March is usually the month during the winter season where you get an interesting mix of weather. It can either be a beautiful sunny day or a full on powder day. The best of both worlds, my two favourite days to be on a snowboard or doing anything else outside for that matter. With the plan to witness and snowboard at some of coolest spots America had to offer, we thought March would be the month to do it.
The first place on the list was Sun Valley, Idaho, with it being an uncomfortably long drive from Vancouver, we spent the first night at a BLM campground that hugged the Yakima River, off the I-82 in the south central Washington desert. It was snowed in, with each site fully blanketed in snow, it luckily provided access to hike the surrounding mountain range and a safe place to park for the night.
With Sun Valley still out of the reach, we found another BLM campground (Spring BLM Rec. Site), this time in the east central Oregon desert. The farther south we moved along the High Desert, the snow disappeared more and more. We arrived at the site late afternoon to find ourselves enclosed by shrubby brown hills and a muddy Snake River. Overall a cool place to rest and make ourselves a meal. BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land is a huge help for road tripping, they are never too far from a large highway, mostly clean and organized, along with being cheaper than the average State Park.
The drive into Idaho was sweet. When you enter from the east, the terrain is a little flatter and dryer than the rest of the state but as you move more central, the ground grows and the weather cools. Idaho’s lower mountain range collides with a plateau and when both are covered in snow, it truly looks like you are on another planet. Just a bumpy, pure white surface. Super weird to stare at and drive by for multiple hours.
We arrived in Sun Valley on a warm, sunny afternoon. The resort from a far was one of the oddest shaped mountains I had ever seen, the main bottom lift and gondola is fed by one large single run with no connecting run in sight but I had heard good things about this place, Warren Miller (Legendary ski bum/filmer) even said it was “The best ski resort in the World!”. I mean, I’m not a skier but I will admit Miller was a legend, so that statement holds weight. Later, we wandered around the ski town of Ketchum, a rad community, with fly-shops, cafes and art stores. Locals were all stoked since it was the first day of sun they’d seen in weeks and with tomorrow looking similar, I was stoked as well.
The next couple nights we stayed at an overpriced RV/Campground, this area of Idaho was completely snowed in like the rest of the west coast, so our spot was a plowed driveway with 6 feet snowbanks on all 3 sides. The owners of the lot clearly have a grasp on the RV/Camping market in the area since they are the only place near the mountain. Still cheaper than getting a ticket or sleeping in a motel….
With the early warm sun shining into our van the following morning, it was set to be a stellar day. We got their early, and awaited inside what can only be described as the most template swanky ski lodge featured in a weird 1980s ski movie. Above the fire place, hung a large picture of who I’m pretty sure is the rich dude from the movie, Out Cold.
Anyways, the day couldn’t of turned out better, the morning sun was warm, the groomer runs were the best I’ve ever laid turns on and the snow got slushy later on, providing the opportunity to have a little fun with the mountain. The mountain is steep, lots of merging trails that create tons of lips to pop off. It’s clearly a skiers mountain, with us and maybe 15 other snowboarders on the hill all day. If you like gripping and ripping, this is the place to be. The next day was filled with the same, more sun and slushy laps. A solid start to the trip!
With a snowstorm moving its way across the upper western US, we made our way to Jackson, Wyoming! Along the drive, we stretched our legs at Craters of the Moon National Monument. Located on Hwy 26, towards Idaho Falls, the land replicates what I think the Moon would look like covered in snow. It’s a massive area coated in lava rock, sage bushes and odd mounds. When we arrived, the wind picked up and snow grew heavier, only making this place feel more like another planet. The area is a product of major volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago with the chance of another event happening within the next thousand, so go check it out before it’s gone!
The drive over the Teton Pass proved how much snow this area had received this winter, with snow banks 3 times the height of the van. The sights were rad driving into Jackson, just how I pictured it. Tons of horse stables and ginormous mountains. If I was a Snowboarding Cowboy I’d reside here (Just ask Mark Carter). Before checking into the Motel (Jackson doesn’t allow car camping/there are zero affordable RV parks in the area), we went into town to see what it was all about. At first impression, as Kayley put it, “This town reminds me of a Theme Park.” She was right, all the buildings look they came out of the “Old West” section of Disneyworld. Knowing me, the two places I gravitated towards was the Fly-shop where this older man got me super psyched for fishing in the area, and the other was AION Boardshop. Aion is a mellow shop, but the owner, Ed, was the raddest of all humans. Originally from Spain, he moved to Jackson 20 years ago to snowboard, getting to know all the local shredders, along with the pros and legends that have come through this area for decades. We chatted for awhile about what powder spots we have hit this year and how much better Canada is (He isn’t this biggest fan of America, and is thinking of moving to Nelson). After the conversation was over, it felt like I had known Ed for years! Thanks again Ed for the chat, it was a legendary one, lets shred sometime!
The next couple days in Jackson featured all kinds of weather. Our first day started off great, couple inches of fresh snow and a blue sky. Couldn’t of been better to get to know the mountain. Jackson Hole is a diverse place, in some ways reminded me of Whistler. You can ride the Tram to the top for some steep alpine riding, mid-mountain features tons of rad tree runs and lower has the parks (There are 4 Burton Stash Parks) and wide groomer runs. It fills up the day trying to shred the whole area. Jackson Hole lived up the hype on this day.
As much as we didn’t want to pay for a Motel room, it was sure nice to go back to have a hot shower after sweating buckets all day and rest the aching muscles. The following day we awoke to reports of the mountain getting 5 inches overnight, so we made sure to get there early and get the first Tram up. With conditions being a total whiteout up top, we tried our best to find the runs with the highest amount of fresh. The first couple runs that day were great but the snow started to get tracked early, and the under layer was icy. With the sun making an appearance later on, we continued onto park laps and slushy turns. The plan was to only pay for two nights at the Motel but with the snow closing both the passes in/out of Jackson, we had to stay another night waiting for a break in the storm. No complaints though, it was nice to sit in front of cable TV in a warm room for one more night.
Driving the next morning towards Salt Lake City started off a little hectic with an hour of whiteout conditions trying to exit Wyoming. But the views pulling into Utah were rad. Watching the city and mountains appear on the horizon sure rid of the stress of driving from earlier. Snowbird was the destination for the upcoming days, we parked ourselves at a Wal-Mart in Sandy, a suburb of Salt Lake, and with it only being a 20 minute drive to the mountain, it was a good place to be.
The Wasatch Mountain range is world-renowned, it hosts Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude, Alta and Park City. Known for its snow and harvesting unreal terrain. Snowbird finds itself on top of the Cottonwood Canyon, a beautiful area, starting with a desert vibe then turning into a snowy dream. The mountain hosts front and backside terrain offering all types of riding. The sun was shining bright and the weather was warm. It was a slush heaven from the first turn. Mineral Basin (the backside) was by far the best, side hits are littered everywhere, and lips to blast off of. One of the best days of slush riding I’ve had. Again, our second day mirrored the first, the sun was out in full force, the snow super soft, a great day to practice whatever came to mind. Also, before I forget to mention, there is a magic carpet that pushes you from the front to the backside of the mountain, inside holds a bunch of info about how Snowbird and Alta came to be and feels like a children’s ride at an amusement park. Very cool.
Before moving onto Colorado, we stopped at Green River State Park in eastern Utah, plopped in the San Rafel Desert. The drive down had mesmerizing views, red rocks, huge cliffs, and beautiful rivers, if we stopped at everything we wanted to see the drive would of easily taken 10 hours. The weather was warm giving us a chance to have a fire and cook up a feast. Our site neighbours, Rene and Tom, Salt Lake locals came by to chat. Rene is a songwriter and Tom, who runs his own painting business are the definition of the ultimate life livers. They escaped out west from Ohio to find the snow after meeting in college, finally residing in Murray, Utah. They ski the Wasatch backcountry along with exploring the Utah gems any chance they get. We all shared stories from the road, Rene sung us some great songs and enjoyed a couple beers together. Meeting people as such always make me feel good about this life Kayley and I chose. Keeping being great humans Rene and Tom, it was awesome to meet you guys!
The drive through Colorado was just as great as it was in Utah, mountain and desert views any way you turned your head. I wasn’t sure if my neck hurt from snowboarding or from taking in all the scenery along the way. We rolled into the Aspen area to find the RV park we planned to stay at was charging an obscene rate and didn’t even offer showers. As Kayley and myself were deliberating on what to do, an awesome dude who worked for the resort overheard and directed us to a bunch of free places to park in the area. After gathering supplies, we took on one of his suggestions and parked at the western lot of Buttermilk. Thanks to his recommendation, it was quiet and gave us a rad view of the full moon that night.
Snowmass the next day featured yet again a warm sunny day, this seemed to be a continuing theme this trip. We chose Snowmass over all the other Aspen mountains for two reasons, it is the best on non-powder days and more snowboard oriented. The place was a groomer paradise. I don’t think I’ve seen so many groomed runs before. Not to mention the runs are wide, real wide. I laid down some heavy turns and broke the speedometer that day. Slush made its appearance in the afternoon which gave the best opportunity to check our their famous park. A fun day all around. That night, we ended up parking in the commuter lot below Snowmass Village which luckily allowed for 24hr parking.
The second day unfortunately was the worst day we had on this tour. Since the snow softened up the day before and with below freezing temps at night, the runs were icy. Not only that but it was windy, and there was zero visibility. We rode most of the morning and decided to call it a day to save our legs. Not everyday can be ideal.
Our stop that night was at the Saddlehorn Camground in the Colorado National Monument. This place can now find itself in the Top 5 places I’ve ever seen. Not too far from I-5 in western Colorado, the National Monument is a picturesque canyon that lies in Colorado’s high desert. The drive in winds up and through the red rock cliffs with multiple view points. The campground is nestled in the desert bush, a peaceful place to relax with views of the plateau below. The hike around the Canyon provides a new view anyway you look, and as cliche as this may sound, as you stare out, it arises the feeling that nothing else matters. It was insane to think that we were on our snowboards only hours before. Everything about this place is beautiful. If you’ve seen the Grand Canyon, go see this next. I wish I could do a better describing this place but I’ll let the pictures speak for me.
The first leg of this tour has been great, being able to snowboard in Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado has been something I’ve wanted to do since I started snowboarding. They didn’t disappoint. People who live in these states don’t know how good they have it (Well, I’m sure some of them do). It’s always rad to meet cool people along the way who share similar interests in adventuring and living life to be happy and healthy. When you are seeing so much awesomeness in a small period it becomes hard to take it all in and describe it the fullest ability. Hopefully these pictures did a better job at telling you what we saw and how much we enjoyed seeing it.
I didn’t want to write a giant post about our entire tour since it would be way too long and honestly, who wants to listen to me ramble for that long haha. So call this Part 1, I’ll be putting out the other half shortly. Thanks, much love.