With dirt cheap flights, a new insanely priced super pass, and more variety than you can handle, it’s now impossible to ignore the call of Colorado’s mountains. Chris Sayer flew out to see if a snow break there can ever replace the sacred yearly winter rush to the Alps…
It was the morning I awoke to learn that a local trail runner had strangled a mountain lion to death with his bare hands to stop it eating his head, that my ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’ moment arrived. Rolling through the Rocky Mountains a few days earlier after landing in Denver, I’d romantically imagined it might have been the dream-like tree runs through never-ending aspens, or the super fine ‘Champagne Powder’, the tyre-sized apres pancakes, the hop-stacked lunchtime IPAs or the Stetson-wearing ski cowboys that’d have me feeling every single one of the 8,000 kilometres between me and the familiarity of a winter week in the Alps. Not a big feral cat’s attempt to sink its teeth into the skull of a guy named Travis – who was almost totally fine, by the way – just a little further along Colorado’s State Highway 14.
“I awoke to learn that a local trail runner had strangled a mountain lion to death with his bare hands to stop it eating his head”
Wild encounters like this, it turns out, are outrageously ‘normal’ occurrences for the Colorado natives. “Yeah, it happens,” an 81-year-old rancher named Ray, complete with homemade elk-and beaver-skin trench coat, told me later that afternoon. “Just yesterday a mountain lion ate our neighbour’s dog.” For me, who has only ever skied in America, The Land of Things With Massive Teeth and Massiver Claws, once before… this is anything but normal.
The novelty of life-threateningly calorific meals, the awkwardness of embarrassing tipping faux pas, and the odd feline fist-fight, have only ever occurred on once-a-decade, budget-blowing, bucket-list winter breaks to the US – holidays kept very much in their exceptional place by annual low-cost EasyJet rides to Europe at the first sign of snow. With a chronic fear of spending big sums of money, it’d take something pretty massive to get between me and my habit for bagging those glorious forty quid flights to Geneva once a year.