices: take one of the longest, most amazing runs that you’ll have in your life down the Upper to Lower Hobacks. Or, from the top of the Tram, work Rendezvous Bowl down to the Sublet quad. Back on Sublet, you still might have enough time to get fresh tracks down Bivouac.
If the line to the Tram is long, another option is board the Gondola. Once at the top, your goal is make your way to Thunder Quad, where you’ll have a few chances to ski fresh powder. Exit Thunder and go straight into Laramie Bowl which, when it’s full of snow or is freshly groomed is an excellent run. At the bottom of the bowl, hop on the Sublet chair. Sneak through the trees to the top of the Expert Chutes, where there are many options–don’t let the name scare you. At the bottom, pole across a small flat area to give you access to Toilet Bowl.
If you find many of the inbounds lines have seen tracks, consider donning a probe, beacon and shovel and head out a boundary gate into Rock Springs.
Après and After
The last lift has closed, but before heading back into Jackson, stop by the Mangy Moose bar at the bottom of resort, which is world famous for its après scene. For a real locals’ favorite for dinner, head to Pica’s Mexican Taqueria for awesome food and outstanding margaritas or head to Pinky G’s for large slices of pizza and tall boys.
After dinner, the Rose is an excellent spot for a delicious, high-end cocktail to get things started. From here, it’s off to the historic Wort Hotel’s Silver Dollar Bar to listen to live music. If you are still feeling frisky, saddle up for a few at the Cowboy Bar.
Head to Shades for morning grub and strong coffee (you might need it after last night’s shenanigans at the Cowboy Bar). Pick up your extra rider for free parking or utilize the START Bus from town and avoid driving to the mountain all together.
Depending on the previous day’s adventures, contemplate taking the Gondola but instead of heading to skier’s right, head left towards the new Casper high speed quad. It’s quick, easy and gives access to many different types of terrain options from rolling blues to more technical moguls and trees in Moran woods. Be sure to stop into Corbet’s Cabin for a hot waffle with butter and brown sugar. When you’re ready to move on, traverse right into “the Crags” or have lunch at the Casper lodge.
For more exploring, take the Teewinot lift to the Après Vous lift. Swoosh to far skier’s left and explore the wilds of Saratoga Bowl. You could explore back here for a full day, dropping boulders, hitting powder stash after powder stash and running the gates of lodge pole pines. After a couple of laps in Saratoga, take a cruiser down a groomer back to the base.
Après and After
Grab a tram taco and a beer at Nick Wilson’s at the clock tower next to the Tram Dock. If you see a crowd forming, head on over as there’s a good chance that there’s a band. For the best Thai food in a 300 mile radius, check out Teton Thai, located by the Ranch Lot. It might be packed, but wait as it’s worth it. Afterwards, be sure to stop by the Snake River Brew Pub to sample one of their many tasty brews.
Jackson is susceptible to temperature inversions, particularly during high pressure, and the valley will be filled with a dense, cold fog early in the mornings. Get used to looking at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s upper mountain web cams or the Teton Pass Web Cam to see what the weather is like above the fog. It’s common to experience a 40-degree temperature swing between the base and summit of the tram. By checking out the weather cams, you can be spinning laps in the sun on the Sublette, Thunder, or Casper lifts while everyone else is drinking a second cup of coffee.
Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows
The locals: Amelia Richmond, Senior Public Relations Manager for Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows. Andy Chapman, the Chief Marketing Officer of the North Lake Tahoe Marketing Co-op.
Day One: Squaw Valley
The lifts open at 9 a.m., so be sure to get a good breakfast before conquering the mountain. Depending on where you’re staying or arriving, check out Wildflour Bakery in the Olympic House base lodge and order a coffee, pizza bagel and chocolate chip cookie. Yes, it’s breakfast, but the cookie is necessary. Or, head to
Mountain Nectar in The Village at Squaw Valley for a breakfast burrito. Staying around the lake? Visit the Log Cabin Caffe, home of the famous Arizona French Toast.
On a powder day, timing is everything. For expert skiers who want a bit of glory to rehash at après, hit the KT-22 lift and tackle The Nose and huck yourself of the Fingers, the cliff band that’s located under the lift. Even if you’re not ready for this terrain, watch from the chair as it’s always a show. Advanced skiers can watch the show on the Fingers and then head to Red Dog Ridge for the best snow. The KT Saddle is also a great option on a powder day.
Après and After
So you’ve mastered the mountain—head down to Le Chamois (The Chammy) to hang with the locals and perhaps score the inside scoop for the night’s revelries or the next day’s runs. For the best deal in Squaw, head to the Cornice Cantina and ask for a “shifter”: your first PBR is just $1. For the beer connoisseurs, Rocker@Squaw has 13 beers on tap, a nice selection of bottles and 22oz specials. Oh, did you happen to do some filming today? Grab a beer and utilize the Drop-In Video Zone at Rocker@Squaw, where you can upload your GoPro footage and edit it right there. For food on the go, check out the food trucks that are rumbling into Squaw: both MTN ROOTS and Mamasake have food trucks at the base.
Try a Tahoe Star Tour. New this season, Tahoe Star Tours has partnered with Tahoe Adventure Company to offer star gazing snowshoe tours one Saturday a month from December through April. Tours will take place at the North Tahoe Regional Park in Tahoe Vista, CA, and will include snowshoe rental, poles, a guided snowshoe walk on easy to moderate terrain, permit fees, a laser tour of the night sky and telescopic viewing, plus hot drinks and snacks.
Day Two: Alpine Meadows
Breakfast is the more important meal of the day, so make sure that you stop the Crest Café, conveniently located at the base of Alpine Meadows Road, and order the Bomb Sando for a hearty start to your day. If you’re taking the shuttle up to Alpine Meadows, stop into Treats, for some homemade breakfast lovin’.
If the morning dawned with some beautiful Tahoe powder, be prepared to earn your turns all day long. Expert skiers will want to send a prayer down Our Father, located off of the Sherwood Chair. Advanced skiers will want to take Hot Wheels to the Back Bowls, an expansive playground on a powder day and intermediate skiers should check out Scott Ridge, off of the Scott Chair. Make plans to meet up at the Ice Bar (located at the base of the Sherwood Chair) for some hula-hooping, dancing or simply relaxing with a beer and a brat.
Après and After
To soak up some sun after your day of powder runs, head to the Sundeck at the main lodge for some grilled goodness and libations. The Last Chair Bar will keep you going way past the last chair—right up until last call, as a matter of fact. If you head back down to the lake and want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, head to the Crystal Bay Steakhouse, one of Frank Sinatra’s old stomping grounds that still has the gilded luxury of bygone days. If there’s a band, stay at the Crystal Bay and dance the night away.
Relax like a local – No matter where you stay, make sure to pick up a s’mores kit and roast some marshmallows under the stars. A trip to Tahoe in the winter is not complete without a s’more!
Part two of “Living Like a Local with the Mountain Collective Pass” will be published tomorrow! Make sure to check back for the inside scoop on Aspen/Snowmass, Mammoth and Whistler/Blackcomb.
Alta dropped the Ski Free after Three option last season. Now it’s $10 ($5 for a reload)
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