40 hours of driving, 2,500 miles, 12 days, 7 Harry Potter movies, 4 resorts, 8 ski days, 148.8k vertical feet

I like to try out different resort passes as I continue to explore and ski around the United States (and the world). This year, Andy and I bought the M.A.X. Pass add-on to our Crystal Mountain season pass ($329 + $825). We purchased the Crystal pass late in the season adding to the overall cost.

What is the M.A.X. Pass?

The M.A.X. Pass provided five ski lift passes at various resorts throughout the United States.

BREAKING NEWS: The M.A.X. Pass will no longer be sold after 2017 and is being replaced by the Ikon Pass (starting at $599). Read why I’m not a fan of the Alterra’s Ikon Pass.

Related ski trip posts: 5 Road Trips to Take with Your Mountain Collective Pass and 13 Tips to Get the Most of Your Mountain Collective Pass

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4 Resorts: A Western Ski Road Trip with the M.A.X. Pass

Big Sky, Montana – 4 days, 73.5k vertical feet

Terrain park at Big Sky Resort

I visited Big Sky two years ago during the New Year’s holiday season. Locals, including our friends, mentioned it was one of the busiest times of the year. The other busy time? The weeks surrounding President’s Day weekend. Obviously, the only time I’ve skied at Big Sky has been during the “busy” season with a recent trip in mid-February.

After skiing the Big Couloir at Big Sky Resort

Even skiing on the busiest days, I barely waited in lift lines with the exception of the tram. Since I skied the Big Couloir line my last visit and our group had uneven numbers, I opted to rest a recent back injury and watch the boys head down the line.

Big Sky ski patroller going down the Big Couloir

What I like about Big Sky: Skiing for all levels. The Swift Current lift (Swifty for short), Andesite Mountain, and Moonlight Basin provide easy terrain for beginners to intermediate skiers. The tram services Liberty Bowl, the Gullies, the Big Couloir, the Little Couloir (rarely open), and the North Summit Snowfield. The last three require registration with ski patrol and a beacon, shovel and probe kit. Other advanced skiing options include hiking access to A to Z Chutes and Headwaters.

Where to eat and drink in Big Sky

Meat platter for 4 at Gallatin Riverhouse Grill

Bozeman Taproom & Fill Station: 101 N Rouse Ave, Bozeman, MT 59715

Big Sky
Lotus Pad: 47 Town Center Avenue D1, Big Sky, MT 59716
Beehive Basin Brewery: 245 Town Center Ave, Big Sky, MT 59716
Gallatin Riverhouse Grill (outside of Big Sky): 45130 Gallatin Rd, Gallatin Gateway, MT 59730

Big Sky Village
M R Hummers: 50 Big Sky Resort Road, (Mountain Mall)
Scissorbills Saloon: 39 Black Eagle Rd, Big Sky, MT 59716
Montana Jack: 52 Big Sky Resort Rd, Big Sky, MT 59716

Where to stay in Big Sky

The Huntley Lodge outdoor heated pool and hot tubs

Treasure State Hostel: 27 E Main St, Bozeman, MT 59715
Huntley Lodge: 50 Big Sky Resort Rd, Big Sky, MT 59716

Airbnb in the Big Sky Village

Airbnb – Get $40 in travel credit when you sign up for Airbnb and book your first stay.

Airbnb off the beaten path

Steamboat, Colorado – 2 days, 47.1k vertical feet

Steamboat Ski Resort

Leaving Big Sky was hard with eight inches of fresh snow but a 10-hour drive between the two kept us on schedule to meet up with a friend. Fortunately, Steamboat received the same storm, and I was skiing leftovers with bluebird skis.

The town and hot springs provide entertainment after a day of skiing.

Steamboat tree skiing

What I like about Steamboat: The trees. If you’re looking for steep skiing at Steamboat, try Christmas Tree Bowl or the Chute runs (I, II, and III). The runs funnel down but there’s no easy way to lap the chutes causing them to hold fresh snow longer than other runs. Take the Morningside lift to access the Chutes and Christmas Tree Bowl.

What I learned: Don’t go to a resort on a President’s Day weekend. It’s the busiest time of the year and the lift lines will slow your skiing.

Where to eat and drink in Steamboat

T Bar at Steamboat

T Bar At Steamboat: 2045 Ski Time Square Dr, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill: 435 S Lincoln Ave, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
Fiesta Jalisco: 455 Anglers Dr, Steamboat Springs, CO 80488

Where to stay in Steamboat

Airbnb – Get $40 in travel credit when you sign up for Airbnb and book your first stay.

Solitude, Utah – 1 day, 18.6k vertical feet

Powder face shots at Solitude Mountain Resort

The snow finally caught up to me on the road trip. The night we arrived in Salt Lake City (SLC), it snowed 15 inches overnight‒the biggest snowfall Utah has seen this season. SLC boasts its quick access to the mountains, which is normally true. A local friend advised us to enter the canyon mouth by 7:45 a.m. or else we’d be sitting in traffic. We sat in a traffic light left turn lane for 45 minutes to go a quarter of a mile. The drive totaled an hour and forty-five minutes from our Airbnb in South SLC.

Unfortunately, my favorite part of Solitude is Honeycomb Canyon which didn’t open due to patrol.

What I like about Solitude: Even on one of the busiest days of the season (most snow so far this season and a holiday weekend), the crowds spread out after the initial rush for powder.

Where to eat and drink in Salt Lake City

After the first two stops, SLC food prices seemed cheap. Since we were staying near the city and part of the group started getting sick, we ordered pizza the first night and met a friend for Thai food the second night.

The Thirsty Squirrel: 12000 Big Cottonwood Canyon Rd, Salt Lake City, UT 84121

Salt Lake City
Este Pizzeria: 156 E 200 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Chabaar Beyond Thai: 87 W 7200 S, Midvale, UT 84047
Squatters Pub: 147 Broadway, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Where to stay in Salt Lake City

Airbnb – Get $40 in travel credit when you sign up for Airbnb and book your first stay.

Brighton, Utah – 1 day, 9.6k vertical feet

Just past Solitude, Brighton Ski Resort is also located in Big Cottonwood Canyon. I wish I had more time to explore Brighton. I skied half a day before having to hit the road to start the drive back to Seattle.

I learned Brighton is a family resort as kids 10 and under ski for free. I normally prefer having more than a day to get my bearings at a resort but vacation time was running thin. After finding some leftover powder stashes from the day before, we found ourselves skating and shuffling in flatter areas as we explored. Unlike Alta (a skier’s-only resort), I found myself outnumbered by snowboarders enjoying the area.

What I like about Brighton: Surprisingly held powder stashes the day after a storm and has a cool local’s vibe.

Meeting friends along the way

Visiting a friend at Steamboat resort

It wouldn’t be a ski road trip without meeting friends along the way. Three of us left Seattle and were joined by a fourth (and second car) for the three resorts. I thank friends in Big Sky who helped arranged our hotel room at the Huntley Lodge and another friend who let us crash at his Steamboat Airbnb during a holiday weekend. It was fun having the locals show us around their home mountains to give us a fast insight into the skiing at the resort.

Ski road trip watching Harry Potter

To help pass the time, we played seven out of the eight Harry Potter movies in the car. After Salt Lake City, we broke up the drive to Seattle by spending the night in Boise, Idaho at an airport hotel using points. After spending almost two weeks on the road, it was nice to sleep in my own bed and have some personal space from the opposite gender.

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