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Revision as of 15:05, 29 November 2006 by Hobber (Talk | contribs) (Natural Disasters)

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Flag of the United States the United States
Location of the United States
Ski Season edit
Ski Areas Alabama

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island

Capital Washington, D.C.
38°53′N 77°02′W
Largest city New York City
Official language(s) English
Area 9,631,418 km²
 - 2006 est. 298,869,502[1] (3rd)
 - Density 30/km² (172nd)
83/sq mi 
Currency Dollar ($)
Time zone (UTC-5 to -10)
Calling code +1

The USA is everycountry.

It has snow in the east, but over there sounds too much like Australia. It has snow in the west, along the coast range. Mammoth, the Tahoe resorts and Mt Baker plus a raft of little ones apread up and down.

Then it has the Rockies to the west of the middle. The Rockies include Big Sky in Montana, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, lots of resorts in Colorado, the Utah resorts and some way down in New Mexico.



Snow Areas

USA divides into three main areas, with some smaller regions.

  • The East These are the resorts in the east of the USA. They are mainly located in New England, but snowmaking means that there are many resorts further south. Popular legend says that these resorts tend to be cold, icy, windy and with inferior snow quality. Just like home.
  • The Rockies There is a string of resorts from Montana down to New Mexico, including Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. These are the fabled resorts, and earn their reputation through size, range of difficulty and, most importantly, snow quality. This is where you will find the light dry powder you see in ski movies. Major airports are Salt Lake City, Utah on the west side of the range, or Denver, Colorado to the east.
  • The Sierras The Sierras are the range of coastal mountains running down the west coast. They include resorts like Mammoth, the Tahoe resorts (including Heavenly, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood and a few others) and Mt Baker in Washington. The Sierra resorts get heaps of snow because of the orographic effect of mountains near the coast. On the other hand, the snow tends to be wetter and heavier than the snow in the Rockies. The Tahoe region is drop dead gorgeous.

More info than at which you can shake a stick

Getting There


Visas and Documentation

Australia is a participant in the Visa Waver Program (VWP), so Australian tourists with a machine readable passport or e-Passport do not require a visa for stays of less than 90 days.

For more information on the VWP and passports visit the US Department of State Website


Most flights from Australia land at Los Angeles, although there are some that fly direct to San Francisco. Los Angeles Airport (LAX) is a wonderful, efficient facility. It works perfectly until some inconsiderate airline lands a plane there. That anyone would do this is a cause of resentment for the operators of LAX, and the place grinds to an inefficient halt while they ask Madge Hagendorf, one of the cleaners, what they did last time an aeroplane landed.

Warning - There are no clocks in the terminal. Make sure you are constantly aware of the time if making connections.

The two major hubs inland, serving the Rockies, are Salt Lake City in Utah and Denver in Colorado. There are frequent flights to both these cities.

Access to the Utah resorts is a short bus ride from the airport at Salt Lake City.

There are shuttles from Denver to most of the Colorado resorts along I-70 - a major highway. You can also fly to Telluride and Vail/Beaver Creek. Vail is about 2 hours from Denver by road. The Front Range resorts are much closer. Aspen and Telluride are a little further away.

Jackson Hole in Wyoming has its own airport, about 12 miles from the resort, serving the town of Jackson. Access to Montana resorts is through Bozeman.

Customs and Quarantine

Customs and security on entry can be a nightmare. It can often take two hours or more to clear customs, immigration and security.

Tip: You do not need to declare Vegemite to Customs.

One of the frustrations involved is that there are no transit lounges in US airports. Even if you are simply changing planes in LAX to go to Canada you must clear customs and immigration. If you are transitting, putting "Transit" or "In transit to Canada" satisfies the 'where are you staying tonight' question on the incoming passenger card, and as a bonus, impresses the immigration staff.

If you are travelling to the USA via Vancouver airport you will clear US customs and immigration on the ground in Vancouver, before boarding. This is much more efficient. On most airlines it means that, if you are not stopping over in the USA on the way home, you can check your bags all the way to Australia from Canada without having to collect them and re-check them in Los Angeles. You do have to check yourself in. If your flight commences in a regional airport such as Kelowna or Kamloops and transits through Vancouver you must collect your luggage in Vancouver in order to clear US customs and security there. The set up in Vancouver airport is convenient for this.

Carry On Luggage

The Transport Security Agency is responsible for what you can, and cannot, carry on a plane.

Checked Luggage

Again, the Transport Security Agency is the best source for information on what is, and is not allowed in the aircraft hold. Most US airlines tend to be quite genereous with sporting goods allowances, but check the website of your carrier to be sure.

Note that the TSA WILL open your cases to search them without your permission and without you being present. There is little point using your own padlocks as the TSA will simply cut them off to get in your case.

You can purchase locks the TSA can open - if you can find them - TSA Approved Locks.

Alternatively, if you want to stop the zippers opening, submitter recommends simple plastic ties - these can be cut with scissors at your destination, and you can easily carry more and reseal the bag when next you see it.

By the way, when they search your bag, they will leave a little note inside... how nice.

Cultural Info

Their "culture" is well known to us through television.

National Holidays

  • January 1st New Year's Day
  • 3rd Monday in January Martin Luther King's Birthday
  • 3rd Monday in February Washington's Birthday
  • Last Monday in May Memorial Day
  • July 4th Independence Day
  • 1st Monday in September Labor Day
  • 2nd Monday in October Columbus Day
  • November 11th Veterans Day
  • 4th Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day
  • December 25th Christmas Day


You have a car, don't you?

The train trip with Amtrak from the west coast to Denver is an excellent trip, although more expensive than flying. You travel through the Sierras and the Rockies during the day, and across the desert at night. It is possible to get an Amtrak Pass which is similar to a Eurail Pass. You can get on or off the train at Truckee or Reno if you are at the Tahoe resorts, and the same at Salt Lake City for the Utah resorts.

The Interstate freeway system is awesome, and gets you close to many ski areas. Vail, Beaver Creek and the Front Range resorts in Colorado are strung along I-70, for example.

Internal flights can be quite cheap.

Bus lines such as Greyhound go to many places. Travel by bus apparently can be quite interesting and a little frightening.

Food and Drink

There are some simple rules that will help you fit in with the more unusual of the native feeding rituals. Anthropologists have discovered the following rules:

  • Main courses are called entrees (a trap for the inexperienced). This is because everything in an American meal is a precursor to the main course - dessert.
  • Most restaurants will not take reservations. They will shout "Party of one!!" with a straight face.
  • Food tends to be sweet. Portions are huge. Butter is white and cheese is orange. Nothing is simple. Any food you order requires a bewildering series of choices. Chips are crisps. Fries are chips. McDonalds tastes the same. There is no Vegemite.
  • Most coffee tastes like it has been drunk before. Starbucks is exotic and exciting. A short black is an espresso. A long black is a mystery. You don't put milk in coffee - you have it with cream or *gag* "non-dairy whitener". NASA has several labs trying to work out what this stuff is, so far unsuccessfully. Homo is full cream milk.
  • Most beer tastes like what happens after someone has already drunk the coffee and drunk the end product again.
  • Salad comes between your entree (their appetiser) and our main course (their entree). Salad is eaten before the main course, not as a side dish with the main. If you don't deal with the salad you may not get your main course. Blue cheese dressing is surprisingly tasty.
  • Drinking wine with food is a sign of decadence in some places. You can drink a gazillion cocktails before the meal, and a gazillion afterward, but drinking alcohol with food is several steps down the slippery slope of terminal alcoholism and cause for suspicion. Asking for a second glass means you are homeless and drinking meths on the street. Very few places sell decent wine by the glass. Under no circumstances order a wine made in Idaho.
  • One serving of breakfast is enough food for a normal person and the population of a small town. Many places have a seniors' breakfast, but you are not allowed to order it until you turn 60. A seniors' breakfast is small enough to be a perfectly adequate breakfast for most people. The challenge is getting to 60 before falling off your twig due to obesity and coronary problems.
  • There is nothing marine about marinara sauce. It is a simple tomato sauce without meat, closer to Napoletana then proper marinara.

Some of this information is a tad exaggerated.

Technology and Networks

They have them. To get reception for global roaming on your mobile (cell, over there) you need a tri-band phone - call your service provider before you leave and have roaming switched on (should be free). Make sure you know how much it costs to make and receive calls - it's astronomically expensive but can be worth it for texts.


I still havn't worked out the scam that is Payphones in the US. The 'non-chain' ones you find in hotels, hostels, pubs, clubs, bars, etc etc all belong to a million different companies all with their own custom rates and plans, as logical and understandable as their political system. 'Local' calls are usually quite cheap, however what constitutes 'local' tends to vary the time of day, ambient temperature, colour (sorry color) of your socks and what you had for lunch. If you plan to call anywhere further than a block away, best stock up on quarters.


  • Don't use them unless you have to.
  • They only take quarters.
  • If you do have to, get a phone card.
  • Don't expect to get your money back if the call fails for some reason.
  • Don't expect anyone to care that you didn't get your money back.
  • Don't use them unless you have to.


Taxes are not included in marked prices, so everything costs a little more than the marked price. For an item marked $5.99 the real price will be a little more than $6 (as an example). This is why god invented one cent pieces (called pennies). You will accumulate them by the tonne. Each state has its own sales tax. The rates vary.

Apparently there are 7,000 separate sales taxes. 50 states. 1,600 counties. Over 4,000 cities. No wonder their TV is crap. They are hiding from the taxmen.

Credit Cards



You should tip everyone in sight. Sometimes they shout at you if you forget. Waiters and cab drivers expect 10% to 15%. Bellman expect $1-00 per bag.

Health and Safety

Be insured. Be very insured. Health care is absurdly expensive.

Emergency Numbers


Medical Centers

Require proof of insurance.

Natural Disasters

  • Avalanches in the mountains.
  • Exploding mountains (aka Volcanos).
  • Tornados.
  • Hurricanes.
  • California will eventually fall off. During this process there will be earthquakes.


Staying safe in the big cities can depend on which parts of the cities you go to. The concierge or desk staff of your hotel, or the locals, will have a pretty good idea of the no go areas.