80 on 80 – An Ikon Pass Road Trip

D’Arcy McLeish | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article

[sponsored by Ikon Pass]

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

The Ikon Pass provides access to 26 iconic mountain destinations.

Twenty-six places that offer some of the best snow and terrain in the world.

Places like Mammoth Mountain, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Alta, Snowbird, Big Sky and Jackson Hole, to name just a few.

Winter road tripping has never had so many easy options, and from the Bay Area, there are a couple of things that make one trip to four titans in the ski world possible.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows on 02/27/18. Image: Jeff Engerbretson

Picture this:

It’s snowing in the Eastern Sierra and you’re sitting at home in the Bay Area, looking at the weather and wondering if you should go into work that morning. You’re thinking of pow laps at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. Big lines, deep snow…suddenly you’ve picked up the phone to let them know you need some vacation time. But here’s the thing, you have a brand new, freshly printed Ikon Pass, and that’s like having the keys to the ski cookie jar.

The Alpine Meadows side of things.
image: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.

Those storms that roll into Northern California from the Pacific Ocean drop giant heaps of bliss into the Sierras and then move into Utah with 2-4% less moisture.

Those numbers may seem small, but it means going from blower pow to the fluffiest, driest, lightest snow you’ve ever skied.

Convenient that Alta Snowbird sits right in the middle of the Wasatch Range in Utah, which those storms pummel with that magical snow.

A giant section of I-80m in Nevada is now 80mph. Up from 75 in some places and 60 in others. Enjoy.

Another point: A little known change in the Nevada speed limits on Interstate 80 have made the drive between Tahoe and Utah a little faster. Interstate 80, which runs from San Francisco to Chicago, blitzes across the high deserts of Nevada straight into Salt Lake City and just this past year, they upped the speed limit for one giant section of that highway to 80mph. Which means more skiing and less driving. Your Ikon Pass gets you access to multiple, iconic destinations in two states.

Image: Mike Basich

Pack your vehicle. Make sure you’ve got some good winter rubber on there. Grab a couple of friends, a thermos of coffee and your gear and jump onto Interstate 80. First stop: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, which is a quick three and half hour jaunt across Northern California. Then it’s ski time. Leave early and you can make a day of it. Spend the next few days shredding both mountains and get your big mountain game face on. Cut your teeth on KT-22, arguably the most iconic ski lift in North America and then blitz over to Alpine Meadows for some quiet pow laps.

Ikon Pass
Image – Ikon Pass

Once those storms roll off, it’s time to start moving. Give the weather a bit of a head start (in other words – stay and make sure every last bit of terrain has been shredded) and then get back onto I-80. It’s a straight shot across the desert to Utah. With that new speed limit, things are fast, with a driving time of 8.5 hours. Think of all that snow you just skied in California, slowly drying out and becoming light enough that you’ll need bigger skis when you get to Utah.

Photo – Ikon Pass

Arrive in Snowbird, or Alta and ski your face off. With your Ikon Pass, you get seven days between both mountains, which is more than enough time to get your fill and completely destroy your legs. When you’re done, that 8.5-hour drive back across I-80 will give you a bit of a rest and just enough time to convince yourself to stop into Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows again. You’ve got unlimited days at both those resorts and you’re driving right by…might as well take advantage.

Image: Rocko Menzyk

There aren’t many places where you’re so close to that many premier places to ski. From the Bay Area, you’re even relatively close to Mammoth Mountain, another icon in the list of destinations you get unlimited access to with your Ikon Pass. It’s only six hours from San Francisco and four hours from Tahoe. So if you wanted to hit five outstanding mountains on that trip, the option is there.

The Ikon Pass offers 26 mountain destinations that open up limitless options for the snow whisperer in you. It’s a ski traveler’s dream. There is a myriad of options for combining each destination, this is only one of them. It just happens to be one of the more big-mountain/massive snow/blower pow options on the list, especially if you live in the Bay Area. But other options abound with the Ikon Pass. Whatever you do, go get one and create your own adventure. You won’t regret it.


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