Most families heading to the US for the first time end up in Colorado but Alex (13) and his family decided to go try something different and so they headed off to the lesser known delights of what the Americans call Big Sky Country.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Alex says: Jackson seems like a real cowboy town. I even saw a man in a Stetson, his ears must have been freezing. I liked the huge steaks at the Million Dollar saloon, in the bar they use saddles instead of seats but I wasn't allowed to sit in there. We stayed up in the snow at Jackson Hole Mountain village. I thought Jackson Hole had some good slopes - I liked the tracks through the trees and the terrain parks were awesome. I got some serious air. I liked the waffle hut on the slopes too - you could eat and then keep skiing. Yellowstone National Park is nearby but we didn’t go. The coolest thing we did off the snow was visit the Elk Sanctuary on the edge of town. There were hundreds of elk and the horse-drawn sleigh got right into the middle of the herds. Their antlers were huge.
Mum says: Jackson Hole has some steep runs and is known as a serious skiers’ mountain but we found a big enough variety of runs to suit all ski levels. We stayed on-mountain at Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa. The views from the lodge's rooftop hot tub are stunning and the Spur Restaurant & Bar is a favourite hangout for locals.
Alex’s favourite moment: Having the on-slope photographer taking pictures of him and his friends in the terrain park.
More information: www.jacksonhole.com
Sun Valley, Idaho
Alex says: Sun Valley really does seem to be sunny because for most of our stay there were blue skies. I thought Idaho was supposed to be pretty flat -and it is really, except for these mountains. Beginners have their own area, Dollar Mountain, where the slopes are gentle and I could practice my moves in the terrain park too. I think my instructor was the best I’d ever had and even though mum booked me in for a group lesson there were so few people it ended up being private, which was great. The mountain on the other side of town is called Bald Mountain with steeper slopes. Getting around was easy and I liked riding the free shuttle buses everywhere.
Our hotel had loads of black and white pictures on the wall which were of old movie stars because a lot of famous people used to come here. We stayed in a condominium next to the Sun Valley Lodge, which had a great open air swimming pool. The water was so warm it steamed and the snow was all around.
One evening we took a sleigh ride to the creek log cabin, which I liked but I was glad to arrive because by the end I couldn’t feel my toes they were so cold. Good thing they had an open fire.
Mum says: Staying at Sun Valley is almost like staying at a private ski club because of the lack of crowds. All the mountain lodges are beautiful, with open fires, comfortable chairs and exposed wooded beams. The people were very friendly and helpful and we'd definitely go back.
Alex’s favourite moment: Getting the world's best hot chocolate at the À La Mode Icecream & Cocoa Bar in the Sun Valley Resort village.
Big Sky, Montana
Alex says: Big Sky is, well, pretty big. Mum says it is one of the largest resorts in the US. We stayed right next to the slopes at The Summit, a really tall hotel, so it had good views and I could see the ski trails right outside the window. There were loads of runs I could go on, although some of them had flat bits, which wasn’t so much fun on a snowboard. Base camp in the Mountain Village had loads of other things to do to. There is a Zipline and Giant Swing, you can play Laser Tag or Bungee Trampoline. I liked the climbing wall too.
Mum says: There is over 1.22 skiable hectares (3,000 skiable acres) here. The runs are wide and mellow, although there are some steeper choices off the Lone Peak tram if you want them. The views driving around snowy Montana and up to the resort were beautiful.
Alex’s favourite moment: They showed free kids’ movies in a hotel near ours (Huntley Lodge) , so you could just walk over and watch.