Tag Archives: Epic Pass

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

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.

__________________

© 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”

___________

© 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

 

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

The intoxicating view at Park City Mountain, Utah, which after being combined with The Canyons, is now the biggest ski area in the US © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman & Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

I set out for Park City Mountain in Utah to see if it could really be true: you could leave your house on Long Island in the morning and be skiing the Rockies, or more precisely, the Wasatch Range, by noon.

The combination of great nonstop airline service into Salt Lake City and the remarkably close proximity of the international airport to Park City- just 35 minutes drive, literally as far from the airport as my house to JFK, the “suburbs” of the city – makes this all possible. Not to mention the choice of condo-style lodgings right at the Canyons base, the efficient ski rental process.

Sure enough, I was greeted at the airport and whisked away by Park City Transportation car service, checked into the Hyatt Centric Park City Hotel at Park City Mountain’s Canyons village base, picked up my pre-ordered skis through RentSkis.com (the fellow assisting me took the extra time to wax the skis to give me a better experience on the spring slush at the lower sections), used my Epic Pass, Vail Resort’s seasonal pass, which speeds you through the lift access with a point of a laser gun, and hopped the Red Pine Gondola to mid-mountain.

There I warmed up and got comfortable in my equipment on the couple of green runs, then found a gentle blue trail, Snow Dancer, off the Saddleback Express lift, to warm up my legs as I regaled in the view, and was happy as a clam.

Skiing down Snow Dancer © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

(There is a caveat, though: by skiing immediately and not taking time to acclimate, you can avoid altitude sickness by drinking lots of water beginning the day before and throughout the day, and avoiding alcohol the first day. If you do feel the effects of altitude sickness, take Tylenol and drink water and if necessary, come down to lower altitude.)

We Northeastern skiers will revel in actual snow, Park City’s legendary powder – even in spring conditions.  You don’t just ski Park City – which with Vail’s acquisition and unification with The Canyons is now the largest ski resort in the US – you explore it. It is so vast, it becomes a game for the first-time visitor to get from Canyons – where the trails tend to be tougher (only a couple of greens), but less crowded, more sun, and more snow – to Park City.

I only ski a couple of times a season so I am still tentative though I can handle just about any blue (intermediate) trail provided there is snow and not sheer ice (as we New England skiers are more familiar with). But I lack confidence.

Lesson on Snow Dancer, on the Canyons, with Alex Fleet © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Joined by Eric and Sarah who arrive late Thursday from San Francisco, Sarah and I spend our first morning together taking a half-day private lesson with Alex Fleet, one of the top instructors at Park City with nearly two decades of experience who is originally from Great Britain (you pay one price for up to 6 people).

Lessons are not just for beginners and certainly not just for kids. Skiing is a skill that you acquire in layers (and with practice). A lesson helps you acquire the proper form and technique so you can handle any terrain. But the most important ingredient is feeling relaxed and confident so you get a better flow and can use your proper technique.

Our goal is to feel comfortable when challenged, and for me, not to be so skittish at taking on new trails, but to have the confidence that I could do it.

Secondly, I want to see how to get over from Canyons to Park City (there are no green trails to get you there – it is a series of blues or blacks to a half-dozen lifts). I had been told the “trip” could take as much as two hours from Canyons to Park City (about 45 minutes to get back). So Alex, starting us on the green trail (stopping to take in the incredible view) to check us out, progresses swiftly to Snow Dancer (a stunning blue), and then moves us over, peak by peak, to Park City.

View from the Quicksilver Gondola headed from Canyons to Park City © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.comThe lifts themselves – especially the specially constructed 8 passenger Quicksilver Gondola that connected Park City and Canyons when Vail merged the two in 2015 – are like themepark rides –  exciting trips that give you sensational views of spectacular scenery as you travel up and over the canyons that separate the peaks.

Alex gets us over to the Park City area (about one-third the size of the Canyons) in much less time than the two hours, where we find a blue heaven, and where there is vastly more green terrain (the longest trail is 3.5 miles), not to mention the blacks and the glades (we can look forward to that another time). He takes us around a few of the peaks on blue trails before starting back to the Canyons, enough to get a feel for Park City. Throughout, Alex is refining our technique – weighting skis, turning, edging – and building confidence for the climatic challenge: Sidewinder.

He takes us back to the Canyons side, finishing our lesson off the Tombstone lift on Sidewinder (Alex says the popular name is “Slidewinder”), a double-blue square trail, where I take note of an actual sign that warns off all but advanced skiers. Alex says he knows we can do it, “Just follow me!” (and don’t look down because it basically goes straight down without flattening out.)

Sarah fulfills her wish for lesson to be challenged: she tackles the double-blue Sidewinder trail © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Alex has made sure to take us here at the best possible condition of the day – not icy or fast in the morning, nor too slushy in the afternoon’s spring heat (the temperature has gone as high as 60 degrees during our stay). Conditions are just right as the noon hour approaches.

It is the confidence builder we have asked Alex for at the start (Sarah had said she wanted to feel challenged), because if you can do the toughest blue on the mountain, you feel you can do anything (assuming the conditions are decent).

While we are at our lesson, Eric, who is an advanced snowboarder, has been tearing up the slopes.

Hiking up to Ninety Nine 90 © 2017 Eric Leiberman/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Eric takes the Ninety Nine 90 chairlift, hiking 10 minutes to an “out-of-bounds” bowl, “where there were endless spots to drop in from to have your own fresh lines; then you go from the steep fresh powder bowl to glades and moguls; a beautiful 10-minute trail, even for the speediest of skiers, made the 10-minute hike at the top of the lift well worth it.” (By midday when we meet up at the bottom of the Tombstone lift, his Epic Pass, the seasonal pass to Vail Resorts which is also plugged into tracking where you’ve been and your accumulated altitude, showed he had already done 17,000 ft of elevation.)

Armed with my confidence, on my last full day at Park City, I set out to get from Canyons to Park City on my own, which necessitates handling new trails each time. I start out at Guest Services and ask the kindly attendant to recommend an itinerary, so I don’t have to think about which blues to take. Based on the map of what has been groomed, she uses a yellow marker to map my day. And what a day!

Indeed, when Vail Resorts acquired Park City Mountain Resort and then Canyons Resort, combining them in the summer of 2015, it created the largest single ski and snowboard resort in the United States. Vail immediately invested $50 million, building a spectacular new 8 passenger Quicksilver Gondola to connect the two areas (breathtaking ride!), along with the new King Con Express six-pack and Motherlode Express Quad among the improvements. The combined One Park City offers more than 7,300 acres of skiable terrain, more than 300 trails (and they don’t count tiny spurs as named trails like they do in New England), 41 lifts, 8 terrain parks, one super pipe and one mini pipe.

The new Miners Camp at the base of Quicksilver Gondola and Silverlode lift provides respite © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We’re talking 17 mountain peaks! 14 bowls! A vertical of 3200 feet from the base at 6,800 feet to the summit at 10,000 feet! And even though it is just two weeks before the mid-April close of the season, and the springtime temperatures have soared, Park City averages 370 inches of snow a year, so still has an amazing base of actual snow to ski on.  (This makes for a wonderful incentive for people to come out for the these last days of the season, to apply the day’s lift ticket to the cost of a discounted Epic Pass for next season that much more valuable; indeed, a woman from St. Louis said she bought next year’s Epic Local Pass, which is expected to also include Stowe Mountain Vermont, for just over $500.)

It’s a “blue-bird” day – when the sun is brilliant and the sky the deep blue color of a blue bird’s belly. It is just perfection.

I take my time, and have a thrilling experience really exploring and discovering the mountain, enjoying my skiing and literally accumulating the mileage which is the only way to really bump up your skills. Skiing with confidence is key because when you are tense, your muscles tense, you don’t get that nice flow and balance and you use more energy than necessary.

Riding the chairlift at Park City © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The scenery is intoxicating – not just the sparkling pure air and the altitude that gets your heart racing, but the stunning glades of Aspen trees, pine trees sprinkled in, the peaks and canyons, and the perspective, as well as the ride the chairlifts give you.

It takes me 2 hours (savoring the stunning scenery, stopping for photos, checking the map and enjoying making turns) and I get to the Park City side. I take the SilverLode Express to the top, do Parley’s Park trail, and after a chat on the lift with a Park City regular, go back up for a run on Assessment before starting back to the Canyons.

Aspens like sentries on the Saddleback Express chairlift © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Everyone we meet – and during the course of the day, I meet people from all over the country – and especially the Ambassadors and lift operators – are incredibly nice. When I seem a little confused about how to get to the Timberline lift, a woman from St. Louis I meet on the gondola waits for me where the trails split, to make sure I take the right trail.

I make my way back to Tombstone, and take the Red Pine Road trail back to the mid-mountain base, but I am feeling so good, I pass up going back down on the Red Pine Gondola, and ski down Boomer to the Canyons base (the big issue was the amount of slushy snow because of the warm conditions), feeling very satisfied with myself for being adventurous. I achieved my goal: skiing new trails.

The Park City Mountain trail map, with my day’s route in yellow marker.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to take in one of the experiences that are unique to Park City skiing: the Historic Mountain Tour. You need to be intermediate or above to take this free, two-hour skiing adventure to the various mining shafts from Park City’s silver days.

The Historic Mountain tours depart daily from the Park City resort base area by the Eagle Statue at 10 am and again at the Trail Map near the top of Bonanza lift at 1 pm. During the course of the tour, you get to appreciate how the mountain developed from a mining camp in the 1880s to an internationally recognized winter sports destination. The guides relate the stories behind the authentic structures you see on the mountain (there are some 1,200 miles of tunnels that wind through the mountains and you get to see some of the mine shafts), how Park City emerged as a ski jump arena, its World Cup Racing heritage and how it came to international prominence with the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. You get to experience some of the same runs that the Olympians did and ski or ride past some of Park City’s historic mining buildings with an expert tour guide. We have it on the list for our return visit.

Sign at Ninety Nine 90 © 2017 Eric Leiberman/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Park City Mountain’s trails are wonderfully carved, superbly maintained and groomed (500 acres of the 7300 have snowmaking) – unless the appeal are the trails and glades that they are not. I appreciate the great signage (otherwise, you could easily get lost or waste time constantly opening up the humongous map).

(Eric saw the best sign, on Nine-Nine 90, named for the elevation of the peak, 9990 ft.: “You are Leaving the Ski Resort. You Can Die. This is Your Decision” with skull and bones to emphasize the point.)

Sure enough, I was able to ski a full day on the last day – leaving the Hyatt Centric Park City Hotel at 9:30 pm for the 11:50 pm Delta nonstop flight back to JFK.

So, my four-days in Park City afforded four full days of skiing. Mission accomplished.

Hyatt Centric Park City is ski in/ski out at the Canyons base of Park City Mountain © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hyatt Centric Park City

The Hyatt Centric Park City at the Canyons base, which has been a superb lodging for our stay and has its  own lift for ski in/out convenience, and is just a five-minute walk to the shops and restaurants, let us use the outdoor heated pool, hot tubs, sauna and lockers after we were checked out. Our two-bedroom condo (the hotel has 27 two-bedroom suites, which can be turned into 3 bedroom suites, and 15 one-bedroom suites) is unbelievably spacious, outfitted with every possible amenity including a full-kitchen, a dining table that seats eight, three TVs, a Jacuzzi bathtub in the master bedroom, four balconies, windows everywhere there open up to the gorgeous outdoors, and washer/dryer (so convenient when you ski).

It also offers a free nighttime shuttle into historic Park City (on the hour from 5 pm; last one returning at 10:30 pm), and on my last evening, instead of waiting in the lobby, I hopped a ride for a final visit, stopping in at more of the gorgeous galleries that line Main Street. I returned with plenty of time to relax in the Hyatt Centric lounge before the car service picked me up to get to the airport.

Park City is very much a year-round adventure destination, and the Hyatt Centric also offers an in-house activities company, Wasatch Adventure Guides, offering fly fishing, heli skiing, hiking (Hyatt Centric Park City, 3551 North Escala Court, Park City, Utah, USA, 84098, 435 940 1234, parkcity.centric.hyatt.com).

So Much More to Do at Park City Mountain

 We were so enthralled with skiing, we didn’t have time to take in the many other adventures and experiences of the area. But there is plenty to do, especially for regulars:

Alpine Coaster: Climb into toboggan-style cars for a special way of experiencing the magnificent Wasatch mountain scenery. The automated lift system whisks you to the top of the track and you fly down the mountain on nearly 4,000 feet of curves, bends and loops. It is one of the longest slides in the world.

Guided Snowshoe Tours: Park City offers a network of snowshoe trails hidden among the spectacular skiing. Guided tours are created with a unique destination, experience or adventure in mind.

Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides: Snuggle in for a scenic 30-minute horse drawn sleigh ride through Willow Draw showcasing a night-time winter wonderland after the lifts have closed.

Additional winter experiences include Dog Sledding, Snowmobile Tours and Cross Country Ski Tours.

Also, the Utah Olympic Park where you can take a guided tour, take a thrilling ride on the Winter Comet Bobsled on the Olympic track, experiencing 3+ Gs and hitting speeds of 60 mph (open year round); the Extreme Zipline replicates flying off the K120 Nordic ski jump, propelling you to up to 50 mph. There’s also an adventure course, scenic chairlifts, and the George Eccles 2002 Olympic Games Museum (look for Great Neck’s own figure skating gold medalist Sarah Hughes). Still a year-round US Olympic training site, you also get to watch athletes of all ages training for Nordic Ski Jumping (in summer, they jump into a pool), Freestyle skiing, bobsled, skeleton and luge. (Open year-round, free admission to the park, www.uolf.com).

Park City’s historic Main Street. The Hyatt Centric provides a free shuttle into the town each evening © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

But we have time each day to enjoy discovering historic Park City, with its astonishingly fine galleries and shops and fine-dining venues (more to come).

Park City Mountain (www.parkcitymountain.com) is part of Vail Resorts, Inc., which through its subsidiaries, is a leading global mountain resort operator of 10 world-class mountain resorts and three urban ski areas, which in addition to Park City in Utah includes Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Perisher in Australia; Whistler Blackcomb in Canada; Afton Alps in Minnesota, Mt. Brighton in Michigan and Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin. Vail Resorts also 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.

The big news is that Vail is in the process of purchasing its first New England resort, Stowe Mountain, Vermont (see story), which it is expected will be included on 2017-18 Epic Pass (epicpass.com). For more information on all the resorts, visit www.snow.com.

(See: Vail Resorts Plans to Add Stowe Vermont to 2017-18 Epic Pass Giving Northeastern Skiers New Reason to Buy

Plan a visit to Park City, Park City Chamber of Commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureau, 1850 Sidewinder Drive #320, Park City, Utah, 800-453-1360, www.visitparkcity.com.

Next: Skiers Only at Deer Valley

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.comwww.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