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Snodomes & Snozones 2000
With several fantastic visits to Colorado under my belt I
saw no reason to change a winning formula so all I needed to decide was
which resort to go to. As with last year it was just me and Stooie
so we spent the first half of Jan scouring the net for late availability
deals. Skiworld came up trumps for us yet again with 2 weeks in a
catered chalet in Breckenridge for £699 and a 14 day lift pass for under
£200! We flew Gatwick
- Charlotte - Denver with a free road transfer to resort, all without a
hitch. As ever with the USA it was pretty much 24 hrs travel door to
door but it's always worth the effort and you do get 7 hours sleep back
for free (on the way out anyway.)
Chalet Goldrush on South Harris Street was very comfortable and
definitely one of the nicest places I've stayed at. Not a
particularly large house it nevertheless had a rather bizarre rabbit
warren layout that meant to get from the front to the back
you had to go downstairs, through the winding corridor of the converted
basement (where half the bedrooms were) and surface again at the back
where there was another lounge & mini kitchen - weird!
It was only a 15 minute walk from the chalet to Main Street and the
main base lift of the resort on Peak 9. Breck consists of 4
interlinked mountain areas - Peak 7,8,9,10 (I can only assume that Peaks
1-6 exist but are undeveloped.) Getting between them was painless
and it was easy to make your way across all of them and back again in the
course of a day. The lift system took a bit of familiarisation as
you had names like C Chair, 5 Chair and the Peak 8 SuperConnect. We
soon learnt though that if it's a number or a letter then it'll be
s-l-o-w! The named lifts however were all fast 4-6 people
movers. The lift pass also covers Keystone, Vail & Arapahoe
Basin which can be reached by local buses.
Although it flaked a bit here & there we only had one day when it
snowed like it really meant it and left us with several inches of powder
the next day. Most of the time we just had the snow that had been
there for a while but there was plenty of it and the persistent low
temperatures meant it stayed in great condition. I've heard Canada
can be very cold but BreckenFridge was plenty cold enough for me.
Considering that 32F is 0C freezing, temperatures were typically in the
teens and sometimes single figures. It may have crept up to low 20s
but that was as warm as it got! Combined with a high wind chill
factor (it really did blow sometimes) it meant several layers including
thermals EVERY day, inner glove liners, goggles and sometimes a face
mask. Definitely no tee shirts & sunglasses here.
The terrain generally got steeper as you worked your way from Peak 7 to
Peak 10. I personally loved the rolling blues on Peak 7 and the
ballistic blue/blacks on Peaks 8/9. Offpiste lovers should head for
the bowl above Peak 7 fed by the T Bar lift, much loved & frequented
by the 'Ologists' Iona & Andy in our chalet. Drag lifts are too
much like hard work on boards so I never got up there but I certainly
heard plenty about it! Boarders are well catered for with big
terrain parks on Peak 8 and at Keystone. It's definitely experts
only on Peak 8 as the jumps, rails & boxes along with the 17 ft
Superpipe are truly enormous. I had a go on some smaller features
and had several runs through a 3/4 size pipe but wisdom prevailed over
bravery and I never attempted the Peak 8 park.
As with previous recent holidays I was just too tired to head out again
after dinner in the evening and it was just way too cold as well.
Instead we found some excellent watering holes to visit straight off the
slopes. Best for beer were The Breckenridge Brewery which brews its
own and Downstairs at Erics which has an extensive beer menu which I
challenge anyone to work their way through! Honourable mention goes
to Mia Casa which had a constant supply of nachos on the go.
Big Hellos to Sarah, our Americanised Kiwi rep for the 2nd year in a
row, our 2 fine chalet hosts Sarah & Emma who kept us all in line and
provided great food and inspiration and our fellow guests Iona, Andy,
Geoff, Richard (Nintendo kings), Woody, Shelley (Lester you bonehead),
Mark, Judy, Callum, Neil (F*****g this f*****g that), John & Bert.
After the absolutely rubbish conditions in France last year
I decided very early on that I was going back to the States or possibly
Canada this time. Just me and Stooie this trip as others either
wanted to go to Europe - WHY??!! or had other commitments. We left
it late to get a good deal and our patience was rewarded with a big
discount on 2 weeks in my favourite resort.
We weren't going to let increased terrorism threats or
the growing Iraq crisis spoil our holiday and I am happy to say that our 5
airport and 6 plane round trip was as smooth as can be. Our luck was
so good that our inbound Denver-Aspen flight was the only one that evening
not to be cancelled by bad weather.
Our chalet on Francis Street was small
but comfortable and only a couple of minutes from the free bus stop.
Our South African host Trevor was quite a lad and kept us amused with his
stories and antics. He loved his boarding and was actually
reasonably good at it. He may not have dusted the TV or the shelves
very often but his cooking was excellent and his entertainment value
pricesless! Hi to our fellow guests John, Faye, Reg, Sally, Jon,
Michelle and Trev's luverly girlfriend Vics.
As with both previous visits Aspen town
and it's mountains were an absolute pleasure to spend time in. We
had tons of snow throughout the holiday and enjoyed pristine fluffy powder on
several days. With only perfect snow conditions, quiet runs
and a total lack of ice, rocks and crowds, last year in Meribel seemed a
world away and was reduced to a distant & unpleasant memory.
My new Gnu Carbon High Beam performed
superbly and I was thoroughly pleased with it. After a few days I
soon had the confidence to hit the terrain parks and give the railslides
& boxes a go, something I had never attempted before. Mostly
they went fine but I did have a big 'off' once and I was very glad
for my backpack and newly purchased helmet which both saved me from some
As before, Cooper Street bar was the
apres-board watering hole of choice and many pitchers of Coors and bowls
of pretzels were consumed over the 2 weeks. If you want a fantastic
steak you just can't do any better than visit The Steak Pit for an absolutely
mouth watering meal which won't put too much of a dent in your wallet
either - superb!
This season my regular holiday
buddies Terry & Kirsty decided early on to fork out mega bucks to
spend Christmas & New Year in Aspen but I wasn't prepared to spend
that much so I reluctantly went back to Europe. I had excellent
company however as I went with my boarding buddy Stooie and his Auntie
& Uncle Rosemary & Robin. They are both very accomplished
skiers and Rosemary also rides a Nitro alpine board.
We stayed in the excellent Hotel Des
Sources in Brides les Bains, a 20 minute bubble ride to Meribel. The
food was fantastic and even 12 days of high altitude boarding exercise couldn't prevent my
salopettes growing steadily tighter! A big hello & thank you to manager
Alain, singing cheffie Marc and their staff for an enjoyable & relaxing
Unfortunately the snow conditions were
very poor and it was only the snow cannons that prevented a total
washout. It had not snowed since late December and it was a rude
awakening after several great American holidays to return to bare icy
& rocky slopes filled to bursting with mad reckless Europeans - I
have never seen so many incidents & near misses. We could have
saved our money by just towing our boards behind our cars for a few miles
and kicking each other up the backside to simulate the ice induced
falls! With hindsight we should have hired boards & skis,
preventing the damage caused to our own.
That said I still had a good time as
even bad boarding is better than no boarding - right? The lift pass
is good VFM as the 3 Valleys ski area of Meribel, Courcheval & Val
Thorens is huge and it also allows you a free visit to the neighbouring
resorts of La Plagne & Val D'Isere. With good snow it definitely
would be a great place to go and our perseverance was finally rewarded
when it finally snowed heavily on our penultimate day there. The
place was transformed and we had 2 great days of playing in powder before
having to drive back home.
The last bubble down to Brides each day was about 17:30 so we didn't
have much time in Meribel at the end of the day. Just as well really
as the bars tended to be a bit expensive. Instead it was The Central
bar in Brides that did very well out of us during our stay as our daily
port of call for a few après board beers. Our supply of crisp &
shiny new Euros was not hit too hard either as their prices were very
reasonable and their Kronenbourg 1664 & Hoegaarden wheat beer went
down a treat.
|Steamboat Springs Jan-Feb 2001
What is it with Denver airport? Twice we have been there en route
for Steamboat and twice our luggage has gone missing for at least a day -
Get yourselves sorted out Denver. However smiles returned to our
weary faces when we saw our transfer vehicle was a white stretch limo
complete with wrap around leather sofa, TV and bar - nice one. When
we finally arrived at the same lodge we stayed at 2 years before, we were
ready to hit the sack as we had been on the road (and air) for over 24hrs.
This year the other members of our holiday crew were variously indisposed
so 'we' were regulars Terry, Kirsty, myself and newcomer
Zoe. She hadn't been skiing before so started at the beginning with
ski school but after only 3 days was coming on blue runs with us
which definitely weren't all as easy as they sound. She picked it up
quickly and thoroughly enjoyed her first winter holiday - boarding next year!
The snow was pretty good when we first hit the slopes and it just kept on coming. Nearly every day was a powder day
which was fantastic. The only downside (not that I'm complaining)
was that it was consistently cloudy and cold with flat light.
Apparently the other Colorado resorts weren't getting much snow at all so
we counted ourselves lucky.
I spent 3 mornings on the excellent terrain park and although my
jumping was consistently pathetic I enjoyed improving my skills on the
Boardercross track, Halfpipe and timed slalom course, none of which I had
ever tried before. I think I spent more time picking myself up,
dusting snow off and rubbing bruises in here than the whole of my previous
3 holidays but hey - no pain no gain.
The Crystal team of Maria, Simon, Lisa, Gary & Tim (oh, and Chris!)
did a fine job of looking after us, cooking great meals and providing a
regular taxi service to the slope and from the bar! Thanks
guys. Honourable mentions also to our fellow chalet mates Peter,
Sheila, Colin, Terry2, Kim, Kerry & Dewi. Better luck next year
with the boarding lessons - how are the bruises doing?
Snozones Sep 2000
Very conveniently situated near
friends in Birmingham & Bedford respectively are Tamworth
Snowdome and Milton Keynes Snozone. It just so happens , well I
never.., that I had all my boarding kit with me and so I gave
them both a go.
Tamworth has been refitted since I was there before. The inside is now entirely insulated improving the overall
snow quality and the conveyor lift seemed better as well but I can't be
sure. I like the 'dog leg' design of the wide slope which provides a 90
degree left hand turn about 1/3 way down and you can get some good air off
the roller further on. Being quicker and shorter the rope pulley
will allow you more runs but needs some hanging onto giving your forearms
a workout and can lead to embarrassing falls if the tension goes out of it
unexpectedly! It cost me £15 for 1 hr with no reduction for using my
own stuff but a 2nd hour would have been £10. Overall -
use and good value for money - Planet Angus awards it 8 out of 10.
Milton Keynes opened this week (2/10/00) and is evidently still finding its
feet. I found the snow quality and slope condition excellent but
other design elements were less than impressive. It is steeper than
Tamworth and has a good roller on it. Bizarrely the slope is divided
in 3 by a string of padded roof support posts and crash
netting. Learners and jumpers had a lane each leaving only one
available for general use which will be very crowded at peak times no
doubt resulting in some post / net collisions. Two drag lifts
service the main slopes that are not at all easy to ride. You have
to pass through the lift line to position yourself, risking getting hit
and once onboard you must concentrate all the way up if you do not want to
be thrown off by the truly awful runway bumps or collide with a
post. I really can't understand why a brand new facility has such
difficult lift rides. Like Tamworth it is £15 an hour regardless of
equipment but subsequent hours are no cheaper. Overall - Better than
artificial slopes but needs some improving - Planet Angus awards it 6 out of
Don't take my word for it though. Go try them yourselves.
You can't beat getting in some practice and it's definitely much more fun than reading
brochures until your next holiday comes around!
|Aspen Jan 2000
A combination of delayed flights (we actually flew to
Holland first before going to Aspen airport via Chicago & Minneapolis)
and an over diligent US Immigration official meant we missed our connecting flight. Full marks
to Northwest Airline staff at Minneapolis for fixing us up with a welcome
overnight hotel. Once we finally made it to Aspen we stayed in a
catered chalet in West Smuggler St. (quite amusing considering my
This year Terry, Kirsty and myself were accompanied by my
work chum Stooie who had been issued a 2 week pass by his lurvely
Rachel. Already an accomplished skier he was now an eager apprentice
boarder . I was well impressed with how quickly he improved at it
and look forward to racing him again on future hols.
For the first week the snow was a bit crusty and thin on the ground with lots
of rocks underneath so my board spent several evenings in the 'Alternative
Edge' board shop being excellently repaired.
With the second week
came the snow - and lots of it. It snowed regular and heavy and
superb powder could be found everywhere well into the day. We
alternated daily between Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass and usually
stayed until the very last lift ride to make the most of it, then it was
off to our favourite bar - the Cooper St Pier for some well earned beer
Compared to the previous visit we only saw one celeb the whole time. One evening we went to a Thai
on the next table was Martina Navratilova with a gang of female friends.
My two boards are now resting against the wall - can't wait till my next holiday!
Hand luggage - check. Boards & skis -
check. Luggage containing clothing - nowhere to be seen. We
left Denver airport after a long days travel still with a 3.5 hr drive to
Steamboat in our rented 4x4s without even a spare pair of socks.
Thankfully our bags were delivered intact to the chalet at the end of the
next day after a frenzied shopping spree at Wal-Mart.
The chalet was superb. Big enough
for over 30 guests as well as the live-in owners who I never saw, complete
with table tennis, pool, sauna and outside hot-tub. It needed 5 Crystal
staff to look after it but they did a great job. The food was
excellent and so was the Blockbuster video service - cheers for the loan
of your card Shalto!
I was very impressed with the mountain. Lots of lifts servicing
lots of runs covered in lots of snow - perfect. It snowed almost
continually here with many heavily cloudy, flat light days and it was cold
& windy too. My sunglasses usually stayed in my pocket in favour
of goggles and a hat. There were a few welcome warm sunny days but
nowhere near as many as in Aspen, Tahoe or Europe.
Our party consisted of Anna, Sean, Clare, Paul, Kirsty, Terry and
myself. The boarders definitely ruled here as only Terry &
Kirsty doggedly kept to skis and this was the first holiday I boarded
100%. I didn't miss my skis at all. We also hooked up with
Donna, Steve & Darren who had met the others on a previous holiday in
Stowe I couldn't attend. I had the pleasure of having Darren as a
roomie - "I've done it. I've done it. I've done it for England."
(heavy drunken Brummy accent.) I wasn't quite sure what he meant but
as long as it didn't involve me I was happy! We all got on fine and
had a great time.
While we were there we witnessed an annual spectacle called the 'Cowboy
Downhill' which was highly entertaining. A large number of
professional rodeo riders race each other on skis, over jumps, round
poles, saddle a horse and rope a cowgirl. The thing is, none of them
can actually ski to save their life! At the end they all come down
hill together in one mad rush and have a colossal pile-up at the bottom,
some managed to clear TWO lots of safety netting at the finish.
Sounds painful but then these guys ride wild horses and bulls for a living
|Aspen Dec 1997
Christmas with the stars - way to go! Our first trip
to Aspen and we all had our eyes peeled for a glimpse of a famous
Hollywood celeb. There were confirmed sitings in town by my friends
of Dean Cain and Richard Harris, someone we knew said they shared a lift
with Jack Nicholson (yeah right) and I am pretty sure I saw Bruce Willis
and Steven Segal on Ajax mountain. Our chalet bloke Gary said that lots of 'em
have homes there and if you see someone who looks like a celeb then it may
I loved Aspen. It really is a very nice place, especially over Christmas.
It was so nice to escape from all the normal hype, hassle and overkill in
the UK. Being able to snowboard Christmas morning and then go back
to a fantastic dinner was wonderful. Aspen is affordable too.
OK there are a fair number of expensive and exclusive places to stay, shop
and eat but there are also plenty that cater for ordinary folk.
You are spoilt for choice when choosing where to ski & board.
The lift pass covers 4 separate mountains, all served by a very efficient
free town bus service that runs well into the evening. The biggest
mountain by far is Snowmass. This is a self contained ski area and
is as big as Steamboat in its own right. Buttermilk is the 'learner'
mountain but still has some challenging runs. Highlands has some
tough runs on its top and bottom but the middle section has some nice easy
blues. The hardest mountain is Ajax which is skis only.
Boarders aren't really missing out though as I found it the least pleasant
to use and there are far more people posing around wanting to see and be
seen rather than ski!
The six of us - Clare, Paul, Kirsty, Terry, 'Chicken' John and myself
had a great time here made all the better by the late afternoon beer
sessions in our adopted hostelry the Cooper St Pier, hence our return 2
This was my first ever visit to the USA and I was not disappointed.
San Francisco what little I saw of it was fantastic. We only had half
a day at each end to explore which was nowhere near enough. Hopefully
I will visit again and spend more time there. My ambition is to drive
across the Golden Gate bridge and down the Marin county coast road, maybe
popping in for a beer and a chat with George Lucas at Skywalker Ranch on the
Several hours drive later I was impressed yet again. Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place. Although
I have enjoyed all my American holidays here is the only place that has,
for me, come anywhere near the breathtaking views of the European
Alps. I never saw all of it at once as I understand it is almost 15
miles wide and 22 miles long - the distance between England and
France. Heavenly straddles both California and Nevada and you can
easily ski / board across the state line. It was really weird to
look down from the snow covered slopes into arid semi desert below.
Even more bizarre was Heavenly town. One side of 'State Line St' was
ordinary buildings whereas the other was great mirror sided casinos &
hotels, just like two totally separate towns had been cut in half and
The weather here was pretty good with lots of deep blue sky warm sunny days. I
came back with a good face tan and I don't remember the snow being too bad
either. Only having done half a day in Avoriaz the previous year we
really cut our boarding teeth here and got on brilliantly. Anna was
officially awarded the title of Board Goddess for her unmatched skill and
grace. We all
wanted to buy our Burton hire boards at the end of the holiday but weren't
allowed - great shame.
We did quite a bit of driving in our two hire Jeep Cherokees here as
locations seemed so far apart, even within the same town. I really
enjoyed driving and thought cruise control was excellent. It's a
shame I didn't get the hang of four wheel drive until after the evening I
got us stuck in the 'Killer Chicken' car park that had snow much deeper
than it looked. Many thanks to the store assistant who loaned us her
snow shovel despite the fear of getting sacked if we ran off with it!
We all made the most of the free lessons on offer in nearby Sierra and
a couple of us even braved its terrain park one day. On the last day
we went to Kirkwood which definitely needed more visits. I provided
everyone on a nearby chairlift with a good laugh as I launched skyward off
a jump and came down back first, sending both skis flying off into low
orbit. Terry and I also have fond memories of our 'last day pull out
all the stops' ski race down a well matched pair of blue / black
runs. A great holiday, capped by my underwear attaining celebrity
status on the homeward plane journey!
Vive la France! We, the following, signed a declaration
of independence and formed a splinter faction from the original large group
that went to Italy: Terry, Kirsty, Anna, Steve (Ski God), Chicken John and
myself. Paul and Clare splintered off even further staying at Chalet
Snowboard in the same village but because we weren't boarders - yet - we
hardly saw anything of them! We stayed in a catered chalet in the
valley below Avoriaz and used the cable car every day to reach the ski
area. The snow was getting pretty patchy lower down but if you were careful
you could still ski down to the chalet. The upside of having
patchy snow was the weather. I seem to remember it generally being very
nice and although we did have some fresh snow, sunbathing on the cafe
terrace was not uncommon, especially whilst some recovered from their
hangovers - Chicken!
Whilst sunning ourselves after lunch one early afternoon we were
treated to an impromptu display of how NOT to land a helicopter. The
local mountain rescue chopper doubled as a sight seeing ride and was
coming in to land after a jolly round the mountains. The pilot, obviously
trying to impress, tried to be a bit too flash and in quickly swinging the
tail round, got the tail rotor tangled in the safety netting. Bits
of helicopter & netting went flying in all directions and the final
few feet downwards ended with a loud crash! Luckily no-one was hurt
but the chopper was a gonner. We were then treated to a real display
of mountain rescue as another chopper was drafted in to airlift the dead
one down in bits!
Avoriaz is on the French-Swiss border and the lift pass covered us into
Switzerland. There were 2 ways down. If you were sensible
and/or a coward like most of us then you took the chairlift but if you
were either VERY good and/or insane you went down 'The Wall'. We all
watched in horror from the lift as Ski God and Anna took the insane
option. This black run is straight down with moguls so big they hid
people from view on the downside - bonkers! We were suitably
impressed when they both made it down safely which is more than can be
said for us. I put my hands up to this one. I got my ski
tangled getting off the lift and sent us all sprawling on the deck - most
amusing. The Swiss side had a couple of cracking blue runs that Ski
God and I spent all afternoon going faster and faster on. As this
was only my 2nd holiday I was definitely well over confident and had a
massive off, losing both skis and ending up about 50 yds further down by
the time I eventually came to a halt. I think it was here that I
developed my run 'par' classification. Every run I do on skis has a
golf par which determines how few turns I can get away with on the way
down, the lower the better. OK I admit I'm a speed freak - so sue
Anna, Chicken, Ski God and I tried boarding here for the first
time. It was v.difficult and I definitely spent more time sprawling
on the ground than upright. We used hard bindings with our ski boots
but I'm sure we would have got on better in soft boots/bindings.
Chicken somehow managed to break his board on the nursery slope but did
very well indeed getting out of paying for it. After about 4 hours
we could ride the chairlift, stay up for a reasonable time and put in a
few turns before crashing groundwards again. We were glad to get
back on our skis but the seed had definitely been
Now the downsides which are partly why I have been to America ever
since. The slopes were crowded, people shoved in the lift 'queues'
all the time, the beers were extortionate and everyone spoke some weird
language I couldn't understand. Scenery was nice though.
Seems a long time ago now but this was a tremendous holiday
and the perfect introduction to the joys of winter sports. About 25
of us from our gym 'The Fitness Connection' in Sandwich, Kent took a ferry
from Dover and a coach on an overnight haul to Italy, literally at the
other end of the Mont Blanc tunnel. Can't say I enjoyed the coach
trip much but otherwise it was a great laugh. We actually stayed in
a little village called Pre St Didier, a short bus ride from C at each end of the day. Like
Avoriaz, a very crowded cable car took us up to the ski area, well above
Many of us had never skied before and so we were all in ski school together which was an absolute
hoot. I seemed to take to it pretty easily and got on really well
which obviously helped me enjoy the whole experience more. I really
liked being able to navigate all around the mountain and trying different
runs rather than sticking to the same place all the time like some
did. I cried with laughter when we all took a narrow 'snowplough
special' track down to the bottom that ended at a car park. We all
stopped except for 'H' who ploughed straight across the gravel before
collapsing in a heap next to a car. We were still laughing
in the cable car going back up. Another amusing incident was when I
fell off a lift. I was edging forward on the seat ready to get off
and slipped right off and fell underneath. Caught in a dip with both
skis on I floundered about unable to get up and all the time the fast quad
lift kept going and I had to keep ducking so I didn't get my head taken
off. Eventually the lift attendant stopped it and I managed to get
my skis off and extract myself accompanied by gales of
The nightlife in our little village was limited to the 'Tennis Bar' which
must have done pretty well out of us that week as there were always people
willing to go for a few beers in the evenings. The holiday drink was
discovered one great night out in C. Called 'Bombardino' it
consisted of Brandy, Tia Maria, coffee liqueur and hot milk and everyone
was on them once they'd tried it. It really was great for warming
yer cockles and getting you well p****d at the same time. On the
last evening the 'Groovy Band', formed by the founder members of the
gym, performed unplugged at a sell out gig in the Tennis Bar as part of
our skiing proficiency award ceremony. What a great night that was.
I was very pleased with my 3 *** with merit!
This holiday was pretty short. I think we had less
than 6 whole days skiing but it was so good and I enjoyed it so much that
it left me gagging for more and wanting to go again ASAP. As it was
I had to wait a whole nother year to go again but I got to
make some really good friends which became my future regular holiday
chums. The gym was going to do another holiday the following year
but they never did and as far as I know they haven't been since.