Our road trip started at Denver. For three weeks we crossed the Rockies in our motorhome, in search of the Far West’s great powder. Between interstate highways, canyons and great parks, we were on the road for the best part of 2500 kilometres, crossing Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.
First port of call was Leadville, in the land of Lucky Luke, Doc Holliday and his wife Big Nose Kate. At an altitude of 3000 metres, the cold meant that getting water became a bit tricky.
Every day another ski resort, and it’s ski area. We left our first tracks at Ski Cooper, which was a bit flat, but between 3200 and 3600 metres in altitude; hard work for the lungs. Copper Mountain was a great comfort sensations-wise. Slopes that had well earnt their names: Oh No, Encore, Double Zero, Triple Treat, Hallelujah, not forgetting Formidable!
On the way to Aspen, we couldn’t resist the temptation to stop-off at Beavercreek, in the Vail ski fields. Skiing here has an altogether professional taste to it. Queuing for ski lifts has been well analyzed, and boxes of tissues, maps of the slopes, and fresh water are all provided while you wait. .
We quickly realized that skiers here are clients. This remarkable service had its price: about 60 dollars a day for a ski pass. Luckily, our ski tour was given a warm welcome, and we were invited to test out these ski slopes whose upkeep was excellent.
Particularly in Aspen, with its four world famous ski fields, where every one can find what they’re looking for: Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain. The ski areas are completely roped off, and it was by gates, opened only on days when conditions were good, that we adventured off-the-piste. Skiing off-piste is not forbidden as such, but there are rules governing it, and skiers venture off-piste at their own responsibility.
France was already in evidence here before we made our appearance, as was Italy, with Chanel, Yves-Saint-Laurent, Gucci, Prada… As for the gastronomic side, Olivier from Thone in the Alps set up shop in Aspen about 20 years ago, and invited us to his restaurant, the Rustique.
Our search for white gold led us towards the north, to the dulcet tones of Neil Young. Before Wyoming we stopped off at Steamboat Springs. Here the birth wood and pine forests were less dense. Add to this a few rocky outcrops, and we had found ourselves a great playground. We got to know the local Ambassadors of the local resorts, who named us as their photo of the day on their website, and nicknamed us the French Air force. After temperatures of 30° C below freezing in the day, we were glad to go through the thawing progress: outside hot-tubs, followed by pasta and bed.
Dropping off to sleep we dreamt of a red cable car and some of the extreme skiing videos produced by Teton Gravity Research. When we stumbled across Jackson Hole, this dream became a reality, a veritable goldmine.
One session with Jeff, from the Jackson Hole Air force, down the Granite Canyon corridors, and we had won his respect. Jeff had come here 10 years ago after finishing college, because of his love for skiing. After having spent a few years at Jackson Hole, after stylishly skiing numerous corridors, leaping off cliffs and rocks with surprising humility, Jeff deserved his stripes. Discretion and quality are two of the prerequisites of belonging to the Jackson Hole Air force.
At the top of the cable car the lift operator informed us that we would be allowed to go off-piste, as long as we didn’t go off our heads. Immense steep slopes awaited us, with long turns in the canyon all day long below them. 3rd March 2002, Cowdy Bowl, Rendez-Vous Peak, No Name Canyon. A few hours of hard work, and the powder was flying. We were lost for words. Back at the Hostel, Jeff got out his maps, and suggested a ski touring route: Cardiac Ridge and Pandor’s Range, where there’s a natural arch. When we got there, the snow had already transformed and stuck to our skins, meaning that they weighed a ton, and didn’t grip like they should do.
We arrived at the summit exhausted, with not an arch in sight. We had a silent moment for the raiders of the lost arch. But just as we thought we’d be going home empty-handed, we caught a glimpse of it, down a corridor. Local people say that those who go through it have eternal life. We had almost burnt our bridges…
As night fell, there was just about enough energy left in our legs to get us home safe and sound.
Heading back through Paris and Montpelier in Idaho, we arrived in the land of the Mormons, in Utah. Mormons convert the dead of this world. We found traces of our ancestors in the genealogy library in Salt Lake City.
Thanks to the great salt lake and the desert’s proximity, at Snowbird we were able to leave our tracks in snow as light as polystyrene bubbles.
The French having already left their mark at the Olympic Games, it was time for us to leave Salt lake City.
You’ll hear from us soon in Canada...
Thank you :
To all the ski resorts who treated us as honoured guests in their ski fields: Jackson Hole, Aspen, Beavercreek, Steamboat Springs, Snowbird.
Special Thanks :
- Shannon Brooks, for VIP access to the Jackson Hole cable car.
- Boz, quinquagenarian ski-bum, whose catch phrase was: Yeah, its good out there !
- Jeff who showed us his secret map, and initiated us in the delights of Teton Village’s good ground.