Five years ago I began this journey across the Rocky Mountains to ski. I have skied. But I have also discovered how much I appreciate my independence, my good fortune, my self.
The most frequent question I have about my Sojourn is “What is your favorite ski area?”
This year I have skied Big Sky, Heavenly, and hope to hit Kirkwood, Northstar, Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek, resorts in Summit County, Colorado, Taos, Ski Santa Fe, Winter Park, Steamboat and back to Santa Fe. What is my favorite? Too many choices!! There’s no right answer, but what I will say is wherever the snow is, that’s the best resort. At both Big Sky and Heavenly, I was lucky to ski powder–four to twelve inches. I haven’t had the opportunity to ski in deep powder, and I will admit I fell more times than I could count at Heavenly. My abs burned the next day not from skiing, but from struggling to get up out of the deep snow.
How can I afford to ski all those areas? I have both the Ikon Pass that I bought pre-season, and the Epic Pass that I got as a Vail Resorts employee when I worked the holiday season at Hoigaards in St. Louis Park, MN. That part-time job not only got me the Epic Pass, but also more than paid for the Ikon Pass and most of my Christmas presents. It was also so much fun, and the people were my kind of folks. I’ll work there again if they will have me.
Once again the free mountain tour I took at Big Sky paid off. I met Michael from the Hawaii (yes, Hawaii) Ski Club and Diana who just embarked on her first solo sojourn. We three ski and boarded three days together! And I am pretty sure Diana is the first woman I have met who is doing what I am doing–skiing solo across the Rockies–in the four years I have been sojourning.
I hadn’t skied Big Sky in three years or so. In that time frame they have invested and made the resort definitely top tier. From the base they have added two heated high speed lifts, a six and an eight seater, with bubble covers–so no excuses about too cold! They have also added high end dining on the mountain–I dropped about $50 on lunch. Yes, it was a Wagyu beef hamburger, and a fancy seltzer drink (see my TikTok reel), but seriously? The best thing about the lunch was meeting Elvira at the bar!
Big Sky IS big. I don’t think I realized it before as I had nothing to compare it to. But this time, after three years of skiing resorts all over, it felt like skiing four or five areas all in one. I have also heard it is the most expensive, as the base ticket covers everything but the tram, and the tram price varies daily. While I was there it was an additional $60. It was too windy and foggy for me to try the top, but it’s still on my bucket list.
I was originally going to bypass Big Sky and head directly to Lake Tahoe, but a major winter storm was passing the Sierras, and I didn’t want to drive into a storm. I spent three days in Big Sky and was glad I did, but Heavenly, is…(I’ve said it before) Heavenly.
What I did notice this time through is Heavenly, which is owned by Vail Resorts (my employer) needs some major investments. I’ll have to think more about target market and branding, but compared to Big Sky, Heavenly needs updated lifts, some mountain redesign (too many flat cat-track trails) to get around this large resort. I stayed primarily on the Nevada side and like it better because there are fewer people. The first day I was in line by 8:15 (lifts open at 9) to catch the fresh powder.
I am going to ski a few more days here in Tahoe, then head to see my sister Carol in Elk Grove/Sacramento. Last year I was lucky enough to recuperate from Covid in Elk Grove–days were in the high 60s and low 70s. What a treat. I hope it’s the same this year. Then it’s off to do some book research in Guadalupe/Santa Maria and then Colorado.
Stick with me, there’s a whole new Solo Ski Sojourn coming!
#soloskier #soloskisojourn #solotraveler #skibum #FordF150 #BigSky #LakeTahoe #HeavenlyValley #worldmarkresorts #wanderwoman