Tag Archives: ski resorts

Vail Resorts Unveils Major Improvements at Network of Ski Destinations; Deadline to Purchase EpicPass is Nov 19

Vail Resorts’ merging of Park City with Canyons in Utah with a fantastic gondola has created the largest ski resort in the United States © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin and Eric Leiberman

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Time is running out to purchase Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass and for the first time, because of Vail’s acquisition of Stowe Mountain in Vermont – its first Eastern resort – it makes epic sense for Northeastern skiers. The deadline to purchase is November 19.

Considered one of the best values among ski passes, Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass  gives you full unlimited, unrestricted access to 15 resorts in three countries (just three weekend visits to Stowe pays for the Epic Pass) plus limited access to 30 European ski resorts.

New for the 2017-2018 season, the Epic Pass also provides unlimited, unrestricted access to its newest acquisitions, Whistler Blackcomb in Canada (the largest ski resort in North America) and Stowe Mountain in Vermont, as well as at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City in Utah (the largest ski resort in the US); Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps near Minneapolis, Mt. Brighton near Detroit, Wilmot Mountain near Chicago, and the 2018 Perisher season in Australia. Also, Epic Pass holders again enjoy limited access to 30 European ski resorts including Verbier and Les 4 Vallées in Switzerland, Les 3 Vallées in France; Arlberg in Austria; and Skirama Dolomiti Adamello Brenta in Italy.

Season pass holders save more than 40 percent compared to lift ticket window prices.

2017-2018 Ski and Snowboard Season Pass Options

Epic Pass™: Ski unlimited and unrestricted from opening day to closing day for only $899. The Epic Pass pays for itself in just over four days of skiing or snowboarding. Enjoy full access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan; Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin; Whistler Blackcomb in Canada; and Perisher in Australia for the 2018 season. The Epic Pass grants limited access to Les 3 Vallées, Paradiski and Tignes-Val D’Isere in France; 4 Vallées in Switzerland; Arlberg in Austria and Skirama Dolomiti in Italy. A child pass (ages five to 12) is $469.

Epic Local Pass™: For $679, receive unlimited and unrestricted skiing or riding at Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Wilmot, Afton Alps and Mt. Brighton with limited restrictions at Park City, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, plus a total of 10 days at Vail, Beaver Creek, Stowe, and Whistler Blackcomb with holiday restrictions. The Epic Local Pass pays for itself in just over three days. A child pass (ages five to 12) is $359.

Epic 4-Day™: A convenient option for a short ski trip. The pass pays for itself in just over two days and includes a total of four unrestricted days valid at Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe and Arapahoe Basin, plus four additional free days at Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton or Wilmot Mountain. The Epic 4-Day Pass is $459 for adults and $249 for children (ages five to 12).

The deadline to purchase a 2017-2018 season pass is Sunday, Nov. 19. For additional information on season pass options and to purchase, visit EpicPass.com.

EpicMix Time Insights

New for 2017-18, Vail Resorts has launched EpicMix Time Insights, a website designed to help guests make the most of planning their ski day at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Park City by providing full visibility into lift line wait times. Vail Resorts is the first in the mountain resort industry to provide guests full transparency on historic lift line wait times, setting a new guest service standard for the industry. Guests can select a specific resort and date from last season to access resort trail maps that display individual lift line wait times for every lift collected by the EpicMix Time app during the 2016-17 season, sliding across the day in 15-minute increments from the time the lifts open until they close. Insights also highlights new lift upgrades for the 2017-18 winter season and provides mountain tips on how to best navigate each resort. Insights offers guests full visibility on actual lift line data from last ski season so they can maximize their day on the mountain during their next trip. To explore Insights, visit Time.EpicMix.com

Here are highlights of what is new for the 2017-18 season at Vail Resorts:

Stowe Mountain, Vermont

Stowe Mountain, Vermont, is Vail Resorts’ first acquisition in the East.

Stowe Adventure Center opens at Stowe Mountain. This $30 million, 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 the children’s programs. From beautiful daycare facilities to ski and ride programs for kids 3 and up, the new Adventure Center has significantly advanced and expanded luxurious family amenities and services at the resort. The building also includes new shops, an Indoor Climbing Center (called Stowe Rocks) and family-friendly dining in The Canteen restaurant

Outdoor Ice Skating Rink. Also new for Stowe is the Spruce Peak outdoor Ice Skating rink, Ice skating is complimentary and open to the public daily from 11am to 9pm. Skate rentals are available.

New Spruce Peak Village Center Includes: Vermont crepe restaurant, Skinny Pancake, gourmet food and beverage markets, an artisan coffee shop and retail shopping. Spruce Peak is also home to the relatively new Stowe Mountain Lodge, one of the most awarded new ski-in ski-out luxury hotels & spas in the world.

Whistler Blackcomb, British Colombia

New this season is the Whistler Peak Suspension Bridge and West Ridge Viewpoint. The Whistler Peak Suspension Bridge spans 426.5 ft from Whistler Peak to the West Ridge Viewpoint, a multi-tiered viewing platform with 360° views, offering guests a thrilling new way to experience this iconic spot. The cantilevered walkway extends 40.7 ft out from the West Ridge and an exhilarating 164 ft. above Whistler Bowl.

Signature Experiences t Whistler Blackcomb include Ski With An Olympian. Ski with an Olympian is Snow School’s most exclusive program and allows guests to experience a full day private lesson with an Olympian, so you can follow in their tracks, copy their technique and hear neat stories.

Fresh Tracks Mountain-Top Breakfast, presented by The Globe and Mail, lets you board the Whistler Village Gondola at 7:15 am and head up to the Roundhouse Lodge for the ultimate mountain-sized breakfast buffet. Then, as an added bonus, you get to ski fresh powder or perfectly groomed corduroy on the upper mountain before the rest of world is even out of bed. This unique experience is not limited to skiers and boarders; sightseers can get an early jump on the day by enjoying a Fresh Tracks mountain top breakfast before setting out on the PEAK 2 PEAK.

Whistler Heli-Skiing is the pinnacle of Whistler’s skiing experience. With exclusive rights to 432,000 acres of big mountain terrain that includes 173 glaciers and 475 runs, Whistler Heli-Skiing offers a variety of packages for everyone, from strong intermediates to seasoned experts. All heli-adventures are lead by a professional, certified heli-ski guide and include the use of avalanche transceiver, on mountain lunch and return ground transportation from Whistler Village. The Guide will choose the best ski area for the day and will ski or board with the group.

Park City Utah

Park City Mountain’s signature Peak-to-Peak Guided Mountain Tour pairs you up with an expert guide who will take you peak to peak uncovering the best runs and conditions on the mountain © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

With acquisition and connection with Canyons, Park City is now the largest ski resort in the United States, and one of the easiest to reach, just about 45 minutes from Salt Lake City airport (so you can actually fly from New York and be on the slopes by noon).

$15 Million Grand Summit Hotel Renovation: Now a RockResorts Property: The Grand Summit Hotel, located in Canyons Village, opened for the season after an extensive $15 million renovation and has been branded as a RockResorts property. The renovation included a complete overhaul of all 212 suites, including new interior finishes, furnishings, soft goods, appliances, artwork and technology. The property’s communal spaces were also incorporated into the renovation, including the lobby and front desk, full remodel of the on-site spa, café and general store, and refresh of the meeting spaces. More information here.

New Signature Experience: Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour: New this season, Park City Mountain will debut the Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour. On this complimentary, guided ski tour, guests will explore the mountain with an expert guide and uncover the historic mining buildings and hidden relics scattered across the resort. They’ll learn how Park City Mountain evolved from a silver mining camp to an internationally recognized winter sports destination and hear the stories behind the authentic mining structures seen on the mountain. Tours are recommended for intermediate level skiers/riders and above and depart daily from the Park City Resort Mountain Village at 10 a.m. and at the Trail Map near the top of Bonanza lift at 1 p.m.  After the tour, participants will receive a signature pin to commemorate their visit to Park City Mountain.

Special Events: Park City Mountain is making the holidays even more special for guests by hosting unforgettable holiday events this Christmas, New Years and Spring Break. The Holiday Season kicks off on Saturday, Dec. 16 with Park City Mountain’s annual Snowfest Celebration, a 16-day festival including morning and après musical acts, village entertainers, annual torchlight parade, fireworks and a special visit from Santa on Town Lift. Park City Mountain’s annual Spring Grüv Celebration will return just in time for Spring Break this March with 16 days of free concerts and the famous Pond Skimming Contest. Beyond the holidays, Park City Mountain hosts free concerts, family activities and events all season long at both base areas including free s’mores on Saturdays and Sundays and an hour to meet the avalanche dogs on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Quicksilver Gondola connects Canyons with Park City, for the largest ski resort in the United States. Can you ski all 7 summits, across 7300 acres? That’s the new Seven Summits Challenge © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

New Event: Seven Summits Challenge: Can you hit seven summits and cover 7,300 acres of terrain in one day? Brand new this season, Park City Mountain will host the inaugural Seven Summits Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 24. Participants will conquer a pre-set course that takes them on a journey across Park City Mountain’s seven peaks and 7,300 acres in one day. It’s the ultimate adventure at the largest ski resort in the United States. More details, including a course description, will be announced in January.

New Beginner Ski and Snowboard Area at the Park City Mountain Village: This summer, Park City Mountain installed a new, enclosed surface lift and a new designated beginner trail to serve entry-level skiers and snowboarders at the Park City Mountain Village. The new area will provide a comfortable and spacious learning area for those just starting to ski or ride.

Ski and Snowboard School: Your Personal Guide to 7,300 Acres of Terrain. Park City Mountain’s signature Peak-to-Peak Guided Mountain Tour pairs you up with an expert guide who will take you peak to peak uncovering the best runs and conditions on the mountain. And if you’re skiing with the whole family, a Private Family Lesson is a great way to learn and transform your day on the slopes into a real family adventure.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe & Kirkwood

The unmatched view of Lake Tahoe from Heavenly Mountain © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The new Red Cliffs Family Lodge features family activities every weekend. Enjoy family movie night each Friday with popcorn, snacks, hot cocoa, beer, wine, s’mores. Themed nights throughout the season, events and parties such as family feud night, ski trivia night and holiday themed evenings. The Red Cliffs Family lodge also has board games, corn hole, foosball, air hockey, giant jenga and checkers.

Women’s Clinics and Camps for all ages and skill levels. This experience is about escaping, having fun, developing friendships, seeking adventure and doing something just for you. Throughout the day you tackle a variety of terrain and snow conditions while working on the terrain selection, tactical approach and off-piste skiing and riding technique.

New  GoPro Ski and Ride School  is an instructed lesson where you learn how to use a GoPro camera to capture first-person footage of Heavenly’s secret stashes and powder pockets. You get to keep your memory card full of the day’s footage and can purchase a GoPro at discount in the Heavenly Sports stores.

Expedition: Kirkwood combines Kirkwood Mountain Resort’s legendary terrain and secret powder pockets with qualified guides and expert coaches. Elevating safety and avalanche education will allow you to hone in on your skills while navigating Kirkwood’s signature chutes, cornices, and bowls led by our team.

Northstar California

Specialty Experiences, Instruction and Guiding. Northstar California’s new Platinum program allows skiers and snowboarders with Platinum Season or Day Passes gain access to the exclusive run offered on Saturdays, experiencing the best conditions throughout the day  Platinum Season and Day Passes are perfect for skiers and snowboarders seeking solitude by unlocking private gates at the front of each lift line. Other experiences in the Platinum family include Platinum Lockers, featuring private boot warmers and house-made sweets, and Platinum tōst, a European-style lunch paired with Veuve Clicquot off East Ridge Run.

Northstar Traditions Every afternoon skiers and snowboarders gather off of East Ridge Run for a complimentary glass of champagne or sparkling cider and tōst to the mountains, Lake Tahoe, and friends and family. After ski school gets out each day, S’mores Ambassadors descend upon the Village carrying silver platters covered in ooey-gooey chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow treats.

Northstar tradition: skiers and snowboarders gather off of East Ridge Run for a complimentary glass of champagne or sparkling cider and tōst to the mountains © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Set at Zephyr Lodge, the Mountain Table Dinner Series marries food and wine for a private dinner culminating with a surprise transportation twist. This winter’s series features SIMI, Prisoner, Charles Krug and Rodney Strong Vineyards.

New: First Tracks, where Adventure Guiding and Learning Center mountain guides take two intimate groups on a tour of the mountain before lifts open to the public. This shamelessly indulgent experience gives private access to freshly groomed runs and sparkling powder across the entire mountain. Convenient and inviting, the Adventure Guiding and Learning Center welcomes guests into the lounge with fresh espresso and custom equipment fitting, prior to meeting a hand-picked mountain guide. Northstar mountain guides and instructors provide what you need – including tours to the most serene locations on the mountain. After a full day of skiing Northstar like a local, visitors return to the Village for a well-earned champagne toast. Next door at the exclusive Burton Snowboard Academy, snowboarders of all levels enter a realm of terrain-based learning. Leather-seated couches and a fireplace surrounded by top-of-the-line Burton equipment make for a cozy setting to lace up boots. On-mountain, little tykes learn the essentials in the Ripperoo Riglet Park, while more mature boarders progress on the trail, in one of the five nationally-renowned progression parks or off-piste. For breaks, the private Burton Academy Lounge at Mid-Mountain offers one-on-one time with Burton-certified instructors, hot cocoa and fire pits.

Vail

New:Six-Passenger Northwoods Express Lift (#11) marks the 10th lift replacement in the last 11 years at Vail. Northwoods Express is a primary lift on the front side of Vail Mountain, serving intermediate and advanced terrain. The new lift reduces wait times and increases capacity by 25%. The increase also improves the flow of skiers and snowboarders to the legendary Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin throughout the day, as well as creates a better flow of traffic exiting Blue Sky Basin and moving across the mountain at the end of the day.

The Arrabelle at Vail Square, A RockResort, celebrates 10 years in January 2018. A celebration of the anniversary will take place in December and special activities will be held in Vail Square including musicians and ice sculptures during the winter season.

Beaver Creek

Skiing Beaver Creek © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New: Beaver Creek’s Red Buffalo Park Adventure 200-acre family learning area accessed by a new high-speed lift. Located at the mountain’s highest elevation, 11,440 feet, Red Buffalo Park provides 13 trails designated as a family adventure zone and features family-friendly amenities such as snow sculptures through the park, Kids Adventure Zones and a dedicated Ski School Skills Zone. Guests enrolled in Beaver Creek Ski School will have exclusive access to the Cookie Cabin, a mountaintop refuge serving up Beaver Creek’s famed, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies all-day long. At the heart of the experience, the new Red Buffalo Express Lift (#5), a high-speed quad, allows for easier access to the dedicated beginner terrain while decreasing lift lines and providing a shorter, 4.3-minute ride to the top of the mountain.

White Carpet Club is an exclusive, private retreat within the heart of Beaver Creek Village which you can join for the duration of your visit.  Located steps from the escalator leading to Centennial Express Lift, the White Carpet Club hosts spacious lockers for storing apparel and accessories; boot dryers; a continental service offering coffees, teas, cocoa, and decadent morsels; private restroom facilities and an intimate lounge adorned with soft, cozy seating. The dedicated on-site concierge offers instant assistance with lift ticket and pass purchases, as well as dinner and activity guidance and reservations. Priority access to SaddleRidge Restaurant – renowned for ski-in fine dining during lunch and dinner – is also a distinct benefit. Other benefits include preferred parking and slope side equipment-check.

Beaver Creek’s First Tracks experience invites guests to cherish unrivaled scenic beauty at sunrise, delight over premier access to flawless snow surface conditions, and savor a five-star gourmet breakfast on the mountain at the exclusive Allie’s Cabin. Guests board the Centennial Express Lift at 7:30 a.m., enjoy a private, guided tour of the mountain’s flawlessly curated slopes and relax over breakfast – all before the resort opens for the day. (Reserve First Tracks by dialing +1-866.250.1679 or +1.970.754.5310.)

Allie’s Cabin Wine Dinners and Family Dinners via Open Sleigh. Allie’s Cabin, a fine dining retreat atop a peaceful aspen grove on Beaver Creek Mountain, features Wine Dinners with a celebrated group of wineries, accompanied by a stunning fireworks display over Beaver Creek Village. On select Thursday evenings December through March, guests arrive via open-air sleigh for a gourmet culinary experience in the cozy cabin. While savoring exquisite food and wine pairings, guests enjoy a warm fireplace and sweeping views of the Beaver Creek Village, illuminated by Thursday Night Lights Fireworks. Classic contemporary regional fare has been crafted to offer the perfect pairing for the featured wines of the evening. New this winter and offered during select weekends, Allie’s Cabin Family Dinners welcome guests to savor gourmet fare which caters exclusively to children and families.

Artisan Chocolates found pnly at Beaver Creek Candy Cabin Located at the top of Strawberry Park Express and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts, myriad palate-pleasing sweets are created locally by fifth-generation chocolatier, Michael Mootz, presented in a custom Beaver Creek gold box; individual chocolate snowflakes, snowmen or ski boots.

Breckenridge

The Falcon SuperChair is being upgraded from a quad to a high-speed, six-passenger lift, offering an easier and faster ride up Peak 10. Breck’s Ten Mile Station is going a little “Willy Wonka” this winter season, adding an old fashioned sweet shop. It’s sure to guarantee you a sugar high as you ascend the Imperial Express, North America’s highest chairlift! The resort’s newest restaurant, Pioneer Crossing (opened December 2016), is also sweetening up its menu, adding sweet and savory crepes to its breakfast lineup this winter. Located just steps from the top of the Independence SuperChair on Peak 7 – one of the resort’s five iconic peaks on the north side of the mountain – the slope-side restaurant offers panoramic views of the mountain and Summit County. Also on the menu, a variety of house made options like fresh made salads to order, signature dishes like Pioneer Lamb Pie and a Mediterranean inspired station.

The Dew Tour returns to Breck for its 10th year, December 14-17, 2017 (presented by Mountain Dew® and TEN: The Enthusiast Network), as an Olympic qualifying event for the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. The four-day event kicks off the competition season, featuring individual superpipe and slopestyle competitions with the best skiers and snowboarders in the world, along with live concerts, the interactive Dew Tour Experience and in-town events. The Team Challenge is also back for another year and features invited teams of riders representing the biggest brands competing on a unique three-course layout.

Dogsledding at Breckenridge © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Spring Fever! Breck will be one of the last major resorts still open when the biggest spring skiing party in the Rocky Mountains returns March 17 through April 22, 2018. Breckenridge’s elevation – 9,600 feet in town – makes the snow last longer and the bluebird spring days even sweeter. To celebrate, Spring Fever brings a month-long lineup of activities for families, beer drinkers, music lovers, mountaineers and more. www.BreckSpringFever.com

Breck Into Epic Above Tree-Line Terrain and Bowls From Blues and Blacks to Double Diamonds, Breck’s 11 bowls truly offer some of the best above tree-line skiing and snowboarding in North America. Hop off the Imperial Express, North America’s highest chairlift, and it’s like being transported to a winter vacation in the Alps. On a clear day Peak 8’s treeless, powdery slopes offer views for miles, and a bird’s eye look at historic Breckenridge. For a snow-sensory overload drop in on E.S.P. on powder days. Sign up for a Breck Guide for the day, for the inside scoop on hidden powder stashes and top terrain.

Keystone Resort

Visitors will find The Montezuma Express Lift, a primary lift on Dercum Mountain serving popular intermediate and beginner ski terrain, has been replaced with a high-speed six-passenger chair that increases efficiency and capacity by up to 25 percent, while improving skier and snowboarder circulation on the mountain.

Kids Still Ski Free. Every day, all season long, kids 12 and younger ski for free at Keystone with no blackout dates when family’s book two or more nights in one of Keystone’s numerous accommodation options, which span from affordable hotel rooms to family-sized condominiums. (Keystone is one of the only Colorado ski resorts offering nighttime skiing; it also provides access on its ticket to ski Arapahoe Basin.)

Kidtopia: Free Family Programming Offered Every Day of the Season. The Kidtopia lineup includes activities such as the village parade and fireworks, snowball launches, ice cream parties and meeting Keystone’s Ski Patrol rescue dogs. All Kidtopia programs are free.

Keystone’s Kidtopia Spectacular, Dec. 15-24, kicks off the holiday season with a bounce house party, a mountaintop celebration and lighting ceremony of the world’s largest snow fort, and an evening with Santa Claus himself. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New for 2017-2018, the Kidtopia Signature Event Series will feature three distinct events throughout the winter to complement the family experience at Keystone.  The Kidtopia Spectacular, Dec. 15-24, marks the first signature event of the winter and kicks off the holiday season with a bounce house party, a mountaintop celebration and lighting ceremony of the world’s largest snow fort, and an evening with Santa Claus himself. The first-ever Kidtopia Culinary Festival debuts for the 2017-2018 winter, Feb. 9-17, with a savory lineup tailored to the youngest of foodies with cooking demonstrations, chocolate fountains, bakery tours, dessert specials and a celebrity chef event. The Kidtopia Music Experience, March 2-10, is the last of the signature event series and kicks-off the spring skiing and snowboarding season with music-themed fun including rock ‘n’ roll themed parties and the Snow Pants Dance Party, featuring live outdoor music performances from popular kid-friendly acts.

The Inn at Keystone is being rebranded to Hyatt Place Keystone following a significant renovation of the property. The rebranding marks the first significant hotel brand in Keystone as well as the first Hyatt select service hotel to be announced for the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Guests of the hotel will also be able to enjoy a new fitness center, an alternative grab-and-go dining option and new outdoor communal spaces.

For more information, visit www.snow.com.

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Deer Valley, Utah is Skiers’ Only Paradise with Retro, Refined Vibe

Deer Valley Resort, one of the few skiers-only mountain resorts, is part of the Park City, Utah skiing metropolis, just 40 minutes from Salt Lake City © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman & Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

Park City is a veritable skiing metropolis so close to Salt Lake City (35-45 minutes drive), it may well be considered the suburbs rather than this vast Nature’s playground. Not only do you have Park City and Canyons (now combined under the Vail Resorts OneParkCity banner, making it the largest ski resort in the United States), but literally next door is Deer Valley Resort.

Deer Valley Resort is one of the only ski areas in the country that is skiers’-only (Alta, Utah is another). This makes for an old-school, European, retro atmosphere – dare we say dignified? sedate? quaint? As a skier, you don’t have that constant frantic feeling when you hear the looming scrapping sound building in intensity as snowboarders, tearing up the mountain, come upon you, like Jaws. You don’t have that hip, counter-culture vibe that tends to surround snowboarders. It is frankly more peaceful, calm, quiet.

Deer Valley has a deserved reputation of being ultra-luxurious – there are uniformed ski valets to help you with your equipment, parking lot shuttles, free overnight ski storage, groomed-to-perfection slopes, fine dining experiences in three day lodges, complimentary tours led by Mountain hosts and limited lift ticket sales so that the slopes are never crowded. It feels less like a resort and more like a country club.

It also offers luxurious on-mountain accommodations – indeed, it is the home of the world-famous, five-star Stein Ericksen Lodge which has held the title of  “World’s Best and United States’ Best Ski Hotel” as well as the St. Regis Hotel, a Starwoods hotel, which is accessed by its own funicular from the parking lot.

The five-star Stein Eriksen Lodge on the mountain at Deer Valley Resort has held the title of “World’s Best and United States’ Best Ski Hotel” © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Yet, to our eye when we visited during the last couple of week’s of the season, it seemed unpretentious. Or perhaps that is just because of the relaxed feeling that pervades.

Deer Valley affords 2,026 skiable acres over six mountains (about the size of Killington and Pico, Vermont, combined), six bowls, two chute areas. It offers a vertical rise of 3,000 feet to the highest summit, Empire, at 9570 ft. The longest run is 2.8 miles. There are 21 lifts including a high-speed gondola, 12 high speed quads, one fixed grip quad, five triples and two doubles.

Of Deer Valley’s 101 trails, 27% rated “easier”, 41% more difficult and 32% most difficult, making it ideal for families, new skiers and skiers of all abilities.

Deer Valley Resort offers loads of easy and intermediate terrain for skiers © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is a snowy, foggy, generally wet day when we visit, but that doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment. Here too, the mountain is so vast, first-timers to the resort need directions to get to the peak you want to ski if you are particular (I am still working out my confidence issues, especially when visibility is a factor). A mountain Ambassador helpfully maps out for us where we will find the peak with the best selection of intermediate trails to get me started. That’s Flagstaff Peak, where we head.

Eric has exchanged his snowboard for skis – skiing for the first time in years – and immediately leaves Sarah and me in the proverbial “dust.”

After a few runs, Eric and Sarah go off to the more challenging Empire Peak (summit at 9570 ft., highest among Deer Valley’s six peaks), with only blue and black trails from the summit.

Deer Valley Resort is a skiers-only paradise © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Empire lift offers some wonderful intermediate tree skiing (not very steep, trees are nicely spaced), so Sarah, who had never skied through glades before, gives it a try. She absolutely loves the experience — it’s so quiet and peaceful in the trees, and the snow tends to be the softest on the mountain. It really feels like it’s just you and the mountain.

I continue to get my rhythm on Flagstaff (summit at 9100 ft.) with a delectable selection of blue and green trails.

Fresh Dungeness crab tower, amazing appetizer at Royal Street Café at the Silver Lake Lodge at mid-mountain Deer Valley Resort, Utah, where we meet up for a lunch break © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

We meet for lunch at the Royal Street Café in the Silver Lake Lodge – a full-service restaurant with a lovely firepit in the middle, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and après ski from 11:30 am to 8 pm. The menu is delightful – creative American and international casual cuisine. Our waiter, Alex, makes some marvelous suggestions and we start off with Fresh Dungeness crab tower, made with fresh crab from Washington, avocado tomato crispy spiced wontons, and sauces is wasabi, soy and sweet chili. Sarah and Eric share a Maple Bacon BBQ Bison Burger, made from scratch and served with smoked habañero cheddar, sautéed onions, guacamole, barbeque sauce, habañero aioli, Tuscan bun and garlic-herb-parmesan shoestring fries; and grilled fresh ahi served with mango-avocado salsa, southwest slaw, smoked habañero mayonnaise, crisp corn tortilla shells or grilled fresh white corn tortillas (www.deervalley.com/Dining/wheretoeat/RoyalStreetCafe).

Eric and Sarah go off for even more challenging runs while I happily keep putting on the miles on the blue trails on Flagstaff Mountain.

Another option would be to take the Silver Lake Express to the Sterling Express quad up to the 9,400-foot summit of Bald Mountain. There, you have your choice of runs down the mountain or take the Wasatch and Sultan Express quads at the base back up to this beautiful peak. Intermediate and advanced skiers will enjoy Little Baldy Peak and the long run down Jordanelle, named for its sweeping views of Jordanelle Reservoir on the resort’s east face. Then, take the scenic gondola ride back up the mountain.

Riding the chairlift at Deer Valley Resort © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can follow in the tracks of the 2002 Olympians. Know You Don’t and Champion were sites for alpine slalom and freestyle mogul events. There’s no need to pick one or the other — just ride back up on the Carpenter Express. Champion is where local skier Shannon Barhke won silver in 2002, and it’s a favorite run for another local, 2010 mogul bronze medalist Byron Wilson. Deer Valley, like the other Park City-area resorts, also features the Nastar Ski Racing slalom experience.

Summer at Deer Valley

We are at Deer Valley in the closing days, but in mid-June, the mountain resort transforms for summer: pristine mountain biking trails, hiking, chairlift rides, al fresco dining, a children’s adventure program, and outdoor concerts at the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater featuring headlining musicians, world-renowned artists and local bands.

Deer Valley Resort, 2250 Deer Valley Drive South, Park City, UT 84060. Where to stay, what to do, packages and deals and other visitor planning tools are at www.deervalley.com, 800-424-3337, 435-649-1000.

Park City, Utah is arguably North America’s most accessible mountain recreation destination, just 35 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport with convenient service. Park City offers over 100 lodging properties including bed and breakfast inns, condominiums and full-service hotels. Park City is home to Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort and more than 400 miles of public trails offering year-round outdoor recreation. The area boasts 150 restaurants, stunning boutiques and galleries lining Historic Main Street, plus attractions such as the Utah Olympic Park.

For travel planning assistance, contact Park City Chamber of Commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureau, 1850 Sidewinder Drive #320, Park City, Utah, 800-453-1360, www.visitparkcity.com.

See also:

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

See next:

Historic Park City, Utah Delights Diners, GalleryStrollers, FestivalGoers

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

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

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

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman & Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hyatt Centric Park City

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

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

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

So Much More to Do at Park City Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Park City Mountain (www.parkcitymountain.com) is part of Vail Resorts, Inc., which through its subsidiaries, is a leading global mountain resort operator of 10 world-class mountain resorts and three urban ski areas, which in addition to Park City in Utah includes Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Perisher in Australia; Whistler Blackcomb in Canada; Afton Alps in Minnesota, Mt. Brighton in Michigan and Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin. Vail Resorts also owns and/or manages a collection of casually elegant hotels under the RockResorts brand, as well as the Grand Teton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

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

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

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

Next: Skiers Only at Deer Valley

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.comwww.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Vail Resorts Looks to 2016-17 Season With $100M in Improvements, Acquisition of Whistler Blackcomb

Keystone Mountain Resort is the ultimate family resort destination, offering more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, average of 300 days of sun a year, night skiing, convenient lodging and variety of on- and off-snow activities and is one of the closest ski resorts to Denver © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Keystone Mountain Resort is the ultimate family resort destination, offering more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, average of 300 days of sun a year, night skiing, convenient lodging and variety of on- and off-snow activities and is one of the closest ski resorts to Denver © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman, Dave E Leiberman

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Each year, Vail Resorts has something sensational to announce and this year is no different: the company, already the largest collection of major mountain resorts, is acquiring the iconic Whistler Blackcomb, in British Columbia. That would give Vail Resorts the largest resort in North America as well as the largest ski resort in the United States, with its acquisition and merger last year of Park City with Canyons in Utah.

“Whistler Blackcomb is one of the most iconic mountain resorts in the world with an incredible history, passionate employees and a strong community. With our combined experience and expertise, together we will build upon the guest experience at Whistler Blackcomb while preserving the unique brand and character of the resort as an iconic Canadian destination for guests around the world. We are delighted to add such a renowned resort to Vail Resorts and look forward to expanding our relationships in the Sea-to-Sky community, British Columbia and Canada,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.

Whistler Blackcomb is the largest resort in North America, with 8,100 acres. It is famous for hosting major alpine skiing events like the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics, and for its Peak 2 Peak Gondola, the longest and highest lift in the world (2.7 miles, it takes 11 minutes to ride).

Dave Brownlie, Whistler Blackcomb’s chief executive officer added, “As the number one ranked and most visited resort in North America, Whistler Blackcomb has enjoyed tremendous success by delivering an exceptional mountain experience for our passionate and loyal guests — both locally and from around the world.  That’s going to continue as we work with our new colleagues at Vail Resorts as well as our employees, local businesses, community and government stakeholders to make Whistler Blackcomb better than ever. We will also continue our discussions with the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations, on whose traditional lands we operate, regarding a business partnership that will benefit our communities, our province and our company for decades to come. Our board of directors has also been monitoring the unique challenges facing the broader ski industry due to the unpredictability of year-to-year regional weather patterns. Whistler Blackcomb, with its unprecedented acreage of high alpine terrain and Glacier bowls, is well positioned, but by no means immune to these challenges. Partnering with the geographically diversified Vail Resorts and extending its successful Epic Pass products to Whistler Blackcomb are customer-focused ways of securing the long-term future of our resort, our industry and our community.”

Whistler Blackcomb won’t be fully integrated into Vail Resorts’ EpicPass until next year, but through acquisitions and collaborations, EpicPass already gives its passholders global reach, with unlimited and unrestricted access to VailBeaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City in Utah; HeavenlyNorthstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe, Afton Alps near Minneapolis, Mt. Brighton near Detroit, Wilmot Mountain near Chicago and the 2017 Perisher season in Australia. New for the 2016-2017 season, Epic Pass holders can now ski or snowboard for specified number of days in Europe including resorts in Austria, France, Switzerland and Italy (Europe is Epic details at EuropeIsEpic.com). It means that avid skiers can go wherever the snow seems best. The Epic Pass pays for itself in just over four days, while also saving more than 45 percent versus tickets purchased at a resort lift ticket window. The Epic pass also provides other discounts, including 20% off lodging, even off already discounted specials. Multiple pass options are on sale now at EpicPass.com.

Vail Resorts continues to raise the bar for skiers and riders investing $100 million in the guest experience for the upcoming winter across its resorts, bringing its five-year, industry-leading resort investment total to more than $500 million across the company. The most significant improvements include a new restaurant on Peak 7 at Breckenridge, an upgraded high-speed chairlift accessing Vail’s Back Bowls, significant renovations to the guest rooms of The Pines Lodge, A RockResort at Beaver Creek, and $13 million to completely re-imagine the guest experience at Wilmot Mountain, located near Chicago, Ill.

“Guests expect a premium experience when they visit one of our resorts, including the highest levels of guest service as well as the cutting edge in lifts, restaurants, lodging and other elements of their vacation,” said Kirsten Lynch, chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. “This year’s resort improvement plan reflects our goal to continue to deliver an Experience of a Lifetime for all of our guests.”

Here is a summary of new developments:

Skiing at Northstar California, with a view of Lake Tahoe. New this year: EpicMix Time guests to access real-time lift line wait times enabling them to better navigate the mountain and make the most out of their ski and ride experience © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Skiing at Northstar California, with a view of Lake Tahoe. New this year: EpicMix Time guests to access real-time lift line wait times enabling them to better navigate the mountain and make the most out of their ski and ride experience © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

EpicMix Time expands to Park City and Lake Tahoe to provide crowd-sourced lift line wait times to guests – EpicMix™ Time – an expansion of the award-winning ski and snowboard app, EpicMix – will debut at Park City in Utah, and Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe during the 2016-17 season, allowing guests to access real-time lift line wait times enabling them to better navigate the mountain and make the most out of their ski and ride experience. EpicMix Time uses proprietary technology to calculate and display up-to-the-minute chairlift and gondola line wait times. This innovative application of crowd-sourcing technology debuted last year at the Company’s four Colorado resorts.

Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe

The Heavenly gondola with views to Lake Tahoe. Vail Resorts is assuming management of Zalanta Resort at the Village, a new luxury condominium property, South Lake Tahoe’s first whole-ownership luxury condominium development in more than 30 years, steps from the Heavenly Mountain Gondola © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Heavenly gondola with views to Lake Tahoe. Vail Resorts is assuming management of Zalanta Resort at the Village, a new luxury condominium property, South Lake Tahoe’s first whole-ownership luxury condominium development in more than 30 years, steps from the Heavenly Mountain Gondola © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Vail Resorts is assuming management of Zalanta Resort at the Village, a new luxury condominium property, South Lake Tahoe’s first whole-ownership luxury condominium development in more than 30 years,  just steps away from the Heavenly Mountain Gondola, shops, dining, and in close proximity to showrooms, casinos, beaches and world-class golf. The first phase of the project – slated for completion in late-January 2017 – will include 30 luxury whole ownership residences, year-round heated outdoor swimming pool and hot tubs, a fire pit, fitness center and complimentary access for owners and guests to Lake Tahoe’s semi-private Lakeshore Beach. The development will also include more than 19,000-square-feet of retail space, which may include a 6,500-square-foot restaurant.

A second phase of development at Zalanta is proposed to include 60 additional whole ownership residences, cabanas, rooftop terrace and private underground parking garage. If approved, construction would begin as early as mid-2017 with completion following in mid- to late-2018.

Northstar California

Enjoying Tost, the 2 pm champagne toast ritual at Northstar California © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Enjoying Tost, the 2 pm champagne toast ritual at Northstar California © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Our favorite activities are back at Northstar California: Tost, a 2 pm ritual of a champagne (or apple cider) toast on the mountain, and this year, select dates will feature live music; Mountain Table Dinner series, featuring a mountaintop gourmet meal paired with wines from a local winery on the mountain in the Zephyr Lodge with stunning panoramic views of the sunset behind the Sierra Nevada’s Pacific Crest.

Park City, Utah

Vail Resorts’ EpicMix Time, the ski and snowboard app, is debuting at Park City Mountain, allowing guests to access real-time lift line wait times, better navigate the mountain across 7,300 acres of skiable terrain.

Guests will reap the benefits of Vail Resorts’ $50 million investment in the merger of Park City Mountain Resort with Canyons, including a new eight-passenger Quicksilver Gondola connection, new restaurant (Miners Camp) and new King Con Express six-person chairlife and MOtherlode Express four-person chairlift. The resort, now the largest in the US, offers over 300 trails, 41 lifts, 8 terrain parks, one super pipe and one mini-pipe. “The mountain is as big as you want to make it.”

Special features: Night skiing at Park City base area, free Mining Tour with a mountain host; sleigh rides  in the evening, an alpine coaster at Park City base, ice skating rink, snowshoeing, music in the base area, a robust après-ski scene on Main Street (you can ski in/out to Main Street and take a free bus back).

Events are big in Park City: Snowbound Celebration, a 16-day festival with musical acts, entertainers, torchlight parade, visit from Santa; Spring Gruv Celebration, a 16-day fest in March with free concerts and Pond Skimming Contest.

Vail Mountain

Four-Passenger Sun Up Express opens – Vail Mountain’s ninth new chairlift in the last 10 years will debut this winter, replacing the Sun Up Lift with a four-passenger, high-speed chairlift, now called the Sun Up Express. The new express chairlift will increase capacity of the former lift by 65 percent and reduce the average ride time from eight minutes to four minutes. The new lift will be a primary lift on the Back Bowls of Vail Mountain, serving intermediate and advanced terrain and dispersing skiers and snowboarders into this legendary terrain. More importantly, this makes 19 of Vail’s 22 chairlifts, and all of its core lifts, high speed. “If you haven’t skied Vail in 10 years, it will be a completely different experience.”

In other news, The Arrabelle at Vail Square, a RockResort just steps from The Eagle Bahn Gondola, has gotten a refresh (www.arrabelle.rockresorts.com).

Highlights of winter events include: Vail Snow Daze (Dec. 9-11), Vail Holidaze (Dec. 16-18, 31); CarniVail (Feb. 25-28), and the BurtonUS Open Snowboarding championships (Feb. 27-March 4).

Visit vail.com/lodging to find the best vacation deals.

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek is known for the ultimate in luxury and traditions including afternoon cookies © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Beaver Creek is known for the ultimate in luxury and traditions including afternoon cookies © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Beaver Creek, famous for luxury, takes that to an extreme with its white Glove Winter Package – travel in style with first-class airfare into Vail/Beaver Creek’s Eagle Airport (EGE), private helicopter transportation to the base of Beaver Creek Mountain, and private car to the excusive Trappers Cabin. Nestled among aspen groves at 9,500 ft, Trappers Cabin is the ultimate in luxury, with your own gourmet chef and private Ski School Ambassador, Epic Passes, Helly Hansen gear and other lux perks (valued at $50,000, BeaverCreek.com/White Glove).

And that’s not all: Beaver Creek’s White Carpet Club, an exclusive private retreat within Beaver Creek Village, is available for the duration. It hosts spacious lockers, continental service island, on-site concierge, priority access to SaddleRidge Restaurant, preferred parking and slope-side equipment check.

White Glove First Tracks provides exclusive access to the pristine slopes at sunrise, a five-star gourmet breakfast on the mountain at Allie’s Cabin.  Gusts board the centennial Express l ift at 7:30 am, enjoy a private guided tour of the mountain and relax over breakfast, all before the resort opens (select dates, reserve 866-250-1679).

Allie’s Cabin is offering special Wine Dinners on select Thursday evenings, organized with celebrated wineries, accompanied by fireworks display over Beaver Creek Village. Guests arrive via open-air sleigh for a gourmet culinary experience in the cabin.  New this winter and offered during select weekends, Allie’s Cabin Family Dinners.

Gourmet Snowshoe Adventures and Wine Tasting –Three versions are available, each combining wellness-promoting 90-minute guided snowshoeing tour, scenic gondola ride, followed by gourmet decadence for which Beaver Creek is renowned at the Osprey Fireside Grill. Guests can choose among Women’s Wednesday Walk & Wine, Winter Wine Excursions (Thursdays), and Fonduye + Shoe (Fridays).

The Pines Lodge, A RockResort in Beaver Creek has undergone a significant renovation of its 60 hotel rooms, keeping the unique European charm that the ski-in hotel has always offered while introducing a modern mountain luxury theme, enhancing the guest’s experience and comfort.

Beaver Creek Signature Winter Events include the Audi Birds of Prey Men’s World Cup and EverBank America’s Winter Opening (Nov. 29-Dec. 7), and Beaver Creek Winter Culinary Weekend (Jan. 19-22).

Breckenridge Ski Resort

Dog sledding is one of the non-skiing activities at Breckenridge, where you can also get a free Mining Tour with a mountain ski ambassador © 2016 Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Dog sledding is one of the non-skiing activities at Breckenridge, where you can also get a free Mining Tour with a mountain ski ambassador © 2016 Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Breckenridge Ski Resort will open Pioneer Crossing, a new, 490-seat restaurant just steps from Independence SuperChair on Peak 7, one of the resort’s five iconic peaks with dramatic views of Summit County. The restaurant will highlight Breckenridge’s mining history. Also Breckenridge Distrillery,  offering farm-to-table experience and new distilled flavors, is being expanded.

Classic Peak 9 Village Base area is getting a face lift, and is the scene for Breckenridge’s signature events which this year includes the Dew Tour (Dec. 8-11), returning for its 10th anniversary, when world-class winter athlete4s compete; Ullr Fest (Jan. 11-14), a 50-year tradition for the Breck community to pay tribute to the Norse god of snow; and 27th annual International Snow Sculpture Championships (Jan. 24-28).

Keystone Mountain Resort

Keystone Mountain Resort offers night skiing and a charming village at the base © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Keystone Mountain Resort offers night skiing and a charming village at the base © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Keystone Mountain Resort, one of the easiest major resorts to reach from Denver International Airport, one of the few that offers night skiing, as well as combined access to Arapahoe Basin with its lift ticket, is famous for its family-oriented programs.

Keystone’s Kids Ski Free Program Turns 5: Keystone has long been the place where kids rule, and this year the resort’s unmatched Kids Ski Free program turns 5 (which just so happens to be the same age that kids can officially become a part of this awesome program). More than 100,000 free kids’ lift tickets have been provided to families since the program began in 2012. This year guests can look forward to free Kidtopia events and parties, including a special weekly birthday bash with Ripperoo, plus free skiing. Every day, all season long, kids 12 and younger ski for free at Keystone with no blackout dates when parents book two or more nights in one of Keystone’s accommodation options, ranging from affordable hotel rooms to family-sized condominiums.

The world’s largest snowfort is a hallmark of Keystone’s Kidtopia festival © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The world’s largest snowfort is a hallmark of Keystone’s Kidtopia festival © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW Kidtopia Mountaintop Spectacular – Dec. 16-18, 2016: Keystone’s Kidtopia continues to redefine the family resort experience with free activities and events on and off the snow every day of the week starting Friday, Nov. 25. This winter Keystone presents the inaugural Kidtopia Mountaintop Spectacular, a weekend of festive on-mountain fun for the entire family. This free event will showcase a variety of activities and Kidtopia programs that make the resort a top destination for families, including nightly firework displays, a torchlight ski parade led by Keystone’s Ski & Ride School, and a mountaintop celebration where guests can enjoy free snow tubing, snowcat photo opportunities, live music, hot cocoa and fireside stories with Santa. Kidtopia will animate the mountaintop with Bigfoot adventure walks and a ski patrol-dog meet and greet, plus a special lighting ceremony of the world’s largest Snow Fort to create an unforgettable weekend.

The Kidtopia Experience March 5-11, 2017: With the addition of the Kidtopia Mountaintop Spectacular, this winter season is bookended by two awesome Kidtopia events as the Kidtopia Experience returns for an extended week-long celebration. Start your family spring break early and be a part of all the kid-centric festivities and live outdoor music at the Kidtopia Experience, March 5-11.

Behind-the-Scenes Chocolate Tours with Keystone’s Very Own “Willy Wonka”: Keystone Resort’s executive pastry chef Ned Archibald welcomes guests for a unique behind-the-scenes glimpse into his world of decadent desserts and chocolate making at the resort. Take a break from the slopes one morning to experience these can’t-miss tours designed for kids (and parents), and meet the man himself, tour his chef’s workshop and make delicious treats of your own to take home. No golden ticket required; these Chocolate Tours are free to attend. Offered on select dates throughout the season. Schedule TBD.

Bavarian Night at Der Fondue atop Keystone Mountain © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Bavarian Night at Der Fondue atop Keystone Mountain © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On-Mountain Family Adventures: With Keystone’s enclosed River Run Gondola, mountaintop adventures like snowcat tours, snow tubing and fondue dinners are accessible to the whole family regardless of skiing ability. The Mountaintop Snowcat Tour is a popular family activity that brings you to Keystone’s high-alpine bowls for breathtaking views of the Continental Divide and surrounding mountain ranges. Adventure Point, just steps away from the Kidtopia Snow Fort, features up to eight lanes of high-speed tubing action for kids and kids at heart. To cap off an evening of mountaintop adventure, guests can enjoy two gondola rides en route to Keystone’s North Peak, where Der Fondue Chessel offers an exciting and interactive dining experience for the whole family, complete with accordion-wielding musicians in lederhosen, all at 11,640-feet elevation.

Experience the Mountain Together with a Family Private Lesson: Whether your family is new to skiing and snowboarding or you’re seasoned snow veterans, those looking to develop new skills, improve technique or explore the mountain like never before can enjoy the Keystone Ski & Ride School’s Family Private Lesson together. Taking advantage of shared on-snow time, bonding is just an added bonus to these specially designed lessons. Private lessons can be reserved for up to six family members (or friends) of similar ability, and with instructors who specialize in working with the whole family.

Riding the gondola to dinner atop Keystone Mountain 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Riding the gondola to dinner atop Keystone Mountain 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Keystone Resort’s more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, average of 300 days of sun a year, convenient lodging and variety of on- and off-snow activities all combine to provide the ideal location for winter vacations. As one of the closest ski resorts to Denver, Keystone is the ultimate family resort destination. Convenient touches like free parking, including front-row family parking, and complimentary red wagons to help parents tote gear and kiddos to and from the slopes help make a winter family visit to Keystone easy and hassle-free. For more information visit keystoneresort.com.

For more information or to book trips at any of the Vail Resorts mountains, visit snow.com. 

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