There is a special allure at Central Vermont’s Magic Mountain. On the one hand, the vibe is retro and frill-less, with two cozy double chairs (that founder Hans Thorner imported from Europe) and some free-spirited bluegrass/groovegrass playing through the speakers at the Black Line Tavern. On the other, it’s a quiet, nearly private skiing experience. Considering how rustic and unpretentious Magic Mountain is, this actually feels like the ultimate in luxury.
This past Thursday, we
had the pleasure of a Magic day trip. We hit the road from Schenectady at
6:45am, stopped as we approached the mountain area to pick up some delicious
breakfast sandwiches at Hapgood’s General Store in Peru, and were on the lift
with stress-free rental skis by 9:30. You park your car and walk to the lift in
a minute flat.
As we explored our first
run, one of a handful of long slopes carved 50 years ago to match the contours
of Vermont’s Green Mountains, we quickly realized that we have this enchanting,
snowy gem of a mountain to ourselves. It had just snowed, and because
Magic Mountain is only open Thursdays to Sundays, we were reveling in fresh
powder, laying down our own tracks.
Thorner was among the
first to bring skiing to New England. In the late 1950s, when he discovered
Glebe Mountain, he saw ridge lines and steep topography that reminded him of
his native Swiss Alps. Our new friend in the rental shop, Peter, who grew up in
Londonderry, made this sincere analogy: The major mountain resorts are “the
Porsche Cayenne or the Range Rover. Magic is the ‘61 Jaguar XKE that’s been
kept hidden away in a barn.”
This Thursday (for most
of the season, Thursdays have a special price of $29), we were amazed at the
quality of the powder we found. The slopes – there are 50 of them on 205
skiable acres, with a vertical drop of 1,500 truly vertical feet – carry across
the “Magic” theme with names like Sorcerer, Talisman (a favorite of Magic
regulars), Twilight Zone (a great glades trail with lots of snow), Broomstick,
and Slide of Hans (a punny tribute to Hans Thorner). Magic offers
boundary-to-boundary tree skiing and few distractions.
The runs are great,
especially for intermediate (13 trails) and advanced skiers (17 trails). There
are 11 glade trails, including some that are even welcoming for those who are
new to skiing through the trees. There are 13 easy trails, mostly in the center
of the mountain, and one terrain park. It’s also easy to cross between black to
blue to green on one long run if you go with a mixed-level group.
At the base, Black Line
Tavern is as laid-back as the rest of the mountain, with a friendly atmosphere
that feels like your neighborhood bar/restaurant. A song by Vermont acoustic
group Jatoba was playing as we strolled in for lunch. (A poster on the wall
listed them as one of the upcoming bands performing at the tavern.) The beef
chili was excellent, and the Korean BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich with fries was
Magic Mountain, which
remains fiercely proud in being independent and a throwback to Vermont’s ski
heritage, continues to make major investments in lifts and snowmaking, this
year spending $2 million in improvements to ensure an uncrowded, soulful ski
“Our future is as an independent,” owner Geoff Hatheway said at a recent Ski Vermont event told us. Hatheway purchased Magic four years ago, drawn by the community feel.
“The major investments
we are making in smoothing out some of the prior rough edges here are always
balanced by maintaining our unique ‘throwback’ character,” Hatheway said. “We
love natural snow here—it just skis better than man-made. So while we continue
to make major investments in snowmaking, lift service and grooming equipment,
we will let mother-nature do what she does best on our more advanced terrain.
Powder days are legend here and it’s why we have special openings when a storm
hits mid-week. It’s why we continue to expand the best tree-skiing in southern
Vermont. It’s why we’ve always supported uphill alpine touring. There’s truly
something for everyone here who is into the original feel and adventure of the
sport of skiing.”
In order to handle more
guests yet keep its lift line wait to under 10 minutes even during the busy
holiday periods, Magic is replacing its Black Double summit lift with a
fixed-grip Quad from base to summit to complement its Red Lift. The new Black
Line Quad was hoped to be completed for this season, but more likely will be
next season. With the addition of the new summit lift, Magic is adding another
double-diamond expert summit trail named Pitch Black. There is also a new East
Side glade created by the “Friends-of-Magic” work-crew this year.
In addition, Magic is
repairing a snowmaking pipe and re-energizing its Thompsonburg Brook pond to
better re-fill and supply water. They plan to expand snowmaking coverage to
over 50% of trails on both the East Side and famed expert West Side.
There is also a tubing
park that is open weekends.
Magic is a northern
Vermont mountain in southern Vermont, more challenging than its neighbors. But
a new mid-mountain chair improves access for intermediate and novice skiers
(there is no beginner trail from the summit, but a low-intermediate can take
the 1.6 mile trail from the top).
The plan is to “create a
future that harkens back to a golden age of skiing,” Hatheway, who brings a
background from marketing and advertising Internet and tech startups, said.
Asked how Magic can
compete against bigger resorts with bigger marketing budgets and seasonal
passes that span the globe, Hatheway pointed out, “We can appeal to the
‘uncommitted’ market. We have a passionate group of committed people, but there
is opportunity to peel off those who don’t want to commit to an $800 season
Magic Mountain offers a variety of options on passes: Sundays only, Midweek, 18-29s, a Throwback Card ($149 gets you $29 tickets all season long). “These are crazy affordable but the skier makes some commitment. We try to be as creative as possible – we even have a holiday pass when others are blacked out elsewhere.” Skiers can also purchase discounted lift tickets on Liftopia.com.
“We hope you take the
road less traveled with us. It will never be perfect. But it will always be
authentic and interesting,” Hatheway said.
With the “Bigs” mountain resort companies taking over a significant number of New England’s major destination resorts, locking in loyalty to their brand, independents are capitalizing on their unique character and culture, their ability to offer value pricing, to be flexible and adaptive, and their appeal to the “noncommitteds” – those who still see the season pass as a barrier. They can offer their own pass, packaging and pricing deals. They also capitalize on their special character and ambiance.
Adam White, the Director
of Ski Vermont, sees only positives from the friendly competition between mega-resort
companies and independents. “Vermont’s resorts have invested more than $51
million, improving snowmaking across the board, every resort, every size. It
speaks volumes. It gives Vermont the ability to deliver a consistent product
regardless of Mother Nature, from Suicide Six to Mount Snow to Killington.
Every one is improving.”
As for Bigs versus Indies,
“There is reason to go to every area – all are different and have something to
offer. A parent with small kids may want a smaller, less chaotic, area where they
can have more control.”
Magic Mountain: Back to the Future
“Our future is as an independent.
For our future, we are looking to our past,” says Geoff Hathaway, Magic
Mountain’s president who acquired the resort four years ago.
How to compete against Vail Resorts’ Epic and Anterra Mountain Company’s Ikon
passes if you are an independent ski resort in Vermont? “We
can appeal to the ‘uncommitted’ market – we have passionate group of committed
people, but there is opportunity is to peel off those who don’t want to commit
to $800 season pass,” Hathaway says.
Magic Mountain offers a variety of options on passes: Sundays only, Midweek, 18-29s, a Throwback Card ($99 gets you $29 tickets all season long). ”These are crazy affordable but the skier makes some commitment. “We try to be as creative as possible – we even have holiday pass when others are blacked out elsewhere.” Skiers can also purchase discounted lift tickets on Liftopia.com.
“We make more opportunity to say “yes’ to a little bit of Magic.”
Magic Mountain, which remains fiercely proud in being independent
and a throwback to Vermont’s ski heritage, continues to make major investments
in lifts and snowmaking, this year spending $2 million in improvements to
ensure a laid-back, uncrowded, soulful ski experience. In order to handle more
customers yet keep its lift line wait to under 10 minutes even during the busy
holiday periods, Magic is replacing its Black Double summit lift with a fixed-grip
Quad from base-to-summit to complement its Red Lift. The new Black Line Quad is
expected to be completed by Christmas for the 2019/20 season. In addition,
Magic is repairing snowmaking pipe and re-energizing its Thompsonburg Brook
pond to better re-fill and supply water to its snowmaking pond in order to
expand snowmaking coverage to over 50% of its trails on both the East Side and
famed expert West Side. With the addition of the new summit lift, Magic adds
another double-diamond expert summit trail named Pitch Black. There is also a
new East Side glade created by our “Friends-of-Magic” work-crew this year.
Magic is a northern Vermont
mountain in southern Vermont, more challenging than its neighbors. The mountain
installed a mid-mountain chair improving access for intermediate and novice
skiers (there is no beginner trail from the summit, but a low-intermediate can
take the 1.6 mile trail from the top). Magic offers a 1500-ft vertical, 51
trails of which green are 25%, blue are 30%.
“There’s more Magic than ever to enjoy for the new ski and ride season.” (magicmtn.com)
Mad River Glen
Mad River Glen, the only cooperatively owned mountain open to the public, is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the “pure Vermont” ski experience and takes pride in consistently upgrading its infrastructure while maintaining an unchanged exterior.
“We take pride in
constantly upgrading while quietly remaining the same. We are still Mad River
Glen, just like 1948,” said Ry Young, head freeski team coach. Mad River Glen’s
trails were cut in the 1940s and 1950s, narrower, winding down the mountain
following the natural contours.
Mad River Glen has invested more than $5M in capital improvements.
Mad River Glen raised $5.5 million through donors to its nonprofit foundation
which will be spent next
summer on a Basebox and Patrol building
Mad River Glen offers the most challenging and diverse
terrain in New England with an uphill capacity that guarantees low skier
density on the trails even on the busiest days. It is one of only three areas
in North America that still prohibit snowboarding. The trails were cut to
follow the mountain’s natural contours. Skiers can descend the entire 2,037′ of
vertical on true expert terrain with no run-outs, 1000 acres of inbound skiing and 1000 acres of back country
skiing; of the 52 trails, 25% are beginner but the majority of terrain is advanced.
There are no high-speed lifts – only fixed grip chairs (3 doubles and the last functioning single in continental US) – which limits uphill capacity.
There is a special camaraderie among the skiing
community, with its co-op ownership, non-commercial, family-friendly
atmosphere, dedicated staff, and – of course-the Single Chair, America’s
favorite ski lift.
You can also experience the mountain on snowshoes: join one of MRG’s staff Naturalists for a guided snowshoe trek tailored to your interest in the ecology and wildlife of Stark Mountain (Naturalist Programs). There is no on-mountain lodging, but plenty of inns and bnb’s in town. (madriverglen.com)
Bolton Valley Resort
Bolton Valley Resort, which was re-acquired by the Des Lauriers family that founded the resort in 1966, is capitalizing on its strengths as it asserts its independence: night skiing until 10 pm and an innovative learn-to-back-country-ski program (the DesLauriers are famous as pioneers in extreme skiing.)
The most visible improvement is the complete replacement and
upgrading of the night skiing lighting system (Bolton offers night skiing
nightly until 10 pm).
being one of the few places in New England offering night skiing,
Bolton opened an in-house backcountry-specific guiding and instructional program,
complete with top-of-the-line rental and demo fleets of alpine touring and
splitboarding equipment. This program makes Bolton Valley a premiere
destination for skiers and riders looking to move beyond lift service, as well
as cross country skiers looking to access more aggressive terrain. Explore
1,200 acres of high-mountain wilderness terrain while learning the ins and outs
of alpine touring, backcountry safety, and self-reliance.
But Bolton Valley has something that hardly any other mountain resort has: not just back country skiing on 1,200 acres of high-mountain wilderness, but an in-house backcountry-specific guiding and instructional program, complete with top-of-the-line rental and demo fleets of alpine touring and splitboarding equipment, offered every Saturday.
“The gear is different – you have to be able to unhook the heels and put on climbing skins; we rent all the equipment, demo gear and sell gear,” says Adam Des Lauriers. The program was launched two years ago. “It’s totally unique – more traditional ski areas don’t know how to deal with back country and uphill, even though it is the fastest growing segment.”
Building on its reputation for having some of the best and most accessible backcountry terrain in the Eastern US, this program makes Bolton Valley a premiere destination for skiers and riders looking to move beyond lift service, as well as cross country skiers looking to access more aggressive terrain. You can explore high-mountain wilderness terrain while learning the ins and outs of alpine touring, backcountry safety, and self-reliance.
How good do you have to be? “At least strong intermediate –we
take it slow. People are surprised when they can do it. It is scary to attempt
if you do it alone, but a mind-opening experience when you realize you can do
Valley also has back country huts which can be rented through the Green
Mountain Club, the organization that runs the Long Trail,but accessed through
Bolton. “It’s a unique camping experience, just one mile from the base. You
wake up to fresh tracks, and get to do winter camping. It’s accessible, but
feels like being deep in woods.”
Valley sits high in the Green Mountains of Vermont. The high mountain alpine
village is surrounded by 5,000 acres of wilderness. Bolton Valley offers 71
trails and glades for Alpine skiing and riding and 100 km of Nordic and
backcountry trails. Each year Bolton Valley receives an average of 312 inches
lodging, including hotel rooms, suites and condominiums are either ski in/ski
out or within a short walking distance of the lifts. Two restaurants, a
cafeteria, deli and general store are located within the village. After a day
on the slopes, walk over to the Sports Center, where there is an indoor pool,
hot tub and sauna, skateboard bowl and mini ramps, arcade games as well as an
open floor for basketball and other games. The Indoor Amusement Center offers
bouncy houses for kids who just want to keep moving.
Bolton Valley also offers a large Nordic center, an indoor skate park and indoor pool. The year-round resort, which is the neighborhood ski area for the city of Burlington and generations of Vermont skiers, offers tennis and ropes course, and expanding its mountain bike trail network, for summer. (www.boltonvalley.com)
This year, Bromley resort has made a number of maintenance-related updates on and off the mountain. For those who rent equipment, there is an updated rental fleet to include some of the best equipment on the market for a more comfortable fit and smoother glide. On the mountain, crew continued their trail widening efforts. All-new park features satisfy a variety of rider abilities, green to black. Plus, Bromley is partnering up with Arena Snowparks to build and design parks (for the second year in a row) with the intention to produce one of the best family-friendly progression parks.
For après-ski entertainment, enjoy Bromley’s Wild Boar
Tavern (located at the base of the mountain) as well as expanded events
calendar with more free, family-friendly entertainment for everyone. Top off
your ski days with a scenic sleigh ride at beautiful Taylor Farm, take a stroll
through the sculpture garden at the Vermont Art Center, treat yourself to a
fabulous shopping experience at the Manchester Shopping Outlet center, all
within a 10-mile radius. (skivermont.com/bromley-mountain-resort)
Suicide Six Ski Area
Suicide Six Ski Area, which is owned by the historic, grand resort, the Woodstock Inn & Resort, remains independent but partners with 35 other quintessential resorts to create the Indy Pass. For 84 consecutive seasons, Suicide Six has offered its blend of exquisite service and personal touch, including the longest continually operating Ski and Ride School in the country. Here you’ll find stellar coaches, progressive terrain, and a warmth and care. The ski area is adding more terrain features and an entirely new park concept, as well as taking its snowmaking production to the next level with a focus on automation, efficiency and sustainability. Suicide Six is investing $250,000 into its snowmaking pump station with more efficient pumps, automation and instrumentation that provide lightning fast responses to changes in weather and conditions. Combine that with previous investments of over $400,000 the ski area has made in new snow guns, and the automation of the Face trail (its world-class racing venue), Suicide Six looks forward to a longer, more productive season with the highest quality snow.
The misnomered Suicide
Six (it actually is one of the most family-friendly ski mountains, with 24
trails – 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced), is focusing on family-friendly ski and stay
packages, where ski passes are included. The resort also makes it easy to
organize a private lesson for the family where the kids learn to ski and
parents learn how to continue to teach them.
The downhill ski area is owned by the grand,
historic Woodstock Inn which also
offers the Woodstock Nordic Adventure Center providing 30 kilometers of trails
to explore via cross country skis, fat bikes or snowshoes; a 10,000 sq. ft Spa;
and Woodstock Athletic Club, with indoor and outdoor tennis courts, racquetball
courts, a 30-by-60-foot heated indoor lap pool, a whirlpool, workout equipment
and steam and sauna rooms. Woodstock Inn
provides a free shuttle to the mountain (skivermont.com/suicide-six-ski-area)
Trapp Family Lodge
Situated on 2,500 acres in Stowe, Vermont, where it
specializes in cross-country skiing on 100 km of groomed trails, Trapp Family Lodge (yes, that Trapp Family of
“Sound of Music fame”) is a mountain resort that combines Austrian-inspired
architecture and European-style accommodations with the best of Vermont. The
Lodge offers stunning mountain views, old-world comforts, and impeccable service,
along with activities for every season, but it boasts being one of the first
American resorts built around cross-country skiing – the cross-country center
is more than 50 years old. Snowshoeing is also popular (equipment rentals
available). Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the meadows with stunning
views into the valley. Enjoy any number of tours to learn about the
history of the von Trapp family and lodge; how maple sugar is made; tour the
von Trapp Brewing’s state-of-the-art brewery on site; dine in the Bierhall to
sample the lagers and enjoy the authentic Austrian experience and cuisine.
There’s also ice/rock climbing, spa, pool, hot tub and three restaurants.
Cross-country ski three miles up to a cabin and enjoy hot soup. When you get
the urge for downhill skiing, shuttles are provided to nearby Stowe. (www.trappfamily.com)
Mountain Top Inn & Resort
Mountain Top Inn & Resort, set on 350 acres ringed by the Green Mountain National Forest, is breathtakingly enchanting, offers 60 km of groomed cross-country ski trails (snowmaking on a 2 km loop insuring optimal conditions); horse-drawn sleigh rides; a small old-fashioned (natural) skating pond; snowshoeing (twilight tours available); snowmobiling; spa; hot tub; fire pits; and the coziest fireplaces. It’s also a 30 minute drive to Killington Mountain for downhill skiing (shuttle transportation available, 8:30 am, returning 4:30 pm; reserve in advance). The most charming of inns offers 32 rooms plus 23 individual guest houses; dining at The Mountain Top Tavern (with 12 Vermont Craft Brews on tap) and fireside dining in the dining room.Downhill skiing at Killington and Pico is a short drive away. www.MountainTopInn.com.
Middlebury Snow Bowl
This season you will see a new Prinoth Groomer, upgrades to the Ticket counter including new transaction windows ad a new Point of Sale System, and a new season pass format. There is also the new Shared Parent Pass for families with kids that aren’t skiing yet (both parents ski on the same pass). What you won’t see, but will certainly experience, is the snowmaking pipe upgrades, summer trail work and lift work. (www.middleburysnowbowl.com)
Jay Peak Resort
Jay Peak is a quirky 800-bedroom, 3,100-bathroom, 217,800,000,000-square foot resort just two miles from the Canadian border offering multiple athletic pursuits across all seasons. Potential upsides include an indoor waterpark, ice arena, climbing center, movie theater, synthetic-turf athletic fields, multiple hotels, 5,000 acres of ski-and-ride terrain, and a staff of 1,500 Tier One professionals. Jay Peak has annual snowfall averaging 349 inches a season, still there is snowmaking on 80% of terrain. Jay Peak offers 385 skiable acres (100 acres of gladed terrain), a vertical drop of 2,153, 50 miles of trails 9 lifts accessing 81 trails (20% Novice, 40% Intermediate, 40% Advanced), for a total of 50 miles, the longest, Ullr’s Dream at 3 miles, and four parks (Rabbit Beginner Park, Family Cross, Jug Handle & Interstate ). (jaypeakresort.com)
Never content to rest on laurels, Vermont ski areas are constantly improving the guest experience. A big part of that comes via annual improvements and each year, the mountain resorts spend their off-seasons bettering everything from facilities, terrain and ticket/pass options to off-slope activities and amenities.
This year, guests from around the world will find $51 million in improvements, including snowmaking and grooming to virtually guarantee excellent conditions. The gains are throughout Vermont’s ski areas, but the growing number of major resorts that have come under Vail Resorts’ umbrella or Anterra Mountain, not only funnels money capital investment in infrastructure and gives the resorts a global profile, but gives resorts like Mount Snow, Okemo and Stowe (now part of Vail and Epic Pass) the ability to improve the guest experience through technology improvements as well as best practices in operating lifts, snowmaking, parking, ticketing, safety, efficiency and sustainability initiatives.
Here are the many ways in which skiing and riding in
Vermont will be better than ever this upcoming season:
Mount Snow Resort
Snowmaking improvements continue to be a priority at Mount Snow, which (along with Hunter Mountain in New York and 15 other New England and Mid-Atlantic resorts became part of Vail Resorts with its acquisition of Peak Resorts (and therefore included on the Epic Pass). This winter will see improvements to the Sunbrook Face as well as Carinthia Parks. On the Sunbrook side, the resort has added 7.2 acres of snowmaking as Little Dipper will now be connected to the Northeast’s most powerful snowmaking system. This change will allow Mount Snow to open this trail earlier in the season and keep it consistently covered throughout the winter. Sunbrook is a beloved part of the mountain and guests will be able to better take advantage of this area. In Carinthia, the resort is adding snowmaking to Fool’s Gold, which increasing snowmaking coverage by an additional 9.8 acres and allowing the ops crew to transform it into a park with small features. Beginner and intermediate park enthusiasts will have a place for building skills before they move onto larger features.
These projects wouldn’t be possible
without the previous upgrades of the past three summers including the addition
of West Lake, Mount Snow’s 120-million-gallon snowmaking reservoir, as well as
new pump houses and pipes, totaling more than $30 million invested in
snowmaking. As the resort moves from 80% to 83% snowmaking coverage for this
winter, Mount Snow has its sights set on 100% coverage which could be
accomplished in the near future.
There is also snow tubing and snowmobiling. You can book a leisurely sunset tour to the summit of Mount Snow, or a trek across Somerset Reservoir through Snowmobile Vermont (book in advance, mountsnow.com/snowmobile). Unwind at Mount Snow’s Naturespa, located in the Grand Summit Resort Hotel, offering pure, natural and organic spa treatments, guided mountain treks, holistic health, and fitness specialties. (mountsnow.com)
Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe, which is now owned by Vail Resorts and is included on
the Epic Pass, now offers Epic Mix, which enables
skiers and riders to track their days and vertical feet skied,earn digital
pins, share photos, race against the pros and check real-time liftline wait
time using their RFID chip-embedded season pass or lift ticket.
Stowe has an inter-mountain transfer gondola connecting
its two mountain peaks, Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak. There are new high-speed
lifts on Spruce, new base facilities, gourmet restaurants. The Stowe Mountain
Lodge, a 312 room hotel and spa, is recognized as one of the greenest and most
luxurious mountainside lodgings anywhere. There’s also a new state-of-the-art
Performing Arts Center at Spruce Peak.
New this winter atop the Mansfield
Gondola in Stowe is a resort inspired Maple Waffle Café. Located inside the
Gondola summit shelter, the new waffle experience is the perfect place to
warm-up with a delicious Vermont flavored snack. The new Whistle Pig Pavilion
adjacent to the outdoor skating rink at Spruce Peak delights skiers in the late
afternoon with gourmet tasters and whiskey toasts by the famous Vermont spirits
bottler. Stop in for a surprise and stay to sample their farm-to-table small bites
menu and the local beer and whiskey bar. “At Stowe, we are curating and
customizing on-mountain private experiences,” says Jeff Wise.
Stowe also offers an on-mountain
Kids AdventureZones, well signed areas that give kids and families the
opportunity to easily access gentle side-country areas and freestyle terrain
purpose-built for learning progression. (www.stowe.com)
Okemo Mountain Resort
Okemo Mountain Resort, which became part of Vail Resorts (and the Epic Pass) last year, has renovated its Summit Lodge and mid-mountain Sugar House with a $2 million infusion of capital. On the slopes, Okemo has secured its reputation for consistent and reliable snow quality and surface conditions through more upgrades to its snowmaking system. Installation of 5,000 feet of pipe completed a five-year project to replace main feeds to Okemo’s snowmaking system across the entire mountain. And this winter, skiers and riders will be able to experience the entire mountain in a new way with EpicMix, a free app that provides access to a variety of features from their mobile phones. They can check snow conditions and lift-wait times, view web cams and trail maps, track vert, earn digital pins, and even track Ski & Snowboard School progress and accomplishments.
Season pass introductions this
winter include a new Northeast College Pass that offers unlimited, unrestricted
access to Okemo and Mount Sunapee, in New Hampshire, as well as unlimited
access with holiday restrictions to Stowe. Also, Vail Resorts has launched Epic
Day Pass, allowing guests to ski world-class resorts for less than
One of our favorite New England ski mountains with its
long, scenic cruisers, Okemo also offers an assortment of activities for
families to enjoy together. For a thrill, try Okemo’s Timber Ripper
Mountain Coaster or go snow tubing down a specially groomed chute in the
Jackson Gore courtyard; skate at Okemo’s ice skating pavilion; rent a fat bike
for riding on snow; go snowshoeing; cross country skiing; work on your golf
game at Okemo’s indoor golf facility. Chill out with an after-hours snowcat
excursion to the top of the mountain, take a swim or soak in a hot tub at
Okemo’s Spring House Pool & Fitness Center.. Enjoy a massage or a facial at
The Adventure Zone located in Okemo’s Jackson Gore area
offers year-round activities soar through the treetops on Sawyer’s Sweep
Zipline Tour or go off-roading on a Segway PT Tour; launch yourself into the
Amp Energy Big Air Bag; climb the climbing wall; putt Cal’s Miniature Golf
Course or challenge yourself on the 18-hole Disc Golf course.
A wide variety of trailside and mountainside lodging options provide great ski-in/ski-out convenience, but our favorite is Jackson Gore. (okemo.com)
The “Beast of the East,” Killington is the biggest ski
resort in New England and has the longest season. A Powdr resort, Killington
and its sister resort Pico are both partnering in the IkonPass, allows 5-7 days on the pass. Killington offers the Beast 365 All-Seasons Pass gives
guests access to everything at Killington, all year long. It starts in summer
with unlimited lift and trail access for 30 miles of mountain biking, plus golf
course greens fees and access to the Adventure Center including zipline, ropes
course and a year-round downhill coaster; pass
holders also get access to discounts every month, that could consist of spa or
golf. Accommodations are mostly along the access road (though we adored our
stay at nearby Mountaintop Inn), and now owns the legendary Wobbly Barn
Killington offers Woodward, an experiential action
sports company on a mission to inspire next generation sports experiences
through intuitive programming and innovative environments. It’s where the most
passionate people come together to stoke new levels of growth, confidence and a
lifelong love of their favorite sports. Woodward at Killington is the East
Coast destination for action sports progression, providing mountain experiences
built to inspire and empower youth to reach their potential and experienced
athletes to take it to the next level. The Woodward experience at Killington
includes Woodward Mountain Park in the winter and then, when the snow melts,
the Woodward WreckTangle ninja obstacle challenge.
Killington offers seven distinct mountain areas including Killington Peak, the second highest point in the state at 4,241 feet and a vertical drop of 3,050 ft, and 212 trails and 1,977 of skiable acres including Pico. (killington.com)
Pico Mountain, which is Killington’s sister mountain, is undergoing major upgrades to its snowmaking system, which means guests will experience a better, more consistent and more reliable snow surface. Picohas a very different feel from its sister resort, Killington, just next door. A self-contained resort with slopeside lodging, Pico has 57 trails serviced by seven lifts, including two high-speed detachable quads, Its more intimate scale, gentle learning terrain, smooth cruisers and classically narrow New England steeps, that all that funnel to a single base make it ideal for families. Even the most selective skiers and riders will be impressed by Pico’s vertical drop of 1,967’ – taller than 80% of Vermont ski areas. (picomountain.com)
Stratton Mountain Resort
Last January’s Snow Bowl Express launch was a game changer, creating quick access to a blend of terrain from the legendary World Cup and tree-lined Drifter to a three-mile beginner run from the summit of southern Vermont’s highest peak. The new skier and rider is a focus this season with 12,500 feet of new snowmaking pipe, featuring the latest hydrant technology, for the learning zone. Plus, a one-acre parallel teaching area has been crafted to eliminate the fear factor as beginners build a foundation with basic skills, including stance and balance, before heading up the 550-foot covered carpet. Kids snowboarding has never been easier with the addition of a new Burton Riglet Park for 2019-20.
There’s lift-served snow tubing, moonlight snowshoe
tours, and 12 km of cross-country trails for skiing and fat biking. Unwind
with a massage from the Village Day Spa or enjoy a dog sled ride through
Vermont’s wooded terrain. Stratton’s Training and Fitness Center offers
Olympic-sized, salt-water swimming pool, cardio and weight room and the Cliff
Drysdale Tennis Center. Stroll through the Village to enjoy cafes and shops or
venture 20 minutes down Route 100 to Manchester for shopping at 40 designer
Now part of the Alterra Mountain Company, Stratton is included on its Ikon Pass, now offering access to nearly 82,000 acres at 38 premier mountain destinations across the globe. (Stratton.com)
Sometimes it’s the little things that add up to a whole lot of change. Sugarbush has invested in a number of smaller projects this summer to improve the guest experience heading into the ski season. The Lincoln Peak Courtyard has been rebuilt with cobblestones, firepits, gardens, and bar tops. Two new EV charging stations are getting installed at Mt. Ellen for the electric car user looking to shred Vermont’s third-highest peak. Its focus on environmentalism is also demonstrated by donating 1% of restaurant receipts for Protect Our Winter, advocating for climate action, and is partnering with a Vermont business that builds solar arrays to generate 2.5 MW, enough to power Mount Ellen. Additionally, there is now snowmaking on a more opened-up Sleeper Road, and plenty of new infrastructure upgrades around the lodges and lifts.
Sugarbush also actively supports the community. “We’re big on the community. We have a nice base area
with restaurants, but we encourage guests to go to Mad River Valley. We
have shuttle bus through day til 5 or 6, and Saturday late to 2 am. We
encourage people to shop, eat, patronize the artisans,
An independent resort, Sugarbush is part of the Ikon Pass and
The Mountain Collective. “We can pivot faster
as an independent. We do specialty passes: for 20s, for 30s, Boomers (65+)
discounted Quad Pack- 4 lift tickets for $249 which are transferable.
Wynn Smith purchased
Sugarbush in 2001 (unfortunately, on September 10) and between 2004-2008, he
rebuilt the entire Lincoln Peak Village (Mt Ellen is old school). There is a
hotel, new lodge, two ski schools (one for adults, one for kids).
“We have the largest
detachable quad, the Slide Brook Express, in world – 2 miles – connecting Mt
Ellen & Lincoln Peak. You can ski the back country between and use a
shuttle bus or take the Slide Brook
Express back,” says John Blley.
Cabin Cat Adventures also offer a great way to experience
the mountain, whether it’s Allyn’s Lodge Fireside Dining at the top of Gadd
Peak, Cabin Cat First Tracks on a powder day or Sunset Groomer Rides to the top
of Lincoln Peak. Other activities available in Mad River Valley include
ice-skating, an Icelandic horse farm, a locally owned movie theater and cross
country skiing. (sugarbush.com)
Smugglers’ Notch Resort
Notch Resort’s claim to fame is the total experience the resort offers. There
is probably no other ski resort that is so focused on family togetherness,
pioneering a vast array of activities families enjoy together as Smugglers
Notch. Families can vary their vacation days by joining craft sessions,
broomball challenges, scavenger hunts, snow cat tours, story times, and pool
games (included in their Smugglers’ vacation package). Smuggs has also
introduced S.T.E.A.M. activities that bring fun ways to explore science,
technology, engineering, arts, and math. “We’ve cracked
the code with new family
dynamics,” said Michael Chait. “Kids get to see their parents play… Family
programs touch on every family dynamic, from the new parent to the great
FunZone 2.0 offers
26,000 square feet of indoor fun: an adventure center (laser tag,
climbing tower, giant slide), a café serving beer and wine, so parents can
relax while kids play. Outdoor activities include snowmobile tours through the
historic Smugglers’ Notch pass, and CatTrax heated-cabin snow cat rides to the
summits of Smugglers’ most popular peaks.
There’s so much to do, this is the ski resort you want to
stay longer at – not just ski and stay – 43 pages of activities in 7-day
period. Everybody has something even if they don’t ski. There are even
activity packages that don’t include skiing.
The condo-style accommodations provide plenty of space
for families to spread out, have meals and snacks in the condo (every condo has
a crock pot; there is a country store on the mountain with the essentials and a
grocery store 15 minutes away that you can shop at on the drive up).
Apart from its reputation as the most family-friendly ski resort anywhere, there is serious skiing to be had on three mountains: Morse (all green, so there is a natural separation of ability) while Madonna and Sterling are big, steep and deep; Sterling has a great variety of cruisers (great for intermediates) to bump up skill on short black. Madonna is the toughest, with some of the steepest trails (even a double-black) in the East, but there are also a couple of blues from top (Chilcoot and Drifter). (smuggs.com)
Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports
Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports serves
people with physical, cognitive and emotional/behavioral disabilities from
all over the world of all abilities
in three Vermont ski destinations during the winter:
Killington Resort and Pico Mountain in Killington; Sugarbush Resort in Warren;
and Bolton Valley Ski Area in Bolton (though with enough notice, programs can
be organized at other resorts as well). Summer programs are
provided state-wide. Many of the programs include environmental education, wellness,
and special programs designed specifically for veterans.
If a family member uses wheelchair, we can provide instruction. Scholarships are available for those for whom cost is a factor. The organization offers veterans programs all over the state – ski and snowboarding in winter, mountain biking in summer.
Vermont Adaptive is a nationally recognized organization
that empowers people of all abilities through inclusive sports and recreational
programming regardless of ability to pay. In addition to sports, year-round programming options
integrate environmental, holistic wellness, and competitive training
philosophies for people of all ages with cognitive, developmental, physical and
“We are recognized nationally for our client-centered
programs and for providing access and instruction to sports and recreational
activities with the belief that these things provide a physical, mental and
social experience that is immeasurable in promoting self-confidence and
independence in an individual,” said Lexi Moore, team manager.
Vermont Adaptive offers the largest variety of program
opportunities and specialized equipment.
Vermont Adaptive promotes independence and furthers equality through access and
instruction to sports and recreational opportunities including alpine skiing,
snowboarding, and other winter sports; kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle
boarding, sailing, cycling, hiking, rock climbing, tennis, horseback
riding, environmental programs
and CORE Connections wellness retreats.
With nearly 400 active volunteers, plus generous partners and sponsors, and an amazing base of clients and friends, Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports has been at the forefront of sports and recreation for those with disabilities for more than 30 years. (vermontadaptive.org)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
new developments at Vail Resorts:
upgrades at Vail Mountain that will allow for more diverse terrain to be
open earlier. This is the largest snowmaking expansion project in Vail
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.
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.
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
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
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).
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.
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.
Northstar is partnering
with internationally acclaimed restaurateur, Michael Mina, to unveil the newBourbon
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.
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.
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
out the Cloudraker Suspension Bridge, the highest suspension bridge in North
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) member ski areas will welcome guests this season with a slew of l improvements and programs to delight guests of all ages, abilities and interests levels.
“Guests to Colorado Ski Country member ski areas will experience new chairlifts, new terrain, new lodging, new dining options and multiple offerings that are directed at those newer or returning to the sport and those that may just be looking to enjoy the mountain environment,” said Melanie Mills, President and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA.
Here are highlights:
Winter Park Resort
Winter Park Resort is opening a new $16 million 10-person gondola in its base area, replacing the well known 4-person Zephyr chairlift. This new gondola will increase uphill capacity by over 1,000 guests per hour, reducing wait times by 15 minutes during peak season. It is part of a $28 million investment at the resort this year. The resort’s first new on-mountain lift installation since 2007, the gondola will serve a new daily Mountaintop Sunset Après at the Lodge at Sunspot from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Foot passengers can ride for free without a lift ticket beginning at 2:30 p.m. each day.
Skiers will also benefit from upgrades to its snowmaking system with the addition of new energy efficient compressors, pipe replacement, and new high-tech snow guns.
An upgrade to the Zephyr Plaza in Winter Park Village will create a free-flowing plaza with stage area, fire pits, and sundeck for general gathering and small events and concerts.
Winter Park is still owned by the City of Denver but now under management of Alterra Mountain Company. Alterra, which also owns the Aspen Skiing Company, is paying the city $3 million a year plus a percentage, money that is going toward the city’s parks). That means that Winter Park is also included in Alterra’s Ikon pass (nearby Copper Mountain is also part of Ikon pass, plus Steamboat, Aspen Snowmass in Colorado, among 14 resorts included in the pass).
Winter Park resort is linked to Denver by train and the popular service is expanding to once a day on Saturday and Sunday and the first two Fridays of the month (January through March, $29 one/way, half-price for children under 12; book in advance so you don’t get shut out); it leaves the resort at 4:30 pm so it can be a day trip (great idea for people coming to Denver for business or conferences). Destination visitors can even take rail from the airport to downtown/Union Station, stay overnight in the city and acclimate to the altitude before taking the train in the morning. Winter Park works with Denver’s Convention & Visitor Bureau, and you can book lodging online. It’s great for corporate visitors to Denver, but Winter Park, a major destination resort, is definitely worth longer-stays. Check out Winter Park’s five-course gondola-served dinners at The Lodge at Sunspot.
Winter Park starts at a base of 9,000 ft., rising to a summit at 12,060 ft, for a 3,060 ft. vertical; it offers snowmaking on 313 of its 3,081 skiable acres, serviced by 25 lifts; its 166 trails offer 8% green, 37% intermediate, 52% black and 3% double-black including bowl skiing and cat-skiing. For more information, visit www.winterparkresort.com.
Copper Mountain Resort
Copper Mountain is debuting the American Flyer and American Eagle chairlifts out of Copper’s Center Village. The American Flyer is a high speed six-person chair with bubble enclosures to protect from wind and cold, the only active bubble chair in Colorado. The American Eagle is a high-speed combination lift that features both six-person chairs and eight-person gondola cabins. Both will significantly increase uphill access from the base area and reduce wait times.
Copper Mountain will have a new base area restaurant, Downhill Duke’s. Named after a beloved dog, Downhill Duke’s will welcome guests and their four-legged friends to enjoy lunch or après cocktails on the south-facing patio.
One of the many pleasures of Copper, which is one of the easiest major resorts to reach from Denver International Airport, are programs like free guided snowshoeing (even the equipment is free) and a mountain coaster.
Copper Mountain is owned by Powdr resort company which is now partnering with the Ikon ski pass so you get unlimited skiing/riding, along with Woodward, Winter Park, Eldora, Steamboat, Aspen Snowmass and Killington, Vt.)
“The theme for us this year is the ease of access,” with free transportation throughout Summit county, upgraded parking and bus fleet.
Copper offers naturally separated abilities across its mountain peaks, and plenty of stunning skiing/riding for beginners and intermediates in the 2490 skiable acres (36 green runs, 36 blue, 52 black and 27 double-black) with snowmaking on 364 acres to supplement the 306 inches of average snowfall. From the base at 9,703 ft, the peak rises to 12,313.
Steamboat Resort will feature two new dining experiences for the 2018-19 season. Timber & Torch, a new base area restaurant and bar experience, will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring a new outdoor heated patio, two indoor/outdoor bars, an exterior fireplace and a new outdoor BBQ. The Taco Beast, a unique new on-mountain, roaming snowcat, will serve carne asada and al pastor trail tacos with trailside service in both winter and summer seasons.
Steamboat starts at a base of 6,900 ft., rising to a summit at 10,568 ft, for a 3,668 ft. vertical; it offers snowmaking on 375 of its 2,965 skiable acres, serviced by 18 lifts; its 165 trails are graded as 14% green, 42% intermediate, 44% black including bowl skiing and cat-skiing.
Steamboat, famous for its Western ambiance, also offers night skiing and a mountain coaster. Steamboat Springs also boasts having produced more winter Olympians than any other town in North America. Steamboat is one of 37 resorts included on the Alterra Mountain’s Ikon Pass. For more information, visit www.steamboat.com.
Aspen Snowmass is actually four distinct mountain destinations: the legendary Aspen Mountain, which rises up from one of Colorado’s most charming towns; Snowmass Mountain Resort, a self-contained resort; Aspen Highlands, a challenging mountain and Buttermilk Mountain, especially popular for beginners and families.
Aspen Skiing Company, part of Alterra Mountain Co., is making progress on the $600 million Snowmass Base Village Development that will add lodging, residences and amenities over 10 years. The first phase of development is opening this season: the new Limelight Hotel Snowmass, a ski-in/ski-out hotel adjacent to Snowmass Mountain’s Elk Camp Gondola featuring 99 hotel rooms and 11 for-sale condominiums, plus a new restaurant, a children’s game area and a five-story climbing wall. The Snowmass Base Village hosts a central public events plaza, serving as the community’s gathering space with an ice-skating rink, fire pits, children’s pop-up fountains and other community amenities this winter. At Buttermilk families and children can enjoy Fort Frog, a new wooden, frontier style fort with lookout towers, a jail, snowball launcher and swinging bridge.
Aspen Mountain: The ski trails at Aspen Mountain were originally cut by the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division and the ski destination emerged from a sleepy post-war town beginning in 1946.
Its Silver Queen Gondola rises up from downtown Aspen 3,000 vertical feet to the summit of Aspen Mountain at 11,212 ft. (making it easy to access from downtown hotels, like the historic Jerome Hotel). Its comparatively small size — a mere 675 acres (still larger than most New England ski resorts) offers 76 trails of which 48% are rated intermediate, 26% advanced and 26% double-black including bowl skiing and cat skiing.
Snowmass with more than 3,300 skiable acres, has the highest vertical rise, 4,400 feet, in the country. Snowmass is notable for really catering to all ages and abilities and for being family-friendly – its 20 lifts serve 96 trails, rated as 5% green, 48% intermediate, 17% black and 30% double-black including bowl skiing. There are steeps and powder fields at Hanging Valley; long cruisers; tree trails and three terrain parks.
A new Snowmass Mountain Club provides members private garage parking directly below the Club, ski-in access and access to the hotel’s fitness facilities and hot tubs.
Also new is the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, that winds through a mile of forest on an elevated track at speeds up to 28 mph. Located adjacent to the Elk Camp Restaurant, the coaster operates during the day and special Ullr Nights and select Après extended hours. You can purchase tickets for a 2 1/2-hour coaster session or a 2 1/2-hour session combining the coaster and Tubing.
Snowmass is celebrating its 50th anniversary with festivities all season long.
Buttermilk is known for two seemingly contradictory things: being a beginners’ mountain and hosting the Winter X Games. Its kid-oriented Panda Peak is popular for families and Buttermilk’s West Buttermilk park is well suited to learners while a second X Games park offers 100 features and a pipe.
Buttermilk rises from a base at 7,870 to a summit at 9,900′ for a vertical of 2,030 ft.; it offers snowmaking on 108 of its 470 skiable acres, which are serviced by 8 lifts. Its 44 trails are rated as 35% green, 39% intermediate, 21% black and 5% double-black.
Aspen Highlands is a challenging area (no beginner trail) that has a reputation as being where locals go. Highland Bowl is a legendary basin of double-black diamond terrain which is reached by hiking to 12,392 foot Highland Peak, and is prized by expert skiers and riders.
Aspen Highlands rises from 8,040 to 12,392 feet, for a 3,635 ft. vertical and offers 1,040 skiable acres, served by 5 lifts. Of the 144 trails, 23% are rated intermediate, 12% black and 65% double-black; it offers bowl skiing and cat skiing.
Also new for the 2018-19 season, The Aspen Snowmass App is being upgraded to provide rewards and enhanced functioning of year-over-year stats and tracking, allowing families, skiers and nonskiers to track on-mountain movements.
Aspen Snowmass is part of the Alterra collection and the Ikon Pass as well as The Mountain Collective. For more information, visit www.aspensnowmass.com.
Telluride Ski Resort
Telluride Ski Resort has upgraded The Meadows, its popular beginner area, into a world-class learning facility. The Meadows features a newly installed 320-foot covered surface lift and a significant investment in a terrain-based learning program. Telluride skiers and riders will also find an expanded grooming fleet to enhance the groomed terrain across the resort, as Telluride continues its multi-year, multimillion-dollar venture in snowmaking upgrades and technology to improve efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint. A new consumer app is being introduced that provides up-to-the-minute lift status information, snow reporting, trail status, an interactive trail map, push notifications and more.
Telluride, a quintessential Colorado experience, offers the highest eaterie, Alpino Vino, at 11,996 ft altitude (they sell oxygen). Telluride is now included as a partner on Vail’s Epic Pass. Telluride also offers heli-skiing in the San Juans, literally departing from outside the door of the hotel (suitable for strong intermediates, but aimed for excellent skiers). Telluride is also home to the resort rated #1 in North America by Conde Nast Traveler for five of the last six years.
Telluride rises from a base at 8,725 ft to a summit at 13,150 ft, for a whopping 4,425 ft vertical; it offers 2,000 skiable acres accessed by 19 lifts; of the 148 trails, 23% are rated green, 36% are blue, 41% are black. For more information, visit www.tellurideskiresort.com.
Purgatory Resort will offer year-round access to the Inferno Mountain Coaster, a new gravity-fed ride that will zip through aspen groves revealing incredible views of the San Juan Mountains. The Inferno Mountain Coaster is almost a mile long, with 300 feet of vertical drop, nine switchbacks and speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.
Brand new for the 2018-19 season, Purgatory Resort is offering a free season pass for all children in Fourth Grade or younger, with no blackout dates and no parent purchase required.
Purgatory offers a 2,029 vertical, rising from a base at 8,793 ft to a summit 15 10,822. Its 1,605 skiable acres are served by 13 lifts; the 94 trails are graded 20% green, 45% blue, 35% black. For more information, visit www.skipurg.com.
Apart from these major, world-class resorts, Colorado is studded with smaller “Gems” — 11 ski areas which offer two for one or 30% off (the pass costs $25 and pays for itself after the first visit): Arapahoe Basin, Cooper, Echo Mountain, Eldora, Granby Ranch, Hesperus, Kendall Mountain, Loveland, Monarch, Powderhorn and Sunlight.
Here’s what’s new:
Arapahoe Basin is completing a two-year project that adds 468 acres of new intermediate and expert terrain in the Beavers and Steep Gullies. This includes 34 new runs served by the new Beavers lift in 2018-19, while the Steep Gullies terrain remains hike-back, expert only terrain.
This summer, A-Basin operations crews constructed 97 more acres of tree skiing and continued improving the rest of the terrain with grading, glading and installation of the chairlift and picnic areas. Terrain in The Beavers includes two new intermediate groomed runs, allowing more skiers and riders to enjoy this scenic, north- and west-facing terrain. The Steep Gullies are 91 acres of extreme (double-black diamond), steep, couloir skiing which remain hike-back for the true advanced skier or snowboarder looking for some of the most challenging terrain in Colorado.
In conjunction with the terrain expansion, A-Basin is opening a restaurant at the summit, a European Style delicatessen, Il Refugio “The Shelter”.
Its midway lodge is famous for moonlight dinners offered six times a season, where you take the lift up; the dinners are themed (Africa, New Years Eve, Italy, France, India) and accommodate 180 diners (so make your reservation). A-Basin has four chefs. “We want people to come for the culinary experience.”
Skiers with a lift ticket for nearby Keystone or the Vail Epic pass have access to A-Basin.
Arapahoe Basin rises from a base at 10,520 ft to 13,050 ft..for a 2,530 ft vertical rise; has snowmaking on 125 of its 1,428 skiable acres, serviced by 9 lifts; its 145 trails are classified as 7% green, 20% blue, 49% black and 24% double-black, including bowl skiing.
A-Basin affords activities year-round: dining at the base in summer, disk golf, and is opening an adventure park for summer 2020.
Cooper’s new Moonlight Mountaintop Yurt dinner series at the Ridgeview Café features a ride to the mountaintop after hours in a warm, cozy snowcat in the light of the full moon. This event is perfect for a special gathering with four dates during the 2018-19 season and includes delicious flame-grilled salmon, stuffed portabella mushrooms and New York strip steaks. Cooper offers 41 trails on 400 skiable acres served by 4 lifts. For more information, visit www.skicooper.com.
Eldora: A year after installing the Alpenglow high-speed six-person chairlift, Eldora’s first-ever high-speed lift, the ski area is making another leap into the future this season with RFID pass technology. There are also new glading projects and upgrades to Eldora’s electrical and communication systems and more frequent early-season and midweek events and activities. Eldora offers 53 trails on 680 skiable acres, 20% beginning, 50% intermediate, 15% advanced and 15% expert. For more information, visit www.eldora.com.
Granby Ranch offers groups the opportunity to rent Granby Ranch’s East Mountain for the evening. Guests will have full access to the East Mountain night skiing terrain from 5pm-9pm. Granby Ranch has 38 trails on 406 skiable acres (245 with snowmaking), of which 36% are beginner, 40% intermediate and 24% advanced. For more information, visit www.granbyranch.com.
Loveland Ski Area, in Georgetown, is unveiling its largest single capital improvement project in its history with the installation of its first high-speed quad lift, Chet’s Dream. named after its longtime owner, Chet Upham Jr. Loveland is a major ski area, very popular for day trips from Denver, offering 1,800 skiable acres. From the base at 10,800, it rises to 13,010 ft for a 2,210 ft. Ten lifts serve 94 trails, rated as 13% green, 41% blue, 22% black and 24% double black including bowl skiing and cat-skiing. For more information, visit www.skiloveland.com.
Monarch Mountain, near Salida, is debuting a brand-new tubing park for the 2018-19 season, expanding offerings for visiting families with both skiers and nonskiers in the group. Monarch is also adding new gladed tree skiing, upgraded WiFi, chip readers at all sales terminals, self-order kiosks in the Gunbarrel Cafeteria and handheld order-taking technology. The mountain rises from a base at 10,790 ft to 11,952 ft, for a 1,162 vertical; its 800 skiable acres are served by six lifts; 64 trails offer a variety of terrain: 22% green, 27% blue, 37% black and 11% double black including bowl skiing and cat skiing. For more information, visit www.skimonarch.com.
Powderhorn Resort is featuring Mission: Affordable, a new steeply discounted season pass program with discounts and special programs for first-timers and beginners. Powderhorn offers 1,600 skiable acres; its 42 trails are rated 20% green, 50% intermediate and 30% advanced. (www.powderhorn.com).
Silverton Mountain is introducing a new heli-skiing terrain, “Zone 8,” which features diverse high-alpine terrain and great early-season snow. Silverton will also expand its Unguided Season Pass offer to include a 150 percent increase in available ski days to the unguided season, 45 free days at partner ski resorts, and a $39 heli drop. Silverton is a substantial ski area, affording 1,819 skiable acres of which 100% is rated as expert; it offers a 3,087-ft vertical, from the base at 10,400 to summit at 13,487. For more information, visit www.silvertonmountain.com.
Sunlight Mountain Resort is opening the Compass Mountain Grill, an on mountain food stand for walk-up skiers and riders to refuel at the top of Sunlight. The Glenwood Springs-based ski area is known for an award-winning Ski, Swim, Stay! package that combines skiing or snowboarding with lodging and a visit to all-natural hot springs. From a base at 7,885 ft to the summit at 9,895 ft, the area offers a 2,010 ft vertical; it has 66 trails on 680 skiable areas, with a fairly even mix of difficulty: 20% green, 30% blue, 20% black and 30% double black. For more information, visit www.sunlightmtn.com.
Wolf Creek Ski Area in the southern part of Colorado, known for receiving the most snow annually in Colorado, will open for the 2018-19 season with the new high-speed, detachable quad Charity Chairlift, accessing previously underutilized 55 acres of beginner and intermediate terrain. The Charity Lift, the 10th in Wolf Creek, will be the third chairlift in the spacious 900-acre, Alberta area where guests can also enjoy a new on-mountain Alberta Grill, offering a south of the border themed menu and more traditional grilled items. Wolf Creek will also implement and launch a new point-of-sale system in rentals, retail and all restaurants mountain wide for the 2018-19 season. For more information, visit www.wolfcreekski.com.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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).
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.
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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
Whoa, what a Christmas present: December has been very kind to Killington which already had a decent base when we arrived just before Christmas, then had nearly two feet more of powder by the end of Christmas Day, much to the delight of skiers and snowboarders who clearly raced away from opening gifts to enjoy the acres and acres of fresh powder snow. With Killington’s elevation and a 3,000 ft. vertical drop, the powder made you feel you were skiing the Rockies.
Killington, known as the “Beast of the East,” is the largest ski area in New England – sprawling across six-mountain peaks, the highest at 4,241’ elevation, affording 1,509 skiable acres, 155 trails totaling 73 miles. Of the 21 lifts, three are gondolas, and of the nine quads, five are high-speed express. (Pico Mountain, Killington’s sister resort (Killington’s ticket is valid there), is its 7th peak; it is not connected by lift but there is shuttle service between the resorts.)
The resort offers multiple terrain features for snowboarders and freeskiers in six terrain parks including The Stash, an all-natural inspired terrain park with more than 65 features, and NeffLand, an outer-space themed terrain park with rocket and planet style jibs, as well as two pipes.
Killington is absolutely phenomenal for black-diamond skiers and skiers who are comfortable regardless of terrain – you can just go and explore and not really care what you wind up on.
Bear Mountain is great for double-black diamond skiers, and is where you will find Outer Limits and Centerpiece (glades).
A fun narrow trail in the trees for daring intermediate (don’t have to be advanced tree skier, but should be comfortable intermediate, slightly more adventurous): Roundabout (rated a black diamond, really fun, narrow, tree experience, don’t have to be a glade skier), shoots out to a long green, Bear Cub, long easy, on the perimeter.
Intermediate skiers will need to plot out their route. One combination that I particularly enjoyed was riding K-1 to the summit and taking Blue Heaven to Bear Trax to Launch Pad (which has a particularly scenic stretch flanked on both sides by trees to Bitter Sweet where you will find a few, short steeps.
I also enjoyed taking the Skyship Gondola up to Great Eastern, a green, (I chickened out of taking the blue trail, Skylark, normally a long fun blue run, because it had a caution, “Advanced skiers only” and I wasn’t in the mood to be challenged), to connect to Cruise Control, a very pleasant blue. From there, you can ride up the Northbrook Quad back up to the Snowshed slope. Skyship tends not to be as crowded and is particularly a good place in the afternoon when it is less likely for the trails to be skied off.
There are great blues at Rams Head but this is also the area that is used for ski school and clinics, so tends to be crowded.
Green trail skiers are more restricted – the Great Eastern is a long trail but you have to watch carefully when it crosses over black and blue trails. Snowshed offers great opportunities on gentle terrain to fine-tune your form, so I didn’t mind riding the chair five minutes for the five-minute run because I enjoyed my skiing there so much. At Rams Head there is another long green trail, Easy Street.
Killington’s Discovery programs utilize Terrain Based Learning, the latest innovation in snow sports education, coupled with the promise of free equipment for skiers and snowboarders at the end of a four-lesson series.
Novel Ways to Enjoy Killington
Snowshed, indeed, is the place for novel mountain activities.
This year, you can rent a ski bike (also known as snow-bike); lessons are available as well. Killington ski bikes operates Friday through Sunday 9 am to 4 pm and daily during holidays, and rentals are offered at the Snowshed base area. Ski biking is permitted on the Snowshed and Ramshead mountain areas which provide optimal beginner to intermediate conditions. Pricing starts at $88 for a half-day rental and includes an access ticket.
It’s also where you will find The Beast Mountain Coaster, a 4,800-foot-long alpine coaster that twists and turns through the woods with 360-degree corkscrews. It hadn’t yet started operation for the season (Dec. 26, 2017-April 1, 2018), but operates 1-4 pm weekend and peak days (operations are weather dependent; check Resort Services Report for updates in real-time. Book with a Ski & Stay Package prior to arrival and save; call 800-621-6867 for reservations.
New attractions include the four-story Skye Ropes Course, Skyeride (seated zip line ride), 5,000 square foot Terra Maze, Roaring Brook Mining for the youngest adventurers, plus motorized mountain tours by Segway and All Terrain Vehicle.
Killington and Pico are catering to increasing popularity of “uphill travel” with guests choosing to reach the peaks of Bear Mountain, Snowdon, Ramshead and Pico via human vs. machine power with designated routes for each mountain area and 24/7 access (when designed routes are open).
Killington also has Vermont’s highest elevation structure: the Peak Lodge from where, on a clear day, you can actually catch views of five states plus Canada. The Peak Lodge is the most sustainable building at Killington, with forward thinking approaches to electricity (Cow Power), lighting, recycling, grey water, and refrigeration (Freeaire).
All food at the Peak Lodge is made to order, and ingredients are sourced from local farms to ensure the freshness of all dishes. Fresh local craft beer is also available from the full-service bar with views of gondola cabins cresting the head wall and arriving at the terminal.
At the Bear Mountain lodge, the chef very kindly prepared a gluten-free sandwich.
Also fun: the Waffle Haus at the bottom of Snowshed.
The Long Trail Pub at Snowshed is a great place to finish the day or wind down. The windows open up to see the skiers as they come down.
Experiential dining at Killington ranges from fresh-made fare at the Peak Lodge to snowcat-drawn sleigh rides to the Ledgewood Yurt, a ski-in-ski-out hidden gem during the day that transforms to a cozy, candlelit slice of paradise after hours.
The Motor Room Bar, located in a retired lift tower at the top of Bear Mountain overlooking two of Killington’s most feared double-black diamond runs, is reserved by single parties for an unforgettable apres – complete with private cabin-cat transportation, libations and small bites.
While Killington doesn’t have an actual village, the Killington Access road is as famous for dining institutions like the 50 year old Wobbly Barn steakhouse as it is for high energy nightlife, and the Liquid Art Café .
Casey’s Caboose is Back!
The little toy train runs again! And you can still sit up in the caboose cab, or in a snowplow. All the fun and whimsy has returned, but with seriously improved food for an altogether outstanding dining experience on Killington Road: Casey’s Caboose is back.
It is back with the color, the lights, the spirit, the toy train that runs around the room (it launches when someone hits Goofy with a quarter), and with an outstanding menu all guided by new owners who loved the Killington tradition too much to let it die. The restaurant reopened this past July after being closed for three years.
Built around an 1876 railroad caboose and a 1910 railroad snowplow, fans (like us) will be delighted to see the fun, whimsical interior, with its toy train that still runs around the room and colorful neon lights, its tiny sitting area in the caboose cab (you have to climb up a ladder and step across a space), are even better than we remembered. But the food! That is entirely new. Everything is homemade. The menu has a few nods to one of the new owners, a British gentleman who couldn’t bear to see the restaurant close, with fish and chips that are outstanding (the cod is really flavorful and fresh). The burger selections are out of this world. Who could imagine a New York Deli version, with fresh, homemade pastrami combined with the beef? Or a burger with lobster! Even so, Marco had them make his own version: a burger with egg and jalapenos. My Meat & Mushroom burger (prepared with Portobello mushroom and gruyere cheese) was perfectly prepared and one of the best ever (and served on a warm, not cold bun!). They were extremely accommodating to our requests: gluten free for Daniella; spicy for Marco. Everything is freshly made and beautifully presented. And the prices are still modest. The dessert that had everyone’s eyes popping was like a combination of every edible fantasy: chocolate, pumpkin pie and cheesecake. They also offer 21 draft beers and cider (including Long Trail), a gin kitchen with a surreal selection of gins, tonics and botanicals.
Fun fact: Casey’s Caboose was named after Jonathan Luther “John” “Casey” Jones the great American railroad engineer who died in April 30 1900 saving the passengers on his train. His mother, Mrs Jones is said to have lived near Killington in her youth.
The skis we rented from Peak Performance, just about a half-mile below Snowshed (2808 Killington Road) were fantastic. The Everyone is specifically measured and fitted for boots (Salomon brand). The skis (Fisher) were brand new and after each use are run through the shop’s tuning machine, one of three on the mountain (you have to see it; like a car wash for skis and snowboards) and performed amazingly. Even the poles, Scott brand, were top quality. Reserve online in advance and you get a 15% discount on the already really reasonable rates if you reserve on line – basically just filling out the rental form, you don’t even give a credit card. The website is extremely easy to use. When you arrive, they are ready for you. It is no wonder the shop has been rated the best in New England.
It is surprising to learn that they are also the biggest race ski center in the country, selling more racing skis than anyone, even more than Colorado. Returning was equally easy and stress-free. Peak Performance has been in business for 27 years, and the shop, owned by Fred & Denise Coriell, clearly reflects pure love of the sport. (Peak Performance, 2808 Killington Road, 802-422-9447, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.peakskishop.com.)
There are loads of lodging choices, including several that are managed by Killington such as the Killington Grand Hotel, right at the base.
We absolutely loved our stay at the Mountaintop Inn & Resort, a 30 minutes scenic drive away in Chittenden (the hotel offers a daily shuttle to Killington), as well as its own major cross-country ski center. (Mountain Top Inn & Resort, Chittenden, VT, 802.483.2311, www.mountaintopinn.com).
Killington Resort is a four-season destination set on 3,000 acres in the heart of Central Vermont’s Green Mountains. After the snow melts, Killington features an 18-hole championship golf course, the family-friendly Snowshed Adventure Center, 30 miles of mountain biking trails with expansion underway with Gravity Logic, plus 15 miles of hiking trails. The range of après (snowmobiling, snowshoe tours, sleigh rides, tubing), dining, and lodging options have made Killington a world-class destination for skiers and riders for over 55 years. Killington is part of the POWDR portfolio and participates in the M.A.X. program. Check the website for packages and specials.
You can check ski conditions at killington.com/conditions. For information, 800-621- 6867, www.killington.com.
Increasingly, the world is skiers’ oyster with more and more people venturing to Europe, Asia and Australia for an entirely different downhill experience.
The consolidation of the mega-resort companies – Vail Resorts and Aspen/KSL – and their acquisitions of resorts spanning the nation and even the world gives 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 or amenities. 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. Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, for example, provides unlimited access to Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia and Parisher in Australia (for summer 2018), plus limited access to 30 resorts in Europe; meanwhile, Vail Resorts’ acquisition of Stowe Vermont, its first in the Northeast, gives passholders greater incentive to spread their wings in pursuit of new places for an alpine experience.
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.
“We are continuing to see a trend of people buying their Epic Pass early to take advantage of early-booking discounts and then picking their destinations and making travel plans later,” says Dan Sherman, chief marketing officer for Ski.com. “In some cases, Epic Pass holders will even purchase plane tickets to Denver, which locks in their dates, but they wait until closer in do decide on their destination. As the consolidation of major ski resorts continues, we expect to see new pass products hit the market, which could affect where and how often destination skiers travel to the mountains.” Ski.com sells the Epic Pass as well as the Salt Lake Super Pass, which are often-times cheaper than paying the day rate at the ticket window. A Mountain Vacation Specialist can help determine this when booking a package for travelers.
The company reports that Japan is becoming a highly sought-after ski destination, particularly for those on the hunt for powder who also enjoy the cultural experiences these resorts offer. Europe is also in higher demand this year, particularly for those looking to capitalize on airfare deals and also take advantage of the strong dollar against the Euro.
Ski.com just added additional Japanese locations to the inventory, one of nearly a dozen countries the company books for traveling skiers. Also, a recent partnership with Club Med offers skiers all-inclusive travel options in the European Alps.
Club Med now has 20 resorts in the French and Italian Alps (and just announced it will open its first in Canada, in Quebec’s Le Massif de Charlevoix ski region in 2020).
“People know us for warm weather properties, but what is different about Club Med’s ski resorts is that the vacation is truly all-inclusive: flights (aboard commercial airlines, not charter), transfers, accommodations, food and beverage, lift tickets, lessons, activities, snowshoeing kids programs, kids clubs (also inclusive of beginner, intermediate and advanced ski lessons) – the only thing not included are the rentals. Every property has something different” says Katie Riguzzi, of Source by Katie, representing Club Med at a Ski.com media event.
She noted the world’s flagship ski destinations are seeing a stronger increase in visitors from around the world. For instance, guests from the U.S., Canada and Brazil are booking more ski vacations in the Alps. They are also becoming more interested in Asian ski destinations. These guests are traveling for the different experiences each destination can provide: Champagne powder in Japan, chalet atmosphere in France, cuisine in Italy, etc.
“The international appeal for ski is very evident at Club Med resorts, and the resorts are properly prepared to welcome all guests. Club Med employs staff members from all over the world to break down language barriers and they are equipped to provide top-of-the-line accommodations, concierge-level services and authentic culinary experiences that vary by region to highlight local flavors, but also adapt to the clients’ customs and comforts. Club Med continues to grow its ski offering in Europe, Asia and now North America, providing plenty of unique bucket-list destinations.”
The rising demand for all-inclusive experiences has resulted in Ski.com expanding its guided trip program as well as partnering with Club Med to offer trips to Club Med ski destinations in Europe. Ski.com offers 5 guided trips this winter to Japan and to the Powder Highway in Canada. Ski.com‘s demand for its Top Resorts remains high but the company is also seeing increased demand this year for Europe in general and also powder-themed vacations like Powder Highway and hell ski trips.
Guided Trips for the 2017-18 season include:
Hokkaido, Japan: January 13-29, 2018 & January 27-Febuary 3, 2018. Enjoy 6 days of guided skiing in or around Niseko (wherever the snowfall is most abundant), as well as 7 nights lodging, breakfast and more. More details here.
Canada’s Powder Highway I: Red Mountain + Whitewater, British Columbia
February 25-March 4, 2018: Located on the infamous “Powder Highway,” this guided trip includes 3 days of guided skiing at Red Mountain and 3 days of guided skiing at Whitewater with options to add cat skiing as well. Lodging at each location as well as transportation and reception dinners included. More details here.
Canada’s Powder Highway II: Panorama, Kicking Horse & Revelstoke, March 3-10, 2017: Explore some of Canada’s best powder and check heli-skiing off your bucket list with this guided trip to Panorama, Kicking Horse and Revelstoke. The trip includes 7 nights of lodging, 6 days of guided skiing, option to add hell-skiing as well as daily breakfast, après ski, transportation and more. More details here.
Off the Beaten Path: 7 Under-the-Radar Ski Resorts
Ski.com’s best-selling resorts include Vail, Aspen/Snowmass, Breckenridge, Deer Valley Resort, Beaver Creek, Steamboat Springs, Park City, Jackson Hole, Telluride, Whistler/Blackcomb (CAN), Zermatt (Switzerland), Chamonix (France).
But while these are the best-sellers, Ski.com is also showcasing resorts that are off-the-beaten path.
“Skip the lift lines this winter and head off the beaten path. Resorts that take a little longer to get to, often reward skiers and riders with fewer crowds, untracked powder and down-to-earth mountain towns that make you feel at home,” says Sherman.
Taos, New Mexico: “Taos is one of those places where you step back into an era when skiing was simple,” says Ski.com Mountain Vacation Expert Bryan Donnelly. Rising out of the Northern New Mexico desert, the town and resort are in the middle of nowhere – part of the ski area’s charm. Taos resides in the famed Sangre de Cristo mountain range at an altitude of 8,000-plus feet. The high elevation, combined with New Mexico’s arid climate yields bone-dry champagne powder. As a cultural center comprised of Native American, Spanish, and Anglo tradition, a ski trip to Taos is like going to a faraway land. On your way to the resort, you’ll notice adobe buildings, art galleries and a Native American Pueblo. The resort matches what the town’s culture has to offer with every kind of terrain imaginable at Taos Ski Valley, “from wide open bowls and long groomers to crazy cliffs, chutes and some of the steepest terrain this side of Wyoming,” says Donnelly.
Grand Targhee, Wyoming: Only 42 miles from Jackson Hole, Wyoming and with stunning views of the Tetons, Grand Targhee is likely a resort you’ve likely never been to, but one that should be on your radar. Only 12 miles from the closest town, Driggs, Grand Targhee retains the laid-back, grass-roots vibe of Wyoming and Idaho country. The resort receives a whopping 500 inches of snow annually, but this hidden gem rarely sees crowds or extensive lift lines. With a quaint base village, live music at the local bar, and no high-rise condos to block the vistas, Targhee is a must-visit for skiers looking for private powder. Combine Targhee with nearby resorts Jackson, Sun Valley, Big Sky and those near Salt Lake City for an ultimate road trip.
Red Mountain, British Columbia: For amazing skiing and 3-bedroom condos with private hot tubs on the cheap, Red Mountain is the affordable luxury resort you’ve been dreaming of but maybe never heard of. The ski area is considered by some as one of the last great undiscovered resorts. Located in the low-key town of Rossland, B.C., Red Mountain is two hours from Spokane International Airport. Since its beginning back in 1896, Red Mountain has retained the charm on which its reputation was built. The resort was recently put up for crowd-funding, with the slogan “fight the man, own the mountain.” This anti-establishment (going against the grain of recent mergers) mentality can be felt at the laid-back resort. With terrain for all abilities, from wide-open groomers to steep tree skiing, Red Mountain offers up something for everyone. Take advantage of the Canadian exchange rate for additional savings and put this resort on your bucket list.
Schweitzer, Idaho: Nestled in Northwest Idaho 12 miles from Sandpoint and less than two hours from the Spokane, Washington airport you’ll find down-to-earth Schweitzer Mountain Resort. This rustic, quaint ski area is considered a hidden gem because you won’t have to fight crowds or waste your ski vacation in lift lines, and also, because there are 3,300 acres of skiable terrain and a consistent 300 inches of snow annually. Schweitzer has a wide variety of terrain options for all level of skiers, and the snowmaking capability to cover all their intermediate and beginner trails if by chance there’s a low snow year. Plus, the views atop the resort of Lake Pend Oreille aren’t too shabby either. As a bonus, if you fly Alaskan airlines to get there, you can ski for free the day of your flight.
Sun Valley, Idaho: Sun Valley started as a playground for European nobility and Hollywood stars in 1936, when it opened the world’s first chairlift. Today it is home to a handful of Olympians, yet remains under the radar. Bright, sunny days with comfortable temperatures combined with long, wide-open groomed runs and awesome scenery are the many reasons to add Sun Valley to your bucket list of ski resorts. The resort offers a laid-back atmosphere with the highest standards of service as well as over 70 runs, a 3,400-foot vertical drop and more uphill capacity, per skier, than any other ski area. “The best part about Sun Valley,” says Dan Sherman, “ is that you can still drive to and park at the base of the mountain for free. You’ll never have worry about standing in lift lines, not even on a powder day.” Characteristics you’d be hard-pressed to find at the majority of North American ski resorts.
Whitefish, Montana: Minimal crowds, stunning views, great nachos, and that laid-back Montana vibe make Whitefish a hidden gem to add to your vacation bucket list. Skiers used to Colorado and Utah crowds will feel as if they have their own private mountain. On a clear day, the resort’s notorious “snow ghosts” or pine trees coated in fog and ice, create great photo opportunities, as does the view of the surrounding mountains (Whitefish is located t the northern most end of Montana near Glacier National Park) and lake. The friendly, low-key town offers a slew of accommodations for all budgets, as well as local bars with character to wet your whistle. “Whitefish has a feeling of exclusivity,” says Dan Sherman, “like it’s your own hidden treasure that you don’t want anyone else to ever discover.”
Bormio, Italy: Bormio is the perfect ski vacation for those looking to get away from it all. The remote hamlet is located in the Italian province of Sondrio, near the Swiss border. Due to its remote location, Bormio has very few crowds, which make the ski resort’s spacious, woodland slopes that much more enjoyable. As site of the 2005 Alpine World Championships, Bormio boasts world-class facilities. The historic village exudes ancient charm and provides visitors with plenty of quaint, reasonably priced accommodation options. Since Roman times, Bormio has also been known for its relaxing thermal baths. On-mountain, intermediates will love the wide-open and moderately pitched slopes. Terrain park enthusiasts will love the superpipe and slopestyle course, while a beginner park ensures novices learn in a safe manner.
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,” Sherman says.
“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.”
Ski.com is one of the largest providers of mountain vacation packages in North America, with relationships with more than 120 destinations worldwide and over 4,000 properties. The company has booked travel for more than one million skiers and riders over the course of almost 50 years. The company 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.
Whoa! Hold onto your skis, it’s going to be a wild ride! This year’s big skiing newsflash is the mega-mergers creating new behemoths that span the nation and even beyond, which has the independents looking for differentiating ways, as well as collaborations to compete.
Vail Resorts (with four Colorado ski destinations: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone plus 10 more coast-to-coast, Canada and Australia) just keeps getting bigger, with the acquisition of its first Northeastern resort, Stowe Mountain, giving Eastern skiers a really good reason to buy Vail’s Epic Pass.
And now, the Crown family, owners of Aspen and Snowmass resorts, and KSL Capital Partners acquired Intrawest Resorts and Mammoth Resorts, in a $1.5 billion deal, and then, for good measure, purchased Deer Valley, in Utah, as well, literally just down the road from Vail Resorts’ Park City mega-resort.
This newly formed mega-operator mergers a dozen mountain resorts into one company, including many iconic destinations, such as former Intrawest flagships Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado (though Winter Park is still owned by the City of Denver), and Stratton in Vermont. Also in the new portfolio are Mammoth Mountain, California’s busiest ski area, Lake Tahoe’s Squaw and Alpine, and Tremblant in Quebec. The deal also includes heli operator Canadian Mountain Holidays. Collectively these resorts represent 20,000 skiable acres and draw 6 million skier visits.
While it is easy to imagine a system-wide ski pass to rival Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass in the not-distant future, for this upcoming season, the variety of passes that the resorts had been offering will be used: Rocky Mountain Super Pass, Mountain Collective, and the M.A.X. Pass will be honored at the respective resorts.
Here are more highlights of Colorado Ski Country USA resorts:
Olympic qualifiers in Colorado will feature the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain in December and Snowmass in January in advance of the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.
Notable anniversaries include the 50th Anniversary of Snowmass, which will be celebrated with a day of 1967 lift ticket pricing at $6.50, Loveland Ski Area’s 80th Anniversary and Cooper’s 75th Anniversary.
New terrain across the state includes 468 new skiable acres at Arapahoe Basin with the expansion into the Beavers and Steep Gullies. Purgatory will also open new expert and intermediate trails.
New lifts across Colorado Ski Country: Eldora Mountain Resort is opening this season with a new six-person detachable chairlift, the first six-person chairlift in its history. Steamboat’s Gondola underwent significant upgrades over the summer to modernize and improve the guest experience and Purgatory will welcome a full season of its new transfer lift.
Mountain Coasters galore with Copper Mountain, Steamboat, Purgatory and Aspen Snowmass all opening a year-round mountain coaster in the fall or early winter.
The news at Steamboat is that it is now part of the group that owns Aspen/Snowmass, Intrawest, the four Mammoth mountains in California; Squaw Valley; Mont Tremblant and the Canadian Mountain Heliskiing (CMH) company in Canada, plus Deer Park, Utah, and Stratton Mountain, Vt. and operates Winter Park, Colorado.
Steamboat has made significant improvements to its gondola for the 2017-18 season, installing new grips, hangers, terminal equipment, electronic controls and other infrastructure to the resort’s main access point. These renovations will provide a faster, smoother and more efficient experience for guests.
Half of Steamboat’s terrain is intermediate and beginner, and there is an entire lift devoted to intermediate terrain offering long cruiser blue trails.
The Outlaw Mountain Coaster, which will operate year-round, opened September 8, 2017. The mountain coaster descends more than 400 vertical feet with a riding length of more than 6,000 linear feet, making it the longest mountain coaster in North America.
A true destination resort, Steamboat is now accessible by direct flight from Newark. It is a 30 minutes drive from Hayden Airport – if you show your boarding pass, you can ski free for the afternoon; rental shops are open late so you can get your equipment the night before, saving time and hassle for the morning.
Kids & Grandkids Ski Free programs enable children 12 years of age and under to ski free the same number of days as their parent, grandparent, or legal guardian when the parent, grandparent, or legal guardian purchase a five-or-more day adult lift ticket. For season passes, one child (12 and under) is eligible to receive a free season pass with parent, grandparent, or legal guardian purchase of an adult Steamboat Season Pass. For more information, visit www.steamboat.com.
Visit Steamboat’s central reservations, tell them what you are looking to do and they can direct you to the best value offers. Steamboat is also part of M.A.X. Pass and the Rocky Mountain SuperPass. Intrawest operates the Steamboat Grand hotel at base area.
Winter Park is expanding and improving the Winter Park Express, the train service between Denver’s Union Station and Winter Park Resort that was reintroduced last year (and sold out). The addition of three First Friday trips will give guests a total of 27 round-trips to choose from. Prices on select departures have been lowered to $29 one-way, providing additional cost savings for those looking to travel to the slopes by train.
The Winter Park Village will feature a renovated rental shop and a new retail location, reducing wait times on busy rental days. There are two new snowcats to increase grooming efficiency, 4,500 new feet of snowmaking pipe and 15 new snow guns to improve early season snowmaking.
A new trail from the top of the Zephyr Express Lift to the Mary Jane Trail will allow easier access from the Winter Park side of the mountain to the Mary Jane side.
Kids and Beginners Ski for Less: At Winter Park Resort, kids five and under qualify for beginner lift tickets for $10 a day or $30 for the season with no black-out dates. These lift tickets are intended for beginners only and grant access to the Galloping Goose chairlift at Mary Jane.
Aspen Snowmass will host Olympic qualifying events when the U.S. Grand Prix stops in Snowmass January 10–January 14, 2018. U.S. Snowboard Team and U.S. Freeski Team athletes will be competing to punch their tickets to February’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.
Snowmass will celebrate its 50th Anniversary all season long including $6.50 lift tickets on December 15, 2017. This was the original price for a lift ticket on opening day in 1967. Celebrations will also include a 50th Anniversary Golden Gala, monthly firework displays and other festive events.
The Breathtaker mountain coaster will open at Snowmass Mountain in December 2017. The mountain coaster will drop guests more than 400 vertical feet on a mile of turning track and be open year-round.
Kids Ski Free: Children six and under always ski free at Aspen Snowmass. For children ages seven to 12 years old, Aspen Snowmass allows kids to ski free when booking two or more nights of lodging through Stay Aspen Snowmass or renting children’s ski or snowboard equipment from Four Mountain Sports. There is no limit on the number of days children can receive free lift tickets when renting from Four Mountain Sports. The offer is valid January 1 – April 15, 2018. Mention kids ski free when you call 800-290-1326 or visit www.aspensnowmass.com for more information.
Copper Mountain, which is famous for its Woodward Barn camps, clinics and individual indoor sports training, will host Olympic qualifying events December 6-10, 2017 when U.S. athletes compete in the halfpipe and big air events during the U.S. Grand Prix.
Skiers and riders can enjoy a new lift and lodge, the Kokomo Express Lift and Koko’s Hut. The lift will serve beginner terrain in the West Village, while the lodge will offer seating, casual dining and more, complete with a large outdoor deck and sweeping panoramas of Copper Mountain and Tenmile Range.
Copper Mountain, which is owned by Powdr (the ski company that also owns Killington, Vermont and just bought Eldora Mountain, Colorado) is debuting the Rocky Mountain Coaster in fall 2017. With an overall length of 5,800 feet and a vertical drop of 430 feet, the mountain coaster will be a thrilling year-round experience for guests.
One, Two, Free! With Copper Mountain’s One, Two, Free! Package, kids 12 and younger ski free with the purchase of an adult two-day lift ticket. The deal also includes additional perks like a third night of lodging free, a third day of rentals free, a free half-day ticket on the day of arrival or departure, and free upgrade to the Secret! Pass for early access and shorter lift lines. Children five and under always ski/ride free at Copper Mountain.
Copper is part of the M.A.X. Pass and Rocky Mountain Super Pass.
The resort is a 90-minute drive from DIA through Eisenhower tunnel.
With one of the few terrain expansions in the country, Arapahoe Basin is adding 468 new acres over two years with the expansion into the Beavers and Steep Gullies. For the 2017-18 season, 371 acres of most difficult and extreme terrain will be open, adding 50 feet to the vertical; guests will need to hike back to the Pallavicini chair. Next summer, a four-person lift will be installed for the 2018-19 season, and two more intermediate trails will be added in the Beavers.
Arapahoe Basin is always the first ski resort to open in the nation and the last to close (June, sometimes even July), and is a free shuttle bus ride (five miles) from Vail Resort’s Keystone (A-Basin was once owned by Vail Resorts, Vail Resorts’ EpicPass and Keystone lift tickets are accepted), where there is also plenty of lodging choices. People know A-Basin, which has been owned by a Canadian real estate company since 1997, for its blacks and double blacks advanced terrain, but there is plenty of intermediate trails, also offering long cruisers, groomed runs on the back side of the mountain a mile long.
Kids Free 2 Ski Pass: Children five and under ski free every day at Arapahoe Basin with a free Five & Under lift ticket from the ticket window. Children ages six to 12 can ski or snowboard for free any two days of the 2017-18 season with no blackout dates through the Kids Free 2 Ski Pass. Register online, at a Front Range ski show or at the mountain by December 18, 2017.
The rental shop was remodeled this summer to help guests get out on the slopes quicker during busy days. The resort also launched a new website, free device charging stations and free public WiFi throughout the base area and at Black Mountain Lodge at mid-mountain.
Because of the extended season, Arapahoe also offers its own multi-day and spring pass.
In summer, A-Basin offers summer events; disc golf, hiking to mid mountain, mountain biking (not lift served). Weddings are a big summer business: “The lift is the procession; couples get married in front of Continental Divide. A rustic romantic lodge at mid mountain, can accommodate 200 guests.
Arapahoe is a 75 minute drive from Denver (2 hours from airport). For more information, visit www.arapahoebasin.com.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort
Crested Butte is enhancing the guest experience for beginners by re-grading the teaching terrain and introducing a new adult beginner area. Guests looking for a break from the slopes can enjoy a slice from the new pizza oven at Paradise on Crested Butte.
A new program, CB North Face Guides, will help expert skiers and riders navigate the extreme terrain of the resort including the famed North Face.
Kids 12 and Under Ski Free: Children six and under always ski free at Crested Butte. All kids ages 12 and under visiting Crested Butte Mountain Resort Nov. 23 – Dec. 15, 2017 and Apr. 1 – 8, 2018 ski or ride free. No strings attached, no parent ticket required, no lodging stay required, no advance reservations, just a free ticket for kids.
Crested Butte will host its annual Christmas Eve celebration, an evening complete with a torchlight parade and Santa Claus coming down the mountain in a sleigh pulled by a snowcat.
Crested Butte is the sister resort to the popular Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont,m and is part of the M.A.X. Pass.
The closest airport is Gunnison or Montrose. For more information, visit www.skicb.com.
Telluride Ski Resort
Celebrating its 45th Anniversary, Telluride is continuing an ongoing multi-year, multi-million-dollar investment in snowmaking upgrades and technology. For this season, the grooming fleet is being expanded and there is a new dual-purpose project that serves as a golf course practice facility in the summer months and a 15-acre terrain-based learning area during the winter ski season.
People associate Telluride wih tough skiing, but half of the terrain is rated as intermediate and this year, Telluride is adding 15 acres of beginner terrain and new magic carpet.
Advanced skiers can revel in black and double black diamond trails and hike-to-terrain; intermediates have trails from top to bottom that let you “see forever”.
Kids Ski Free: Free lift tickets are available at the Telluride ticket window for children ages five years old and under. Child lift tickets for children ages six to 12 are available online at discounted rates for two or more days of skiing when you purchase at least 48 hours in advance. Telluride also offers children’s ski school lessons divided into programs that offer age and skill specific learning experiences.
Telluride is a charming walking town, connected to the Mountain Village by gondola, where there is The Peaks, a luxury hotel that is the resort’s largest, with a world-class spa; the Inn at Los Creek, a boutique hotel, and other lodging options, plus shops and restaurants.
The privately owned ski area is part of Mountain Collection of 15 quality resorts.
Options to get to Telluride include flying into Montrose or Telluride airport.
Purgatory Resort will have a new mountain coaster this season, which will be accessible from the base area and operate year-round. The coaster is 4,000 feet in length with a 300 foot-vertical drop, and features eight switchbacks and one loop.
Purgatory is also expanding its terrain with new intermediate and expert trails on the back- and front-sides of the mountain, and is adding new gladed tree skiing. The triple chairlift, Needles Lift 6, offers a new mid-way loading zone to provide an easier way to access terrain for ski teams, terrain park users, and skiers or riders who want to take laps on the frontside of the mountain.
The resort also has new snowmaking infrastructure including increased pumping capacity and more energy efficient snow guns.
Kids and 4th Graders Ski Free:Kids seven years old and younger ski free every day at Purgatory Resort. Fourth grade students also ski free at Purgatory with proof of grade. For more information, visit www.skipurg.com.
Loveland Ski Area
To celebrate its 80th year of operations, Loveland is offer snowcat skiing in Dry Gulch for the first time. Loveland will also continue the popular Mountaintop Matrimony event on Valentine’s Day.
Kids Ski Free: Children five and under ski free every day at Loveland. Children five and under can also purchase a ski or snowboard package equipment rental for $12.
3-Class Pass for Kids is for all children, ages four to 14, of all ability levels. When guests pre-purchase or complete three full-day lesson packages, they receive a free unrestricted season pass to keep practicing their skiing or snowboarding skills for the rest of the season. Children’s full day lesson packages include a lesson, lift access, equipment rentals (ski or snowboard), helmet and lunch.
New Direct Flights, Expanded Train Service Ease Travel to Colorado Ski Resorts This Season
DENVER –Colorado Ski Country USA has announced new direct flights to and from Colorado’s eight regional airports and expanded service on the Winter Park Express this season that will provide skiers and riders from across the country easy and convenient travel options to their favorite Colorado ski resorts by train, plane or car this winter.
Also, the Amtrak Winter Park Express, coming off a highly successful inaugural season, will offer expanded train service for the 2017-18 ski season. The Winter Park Express will depart from Union Station in downtown Denver each Saturday and Sunday from January 5 through March 25, plus three new “First Friday” round-trips, with a reduced fare of $29 each way on some departures. With more than 27 round-trip options and over 500 seats on each train, the Winter Park Express allows visiting skiers and riders to travel to Winter Park Resort without renting or setting foot in a car.
Colorado’s eight regional airports are offering new and expanded flights for the 2017-18 season. Steamboat will feature new nonstop flights from Austin (AUS) and Kansas City (MCI) on ViaAir into Steamboat/Hayden (HDN) airport beginning Dec. 13, 2017. These additional flights bring Steamboat’s total direct air service to 14 major U.S. airports.
Aspen Snowmass has new daily nonstop flights through American Airlines from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) starting this winter along with expanded service from both Dallas Ft. Worth (DFW) and Chicago O’ Hare (ORD).
Telluride has increased access this winter through new American Airlines direct flights into Montrose-Telluride Regional Airport (MTJ) from Charlotte Douglas International (CLT), Saturdays starting Dec. 23, 2017. Delta Airlines will operate new flights this winter from Salt Lake City (SLC) to Montrose-Telluride (MTJ) over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Skiers and riders hoping to make it to ski areas in the southwest part of the state: Telluride, Silverton, Purgatory and Wolf Creek, have another option from Denver (DEN) on a new Boutique Air flight servicing Alamosa San Luis Valley (ALS) with three daily non-stop flights with a round-trip as low as $100.
Visitors can also access seven resorts within a two-hour drive of Denver (DEN), including Colorado Ski Country USA’s newest member resort, Echo Mountain. Only 35 miles or 50 minutes from downtown Denver, the Idaho Springs ski area offers six trails on 60 acres just a short drive from the Front Range.
For a full list of flights into and out of Denver (DEN) servicing Colorado’s eight regional airports and for direct flights into airports servicing all of Colorado Ski Country USA’s member resorts visit coloradoski.com/traveling.
5th and 6th Grade Passport Program
Colorado Ski Country USA offers any fifth grader the chance to ski or ride three days at 22 participating member resorts across the state absolutely free. That’s up to 66 free days on the slopes. Fifth graders who have never skied or snowboarded are eligible for the First-Class program which provides never-ever skiers and riders one free full-day beginner lesson and equipment rental at the resort of their choice. All Passport holders also receive one complimentary junior rental from Christy Sports. The corresponding 6th Grade Passport Program offers four days of skiing at the same 22 resorts for only $105 before November 30, or $125 through the end of the season. To register for the Passport Program visit:www.coloradoski.com/passport.