This past weekend I was in Alta with my friend Mary for a mindset skiing camp called Ski to Live, led by former Olympic mogul and big-mountain skier Kristen Ulmer (more on that soon). It was my first time skiing at Alta, and while the powder wasn’t as ample as the hype—500 inches on average a year—it was still pretty great, and it’s impossible to beat the convenience. Our flight landed at the Salt Lake airport at 12:30 PM and by 2:30, we'd checked into my room at the slope side Goldminer’s Daughter, changed into ski clothes, bought a $30 late afternoon pass (good from 2:30 til 4:30, gotta love that), and were halfway up the mountain on the Collins lift. Which begs the question: Why would anyone travel anywhere else to ski?
To be fair, Alta isn’t the most family-oriented of Utah ski resorts. It’s steep and the base area is 1970s-minimal, with a couple ski shops, three or four lodges with basic double-bed motel rooms, and a few rental properties. You won’t find a jumbo trampoline, tubing hill, ice rink, indoor swimming pools or kids clubs for après-ski playtime, and the dining room at the all-inclusive Goldminer’s Daughter (world’s friendliest ski hotel, by the way) was filled with dads who’d left their wives and kids at home to ski with the guys. But—and this is a big but—if you get there early enough, you can practically park right next to the lift. Which, when you’re schlepping major amounts of gear and kids, is huge. Huge! Who cares about kiddy terrain parks? Please let me drive our crap directly to the lift line!
Ski-in, ski-out/drive-in, drive out @ the GMD [photo: GoldmIner's Daughter]
It’s been snowing in the Alps, and we’ve got schussing on the brain, especially since we stumbled across this choice ski-in, ski-out mountain hideout at 4,200 feet the Haute Savoie. La Ferme du Soleil (“Farm of Sunshine”) is Sound of Music meets Richard Scarry: e.g., an alpine ski idyll, with room for 12,très Euro niceties like down featherbeds and a huge open fireplace in the great room, plate-glass views of the peaks, and its very own chef. (On the menu: homemade Reblochon cheese from neighboring farms, local sausages, myrtle berries, honey from nearby alpages, and of course French wine at dinner.) The pistes and lifts of Le Grand-Bornand are right out the front door, providing access to more than 50 miles of pistes and 30+ miles of groomed Nordic trails, as is the village of Grand-Bornand Chinaillon, with a requisite après ski scene, rental shops, and day nurseries for the little ones. Or put on your climbing skins and randonee gear and head out pre-dawn with guide Jean Francois for some “eco-skiing.” What's not to covet?
Good times for all in the Whistler high country [Photo: Paul Morrison]
Now that the snow is finally falling in the Pacific Northwest, Rockies, and Northeast, it’s time to start chasing powder. Given the steep costs and major schlep factor, family ski trips can tip just that side of “worth it”—especially when you’re forking over major moula. But thanks to a new crop of up-to-the-minute deals, you can go where the snow is and still save a bundle, especially if you don’t mind booking at the last minute, are flexible with your travel dates, and can steer (mostly) clear of peak holiday weeks.
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia Kids are free for the whole month of March at this BC behemoth, which has gotten 18 feet of freshies to date and boasts a 76-inch base. No, not free for the taking, but free for the skiing: Your littles’ lift tickets, lodging, rental, and airport transfers won’t cost you a dime when you reserve a three-day lift and lodging package (including the 5th Night Free deal) before January 31. Kids’ ski and snowboard lessons start as young as three, and the two-day Roxy Jr Snow Camp for girls age 13-18 runs March 24-25. www.whistlerblackcom.com
Is your old Samsonite looking a little dogeared? Are you ready to replace your black roller board with something that's easier to identify on the luggage carousel? We'll be checking out new luggage this week at the Outdoor Retailer show. Here's a preview of a few of the pieces we're most excited to see.
Osprey Ozone Series: If you're schlepping stuff around, it's hard to beat Osprey. We've been big fans of the company's technical packs and travel luggage for years. If you're looking to upgrade you current, old, and heavy roller, you might wan to hold out for Osprey's new Ozone series of luggage. Osprey says that the new bags, available in sizes suitable for carry-on or checking, are the lightest rolling luggage on the market. And Osprey didn't sacrifice features to keep the weight down—Ozone bags have plenty of organizer pockets inside and out. Available fall 2012, $199-$249, ospreypacks.com
Gregory Border: Much like Osprey (above), Gregory also has a reputation as a purveyor of exceptional backpacks. In 2011, it introduced a new line of TSA-compatible travel packs. And now the company is building on the collection. The coolest thing about Gregory's Border travel pack is that it unzips to lay flat, so your computer can stay in the bag in airport security. The 18L size holds 13-inch laptops and tablet-sized devices. 25L and the 35L versions comfortably carry 15-inch
Who wants to shoot STA Australia's next web campaign? This past year, the travel company sent three guys on a 44-day round-the-world trip and then turned their journey into a series of three emotive 60-second videos. Director Rick Mereki shot the Eat, Move, Learn videos while traveling in 11 countries before publishing them this past August. He and his two friends used two cameras, gathered roughly a terabyte of footage, and saw an erupting volcano.