Category Archives: Skiing/Riding/Snow Destinations

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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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

Vail’s Epic Pass, Alterra’s Ikon & SkiCom Give New Direction to Ski Holidays

Alta Ski Area, Utah, is one of 41 ski resorts around the world included for Alterra Mountain Company’s Ikon Pass holders © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The ski industry has done something very clever – much akin to the hotel and airline loyalty programs keep you within their brand. Two giants have emerged, through acquisition or operation of mountain resorts and through partnerships that give both global reach: Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass and Alterra Mountain Company’s Ikon Pass. This year, both have enhanced their programs with value, reach and even flexibility.

There are still programs that are more local and smaller scale like Liftopia and The Mountain Collective, and independent mountains have reacted with programs aimed at the “Uncommitteds” with extremely inexpensive pass programs or validity through holidays and peak dates when other passes may be blacked out.

But hurry: the last date to purchase the passes is Nov. 24.

But the passes only get you up the mountain. Organizing all the logistics and elements of a ski vacation – from transportation, to accommodations, to rentals to activities on and off the mountain, even choosing from among the hundreds of choices the appropriate destination for a long-haul ski holiday – is the bailiwick of a company like Ski.com.

Here’s a rundown:

Epic Pass is Epic

No question about it: Vail Resorts has stormed the entire East Coast ski market, just this season adding 17 resorts in one fell swoop with its acquisition of Peak Resorts, including such iconic destinations as Mount Snow in Vermont and Hunter Mountain in New York to a list that already included Stowe and Okemo Mountain in Vermont (and Okemo’s sister resorts, Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire and Crested Butte in Colorado), Now add in Attitash Mountain Resort, Wildcat Mountain and Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire and Liberty Mountain Resort, Roundtop Mountain Resort, Whitetail Resort, Jack Frost and Big Boulder in Pennsylvania plus seven more in the Midwest, all of which are included on this season’s Epic Pass.

New for 2019/20 – The Epic Pass now offers access to Sun Valley, Snowbasin, Rusutsu-Japan, and the 17 Peak Resorts ski areas, including Hunter Mountain, New York and Mount Snow, Vermont. Also new for 2020: Access Falls Creek and Hotham, Australia.

The vastness of Park City, Utah, included in Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 2019-20 Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, Epic Australia Pass and Military Epic Pass now include unlimited and unrestricted access to each of the 17 newly acquired Peak ski areas, in addition to the access provided to some of the world’s most well-known resorts including Vail, Whistler Blackcomb, Park City and Breckenridge. Guests with an Epic Day Pass are also able to access these 17 ski areas as a part of the total number of days purchased. For the 2019-20 season, Vail Resorts will honor all Peak Resorts pass products and continue to sell them through the fall. Current Peak Resorts’ pass holders now have the option to upgrade to an Epic Pass or Epic Local Pass.

Epic Pass™: For $969 for adults and $509 for children (ages five to 12), the Epic Pass offers:

Unlimited, unrestricted access to: Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched, Hunter, Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail, Jack Frost, Big Boulder, Stevens Pass, Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine, Mad River, Hidden Valley, Snow Creek, Paoli Peaks, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, and Wilmot in North America. The Epic Pass also includes access to Perisher, Falls Creek, and Hotham in Australia.

Limited access to partner resorts, including: seven days at each of Telluride, Sun Valley, Snowbasin, and the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies; five consecutive days at Hakuba Valley, Japan’s ten ski resorts; five consecutive days at Japan’s Rusutsu Resort. The Epic Pass also grants limited access to Les 3 Vallées in France; 4 Vallées in Switzerland; and Skirama Dolomiti in Italy.

Epic Local Pass™: For $719 for adults, $579 for teens (ages 13 to 18) and $379 for children (ages five to 12), the Epic Local Pass offers:

Riding the bubble chair at Mount Snow, Vermont, the newest addition to Vail Resorts, now included in on the Epic Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Unlimited, unrestricted access to: Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Okemo, Mount Snow, Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched, Hunter, Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail, Jack Frost, Big Boulder, Stevens Pass, Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine, Mad River, Hidden Valley, Snow Creek, Paoli Peaks, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, and Wilmot.

Unlimited access with holiday restrictions to: Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, and Stowe.

10 total days combined (with holiday restrictions) at: Vail, Beaver Creek, and Whistler Blackcomb.

Limited access to partner resorts, including: two days (with limited holiday restrictions) at Sun Valley; two days (with limited holiday restrictions) at Snowbasin; and five total consecutive days with no blackout dates at Hakuba Valley’s ten ski resorts in Japan; and five total consecutive days with no blackout dates at Rusutsu Resort.

Military Epic Pass™: For $159 for Active and Retired Military and their dependents and $559 for Veteran Military and their dependents, the      Military Epic Pass offers:

Unlimited, unrestricted access to: Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched, Hunter, Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail, Jack Frost, Big Boulder, Stevens Pass, Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine, Mad River, Hidden Valley, Snow Creek, Paoli Peaks, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, and Wilmot in North America. The Military Epic Pass also includes access to Perisher, Falls Creek, and Hotham in Australia.

Okemo, Vermont is now part of Vail Resorts and included on the Epic Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Epic Day PassAnnounced earlier this year as a part of Epic for Everyone, the Epic Day Pass provides unprecedented flexibility and season pass discounts to guests skiing as little as one day.

With the customizable pass, guests can unlock discounts of up to 50 percent off lift ticket window prices by selecting the number of days they plan to ski or ride – from one day to seven days – and whether or not to add holiday access.

Use the pass at any of the Company’s North American owned resorts, including Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City, and more, including the 17 new resorts. Those purchasing four or more days also get access to Telluride, Sun Valley, Snowbasin, and Resorts of the Canadian Rockies as a part of the total number of days purchased.

Skiing Keystone, Colorado, a Vail Resort included on the Epic Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are also local passes.

Visit https://www.epicpass.com/pass-results/passes.aspx

IKON Pass Adds Zermatt, A-Basin

Alterra Mountain Company’s Ikon Pass expands its offerings this season with the addition of Zermatt in Switzerland (and the famous Matterhorn) and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Colorado.

The addition of Zermatt brings the number of destinations available to Ikon Pass holders to 41 around the globe, across five continents, 12 states, 4 Canadian provinces, for a total of 84,385 acres of skiing and 4,857 trails.

The iconic Matterhorn towers over more than 3,500 acres (1,416 hectares) of terrain that spans both Switzerland and Italy, offering Swiss hospitality coupled with Italian lifestyle, in the highest skiable terrain offered in the picturesque Alps. Connected lift service offers Ikon Pass holders access to Rothorn, Gornergrat and the Schwarzsee-Matterhorn glacier paradise within the Zermatt ski area, plus Cervinia-Valtournenche ski areas in Italy, collectively known as Matterhorn ski paradise.

Ikon Pass holders will have seven-day access to Zermatt and the Matterhorn ski paradise network on the Ikon Pass with no blackout dates, and five-day access on the Ikon Base Pass, also with no blackout dates.

“The Matterhorn is a true icon known around the world, so we are thrilled to have Zermatt join the Ikon Pass community,” said Erik Forsell, Chief Marketing Officer for Alterra Mountain Company. “Ikon Pass strives to continually offer pass holders unique experiences in the mountains. Now they can experience Zermatt’s glacier skiing, traditional Swiss fondue, plus its infamous European après ski across two countries, on one pass.”

“Zermatt and Matterhorn ski paradise are pleased to be the first European destination on the Ikon Pass, and we look forward to offering our best Swiss quality and Italian lifestyle to Ikon Pass holders everywhere. We are excited to share our passion and devotion to skiing within the Ikon Pass community and its impressive destination partners across the globe,” said Sandra Zenhäusern, Director of Marketing, Zermatt Bergbahnen AG.

The Ikon Pass unlocks adventure with access to 41 iconic winter destinations across the Americas, Switzerland, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and is a collaboration of industry leaders – Alterra Mountain Company, Aspen Skiing Company, Boyne Resorts, POWDR, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Alta Ski Area, Snowbird, SkiBig3, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Taos Ski Valley, Sugarbush Resort, Zermatt, Thredbo, Mt Buller, Niseko United, Valle Nevado, and NZ Ski. Alterra Mountain Company honors each destination’s unique character and authenticity.

A-Basin is located just 68 miles from Denver and boasts the longest season in Colorado, many seasons running through the 4th of July. Affectionately known as “The Legend,” A-Basin sits on the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains and offers a high-alpine, big-mountain experience, paired with a laid-back atmosphere. Its 1,428 acres of iconic terrain includes the East Wall and Montezuma Bowl, plus The Beavers and The Steep Gullies, some of North America’s newest terrain. The Beach, a stretch of prime real estate near the lower-mountain chairlifts, transforms into a Colorado après tradition.

Ikon Pass holders will have seven-day access to A-Basin on the Ikon Pass with no blackout dates, and five-day access on the Ikon Base Pass, with selected blackout dates.

Through a partnership, Winter Park Resort, Colorado, which is owned by the City of Denver, is included in the Ikon Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Alterra Mountain Company’s Ikon Pass connects some of the most iconic mountains across North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Chile, delivering authentic, memorable snow adventures. The Ikon Pass unlocks access to a community of diverse destinations to ski and ride, including Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain, 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, Killington and Sugarbush Resort 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, the world’s largest heli-skiing and heli-accessed hiking operation.

The Ikon Pass is available now at www.ikonpass.com.

Killington, Vermont, the largest ski resort in the Northeast, is part of the Ikon Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Alterra Mountain Company is a family of 14 iconic year-round destinations, including the world’s largest heli-ski operation and the Ikon Pass. The company owns and operates a range of recreation, hospitality, real estate development, food and beverage, retail and service businesses. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, Alterra Mountain Company spans six U.S. states and three Canadian provinces: Steamboat and Winter Park Resort in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Stratton in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain in Ontario; Crystal Mountain in Washington; Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah; and CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia. Also included in the portfolio is Alpine Aerotech, a worldwide helicopter support and maintenance service center in British Columbia, Canada. Alterra Mountain Company honors each destination’s unique character and authenticity and celebrates the legendary adventures and enduring memories they bring to everyone.

For more information, visit www.alterramtnco.com.

Ski .com Facilitates Planning Long-Haul Holidays

With the global reach of Epic Pass and Ikon, the whole world is now the skiers’ oyster, encouraging more and more people to venture to Europe, Asia and Australia for an entirely different downhill experience.

The passes create new incentives for season-pass holders to go further afield from their “local” or familiar mountain, even “shopping” for where the best snow may be or novel activities, amenities, vibe or ambiance. This makes the services of a travel agent with particular expertise in mountain resorts to assist with the logistics (air, car rental, lodging, even rentals, etc.) more in demand. SkiCom, a travel agency/broker specializing in skiing and mountain resorts, brings that expertise cultivated over 50 years, especially when venturing to more off-the-beaten track, even exotic or remote destinations, out of your comfort zone, where help with lodgings, transportation, and non-ski or après-ski activities brings extra value.

Ski.com’s 65 mountain travel experts live and breathe ski culture. They are ski and snowboard enthusiasts who know the intimate details about each resort because they’ve been there, and done that.

These experiences allow them to accurately determine which resort(s) and accommodation(s) is perfect for each customer, based on their interests and budget.

Another benefit of using a ski specialist to help coordinate a long-distance vacation is mitigating the cost. With the rising cost of skiing, “people want to make sure they’re receiving more value for the higher cost,” says Dan Sherman, Ski.com chief marketing officer. “This is where Ski.com can help. In addition for being able to hunt for the best price, we really excel by matching people with the vacation components that are right for them. Also, not too long ago, all you needed for a successful ski vacation was a hotel, a chairlift and a bar. Now, resorts offer world-class amenities, spas, dining, improved family and ski school facilities and additional on- and off-mountain activities.”

Deer Valley, Utah’s legendary Stein Eriksen Lodge. Ski.com can help coordinate all the elements of a ski holiday including accommodations, transportation, rentals, on and off mountain activities © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Founded in 1971 in the heart of Colorado ski country, Aspen-headquartered Ski.com is one of North America’s largest providers of mountain vacation packages and an industry leader in online travel technology. Ski.com is actually an amalgam of some of the most famous names in ski travel companies: beginning as Aspen Ski Tours, which became Ski.com in 1999; the company over time acquired Lynx Vacations, GoWest Tours, Adventures on Skis, Sportours, AnyMountain Tours, and Rocky Mountain Tours. The company has booked travel for more than one million skiers and riders.

Ski.com specializes in booking custom ski vacations at more than 120 of the most popular ski resorts and heli- and cat-skiing destinations in North America, Europe, Japan and South America, with relationships with more than 120 destinations worldwide and over 4,000 properties worldwide. It is a one-stop shop for custom ski vacation packages that can include everything from discounted lift tickets, lodging, flights, equipment rental, ground transfers, lessons and off-mountain activities (such as dogsledding or nordic skiing).

Visit Ski.com (you can do an on-line chat with a specialist) or call 800-908-5000 or 970-429-3099.

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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

Vail Resorts Storms the Northeast; Epic Pass Now Valid at Dozens of Major Resorts Worldwide

Our intimate group participating in Mount Snow’s first-ever Devin Logan Experience (Olympic freestyle skiing silver medalist and hometown hero Devin Logan is second from left). Mount Snow, Vermont is one of 17 resorts newly acquired by Vail Resorts and included in this season’s Epic Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

No question about it: Vail Resorts has stormed the entire East Coast ski market, just this season adding 17 resorts in one fell swoop with its acquisition of Peak Resorts, including such iconic destinations as Mount Snow in Vermont and Hunter Mountain in New York to a list that already included Stowe and Okemo Mountain in Vermont (and Okemo’s sister resorts, Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire and Crested Butte in Colorado), Now add in Attitash Mountain Resort, Wildcat Mountain and Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire and Liberty Mountain Resort, Roundtop Mountain Resort, Whitetail Resort, Jack Frost and Big Boulder in Pennsylvania plus seven more in the Midwest, all of which are included on this season’s Epic Pass.

Riding the bubble chair at Okemo, Vermont, now under the Vail Resorts umbrella © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Epic Pass already provides access to some of the biggest names in skiing – Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Keystone in Colorado, and Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood, in Lake Tahoe, Calif.,  Park City, Utah, Whistler BC– as well as its partnerships with resorts in the Alps and Japan, even Perisher in Australia when it is summer in North America. The Epic Pass offers unlimited, unrestricted access to all of Vail Resorts’ owned and operated mountain resorts plus additional access to partner resorts around the world including Telluride, Sun Valley, Snowbasin, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, Hakuba Valley Japan, Verbier, Courchevel. (For more information: www.epicpass.com)

What is more, innovations in Epic Pass allow for more flexibility.

The New Epic Day Pass Makes Skiing and Riding More Accessible and Affordable: New for the 2019-20 season, Vail Resorts launched the Epic Day Pass, which provides all skiers and riders with the value and flexibility traditionally available only to season pass holders. The Epic Day Pass is a first-of-its-kind customizable pass for skiers and riders who may not need the unlimited access offered by traditional season passes, with discounts up to 50% off of lift ticket window prices and as low as $109 for one day of skiing at any of our North American resorts. Guests can lower their cost per day by adding more days and selecting the number of days they plan to ski or ride – from one day to seven days – and whether or not to add holiday access.

Other innovations company-wide:

Emma: A Digital Mountain Assistant at Your Fingertips. Last season Vail Resorts introduced Emma, the Epic Mountain Assistant, to help guide guests visiting select Vail Resorts destinations. Using artificial intelligence and natural language processing, Emma has the ability to answer a wide range of guests’ questions in real time through SMS text. She transforms the guest experience by offering on-demand information on everything from grooming, lift line wait times, and parking, to recommendations on rentals, lessons, and dining options. Through machine learning and data analysis, Emma will be even smarter for the 2019-20 season. She’s available at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Whistler Blackcomb, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood. More information can be found at www.EmmaIsEpic.com, or text 77477.

In 2017, Vail Resorts launched Commitment to Zero, the company’s industry-leading sustainability goal. The company pledged to achieve a zero net operating footprint by 2030 across all of its resorts through  (1) zero net emissions by 2030 with 50 percent progress toward this goal by 2025, (2) zero waste to landfill by 2030 and increasing waste diversion to 50 percent by the end of 2020, and (3) zero net operating impact to forests and habitat.

More new developments at Vail Resorts: 

COLORADO

Snowmaking upgrades at Vail Mountain that will allow for more diverse terrain to be open earlier. This is the largest snowmaking expansion project in Vail Mountain’s history!

Snowmaking upgrades at Beaver Creek, which will ensure more reliable early-season terrain in a key learning area of the upper mountain, with the goal of top-to-bottom skiing on opening day. Additionally, a newly remodeled village will welcome families for one-of-a-kind events and experiences throughout the season.

Transformation of the Peak 8 base area at Breckenridge, which entails new escalators that will connect the street and plaza levels; a new skier services headquarters (pass/ticket sales, ski school, retail/rental, etc.), as well as an ice rink, coffee shop and new town transit stop. And there’s more to come with a four-star hotel under development. Also, Gravity Haus Breckenridge will open this winter, replacing the Village Hotel at the base of Breckenridge’s Peak 9. The appeals to outdoor enthusiasts through ongoing programming and amenities that include Dryland Fitness, a sports recovery center, four lanes of duckpin bowling, and a co-working space.

Skiing Keystone © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Snowmaking upgrades at Keystone Resort that will position the resort to be one of the first in the country to open this season! Alongside neighboring Breckenridge, the two Summit County resorts will offers guests one of the longest ski seasons in the country, with skiing and riding operations planned to kick off at Keystone in October and run through Memorial Day at Breck, as weather and conditions permit.

New Teocalli Lift at Crested Butte, a fixed-grip quad lift, replacing a fixed-grip double. The upper terminal will also be slightly realigned closer to the top of the Red Lady Express Lift, improving egress to Uley’s Cabin and the base area. 

In addition, Telluride has a partnership arrangement to be on Vail’s Epic Pass, whereby those with a full Epic Pass can get up to seven days, and those with a basic pass can ski four days. Getting to Telluride from New York is easier with a new Saturday flight on American from LaGuardia (Dec. 21-April 4) in addition to daily nonstops from Newark on United (Dec 19-Jan 5, Feb 15-Apr 2).

PARK CITY

Skiing Park City, largest single ski resort in United States © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The new Over and Out Lift, a fixed grip quad lift will transport guests from the bottom of the Tombstone Express Lift to the top of Sunrise Lift on the front side of the mountain. As the name suggests, this lift will provide a quicker, more direct route for skiers and riders to access Canyons Village from the center of the resort. Steps from the Tombstone Lift, the new on-mountain dining restaurant, Tombstone BBQ, will replace the moveable food truck with a permanent structure that includes seating for up to 50 guests, a beer bar and a full kitchen to allow for the use of reusable serve ware.

LAKE TAHOE

Skiing Heavenly affords incomparable views © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Heavenly is the only ski resort in North America to span across two states, allowing skiers and riders to experience the best of both California and Nevada terrain, all on one mountain. For guests who like to take enviable Instagram pictures, they can do so next to on-mountain “Welcome to California” and “Welcome to Nevada” signs, all while capturing the beauty of Lake Tahoe in the backdrop. Meanwhile, off-mountain, you get to frolic in the yin-yang of Nevada casinos and nightlife and the laid-back wholesomeness of California.

“Welcome to California.” Heavenly is the only ski resort in North America to span across two states, and it is great fun to take a photo as you cross the border © goingplacesfarandnear.com Ski Heavenly, Lake Tahoe

Northstar is partnering with internationally acclaimed restaurateur, Michael Mina, to unveil the new Bourbon Pub Northstar, opening in winter 2019. Bourbon Pub Northstar will offer upscale pub food to the après ski crowd with starters such as truffle tater tots, mesquite grilled steaks, and fennel stuffed salmon.

Luxurious, whimsical and an ode to fun in the mountains, Tost, a 2 pm toast with Champagne atop the mountain at East Ridge exemplifies the “California laid-back luxury” atmosphere found at Northstar © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Explore 37 miles of groomed trails at Kirkwood’s Cross Country and Snowshoe Center on skis, snowshoes…and now fat bikes! Diverse terrain and modes of exploring are available for all ability levels making Kirkwood’s Cross Country and Snowshoe Center a perfect spot for winter family adventures that can include everyone – even the dog.

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

WHISTLER BLACKCOMB

The Roundhouse Umbrella Bar and new 60-seat patio offers a chance to raise a glass among the clouds at the front of the Roundhouse Lodge year-round.

Check out the Cloudraker Suspension Bridge, the highest suspension bridge in North America at the top of Whistler Mountain, 7,160 feet above sea level. Spanning 426.5 feet from the Peak to West Ridge, the Cloudraker Suspension Bridge brings sightseers, hikers and mountain bikers to the Peak for an unparalleled view of the Whistler Valley and Black Tusk, in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Whistler Heli-Skiing is the pinnacle of Whistler’s skiing experience. For guests looking to take their experience to the next level, Whistler Heli-Skiing has what it takes to go the extra distance. With exclusive rights to 432,000 acres of big mountain terrain that includes 173 glaciers and 475 trails, Whistler Heli-Skiing offers a variety of packages for everyone, from strong intermediates to seasoned experts. Whistler Blackcomb offers some of best snow in North America. Last year, Vail invested $66 million in upgrading lifts. A new activity is Vallea Lumina, a nighttime interactive walk in the rainforest, which had been offered only in summer, being offered in winter for the first time (www.whistlerblackcomb.com).

NORTHEAST

Improvements to Okemo’s on-mountain lodges, The Sugar House Lodge and Summit Lodge will be completed in time for the 2019-20 season. Both lodges will receive upgrades including new culinary concepts and menus, as well as a new interior look and feel.

It’s 3 degrees but enjoying the hot tub at Adams House condo at Jackson Gore, Okemo Mountain, alongside the slopes © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

 Stowe is one of Vermont’s most celebrated locations for foodies – from farm fresh meats, cheeses, produce, heirloom grains and local craftsmanship. Stowe’s creative and eclectic collection of spots to eat span many cultures and dining experiences, from breweries and restaurants like the new Von Trapp Bier Hall, to on-mountain fine dining at the Cliff House, Stowe’s attention to quality is exceptional.

New for 2019-20 season, Mount Sunapee is launching EpicMix. Skiers and riders can download the free EpicMix app to access a variety of features from their mobile phones to check snow conditions, view webcams and trail maps, earn pins and track their Ski & Snowboard School progress. After a great day on the mountain, you can even share your achievements on Facebook and Twitter.

In addition operating 37 world-class mountain resorts and urban ski areas Vail Resorts owns and/or manages a collection of casually elegant hotels under the RockResorts brand, as well as the Grand Teton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

More information at www.snow.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

Alta, Utah: If You Can See It, You Can Ski It!

We come from east and west coasts to meet up at Alta, Utah, for world-class skiing © Dave E Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Dave E Leiberman, Laini Miranda, Eric Leiberman, Andrew Kessel, Maya Fayfman

Travel Features Syndicate,  goingplacesfarandnear.com

Everywhere on Alta’s 2,600 skiable acres feels like we’re in a snow globe. What used to be a treeless mining town is now home to what we found to be one of the country’s most fairytale-esque, European-feeling, lovable ski mountains in the US. This weekend, our annual adventure takes our bicoastal group of millennials to the glacier-carved Colli known as “Little Cottonwood”, roughly an hour from Salt Lake City and home to Alta and Snowbird, two adjacent and amazingly complementary ski mountains. We are excited to experience Alta, a mountain that we expect will be both challenging and accessible to our group of varied skier levels.

Skiing Alta, Utah © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We are lucky to be taken around the slopes our first morning by Alta’s Andria Huskinson and Sarah McMath. Andria, who is also a veteran racer, has been skiing Alta for over 20 years and is still discovering new lines down the mountain. She and Sarah are the perfect duo to show us the ropes and give us a taste of that #AltaMagic that we heard about — a combination of Goldilocks snow (not too hard, not too soft, just the right density and feel!), sun-beamed vistas of encircling mountain faces, enchanting runs with tons of skiable chutes and side areas, and general good energy vibes from Alta’s loyal skier community (and Alta is one of the few mountains left that are skiers-only).

One of the most enjoyable parts of the morning is meandering through the trees and around the occasional mountain home (grandfathered on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest land) as we wrap down Cabin Hill, a run that we will attempt to revisit several times today and tomorrow, though we occasionally miss the entrance points. This run entails a relaxing, yet fun video-game like experience of skiing with wide spaces between trees and fast terrain that is not too steep.

While most of our group is busy exploring with Andria and Sarah, the most “rusty intermediate” in our group, Maya,  breaks away and has the chance to take a 2-hour private lesson. They start off on some easy greens so the instructor has the opportunity to see what she’s working with, while offering some simple pointers as they ski. They continue to harder and more challenging trails. While some lessons can be bagged down with frequent stops and wordy instruction, Maya really appreciates that they spend the bulk of their time skiing with occasional pointers as she goes. It isn’t until they ride the chairlift that more detailed instruction is offered, as well as some other pleasant and enjoyable “get-to-know-you” conversation. As the half-day lesson comes to a close, Maya rejoins the rest of the gang with a renewed confidence and comfort for tackling all that Alta has to offer.

Skiing Alta, Utah © Dave E Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

True to the congenial Alta way, there is also a new “Lady Shred,” a supportive lady-based ski group begun by Sarah and Andria in an effort to bring more woman power to the mountain in a sport that’s typically 11:1 male to female. The group is open to anyone who wants to join Saturdays at 1 pm and is promoted on their instagram @altahighgirls and #altaladyshred.

From there, we generally stay together while a few of us veer off into the various “choose-your-own-adventure” virgin-snow-covered side paths through the trees here and there. It’s a perfect Bluebird Day with about a foot of fresh new snow just this week, taking the mountain to a cumulative 397.5 inches already this season. As Ski Utah’s Adam Fehr points out, “high elevation, dry air, the primarily north-facing aspect, and lake-effect snowfall makes for the perfect combination”.

Skiing Alta, Utah © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We venture to Catherine’s Area along the perimeter of Supreme, the part of the mountain with views that Sarah mentioned earlier in the day made her fall in love with Alta. The hike up to Catherine’s is flanked by panoramic vistas. (Riding the Alta lifts is similarly picturesque.) There is a real backcountry feel to the mountain, though you don’t have to spend an entire morning trekking (just a bit here and there, if you want to). “If you see it, you can ski it!” Andria says.  

Gourmet sit-down lunch at Rustler Lodge affords sensational view of Alta

Our gourmet sit-down lunch at Rustler Lodge introduces us to such mouth-watering dishes as the Rustler Game Burger (half-pound blend of elk, bison and waygu), the Halibut Fish Tacos, the Thai Chicken Salad, and an incredible cup of white bean chili (making us wish we ordered a bowl). Our gloves and hats are warming by the wood fire in the middle of the restaurant, and the ambiance is somewhere between that of a rustic ski lodge, a modern New American restaurant, and an Ivy League dining hall (particularly if you get the large table that commands its own little alcove along the windows, for a more private party feel). We can see Eagle’s Nest from our window-side table, which gives us mixed feelings about indulging in such a relaxed lunch. We of course skip dessert, briefly take in the beautiful lodge, and head back out to the slopes.

More snow begins to fall in the afternoon and we lose some of the blue skies, but the strategy of gradually moving across the mountain, starting the day at Supreme and making our way East to Collins by the end of the day, seems to give us the best conditions at every point in the day. A three-minute cut across the High Traverse, with a few sidesteps “up and over” to the other side, takes us to the sheltered and snow-swamped Gunsight. This turns out to be the perfect last run of the day, the sun gleaming through and the afternoon light glittering on the very steep entrance slot. There is an intense initial drop, and then the run eases slightly and empties into “the gulley” toward the bottom. Finally, we can either take a green run home to the Transfer Tow, or cut through the trees to the left for a final bout of mogul-ey glades. The latter enables us to truly earn the après at The “Sitz” (the iconic Sitzmark Club).

Skiing into the trees at Alta © Dave E Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The vibe at Alta just feels different. People come to Alta, fall in love with it, and then don’t go anywhere else. There is a staggeringly high rate of return among guests. One place you’ll most certainly feel the warm community is at Alta’s après-ski bars, especially the cozy Sitzmark Club at Alta Lodge, where we walk in and, consumed by the aroma, instantly crave a hot whiskey cider, along with their complementary homemade hummus with chips. The place is filled with skier friends who seem like they’ve known each other since childhood, and some of them do. As we sit talking to Andria and the team, she points out some of the Alta all-stars. “That’s the guy who was basically the grandfather of ski photography.”

Apres ski at Alta © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We hang for the après ski and then the après après ski, enjoying the atmosphere, good conversation, and additional mountain trivia (e.g. Alta is one of the oldest ski mountains in the country!). Nearby, the Alta Peruvian Lodge is slightly bigger, and similarly packed to the brim with warm people. If The Peruvian’s free-reign tapas run out by the time you arrive, be sure to ask for a basket of popcorn or nuts with your cold beer. Both bars are intimate rooms with that old lodge feel and Alta memorabilia adorning the walls. There are no C-list garage bands or brand sponsorships—the sound and energy comes from old and new friends enjoying each other after their awesome day of skiing.

Despite being a world-renowned ski destination (sorry, no snowboarders or “other snow-sliding equipment” allowed), Alta feels very accessible. The lines really only pick up on weekends, but even then, move surprisingly fast. We spend much of our second day going down moderate to intense trails. Alta marks all expert terrain with a single black diamond, despite the varying levels of steepness and intensity of their diamond runs. Although Alta has a reputation as a challenging mountain, we meet many families with kids just trying on skis for their first time. The ski school at Alta is world-renowned for training all levels of skiers.

Alta Panorama © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Like the mountain, which can be graded with varying levels of challenge and adventure, the cuisine and lodging options on the mountain are similarly varied.

Our second day, we enjoy a cozy lunch at the Collins Grill, a European-style bistro grill right by the Collins and Wildcat lifts and nestled within Watson Shelter. We feast on decadent delights like bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers, crab cakes, rabbit stew and lamb skewers. This hearty mountain-fare tastes all the more satisfying for two reasons. First, we’re wearing the restaurant-supplied slippers instead of our ski boots. And second, we learn that all of the ingredients in the beautifully prepared food we’re eating is sourced locally and sustainably whenever possible.

We learn from Maura Olivos, Alta’s Sustainability Coordinator, Ecologist and founder of the mountain’s Environmental Center, that locally sourced food isn’t the only environmentally conscious action Alta takes. Whether it’s planting trees, conducting research, educating the community or reporting their environmental impact, Alta has been at the forefront of conservation and sustainability for over 80 years (though the Environmental Center was officially formed in 2008). It’s the antithesis of a man-made ski resort with premeditated and manicured trails. Instead, Alta celebrates and even improves the national forest that it leases and calls home. “You ski it as the mountain was meant to be skied,” says instructor Bob who’s been teaching there for 13 years.

While the fire, espresso shots and discussion of all the ways we can be better stewards of our planet is delightfully pleasant, the clouds clear and the mountain calls.

Riding the chairlift at Alta © Dave E Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We make our way to Sunnyside to say hello to the resident porcupine, and then head up the Sugarloaf lift to hit one of the longest blue runs at Alta – The Devil’s Elbow. From there, we follow the sun and head east to Ballroom and Mambo. Ballroom is a huge highlight, offering expansive and high-up intermediate powder bowl skiing, while Mambo is a fun and fast groomer at the top of Collins that funnels into the Wildcat base area.

We enjoy every second at Alta and pack in every last run until the lifts close.

As an instructor who’s been teaching at Alta for over 13 years explains to us as we head up the lift for our last run, “At Alta, you ski as the mountain was meant to be skied”.

Indeed, we felt a certain sort-of spiritual connection to Alta. We will most certainly be back soon.

Friends come together at Alta , Utah, one of most accessible world-class ski areas in North America, just 40 minutes drive from Salt Lake International Airport..

Located just 40 minutes from the Salt Lake International Airport, Alta is one of the most accessible ski areas in North America.

Alta has a partner pass offering with the new IKON Pass and is a Mountain Collective Pass resort.

Alta Ski Area, Alta, UT 84092, 801-359-1078, www.alta.com, info@alta.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

Colorado Ski Country USA Welcomes Skiers, Riders With Improvements On and Off Mountains

Winter Park Resort, which is owned by the city of Denver but beginning this year operated by Alterra Mountain Co., is opening a new $16 million 10-person gondola in its base area. It’s the only major Colorado ski resort that can be reached by train from Denver. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) member ski areas will welcome guests this season with a slew of l improvements and programs to delight guests of all ages, abilities and interests levels.

“Guests to Colorado Ski Country member ski areas will experience new chairlifts, new terrain, new lodging, new dining options and multiple offerings that are directed at those newer or returning to the sport and those that may just be looking to enjoy the mountain environment,” said Melanie Mills, President and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA.

Here are highlights:

Winter Park Resort

Winter Park Resort is opening a new $16 million 10-person gondola in its base area, replacing the well known 4-person Zephyr chairlift. This new gondola will increase uphill capacity by over 1,000 guests per hour, reducing wait times by 15 minutes during peak season. It is part of a $28 million investment at the resort this year. The resort’s first new on-mountain lift installation since 2007, the gondola will serve a new daily Mountaintop Sunset Après at the Lodge at Sunspot from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Foot passengers can ride for free without a lift ticket beginning at 2:30 p.m. each day.

Skiers will also benefit from upgrades to its snowmaking system with the addition of new energy efficient compressors, pipe replacement, and new high-tech snow guns.

An upgrade to the Zephyr Plaza in Winter Park Village will create a free-flowing plaza with stage area, fire pits, and sundeck for general gathering and small events and concerts.

Winter Park is still owned by the City of Denver but now under management of Alterra Mountain Company. Alterra, which also owns the Aspen Skiing Company, is paying the city $3 million a year plus a percentage, money that is going toward the city’s parks). That means that Winter Park is also included in Alterra’s Ikon pass (nearby Copper Mountain is also part of Ikon pass, plus Steamboat, Aspen Snowmass in Colorado, among 14 resorts included in the pass).

Ice skating at Winter Park’s base village © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Winter Park resort is linked to Denver by train and the popular service is expanding to once a day on Saturday and Sunday and the first two Fridays of the month (January through March, $29 one/way, half-price for children under 12; book in advance so you don’t get shut out); it leaves the resort at 4:30 pm so it can be a day trip (great idea for people coming to Denver for business or conferences). Destination visitors can even take rail from the airport to downtown/Union Station, stay overnight in the city and acclimate to the altitude before taking the train in the morning. Winter Park works with Denver’s Convention & Visitor Bureau, and you can book lodging online. It’s great for corporate visitors to Denver, but Winter Park, a major destination resort, is definitely worth longer-stays. Check out Winter Park’s five-course gondola-served dinners at The Lodge at Sunspot.

Winter Park starts at a base of 9,000 ft., rising to a summit at 12,060 ft, for a  3,060 ft. vertical; it offers snowmaking on 313 of its  3,081 skiable acres, serviced by 25 lifts; its 166 trails offer  8% green,  37% intermediate, 52% black and 3% double-black including bowl skiing and cat-skiing. For more information, visit www.winterparkresort.com.

Copper Mountain Resort

Skiing at Copper Mountain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Copper Mountain is debuting the American Flyer and American Eagle chairlifts out of Copper’s Center Village. The American Flyer is a high speed six-person chair with bubble enclosures to protect from wind and cold, the only active bubble chair in Colorado. The American Eagle is a high-speed combination lift that features both six-person chairs and eight-person gondola cabins. Both will significantly increase uphill access from the base area and reduce wait times.

Copper Mountain will have a new base area restaurant, Downhill Duke’s. Named after a beloved dog, Downhill Duke’s will welcome guests and their four-legged friends to enjoy lunch or après cocktails on the south-facing patio.

One of the many pleasures of Copper, which is one of the easiest major resorts to reach from Denver International Airport, are programs like free guided snowshoeing (even the equipment is free) and a mountain coaster.

Among the activities at Copper Mountain is free guided snowshoeing, equipment included © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Copper Mountain is owned by Powdr resort company which is now partnering with the Ikon ski pass so you get unlimited skiing/riding, along with Woodward, Winter Park, Eldora, Steamboat, Aspen Snowmass and Killington, Vt.)

“The theme for us this year is the ease of access,” with free transportation throughout Summit county, upgraded parking and bus fleet.

Copper offers naturally separated abilities across its mountain peaks, and plenty of stunning skiing/riding for beginners and intermediates in the 2490 skiable acres (36 green runs, 36 blue, 52 black and 27 double-black) with snowmaking on 364 acres to supplement the 306 inches of average snowfall. From the base at 9,703 ft, the peak rises to 12,313.

For more information, visit www.coppercolorado.com.

Steamboat Resort

Steamboat Resort will feature two new dining experiences for the 2018-19 season. Timber & Torch, a new base area restaurant and bar experience, will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring a new outdoor heated patio, two indoor/outdoor bars, an exterior fireplace and a new outdoor BBQ. The Taco Beast, a unique new on-mountain, roaming snowcat, will serve carne asada and al pastor trail tacos with trailside service in both winter and summer seasons.

Steamboat starts at a base of 6,900 ft., rising to a summit at 10,568 ft, for a  3,668 ft. vertical; it offers snowmaking on 375 of its  2,965 skiable acres, serviced by 18 lifts; its 165 trails are graded as  14% green,  42% intermediate, 44% black including bowl skiing and cat-skiing.

Steamboat Resort’s mountain coaster (photo from Steamboat Resort).

Steamboat, famous for its Western ambiance, also offers night skiing and a mountain coaster. Steamboat Springs also boasts having produced more winter Olympians than any other town in North America. Steamboat is one of 37 resorts included on the Alterra Mountain’s Ikon Pass. For more information, visit www.steamboat.com.

Aspen Snowmass

Aspen Snowmass is actually four distinct mountain destinations: the legendary Aspen Mountain, which rises up from one of Colorado’s most charming towns; Snowmass Mountain Resort, a self-contained resort; Aspen Highlands, a challenging mountain and Buttermilk Mountain, especially popular for beginners and families.

Aspen Skiing Company, part of Alterra Mountain Co., is making progress on the $600 million Snowmass Base Village Development that will add lodging, residences and amenities over 10 years. The first phase of development is opening this season: the new Limelight Hotel Snowmass, a ski-in/ski-out hotel adjacent to Snowmass Mountain’s Elk Camp Gondola featuring 99 hotel rooms and 11 for-sale condominiums, plus a new restaurant, a children’s game area and a five-story climbing wall. The Snowmass Base Village hosts a central public events plaza, serving as the community’s gathering space with an ice-skating rink, fire pits, children’s pop-up fountains and other community amenities this winter. At Buttermilk families and children can enjoy Fort Frog, a new wooden, frontier style fort with lookout towers, a jail, snowball launcher and swinging bridge.

Aspen Mountain: The ski trails at Aspen Mountain were originally cut by the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division and the ski destination emerged from a sleepy post-war town beginning in 1946.

Its Silver Queen Gondola rises up from downtown Aspen 3,000 vertical feet to the summit of Aspen Mountain at 11,212 ft. (making it easy to access from downtown hotels, like the historic Jerome Hotel). Its comparatively small size — a mere 675 acres (still larger than most New England ski resorts) offers 76 trails of which 48% are rated intermediate, 26% advanced and 26% double-black including bowl skiing and cat skiing.

Snowmass with more than 3,300 skiable acres, has the highest vertical rise, 4,400 feet, in the country. Snowmass is notable for really catering to all ages and abilities and for being family-friendly – its 20 lifts serve 96 trails, rated as  5% green, 48% intermediate, 17% black and 30% double-black including bowl skiing. There are steeps and powder fields at Hanging Valley; long cruisers; tree trails and three terrain parks.

A new Snowmass Mountain Club provides members private garage parking directly below the Club, ski-in access and access to the hotel’s fitness facilities and hot tubs.

Aspen Snowmass’ new Breathtaker Alpine Coaster winds through a mile of forest on an elevated track at speeds up to 28 mph (photo from Aspen Skiing Co.)

Also new is the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, that winds through a mile of forest on an elevated track at speeds up to 28 mph. Located adjacent to the Elk Camp Restaurant, the coaster operates during the day and special Ullr Nights and select Après extended hours. You can purchase tickets for a 2 1/2-hour coaster session or a 2 1/2-hour session combining the coaster and Tubing.

Snowmass is celebrating its 50th anniversary with festivities all season long.

Buttermilk is known for two seemingly contradictory things: being a beginners’ mountain and hosting the Winter X Games. Its kid-oriented Panda Peak is popular for families and Buttermilk’s West Buttermilk park is well suited to learners while a second  X Games park offers 100 features and a pipe.

Buttermilk rises from a base at 7,870 to a summit at 9,900′ for a vertical of 2,030 ft.; it offers snowmaking on 108 of its 470 skiable acres, which are serviced by 8 lifts. Its 44 trails are rated as 35% green, 39% intermediate, 21% black and 5% double-black.

Aspen Highlands is a challenging area (no beginner trail) that has a reputation as being where locals go. Highland Bowl is a legendary basin of double-black diamond terrain which is reached by hiking to 12,392 foot Highland Peak, and is prized by expert skiers and riders.

Aspen Highlands rises from 8,040 to 12,392 feet, for a 3,635 ft. vertical and offers 1,040 skiable acres, served by 5 lifts. Of the 144 trails, 23% are rated intermediate, 12% black and 65% double-black; it offers bowl skiing and cat skiing.

Also new for the 2018-19 season, The Aspen Snowmass App is being upgraded to provide rewards and enhanced functioning of year-over-year stats and tracking, allowing families, skiers and nonskiers to track on-mountain movements.

Aspen Snowmass is part of the Alterra collection and the Ikon Pass as well as The Mountain Collective.  For more information, visit www.aspensnowmass.com.

Telluride Ski Resort

Telluride Ski Resort has upgraded The Meadows, its popular beginner area, into a world-class learning facility. The Meadows features a newly installed 320-foot covered surface lift and a significant investment in a terrain-based learning program. Telluride skiers and riders will also find an expanded grooming fleet to enhance the groomed terrain across the resort, as Telluride continues its multi-year, multimillion-dollar venture in snowmaking upgrades and technology to improve efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint. A new consumer app is being introduced that provides up-to-the-minute lift status information, snow reporting, trail status, an interactive trail map, push notifications and more.

Holidays at Telluride (photo from Telluride Resort).

Telluride, a quintessential Colorado experience, offers the highest eaterie, Alpino Vino, at 11,996 ft altitude (they sell oxygen). Telluride is now included as a partner on Vail’s Epic Pass. Telluride also offers heli-skiing in the San Juans, literally departing from outside the door of the hotel (suitable for strong intermediates, but aimed for excellent skiers). Telluride is also home to the resort rated #1 in North America by Conde Nast Traveler for five of the last six years.

Telluride rises from a base at 8,725 ft to a summit at 13,150 ft, for a  whopping 4,425 ft vertical;  it offers 2,000 skiable acres accessed by 19 lifts; of the 148 trails,  23% are rated green,  36%  are blue, 41% are black. For more information, visit www.tellurideskiresort.com.

Purgatory Resort

Purgatory Resort will offer year-round access to the Inferno Mountain Coaster, a new gravity-fed ride that will zip through aspen groves revealing incredible views of the San Juan Mountains. The Inferno Mountain Coaster is almost a mile long, with 300 feet of vertical drop, nine switchbacks and speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.

Purgatory Resort has year-round access to the Inferno Mountain Coaster, a nearly mile-long ride that zips through aspen groves at up to 25 mph, down 300 feet of vertical, and around nine switchbacks, revealing incredible views of the San Juan Mountains (photo from Purgatory Resort).

Brand new for the 2018-19 season, Purgatory Resort is offering a free season pass for all children in Fourth Grade or younger, with no blackout dates and no parent purchase required.

Purgatory offers a 2,029 vertical, rising from a base at 8,793 ft to a summit 15 10,822. Its 1,605 skiable acres are served by 13 lifts; the 94 trails are graded 20% green, 45% blue, 35% black. For more information, visit www.skipurg.com.

Colorado Gems

Apart from these major, world-class resorts, Colorado is studded with smaller “Gems” — 11 ski areas which offer two for one or 30% off (the pass costs $25 and pays for itself after the first visit): Arapahoe Basin, Cooper, Echo Mountain, Eldora, Granby Ranch, Hesperus, Kendall Mountain, Loveland, Monarch, Powderhorn and Sunlight.

Here’s what’s new:

Arapahoe Basin is completing a two-year project that adds 468 acres of new intermediate and expert terrain in the Beavers and Steep Gullies. This includes 34 new runs served by the new Beavers lift in 2018-19, while the Steep Gullies terrain remains hike-back, expert only terrain.

This summer, A-Basin operations crews constructed 97 more acres of tree skiing and continued improving the rest of the terrain with grading, glading and installation of the chairlift and picnic areas. Terrain in The Beavers includes two new intermediate groomed runs, allowing more skiers and riders to enjoy this scenic, north- and west-facing terrain. The Steep Gullies are 91 acres of extreme (double-black diamond), steep, couloir skiing which remain hike-back for the true advanced skier or snowboarder looking for some of the most challenging terrain in Colorado.

Hiking up to Arapahoe Basin’s Steep Gullies expert-only terrain (photo by Dave Camara)

In conjunction with the terrain expansion, A-Basin is opening a restaurant at the summit, a European Style delicatessen, Il Refugio “The Shelter”.

Its midway lodge is famous for moonlight dinners offered six times a season, where you take the lift up; the dinners are themed (Africa, New Years Eve, Italy, France, India) and accommodate 180 diners (so make your reservation). A-Basin has four chefs. “We want people to come for the culinary experience.”

Skiers with a lift ticket for nearby Keystone or the Vail Epic pass have access to A-Basin.

Arapahoe Basin rises from a base at 10,520 ft to 13,050 ft..for a  2,530 ft vertical rise; has snowmaking on 125 of its  1,428 skiable acres, serviced by  9 lifts; its  145 trails are classified as  7%  green, 20% blue, 49% black and 24%  double-black, including bowl skiing.

A-Basin affords activities year-round: dining at the base in summer, disk golf, and is opening an adventure park for summer 2020.

For more information, visit www.arapahoebasin.com.

Cooper’s new Moonlight Mountaintop Yurt dinner series at the Ridgeview Café features a ride to the mountaintop after hours in a warm, cozy snowcat in the light of the full moon. This event is perfect for a special gathering with four dates during the 2018-19 season and includes delicious flame-grilled salmon, stuffed portabella mushrooms and New York strip steaks. Cooper offers 41 trails on 400 skiable acres served by 4 lifts. For more information, visit www.skicooper.com.

Eldora: A year after installing the Alpenglow high-speed six-person chairlift, Eldora’s first-ever high-speed lift, the ski area is making another leap into the future this season with RFID pass technology. There are also new glading projects and upgrades to Eldora’s electrical and communication systems and more frequent early-season and midweek events and activities. Eldora offers 53 trails on 680 skiable acres, 20% beginning, 50% intermediate, 15% advanced and 15% expert. For more information, visit www.eldora.com.

Granby Ranch offers groups the opportunity to rent Granby Ranch’s East Mountain for the evening. Guests will have full access to the East Mountain night skiing terrain from 5pm-9pm.  Granby Ranch has 38 trails on 406 skiable acres (245 with snowmaking), of which 36% are beginner, 40% intermediate and 24% advanced.  For more information, visit www.granbyranch.com.

Loveland Ski Area, in Georgetown, is unveiling its largest single capital improvement project in its history with the installation of its first high-speed quad lift, Chet’s Dream. named after its longtime owner, Chet Upham Jr. Loveland is a major ski area, very popular for day trips from Denver, offering 1,800 skiable acres. From the base at 10,800, it rises to 13,010 ft for a 2,210 ft. Ten lifts serve 94 trails, rated as 13% green, 41% blue, 22%  black and 24% double black including bowl skiing and cat-skiing.  For more information, visit www.skiloveland.com.

Monarch Mountain, near Salida, is debuting a brand-new tubing park for the 2018-19 season, expanding offerings for visiting families with both skiers and nonskiers in the group. Monarch is also adding new gladed tree skiing, upgraded WiFi, chip readers at all sales terminals, self-order kiosks in the Gunbarrel Cafeteria and handheld order-taking technology. The mountain rises from a base at 10,790 ft to 11,952 ft, for a 1,162 vertical; its 800 skiable acres are served by six lifts; 64 trails offer a variety of terrain: 22% green, 27% blue, 37% black and 11% double black including bowl skiing and cat skiing. For more information, visit www.skimonarch.com.

Monarch Mountain has opened new gladed tree skiing (photo from Monarch Mountain)

Powderhorn Resort is featuring Mission: Affordable, a new steeply discounted season pass program with discounts and special programs for first-timers and beginners. Powderhorn offers 1,600 skiable acres; its 42 trails are rated 20% green, 50% intermediate and 30% advanced. (www.powderhorn.com).

Silverton Mountain is introducing a new heli-skiing terrain, “Zone 8,” which features diverse high-alpine terrain and great early-season snow. Silverton will also expand its Unguided Season Pass offer to include a 150 percent increase in available ski days to the unguided season, 45 free days at partner ski resorts, and a $39 heli drop. Silverton is a substantial ski area, affording 1,819 skiable acres of which 100% is rated as expert; it offers a 3,087-ft vertical, from the base at 10,400 to summit at 13,487. For more information, visit www.silvertonmountain.com.

Sunlight Mountain Resort is opening the Compass Mountain Grill, an on mountain food stand for walk-up skiers and riders to refuel at the top of Sunlight. The Glenwood Springs-based ski area is known for an award-winning Ski, Swim, Stay! package that combines skiing or snowboarding with lodging and a visit to all-natural hot springs. From a base at 7,885 ft to the summit at 9,895 ft, the area offers a 2,010 ft vertical; it has 66 trails on 680 skiable areas, with a fairly even mix of difficulty: 20% green, 30% blue, 20% black and 30% double black. For more information, visit www.sunlightmtn.com.

Wolf Creek Ski Area in the southern part of Colorado, known for receiving the most snow annually in Colorado, will open for the 2018-19 season with the new high-speed, detachable quad Charity Chairlift, accessing previously underutilized 55 acres of beginner and intermediate terrain. The Charity Lift, the 10th in Wolf Creek, will be the third chairlift in the spacious 900-acre, Alberta area where guests can also enjoy a new on-mountain Alberta Grill, offering a south of the border themed menu and more traditional grilled items. Wolf Creek will also implement and launch a new point-of-sale system in rentals, retail and all restaurants mountain wide for the 2018-19 season. For more information, visit www.wolfcreekski.com.

Information about Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) and its members can be found at www.ColoradoSki.com, on Twitter @ColoradoSkiUSA and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ColoradoSkiCountryUSA.

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© 2018 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

Ski Titans’ Epic, Ikon Season Passes Battle to Win Skier Loyalty

 

 

Winter Park, Colorado, is now included on Alterra Mountain Company’s new Ikon season pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com.

 

By Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

The leaves have hardly started to fall here in the Northeast, let alone the first snowflakes, but eager skiers need to start planning for the upcoming season. Fall is the battle of the season passes, made much more interesting with the consolidation of ski resorts around two major titans: Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company, a new company that emerged from the merger of Aspen Ski Company and KSL and a buying spree of a slew of other major resorts.

Both have done something extremely smart: they’ve burst out of the Rockies to acquire New England’s prime ski resorts –Vail acquiring Stowe and Okemo in Vermont, Alterra acquiring Stratton and forming a partnership with Powdr’s Killington, making their season passes that much more usable, and therefore more valuable for Eastern skiers. What is more, it creates an incentive to include a long-haul ski vacation during the season. Both passes even include access to international resorts – Epic Pass has offerings in Canada, Australia, Japan, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria and Ikon encompasses resorts in Canada, Australia and Japan.

This summer, Vail Resorts announced an agreement to purchase Triple Peaks, LLC, the parent company of Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, Mount Sunapee Resort in New Hampshire, and Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado, and, in a separate acquisition, Stevens Pass Resort in Washington. Vail Resorts plans to invest $35 million over the next two years across the four resorts to continue to elevate the guest experience.

Bubble chairs whisk skiers and snowboarders up the mountain at Okemo. One of the most popular Vermont ski resorts, Okemo is now part of Vail Resorts and is included on Vail’s Epic Pass © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com.

Alterra Mountain Company was created when affiliates of KSL Capital Partners, owners of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, and affiliates of Henry Crown and Company purchased Intrawest, Mammoth Resorts, and Deer Valley Resort in 2017.  Its most recent acquisition, announced just last month, Crystal Mountain Resort in the Northeast edge of Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington, would bring the company’s total to 14 year-round mountain destinations throughout North America, including the world’s largest heli-skiing operation.

(A third powerhouse resort company, Powdr, now owns Killington and Pico in Vermont, as well as such major resorts as Copper Mountain and Eldora Mountain in Colorado (and the Woodward training programs at Copper Mountain and California), Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, among its portfolio, does not have its own network-wide season pass, but three of its properties, Killington, Eldora and Copper, are part of IKON pass as destination partners.)

But to get the best bang for the buck (before pass prices rise in October, so that the pass basically pays for itself after, say, four to six lift tickets), you need to act soon:

Ikon Pass: Access to 36 Destinations on 3 Continents

The Ikon Pass launched in January 2018 and is a collaboration of industry leaders – Alterra Mountain Company, Aspen Skiing Company, Boyne Resorts, POWDR, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Alta Ski Area, Snowbird, SkiBig3, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Sugarbush Resort, Taos Ski Valley, Thredbo and Niseko United. It now offers skiers and riders access to 36 destinations across three continents.

The Ikon Pass incorporates Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain and Eldora 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 in Montana; Stratton, Killington and Sugarbush Resort in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain in Michigan; Crystal Mountain Resort 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; Deer Valley Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Brighton Resort, Alta, and Snowbird in Utah; Thredbo in Australia; and Niseko United in Japan. Special offers are available at CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures, the world’s largest heli-skiing operation. For more information on the Ikon Pass, visit www.ikonpass.com.

Killington, Vt., owned by Powdr, is included on the new Ikon pass from the Alterra Mountain Company © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Two pass products are available for purchase at www.ikonpass.com, the Ikon Pass and the Ikon Base Pass, with varying levels of access and benefits. (The pass price will increase of $50 on October 10, 2018.)

Ikon Pass: Unlimited access to 14 destinations and 7-days or 7-days combined at 21 destinations, with zero blackout dates.

Unlimited Access/Zero Blackout Dates: Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain Resort, Eldora Mountain Resort, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, Big Bear Mountain Resort, June Mountain, Stratton, Snowshoe Mountain, Tremblant, Blue Mountain, Solitude Mountain Resort, Crystal Mountain Resort.

7-Days: Deer Valley Resort, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Big Sky Resort, Killington Resort, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Sugarbush Resort, Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Loon Mountain, Brighton Resort, Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands, The Summit at Snoqualmie, Cypress Mountain, Taos Ski Valley, Thedbo, Niseko United

7-Days Combined: Aspen Snowmass: Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk; AltaSnowbird; SkiBig3: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, Mt. Norquay

More Benefits: 10 Friends & Family lift tickets offering 25% off of the window rate at any Ikon Pass destination (excluding CMH), with no blackout dates; Free one-year $50-value membership to Protect Our Winters that includes POW die cut stickers, 20% off POW store merchandise, a monthly POW newsletter, and a subscription to the biweekly email newsletter, “The Line”.

The price before October 10, 2018: Adult = $999; Teen = $819; Child = $549; 4 & Under = $29

As of October 10, 2018: Adult = $1,049; Teen = $869; Child = $599; 4 & Under = $29

Deer Valley, Utah, is now part of the Alterra Mountain Company and included on the new Ikon season pass © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com.

Ikon Base Pass: Unlimited access to 12 destinations and 5-days or 5-days combined at 23 destinations, with 10 blackout dates.

Unlimited Access/10 Blackout dates: Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain Resort, Eldora Mountain Resort, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows (holiday restrictions), Mammoth Mountain (holiday restrictions), June Mountain (holiday restrictions), Big Bear Mountain Resort, Tremblant, Blue Mountain, Snowshoe Mountain, Solitude Mountain Resort, Crystal Mountain Resort.

5-Days: (Holiday restrictions at all) Deer Valley Resort, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Big Sky Resort, Killington Resort, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Sugarbush Resort, Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Loon Mountain, Brighton Resort, Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands, The Summit at Snoqualmie, Cypress Mountain, Taos Ski Valley, Thedbo, Niseko United

5-Days Combined (Holiday restrictions at all): Aspen Snowmass: Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk; AltaSnowbird; SkiBig3: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, Mt. Norquay

Blackout dates: Dec. 26 – 31, 2018; Jan. 19 – 20, 2019; and Feb. 16 – 17, 2019

More Benefits: 8 Friends & Family lift tickets, good for 25% off the window rate at any Ikon Pass destination (excluding CMH), with select blackout dates; Free one-year membership to Protect Our Winters ($50-value) that includes POW die-cut stickers, 20% off POW store merchandise, a monthly POW newsletter, and a subscription to the biweekly email newsletter, “The Line”.

The price before October 10, 2018: Adult = $699; Teen = $579; Child = $399; 4 & Under = $29

As of October 10, 2018: Adult = $749; Teen = $629; Child = $449; 4 & Under = $29

For more information visit www.ikonpass.com.

Headquartered in Denver, Alterra Mountain Company’s family of resorts spans five U.S. states and three Canadian provinces: Steamboat and Winter Park Resort in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Stratton in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain in Ontario; Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah; and CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia. The company owns and operates a range of recreation, hospitality, real-estate development, food and beverage and retail businesses. For more information visit www.alterramtnco.com.

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass

Ski as much as much as you want, whenever you want. The Epic Pass offers unlimited, unrestricted access to 19 mountain resorts plus additional access to 46 more, including 20 new mountains for the 2018-19 season. Epic Pass provides access to 65 of the world’s premier resorts throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria.

The pass now incorporates Telluride, Crested Butte, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Stevens Pass, Fernie, Kicking Horse, four additional resorts in Canada, and nine resorts within Hakuba Valley, Japan. Among the special advantages the pass affords are opportunities to get the lowest price at most resorts, direct-to-lift access, discounted tickets for family and friends. The Epic Local pass offers access to 27 resorts as well as limited restrictions at world-class resorts around the world.

Park City is one of 19 Vail Resorts with unlimited and unrestricted access on the Epic Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com.

Epic Pass holders enjoy unlimited, unrestricted access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Stowe and Okemo in Vermont; Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire; Stevens Pass in Washington; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan; Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin; Whistler Blackcomb in Canada; and Perisher in Australia for the 2019 season.

New for the 2018-19 season, Epic Pass holders receive seven days of skiing or snowboarding with no blackout dates at both Telluride in Colorado and at Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (Fernie Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and Kimberley Alpine Resort in British Columbia, Nakiska in Alberta, and Mont-Sainte Anne and Stoneham in Quebec), in addition to five total consecutive days with no blackout dates at Hakuba Valley’s nine ski resorts in Japan. The Epic Pass also grants limited access to Les 3 Vallées, Paradiski and Tignes-Val D’Isere in France; 4 Vallées in Switzerland; Arlberg in Austria and Skirama Dolomiti in Italy.

The Epic Pass before the price hike Oct. 7 is $929 (adult, $479 (child). Passholders also get access to 20% off the best available rate including sale prices where available at Vail Resorts locations. (www.epicpass.com/Passes/Epic-Pass).

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

Here’s a snapshot of what’s new at Vail Resorts:

Emma Digital Mountain Assistant

This spring, Vail Resorts introduced Emma, the Epic Mountain Assistant, and the world’s first digital mountain assistant to help guide guests visiting participating Vail Resorts locations. Using artificial intelligence and natural language processing, Emma has the ability to answer a wide range of guests’ questions in real time about their vacation through SMS text. Emma demonstrates Vail Resorts’ commitment to providing its guests with the best possible experience as on-demand information, such as weather and grooming conditions. From the early planning stages to arrival and all the way through departure, Emma offers guests an unprecedented breadth of information tailored to each resort. Emma will debut for the 2018-19 winter season at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Tahoe; and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada. As Emma evolves, she will be able to support summer at the resorts as well. More information can be found at www.EmmaIsEpic.com.

Stowe

New for the 2018-19 winter season at Stowe Mountain Resort are the ‘Kids Adventure Zones.’ An on-mountain sign package will at long last identify the best low-angle gladed areas on Mt. Mansfield. Intermediate skiers and riders of all ages can explore these side-country trails directly from the top-to-bottom, blue and green cruisers that made Stowe famous.

This is only the second season for Stowe’s $30 million Adventure Center. This state-of-the art facility literally sets a new standard in the industry for kids and family amenities. Located at Spruce Peak, Stowe’s Adventure Center is home to all its children’s programs, from daycare facilities to ski and ride programs for kids ages three and up. The building also includes new shops, an Indoor Climbing Center (called Stowe Rocks) and family-friendly dining in The Canteen restaurant.

Also new at Stowe is the Spruce Peak outdoor Ice Skating rink. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, ice skating is complementary and open to the public. Skate rentals are available.

Whistler/Blackcomb: The new Cloudraker Suspension Bridge and Raven’s Eye Viewing Platform is now the highest suspension bridge in North America at the top of Whistler Mountain, some 2,182 m /7,160 feet above sea level. Spanning 130 m /426.5 feet from the Peak to West Ridge, the Cloudraker Suspension Bridge thrills the sightseer, mountain biker, skier or snowboarder’s world all year round᷾. Four cables tensioned to 80,000 lbs. support 101 500-lb. steel modules to cover the span. Get out midway on a busy day, and your knees wobble with the bridge as you hang above Whistler Bowl. The cantilevered walkway at its pinnacle is well worth the daring traverse. The triangular Raven’s Eye platform extends 12.5 m /40.7 feet out from the West Ridge and is 50 m /164 feet above the ski run below. Take in views of Rainbow Mountain, Alta Lake and Black Tusk from a bird’s eye perspective.

New Blackcomb Gondola: Running from the Upper Village to the Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb Mountain, the new Blackcomb Gondola rises 3.86 kilometers from bottom to top. This 10- person Doppelmayr lift carries 184 cabins and transports 4,000 people per hour. Primarily manufactured in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, its mid-station will load 200 meters below the mid-point of the Wizard and Solar Chairs it replaces. Connecting to the PEAK 2 PEAK and Village gondolas, it completes the longest circuitous lift system in the world, at a ride just shy of 12km.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, a Vail resort, is offering new guided UTV Tours, accessing scenic viewpoints at 10,000 feet elevation © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: New at Heavenly Lake Tahoe are guided UTV Tours.  The winter tours leave from the top of the gondola for a 45-minute ride accessing scenic viewpoints at 10,000 feet elevation. Guides traverse to Blue Sky Terrace and stop along the way to discuss Lake Tahoe, environmental interpretation aspects, along with photo opportunities that are otherwise inaccessible.

Lakeland Village Resort, an expansive retreat right on the shores of Lake Tahoe, opens this season. This beautiful townhome property boasts 19 acres of lakeside woodlands, and stunning views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra, making it an incredibly scenic place to stay less than a mile from Heavenly Resort. Hop on the onsite shuttle to nearby casinos, restaurants and downtown. As a Heavenly operated property, guests can buy lift tickets, book ski school and plan the entire stay right on location.

Park City, Utah: Slated to debut at Park City in time for the 2018-19 winter season, the new High Meadow Park at Canyons Village will offer guests a dedicated learning area designed exclusively for beginner skiers. The existing High Meadow four-passenger lift is being replaced with a high-speed, four-passenger lift, increasing uphill capacity by 50 percent and shortening overall ride time by 70 percent. Additional snowmaking throughout the area will further ensure guests ideal snow surface conditions for learning.

Keystone, Colorado: Keystone’s popular Kidtopia Signature Event Series will feature three distinct events throughout the winter to complement the family experience at Keystone. The Kidtopia Spectacular, Nov. 24-Dec. 24, marks the first signature event of the winter and welcomes the holiday season with a mountaintop celebration and lighting ceremony of the world’s largest snow fort. The Kidtopia Culinary Festival, Feb. 9-17, features a savory lineup tailored to the youngest of foodies. The Kidtopia Music Experience, March 1-10, begins the spring skiing and snowboarding season with music-themed fun including the Snow Pants Dance Party, a live outdoor music performance by popular family-friendly acts.

The Kidtopia snow fort at Keystone. popular Kidtopia Signature Event Series will feature three distinct events throughout the winter to complement the family experience at Keystone © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com.

Beaver Creek, Colorado: Beaver Creek’s New Haymeadow Park Learning Area: Following the debut of Red Buffalo Park during the 2017-18 season, Beaver Creek Resort is debuting a second signature learning area in 2018-19. At the heart of Haymeadow Park are a beginner gondola and lift, Haymeadow Express Gondola (#1) and Highlands Lift (#2), plus adjacent magic carpets designed for beginner skiers and riders of all ages. Beaver Creek’s innovative learning terrain is designed around creating the most enjoyable beginner experience with snow terrain features perfectly sculpted to ensure a guests’ first skiing and riding experience is positive. Terrain improvements include a learning area with small terrain features, a beginner race course, Buffalo Bumps and Berms, and Ske-Cology environmental learning. Haymeadow Park amenities also include culinary delights such as the new Ice Cream Parlour located at the The Ranch offering nostalgic ice cream novelties or a quick soup and sandwich lunch. An exclusive specialty kid-designed restaurant lunch area is also provided at The Ranch for kids enrolled in Ski School. For more discerning palates, guests can enjoy gourmet, ski-in lunch service at SaddleRidge Restaurant, renowned for its gourmet Colorado regional cuisine.

More information at snow.com.

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© 2018 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 Continues Expansion with Acquisitions of Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Crested Butte & Stevens Pass

Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont has always enjoyed a loyal following with a very special feeling of community; the resort, known for outstanding service, was one of the first in New England to offer bubble chairs © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Vail Resorts is continuing its buying spree, giving it more reach and penetration in New England with the acquisition of Okemo Mountain Resort, Vermont, which had been owned and operated by the Mueller family for 36 years. The acquisition from the Muellers also includes Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire and Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado. For good measure, Vail also announced a separate acquisition of Stevens Pass in Washington State.

The acquisition of Okemo and Mount Sunapee vastly increases the value of Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass for eastern skiers, especially with the acquisition last year of Stowe Mountain in Vermont. In recent years, Vail acquired Whistler Blackcomb in Canada (the largest ski resort in North America), Park City and Canyons in Utah (which it combined into one, making it the largest ski resort in the United States). The Epic Pass is also valid its other owned resorts, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps near Minneapolis, Mt. Brighton near Detroit, Wilmot Mountain near Chicago, and Perisher in Australia. Epic Pass holders also have limited access to 30 European ski resorts including Verbier and Les 4 Vallées in Switzerland, Les 3 Vallées in France; Arlberg in Austria; and Skirama Dolomiti Adamello Brenta in Italy.

Vail Resorts, Inc. (NYSE: MTN) announced today that it has entered into an agreement to purchase Triple Peaks, LLC, the parent company of Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, Mount Sunapee Resort in New Hampshire, and Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado. Vail Resorts stated it will purchase Triple Peaks, LLC from the Mueller family for $82 million, subject to certain adjustments. At closing, Triple Peaks will pay $155 million to pay off the leases that all three resorts have with Ski Resort Holdings, LLC, an affiliate of Oz Real Estate, with funds provided by Vail Resorts.

As part of a separate transaction, Vail Resorts will also purchase Stevens Pass Resort in Washington from Ski Resort Holdings, LLC, who was advised on the sale by Houlihan Lokey, for a total purchase price of $67 million, subject to certain adjustments. Both transactions are subject to certain closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.

“Together, the acquisitions of Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Crested Butte, and Stevens Pass will significantly enhance the Vail Resorts’ network of resort experiences, adding even more variety and choice for all of our pass holders and guests. Okemo and Mount Sunapee are terrific complements to Stowe in the Northeast, as is Crested Butte to our four Colorado resorts, and Stevens Pass for our Whistler Blackcomb and Seattle guests,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. “Additionally, each of these resorts will individually offer guests from around the world entirely new and distinctive experiences in extraordinary locations from coast to coast.”

“We know our guests and employees will benefit from Vail Resorts’ outstanding track record of resort and community investment, environmental stewardship, and employee development,” said Tim Mueller, president of Triple Peaks, LLC. “We care deeply about the legacy of these resorts, and have absolute confidence in Vail Resorts to celebrate what makes them so special, while also providing long-term stability for the communities.”

“Triple Peaks, LLC and the Mueller family and Karl Kapuscinski, the tenant and operator of Stevens Pass Resort, have been outstanding operators of these resorts and we have valued our association with them,” said Steven Orbuch, founder and president of Oz Real Estate. “We are excited for the opportunities that these transactions create for Vail Resorts and its guests while providing a beneficial outcome for our investors.”

When the transactions close, the 2018-19 Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, Epic Australia Pass, and Epic Military Pass will include unlimited and unrestricted access to all four resorts, with seven and four unrestricted days for the Epic 7 Day and Epic 4 Day passes, respectively. Whistler Blackcomb Edge Card holders will be able to use any of their U.S. days at Stevens Pass, subject to the restrictions on each card. “We are thrilled that the Epic Pass and our other season pass products will now provide our pass holders around the world with even more variety and unique experiences to choose from,” said Kirsten Lynch, chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts.

After closing of the two transactions, Vail Resorts plans to invest $35 million over the next two years across the four resorts to continue to elevate the guest experience. In addition, annual ongoing capital expenditures are expected to increase by $7 million to support the addition of these four resorts.  Together, these acquisitions are expected to generate incremental annual EBITDA in excess of $35 million in Vail Resorts’ fiscal year ending July 31, 2019.

Closing of Transactions

The transactions are expected to close this summer. Operations at the four resorts for the remainder of the 2018 summer season will continue in the ordinary course of business, as will future winter seasonal hiring. Upon closing, Vail Resorts plans to retain the vast majority of each resort’s employees and will be working with the local leadership teams in the coming months to determine the right long-term management structure for the resorts.

Vail Resorts will, subject to approval, assume the state land leases for Okemo Mountain Resort and Mount Sunapee Resort and will obtain new Special Use Permits from the U.S. Forest Service for Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Stevens Pass Resort. The state land lease transfers in Vermont and New Hampshire are subject to administrative review and consent from their respective states.

About the Resorts  

Crested Butte Mountain Resort, located in southwest Colorado’s Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests, is known for the colorful and historic town of Crested Butte, renowned mountain peaks, and legendary skiing and riding terrain. The resort was established in 1961 and has since passed through three families. The Muellers added Crested Butte to their family of resorts in 2004, following their 1982 acquisition of Okemo Mountain and 1998 acquisition of Mount Sunapee.

Rising above the Vermont village of Ludlow, approximately three hours from Boston and four hours from New York City, Okemo Mountain Resort has developed a reputation for superior guest service, incredible snow quality, grooming, terrain parks, and family programs.

Jackson-Gore at Okemo Mountain Resort, a self-contained base area within the resort, offers ski in/out convenience, a spa, pool, hot tubs, and restaurants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mount Sunapee, the premier ski area in southern New Hampshire, is just a short 90-minute drive from Boston. The four-season, family-focused ski area has breathtaking views overlooking Lake Sunapee and consistently receives accolades for excellence in snowmaking and grooming.

On the other side of the United States, Stevens Pass, with its exciting terrain and plentiful snowfall, will be the Company’s second resort in the Pacific Northwest. The resort, less than 85 miles from Seattle, sits on the crest of Washington State’s Cascade Range within two national forests, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest on the west side of the crest and the Wenatchee National Forest on the east.

Pass Access Details

Skiing at Park City, Utah, part of Vail Resorts © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Vail Resorts 2018-19 Epic, Epic Local, Epic Australia, Epic 7-Day, Epic 4-Day, and Military Epic Pass holders will offer these benefits, subject to closing of the transactions:

  • Epic Pass™: Ski or snowboard unlimited and unrestricted from opening day to closing day for only $899. The Epic Pass pays for itself in just over four days of skiing or snowboarding. Enjoy full access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Stowe Mountain Resort and Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont; Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan; Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin; Stevens Pass in Washington; Whistler Blackcomb in Canada; and Perisher in Australia for the 2019 season. New for the 2018-19 season, Epic Pass holders will receive seven days of skiing or snowboarding with no blackout dates at Telluride in Colorado; seven days at Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which includes Fernie Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and Kimberley Alpine Resort in British Columbia, Nakiska in Alberta, and Mont Sainte Anne and Stoneham in Quebec; and up to five total consecutive days with no blackout dates at Hakuba Valley’s nine ski resorts in Japan. The Epic Pass also grants limited access to Les 3 Vallées, Paradiski and Tignes-Val D’Isere in France; 4 Vallées in Switzerland; Arlberg in Austria and Skirama Dolomiti in Italy. A child pass (ages five to 12) is $469.
  • Epic Local Pass™: For $669, receive unlimited and unrestricted skiing or snowboarding at Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Crested Butte, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Stevens Pass, Wilmot, Afton Alps and Mt. Brighton with limited restrictions at Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, and Stowe, plus a combined total of 10 days at Vail, Beaver Creek, and Whistler Blackcomb with holiday restrictions. New for the 2018-19 season, Epic Local Pass holders will receive five total consecutive days with no blackout dates at Hakuba Valley’s nine ski resorts in Japan. The Epic Local Pass pays for itself in just over three days. A child pass (ages five to 12) is $359.
  • Epic 7-Day Pass™: For $669, receive a total of seven unrestricted days at Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Crested Butte, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Stevens Pass and Arapahoe Basin, plus seven additional free days at Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton or Wilmot Mountain. New for the 2018-19 season, Epic 7-Day Pass holders will receive up to seven days of skiing or snowboarding at Telluride and at Resorts of the Canadian Rockies with no blackout dates as part of their seven total days on the pass. After the seven days, regardless of the resort at which they were redeemed, pass holders can get 20 percent off additional lift tickets at Telluride. A child pass (ages five to 12) is $359. The pass pays for itself in just over three days.
  • Epic 4-Day™: A convenient option for a short ski trip as the pass pays for itself in just over two days and includes a total of four unrestricted days valid at Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Crested Butte, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Stevens Pass and Arapahoe Basin, plus four additional free days at Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton or Wilmot Mountain. New in 2018-19, Epic 4-Day Pass holders will receive up to four days of skiing or snowboarding at Telluride and at Resorts of the Canadian Rockies with no blackout dates as part of their four total days on the pass. After the four days, regardless of the resort at which they were redeemed, pass holders can get 20 percent off additional lift tickets at Telluride. The Epic 4-Day Pass is $439 for adults and $239 for children (ages five to 12).
  • Military Epic Pass: In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Epic Pass on March 18, 2018, Vail Resorts is honoring the epic service of the Company’s founders from the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, and the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, Canadian Armed Forces and Australian Defence Force with the introduction of a new $99 Military Epic Pass for active and retired military personnel and their dependents – an almost 90-percent discount to the regular Epic Pass price. Additionally, as the first of its kind in the mountain resort industry, all other U.S., Canadian and Australian veterans and their dependents are eligible for a $499 Military Epic Pass, which offers more than a 40-percent discount off the regular price ($269 for children under 18 years of age). Vail Resorts will donate $1 for every 2018-19 season pass sale to Wounded Warrior Project® to benefit wounded veterans and their families, which would exceed $750,000 based on last year’s sales. Visit www.epicpass.com/military for all details on military pass options.

Vail Resorts’ 2018-19 season passes are on sale now at the lowest guaranteed prices. Visit www.epicpass.com for details and to purchase.

Vail Resorts will continue to honor previously sold 2018-19 season pass products for Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Crested Butte, and Stevens Pass.

Skiing Kirkwood, Tahoe, California © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Vail Resorts, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is the leading global mountain resort operator. Vail Resorts’ subsidiaries operate 11 world-class mountain resorts and three urban ski areas, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone 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 in Australia; Stowe in Vermont; Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin; Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan. Vail Resorts owns and/or manages a collection of casually elegant hotels under the RockResorts brand, as well as the Grand Teton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Vail Resorts Development Company is the real estate planning and development subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc. Vail Resorts is a publicly held company traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: MTN). The Vail Resorts company website is www.vailresorts.com and consumer website is www.snow.com.

Letter “To Our Okemo Community”

In a letter addressed “To our Okemo Community,” Tim, Diane, Ethan & Erica write:

“Over the years, we have seen an amazing amount of change in the ski industry. Much of the evolution has been good: improved technologies around ski gear; the onset of snowboarding; grooming equipment; energy efficient snowmaking; and probably the most heartening is how many more people ski and ride or simply come to the mountains now versus three decades ago.

“Our business model has always been somewhat unique in this industry; operating large, successful ski resorts that are family owned.  It is something we have always enjoyed, been proud of, and worked hard to preserve. Another reason this decision has been incredibly difficult for our family.

“When approached by Vail Resorts, all of these thoughts, memories and realities stirred through our heads. What does this mean for us? For our teams? What does this mean for our communities? What does this mean for the mountains that we have poured a lifetime of energy into? We were not naïve in understanding this would mean changes in the future. We spent a lot of time contemplating all of this, and ultimately decided that moving forward with the sale was the best option for Okemo and its future. We realize the idea of a large company like Vail Resorts overseeing operations at each of our unique resorts may feel unsettling. However, the reality is they are mountain operators and run some of the best and most successful resorts in the industry. Putting Okemo in their hands will ensure a good future for the ski area, and will therefore support a good future for the Okemo Valley. They are great operators and good people, and they will invest in the mountain and our community.

“Please know we have entered into this transaction with the best intentions for the ski area, our fellow employees, and the community. If we did not think this was going to bring more opportunity for the resort in the years to come, we would not have made this decision. We feel that Vail Resorts is poised to continue Okemo’s excellence and bolster its legacy. We hope you will be open to their approach and give them the opportunity to prove their good intentions.

“It has been the greatest pleasure of our lives operating and growing this awesome ski area for the last 36 years. Thank you for accepting us into this community so long ago and thank you for sharing the greatest joy of our family’s life.

“With mountains of gratitude”

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© 2018 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

 

 

 

Skiing Gore Mountain: New York’s Adirondacks at its Best

Riding the chairlift at Gore Mountain. The jagged peaks and wilderness of the Adirondacks give you a Rocky Mountain feeling © Laini Miranda/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By David Leiberman and Laini Miranda

We arrive at Gore Mountain, in New York’s wild and open Adirondack Mountains, park in lot E and immediately find a shuttle driver to take us to the base lodge. Three kind gentleman staffers open the door for us and greet us as we walk in. We get our ski rentals quickly and are out the door, taking the gondola to the summit.

The first thing we notice at Gore is the ease of the experience. While maintaining a deceptively small, family-friendly feel, every amenity is considered and every step of getting you out of the parking lot, through the rental shop, and up to the mountain is as smooth as can be.

On this particular Saturday when they had several inches of new powder, whenever we veered away from the gondola, it felt quiet and we experienced the sweeping panoramas of the Adirondacks without much of a crowd. At some points, the open vistas of the Adirondack Preserve let you imagine yourself skiing the Rockies.

Though Gore skiing consists of nine faces across four mountains, you can easily move between the areas, 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.
There are a lot of options for all types of skiers (10% of trails are classed as easier, or green; 50% are intermediate, or blue; and 40% are most difficult, or black trails). They also feature abundant glade skiing when there’s sufficient snow –– more than we’ve seen at most of the East Coast resorts.

It is surprising to realize that Gore is the biggest ski destination in New York State (and New York has more ski areas than any other in the nation!), with the most skiable acres (446 acres), 107 trails, 27 glades (Gore was one of the first eastern ski areas to develop gladed terrain), six freestyle areas. Six of its trails are longer than 1 1/2 miles, with the longest run 4.4 miles. In all, Gore offers 42 miles of skiing, even night skiing!  With 2537 vertical feet, 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), Loon, (2100), Mont-Sainte-Anne (2050), Mad River Glen (2037), Stratton Mountain (2003) and Mount Snow (1700).

Each of Gore’s four mountains have their own character: 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.

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 Mountain, the largest ski area in New York State, offers a variety of terrain © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is more useful, though, to divide Gore into its different areas: the Straight Brook Area on Gore Mountain is where you will find a variety of challenging terrain and glades; it is also where you will find the two runs, Rumors and Lies, rumored to be the steepest train in the East (unconfirmed). 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 54 acres accessed by a quad lift.

“The Dark Side” of Gore known as the High Peaks Area is “Classic Adirondack” skiing and very popular with experts. There are 12 trails and 2 glades on 30 acres, accessed by a double chair.

Bear Mountain offers the Northwoods Area, accessed by the Northwoods Gondola and Gore’s newest lift, a high-speed detachable quad. You can take a green trail Sunway, 2.2 miles down to the base; a blue trail, Twister, is long, wide and forgiving, and beautiful, lined with trees and with lovely views of the Adirondacks. This area offers 29 trails, 3 glades, gondola, detachable quad, double and four surface lifts on 154 acres. (The gondola is marvelous, and they cleverly post these interesting historical notes in each car.)

The North Side is off the beaten path, and offers an array of easy-going cruisers and gorgeous views of High Peaks. It’s considered the best bet for families (9 trails, 2 glades on 37 acres serviced by a quad).

Burnt Ridge area is one of Gore’s four peaks of development, which is noted for its geology and great views of North Creek and the Hudson River – six trails, four glades on 70 acres, serviced by “one of the most luxurious rides” on the mountain, a high-speed quad.

North Creek Ski Bowl is where they offer night skiing as well as tubing (8 trails, 5 glades, on 47 acres, serviced by two triples. This area has its own base lodge and parking lot, plus half pipe and terrain park. That means you can drive up in the day, arrive in the late afternoon, and purchase a night-skiing ticket; or if you purchase a multi-day ticket, you purchase an add-on for night skiing (3-9 pm). Night skiing is offered Friday, Saturday and Sundays, and daily during holidays, until 9 pm.

Getting set to take a run at Gore Mountain © Laini Miranda/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Now for the runs. Our two favorites were on opposite sides of the mountain: Chatiemac at Gore Mountain and Sagamore at Burnt Ridge Mountain. We were intrigued by Rumors and Lies on Gore, which are two of their most famous runs, but neither was open due to the lack of snow. The rest of the top of the mountain was fun to explore. The caveat about this area is they don’t feature high speed lifts. On the other hand, the double High Peaks Chair lift is one of the last of its kind on the East Coast and makes for a sweet slow-paced ride between the glades.

To get to the top of the mountain you have two options, right or left: from the top of North Woods Gondola you can go right to take the windy green Ruby Run to blue Upper Wood Inn, to the High Peaks Chair. Pick up speed towards the bottom as you’ll have to skate for a decent chunk at the end of that ride, and will end up at the quaint double chair lift. Or there’s a pretty fast and enjoyable black called Uncas that will spit you out at the Straight Brook Quad, which will take you straight up to the top at quicker speeds.

Our other favorite was Sagamore, a long delightful black that we had virtually to ourselves. On this March day with not a ton of snow, that trail was still a pleasure top to bottom.

In general, Gore has excellent signage and interesting trivia throughout the property. Each of the gondola cabins has its own set of fun facts, including one about Gore’s award winning environmental initiatives (all the finalists behind Gore were Colorado or west coast mountains). The timeline above the stalls in the food court is another sweet touch.

Try the pulled pork at the outdoor grill. Also, the new mid-mountain Saddle Lodge with smoked chicken tacos and a breathtaking view. © Laini Miranda/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

We got to experience the major renovations Gore made this season at three lodges. At the base area there are two large additions which (as we found) streamline the rental process and facilitate getting back on the mountain. Another addition that any hungry skier will appreciate is their brand new smoker and the amazing pulled pork sandwiches it produces in the outdoor Open Pit Grille by the Base Lodge Food Court. The new mid-mountain Saddle Lodge is another welcome addition featuring smoked chicken tacos and a breathtaking view.

Last season, Gore introduced Nordic skiing, turning its old tubing park into a cross-country ski area –– which has snowmaking on 3.7 km of its 5 km trails. The new area was so successful last year (even opening by Thanksgiving) that Gore hosted the New York State Nordic Championships. The Ski Bowl where the Nordic area also has a half pipe, border skier cross, and twilight skiing (until 8 pm).

On one gondola ride, we learned from a nice woman with her daughter that 3rd and 4th graders ski for free at many mountains in New York State (I Ski NY Free Passport); also, kids under 19 ski free with an adult.

The demo skis we rented were excellent: my Rossignol skis felt like they almost turned by themselves they were so smooth.

Gore started off 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 Glen Falls and even Montreal, Gore became more of a day trip.

However, if you have more than the one day, the Adirondack region has so much to offer. The landscape is breathtaking, and significantly, relatively undeveloped. 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), 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.

This visit was an easy day trip for us, but after realizing what a special destination Gore is, we will definitely be coming back for a longer stay.

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

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© 2018 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

 

Skiing Kirkwood: It’s All About the Mountain

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

By Eric Leiberman, David Leiberman, Laini Miranda & Sarah Falter

The nearest supermarket is almost an hour away. When the two mountain passes are closed, you’re stuck here. But for Kirkwood devotees, these are comforting perks that distinguish this Tahoe, California, ski resort from other ski resorts out west, even from Vail Resorts other two Best of Tahoe resorts: Heavenly and Northstar. The fact is, at the beginning, middle and end of the day, Kirkwood is all about the mountain.

We arrived at Kirkwood – from San Francisco and New York by way of Sacramento airport – Thursday night. The drive to Kirkwood was easy and beautiful along the dark, very straight followed by very windy, starlit Route 88 — through the Eldorado National Forest, past Tragedy Spring, and suddenly, on the side of the road, the unassuming and welcoming Kirkwood sign. Pulling in, we drifted by quiet condos on Kirkwood Meadows Drive and felt like something between exclusive guests and trespassers. We soon discovered that this is apropos for Kirkwood.

We were warmly welcomed with granola bars, a travel-sized Supergoop sunblock for each of us, trail maps, a calm “you’ll love it here” vibe, and an explicit “you’ll love it here” assertion. The lovely receptionist shared with us a nearby restaurant recommendation along with some intriguing history, in the vein of the many stories we’d soon hear from Kirkwood staff and family, about the old-timey and purportedly haunted Kirkwood Inn. We checked in to the Mountain Club, right at the base, pulled the car into the garage, took the elevator up to our room, and kicked off our cozy stay with a bottle of Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon and the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies. We eased into the cozy condo by the warm fireplace and felt our big city pressures melt away.

Kirkwood base from our room in the ski in/out Mountain Club – we could practically hop on the lift from our balcony! © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Friday morning greeted us with blue skies, jagged mountain peaks, and a lift that we could practically jump onto from our terrace! We headed to pick up our gear at the demo shop, where we met soon-to-be familiar faces Carlos and team. Carlos is a young guy who we felt we would have been friends with in school and who, over the course of the next couple days, we would become friends with as he cheerfully helps us try different pairs of boots and skis. He appears to be one of many Kirkwood staffers who simply love being at Kirkwood and ski the mountain every chance they can. (Carlos points out that, in fact, he lives steps away from the gondola at the higher-trafficked Heavenly Mountain up in South Lake Tahoe, but he prefers to wake up before dawn and drive to work and ski at Kirkwood.)

When Dick Reuter and Bill Klein started Kirkwood in 1972, many viewed it as a fool’s errand. At the time, there was nothing in Kirkwood – resources and infrastructure were both sparse. But Dick and Bill saw the beautiful mountain’s promise and had a vision for building a ski resort in Kirkwood, so they got to cutting trails and installing lifts.

Almost 50 years later, that vision has yielded something spectacular. Kirkwood consistently boasts greater snow accumulation and longer retention of that snow than other Tahoe resorts. The secret is its high base (at 7,800 ft up to a summit at 9,800 ft.), steep terrain, long ridgelines and predominantly Northeast facing mountains. The combination of all these geographical assets and smart trail design (86 trails, a total of 2,300 skiable acres) makes Kirkwood’s conditions and terrain rival those of any resort in North America.

What is more, Kirkwood is now part of Vail Resorts, which also owns nearby Heavenly Mountain and Northstar in the Tahoe area, and is part of Vail’s Epic Pass. It is a credit to the Vail Resorts company that Kirkwood has retained its own character and personality.

Kirkwood is great for skiing with groups of friends of family. Unlike most resorts that have a series of peaks and different lifts servicing those peaks from various bases, Kirkwood features a long ridgeline with trails mostly funneling to the same base. As a result, it’s easy to meet up with the rest of a group, even if members of the group have varying abilities and are skiing terrain of differing difficulty. It’s quite hard to get lost at Kirkwood.

Heading out to ski Kirkwood © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Kirkwood’s Timber Creek is one of the best training terrains in the region, with great blue and green runs. The larger Mountain Village, on the other hand, will lead you to a mix of blues and blacks, with just a few short green runs on the Snowkirk lift. For beginner or intermediate skiers, sticking to the groomed trails is the way to go. For advanced skiers, there are endless trails to explore and trees to drop into off the long ridgeline. Pay attention to the signage at the base of the lifts, as certain lifts are specified “Experts Only” and will only serve black diamond runs. (Of its 86 trails, 12% are beginner, 30% are intermediate, 38% are advanced, and 20%  are rated expert; the longest trail is 2.5 miles; out of the 14 lifts, two are high-speed quads.)

For those looking to explore the side and backcountry of Tahoe, Expedition:Kirkwood offers guided excursions, specialty clinics and backcountry awareness training. Kirkwood’s terrain provides access to backcountry opportunities within resort boundaries straight from the lifts, and EK guides can help even the most advanced skiers and boarders find terrain that thrills and challenges. (To book, 209.258.7360 or email ExpeditionKirkwood@VailResorts.com)

At Kirkwood, it’s all about the mountain © David Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

While there wasn’t enough snow during our time at Kirkwood to explore the backcountry, we still found great value in the instruction and knowledge of our all-star, veteran ski instructors Tony and Steve. Tony has been teaching at Kirkwood for 20+ years, and Steve for almost 5 years. (Kirkwood employees seem to have genuine loyalty and pride. We learned that one snowcat operator has been working at the mountain for 40 years.)

In a half day, Tony coached a couple of us intermediate skiers how to appropriately shift weight to improve balance on runs of varying difficulty, clean up turns on steeper terrain, and venture down mogul runs for the first time, albeit very slowly and safely.

Steve took the more advanced skiers in our group to Sentinel and Palisades bowls and showed us some of the most insane cliff lines we’ve ever seen. As Steve put it, “I don’t care who you are or how long you’ve been skiing, there’s something inbounds on this mountain to make even the most daredevil skiers scared.”

After a long day of skiing and riding, we were ready for a hot tub session and a hearty meal.

There are several dining options and a few aprés bars at the base and on the mountain, but this is not the place you come for party scenes, pampering or gourmet meals. Again, the draw of Kirkwood is the mountain, not the village or resort amenities. So while there are a couple of good dining options, the more “Kirkwood” thing to do would just be to buy a bunch of groceries and cook for yourself in the comfort of your condo.

Dining at The Wall © David Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

That being said, the on-mountain dining is quite good. We dined at The Wall once for lunch and once for dinner (and enjoyed their $3 Tequila Happy Hour special for a great aprés ski another day). Their food is rich and delicious. The plates are pricey, but most of the portions are huge and share-worthy so we recommend ordering for the table. A great starter is the Spanish Fries of potato wedges with perfectly cooked chorizo bits and cheese. If you’re looking for a big meal, get the cheeseburger. You might not rush straight back up the mountain after, but your tastebuds will be happy.

As far as dinner at The Wall is concerned, our favorites are the truffle mac & cheese appetizer, short ribs braised in red wine, and chicken schnitzel with spaetzle. The menu is constantly rotating, but if you find any of these items on the menu, we highly recommend any of them.

The aforementioned Kirkwood Inn, which has been around since 1864, is another dining option near the mountain (5-minute drive). We unfortunately did not get the opportunity to visit, but we heard wonderful things.

View from our room at The Mountain Club, at the base of Kirkwood © Laini Miranda/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are multiple lodging options when visiting Kirkwood. The three ski-in/ski-out options are The Mountain Club, The Lodge at Kirkwood, and Snowcrest Lodge. We stayed in a 2-bedroom suite at the Mountain Club and couldn’t have asked for more. Our living room looked out onto three chairlifts and each room had sweeping views of the mountain. Beds were very comfortable and the cozy living room felt like we were in our own home. Other highlights of the facilities worth taking advantage of after a long day of skiing included an outdoor hot tub, exercise room, sauna, and steam room all offer a perfect finish to a long day on the slopes.

All in all, we were blown away by Kirkwood’s simplicity and purity. We live in a fast-paced world where over-stimulation has become the norm, and ski resorts are increasingly catering to that expectation by doubling down on their resort activities and luxury offerings. But Kirkwood has stayed true to its roots. It is off the beaten path and promotes a simpler lifestyle based around the ideals of world-class skiing, enjoying time with loved ones and connecting with nature.

It also bears noting that skiing Kirkwood is less pricey than most major ski resorts.

So pick up some groceries on your way in and relish in the time away from the noise and action. This is not one of those getaways where you’ll need a vacation from your vacation. This is it. At the end of the day, it’s all about the mountain at Kirkwood. And we hope that never changes.

Kirkwood is located about 45 minutes south of Lake Tahoe, The closest airport is Reno-Tahoe International Airport, about 1 ½ hour drive away. Jetblue offers nonstop flights from JFK.

Amidst the largest snowpack in 22 years, the Best of Tahoe Resorts, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, announced an extended ski seasons for Heavenly Mountain Resort daily through April 23, and the weekend of April 28 – 30; Northstar California through April 23. Kirkwood continues with spring skiing through April 16. (See snow.com)

Kirkwood Mountain Resort,1501 Kirkwood Meadows Dr, Kirkwood, CA 95646, 800-967-7500.  209-258-6000, Snow Phone, 877-KIRKWOOD, Road Conditions 800-427-ROAD, www.kirkwood.com.

See also:

Telluride Ski Resort Joins Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass

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© 2018 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