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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 17:08 GMT

A different ski game

The BBC's James Cove compares Utah to the Alps

Skiing in Utah is a totally different experience to skiing in the Alps.

As you arrive in the car park at Deer Valley your first encounter is likely to be with young fresh-faced people who look like they have stepped out of a toothpaste advert.

And do not be surprised if they then come bounding up and offer to carry your skis for you to the bottom of the lift.

In Europe, you would quickly shut the doors and windows fearing they were trying to steal your equipment.

Once at the foot of the lift the experience becomes stranger still.

Instead of a free-for-all to get to the front of the queue, which is always helped by a pair of sharp elbows, people actually step aside and let you go first.

"Somehow it is all rather unreal and it has a feeling of skiing in Disneyland"
James Cove on Utah

And then a lift attendant offers you a tissue in case you want to wipe your nose.

In the Alps, the stereotype is of surly lift attendants who sit inside wooden huts chain-smoking and occasionally glancing out of the window to see if it is time for lunch.

Once on the slopes the experience continues to baffle.

If you stop for more than a few minutes a ski attendant will glide gracefully to a stop beside you and ask if you are lost and whether you need any help reading the piste map.

All conversations end with a smile and a cheery "Have a Nice Day".

Piste policemen patrol the slopes stopping dangerous skiers going too fast and have the powers to confiscate lift passes.

The terrain in Utah is also very different to the Alps with acres and acres of aspen trees instead of the usual fir trees that have been blighted by pollution and acid rain.

But somehow it is all rather unreal and it has a feeling of skiing in Disneyland.

Mountains are supposed to be hard and dangerous places and it is rather odd when it is all so clinical and efficient.

Many Europeans seem to rather like the roughness of the Alps and if you need to push to get to the front of the queue then so be it. It shows you are keen to get up the mountain.

One rather dour Scotsman in the car park of Deer Valley declined the ski carrying service.

"If you can't carry your own skis then you shouldn't be in the mountains in the first place," he said.

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