27 things I learned and loved about America
A recent trip to Colorado was my first time in America. There have been many times that I have thought about a holiday in the US but the main reason for not going was because I couldn’t decided where to go. I know this sounds ridiculous but there are so many outdoorsy places I’d love to see and choosing which one or two to see during a week of two of holiday proved too difficult. That was until I was offered a trip to the ski resorts of Winter Park and Steamboat.
12 things I learned about America
1) I have waited too long to visit this vast country – and I only wished I’d travelled several times before to different places.
2) The British Airways flight of between 7.5hrs and 9.5hrs from London to Denver (the time difference depends on whether the wind is with you!) was far more palatable than I’d thought it might be.
3) Flying from Glasgow to Heathrow and then to Denver is easy peasy.
4) Long flights go by very quickly when there are so many films you haven’t seen (including the fabulous Sunshine on Leith) and so many hours in which to watch them. I enjoyed back-to-back movies for the entire flights!
5) It’s best to visit one state at a time because they are unimaginably vast. Colorado blew my mind with its huge desert plains, stunning foothills and magnificent Rocky Mountains. But the distances that you need to travel to see different places is also mind-boggling. (Edinburgh to Glasgow in one hour will never seem a long way again!)
6) Colorado is where the slim Americans hang out. We left Scotland with the knowledge that our country is second placed in the worldwide obesity league to the USA. So we expected lots of overweight Americans. But we discovered that Colorado bucks this trend. We were told that Colorado is the slimmest state in the US and we were certainly impressed by how healthy and athletic most people looked.
7) Americans are amazingly friendly. They smile and welcome you. They want to please and help you. While I was worried I’d find this annoying and a little faked, I reality it is refreshingly wonderful.
8) The Americans drive huge cars. And vans, buses and trucks. We were continually amazed by the size of the vehicles.
9) British sarcasm isn’t understood by most Americans. Bless!
10) America’s tourist industry only works if everyone tips the workers. Wages are lower but the tips are meant to meet this shortfall. We never quite fathomed how much to tip and we were always left with the worrying feeling that people would think we were too tight. We had to remind ourselves to tip everyone. Absolutely everyone…
11) Food is a big love in America – and so are sauces. Every meal (and they are big) came with relishes, sauces, extras and all sorts. Sometimes you couldn’t see the food for the extras. In the end we learned to ask for meals minus the sauces – and we shared a main course and salad!
12) I will be going back to America again to see all the places that were recommended by so many outdoorsy people. It is an amazing and uplifting country.
15 things I learned while snowboarding in Colorado
14) The ski resorts do not need to boast about their snowfall. They have masses of snow and it’s guaranteed every winter.
15) While in Steamboat we enjoyed their snowiest January for five seasons!
16) The snow in Colorado is not ordinary snow. It’s lighter, fluffier and drier than any snow I’ve ever seen before – and it makes for superb powder skiing and riding.
17) The snow in Steamboat resort is called Champagne Snow. I raise my Champers glass to that!
18) Colorado enjoys at least 300 sunny and blue sky days per year.
19) Winter Park is perfect for families and for people keen to enjoy a ski holiday on a budget. This is less of a resort and more of a town-based ski area. Cheaper accommodation (especially in motels, such as the Olympia Lodge) is easy to find and we loved the quieter slopes and easy-going atmosphere. It’s also an straightforward drive from Denver.
20) Winter Park includes the Mary Jane mountain. When we were there, Mary Jane celebrated her 39th birthday. In fact, we found out that Mary Jane was a “woman of the night” who had earned so much money from her illicit work that she bought an area of land and turned it into a skiing mountain. The Mary Jane birthday celebrations were fun.
21) Steamboat is a fabulous resort and one of the best places I have ever ridden my snowboard. It has skiing for all and the most amazing off-piste routes through stunning trees.
22) The new Trailhead Lodge is truly a fantastic place to stay and worthy of its very high ratings on Tripadvisor. It also boats a convenient private gondola that whizzes you straight from the hotel to the slopes.
23) It’s well worth hiring an instructor or guide to show you around the resorts. You’ll discover so many great places to ski and the best places to eat.
24) The excellent Neill Redfern, a snowboard instructor in Steamboat, significantly improved my snowboarding skills. I can’t thank him enough for showing me how to truly enjoy riding the powder and tree routes.
25) There is more to do than just ski. Winter Park boasts a fabulous tubing centre, snowcat tours and snow-shoeing. Steamboat has horse riding, cross country skiing, nearby Strawberry Park hot springs, snowshoe tours and snow mobile trips on offer. You’ll never be bored!
26) Usually I am happy to come home after a ski holiday. I’ve sort of had enough of the snowboarding. But I didn’t want to leave Colorado one tiny bit. I would have been happy to ride the slopes for many, many weeks at a time.
27) If I move abroad I want to live in Colorado.