Earlier this winter Brianna Hillier and I went on THE ski road trip. Palisades Tahoe, Alta, and Jackson Hole. Through their unique histories; each of these storied resorts has left their unique mark on skiing. We decided to explore a bit of each.
Tahoe was first on our list. Joining us on the opening portion of our journey were fellow Parlor people Lindsay Sampson and Jimmy McCarriston.
Driving up the Palisades access road, skiers are greeted with the majesty of the Tramwall, a stunning face decorated with unhittable features and famous sierra snow. Eyeing it from the parking lot, we fantasize about how each of us would survive the unsurvivable. We booted up and made our way to the Funitel.
The Palisades Funitel is one of the most unique ski lifts I’ve ever experienced. A small tram style cabin, this euro inspired lift delivers skiers in groups of 25, along two cables, to the mid mountain. Imagine the product of both a Gondola and an Aerial Tram. Exiting the Funitel, we were greeted by “The Palisades,” the storied resort’s most famous attraction. Made famous by Johnny Mosley, Shane McConkey and countless others, Palisades Tahoe has a storied historyof extreme skiing. Friend of the Parlor Family, Will Weiss, brought his sought after, original
copy, of ‘Squawllywood.’ Those of you familiar with Sierra skiing will know this book well. Squallywood is a playground map that details every line and every hit across Palisades Tahoe (then Squaw Valley), even providing readers with the rules and point system of GNAR, made famous by McConkey.
Our skiing began with soft, fresh snow from the previous day and endless California blue skies.As our time passed and our familiarity with the resort grew, kept to returning to KT-22. Flying up over the infamous ‘Fingers,’ KT delivers skiers to the ‘Eagles Nest’ a zone synonymous with Palisades Skier and Legend Shane McConkey. To the lookers left of KT is Women’s Downhill, a zone that maintained constant shade and consistent chalky snow. A steep bump section littered with fall line changes, the flat section at the bottom featured a beautiful windlip perfect for spinning progression.
We left Tahoe more curious than we had arrived, already hungry for an inevitable return to California’s Winter Playground. Both Bri and I would summarize our week with three things: Toddy’s, Sunburns, and Variable Light.
As the California section of our trip wore down and our UVM friends left, Bri and I prepped for a lengthy road trip across Northern Nevada over to Salt Lake City, Utah. The drive was nine hours across desolate and arid high-desert. One thing we did notice was the diversity in Mountains across Northern Nevada. Countless individual ranges, each with their own unique characteristics. Big Granite like the Sierra’s, sweeping cliff-bands like the Tetons and big open powderfields like the Rocky’s. The scenery on our leisurely drive across no-mans land far exceeded our expectations.
We pulled into Salt Lake just in time to experience the Sushi and Bar scene at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon. We had plenty of fun…
Early the next morning we made our way up SR210 to what has always been my personal ski Mecca. We arrived at Altra ready for a whistle-stop tour before our drive up to Jackson. Almost immediately we noticed the all too familiar vibe and feel of one of our favorite Vermont resorts, Mad River Glen. It was tough to say whether this was due to the abundance of former UVM students working and skiing at the resort, or from the rich history of lifts like Wildcat, but we really felt the unique energy the resort breeds.
The day started with a Wildcat lap. Fast groomers and steep bumps. We felt right at home. One thing that became quickly apparent was the reality of A.L.T.A or Another Long Traverse Ahead. This hit home during our traverse over to High Boy, a Wasatch staple. After being informed by friends that “if you’re cool, you’ll ski it top to bottom non-stop,” Bri and I made our first turns. Right, Left, Right, Left. The rhythm skiing one thousand vertical feet of soft chalky bumps became addicting once my legs went numb. I found it so rewarding to make turns with that
familiar phrase in mind, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Looking back up, I couldn’t help but reminisce on skiing MRG’s Chute top to bottom in similarly soft-chalk conditions back home.
As the day wore on and our drive to Jackson became more imminent, the ever unpredictable Wasatch delivered some of its famous Utah Champagne. Over the next two hours, roughly 4 inches of actual cold smoke blanketed the already soft-chalk bumps. We thought it best to start our snowy drive north. A quick last lap on Collins and an Alta Bomb later, we packed the truck and headed north for Jackson Hole.
While visibility was challenging at times, our drive north to Jackson was pleasantly uneventful. No deer, relatively clear roads and light snow, no complaints from either Bri or I.
For those of you who followed along with us on Social Media, you will know Jackson has been Bri’s home for the last two ski seasons. After a season ending knee injury in February of last year, Bri has taken this year to crush her recovery and get out to explore JHMR, the Teton Pass and Grand Teton National Park. Needless to say I was eager for her to lead the way.
Day one we were blessed with a surprise 14+ inches of famous Teton fluff. We went straight for the iconic Jackson Tram and headed for Rendezvous. Nothing but smooth turns and full on face-shots. Paradise. We spent most of the day over on Thunder, Jackson’s new detachable quad that access terrain directly under the Tram. I fell in love with Tower 3 Chute. Usually a tight technical choke, it skied fast and soft all day with forgiving snow. T3 empties out into one of the most fun open bowls I’ve skied “out west.” Plenty of fun mini features to toss myself off and soft,
bottomless, now to inevitably lose my skis in. Par for the course.
Our second day we were given a gift. Jackson decided to run their now world famous, Kings and Queens of Corbets competition. The sun was out and the atmosphere was absolutely electric. It became easy to see why Bri fell in love with this place. Run after run, pro skiers and riders tosses themselves into the couloir which had been prepped for the event during the weeks leading up. After being there in person, this should be a bucket list event for any skier or rider. Very difficult to describe the feeling of being at that heavy of an event, I can’t suggest it
We rounded the trip out with Bluegrass Night at the Silver Dollar in downtown Jackson. Good friends, cheap beer and killer music. What could be better?
This trip was absolutely incredible. Palisades, Alta and Jackson were all resorts that I dreamed of skiing when I was growing up. I watched countless ski segments from each of these incredibly unique resorts, with the hopes of one day getting to visit them myself. What I took away more than anything was the completely unique feeling I got at each. Relaxing on the deck looking up at the fingers at the base of Palisades with all of my friends from UVM were moments that I won't ever forget. At Alta, getting to ride one-of-a-kind lifts like Wildcat and exploring what
felt like the spiritual home of skiing. Then Jackson… The tram, Kings and Queens, and all of the incredible people we ran into on the hill and in town.
In my mind, this was the ultimate ski road trip.