Destination: Government Camp, OR, where Mt. Hood Ski Bowl and Timberline are located, both part of the Powder Alliance.
Drive Time: 5 hours from the Stevens Pass area in WA.
The Plan: ski Stevens then head to "Govie" (Government Camp's nickname) for a late arrival. Ski/snowboard 2 days in the area. We planned to go to both of the resorts where we could get in free with our Mountain High passes. The first day we went to Timberline, then considered doing the night ski at Mt. Hood Ski Bowl afterwards but we were too tired. The next day we went back up to Timberline but the weather was too wet so we left early to get a headstart on our next drive.
Lodging: Huckleberry Inn in the heart of Government Camp. They have great rooms for families. We had a room with one queen bed in a loft and a daybed with a trundle b elow it, perfect for both of our teens to have their own bed. The room had a table with 4 chairs, plus right in the hall there was plenty of hangout space with tables and such. They also have dorm rooms. You can't book online; you'll have to call in your reservation. Don't miss the restaurant's huckleberry pie and huckleberry shakes, all made with fresh local ingredients.
Timberline & Mt Hood Skibowl: though we didn't go to the Skibowl, we could see it lit up at night and it looked convenient and fun. For our March trip, it was the only Powder Alliance resort that had night ski, though perhaps others do earlier in the season. Timberline is always fun, and we've gone several times in the summer when it's the only place open to ski in the U.S. Of course the lodge is famous in it's own right as the setting for the movie "The Shining". We brought Stephen King's novel on the trip, and had to peek at Room 217 in the lodge, the spookiest part of the book.
The town: Govie is tiny but has great restaurants, a couple bars, some shops. The area around it has beautiful hiking trails, and further afield lots of orchards and wineries and farmers markets, though these are all for summertime not winter. An hour away Hood River is known for its windsurfing and microbreweries.
Destination: Stevens Pass in northwest Washington state
Drive time: 11+ hours from Snow Basin, UT
Alternate drive time/plan: we considered adding 2 trip legs to ski Bridger Bowl, Montana, 7 hrs away, then Schweitzer, Idaho, another 7 hrs, then on to Stevens with 5.5 hrs drive. But we're not that crazy. But it's do-able for the ultimate Powder Alluance adventurers.
The plan: Leave directly from the ski hill (Snow Basin) and drive til late to stay with a relative in Kennewick, WA. Otherwise we would have stated in Boise that night. Next day took the back roads going through Wenatchee (with a quick stop at the skate park) and the uber-quaint Germanic town of Leavenworth. Stayed in a cabin in the tiny hamlet of Plain, WA. Two days skiing at Stevens.
The town: Plain was gorgeous! But tiny. Vacation cabins, a hardware store, a tiny grocery, and that's it, plus forest and a beautiful river. You could stay at Leavenworth with all its cute shops and restaurants and plenty of hotel rooms; 45 minute drive to Stevens but there's also a shuttle. Our cabin in Plain was a steal at $50/night; simple but 2 bedrooms, game room, and peekaboo views of the river. And half the drive time to Stevens.
Stevens Pass: our favorite of all the Powder Alliance participants. With record snow, it was huge and absolutely gorgeous. Much, much nicer than we expected. You can get in here free with a regular Mountain High pass since they are owned by the same company. Great beginner (but not newbie) terrain, good park features hidden in various spots for the advanced. Lots to discover. And nice resort buildings as well (restaurants and coffee shop; not lodging).
Today we stopped in the Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Phelan, 14 miles from the cabin in Wrightwood (including a long stretch down a rough dirt road, typical for Phelan). It's much more impressive than what you'd expect out in the middle of the high desert.
It was cool to be so close to the big cats. We got the fox and the bobcats to talk to us. Here's a tip to make sure the animals aren't all sleeping when you go: bring the dog with you. There was a big friendly dog in the shop who walked around with us on the grounds, and his presence made the bobcats and the lions antsy and pacing rapidly, keeping a close eye on that dog.
The sanctuary is open daily. The entrance fee was $8 for adults but less for kids and seniors. Add $10 to feed the big cats or up to $50 for a behind-the-scenes VIP tour.
Destination: Snow Basin, just north of Salt Lake City, Utah
Drive time: around 9 hours heading north from Flagstaff along back highways past the Grand Canyon. We stayed off the interstate until we were close to Salt Lake so we could enjoy the beautiful drive. Check for road closures before you head this way.
The plan: leave early and drive all day Saturday (when Powder Alliance passes can't be used), with the goal of reaching Olympus Park in Salt Lake before dark to hit the rail gardens. Stay in Ogden. The closest hotels to Snow Basin and on the northwest side of the city, making an easy getaway for our next leg.
Lodging: Days Inn Ogden. Again we picked it for indoor pool and hot tub at a decent price, this time with free hot breakfast. But the place was quite old, and with it's old Holidome-style layout everything was dripping humidity. Out first room had a full wall of windows with a view of ... the nasty laundry room area. So we requested a switch to one overlooking the pool. If you stay here, be forewarned that it's run down (but fun for family hangout at the pool), and get a poolside 1st floor room, or one that looks out on the parking lot if you want peace and quiet. I wouldn't stay here again, though. Next time we'll rent one of the cabins that are along the route to the ski hill -- gorgeous area!!
Snow Basin: wow, so nice! Huge, probably bigger than Mammoth, with a gondola and a history of hosting the Olympics. Big mountain with a lot of medium sized parks. The lodge was beautiful with hands-down the nicest bathrooms I've ever seen in a ski resort. Food was gourmet with prices to match. Clientele was on the prosperous side with upscale tail-gating going on in the parking lots (if you show up with furniture to use in your tailgating, you've arrived). Lots of families with little kids; lots of dogs here as well. Small tubing area. Incredible scenery all around.
The town: we stayed in Ogden but weren't at all impressed. Maybe if we'd stayed closer to the historic downtown it would have been better. Of course Salt Lake is an option with a longer drive to the mountain. I'd skip the town and stay in the mountains next time; there are houses and cabins along the river on the drive from Ogden to Snow Basin and I'm sure plenty are vacation rentals.
Mountain High closed early this year. We are used to it staying open until April, so the lack or snow in SoCal this year while the rest of the U.S. was getting inundated with fresh powder inspired us to do a Spring Break road trip to hit as many of the Powder Alliance resorts as we could comfortably do in a week.
The plan: use our Mountain High VIP passes to ski and snowboard free at Arizona Snowbowl (Flagstaff), Snow Basin (Salt Lake City), Stevens Pass (northwest Washington), Timberline and Mt. Hood Ski Bowl (Oregon), and Sierra at Tahoe. Ten days, 3000 miles in our Dodge Caravan (stow 'n go, baby! The ONLY way to road trip!).
Read the blog posts for reviews and tips for each leg of our journey. You, too, can visit 12 ski resorts for free with a VIP pass from Mountain High or any of the other alliance resorts. Just $50 extra over the regular pass -- what a deal!
Destination: Arizona Snowbowl, Flagstaff
Drive time: 6.5 hours from Wrightwood, CA, where Mountain High is located. An easy drive (Hwy 15 to Hwy 40 and you're there)
Lodging: Days Hotel. Not recommended. Has indoor pool and hot tub but it's somewhat run down and not the cheapest. No free breakfast. But it's just a mile or so down the road from the Foxglenn skate park, and first floor rooms have handy sliding doors to the parking lot. Next time we'll get a vacation rental that's walking distance to the fun downtown area.
The plan: left after work on a Thursday so we could ski Friday, since none of the Alliance resorts honor the free passes on Saturday.
The Arizona Snowbowl: easy to reach from town (I dropped off "the boys" and went back into town to do some thrift shop exploring since I only wanted to ski half day). Great vibe all over the ski hill, both with staff and other skiers/boarders. Good park features and advanced terrain; excellent area for beginners with wide open easy runs that are separated from the more advanced areas. They had a Family Friday special where it only costs $10 to ski from 2pm til closing. We will definitely make this a regular quick getaway in the future when they have good snow.
The town: we love Flagstaff! Microbreweries, street performers and drum circles, quaint shops, art galleries. A whole shop dedicated to different flavors of olive oil and balsamic vinegar with free tastings. What's not to love about a town like this? We were there for their First Friday Art Walk - perfect timing!
Mountain High's Disc Golf just opened for the season. Ranked in 25 top courses but #3 for Most Scenic, this 2.5 mile frisbee golf course winds through the forest with incredible views. Concessions are also available on the weekends -- enjoy a lunch with a view!