It’s on snow. It’s a minute walk to a ski run. It’s only one bedroom but set-up to sleep six people. It has two bathrooms. It looks neat and tidy.
It’s up for sale at $A42,000.
So what’s the catch?
Michael Sharwood had the last ski run of his life all worked out: a run down the Blackcomb Glacier on his 80th birthday.
Like many of the best laid plans it didn’t eventuate as what seemed to be the most innocuous of falls ended his skiing days three years short in January this year.
But Michael doesn’t want your sympathy. He’s skied 110 resorts over 52 years. He’s travelled the world. He’s made life long friends. He conceived (well, conceived of!) his only daughter on a chairlift in Aspen.
This is his story. And a thank you to the sport he loves so much.
The countdown to the season’s end in the northern hemisphere is on.
Some places have a month left, some even two. There’s even one that has four months left. That’s right, FOUR months!
So where to go? Some places have definitely fared better than others but there really is something for everyone to see out the spring.
The numbers coming out of Mammoth Mountain just blow my mind. They’ve had 520 inches of snow at 9000 feet and the current base at the peak is almost 30 feet or around 9 metre of snow. Bearing in mind it is still early in March so it is unlikely to have even peaked yet. Another number I like there is 4 – July 4 that is. That is now the earliest closing date for one of California’s finest.It’s a big mountain (3500 acres) with big terrain and while there’s not the 101 alternative activities here like a number of other US resorts if you’re coming for the riding (there’s also great park and ‘pipe facilities) you won’t miss out.
Take your pick of any of the Tahoe resorts to be honest as they are all copping it in what will go down as a season of legend (the best in 22 years). If I was looking at a destination region this spring the area would certainly be it. If you’re an Epic Pass holder you could do a lot worse than the Heavenly-Northstar-Kirkwood triumvirate, with the former two extending their seasons until April 23 (Kirkwood remains at April 16). Heavenly ticks the family box (and has amazing views), Northstar does solid groomers and has a great park while Kirkwood has some ball-tearing terrain. Elsewhere Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows is the next big pick having had 600″ + of snow and a season that’ll run well into May. There’s a grab bag of other little resorts worth a visit such at Mt Rose on the Nevada side, Sierra at Tahoe and Sugar Bowl.
“The relentless, active winter will continue for the forseable future …” So said the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration but a day or so ago of areas such as Jackson Hole which have now tipped 500″ and are looking at a 600″ season. Jackson is putting some numbers on Colorado and even Utah in 2016/2017 and you are hardly going to getting a better spring to sample its undeniable wares. Slated close seems to be April 9 but you’d have to think there’s still a chance to extend given the conditions. And what of Jackson? Super terrain (you need to cross off Corbett’s Colouir from your bucket list, don’t you), sensational snow and while sometimes criticised for lift queues and rider traffic, expect it to thin out in spring. Get there.
Whistler is always the obvious candidate in BC, and its solid season (300″+), great facilities and closing date (Blackcomb is May 22) keep it on the list. But for mine if you want to get away from the madding crowds, it might pay to get into the interior to get your stoke on. With a base approaching 10 metres it should end up being an above average season here – and this my friends is a well above average mountain. With the biggest vert in North America 1713m (5620ft) , some serious touring terrain and a slated closing date of April 16 it is worth your consideration. Within three hours drive of another classic and later opening spring destination in Lake Louise, (closing: May 7) this would make a great late-season big mountain combo too.
Japan can be a tricky one in spring. Places like Nozawa Onsen in Honshu have had a great season (around a four metre base currently) and should stand up until April. But things can soften very quickly on the main island at this time so it’s advised not to leave it too late. On balance I would probably look to Hokkaido and specifically Furano. There’s been some nice top-ups in March (around 50cm so far) and given its location east of Niseko, will tend to keep the snow longer. Closing date is usually around May 8 and they should see that out this season. Big vertical (they run downhills here) , interesting terrain and touring options, solid facilities and it’s still very Japanese (unlike Niseko). Prices should be very friendly for accomodation etc at this time of year too.
While not quite a winter of discontent in Europe it has been a mixed bag at best. Early storms. Wet storms. Extended dry spells. It’s been one of those seasons where it has been best to go when it’s on and avoid extensive forward planning. That said if you find yourself on the continent over the next few weeks it will pay to be high. Amsterdam aside that makes one of your better bets Val Thorens. At the pointy end in the French Alps , it’s the last of the Three Valleys areas to close (May 1) and it enjoyed a very handy top up of about 70cm over the last week. Temperatures have been cold recently and the base is almost tipping three metres in the high alpine so it should remain one of your more reliable options.
If you are checking this out from Australia and are thinking about a US trip during the April school holidays, Air New Zealand seems to be doing some pretty good deals via Auckland at the moment. As is always the case most flights skyrocket during the holiday period but if you can stomach the extra travel time you could be saving yourself $A2000+ for a family of four. Return to LA looks to be in the $A1200 zone per person up against the $1750+ I’ve seen elsewhere.
If you are hiring a car the need for a 4WD should have lessened too which will save you $$$. Stay tuned for a rant sometime about the bullshit games US car hire companies play with 4WDs …
People often ask me, “Hey, The Snow Gauge, what’s the next big thing in snowboarding going to be?”
My standard response went: “Go away heathen snowboarder – I don’t care because I ski”.
Now I can actually reply with a face straighter than what their binding set-up is about to be: Euro Carving.
That’s right my snowboarding friends. Pack away the softails and your triple corks because things are about to get hard all over again!
The inclusion of a middle name in my booking made VietJet Air cancel my purchased ticket without refund and issue it again at more than double the price. Are airlines so hungry for profit and hitting people up with ancillary charges that common sense and customer service go out the window?
Skiers and snowboarders don’t always make the simplest of travellers.
We have a lot of gear and there is frequently confusion about how much extra any airline will charge on any given day for carrying our planks, boots and invariably heavy winter gear with us on a flight.
I always thought my worst experience would be related to such a situation.
How wrong I was.
I’ve just had the single most infuriating airline experience in my 30 years of travel with South East Asian carrier VietJet Air. The airline cancelled my daughter’s paid ticket – and then re-issued it at around 2.5 times the original price – for using her middle name in the booking!
The swirling winds and desolate snowscape immediately capture a mood.
A lone skier with alpine touring bindings purposefully cuts through the white room.
Bearded and backpacked his head is bowed, seemingly at one with his environs.
Then he grasps his smart phone and places a bet.
Why put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?
That’s my general opinion when it comes to the tattoo.
Plenty of people who are “making a statement” disagree with me; so perhaps I’m missing out on something.
As I love skiing and if I was to “get some ink” (do the kids even still say this?) as part of a midlife crisis it would make sense to get something snow-related. So I’ve done some research.
I’ve found the best and worst snow tattoos and rated them accordingly, just in case.
Meantime, sharpen your needles local tattoo parlour, when I feel the need to “express my individuality” by doing something 38.5 per cent of the 18-40 year-old western population has got done, I’m coming your way …
I spent some long hours toiling away on flight comparison site Skyscanner and came up with some very interesting information for those thinking about a northern hemisphere ski or snowboard trip this winter.
I’ll leave it for some other time to extol the virtues of various ski resorts across the globe or compare the prices of various accommodation or lift pass prices. Here, purely and simply, is the dirt on flying from Australia to the US, Canada, Japan or Europe – when to go, when to avoid and where to save a buck or two. Other points include:
When it comes to choosing your next ski or snowboard destination big must mean better, right? For many people with limited funds and time there’s a natural inclination to seek out the larger resorts.
You know the ones. They like to flop their stats around like they’re packing a ski stock in their trousers. There’s a knee trembling 1300 metre vertical drop, 126 restaurants and bars within five minutes of your condo and enough lifts to send Schindler out of business.
And that’s all well and good – to a point. But as the years chip away and the seasons mount up I often find myself pining a little for homey ski areas – ones with a couple of lifts that work, the semi-regular opportunity to find a little pow and that Cheers attitude where everybody knows your name (or at least act like they want to know your name anyhow).
With that in mind I have put together my list of the best little ski areas in each of the four key destinations. Give ’em a try sometime, even if it’s just tapping one on as part of another trip.
Can an Aussie ski guide and mountaineer convince people they should ride the foothills of Mt Everest? Nick Farr hopes he can. And he says you don’t need to be much more than a fit intermediate skier to do it …
“I have been over there so many times but I remember even the last time thinking about the whole notion that there’s Everest; it was a beautiful day and the snow was light, I thought this is bullshit – it’s amazing. It’s a place you feel you have no right to be,” – Nick Farr.
Mention Everest or the Himalayas and skiing and most people conjure up extreme athletes, avalanches and oxygen canisters. The more morbid of us might contemplate cerebral edema, frostbite and fatalities. And those who are ski nerds will no doubt bring to the table Darvo Karnicar, Mike Marolt and Yuichiro Miura – the latter that Japanese dude who skied down the world’s highest peak in 1970 and was spat off a cliff but lived (footage of that classic incident right here).
But Farr, the only person in the world offering organised ski trips to the region, wants to share a different side to a mountain he has been visiting for close to two decades.