Have you been inspired by the men and women of team USA competing in the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014? You're certainly not alone. After the gold medal winning exploits of snowboarders Jaime Anderson and Sage Kotsenburg, the patriotism-enthused amateur athlete (found in so many of us) has been firmly reignited.
Although we're approaching the time when the last throes of winter will only be seen in our rear-view mirror, for those of us buoyed by the excitement of the games, there remains a multitude of places to go, even this late in the season. So to help, here is a brief overview of the best resorts to visit in North America to grab some last minute on-piste action.
Salt Lake City, Utah
For the winter sports enthusiast, Salt Lake City is arguably the greatest haven in the world, with no fewer than eight world-class resorts all within an hour's drive of the city and its airport.
For those enthused by the snowboarders of the Games, the resort of Alta is probably best avoided as use is restricted to skiers only. In 2002 Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Games, and if your aged 16 or over, you can make a reservation for the Comet Bobsled ride at the Utah Olympic Park for the sum of just $200. But for more traditional winter sport themed kicks, you should look no further than Snowbird for your late season thrills.
- Number of runs: 85
- Length of longest run: 13,200 feet (4,023 meters)
- Number of lifts: 13
- Annual Snowfall: 500 inches
Like the aforementioned Alta, Snowbird resides in the higher region of the Salt Lake City resort area and, as such, enjoys fantastic snow fall and coverage right through to the end of season. In fact, Snowbird is usually the last resort to close in the area, with an expected closing date of May 11 for 2014 – where most other resorts close their runs in April.
Although Snowbird does cater for the beginner, the piles of Utah powder that accumulate within the area of the Little Cottonwood Canyon, east of Salt Lake City (where the resort resides), present a challenge. For this reason, it is important to note that green runs (beginner) at the snowbird resort would most likely be classified as blue (low-intermediate) at most other resorts, and blue as red (advanced-intermediate).
Day tickets for Snowbird cost in the region of $74.99 for an adult and $28.49 for a child (using enquiry for March 19). Book using this site four days before and you can receive up to 41% off the price.
The Cliff Lodge at the Snowbird resort is state of the art, with prices for two adults and two children for a night's stay starting from $376.08. Use this site for more information on prices and booking.
Like Utah and Salt Lake City, Colorado possesses a number of world-class resorts. The slopes of Aspen are world famous, and whilst still home to amazing skiing, the resort is more famous for the glitz and glamour that makes it such a magnet for the rich and famous. The resort of Purgatory is arguably the best for families because of the wide choice of beginner runs and activities for children, whereas Silverton is the least suitable for families for the exact opposite reasons. However for late season skiers, Arapahoe Basin is where it's at.
- Number of runs: 109
- Length of longest run: 8,520 feet (2,597 meters)
- Number of lifts: 8
- Annual Snowfall: 350 inches
Again like the Snowbird resort near Salt Lake City, Arapahoe Basin is open the longest of all resorts in the Colorado ski resort area, enjoying the greatest amount of snowfall. And, according to many reports, the conditions in the 2013/14 season are among the best ever.
When it comes to a roll call of all the best resorts in the area, Arapahoe Basin often doesn’t make the cut, but if you ask us that is unjustified. Okay, it may not have the glamour of say Aspen, but what it lacks in fancy facilities, it more than makes up for in affordable pricing and a lack of crowds.
For beginners, the Bunny Hill run represents fantastic terrain for those new to skiing. For those after more challenging terrain, this is arguably where Arapahoe Basin comes into its own, with a plethora of great blue, red and even black (advanced/expert) to tackle.
Day tickets for Arapahoe Basin range from $82 for an adult full-day and $67 for a half-day. For more information on ticket pricing and booking, visit this site.
Nearby, The Key Stone Lodge and Spa offers value, great service and a comfortable place to rest your head after a hard days skiing. For more information on The Key Stone Lodge and alternative accommodation nearby, click here.
Banff, Alberta, Canada
The area of Banff in the province of Alberta, Canada is home to three ski resorts that offer spectacular skiing conditions up to late May. Mount Norquay, which overlooks the town of Banff, has a small number of slopes and therefore a limited range of quality skiing. Lake Louise, which is a small distance from the town, offers spectacular slopes and scenery in equal measure. But in keeping with the theme of late season ski trips, Sunshine Village, the largest resort in the area presents the best conditions.
- Number of runs: 108
- Length of longest run: 26,400 feet (8,047 m)
- Number of lifts: 12
- Annual Snowfall: 396 inches
The Sunshine Village stands between the continent of North America's Pacific and Atlantic river systems, and as such enjoys a reliable amount of snow right through the spring stretch of the season – claiming to have three times the snow of the two nearest resorts.
Both beginner and intermediate level skiers are well served at Sunshine village, with over half the runs being classed as blue alongside a series of long green ones. For experts, the resort's Goat's Eye Mountain has some amazing black runs that offer a genuine challenge.
If snowboarding is more your thing, then the Sunshine Village's 12 whole acres of terrain park, complete with small to large jumps, obstacles, rails and boxes will more than cater for your preference. As Banff's most popular resort, Sunshine Village can get busy, but the lion's share of visitors are day-trippers from nearby locations such as Calgary, so outside weekends and public holidays the slopes can be pretty quiet.
An adult full day pass is priced at $85 and a child's $31. For more information on ticket prices and booking, click here for the official website.
All hotels and lodges reside in or close to the town of Banff itself, which means that travel to Sunshine Village involves a small to medium distance commute. Fairmont Banff Springs and Banff Park Lodge are both great and include excellent facilities.
California typically offers great late season skiing; however in 2014, many of the parks in the area have been closed for the entire season due to a long running drought. In fact it's been so bad that the governor of California has declared a drought emergency, citing possibly the driest conditions in around 100 years. So for this season at least, it's advisable to give California a wide berth for skiing.
In Banff and to a certain extent Salt Lake City – especially if you're going to visit multiple resorts with day passes – the resorts, hotels and amenities such as restaurants and shops are all situated a reasonable distance apart. Although there will be taxis and buses, having your own car can be helpful for providing you with the flexibility and convenience to get where you want, when you want.
In cold weather especially, though, it is important to make sure that you are adequately insured as driving conditions can be more hazardous. In a rental car, basic insurance cover will be a part of the policy you take out when leasing the car.
However, Insuremyrentalcar.com provides Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) insurance policies for use with rental vehicles in the United States of America. The LDW policies include cover for Collision (CDW), Theft (TP), Fire and Vandalism. These will help to protect you from paying high charges in the event that the car becomes damaged or stolen by providing cover of up to $100,000. Daily policies start at $5.00 per day, but for more information and to get a quote dependent on your particular circumstances, click here.
If you have any other great late season skiing advice to offer, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.