By Ray West
Once again a party of seasoned club members set off on a grey March morning for the shores of the USA. This time the trip was overhung by the fear of a war with Iraq but despite this the flight to Atlanta was full and Delta airlines, having a monopoly on this route, had reduced legroom to an unacceptable level. Paul Sharp was furious. Despite this we landed on time and continued our journey to Salt Lake City on the internal Delta flight which provided more leg room (is this due to the fact that Americans complain a lot or competition from other airlines on the Atlanta Salt Lake City route). Eventually we arrived at the Yarrow Hotel in Park City, where we had stayed on previous occasions, to find the hotel full of Psychiatrists who were having a conference. Nobody despite the long journey required the services of a "shrink"!
Soon we dropped into a routine of a big American breakfast at the Yarrow Hotel, followed by changing for skiing (the hotel was too hot to wear ski clothes at breakfast) and then either catching the excellent service bus outside the hotel to ski one of the nearby resorts of Park City, Deer Valley or Canyons, or catching a pre-booked taxi arranged by Paul to take us to ski resorts further afield. By this method we visited Solitude (claims to get at least 500 inches of snow every year), Alta (never grooms the runs) and Snowbird. Three of us also visited Sundance, the home of the actor Robert Redford, by getting a lift with Andy Soar the Ski Club of Great Britain rep. for Utah. Sundance is a small resort built like an old Wild West town. Here we had fresh powder snow only spoilt by the presence of two other skiers! At Sundance there is even a lift called "Ray's lift".
In the evening the discussion in the hotel bar revolved round the Iraq crisis and where we were going to eat in the evening. This last matter became somewhat tedious but the Iraq crisis did produce a few free drinks as a reward for Britain being America's only real ally, together with us explaining the whole background to the crisis plus an enunciation of the difficulties we have had with the French during the present and past crises. Many Americans thought we were very heroic travelling to the USA during the threat of terrorist attacks and were even more friendly than usual.
Generally the weather was good with fresh falls of snow during the two-week holiday. After one such fall of snow we visited Solitude and had a full day skiing the powder snow in a resort that did not groom the runs. By 3pm most of us were too tired to continue so we went into the restaurant for a drink. There we met an eighty-year-old naval veteran from the Second World War in the Pacific. Here we got a first hand fascinating account of the naval war with Japan. Where else could you ski deep powder snow all day followed by an exciting account of the naval war with the Japanese in the Pacific!
Towards the end of the holiday several of us decided that we needed a little more excitement than skiing perfectly groomed ski slopes all day. We decided to go on the Ski Utah Interconnect Adventure Tour. After several failed attempts to go on the tour we were booked on for the last day of the holiday at a cost of $150 per person. On the appointed day the weather was sunny and we set out from Park City for the resorts of Solitude, Alta, Snowbird and Brighton. It soon became apparent that, to quote the brochure "this tour is not designed for the timid" was true as we soon encountered broken crust, sheet ice and steep traverses. It was very helpful that the Ski Club of Great Britain representative and his wife had joined the group. We all managed to ski the full course across two big Canyons with 22 miles of skiing and walking plus some untracked powder skiing. For this we received a "pin" which is the American word for badge.
Once again an enjoyable holiday was had by all the party and we all thank Paul Sharp for, once again, making it possible. I hope to ski America again because of the superb powder snow only to be found in the very high American ski resorts, despite America not being the bargain it was on the previous trips made by the club. There is now an 18 to 20% compulsory service charge on all restaurant meals plus a State tax. In addition, several meals were so unsatisfactory that we sent them back and got a refund. At the end of the holiday there was a mix up about on which bus we were going to the Airport. This resulted in several of us leaving the hotel in an undignified manner clutching our belongings. The return home was uneventful except for lack of legroom on the Atlanta to Manchester leg.
Once again another magic holiday.