Only in America – 10 things US ski towns have that we don't

I learnt a snow thing or two after 10 months living (and skiing) in downtown Telluride and Aspen in Colorado and skiing at Vail, Breckenridge, Jackson Hole, Kirkwood and Northstar, Park City and Deer Valley. Not that I'm counting, oh, OK, I am.

But I learnt that not all ski resorts in the US and Australia are created equal. Some things we should definitely adopt, some things can stay in America.

Free stuff

Who doesn't love swag? Give a customer something for free and you almost have them for life. At Beaver Creek its free hot baked cookies every afternoon, Jackson Hole has free beer on Australia Day. Every day at Aspen you'll find free hot cider and muesli bars at the top of the mountain. At Keystone kids ski for free when staying two or more nights.

Sugar addicts will love The Montage at Deer Valley – complimentary s'mores​ buffet on the patio every afternoon with house-made marshmallows in a multitude of flavours around a giant fire pit. In Telluride the gondola between Mountain Village and downtown is free, as is the Galloping Goose town transit bus. Lift pass or not.

Wi-Fi everywhere

Sometimes I would ride the bus around the streets in Vail and Aspen just to use their free and fast Wi-Fi. That's right, it's free, it's fast and it's on the bus. Vail even has it on their Gondola One so you can Instagram from inside. The town of Jackson has free public Wi-Fi and Deer Valley has it in two of their ski-in ski-out day lodges. Even the Colorado Mountain Express shuttle company between Denver and the main ski resorts along the i-70 offers free and fast Wi-Fi in their cars.

Combined ski passes

Vail's Epic Pass combines all the Vail-owned resorts on one pass but other resorts have been shaking hands with their rivals and working together to create super ski passes that benefit the consumer. The Mountain Collective has 15-plus resorts including Aspen and Jackson Hole. The Powder Alliance combines Crested Butte, Snowbasin, Schweitzer and more. The M.A.X pass includes 26 mountains and has Copper Mountain, Steamboat, Solitude and Big Sky on the pass.

Tipping

There's one thing that will kick you in the guts every time you reach for your wallet and that's tipping. Expect to fork out 15 to 20 per cent every time you have a coffee, ski with an instructor, enjoy a spa treatment. There's no point complaining about it, just factor it into your budget and think of it as Monopoly money to dull the pain.

Coffee

While we're at it, let's mention the coffee, or not. At best it is just passable; at worst it is undrinkable. Savvy ski towns who rely on Australians each winter have tried to cater for our snobbish palate, bless, but few have truly succeeded. If you don't want to ingest the liquid speed they call filter drip coffee then head to Victoria's and also Jour de Fete in Aspen, Yeti's Grind in Vail, Ghost Town in Telluride, and Dark Horse in Truckee (my personal favourite).

Celebrities galore

We're not talking D list reality Bachelor stars, we're talking A grade for Aspen-style celebrity spotting on the chairlift, in the gondola, on the table next to you at the restaurant or drinking at the bar. In Telluride we spotted Meryl Streep, Michael Keeton, Dave Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld and Oprah. OK, Oprah we spotted on her Instagram account with a pic of her at her Telluride home. In Aspen you'll find Goldie Hawn and daughter Kate Hudson and all of their crew. Vail welcomed Kanye and Kim when I was last there and Park City has the Sundance Film Festival so you're guaranteed to see someone on a red carpet in January.

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Tree skiing

I know there's nothing like the snow gums to conjure up skiing in Australia but if you want real gladed tree skiing on steep pitches consistently filled with powder then hit the woods of Telluride. Most times you'll only have the locals' tracks to contend with. If you can't make it to Telluride, almost every US resort has tree skiing worth talking about.

Shrines

If you go down to the woods today be sure of a shrine surprise on the four mountains of Aspen Snowmass. Rummage among the trees here and discover over 100 hidden shrines to John Denver, Elvis, Jerry Garcia, David Bowie, even Snoopy.

Heli skiing

Canada may be considered heli skiing Mecca but you can still get your fix with day heli ski trips at Sun Valley, Telluride, Jackson Hole, Park City, Wyoming and North Cascade. Oh, to take a helicopter out to the Main Range in NSW or Feathertop in Victoria. I know, tell her she's dreaming.

Cloud Nine

Yes it's highly decadent and extremely wasteful but the second sitting lunch at the ski-in ski-out Cloud Nine on Highlands mountain at Aspen is a must do once in a season. Though hussle your way onto someone else's corporate credit card because once the DJ gets under way and the champagne comes out you may find yourself doused in expensive bubbles while dancing on the table. It's not a Cloud Nine lunch unless champagne is sprayed and trust us it will be sprayed whether you buy it or not.

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Follow Rachael Oakes-Ash on Twitter & Instagram @misssnowitall and on facebook.com/misssnowitall

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