It took us a long 48 hours to get there from New Zealand, but just as the sun disappeared over the horizon one day last January we arrived in a winter wonderland, with snow draped perfectly over the buildings like icing on a cake and a fine powder still sprinkling down. Coloured fairy lights brought the pine trees to life and ice skaters twirled across a frozen lake. For the next eight magical days, our home was the Copper Mountain alpine and ski resort in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
And what an introduction to skiing, American-style. We simply walked out the front door of our apartment in Tucker Mountain Lodge, picked up our skis and took a leisurely 100m stroll through the heated streets (which are completely flat, might I add) to a chairlift. We were also able to use our Ruapehu ski pass to get into the “Secret Pass” lane and skip the queues.
The base elevation of the runs at Copper Mountain are at 2,960m but the top is a whopping 3,753m – or 12,313 feet, because the Americans still use imperial measurements. I’m not the world’s most confident skier so I was a bit nervous when the chairlift first carried us up. The closer we got to the top, the steeper it had to be, right? Wrong. The runs at Copper Mountain are beautifully wide and groomed and well marked for different levels of ability. And instead of steeper, the runs get longer. There are so many different runs on the mountain that you are never in a crowd and can ski through the beautiful powder snow at your own pace.
After a glorious day of gliding across the powder, coming down the last run is another well-thought-out American pleasure. You simply aim your skis for the bar and its happy hour to warm your bones. The snacking and dining options – fried chicken, Japanese, Irish Pub or Italian Pizzeria are not limited just because you’re at 9,000 feet!
The evening was a great time to take a walk around the lodging, dining and entertainment village and really enjoy it. The shops stay open until late and if Christmas is your thing, like ours, one shop in particular sells incredible tree decorations.
All too soon it was time to pack up our ski boots and to head 120km east to Denver airport and on to the next adventure which proved to be quite a contrast. We touched down in the concrete jungle of New York at La Guardia Airport in the middle of the night and embracing the New York lifestyle we hailed a Yellow Cab. It whizzed us into the city with a demonstration of big-city tactical driving that I believe one can only experience in New York. The movies don’t lie: cabs use their horns a lot.
On our first day in New York we tested out the subway and made our way to the Brooklyn Bridge, an incredible walk in the crisp winter air with a soft pretzel in hand. Over the next week, we ticked off the Staten Island Ferry, the “Friends” apartment building, the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial, One World Trade Center, the Natural History Museum, Central Park, Wall Street, Times Square and of course the Empire State Building.
Times Square is a brilliant, flashing light show of billboards, crowds of people and the occasional cowboy playing a guitar. It is like nothing we had seen before. The Empire State Building was another highlight for us all. From 102 storeys up, the views are incredible and you appreciate how big Manhattan truly is. As you progress up the floors you also learn about the history of the building, which illustrates the amazing engineering feat that was achieved in 1931.
New York is an incredible city that I would return to in a heartbeat. It is full of life and colour and eccentricity and has so much history. Whether you stayed for a week or a month you would never be bored and would discover new things every day.
Before heading home, we stopped in LA for four days and enjoyed the theme parks including Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios where we screamed on the roller coasters and chatted with Optimus Prime from Transformers. And then, having also significantly indulged in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, it was time to head back to New Zealand.