Category Archives: Skiing/Riding/Snow Destinations

Topnotch Skiing at New York’s Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks

By Karen Rubin, Dave E. Leiberman & Laini Miranda,

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

On what must have been one of the busiest ski days of the season at Gore Mountain – the last day of Presidents’ Week, bluebird sky, no wind, crisp and comfortable temperature in the 20s and gorgeous powder after a couple of snowstorms – we were among the delighted downhillers, having snagged capacity-controlled lift tickets, easing into the COVID-19 routine to enjoy a sensational day on the slopes.

Winter resorts provide refuge, revitalization and renewal, especially in this time of COVID, and understandably, the three New York State-owned Olympic Regional Development Authority ski areas – Gore Mountain and Whiteface in the Adirondacks, Belleayre in the Catskills – sold out their Ski3 season passes early on. Lift tickets, capacity controlled, should be booked online to make sure there is still space. So the day we visited was one of the busiest of the season because the tickets were sold out. Even so, the mountain was gloriously uncrowded, even on the busiest day. And it was heavenly.

The modifications for COVID safety in facilities and services are pretty seamless, even ordinary, by now. In fact, they have led to improvements, like the ability to order food online from the lift and pick up at the Base Lodge, and RFID direct-to-the-gate ticketing.

I went through the rental process – the large room kept as open and as uncrowded as possible, with minimal transactions and the attendants behind a plexiglass protective screen.

A sign of the COVID-times: wearing masks on the lift at Gore © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The base lodge had no tables or chairs inside to minimize the amount of time people stay inside, but you could still purchase grab-and-go items at the food court (we brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and water to have on the mountain). You are urged to use your car as your personal base lodge but that wasn’t necessary. Other concessions to COVID this season: there isn’t day care for non-skiing kids or ski school, but private lessons are available (families and pods okay).

There was a line to get on the lifts from the base – the Northwoods Gondola and the Adirondack Express quad – with people generally keeping a social distance (skis helps provide natural distancing), wearing masks as required. Even though the lines were a bit longer because of the policy to keep non-affiliated individuals on separate chairs, it moved quickly enough under the watchful eye of a couple of ski ambassadors, who pleasantly supplied a trail map upon request and answered any questions.

There are new RFID readers so no person needs to click or read the lift ticket – the gate opens automatically as it reads the lift ticket in your jacket pocket.

The ride up the 7109-foot long Adirondack Express was so delightful, depositing us right at the Saddle Lodge at mid-mountain, where, peeking in, there did seem to be a lot of people standing around, but in their own groups, socially distanced from other groups. The restrooms were extremely clean, with a sign posted that only two people should be inside at any one time.

To warm up, I started down Sunway, a 2.2-mile long green, back down to the base, and back up.

From there, we hopped on Upper Wood-In, a blue-trail, to get to the High Peaks chair – new this season! – which brings you all the way up to the summit. The High Peaks chair replaced a double chair which deposited you lower down, and you would ski to the Streetbrook Quad to get up to the summit. Now, I was able to take the High Peaks chair to the top of one of my favorite blues on the mountain, Cloud, where you have the spectacular view from the Gore’s summit at 3,600 feet altitude.

Riding the new High Peaks chair to Gore’s summit © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

As a perennial blue-trail/intermediate skier, Gore Mountain is one of my favorite places – while Dave and Laini love the black diamond trails and the glades (Gore was one of the first Eastern ski areas to develop gladed terrain!). Nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, it offers expansive views of a real wilderness. And with a vertical of 2,537 feet, you actually feel as if you were in the Rockies.

It is surprising to realize that Gore is the biggest ski destination in New York State (and New York, with 50 ski areas and resorts, has the most in the nation!), with the most skiable acres (439 acres), 121 trails (10% beginner, 50% intermediate and 40% advanced), including 110 alpine trails, 28 glades, 8 freestyle areas and 11 cross-country and snowshoe trails, serviced by 14 lifts including a gondola (a year-round attraction, they cleverly post fun historical notes in each car). Besides the stunning views, the wilderness, what I love best is the long cruisers – the longest run is 4.4 miles and six of the trails are longer than 1 ½ miles. In all, Gore offers 42 miles of skiing. There is even night skiing (at North Creek Ski Bowl).

Cloud, a blue trail from Gore’s summit, accessed by the new High Peaks quad © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

With a vertical drop of 2537 ft. from the summit at 3600 ft. down to the base at North Creek Ski Bowl (998 ft.),  Gore also offers the 6th greatest vertical in the East – a greater vertical drop in fact than such famous mountains as Stowe (2360), Sunday River (2340), Okemo (2200), Jay Peak (2153), Mount Tremblant (2116), Mad River Glen (2037), Stratton Mountain (2003) and Mount Snow (1700) –  and comparable to ski resorts in the Colorado Rockies (Copper Mountain’s vertical is 2600 ft.)

Gore Mountain skiing consists of nine faces across four mountains: Gore Mountain is the biggest and highest, at 3600 ft., Bear Mountain rises to 3200 ft., Burnt Ridge Mountain rises to 2735 ft. and Little Gore Mountain goes up to 1900 ft. The areas are so well laid out and contoured, you can easily move among them, and it’s simple to get back to the base lodge and food-court or the mid-mountain Saddle Lodge to grab a bite or warm up.

And besides having outstanding variety, Gore is an ideal a family-friendly ski destination, with a lot of natural separation of skier abilities; even the way the trails merge together – in most cases flowing together instead of having fast skiers fly down a black and crossing over a green or traverse trail– which makes it a lot more pleasant.

Gore Mountain has great contours and flow among the trails. In all, it offers 110 alpine trails – 42 miles! © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Each of Gore’s four mountains have their own features and character, and among them is an astonishing array of terrain, not to mention views and the fact that if conditions are not the best in one area or are too crowded (not likely because of the way skiers are dispersed), you can simply move to another. Gore has seven distinct areas:

Northwoods on Bear Mountain is the biggest area, with 29 trails, 5 glades, on 146 acres, and has the lion’s share of green (easiest) trails, including the delightful Sunway that goes into Lower Sunway, a total of 2.2 miles of absolutely marvelous skiing, down to the base. The concentration of beginner trails are accessed by a new Sunway chair. It has the most gorgeous cruisers, including Twister, a long, wide and forgiving blue, lined with trees and providing gorgeous views of the Adirondacks.  There are four black diamond trails including three that have free-style (Lower Sleighride, Wild Air and Pot Luck). The area is served from the base by the Northwoods Gondola, the Adirondack Express high-speed detachable quad, a double and four surface lifts.

Sunway, a 2.2-mile long green trail, gives you lots of time to practice your turns © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The High Peaks Area, known as “The Dark Side” (“where experts like to hide”) offers “Classic Adirondack” skiing with 12 trails (9 blue, two blacks and a double black, Lower Steilhang) and 4 glades on 31 acres. It is accessed by the new High Peaks chairlift which now goes all the way to the summit and the top of Cloud.

It was enjoyable to take Cloud to Headwaters, both blue trails, to the Straight Brook Quad, back up to the summit. Here, though, are a group of some of Gore’s more challenging trails, Chatiemac, Hawkeye, Open Pit and the double-black trails, The Rumor, Lies and Upper Darby.

Straight Brook on Gore Mountain offers a variety of challenging terrain and glades and is where you will find two double-black runs, The Rumor and Lies, rumored (unconfirmed) to be the steepest train in the East. Chatiemac, a black, is one of Dave and Laini’s favorites on the mountain. There are also a couple of intermediate trails – like Cloud – which connects to other blues and greens to ski the whole way down. In all, this area has 10 trails, 4 glades and 55 acres accessed by the Straight Brook quad.

A bluebird ski day at Gore Mountain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Topridge is where Dave and Laini go for southern exposure diamonds with views of Gore summit, plenty of pitch and sunshine. It offers five trails (3 blue including Tannery and Lower Uncas) and two blacks, on 45 acres, accessed by the Topridge triple chair.

The North Side – called “Natural North” because they keep it natural – is off the beaten path, and offers an array of easy-going cruisers and gorgeous views. It’s great for families, with uncrowded trails you feel you have to yourself (9 trails, 2 glades on 37 acres serviced by the North quad).

Burnt Ridge is noted for its geology and great views of North Creek Village and the Hudson River. Its seven trails, five glades (The Cirque is one of the longest glades in the East) on 76 acres are serviced by “one of the most luxurious rides” on the mountain, the Burnt Ridge high-speed quad. This area has Sagamore, another one of Dave and Laini’s favorite black trails on the mountain.

A bluebird ski day at Gore Mountain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

North Creek Ski Bowl, which is owned by the town of Johnsburg but managed in partnership with Gore, is where two triple chairs access a surprising variety of trails – two greens, four blues, three blacks including a half pipe and skier/boarder X, and a double black, 46er – on 47 acres on Little Gore Mountain. The trails are relatively short, with a vertical of just under 1000 ft. A new Hudson chair lift connects Gore to the Ski Bowl (open for twilight skiing on weekends and holidays). There also is a shuttle bus between the two bases.

North Creek Ski Bowl also has the Nordic ski area, with 5k network of trails (3.7k with snowmaking and night lights) and snowshoeing (also “uphilling,” which is snowshoeing up the ski mountain).

The Ski Bowl has a long and storied history – when it opened in 1934it was one of the first commercial ski areas in the nation; skiers from New York City came up by train to North Creek. (Gore’s lift ticket is valid, and you can use it for twilight skiing; a Nordic trail pass is $20.)

We had focused on the upper part of the mountain for much of the day to avoid lines on the Adirondack Express or the Gondola at the base.

Dave skis Twister © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By the afternoon, the mountain really emptied out (it was Sunday at the end of President’s Week, after all, and people were probably not lingering over lunch), and we hit Twister which proved my absolute favorite – a long, winding blue, not intimidating, but enough of a challenge to make you feel like a real skier and bump up your skill. It turns out it is just about everybody’s favorite trail. It was no problem to come down to the base (there are two relatively steep drops at the end, but the conditions made it okay) and it was so great, we went back up again for a final run before heading out.

State-owned Gore Mountain, along with Whiteface in Lake Placid and Belleayre in the Catskills, has benefited from significant capital investments in improvements– including enhanced snowmaking, new and improved lifts and lodges – but also for year-round appeal.

Saddle Lodge, one of the many improvements that New York State’s Olympic Regional Development Authority has made at Gore Mountain over the past few years © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In warm weather, enjoy rides on Gore’s gondola and chairlift, hiking, mountain biking and special events.

There isn’t a set closing date for skiing – so far the season has been exceptional – but typically, skiing is open until after Easter, or mid- to late April.

Gore began as a destination ski area – after all, it wasn’t that easy to reach. But over time, especially as the New York Thruway and Northway made it so easy to reach from Albany, Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls and even Montreal, Gore can be a day trip.

But Gore Mountain and the Adirondacks have so much to offer, longer stays are warranted. The landscape is breathtaking, and significantly, still wilderness. You also have some marvelous resorts and lodging – the grand, historic Sagamore Resort on Lake George is 45 minutes away (they offer a shuttle bus to Gore), and in North Creek, the Copperfield Inn is as intimate as an inn (only 31 rooms), but with all the services of a luxury hotel (Copperfield Inn, 307 Main Street, North Creek, NY 12853, 518-251-9808, www.copperfieldinn.com).

North Creek is a charming village with several delightful bistros and shops, and the village offers a free shuttle bus to the mountain, less than 10 minutes away, every 20-30 minutes throughout the day, in season.

Gore Mountain, 793 Peaceful Valley Road, North Creek, NY 12853, Snow Phone: 518-251-5026, info 518-251-2411, goremountain.com.

See also: Plenty to Discover, Experience Exploring New York’s Adirondack Hamlets 

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© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New York’s Adirondacks: Driveable Winter Olympic Playground

Skiing Whiteface, Lake Placid, NY and feeling like an Olympian © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Three of the best ski areas in New York are actually owned by New York State and operated by the Olympic Regional Development Authority – Whiteface and Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks and Belleayre in the Catskills. (Among the improvements ORDA has made is  new RFID technology for direct-to-lift access and online purchasing so you can go directly from your car to the slopes; the ticket can be renewed online.)

Whiteface

Top of the list for ski areas with a world-class reputation is Whiteface, site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics, where in addition to skiing, you can visit Olympic venues and even participate (biathalon, anyone? skate on the Olympic Oval, drive a coaster down the bobsled track).

Whiteface offers the greatest vertical, 3430 ft. from the summit at 4867 ft, of any lift-serviced mountain in the Northeast. This is a serious mountain – actually three mountains, Whiteface summit is a 4,867 ft.; Lookout Mountain tops at 4,000 ft.; Little Whiteface at 3,676 ft. – with more expert terrain, more long, rolling groomers (including the longest single intermediate run in the Northeast, the 2.1 mile-long Wilmington Trail) in the East. It offers 300 skiable acres: 89 runs (24% beginner, 44% intermediate, 33% advanced) and 53 acres of glades and 5 terrain parks, serviced by 13 lifts, including the gorgeous Cloudsplitter Gondola Ride that cuts an aerial path through the Adirondack Mountains on its way to the peak of Little Whiteface.

Skating on the Olympic Oval in Lake Placid © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Whiteface is my favorite ski destination in New York, largely because of Lake Placid, the ambiance and the extraordinary activities.

Experience the thrill of what it was like to be an Olympic Bobsledder during the 1980 Winter Games on the new Cliffside Mountain Coaster at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, which boasts being the longest year-round mountain coaster in the USA. You control the ride – you have the ability to go as slow or as fast as you’d like. Race your family & friends alongside the 1980 bobsled track to the bottom. During the scenic ride to the top of the Cliffside Coaster you learn about the inspiring Olympic history of the Lake Placid Sliding Center.

Other attractions and recent upgrades to the Olympic Sites include the new Sky Flyer Zipline at the Lake Placid Olympic Jumping Complex, the new SkyRide Experience, an 8-person gondola that brings guests from the Olympic Jumping Complex’s base lodge to the 90-meter and 120-meter ski jump towers, a new glass-enclosed elevator ride to the top of the ski jumps for a panoramic vista of the Adirondack High Peaks (and to experience what the jumpers see as they start to accelerate towards the end of the ramp!), new Nordic trails at Mt. Van Hovenberg (where you can try your hand at the biathalon).

In Lake Placid village, visit the Olympic Center, skate at the Herb Brooks Arena and on the Olympic oval, and visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.

Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, Lake Placid © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is no lodging on the mountain (it’s a wilderness area, after all), but many lovely inns, bnbs, hotels and resorts nearby, including the Whiteface Lodge Resort & Spa and Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa.  We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, conveniently located in Lake Placid village, walking distance to everything, and accessible to a convenient shuttle bus to the mountain (www.golden-arrow.com).

Also High Peaks Resort which offers three unique lodging experiences overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondacks: The Resort, a traditional hotel featuring 105 guest rooms and suites (newly renovated in March 2020); the modern retro-vibe Lake House with 44 guest rooms; and the private and serene Waterfront Collection, featuring 28 guest rooms including 10 suites on the shores of Mirror Lake. Amenities available to all guests include the Spa & Salon at High Peaks Resort, two indoor and two outdoor heated pools, an indoor Jacuzzi, an on-site fully-equipped fitness center, and a full-service restaurant, Dancing Bears, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests also enjoy private access to Mirror Lake with complimentary use of skates, along with admission to Lake Placid’s full-service Nordic Center, Cascade Ski Center, with more than 12 miles of groomed trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing (complimentary use of showshoes).  Dogs are welcome, with special canine-friendly treats and amenities. (High Peaks Resort, 2384 Saranac Avenue, Lake Placid, NY 12946, 518-523-4411, 800-755-5598, www.highpeaksresort.com

The newest additions are The Lake Placid Inn (opened July 2020) and the Saranac Waterfront Lodge, an eco-luxe independent boutique hotel that opened Nov. 1, 2020.

Whiteface, Lake Placid, 800-462-6236, 518-946-2223; Olympic Center, 518-523-1655; vacation planning assistance at  whitefacenewyork.comlakeplacid.com, whiteface.com.

Gore Mountain

As a perennial blue-trail/intermediate skier, Gore Mountain is one of my favorite places to ski. Nestled in the Adirondacks, it offers expansive views of a real wilderness. You actually feel as if you were in the Rockies.

Gore Mountain is New York State’s largest ski and ride resort with. 439 skiable acres, it spans four mountains, including Gore, Bear Mountain, Burnt Ridge Mountain and Little Gore Mountain, a vertical drop of 2,537 feet from the summit at 3,600 ft,  121 trails (10% beginner, 50% intermediate and 40% advanced), including 110 alpine trails (longest is 4.4 miles), with 28 glades, 8 freestyle areas and 11 cross-country and snowshoe trails, all serviced by 14 lifts.

Skiing Gore Mountain, in the Adirondacks © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This season, Gore is unveiling two new lifts: a new quad replaces the High Peaks chair to deliver skiers toGore’s true summit, opening up fresh access to all four peaks and the entire Straight Brook Valley; and the Sunway Chair has been upgraded to a quad. The Cutoff trail in the Northwoods Area has been lengthened and redesigned to become an easier-rated trail. “Pete’s Paradise” now is an additional beginner option. There is also a significant increase in snowmaking capacity.

There is no on-mountain lodging, but there is the delightful Copperfield Inn (www.copperfieldinn.com/) in nearby North Creek which we enjoyed one Christmas; for a grand, luxurious stay, The Sagamore, in Bolton Landing on Lake George is 45 minutes away (www.thesagamore.com).

Gore Mountain, 793 Peaceful Valley Road, North Creek, NY 12853, Snow Phone: 518-251-5026, info 518-251-2411, info@goremountain.com,  goremountain.com.

More Winter Adirondack Activities

In addition to skiing and snowboarding at Whiteface in Lake Placid and Gore Mountain in North Creek, there are plenty of other ways to embrace the cold in the Adirondacks: hiking (including five fire tower trails in Hamilton County that travelers can visit and climb even in the winter!), cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, pond hockey, ice skating and ice fishing. 

Winter hike through Ausable Chasm, the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mirror Lake has plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy on the ice, including skating, cross country skiing, toboggan rides, dog sledding and skating on the Olympic Oval, just as the Olympians did. The Wild Center in Tupper Lake transforms into a winter playground once the snow hits – Winter Wild Walk, a learn-to ice-fish program, snowshoeing, and some other outdoor winter programming and activities. Oak Mountain (about 2 hours from Lake Placid) is a small family-friendly ski resort ideal for avoiding crowds and offers skiing, snowboarding and tubing along with disc golf and free snowshoeing. Ausable Chasm, the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, offers winter tours of frozen waterfalls and spectacular sights, less than an hour from Lake Placid. And at the end of the day, Main Street Lake Placid has plenty of boutique shops and restaurants to welcome visitors in from the cold.

The Adirondack Wayfinder, a new virtual service that showcases the park through thematic road trip itineraries, takes the guesswork out of planning where to go by allowing users to search through a variety of curated itineraries that appeal to different interests, from outdoor recreation, wide-open spaces and family-friendly itineraries to dining, brewery tours, and more. (www.adirondackwayfinder.com)

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Driveable Winter Destinations: Ski New York’s Catskill Mountains

Ski Windham Mountain in the Catskills, NY © Dave E. Leiberman/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York State is not only home to the most ski areas of any state (50), but also some of the best, which makes them particularly desirable this year when being outdoors – skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing –are some of the most healthful activities you can do, are driving distance accessible, and because you are staying within New York State, you don’t have to quarantine for 14 days on returning.

New York has been intense about COVID-19 protections, and has instituted regulations governing reduced capacity to afford social-distancing, mask-wearing (except for actively skiing or eating), instituting such things as cashless transactions, rules for riding the lifts, and limiting time in lodges and restaurants, and in some instances advance ticketing and reservations. But it also has meant pleasant modifications – more outdoor dining with heat, for example, plus cashless transactions.

But with the great demand for New York skiing, Scott Brandi, president of the NY Ski Areas Association recommends “Know before you go.” Check the sites in advance to check conditions and availability and book lift tickets and rental equipment in advance – for example, most holidays and weekends as well as season passes are sold out for ORDA areas but there may be availability for midweek visits (ISkiNY.com).

In just a few hours, downstate New Yorkers can be on the slopes in the Catskill Mountains, where three of the state’s most popular ski resorts are located:

Windham Mountain

Windham Mountain Resort, which began as a private club and preserves much of that same feeling, is a year-round destination in the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County, NY, less than three hours north of New York City, and now is part of Alterra Mountain’s IKON Pass program, which means passholders get priority in reservations during this period of on-mountain capacity restrictions.

Windham offers 1,600 vertical feet from a summit of 3,100 feet. Its 54 trails and six terrain parks provide 285 skiable acres, accessed by 12 lifts including a new high speed six-passenger detachable lift and two high-speed quads. Windham also offers night skiing on six trails (45 acres). In the last 3 years, the resort has spent $12 million to improve the guest experience and offers beginner packages, lodging, dining options, an Adventure Park, and full-service Alpine Spa.

Ski Windham Mountain in the Catskills, NY © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the improvements this season:

  • Lift capacity out of the base area continues to increase at Windham. C Lift, a fixed grip triple chair serving beginner and intermediate terrain on the lower half of the West Peak has been upgraded with the relocation of the high speed quad.
  • A portion of Wildcat, a trail in the Wilderness Bowl area added in 2015, has been widened.
  • Improved snowmaking and grooming
  • new European-inspired “Umbrella Bar” with room for 125 guests in enclosed, heated comfort is the centerpiece of a reenergized patio area.
  • A new a ski and snowboard simulator that offers guests the chance to ski or ride downhill race venues from around the world virtually while supporting the Adaptive Sports Foundation. This building will also house a new equipment valet and quick tune up station.
  • An upgraded booking system with new software that will allow guests to bundle lodging stays with lift tickets, lessons and rentals in one easy transaction.
  • An expanded Guest Services department and on-site call center.

Accommodations are plentiful in the area: Windham has renovated rooms at The Winwood Inna quaint lodging property in the village of Windham owned and operated by the mountain. The restaurant, Tavern 23, has also been “renovated and reinvented” and features classic American comfort food.

New: Whisper Creek condominiums, high-end ski-in/ski-out lodging located steps away from Whisper Run on Windham Mountain. Building amenities include heated pool and hot tubs, club room and fitness center, ski locker-room with boot dryers and heated parking. Units comfortably accommodate 8 – 10 people and are perfect for extended family gatherings, wedding parties and special events. Whisper Creek is a short stroll away from the Alpine Spa and the Windham Mountain base lodge and within walking distance of the Mountain Bike Park and Scenic Skyride in the summer.  (518-734-3000)

Also, the historic Thompson House, literally around the corner, where we enjoyed our stay, has the charm of an inn with amenities of a resort (The Thompson House, 19 Route 296, Windham NY 12496, 518-734-4510, info@ThompsonHouse, www.ThompsonHouse.com).

Windham Mountain, 19 Resort Drive, Windham, NY 12496, 800-754-9463; to check conditions, call the Snow Report Hoteline 800-729-4766, info@windhammountain.comwindhammountain.com.

Hunter Mountain

Now part of Vail Resorts, Hunter Mountain, a legendary New York State ski resort and the closest major full-service resort to New York City, is also part of the EPIC pass, and among the COVID-19 precautions and protocols that limit capacity on the mountain, EPIC Pass holders get priority in making reservations.

Four separate mountain faces encompass a wide variety of terrain which caters to skiers and riders of all ability levels.

Fairlawn Inn bed-and-breakfast, Hunter, NY, the Catskills (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hunter rises from 1600 ft base to 3200 summit, a 1600-ft vertical drop, 320 skiable acres (expanded from 240), 67 runs (up from 59; 25% beginner, 30% intermediate, 30% advanced and 15% expert) ) serviced by 13 lifts (increased from 12). It offers 4 gladed areas, 4 terrain parks.

Hunter also has a 1000-ft long tubing hill, one of the longest in NY, with its own Magic Carpet surface lift.

In response to COVID-19, Hunter has “reimagined” the resort experience, consistent with the policies and programs across the Vail Resorts brand.

Skiers are encouraged to use their own vehicles as their personal base lodge, since capacity is restricted. Transactions will be cashless; face coverings required at all times except when actively eating (EpicMix app makes it easier to manage Time to Dine). On-mountain restaurants are open but not bars. The equipment rental process has been streamlined, with seamless online booking, complimentary delivery service (so you skip the rental shop altogether).

On-mountain accommodations include The Kaatskill Mountain Club at Hunter Mountain (condos) and Liftside and Pinnacle condos in the village. There are many nearby bnbs, inns, lodges.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Fairlawn Inn, just a quarter-mile away from Hunter’s entrance. The historic, Victorian inn has been restored with modern amenities while keeping the charm and character of the original property. It is operating now with strict COVID-19 safety protocols. (7872 Main St (Hwy 23A), Hunter NY 12442, 518-263-5025, fairlawninn.com).

Hunter Mountain, Hunter, NY, 800-486-8376, huinfo@vailresorts.com, www.huntermtn.com

Belleayre Mountain

About three-hours drive from New York City, Belleayre Mountain is the nearest of three ski areas owned and operated by New York State’s Olympic Regional Development Authority, and included on ORDA’s pass programs. The ski area has been dramatically improved, turned into a four-season mountain destination. Among the improvements, the first gondola in the Catskills.

Catskill Thunder Gondola at Belleayre.

What I love best about Belleayre is its natural separation of beginners (from the mid-mountain to the base, with long beginner trails) and more advanced skiers. It affords a 1404 ft vertical drop from a 3429 ft summit, 51 runs on 175 skiable acres (longest is 2.2 miles; 22% beginner, 58% intermediate, 10% advanced, 10% expert), serviced by 8 lifts. Intermediates will enjoy Deer Run, which meanders through a beautiful part of the mountain. The ski resort also features five glades, one terrain park, one progression park and one X-course. Cross-country skiers can enjoy 9.2 kilometers of ungroomed, unpatrolled trails.

There is no on-mountain lodging, but quaint inns and lodges nearby in Fleischmann’s, Pine Hill, Big Indian, Phoenicia, Shandaken and Margaretville (see www.belleayre.com/plan-your-visit/lodging/)

(Belleayre, Highmount, NY 12441, 800-942-6904, 845-254,5600, www.belleayre.com).

See:  

A BLUEBIRD DAY OF SPRING SKIING AT WINDHAM MOUNTAIN

3-DAY FALL GETAWAY IN THE CATSKILLS: FAIRLAWN INN IS SUPERB HUB FOR EXPLORING THE HUDSON RIVER VALLEY

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Surging Demand, Limited Capacity Encourages Skiers to Discover New York’s Lesser Known Areas (There are 50)

Family enjoys expanded outdoor dining at Greek Peak. The strong desire for outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, coupled with capacity restrictions, is encouraging visitors to discover more of New York State’s 50 ski areas. Areas have found innovative, pleasurable ways to adapt to the state’s COVID-19 requirements (photo provided by Greek Peak).

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing in the brisk fresh air of greater outdoors will be salvation to get through this dark winter of isolation. Fortunately, New York State, with 50 ski areas (more than any other state), is gearing up, putting in the protocols to keep everyone safe and healthy, doing what will be the safest and healthiest way to be active this winter. Just being outdoors will be a tonic for body and soul.

ISkiNY.com (Ski Areas of New York) is a sort of one-stop online place to learn about the various mountain resorts and ski areas and overall New York State policies to address (and contain) COVID-19. All areas are under capacity constraints (50% of their busiest day last season) and visitors must follow rules for wearing masks (an actual mask, not a gaiter) at all times except when actively skiing or eating. Most require or strongly recommend purchasing tickets online in advance (and are selling out because of limits) – even season pass holders, who have priority, may be required to make advance reservations. Also, areas are limiting time that can be spent indoors in the lodges (recommending using your own vehicle as a kind of base lodge), and with limited après-ski opportunities, are promoting day-trips to ski areas within driving distance. Fortunately, with 50 areas throughout the state, just about everyone lives within 2 ½ hours of a ski area and staying in-state means that New Yorkers won’t have to quarantine after returning from a long-haul ski trip. (See more at ISkiNY.com).

Because of reduced capacity and super-charged demand the best known, most popular full-service resorts like Whiteface (Lake Placid), Gore Mountain, Belleayre, Hunter (now part of Vail, on the Epic pass) and Windham (part of IKON pass), may well be at capacity especially for the holidays and weekends. So this will certainly be the season to explore some new ski destinations – areas, often that have been operating for decades, that are wildly popular with locals.  

And with this incredible blizzard that dumped a huge base of snow, just about everywhere in the state has great conditions, in time for opening day.

All but the three ski resorts that are owned by New York State’s Olympic Regional Development Authority (Whiteface, Gore, Belleayre) and Hunter (now owned by Vail Resorts) are independently owned, many going back decades, and offer their own particular personality, character and sense of community. Most are ski areas, not full-service resorts, but that may be just the ticket this year, for a quick day’s getaway on the slopes, no need to hang around for après-ski.

All have made accommodations to keep as much outside as possible – ticketing (many are cashless, and require advance reservations), setting up outside warmers, limiting time inside for dining, encouraging people to use their own vehicles as their base lodge. But all of the areas have made marvelous accommodations and innovations to bring more activities outdoors, continue to offer ski school, snow tubing, added firepits and grab n’go food, to preserve the spirit and joy of schussing down the slopes.

“While our number one goal is to run a safe operation this season, it is also our goal to ensure that our guests do not incur any additional stress or inconvenience when they visit West Mountain”, said Spencer Montgomery, Co-Owner and Managing Member of West Mountain in Queensbury.

“Sure, things will be a little different operationally this year, but our staff is here to provide an enjoyable and stress-free environment. People have already been through so much this year; skiing and riding is a chance to simply enjoy being outdoors with friends and family.”

“We are looking forward to welcoming our guests this winter to enjoy the outdoors”, said Sara Montgomery, General Manager of West Mountain. “With so many families at home doing virtual learning this year, getting on the mountain and getting exercise will be a much-needed activity and escape!”

“Know before you go,” Scott Brandi, President Ski Areas of New York, recommends. Check ahead for conditions and availability.

Here are just a few of the ski resorts and areas to explore:

Greek Peak

Greek Peak’s night skiing. The resort has a 6,000 sq. ft. deck off its Trax Pub & Grill for outdoor dining (photo by Drew Broderick, Greek Peak)

The Greek Peak Ski Resort is a full-service, four-season resort and the largest ski area in Central New York. It has a 952 ft. vertical drop from a 2100 ft summit. It’s varied terrain (220 skiable acres) offers 56 runs (35% beginner, 29% intermediate, 27% advanced, 9% double-black diamond, 4 terrain parks and half pipe), serviced by six chair lifts and two carpet lifts; the longest run is 1.5 miles, plus night skiing.  There’s also 8 km of Nordic terrain (natural, so depends on conditions) and snowshoeing.

The Adventure Center has a mountain coaster, guided zipline tours even in winter (by reservation), snowtubing (10-12 lanes).

Located in the Finger Lakes, Greek Peak offers an Adirondack-style lodge, Hope Lake Lodge (151 rooms, sleeping 4-10 people) as well as log home (sleeps 14, across from slopes), outdoor heated pool,  indoor water park with wave pool (water slides and hot tubs are currently closed under COVID-19 regulations).

Open, all year, Greek Peak is already compliant with COVID-19 restrictions and made the adaptations.

Dining inside is limited to 50% capacity. Children’s programs are exclusively outside (no nursery); there are new family lessons

“We are already seeing new people, who want to get outside and want to learn to ski,” says Drew Broderick, VP of sales & marketing.

They’ve added food and beverage service outside, “fresh tracks” which is a ski  in/out grab n go, adding menu items to the waffle shack and may add food carts.

Since being acquired in 2015 by John and Christine Meier, the resort has made more than $1.5 million improvements including adding a high-speed detachable quad, new groomers, snowmaking (78 guns added this year), the “Big Bear Activity Zone” at Cascades Indoor Waterpark, a 41,000 sq. ft. park with 500 ft. of slides, wavepool and hot tubs, open year round.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort, 2000 NYS Rte 392, Cortland, NY 13045, 800-955-2754, greekpeak.net

Plattekill Mountain

Privately owned and operated by the Vajtay family, Plattekill Mountain in the northwestern Catskills, with 38 trails and terrain, offers “authentic mountain experience.” Powder Magazine (Dec. 2018), described Plattekill as “The Alta of the Catskills.” It offers wide variety for skiers and snowboarders: 38 runs ranging from 2-mile long beginner cruisers to steep double black diamonds with 1100’ vertical from its 3500 ft. high summit, accessed by 4 lifts (20% easier, 40% intermediate, 20% black, 20% double black), a “natural terrain park” nestled in the woods between the Lower Face and Shredded Mozzarella trails.  “Big mountain terrain, small mountain charm.”

New this season: widening, clearing beginner and intermediate trails; installation of new snowmaking pump to improve snowmaking; new wireless technology; new “Platty Shack” with outdoor deck for quick grab and go items; new ‘order online’ option in cafeteria; new online shopping for tickets and rentals eliminating lines at rental shop.

Plattekill Mountain, 469 Plattekill Road, Roxbury, NY 12474, 607-326-3500, info@plattekill.com, plattekill.com

Catamount Mountain Resort

Catamount Mountain Resort is a four-season resort straddling the NY/Massachusetts border just about 2 hours from NYC. “With its sister resort, Berkshire East, Catamount is one fun mountain with some of the best steeps in southern New England and some of the best beginner and intermediate terrain.” Catamount has undergone a stunning transformation since the summer of 2018: new lift, new lodge, hundreds of new snow guns, four snow making ponds, miles of pipe, and countless other upgrades which make Catamount one of the best small ski areas on the East coast. 

It has a 1,000 ft vertical from the 2000 ft summit, 38 runs on 133 skiable acres (40% beginner, 35% intermediate, 15% advanced, 10% expert); longest run is 2 miles, and intermediates get to ski 1.25 miles from summit to base on turnpike Upper and Lower Sidewinder; for advanced, the double black Catapult is the steepest trail in the Berkshires and  its Upper/Lower Glade to Off Stage provides a half-mile of moguls; night skiing on 15 trails (more than 4 miles worth)

Catamount also boasts North America’s longest zip line, one of the largest aerial adventure parks on the East Coast. 

Tickets must be purchased in advance.

Catamount, Hillsdale, NY, 518-325-3200, info@catamountski.com, https://catamountski.com/

West Mountain

Nestled at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, conveniently accessed just off I-87,  West Mountain towers over Glens Falls in Albany’s backyard, and with night skiing, is popular with people getting in a few runs after work.

Family-owned and operated, West Mountain continues to evolve to meet the needs of families as well as skiing and riding loyalists and year-round outdoor enthusiasts.

West Mountain offers a 1010 vertical drop from the 1470 ft. summit, 31 trails on 124 skiable acres (36% beginner, 55% intermediate, 9% advanced, one terrain park), accessed by four lifts, with night skiing on 105 acres. Also a tubing park with 10 lanes of tubing for all ages and abilities. 6-packs are for sale now that provide 6 tubing tickets, lift tickets or aerial treetop adventure tickets for the price of 5.  

The mountain staff has been focused on creating new, safe and innovative operations and programs to run this season including: a new Freestyle Development Program; a new Alpine Racing Academy for U12+ athletes; Learn to Ski and Snowboard packages for youth and adult first-time beginners. During non-holiday periods, West Mountain will offer popular ticket promotions such as Monday and Tuesday 4-hour ticket specials and breakfast or lunch plus lift ticket specials.

West Mountain has introduced new programs this year including freestyle skiing (photo by FreesrideMedia for West Mountain)

The resort has been open throughout COVID-19 pandemic offering safe, outdoor and socially distanced activities. For this season, there are additional outdoor eating and seating areas, warming tents, grab-n-go food and beverage windows, additional outdoor restrooms and controlled capacity at the two separate base-lodge areas (Main Base Lodge and Northwest Base Lodge).

West Mountain, 59 West Mountain Road, Queensbury, NY 12804, 518.636.3699, WestMountain.com

Mount Peter

Mount Peter, set in picturesque Warwick Valley, is the oldest operating ski area in New York State, and one of only a few remaining family-operated ski areas in America. For more than 80 years, Mount Peter has been a wintertime destination for skiing or snowboarding on 14 expertly groomed trails, 600-foot tubing run (separate Little Tikes tubing for kids under 42”), and night skiing.

Booking online is highly recommended.

Mount Peter, 51 Old Mt. Peter Road, Warwick, NY 10990T: (845) 986-4940, info@mtpeter.com, mtpeter.com

Bristol Mountain

Bristol Mountain, in Canandaigua, opened for their 56th season of operation. Located in the Western Finger Lakes Region, it offers 38 trails on 138 acres of skiable terrain and a 1200’ vertical drop from a 2200 ft. summit, accessed by six lifts including two high-speed quads. The terrain accommodates all ages and ability levels with 32% reserved for beginner, 50% intermediate and 18% advanced, including 97% lighted for night skiing terrain and 97% snowmaking coverage; the longest run is 2 miles.

Bristol Mountain has a top notch learning center, as well as two terrain parks that cater to all ability levels and 3 km of Nordic trails.

Bristol Mountain’s North Star Village Townhouses offer affordable ski-in/ski-out lodging with built in deals with their Ski & Stay programs.

Located in the Western Finger Lakes Region, Bristol Mountain offers 38 trails on 138 acres of skiable terrain and a 1200’ vertical drop from a 2200 ft. summit, accessed by six lifts including two high-speed quads (photo provided by Bristol Mountain)

Capacity at the mountain will be monitored and limited on busy days or when the mountain has limited terrain (i.e. early season). Reservations will be required for card products and lift ticket sales but currently will not be required for season pass products that allow direct- to-lift access (picture passes).

Lodge capacity will be limited this winter. Guests are asked to limit their time in the lodges to 15-30 minutes to warm up and use the restrooms. The mountain requests that guests arrive prepared and use their vehicle as their base lodge.                                                     

Bristol Mountain, 5662 Route 64, Canandaigua, NY 14424, 585-374-6000, fun@bristolmt.com, bristolmt.com.

Thunder Ridge Ski Area

Thunder Ridge Ski Area, located in Patterson, NY, may be the closest and easiest ski areas to reach from NYC, just 60 minutes drive from and accessible on Metro North (shuttle from Patterson train station). Thunder Ridge offers 100 percent snowmaking coverage on its 22 trails on 100 acres (40% beginner, 40% intermediate, 20% advanced, the longest run is 0.4 miles). A gentle mountain, it has a 500 ft drop from the summit at 1270 ft. Night skiing.

Thunder Ridge, 12563 Patterson, NY, 845-878-4100, thunderridge@cyburban.com. https://thunderridgeski.com/

Holiday Valley

Holiday Valley, Ellicottville, NY (50 miles south of Buffalo) is Western New York’s largest year ‘round resort featuring 60 slopes and trails and features a mountain coaster (photo provided by Holiday Valley).

Holiday Valley, Ellicottville, NY (50 miles south of Buffalo) is Western New York’s largest year ‘round resort featuring 60 slopes and trails, 13 lifts, 3 base lodges, slope side lodging and dining, conference facilities, a tree top aerial adventure park and a mountain coaster, and 18 hole golf course. 

Holiday Valley is in compliance with New York State’s COVID restrictions on operating the ski terrain and indoor services. Masks are required at all times except when skiing down the slope or while seated to eat or drink. Reduced capacity in the lodges and eating areas, as well as spacing in the lift lines and on the chairlifts will allow for proper social distancing. Advanced purchase of lift tickets online is encouraged, especially on holidays and busy weekends. Cleaning and sanitizing practices have been stepped up in the lodges, in the food service areas and in the restrooms. Guests are encouraged to limit their time spent indoors.

Holiday Valley, 6557 Holiday Valley Road, Route 219, Ellicottville, NY 14731, 716-699-2345, www.holidayvalley.com

Holimont Ski Area

Holimont, nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, is a private ski area with member families from the United States and Canada. Non-members may use the facilities on non-holiday weekdays, and new members are welcome. It offers a 700 ft. drop from 2260 ft. summit, 55 trails on 135 skiable acres (25% beginner, 31% intermediate, 44% advanced, ), 3 terrain parks, longest run is 1.5 miles,  (100% snowmaking)

Holimont, Ellicottville NY 14731, 716-699-2320, info@holimont.com, holimont.com

Hunt Hollow Ski Club

Located near Naples, New York (near Rochester), Hunt Hollow Ski Club offers 400 acres of accessible winter recreation space. With an 825-foot vertical drop from a 2030 ft. summit, it offers 19 trails over 400 skiable acres (32% beginner, 21% intermediate, 37% advanced, 11% expert), accessed by a triple-chair, double-chair, T-bar and a surface lift service (100% snowmaking). There is night skiing. Also, 2.5 miles of Nordic trails and a terrain park.

Hunt Hollow Ski Club, 7532 County Road 36, Naples NY 14512, 585-374-5428, info@hunthollow.com, hunthollow.com.

An excellent source: https://www.onthesnow.com/new-york/ski-resorts.html.

For more information, contact ISkiNY.com.

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Ikon Passholders Get Priority Access to Alterra Mountains; Windham NY Becomes 43rd Ski Destination

Ski Killington, Vermont, the largest destination ski resort in the Northeast, on the Ikon Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

With all that is impacting mountain resorts, from wildfires to COVID-19, the major ski resort companies are focusing on drive-markets and alleviating uncertainty with pass flexibility and refundability, as well as significantly changing mountain operations to incorporate the highest health protocols.

Here in the Northeast, Ikon Pass, the seasonal pass program of Alterra Mountain Company (most famous for Aspen and Snowmass mountains, but the owner/operator of 15 others and partnerships with dozens more around the nation and worldwide), is expanded with the addition of Windham Mountain, in New York’s Catskill Mountains, an easy drive from the New York metro and Long Island. This is in addition to Stratton, Sugarbush Resort, and Killington in Vermont, giving the Ikon Pass that much more value to Northeast skiers.

Ski Windham in New York State’s Catskill Mountains becomes the 43rd ski destination accessible on Alterra Mountain Company’s Ikon Pass. Passholders will have priority access this season, when there will be capacity limits © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Alterra Mountain is not just prioritizing access for season pass holders in order to tightly regulate the number of daily lift tickets that will be available, but eliminating day tickets and walk-up window sales; the sale of some undated lift ticket products will be discontinued until further notice. While it is not instituting an advance reservation system at the 15 destinations that Alterra Mountain owns and operates, the dozens of partner resorts may have their own advance reservation protocols this season (check the sites).

“The pandemic has disrupted our lives in so many unpredictable ways,” Rusty Gregory, Alterra Mountain Company’s Chief Executive Officer, stated. “Medical professionals and scientists tell us that this constantly changing dynamic will likely continue until effective vaccines and therapeutics are developed and become available to the general public. Alterra Mountain Company and our destinations are committed to staying on top of the inevitable changes to come as best practices and health regulations throughout the two countries, six states, three Canadian provinces and 15 mountain communities in which we operate rapidly evolve. Our teams will communicate these changes to you as soon as possible so we can all adjust and plan accordingly.”

Alta Ski Area, Utah, is part of the Ikon Pass network © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year, to address the extraordinary conditions, Ikon Pass introduced Adventure Assurance, free for all passholders, designed to alleviate uncertainty and provide flexibility for the 20/21 passes.

Ikon Pass holders may elect to defer the purchase price paid for their unused 20/21 Ikon Pass to the 21/22 winter season. Or, if passes are used and there is an eligible COVID-19-related closure at any North American Ikon Pass destination, Ikon Pass holders will receive a credit toward a 21/22 Ikon Pass based on the percentage of days closed, more details below. Expanded Adventure Assurance coverage is free and included with every previously purchased 20/21 Ikon Pass and new 20/21 Ikon Pass purchases. (Details and terms and conditions at the Adventure Assurance Program page and Ikon Pass FAQ.)

“We understand that there is still pass holder uncertainty around winter 20/21, and we aim to offer Ikon Pass holders peace of mind and more time to make the best decisions,” said Erik Forsell, Alterra’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Pass holders can ski a little, ride a lot, or defer the purchase price of their unused 20/21 Ikon Pass, we’ve got them covered. We look forward to next winter, sweet days await us.”

Winter Park, Colorado is part of the Ikon Pass network © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The different Ikon Pass products include Ikon Pass, Ikon Base Pass, Ikon Base Pass with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort & Aspen Snowmass Access, and Ikon Session Pass 4-Day. The Ikon Pass is on sale now at www.ikonpass.com.

Ikon Pass continues to expand access across North America with the addition of Mt. Bachelor in Oregon and Windham Mountain in New York for the 2020/2021 season, bringing the total number of destinations accessible on Ikon Pass to 43.

Ikon Pass holders will have access to seven days each at Mt. Bachelor and Windham Mountain with no blackout dates, and Ikon Base Pass holders will have access to five days each, with select blackout dates.

Just two and a half hours north of New York City, Windham Mountain boasts 285 skiable acres across 54 trails serviced by 11 lifts, six terrain parks, an award-winning snowsports school, Terrain Based Learning™, lodging, on-mountain dining, an Adventure Park, a full-service spa, and sunset skiing (on select nights during the season), all in a private-club like atmosphere. In summer, Windham offers the Windham Mountain Bike Park famous for its World Cup course and a three-mile-long beginner trail and Windham Country Club with an 18-hole public golf course.

Ikon Pass Gives Access to 43 Destinations

Copper Mountain, Colorado is in the Ikon Pass network © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.comopper Mountain, Colorado

The 43 destinations on the Ikon Pass span the Americas, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan and include such iconic mountain resorts as Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park, Copper Mountain Resort, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, and Eldora Mountain Resort in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming; Big Sky Resort in Montana; Stratton, Sugarbush Resort, and Killington in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain in Michigan; Crystal Mountain and The Summit at Snoqualmie in Washington; Tremblant in Quebec and Blue Mountain in Ontario, Canada; SkiBig3 in Alberta, Canada; Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Cypress Mountain in British Columbia, Canada; Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine; Loon Mountain in New Hampshire; Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico; Deer Valley Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Brighton Resort, Alta Ski Area, and Snowbird in Utah; Zermatt in Switzerland; Thredbo and Mt Buller in Australia; Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Mt Hutt in New Zealand; Niseko United in Japan, and Valle Nevado in Chile.

Special offers are available at CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures, one of the world’s largest heli-skiing and heli-accessed hiking operations. For more information, visit www.ikonpass.com.

In addition to the 15 year-round mountain destinations, one of the world’s largest heli-ski operation and the Ikon Pass program, Alterra Mountain Company owns and operates a range of recreation, hospitality, real estate development, food and beverage, retail and service businesses out of its Denver, Colorado headquarters. For more information, visit www.alterramtnco.com.

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass Comes With Special Privileges to Meet COVID-19 Precautions

Okemo Mountain Resort, Vermont. skiing is one of the best winter travel experiences for these unprecedented times – you can’t think of a better place to socially distance and breathe fresh air or a better way to be active, get blood flowing and endorphins popping and adrenalin firing. Vail Resorts is taking precautions to maximize safety and health, including controlling capacity on the mountain. Epic Pass holders will get priority for reservations © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass which gives access to dozens of resorts across the country and around the world including here in the Northeast, driving distance from New York, Long Island and the Boston metro markets  – has always afforded value (paying for themselves in as few as four days of skiing). But beyond discounts and extra value, the Epic Pass this year affords membership status and priority to reserve time on the slopes in face of capacity restrictions.

And you can maximize the value by early-bird purchasing ahead of deadlines (the deadline for Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass has been extended to Sept. 17).

When you think about it, skiing is one of the best travel experiences for winter – you can’t think of a better place to socially distance and breathe fresh air or a better way to be active, get blood flowing and endorphins popping and adrenalin firing. Mountain resorts also afford many safe lodging options, including condos so you can prepare your own meals. What is more, there are many spectacular mountain resorts within driving distance.

“We are fortunate that our core experience of skiing and riding takes place outdoors, across huge mountains, offering fresh air and wide-open spaces for our guests. However, to help protect our guests, our employees and our communities amid this pandemic, some changes will be required this season,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz wrote guests.  “It has been our goal to design an approach that can remain in place for all of the 2020/21 season. We do not want to be caught off guard or find ourselves needing to make reactionary changes. Striving for consistency will provide our guests, employees and communities with as much predictability as possible this season, which we believe is worth the extra effort.”

Key changes include:

Guests will be required to wear face coverings to get on the mountain and in all parts of resort operations, including in lift lines and riding in lifts and gondolas.

To maintain physical distancing on our chairlifts and gondolas, we will only be seating related parties (guests skiing or riding together) or: two singles on opposite sides of a four-person lift; two singles or two doubles on opposite sides of a six-person lift; or two singles on opposite sides of our larger gondola cabins.

Ski and ride school will be offered and on-mountain dining will be open, but with changes to help keep guests safe.

Mountain access will be managed to ensure guests have the space they need. As such, the Company announced a mountain access reservation system and limits on lift tickets to prioritize its pass holders.

“For the vast majority of days during the season, we believe everyone who wants to get on our mountains will be able to. However, we are not planning for the majority of days, we are planning for every day of the season,” said Katz. “We want to provide assurance to our guests that we will do our very best to minimize crowds at all times – be it a holiday weekend or the unpredictable powder day. We believe this approach will help ensure a safe experience for everyone, while prioritizing access for our pass holders.”

The intoxicating view at Park City Mountain, Utah, which after being combined with The Canyons, is the biggest ski area in the US © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A key element is reducing and controlling capacity, so a new reservation system is being implemented, with priority for Epic Pass holders:

Pass holders will be required to make a reservation before arriving at the mountain. 

Throughout the season, pass holders will be able to make as many week-of reservations as their pass type and availability allow.  

The early season will be reserved for pass holders only. Vail will begin selling lift tickets Dec. 8.  

In addition to week-of reservations, pass holders can book up to seven Priority Reservation Days for the core season (Dec. 8-April 4), or as many days of access as they have on their pass if less than seven.

The booking window for Priority Reservation Days will open Nov. 6 and will be exclusive to pass holders until Dec. 7.  

As pass holders use their Priority Reservation Days, they can book new ones, maintaining up to seven (or however many days of access are remaining on their pass) at any time. In addition, pass holders can always make as many week-of reservations as they choose (or however many days of access are remaining on their pass). 

Families will be able to book reservations together if they are in the same pass holder account. 

While still subject to change, at this time Epic Pass holders will not need a reservation to access Vail’s partner resorts (Telluride, Sun Valley, Snowbasin, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, Hakuba or Rusutsu in Japan).   

Lift tickets (including Buddy and SWAF tickets) will go on sale on Dec. 8, with sales limited based on the number of spaces available for any given day after the exclusive pass holder reservation period. This season, lift tickets will be sold with a reservation for a specific resort on a specific date. 

Given the need to manage lift tickets sales, they will only be sold on Vail’s websites and through its call centers. No lift tickets will be sold at the ticket window in resort – you may only pickup your pre-purchased lift ticket at the ticket windows. Guests are encouraged to purchase in advance, though guests can purchase a same day lift ticket online or through call centers, subject to availability, and then pick up the lift ticket at the ticket window.  

To make the reservation system as easy to use as possible, pass holders will be able to book reservations to any of the Vail resorts, and for all dates, on EpicPass.com. Booking a reservation will turn on pass access for that day, so there will be no need for pass holders to bring anything but their pass and access the mountain as usual.   

Skiing Kirkwood, one of Vail’s three ‘Best of Tahoe’ resorts © Eric Leiberman/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

To provide additional peace of mind, Vail is including Epic Coverage free this season for all pass holders. It allows for refunds:  If pass holders are unable to book their preferred Priority Reservation Days during the initial booking window (Nov. 6-Dec. 7) and if they have not used their pass yet. 

If there is a resort closure due to certain events such as COVID-19 during a pass holders’ initial Priority Reservation Days selected by Dec. 7. (There will still be an option for pass holders to choose to cover the core season instead.) 

If pass holders experience an eligible personal event that prevents them from using their pass, such as job loss, injury or illness.  

To give guests more time to consider the changes, the Company’s Labor Day deadline has been extended to Sept. 17, including the deadline to use pass holder credits from last season.

“There is no doubt this season will be different but we are committed to what matters most: working to protect our guests, employees and communities and doing everything we can to provide great skiing and riding all season long,” Katz said.

Ski Heavenly, Lake Tahoe (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

To provide the safest experience for guests, Vail is implementing these procedures:

Physical Distancing on Chairlifts and Gondolas: To maintain physical distancing on chairlifts and gondolas, only related parties (guests skiing or riding together) or two singles on opposite sides of a four-person lift will be seated together; two singles or two doubles on opposite sides of a six-person lift; or two singles on opposite sides of our larger gondola cabins. 

Physical Distancing in On-Mountain Restaurants: Vail will open all on-mountain restaurants this season, but to allow for physical distancing, the number of people will be restricted in accordance with public health requirements. Full-service, sit down restaurants will operate with reduced seating, spaced to enable physical distancing. At most of the large, quick-service restaurants, “scramble areas” will be reconfigured to have a cafeteria-style approach, where guest come in, go through a single line, and pass all the food options until they get to the cashier.  

Food options in quick-service restaurants will be more limited this season, with just a handful of ready-to-go hot and cold options and no ability for any custom or special orders. Tables will be spaced in seating areas to allow for physical distancing while eating. There will also be as much outdoor seating as possible. Guest are recommended to avoid the peak lunch rush and encouraged to bring their own water, snacks and other food.  

Packaged beer and wine will be available for sale at most of locations, but there won’t be full-service bars, on or off the mountain. All transactions will be cashless (unless required by local regulations). 

Physical distancing in Ski & Snowboard Rental Locations: Guests and employees will be required to wear face coverings, and for the portions of the process that require close interactions with our technicians, our employees will take additional precautions, including wearing eye protection and gloves. Equipment will be fully sanitized between each guest use and rental delivery service expanded to provide enhanced options for guests to rent equipment outside of the store locations.  

Health Screenings within Ski and Ride School: All employees will be required to undergo health screenings. “We are taking this same precaution with our ski and ride school participants, given that physical distancing may not always be possible during a lesson such as when the group rides lifts and gondolas or eats lunch together. With this in mind, all participants will be required to undergo and confirm an online self-health screening prior to arriving at the mountain for their lesson.”  

Limiting class size of group and private lessons to a maximum six people. “While we plan to continue many of our season-long youth programs offered at many of our resorts, we will be suspending most other smaller specialty programs this winter.”  

Lessons will need to be purchased in advance – no walk-up, day-of lessons will be available. A mountain access reservation will be included with the purchase of a ski school lesson. A lift ticket or eligible pass product will be required if the student will be riding a lift. 

Mount Snow, Vermont: Under Vail Resorts’ new protocols this winter, lessons will need to be pre-booked; riding the bubble chair will be limited to family or groups © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Next Steps: Each of the Vail resorts will continue to work closely with all local community stakeholders to ensure policies are aligned. 

“Success for this season can only happen with close collaboration and partnership in each community. While we have designed our winter operating plan to comply with and at times exceed all known applicable laws, our operations will remain subject to the local regulations in each of our resort locations. These may change at any time, either ahead of or during the ski season. Resorts will have a dedicated page on each of their websites that will provide the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 impacts,” Katz wrote.

Epic Day Pass products offer up to a 50% discount off lift tickets. Find more details on Vail’s various pass products, reservation system, Epic Coverage and the new Epic Mountain Rewards program at www.epicpass.com.

Vail Resorts, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is a leading global mountain resort operator. Vail Resorts’ subsidiaries operate 37 world-class mountain resorts and urban ski areas, including resorts that are driving distance from the New York and Boston metro areas: Stowe, Mount Snow, Okemo in Vermont; Hunter Mountain in New York; Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat and Crotched in New Hampshire. Also, such renowned resorts as Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada; Perisher, Falls Creek and Hotham in Australia.

More information at www.snow.com.

See also:

Bubble Chairs, Great Snowmaking Give Okemo Mountain Resort an Edge

Park City Mountain, Utah: Biggest Ski Area in US is One of Easiest to Reach

Skiing Kirkwood: It’s All About the Mountain

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

A Bluebird Day of Spring Skiing at Windham Mountain

A bluebird day to ski Windham Mountain, Catskills, NY © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Travel is vitally important to rejuvenating one’s body and soul, not to mention providing life-enhancing experience, new learning and new understanding; it offers a chance for bonding with loved ones, making new friends and building new relationships. Concern for the coronavirus is causing many of us to withdraw and miss out. But because travel offers a universe of possibilities, there are options that might better suit the circumstances, and many travel suppliers are doing their best to accommodate travelers and alleviate concerns.

Many are waiving cancellation penalties, reissue and change fees if destinations become impacted or allowing changes and rebooking for future trips.

As a rule of thumb, we are suggesting people think Great Outdoors where you can be active in clean fresh air and avoid crowds, density and proximity. And if concerned about mass travel (even though airlines are doing their level best to assure passengers of healthy environments), choosing destinations that are within driving distance. Indeed, this is a great time to enjoy spring skiing in the Northeast’s many world-class mountain ski areas and resorts, from New England to New York State.

Resorts like Windham Mountain are being scrupulous about health precautions, even limiting crowds to promote social distancing.

Also, look for deals as this season winds up: ski areas like Gore Mountain are inviting people to pre-purchase next season’s passes at discounted prices and have free skiing for the rest of the season.

By Dave E. Leiberman and Laini Miranda

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

This past Sunday, we were lucky enough to ski Windham Mountain in New York’s Catskills on a windless, bluebird spring-like day. After a few colder nights and some flurries during the week, every trail was covered by a snow pack that managed to maintain just the right level of softness, from our first run almost through to last chair. The combination of perfect weather, enjoyable snow conditions, great demo skis, and an idyllic lunch on the terrace picnic tables at the midmountain Wheelhouse Lodge made it a truly memorable ski day. 

Ski Windham Mountain, Catskills, NY ©Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We woke up at 5:30am (which felt like 4:30 due to Daylight Savings Time) in the Manhattan Financial District, slid onto the FDR drive, grabbed delicious bagels on Route 4 in Jersey, and were at the Windham Demo Center next to the D lift by 9am. Whether you are in the market for new skis or just interested in cruising on the highest performance skis, renting from the demo center is an easy and worthwhile experience. Ideally positioned next to the D Lift, the Demo Center shack lets you ski in and out to test a range of top quality skis without losing any time on the slopes.

Ski Windham Mountain, Catskills, NY ©Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Like Nascar drivers at a pit stop, we popped in to swap skis a few times throughout the day, stepping our boots onto the platform for them to quickly change the bindings and send us on our way. Peter and Dave are extremely knowledgeable and set us up with Volkl Yumi’s and a gorgeous pair of Stockli Stormrider’s, a “Windham classic”. (The ski and boot package is $90 for the day). While the rental shop just a few steps away carries a great line of Rossignols (changed out every three years so that one-third of their fleet is always new), the Demo Center has a huge range of new season skis (Armada, Atomic, Blizzard, Dynastar, Head, Kastle, Nordica, Salomon, Stockli, Rossignol, Volkl, etc.). Our Rossignol Alltrack Elite 100 AT boots felt brand new too.

Ski Windham Mountain, Catskills, NY © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For a great start to the day, we took Upper Wraparound (Blue) to Wolf’s Prey (Blue-Black), down to the mid-mountain G lift (the East Peak Express Quad), which took us to a group of nice wide Blacks. (East Peak also offers a leisurely 1.4-mile perimeter Green, Wanderer, which we also enjoyed.) On soft snow, intermediate and advanced skiers will enjoy skiing every level trail at Windham, and it’s easy to pop between East and West peaks because everything converges to the same base. The efficiency of the mountain’s design was also reflected in our chairlift wait times, which ranged from zero seconds (most common) to a maximum of two minutes. We loved zig-zagging from West Peak F lift (the Westside Six) to the East Peak G. The slightly slower (and quieter) B Lift (the Wheelchair Double) will take you to a series of fun double blacks on the West Peak, including the long and windy Wide Connection to Upper Wipeout. Lower Wipeout will take you through a lovely village of slope-side houses that will give you real estate envy (5 home sites are still available to buy! And at least one is available to rent on VRBO). The Whisper Creek ski-in, ski-out condominiums are also available for sale or rent. 

Windham started out as a private club and continues to offer that ambiance. It is just the right size to offer lots of variety in skiing, but compact enough to make you feel very comfortable. 

Windham offers 1,600 vertical feet from a summit of 3,100 feet. Its 54 trails and six terrain parks provide 285 skiable acres, accessed by 12 lifts including a new high speed six-passenger detachable lift and two high-speed quads. Windham also offers night skiing on six trails (45 acres).

Ski Windham Mountain, Catskills, NY ©Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In the spirit of the low-key social club vibe, Wheelhouse Lodge is a no-frills, mid-mountain dining option with fantastic hearty chili, a new taco bar (open on weekends and holidays), and an unbeatable view. On a warm sunny day like the one we had, a lunch on the patio with almost 360 mountain views is hard to top. 

In the last two years, the resort has spent $12 million to improve the guest experience.

“In a time of industry consolidation, strong, independent resort competition continues to carve out unique guest-focused experiences and provide an alternative to crowding and other downside impacts of acquisitions and mergers,” the resort states. “A passion-powered outdoor community with the support of an active investor group, Windham is well-positioned to continue offering a more boutique and personal experience to skiers and riders in the Catskills. Windham Mountain is a place to get lost and found again, to find stunning adventure close to home, and to be reminded of how good it feels to be alive with family and friends in the fresh air.”

A blue bird day skiing at Windham Mountain, Catskills, NY © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the improvements for this season, snowmaking was increased, which is reaping benefits for keeping the base robust for spring skiing. There’s also a brand new, 33-foot diameter European-inspired “Umbrella Bar” with an enclosed, heated dome in the center of the reenergized patio area between the base lodge and the lift lodging area. Other improvements include renovated rooms at The Winwood Inn, a quaint lodging property in the village of Windham owned and operated by the mountain; a newly renovated an reinvented restaurant at the inn called Tavern 23 (classic American comfort food); an upgraded booking system with new software that allows guests to bundle lodging stays with lift tickets, lessons, and even rentals in one easy transaction; and an expanded Guest Services department and on-site call center. 

A second new building houses a unique ski and snowboard simulator that offers guests the chance to ski or ride downhill race venues from around the world virtually while supporting the Adaptive Sports Foundation. This building will also house a new equipment valet and quick tune up station. Windham also offers Terrain Based Learning™, beginner packages, an Adventure Park, and the full-service Alpine Spa.

Ski Windham Mountain, Catskills, NY © goingplacesfarandnear.com

For experts only, the Windham “First Tracks” program provides ultra-exclusive snow moments before lifts open to the public every Saturday, Sunday, and Holiday morning, weather and conditions permitting. This is a guided mountain experience for ages 14 and up ($20 tickets, free for season pass holders). Call 518-734-4300 x1515 or e-mail democenter@windhammountain.com

The Spring Daze Pass is available starting at $104. With this pass you’ll get unlimited skiing and riding from this Friday, March 13, 2020 to the end of the season. For current conditions, check the Mountain Report page or call Windham’s Snow Report Hotline at 1-800-729-4766.

Note: To insure the health and safety of Windham’s guests in light of concerns over Covid-19 (coronavirus) and New York State’s restrictions on large gatherings, Windham Mountain is limiting indoor gatherings and augmenting food and beverage offerings on the patio area, limiting the number of people in certain areas at one time and closing the Alpine Spa and Children’s Learning Center for the remainder of the season.

In the summer months, Windham Mountain Bike Park is famous for its World Cup course, but also features a three-mile-long beginner trail. Windham Mountain Country Club is an 18-hole public golf course with a private club atmosphere. 

Aside from our relaxing mid-mountain lunch break and our occasional cycle through the demo center to try new skis, we skied through the day and were surprised that, on only a couple hours of sleep, we made it comfortably to the last chair. By 4:30 we were on the road to dinner in Albany, and by 5:30 we had apres ski drinks and appetizers in hand. It was a perfect day!

(Skiing weekends and holidays 8am-4pm, Monday-Friday 9am-4pm).

Windham Mountain, 19 Resort Drive, Windham, NY 12496, 800-754-9463, info@windhammountain.com, windhammountain.com.

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visitgoingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions toFamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Powder Ski Day Reveals the Enchantment of Magic Mountain, Vermont

Magic Mountain, Vermont © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Dave E. Leiberman and Laini Miranda

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is a special allure at Central Vermont’s Magic Mountain. On the one hand, the vibe is retro and frill-less, with two cozy double chairs (that founder Hans Thorner imported from Europe) and some free-spirited bluegrass/groovegrass playing through the speakers at the Black Line Tavern. On the other, it’s a quiet, nearly private skiing experience. Considering how rustic and unpretentious Magic Mountain is, this actually feels like the ultimate in luxury.

This past Thursday, we had the pleasure of a Magic day trip. We hit the road from Schenectady at 6:45am, stopped as we approached the mountain area to pick up some delicious breakfast sandwiches at Hapgood’s General Store in Peru, and were on the lift with stress-free rental skis by 9:30. You park your car and walk to the lift in a minute flat. 

Magic Mountain, Vermont © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

As we explored our first run, one of a handful of long slopes carved 50 years ago to match the contours of Vermont’s Green Mountains, we quickly realized that we have this enchanting, snowy gem of a mountain to ourselves. It had just snowed, and because Magic Mountain is only open Thursdays to Sundays, we were reveling in fresh powder, laying down our own tracks.

Thorner was among the first to bring skiing to New England. In the late 1950s, when he discovered Glebe Mountain, he saw ridge lines and steep topography that reminded him of his native Swiss Alps. Our new friend in the rental shop, Peter, who grew up in Londonderry, made this sincere analogy: The major mountain resorts are “the Porsche Cayenne or the Range Rover. Magic is the ‘61 Jaguar XKE that’s been kept hidden away in a barn.”

This Thursday (for most of the season, Thursdays have a special price of $29), we were amazed at the quality of the powder we found. The slopes – there are 50 of them on 205 skiable acres, with a vertical drop of 1,500 truly vertical feet – carry across the “Magic” theme with names like Sorcerer, Talisman (a favorite of Magic regulars), Twilight Zone (a great glades trail with lots of snow), Broomstick, and Slide of Hans (a punny tribute to Hans Thorner). Magic offers boundary-to-boundary tree skiing and few distractions.

A hallmark of Magic Mountain, Vermont is skiing the glades; there are 11 glade trails including some that are welcoming for those who are new to skiing through the trees © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The runs are great, especially for intermediate (13 trails) and advanced skiers (17 trails). There are 11 glade trails, including some that are even welcoming for those who are new to skiing through the trees. There are 13 easy trails, mostly in the center of the mountain, and one terrain park. It’s also easy to cross between black to blue to green on one long run if you go with a mixed-level group. 

At the base, Black Line Tavern is as laid-back as the rest of the mountain, with a friendly atmosphere that feels like your neighborhood bar/restaurant. A song by Vermont acoustic group Jatoba was playing as we strolled in for lunch. (A poster on the wall listed them as one of the upcoming bands performing at the tavern.) The beef chili was excellent, and the Korean BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich with fries was also delicious.

Magic Mountain, which remains fiercely proud in being independent and a throwback to Vermont’s ski heritage, continues to make major investments in lifts and snowmaking, this year spending $2 million in improvements to ensure an uncrowded, soulful ski experience.

“Our future is as an independent,” owner Geoff Hatheway said at a recent Ski Vermont event told us. Hatheway purchased Magic four years ago, drawn by the community feel.

Magic Mountain, Vermont © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“The major investments we are making in smoothing out some of the prior rough edges here are always balanced by maintaining our unique ‘throwback’ character,” Hatheway said. “We love natural snow here—it just skis better than man-made. So while we continue to make major investments in snowmaking, lift service and grooming equipment, we will let mother-nature do what she does best on our more advanced terrain. Powder days are legend here and it’s why we have special openings when a storm hits mid-week. It’s why we continue to expand the best tree-skiing in southern Vermont. It’s why we’ve always supported uphill alpine touring. There’s truly something for everyone here who is into the original feel and adventure of the sport of skiing.”

Laini tackles a black-diamond run at Magic Mountain, Vermont © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In order to handle more guests yet keep its lift line wait to under 10 minutes even during the busy holiday periods, Magic is replacing its Black Double summit lift with a fixed-grip Quad from base to summit to complement its Red Lift. The new Black Line Quad was hoped to be completed for this season, but more likely will be next season. With the addition of the new summit lift, Magic is adding another double-diamond expert summit trail named Pitch Black. There is also a new East Side glade created by the “Friends-of-Magic” work-crew this year.

In addition, Magic is repairing a snowmaking pipe and re-energizing its Thompsonburg Brook pond to better re-fill and supply water. They plan to expand snowmaking coverage to over 50% of trails on both the East Side and famed expert West Side.

There is also a tubing park that is open weekends.

Magic Mountain, Vermont © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Magic is a northern Vermont mountain in southern Vermont, more challenging than its neighbors. But a new mid-mountain chair improves access for intermediate and novice skiers (there is no beginner trail from the summit, but a low-intermediate can take the 1.6 mile trail from the top).

The plan is to “create a future that harkens back to a golden age of skiing,” Hatheway, who brings a background from marketing and advertising Internet and tech startups, said. 

Asked how Magic can compete against bigger resorts with bigger marketing budgets and seasonal passes that span the globe, Hatheway pointed out, “We can appeal to the ‘uncommitted’ market. We have a passionate group of committed people, but there is opportunity to peel off those who don’t want to commit to an $800 season pass.”

Magic Mountain, Vermont © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Magic Mountain offers a variety of options on passes: Sundays only, Midweek, 18-29s, a Throwback Card ($149 gets you $29 tickets all season long). “These are crazy affordable but the skier makes some commitment. We try to be as creative as possible – we even have a holiday pass when others are blacked out elsewhere.” Skiers can also purchase discounted lift tickets on Liftopia.com.

“We hope you take the road less traveled with us. It will never be perfect. But it will always be authentic and interesting,” Hatheway said.

Magic Mountain, 495 Magic Mountain Access, Londonderry, VT 05148, info@magicmtn.com, 802-824-5645, magicmtn.com.

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visitgoingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions toFamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Vermont’s Indies Strike Back! Independent Ski Resorts Lure “Uncommitteds” with Versatility, Flexibility & Vibe

Bolton Valley Resort, which was re-acquired by the Des Lauriers family that founded the resort in 1966, is capitalizing on its strengths as it asserts its independence: night skiing until 10 pm and an innovative learn-to-back-country-ski program.

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

With the “Bigs” mountain resort companies taking over a significant number of New England’s major destination resorts, locking in loyalty to their brand, independents are capitalizing on their unique character and culture, their ability to offer value pricing, to be flexible and adaptive, and their appeal to the “noncommitteds” – those who still see the season pass as a barrier. They can offer their own pass, packaging and pricing deals. They also capitalize on their special character and ambiance.

Adam White, the Director of Ski Vermont, sees only positives from the friendly competition between mega-resort companies and independents. “Vermont’s resorts have invested more than $51 million, improving snowmaking across the board, every resort, every size. It speaks volumes. It gives Vermont the ability to deliver a consistent product regardless of Mother Nature, from Suicide Six to Mount Snow to Killington. Every one is improving.”

As for Bigs versus Indies, “There is reason to go to every area – all are different and have something to offer. A parent with small kids may want a smaller, less chaotic, area where they can have more control.”

Magic Mountain: Back to the Future

“Our future is as an independent. For our future, we are looking to our past,” says Geoff Hathaway, Magic Mountain’s president who acquired the resort four years ago.

How to compete against Vail Resorts’  Epic and Anterra Mountain Company’s Ikon passes if you are an independent ski resort in Vermont?  “We can appeal to the ‘uncommitted’ market – we have passionate group of committed people, but there is opportunity is to peel off those who don’t want to commit to $800 season pass,” Hathaway says.

Magic Mountain offers a variety of options on passes: Sundays only, Midweek, 18-29s, a Throwback Card ($99 gets you $29 tickets all season long). ”These are crazy affordable but the skier makes some commitment. “We try to be as creative as possible – we even have holiday pass when others are blacked out elsewhere.” Skiers can also purchase discounted lift tickets on Liftopia.com.

“We make more opportunity to say “yes’ to a little bit of Magic.”  

Magic Mountain, which remains fiercely proud in being independent and a throwback to Vermont’s ski heritage, continues to make major investments in lifts and snowmaking, this year spending $2 million in improvements to ensure a laid-back, uncrowded, soulful ski experience. In order to handle more customers yet keep its lift line wait to under 10 minutes even during the busy holiday periods, Magic is replacing its Black Double summit lift with a fixed-grip Quad from base-to-summit to complement its Red Lift. The new Black Line Quad is expected to be completed by Christmas for the 2019/20 season. In addition, Magic is repairing snowmaking pipe and re-energizing its Thompsonburg Brook pond to better re-fill and supply water to its snowmaking pond in order to expand snowmaking coverage to over 50% of its trails on both the East Side and famed expert West Side. With the addition of the new summit lift, Magic adds another double-diamond expert summit trail named Pitch Black. There is also a new East Side glade created by our “Friends-of-Magic” work-crew this year.

Magic is a northern Vermont mountain in southern Vermont, more challenging than its neighbors. The mountain installed a mid-mountain chair improving access for intermediate and novice skiers (there is no beginner trail from the summit, but a low-intermediate can take the 1.6 mile trail from the top). Magic offers a 1500-ft vertical, 51 trails of which green are 25%, blue are 30%.

“There’s more Magic than ever to enjoy for the new ski and ride season.”  (magicmtn.com)

Mad River Glen

Mad River Glen, the only cooperatively owned mountain open to the public, is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the “pure Vermont” ski experience and takes pride in consistently upgrading its infrastructure while maintaining an unchanged exterior.

“We take pride in constantly upgrading while quietly remaining the same. We are still Mad River Glen, just like 1948,” said Ry Young, head freeski team coach. Mad River Glen’s trails were cut in the 1940s and 1950s, narrower, winding down the mountain following the natural contours.

Mad River Glen has invested more than $5M in capital improvements. Mad River Glen raised $5.5 million through donors to its nonprofit foundation which will be spent next summer on a Basebox and Patrol building renovation.

There are no high-speed lifts at Mad River Glen – only fixed grip chairs (3 doubles and the last functioning single in continental US) – which limits uphill capacity.

Mad River Glen offers the most challenging and diverse terrain in New England with an uphill capacity that guarantees low skier density on the trails even on the busiest days. It is one of only three areas in North America that still prohibit snowboarding. The trails were cut to follow the mountain’s natural contours. Skiers can descend the entire 2,037′ of vertical on true expert terrain with no run-outs, 1000 acres of inbound skiing and 1000 acres of back country skiing; of the 52 trails, 25% are beginner but the majority of terrain is advanced.

There are no high-speed lifts – only fixed grip chairs (3 doubles and the last functioning single in continental US) – which limits uphill capacity.

There is a special camaraderie among the skiing community, with its co-op ownership, non-commercial, family-friendly atmosphere, dedicated staff, and – of course-the Single Chair, America’s favorite ski lift.

You can also experience the mountain on snowshoes: join one of MRG’s staff Naturalists for a guided snowshoe trek tailored to your interest in the ecology and wildlife of Stark Mountain (Naturalist Programs). There is no on-mountain lodging, but plenty of inns and bnb’s in town. (madriverglen.com)

Bolton Valley Resort

Bolton Valley Resort, which was re-acquired by the Des Lauriers family that founded the resort in 1966, is capitalizing on its strengths as it asserts its independence: night skiing until 10 pm and an innovative learn-to-back-country-ski program (the DesLauriers are famous as pioneers in extreme skiing.)

The most visible improvement is the complete replacement and upgrading of the night skiing lighting system (Bolton offers night skiing nightly until 10 pm).

Besides being one of the few places in New England offering night skiing, Bolton opened an in-house backcountry-specific guiding and instructional program, complete with top-of-the-line rental and demo fleets of alpine touring and splitboarding equipment. This program makes Bolton Valley a premiere destination for skiers and riders looking to move beyond lift service, as well as cross country skiers looking to access more aggressive terrain. Explore 1,200 acres of high-mountain wilderness terrain while learning the ins and outs of alpine touring, backcountry safety, and self-reliance.

But Bolton Valley has something that hardly any other mountain resort has: not just back country skiing on 1,200 acres of high-mountain wilderness, but an in-house backcountry-specific guiding and instructional program, complete with top-of-the-line rental and demo fleets of alpine touring and splitboarding equipment, offered every Saturday.

“The gear is different – you have to be able to unhook the heels and put on climbing skins; we rent all the equipment, demo gear and sell gear,” says Adam Des Lauriers. The program was launched two years ago. “It’s totally unique – more traditional ski areas don’t know how to deal with back country and uphill, even though it is the fastest growing segment.”

Building on its reputation for having some of the best and most accessible backcountry terrain in the Eastern US, this program makes Bolton Valley a premiere destination for skiers and riders looking to move beyond lift service, as well as cross country skiers looking to access more aggressive terrain. You can explore high-mountain wilderness terrain while learning the ins and outs of alpine touring, backcountry safety, and self-reliance.

How good do you have to be? “At least strong intermediate –we take it slow. People are surprised when they can do it. It is scary to attempt if you do it alone, but a mind-opening experience when you realize you can do it.”

Bolton Valley also has back country huts which can be rented through the Green Mountain Club, the organization that runs the Long Trail,but accessed through Bolton. “It’s a unique camping experience, just one mile from the base. You wake up to fresh tracks, and get to do winter camping. It’s accessible, but feels like being deep in woods.”

Bolton Valley sits high in the Green Mountains of Vermont. The high mountain alpine village is surrounded by 5,000 acres of wilderness. Bolton Valley offers 71 trails and glades for Alpine skiing and riding and 100 km of Nordic and backcountry trails. Each year Bolton Valley receives an average of 312 inches of snow.

All the lodging, including hotel rooms, suites and condominiums are either ski in/ski out or within a short walking distance of the lifts. Two restaurants, a cafeteria, deli and general store are located within the village. After a day on the slopes, walk over to the Sports Center, where there is an indoor pool, hot tub and sauna, skateboard bowl and mini ramps, arcade games as well as an open floor for basketball and other games. The Indoor Amusement Center offers bouncy houses for kids who just want to keep moving.

Bolton Valley also offers a large Nordic center, an indoor skate park and indoor pool. The year-round resort, which is the neighborhood ski area for the city of Burlington and generations of Vermont skiers, offers tennis and ropes course, and expanding its mountain bike trail network, for summer. (www.boltonvalley.com)

Bromley Mountain

This year, Bromley resort has made a number of maintenance-related updates on and off the mountain. For those who rent equipment, there is an updated rental fleet to include some of the best equipment on the market for a more comfortable fit and smoother glide. On the mountain, crew continued their trail widening efforts. All-new park features satisfy a variety of rider abilities, green to black. Plus, Bromley is partnering up with Arena Snowparks to build and design parks (for the second year in a row) with the intention to produce one of the best family-friendly progression parks.

For après-ski entertainment, enjoy Bromley’s Wild Boar Tavern (located at the base of the mountain) as well as expanded events calendar with more free, family-friendly entertainment for everyone. Top off your ski days with a scenic sleigh ride at beautiful Taylor Farm, take a stroll through the sculpture garden at the Vermont Art Center, treat yourself to a fabulous shopping experience at the Manchester Shopping Outlet center, all within a 10-mile radius. (skivermont.com/bromley-mountain-resort)

Suicide Six Ski Area

Suicide Six Ski Area, which is owned by the historic, grand resort, the Woodstock Inn & Resort, remains independent but partners with 35 other quintessential resorts to create the Indy Pass. For 84 consecutive seasons, Suicide Six has offered its blend of exquisite service and personal touch, including the longest continually operating Ski and Ride School in the country. Here you’ll find stellar coaches, progressive terrain, and a warmth and care. The ski area is adding more terrain features and an entirely new park concept, as well as taking its snowmaking production to the next level with a focus on automation, efficiency and sustainability. Suicide Six is investing $250,000 into its snowmaking pump station with more efficient pumps, automation and instrumentation that provide lightning fast responses to changes in weather and conditions. Combine that with previous investments of over $400,000 the ski area has made in new snow guns, and the automation of the Face trail (its world-class racing venue), Suicide Six looks forward to a longer, more productive season with the highest quality snow.

Suicide Six, which is owned by the grand, historic Woodstock Inn, is one of the most family-friendly ski mountains.

The misnomered Suicide Six (it actually is one of the most family-friendly ski mountains, with 24 trails – 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced), is focusing on family-friendly ski and stay packages, where ski passes are included. The resort also makes it easy to organize a private lesson for the family where the kids learn to ski and parents learn how to continue to teach them.

The downhill ski area is owned by the grand, historic Woodstock Inn which also offers the Woodstock Nordic Adventure Center providing 30 kilometers of trails to explore via cross country skis, fat bikes or snowshoes; a 10,000 sq. ft Spa; and Woodstock Athletic Club, with indoor and outdoor tennis courts, racquetball courts, a 30-by-60-foot heated indoor lap pool, a whirlpool, workout equipment and steam and sauna rooms. Woodstock Inn provides a free shuttle to the mountain (skivermont.com/suicide-six-ski-area)

Trapp Family Lodge

Trapp Family Lodge, Vermont

Situated on 2,500 acres in Stowe, Vermont, where it specializes in cross-country skiing on 100 km of groomed trails, Trapp Family Lodge (yes, that Trapp Family of “Sound of Music fame”) is a mountain resort that combines Austrian-inspired architecture and European-style accommodations with the best of Vermont. The Lodge offers stunning mountain views, old-world comforts, and impeccable service, along with activities for every season, but it boasts being one of the first American resorts built around cross-country skiing – the cross-country center is more than 50 years old. Snowshoeing is also popular (equipment rentals available). Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the meadows with stunning views into the valley.  Enjoy any number of tours to learn about the history of the von Trapp family and lodge; how maple sugar is made; tour the von Trapp Brewing’s state-of-the-art brewery on site; dine in the Bierhall to sample the lagers and enjoy the authentic Austrian experience and cuisine. There’s also ice/rock climbing, spa, pool, hot tub and three restaurants. Cross-country ski three miles up to a cabin and enjoy hot soup. When you get the urge for downhill skiing, shuttles are provided to nearby Stowe. (www.trappfamily.com)

Mountain Top Inn & Resort

Mountaintop Inn & Resort, Chittenden, Vermont (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mountain Top Inn & Resort, set on 350 acres ringed by the Green Mountain National Forest, is breathtakingly enchanting, offers 60 km of groomed cross-country ski trails (snowmaking on a 2 km loop insuring optimal conditions); horse-drawn sleigh rides; a small old-fashioned (natural) skating pond; snowshoeing (twilight tours available); snowmobiling; spa; hot tub; fire pits; and the coziest fireplaces. It’s also a 30 minute drive to Killington Mountain for downhill skiing (shuttle transportation available, 8:30 am, returning 4:30 pm; reserve in advance). The most charming of inns offers 32 rooms plus 23 individual guest houses; dining at The Mountain Top Tavern (with 12 Vermont Craft Brews on tap) and fireside dining in the dining room.Downhill skiing at Killington and Pico is a short drive away. www.MountainTopInn.com.

Middlebury Snow Bowl

This season you will see a new Prinoth Groomer, upgrades to the Ticket counter including new transaction windows ad a new Point of Sale System, and a new season pass format.  There is also the new Shared Parent Pass for families with kids that aren’t skiing yet (both parents ski on the same pass).  What you won’t see, but will certainly experience, is the snowmaking pipe upgrades, summer trail work and lift work. (www.middleburysnowbowl.com)

Jay Peak Resort

Jay Peak is a quirky 800-bedroom, 3,100-bathroom, 217,800,000,000-square foot resort just two miles from the Canadian border offering multiple athletic pursuits across all seasons. Potential upsides include an indoor waterpark, ice arena, climbing center, movie theater, synthetic-turf athletic fields, multiple hotels, 5,000 acres of ski-and-ride terrain, and a staff of 1,500 Tier One professionals. Jay Peak has annual snowfall averaging 349 inches a season, still there is snowmaking on 80% of terrain. Jay Peak offers 385 skiable acres (100 acres of gladed terrain), a vertical drop of 2,153, 50 miles of trails 9 lifts  accessing 81 trails (20% Novice, 40% Intermediate, 40% Advanced), for a total of 50 miles, the longest, Ullr’s Dream at 3 miles, and four parks (Rabbit Beginner Park, Family Cross, Jug Handle & Interstate ). (jaypeakresort.com)

To information or help choosing a destination, contact Ski Vermont, 802-223-2439, info@skivermont.com, or visit skivermont.com.

See also:

Vermont Ski Areas Open Winter Season With Major Enhancements to Guest Experience
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© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Vermont Ski Areas Open Winter Season With Major Enhancements to Guest Experience

Skiing Pico Mountain, Vermont: the Vermont ski areas have made $51 million in improvements especially in snowmaking to guarantee consistent high-quality surface © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Never content to rest on laurels, Vermont ski areas are constantly improving the guest experience. A big part of that comes via annual improvements and each year, the mountain resorts spend their off-seasons bettering everything from facilities, terrain and ticket/pass options to off-slope activities and amenities.

This year, guests from around the world will find $51 million in improvements, including snowmaking and grooming to virtually guarantee excellent conditions. The gains are throughout Vermont’s ski areas, but the growing number of major resorts that have come under Vail Resorts’ umbrella or Anterra Mountain, not only funnels money capital investment in infrastructure and gives the resorts a global profile, but gives resorts like Mount Snow, Okemo and Stowe (now part of Vail and Epic Pass) the ability to improve the guest experience through technology improvements as well as best practices in operating lifts, snowmaking, parking, ticketing, safety, efficiency and sustainability initiatives.

Here are the many ways in which skiing and riding in Vermont will be better than ever this upcoming season:

Mount Snow Resort

Snowmaking improvements continue to be a priority at Mount Snow, which (along with Hunter Mountain in New York and 15 other New England and Mid-Atlantic resorts became part of Vail Resorts with its acquisition of Peak Resorts (and therefore included on the Epic Pass). This winter will see improvements to the Sunbrook Face as well as Carinthia Parks. On the Sunbrook side, the resort has added 7.2 acres of snowmaking as Little Dipper will now be connected to the Northeast’s most powerful snowmaking system. This change will allow Mount Snow to open this trail earlier in the season and keep it consistently covered throughout the winter. Sunbrook is a beloved part of the mountain and guests will be able to better take advantage of this area. In Carinthia, the resort is adding snowmaking to Fool’s Gold, which increasing snowmaking coverage by an additional 9.8 acres and allowing the ops crew to transform it into a park with small features. Beginner and intermediate park enthusiasts will have a place for building skills before they move onto larger features.

The Grand Summit, Mount Snow Resort, Vermont, now part of Vail Resorts (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

These projects wouldn’t be possible without the previous upgrades of the past three summers including the addition of West Lake, Mount Snow’s 120-million-gallon snowmaking reservoir, as well as new pump houses and pipes, totaling more than $30 million invested in snowmaking. As the resort moves from 80% to 83% snowmaking coverage for this winter, Mount Snow has its sights set on 100% coverage which could be accomplished in the near future.

There is also snow tubing and snowmobiling. You can book a leisurely sunset tour to the summit of Mount Snow, or a trek across Somerset Reservoir through Snowmobile Vermont (book in advance, mountsnow.com/snowmobile). Unwind at Mount Snow’s Naturespa, located in the Grand Summit Resort Hotel, offering pure, natural and organic spa treatments, guided mountain treks, holistic health, and fitness specialties. (mountsnow.com)

Stowe Mountain Resort

Stowe, which is now owned by Vail Resorts and is included on the Epic Pass, now offers Epic Mix, which enables skiers and riders to track their days and vertical feet skied,earn digital pins, share photos, race against the pros and check real-time liftline wait time using their RFID chip-embedded season pass or lift ticket.

Stowe has an inter-mountain transfer gondola connecting its two mountain peaks, Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak. There are new high-speed lifts on Spruce, new base facilities, gourmet restaurants. The Stowe Mountain Lodge, a 312 room hotel and spa, is recognized as one of the greenest and most luxurious mountainside lodgings anywhere. There’s also a new state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center at Spruce Peak.

Stowe Mountain Resort is now part of Vail Resorts and included on the Epic Pass. (photo from Stowe)

New this winter atop the Mansfield Gondola in Stowe is a resort inspired Maple Waffle Café. Located inside the Gondola summit shelter, the new waffle experience is the perfect place to warm-up with a delicious Vermont flavored snack. The new Whistle Pig Pavilion adjacent to the outdoor skating rink at Spruce Peak delights skiers in the late afternoon with gourmet tasters and whiskey toasts by the famous Vermont spirits bottler. Stop in for a surprise and stay to sample their farm-to-table small bites menu and the local beer and whiskey bar. “At Stowe, we are curating and customizing on-mountain private experiences,” says Jeff Wise.

Stowe also offers an on-mountain Kids AdventureZones, well signed areas that give kids and families the opportunity to easily access gentle side-country areas and freestyle terrain purpose-built for learning progression. (www.stowe.com)

Okemo Mountain Resort

Okemo Mountain Resort, which became part of Vail Resorts (and the Epic Pass) last year, has renovated its Summit Lodge and mid-mountain Sugar House with a $2 million infusion of capital. On the slopes, Okemo has secured its reputation for consistent and reliable snow quality and surface conditions through more upgrades to its snowmaking system. Installation of 5,000 feet of pipe completed a five-year project to replace main feeds to Okemo’s snowmaking system across the entire mountain. And this winter, skiers and riders will be able to experience the entire mountain in a new way with EpicMix, a free app that provides access to a variety of features from their mobile phones. They can check snow conditions and lift-wait times, view web cams and trail maps, track vert, earn digital pins, and even track Ski & Snowboard School progress and accomplishments.

Season pass introductions this winter include a new Northeast College Pass that offers unlimited, unrestricted access to Okemo and Mount Sunapee, in New Hampshire, as well as unlimited access with holiday restrictions to Stowe. Also, Vail Resorts has launched Epic Day Pass, allowing guests to ski world-class resorts for less than lift-ticket-window prices.

Jackson Gore affords ski in/out convenience at Okemo Mountain Resort, now part of Vail Resorts © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of our favorite New England ski mountains with its long, scenic cruisers, Okemo also offers an assortment of activities for families to enjoy together. For a thrill, try Okemo’s Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster or go snow tubing down a specially groomed chute in the Jackson Gore courtyard; skate at Okemo’s ice skating pavilion; rent a fat bike for riding on snow; go snowshoeing; cross country skiing; work on your golf game at Okemo’s indoor golf facility. Chill out with an after-hours snowcat excursion to the top of the mountain, take a swim or soak in a hot tub at Okemo’s Spring House Pool & Fitness Center.. Enjoy a massage or a facial at the spa.

The Adventure Zone located in Okemo’s Jackson Gore area offers year-round activities soar through the treetops on Sawyer’s Sweep Zipline Tour or go off-roading on a Segway PT Tour; launch yourself into the Amp Energy Big Air Bag; climb the climbing wall; putt Cal’s Miniature Golf Course or challenge yourself on the 18-hole Disc Golf course.

A wide variety of trailside and mountainside lodging options provide great ski-in/ski-out convenience, but our favorite is Jackson Gore. (okemo.com)

Killington Resort

The “Beast of the East,” Killington is the biggest ski resort in New England and has the longest season. A Powdr resort, Killington and its sister resort Pico are both partnering in the IkonPass, allows 5-7 days on the pass. Killington offers the Beast 365 All-Seasons Pass gives guests access to everything at Killington, all year long. It starts in summer with unlimited lift and trail access for 30 miles of mountain biking, plus golf course greens fees and access to the Adventure Center including zipline, ropes course and a year-round downhill coaster; pass holders also get access to discounts every month, that could consist of spa or golf. Accommodations are mostly along the access road (though we adored our stay at nearby Mountaintop Inn), and now owns the legendary Wobbly Barn nightclub.

The “Beast of the East,” Killington is the biggest ski resort in New England with 6 connected mountain peaks. The resort has a partnership with the Ikon Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Killington offers Woodward, an experiential action sports company on a mission to inspire next generation sports experiences through intuitive programming and innovative environments. It’s where the most passionate people come together to stoke new levels of growth, confidence and a lifelong love of their favorite sports. Woodward at Killington is the East Coast destination for action sports progression, providing mountain experiences built to inspire and empower youth to reach their potential and experienced athletes to take it to the next level. The Woodward experience at Killington includes Woodward Mountain Park in the winter and then, when the snow melts, the Woodward WreckTangle ninja obstacle challenge.

Killington offers seven distinct mountain areas including Killington Peak, the second highest point in the state at 4,241 feet and a vertical drop of 3,050 ft, and 212 trails and 1,977 of skiable acres including Pico. (killington.com)

Pico Mountain

Pico Mountain, which is Killington’s sister mountain, is undergoing major upgrades to its snowmaking system, which means guests will experience a better, more consistent and more reliable snow surface. Pico has a very different feel from its sister resort, Killington, just next door. A self-contained resort with slopeside lodging, Pico has 57 trails serviced by seven lifts, including two high-speed detachable quads, Its more intimate scale, gentle learning terrain, smooth cruisers and classically narrow New England steeps, that all that funnel to a single base make it ideal for families. Even the most selective skiers and riders will be impressed by Pico’s vertical drop of 1,967’ – taller than 80% of Vermont ski areas. (picomountain.com)

Stratton Mountain Resort

Last January’s Snow Bowl Express launch was a game changer, creating quick access to a blend of terrain from the legendary World Cup and tree-lined Drifter to a three-mile beginner run from the summit of southern Vermont’s highest peak.  The new skier and rider is a focus this season with 12,500 feet of new snowmaking pipe, featuring the latest hydrant technology, for the learning zone. Plus, a one-acre parallel teaching area has been crafted to eliminate the fear factor as beginners build a foundation with basic skills, including stance and balance, before heading up the 550-foot covered carpet. Kids snowboarding has never been easier with the addition of a new Burton Riglet Park for 2019-20.

Stratton Mountain is now part of Alterra Mountain Company and included on Ikon Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There’s lift-served snow tubing, moonlight snowshoe tours, and 12 km of cross-country trails for skiing and fat biking. Unwind with a massage from the Village Day Spa or enjoy a dog sled ride through Vermont’s wooded terrain. Stratton’s Training and Fitness Center offers Olympic-sized, salt-water swimming pool, cardio and weight room and the Cliff Drysdale Tennis Center. Stroll through the Village to enjoy cafes and shops or venture 20 minutes down Route 100 to Manchester for shopping at 40 designer outlets.

Now part of the Alterra Mountain Company, Stratton is included on its Ikon Pass, now offering access to nearly 82,000 acres at 38 premier mountain destinations across the globe. (Stratton.com)

Sugarbush Resort

Sometimes it’s the little things that add up to a whole lot of change. Sugarbush has invested in a number of smaller projects this summer to improve the guest experience heading into the ski season. The Lincoln Peak Courtyard has been rebuilt with cobblestones, firepits, gardens, and bar tops. Two new EV charging stations are getting installed at Mt. Ellen for the electric car user looking to shred Vermont’s third-highest peak. Its focus on environmentalism is also demonstrated by donating 1% of restaurant receipts for Protect Our Winter, advocating for climate action, and is partnering with a Vermont business that builds solar arrays to generate 2.5 MW, enough to power Mount Ellen. Additionally, there is now snowmaking on a more opened-up Sleeper Road, and plenty of new infrastructure upgrades around the lodges and lifts.

Sugarbush is independent but has a partnership with the Ikon Pass (photo provided by Sugarbush)

Sugarbush also actively supports the community. “We’re big on the community. We have a nice base area with restaurants, but we encourage guests  to go to Mad River Valley. We have shuttle bus through day til 5 or 6, and Saturday late to 2 am. We encourage people to shop, eat, patronize the artisans,

An independent resort, Sugarbush is part of the Ikon Pass and The Mountain Collective. “We can pivot faster as an independent. We do specialty passes: for 20s, for 30s, Boomers (65+) discounted Quad Pack- 4 lift tickets for $249 which are transferable.

Wynn Smith purchased Sugarbush in 2001 (unfortunately, on September 10) and between 2004-2008, he rebuilt the entire Lincoln Peak Village (Mt Ellen is old school). There is a hotel, new lodge, two ski schools (one for adults, one for kids).

“We have the largest detachable quad, the Slide Brook Express, in world – 2 miles – connecting Mt Ellen & Lincoln Peak. You can ski the back country between and use a shuttle bus or  take the Slide Brook Express back,” says John Blley.

Cabin Cat Adventures also offer a great way to experience the mountain, whether it’s Allyn’s Lodge Fireside Dining at the top of Gadd Peak, Cabin Cat First Tracks on a powder day or Sunset Groomer Rides to the top of Lincoln Peak. Other activities available in Mad River Valley include ice-skating, an Icelandic horse farm, a locally owned movie theater and cross country skiing. (sugarbush.com)

Smugglers’ Notch Resort

Smugglers’ Notch Resort’s claim to fame is the total experience the resort offers. There is probably no other ski resort that is so focused on family togetherness, pioneering a vast array of activities families enjoy together as Smugglers Notch. Families can vary their vacation days by joining craft sessions, broomball challenges, scavenger hunts, snow cat tours, story times, and pool games (included in their Smugglers’ vacation package). Smuggs has also introduced S.T.E.A.M. activities that bring fun ways to explore science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. “We’ve cracked the code with new family dynamics,” said Michael Chait. “Kids get to see their parents play… Family programs touch on every family dynamic, from the new parent to the great grandparent.”

Smugglers Notch Resort, the family-friendliest of ski destinations, has terrain for every level of skier © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

FunZone 2.0 offers 26,000 square feet of indoor fun:  an adventure center (laser tag, climbing tower, giant slide), a café serving beer and wine, so parents can relax while kids play. Outdoor activities include snowmobile tours through the historic Smugglers’ Notch pass, and CatTrax heated-cabin snow cat rides to the summits of Smugglers’ most popular peaks.

There’s so much to do, this is the ski resort you want to stay longer at – not just ski and stay – 43 pages of activities in 7-day period.  Everybody has something even if they don’t ski. There are even activity packages that don’t include skiing.

The condo-style accommodations provide plenty of space for families to spread out, have meals and snacks in the condo (every condo has a crock pot; there is a country store on the mountain with the essentials and a grocery store 15 minutes away that you can shop at on the drive up).

Apart from its reputation as the most family-friendly ski resort anywhere, there is serious skiing to be had on three mountains: Morse (all green, so there is a natural separation of ability) while Madonna and Sterling are big, steep and deep; Sterling has a great variety of cruisers (great for intermediates) to bump up skill on short black. Madonna is the toughest, with some of the steepest trails (even a double-black) in the East, but there are also a couple of blues from top (Chilcoot and Drifter). (smuggs.com)

Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports

Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports serves people with physical, cognitive and emotional/behavioral disabilities from all over the world of all abilities in three Vermont ski destinations during the winter: Killington Resort and Pico Mountain in Killington; Sugarbush Resort in Warren; and Bolton Valley Ski Area in Bolton (though with enough notice, programs can be organized at other resorts as well). Summer programs are provided state-wide. Many of the programs include environmental educationwellness, and special programs designed specifically for veterans.

If a family member uses wheelchair, we can provide instruction. Scholarships are available for those for whom cost is a factor. The organization offers veterans programs all over the state – ski and snowboarding in winter, mountain biking in summer.

Vermont Adaptive is a nationally recognized organization that empowers people of all abilities through inclusive sports and recreational programming regardless of ability to pay. In addition to sports, year-round programming options integrate environmental, holistic wellness, and competitive training philosophies for people of all ages with cognitive, developmental, physical and emotional disabilities.

“We are recognized nationally for our client-centered programs and for providing access and instruction to sports and recreational activities with the belief that these things provide a physical, mental and social experience that is immeasurable in promoting self-confidence and independence in an individual,” said Lexi Moore, team manager.

Vermont Adaptive offers the largest variety of program opportunities and specialized equipment. Vermont Adaptive promotes independence and furthers equality through access and instruction to sports and recreational opportunities including alpine skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports; kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, sailing, cycling, hiking, rock climbing, tennis, horseback riding, environmental programs and CORE Connections wellness retreats.

With nearly 400 active volunteers, plus generous partners and sponsors, and an amazing base of clients and friends, Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports has been at the forefront of sports and recreation for those with disabilities for more than 30 years. (vermontadaptive.org)

To information or help choosing a destination, contact Ski Vermont, 802-223-2439, info@skivermont.com, or visit skivermont.com.

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© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures