Tag Archives: Vail Resorts

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

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

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

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

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

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

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

Here’s a rundown:

Epic Pass is Epic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are also local passes.

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

IKON Pass Adds Zermatt, A-Basin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alterra Mountain Company’s Ikon Pass connects some of the most iconic mountains across North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Chile, delivering authentic, memorable snow adventures. The Ikon Pass unlocks access to a community of diverse destinations to ski and ride, including Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, and Eldora Mountain Resort in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming; Big Sky Resort in Montana; Stratton, Killington and Sugarbush Resort in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain in Michigan; Crystal Mountain and The Summit at Snoqualmie in Washington; Tremblant in Quebec and Blue Mountain in Ontario, Canada; SkiBig3 in Alberta, Canada; Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Cypress Mountain in British Columbia, Canada; Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine; Loon Mountain in New Hampshire; Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico; Deer Valley Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Brighton Resort, Alta Ski Area, and Snowbird in Utah; Zermatt in Switzerland; Thredbo and Mt Buller in Australia; Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Mt Hutt in New Zealand; Niseko United in Japan, and Valle Nevado in Chile. Special offers are available at CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures, the world’s largest heli-skiing and heli-accessed hiking operation.

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

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

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

For more information, visit www.alterramtnco.com.

Ski .com Facilitates Planning Long-Haul Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

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

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

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

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

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

Other innovations company-wide:

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

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

More new developments at Vail Resorts: 

COLORADO

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

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

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

Skiing Keystone © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

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

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

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

PARK CITY

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

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

LAKE TAHOE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHISTLER BLACKCOMB

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

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

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

NORTHEAST

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

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

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

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

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

More information at www.snow.com.

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

Skiers Converge on Vermont to Experience ‘Winter in its Original State’

by Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Riding the bubble chair up Okemo Mountain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I love Ski Vermont’s slogan: “Winter in its Original State”. It captures perfectly Vermont’s heritage and character that make coming to ski, snowboard, cross-country and enjoy all the other winter pursuits amid these Green Mountains and rolling hills, so special. 

The biggest change, though, is the entry by the industry powerhouses – Vail Resorts, Alterra Mountain Company, Peak Resorts,Powdr), linking many of its major resorts through marketing, loyalty programs and seasonal passes (EpicPass, IkonPass, Mountain Collective, Peak Pass) to networks spanning the continent, even the globe that will inspire people to experience skiing in Vermont from all over the world. Importantly, though,their contribution has been to enhance facilities and guest experience while preserving the special personality of the resorts.

Here’s a taste of what Vermont-bound travelers will experience:

Killington Resort 

New investments totaling $25 million revolutionize the guest experience at Killington, including a new 6-person high speed bubble chairlift, new lift service at South Ridge, significant upgrades to the K-1 Express Gondola, additional availability and improvements of intermediate trails and resort-wide infrastructure upgrades including the addition of hands-free lift access validation with RFID technology at both Killington and its sister resort, Pico.

Besides a jam-packed schedule of bands, festivals,and competitions such as the Audi FIS Ski World Cup (you can watch for free), Rails 2 Riches and the FOX US Open of Mountain Biking, there’s plenty to do including a mountain coaster, ski biking,tubing,  snowmobile tours, sleighrides, snowshoeing, dinner excursions to the Ledgewood Yurt, spa treatments,shopping and more than 100 restaurants and bars in the region.

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.

Killington, Vermont, “The Beast of the East” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Killington is all about four seasons of beastly activities, and now 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 mountain biking, plus golf course greens fees and access to the Adventure Center including the new WreckTangle. And of course, unlimited winter access to the longest season in the East. (skivermont.com/killington-resort)

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

Skiing at Pico © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mount Snow

Mount Snow  has a new $22 million Carinthia Base Lodge that helps mark Carinthia’s 10-year anniversary of becoming a 100-acre all-terrain-park mountain face.  Conveniently located right at the base of Carinthia Terrain Park, the new 42,000sq/ft lodge is five times the size of the old and features a coffee bar, sit-down restaurant, two bars, large multi-station cafeteria, along with retail, rentals, ski school, ski patrol. The resort had a major upgrade to its snowmaking system last year and has been voted “Best Snow in the East” by Ski Magazine.

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.

Mount Snow is part of Peak Resorts (Hunter Mountain in New York and Attitash in New Hampshire are others, and included in its PeakPass. (skivermont.com/mount-snow-resort)

Okemo Mountain Resort

Okemo is now an Epic resort. Vail Resorts, Inc. purchased 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, plus, in a separate transaction, Stevens Pass, 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. But most immediately, Okemo is now part of the 2018-19 EpicPass (Vail is honoring previously sold 2018-19 season passes for Okemo.)

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

Okemo Mountain Resort, Vermont

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. (skivermont.com/okemo-mountain-resort)

Smugglers’ Notch

Famously family-friendly (and now hyping that it also is still “family-owned, operated, focused”), Smuggs’ continues to grow in what appeals to families with the resort’s free Kids’ Club. whereby all kids 12 and under get a free “treasure chest” of goodies. During the weeks of 12/16-12/21, 1/13-1/18, 2/3-2/8, and 3/3-3/8, Smugglers’ will offer all guests staying on any Club Smugglers’ package free lessons and rentals for kids 12 and under. Smuggs’ banked slalom course on Madonna Mountain will open new doors for intermediates and experts both in and out of lessons and host various events this season. Fat Bikes give winter access to Smuggs’ expansive cross-country MTB terrain.

Smugglers’Notch is one of the most family-friendly ski resorts in the country but alsooffers expert trails © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Smugglers’ claim to fame is  the total experience the resort offers. There is probably no other ski resort that is so focused on family togetherness, with 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). Among the most popular activities: weekly torchlight parade and fireworks, belting out tunes in family karaoke and building a sled to launch from a jump in I-Did-A-Sled. Smuggs has also introduced S.T.E.A.M. activities that bring fun ways to explore science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

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). (skivermont.com/smugglers-notch-resort-vt)

Stowe Mountain Resort

Stowe has new 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. Stowe, which is now owned by Vail Resorts, 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. As part of Vail Resorts, Stowe is also included on the EpicPass.

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. (www.stowe.com)

Stratton Mountain Resort

Stratton’s new Snow bowl high-speed quad,the major project in this year’s $10 million-capital plan, is positioned to minimize wind impact and, traveling at 1,000 ft./minute, reduce ride time from 14 to five minutes. Plus, the top ramp provides smoother access to Mike’s Way,a beginner run from the summit of southern Vermont’s highest peak. Home of the great snow guarantee, Stratton offers 97 trails, 100+ acres of glades, 600+acres of skiing and snowboarding terrain including top ranked terrain parks,the fastest fleet of lifts in the East, convenient lodging, slopeside Village,Training & Fitness Center, Spa and a full slate of winter and summer events and activities.

Skiing Stratton Mountain, Vt. (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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

Stratton has a learn-to-ski package at $99. It also offers a Jitney from New York City. Another feature is the Winter Wondergrass, a blue grass festival. Now part of the Alterra Mountain Company, Stratton is included on its IkonPass, now offering access to nearly 82,000 acres at 38 premier mountain destinations across the globe. (Stratton.com)

Sugarbush Resort

In honor of its 60th anniversary since Damon and Sara Gadd and Jack Murphy opened the resort in 1958, Sugarbush is hosting anniversary celebrations throughout the season. Sugarbush has also joined the IkonPass, connecting some of the most iconic mountains in North America (Killington, Pico, Stratton in Vermont, Loon Mountain in New Hampshire, Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine). On-mountain improvements this season include snowmaking upgrades, lift upgrades, and relocating the beginner First Time lift for more convenient access.

The resort offers 111 trails across two mountains – Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen—connected by  a chairlift (so fun!) and shuttle bus. Mt.Ellen is the third-highest peak in Vermont, with steeps, wide-open cruisers and some great intermediate terrain, the Riemergasse Terrain Park designed with rails, tables, and jumps for all levels, and home to a series of events and competitions; and 28 marked areas for beginner to advanced tree skiing. The 2,000-acre Slide Brook Basin, tucked in between Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen, is an adventurer’s paradise. Guided trips are available with the legendary skier John Egan and the staff of the Adventure Learning Center’s Ski & Ride School.

Sugarbush offers free uphill travel passes for skinning up designated routes at the resort before and after lift-served operating hours. The resort hosts Tour De Moon several times a season – a guided skin to Walt’s at the Glen House at Mt. Ellen and also offers an uphill travel option for Allyn’s Lodge Fireside Dining. There is also self-guided snowshoeing access and guided tours,including photography tours, twilight tours, and the more endurance-based outback tours in the Slide Brook Basin.

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)

Bolton Valley

What’s old is new again! Bolton Valley, a self-contained resort where you walk from slopeside lodging directly to the lifts, is once again owned by its original family founders, the DesLauriers who opened the resort in 1966.  

Besides being one of the few places in New England offering night skiing, last year 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. Building on its reputation for having some of the best and most accessible backcountry terrain in the Eastern U.S., 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.

“It’s unique in the East for a back-country experience to be so accessible,” said Josh Arneson, V.P. of Sales and Marketing.

How good do you have to be? “At least strong intermediate –we take it slow. People are surprised when they can do it. It is scary to attempt if you do it alone, but a mind-opening experience when you realize you can do it.” A group lesson is $75 plus rental.

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

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

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

Jay Peak:  Jay Peak expanded its off-slopes roster with the opening of the Ice Haus in 2010, offering  offer public skating times, figure-skating lessons and stick-and-puck pick-up games, and in 2011,  with the 60,000-square foot PumpHouse, an indoor waterpark; and last winter the opening of Clips & Reels, an entertainment center that features a 142-seat movie theater along with a Clip ‘n Climb facility. (skivermont.com/jay-peak-resort)

Ski Areas Are Proud ‘Throwback’ to ‘Pure Vermont’

Suicide Six Ski Area: DON’T LET THE NAME FOOL YOU! Suicide Six is one of the most family-friendly ski areas in Vermont, with 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced slope ratings. New trails carved for mountain biking in summer offer skiers and snowboarders hidden stash lines to discover; snowmaking has been improved and the FIS certified slalom trail will now be fully automated. 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. (skivermont.com/suicide-six-ski-area)

Mad River Glen, the only cooperatively owned mountain open to the public is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the “pure Vermont” ski experience. 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 the last bastions of natural snow skiing in New England and 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. 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). (skivermont.com/mad-river-glen).

Magic Mountain: After winning Liftopia’s award for best ski area in North America for the second year in a row, Ski Magic LLC, the new ownership of Magic Mountain, continues to invest in its counter-cultural ski and ride experience. Magic has 50 trails including glades; 1,500 vertical feet, “some of the steepest,most challenging terrain in the East, certainly in southern Vermont.” This year, there is a new base-to-mid-mountain double chair (the “Green Lift”) which makes Magic’s classic terrain accessible to novice and intermediate level skiers. In combination with more snowmaking, this new lift allows Magic to open far earlier in the season. Last year, Magic opened a new beginner area accessed with a magic carpet.

Magic has introduced one of the first alpine touring centers in partnership with Salomon with ATrental gear for first-timers, along with lessons and tours. New gear will be added this year. Long known for its extensive and challenging lift-served tree skiing, Magic will have guided backcountry tours this coming season with shuttle van pick-ups, which must be reserved in advance through the Snowsports Learning Center. Snowshoeing trails have also been marked this season (rentals available). (skivermont.com/magic-mountain)

Bromley Mountain: Bromley has announced a new partnership with Arena Snowparks to collaborate on a family-friendly progression park for all skill levels, green to black, with all new features and a wicked mid-season rebuild. 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, and much more, all within a 10-mile radius. (skivermont.com/bromley-mountain-resort)

Nordic Skiing Favorites

More famous for Nordic skiing, but providing a uniquely cozy country atmosphere as well as nearby access to major downhill ski areas:

Situated on 2,500 acres in Stowe, Vermont, 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. Its cross-country center celebrated its 50th anniversary last winter and offers one of the most extensive trail systems – a whopping 160 km of terrain. (The Trapp Family Lodge is hosting the NCAA Nordic championships, March 6-9.) 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. When you get the urge for downhill skiing, Stowe is nearby.(www.trappfamily.com)


A horse-drawn sleigh ride, a signature experience at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort, Chittenden, Vermont© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mountain Top Inn & Resort, set on 350 acres ringed by the Green Mountain National Forest, is breathtakingly enchanting, offers 60 km of groomed cross-country ski trails(snowmaking on a 2 km loop insuring optimal conditions); horse-drawn sleighrides; 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.

Ski Vermontoffers a Take 3 Pass program whereby beginner skiers and riders can take three lessons for a package price of $129 and choose to redeem all three lessons at the same participating resort or at a different participating resort for each lesson. Each pass will include rental equipment for the day plus a group lesson with a professional instructor and a lift ticket to access beginner terrain.Visit skivermont.com for more information.

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©2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet@TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

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

 

 

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

 

By Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ikon Pass: Access to 36 Destinations on 3 Continents

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

The Ikon Pass incorporates Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain and Eldora in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming; Big Sky in Montana; Stratton, Killington and Sugarbush Resort in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain in Michigan; Crystal Mountain Resort and The Summit at Snoqualmie in Washington; Tremblant in Quebec and Blue Mountain in Ontario, Canada; SkiBig3 in Alberta, Canada; Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Cypress Mountain in British Columbia, Canada; Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine; Loon Mountain in New Hampshire; Deer Valley Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Brighton Resort, Alta, and Snowbird in Utah; Thredbo in Australia; and Niseko United in Japan. Special offers are available at CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures, the world’s largest heli-skiing operation. For more information on the Ikon Pass, visit www.ikonpass.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information visit www.ikonpass.com.

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

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emma Digital Mountain Assistant

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

Stowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information at snow.com.

__________________

© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

 

Vail Resorts Continues Expansion with Acquisitions of Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Crested Butte & Stevens Pass

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

By Karen Rubin
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing of Transactions

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

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

About the Resorts  

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

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

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

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

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

Pass Access Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letter “To Our Okemo Community”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“With mountains of gratitude”

___________

© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

 

 

Skiing Kirkwood: It’s All About the Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dining at The Wall © David Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also:

Telluride Ski Resort Joins Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

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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© 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

Heavenly Mountain Resort & Hard Rock Hotel Lake Tahoe: An Epic Combination

The spectacular view of Lake Tahoe from Heavenly Mountain Resort (photo by Dave E. Leiberman/Travel Features Syndicate).

by Dave E. Leiberman & Laini Miranda, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Set along the south shore of Lake Tahoe straddling the California/Nevada state lines, Heavenly Mountain Resort offers one of the most unique ski experiences anywhere, combining stunning views, epic runs, and purist California vibe with the casino hotels and nightlife of Nevada.

Heavenly, which is one of the Vail Resorts, hosts on-mountain aprés ski parties with DJs, dancers, and “Heavenly Angels”, or you can enjoy the entertainment and gambling of the casino hotels at the base of the mountain. The unparalleled views from Heavenly Mountain to the pure blue glacial lake on the California side, and the sweeping desert on the Nevada side are what most entices us city folk to Heavenly.

The incomparable view skiing down California Trail on Heavenly Mountain (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

We come to Lake Tahoe in December, of course, for the epic skiing. Heavenly straddles the California-Nevada state line and is a mountain for everyone, from hard-core tree skiers to pure vista-lovers which even beginner skiers can enjoy. On a single run, you will marvel at sweeping views of snowy mountains and the majestic Lake Tahoe on the California side, juxtaposed with desert vistas on the Nevada side. Intra-run breaks with beer, brats and sun-tanning at Stein’s at the foot of Powerbowl Express and BBQ at East Peak Lodge round out the experience.

Skiing Heavenly affords the juxtaposition of snowy slopes and Nevada desert (photo by Dave E. Leiberman/Travel Features Syndicate).

For us, the best way to start our day is to drive the seven or so minutes from Hard Rock Hotel, where we are staying, to the California Lodge parking area, stopping for a sumptuous, home-style breakfast at Driftwood Cafe in Heavenly Village. We suit up and secure our rental gear from the base lodge. Heavenly has rentals for the beginner, intermediate, and pro skier, and their staff is incredibly helpful. These days, with airline baggage fees and the hassle of transporting skis and snowboard equipment, renting at the ski destination is often a wonderful opportunity to test out the latest equipment.

Once we have our boots, skis, helmets, and poles, we head right outside to the base of the Gunbarrel and take the Gunbarrel Express lift to head up the mountain.

Dave & Laini at Heavenly. No one can resist stopping for a photo on the California Trail with Lake Tahoe in the background.

In mid-December a few of the slopes and ski-lifts are closed, but we are still able to explore most of the mountain, thanks to some incredible snow dumps early in the season. There is a great mix of blue and black runs at Heavenly, with the easier greens still exhilarating because of the incredible views. Ridge Run on the California side is spectacular for cruising and sightseeing; Skyline Trail, a relatively easy blue starting at 10,040 ft elevation, takes you over to Nevada and is one of our favorite runs for its desert views. We start off with spectacular views of the lake and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. We ski along the ridge of the mountain and suddenly end up with the sweeping panorama of the Nevada desert and big open sky in the distance. It is truly breathtaking to have this expansive view of such opposite terrains within seconds of each other.

Advanced skiers can dip into Milky Way Bowl where — even if you are en route to the experts-only Mott Canyon — it’s hard to not pause to take in the other-worldly environment.

Stopping to take in the other-worldly environment on Milky Way (photo by Dave E. Leiberman/Travel Features Syndicate).

The action continues in Heavenly Village, where we find apres ski cocktails, live music, and incredible pizza. Basecamp Pizza offers inventive and delectable pies, fire pits, craft beer with great happy hour specials, corn hole, and an Americana band tonight. The vibe is great and the place is packed, even the high-tops by the bar. We luck out and snag one just as a family leaves, and we enjoy the multi-sensual experience. The “Base Camp” specialty pie couldn’t more perfectly hit the spot, even for a couple of New York pizza snobs.

Basecamp Pizza (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

Nightlife Abounds at Hard Rock Hotel

We arrive at the Hard Rock Hotel on the Nevada side of south Lake Tahoe after a long and exhilarating day skiing at Heavenly Mountain Resort. On your way to our room, we are greeted by a wall-sized photo of a huge concert audience opposite the elevator, placing us in the role of performer as soon as the doors open.

That is nothing compared to the breathtaking view we have from our room on the 12th floor. From this height we have a 300 degree view of Lake Tahoe and the panorama of mountains behind. In early December it is surprisingly warm enough for us to watch the sunset from our private balcony.

Sunset over Lake Tahoe from our balcony at the Hard Rock Hotel (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

The room itself is spacious and newly renovated. The room decor continues to make you feel like you’ve just left a rock concert–swanky, sleek, and edgy. The extremely comfortable king size bed and the big flat screen TV are perfect for unwinding after an active day on the slopes.

Then it’s time to explore. The Hard Rock Hotel is filled with Rock memorabilia, and it is fun to search around for autographed guitars from the Monkeys, the Sex Pistols, and Paul McCartney among others, glass cases with famous outfits from tours and other paraphernalia from popular performers.

It’s fun to discover the rock memorabilia around the Hard Rock Hotel Lake Tahoe (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

Our favorite part of the Hard Rock Hotel (besides the room) is The Oyster Bar (the first-ever raw seafood bar of its kind on Tahoe’s South Shore!). We are amused by the fact that, as New Yorkers accustomed to consulting Yelp to find a top restaurant, the Hard Rock’s Oyster Bar is what came up. The Oyster Bar has amazing reviews, and a perfect location on the first floor of Hard Rock Hotel. With only about 20 seats at the horseshoe-shaped bar, there is often a line to get seated. We are lucky both times we visit and are seated right away (yes, we are at Heavenly for two nights and we eat dinner here twice, it is that good).

The Oyster Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel Lake Tahoe gets rave reviews (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

The seafood-packed Bouillabaise is insanely flavorful and big enough for two to share. Even coming from spending a month in New Orleans, this is perhaps the best Bouillabaisse we’ve ever had. The New England Style Clam Chowder is perfectly creamy and clammy, the Caesar Salad (also huge) has a hint of lemon and is delicious even without the optional added protein, and the Lump Crab Cocktail with Dijon Aioli is perhaps the most generous portion of fresh crab this Baltimore girl has seen. The food is so good it makes you forget that you’re sitting about 5 feet from slot machines. It should also be mentioned that the prices here are extremely reasonable, or even cheap considering the portions. It is in a casino, after all.

The Oyster Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel Lake Tahoe abuts the casino (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

The Hard Rock also offers Prime, a modern steakhouse complete with a sophisticated bar, live music, stylish atmosphere and premium dishes. The Park Prime menu was inspired by the Park family, owners of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe and cattle ranchers in northern Nevada, and features local grass-fed, free-range beef, premium seafood, shareable appetizers, an approachable wine list and specialty cocktails in a cozy lounge and bar setting.

The Hard Rock Hotel also has one of Lake Tahoe’s South Lake Tahoe’s newest and hoppingest casinos: 25,000 square feet of  casino floor featuring more than 500 state-of-the-art video gaming machines and table games, including Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Three Card Poker, Pai Gow. The lively casino fills the ground floor with energy any time of night.

It also offers a major entertainment venue with a calendar chock full of events. There is a large heated outdoor pool, which, alas closes at 5pm so we weren’t able to use it ourselves.

The Hard Rock Hotel is well located in South Lake Tahoe, walking distance to Heavenly Village (and most importantly, the central Gondola that whisks you up to Heavenly Mountain with a spectacular view down to Lake Tahoe), and about a 7 minute drive to California Lodge. For us, because we have a car, the California Lodge is the easiest and quickest way to get to the mountain and affords us the convenience of parking our car just a few yards away from the lift.

(Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe, 50 Highway 50, Stateline, NV 89449, 844-588-7625, hardrockcasinolaketahoe.com. Inside secret: the Hard Rock Hotel has a special department that offers discounted ski-and-stay packages, 877-518-7768, but the allotment sells out.)

Zalanta Luxury Condo Opens this Season

After our last day on the slopes, we are lucky to get a sneak peak of Zalanta Resort at the Village, Heavenly’s new luxury ownership condominium development right in the center of town, scheduled to open February 2017, which is also the first lodging in South Lake Tahoe to come under Vail Resorts management. Just across the street from the Heavenly Gondola, Zalanta’s central location and lodge-like architecture feels perfectly integrated into the fabric of Heavenly Village.

On the bottom floor of the property, there is a storefront with about 20,000 square feet of retail space that fits right in with the stores along Lake Tahoe Boulevard, as well as an 8,000 square foot restaurant. Residents and guests enter through the spacious lobby with windowed facades showcasing both the lobby and pool area out back. Also on the first floor is a large yoga and workout room that shares beautiful views to the pool oasis.

The units are incredibly spacious and range in size from pool-view 2-bedroom suites to 4-bedroom suites with wrap-around decks and mountain views. At the time of our tour, there were slated to be 20 two-bedroom units ranging in square footage from 1140 to 1700 sq. ft.; six 3-bedroom units between 1600 to 1800 sq. ft., and two 4-bedroom units around 2290 sq. ft. Every unit has washer/dryer, at least one fireplace, and almost all have a private deck. Most of the units have an open plan kitchen and living room with 18 foot ceilings at the tallest peak and 10-ft ceilings in the kitchen and bedrooms to create a cozier home ambiance.

In keeping with the luxury lifestyle feeling of the development, each unit is complete with high-end finishes. The kitchens each have beautiful hard wood cabinetry, marble backsplash, grey slate countertops, and energy efficient Kitchenaid appliances. Every aspect of the climate and location has been taken into consideration during the planning stages of the condominium. The 2nd floor carpeting, 3rd floor wood flooring, and double-paned glass windows in each unit offer maximum insulation and shield against the noise from the bustling Heavenly Village outside. There are even heated sidewalks throughout the property.

On the opposite side of the building from Heavenly Village, the pool area creates a quiet oasis away from the action of the town. The pool area, open year-round, features 2 wading pools, 2 hot tubs, and of course a large central heated pool. There is also a private lakeside beach just 3 blocks away, to which all owners and guests have access.

Zalanta, which means “spiritual mountain”, embodies the Heavenly experience, at once luxurious and rustic, majestic and cozy, the best of all worlds.

EpicMix Time Expands to Lake Tahoe

Dramatic scenery from the lift on Heavenly Mountain. The EpicMix Time app tells you the wait time at the lifts so you have more time on the slopes (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate).

This season, Vail Resorts expanded its EpicMix™ Time to Heavenly Resort, Northstar and Kirkwood (also Lake Tahoe), as well as Park City Utah, which let’s you access real-time lift line wait times so you can better navigate the mountain and make the most out of your 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 Vail Resorts’ four Colorado resorts, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone.

EpicMix is an online and mobile application that allows you to digitally capture your ski and ride experience, and share it with friends and family. This is all possible through radio frequency (RF) technology loaded onto all hard card passes. State-of-the-art RF scanners are installed at all 10 Vail Resorts so you can seamlessly keep track of your vertical feet, days skied, special accomplishments.

Jet Blue from JFK to Reno/Tahoe

It is easier than ever to get to Heavenly from the New York area: JetBlue offers a nonstop direct flight from JFK into Reno-Tahoe Airport (RNO), which is 40 minutes drive away (will be cut down to 20-30 minutes when the high-speed highway is completed); local companies offer shuttle service. The flight departs JFK at 7:30 pm, arriving RNO at 11:01 pm and returns RNO at 11:52 pm, arriving JFK at 7:59 am; the flight is not daily so check jetblue.com for schedule.

For more information, visit www.skiheavenly.com, where links help you plan your trip and pre-arrange LodgingLift Tickets, Lessons and Ski School,, Child Care, Equipment Rentals, and Ground Transportation.( http://www.skiheavenly.com/plan-your-trip/plan-your-trip.aspx)

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

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

Hurry, Hurry, Get Your Ski Pass Deals; Take Advantage of Greater Flexibility, Options

Heavenly Mountain at Lake Tahoe is part of Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass which also gives access to resorts in Australia, France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Heavenly Mountain at Lake Tahoe is part of Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass which also gives access to resorts in Australia, France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hurry, hurry, get your deal on a 2016-17 ski pass. I really mean hurry because the best deals on season passes are expiring.

The biggest, best innovation is that more and more season passes incorporate flexible opportunities to ski multiple ski resorts, and now, more encompass deals across the country, so you aren’t locked in to, say, New England or the Rockies.

One of the most sensational values in the ski industry is Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass™ which affords unlimited and unrestricted skiing at 13 resorts including world-class destinations like Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Park City and Heavenly in the US plus Australia but is the only multi-resort pass to offer three to six days access to European skiing and snowboarding (depending upon the resort): Les 3 Vallees, Paradiski and Tignes-Val D’Isere in France, Skirama Dolomiti Adamello Brenta in Italy, 4 Vallees in Switzerland, and Arlberg in Austria. Even for skiers who are not based in the West, the Epic Pass pays for itself in just over five days of skiing or snowboarding. Find out more at EpicPass.com).

Okemo, Vermont, where you can enjoy bubble chairs, has joined the M.A.X. Pass program so you can get a season pass and for the add on, give 5 days at 31 other mountains, including its sister resort, Crested Butte © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Okemo, Vermont, where you can enjoy bubble chairs, has joined the M.A.X. Pass program so you can get a season pass and for the add on, give 5 days at 31 other mountains, including its sister resort, Crested Butte © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

While Vail Resorts’ Epic pass may be one of the most incredible deals around, unless you are a Northeasterner with the ability to fly regularly, the pass that makes the most practical sense for skiers who really like to explore is the M.A.X. Pass, which provides five days of skiing at 32 mountains across the continent, from Alaska to Maine (10 more than last year), with no blackout dates for $649 (the price goes up by $50 on Oct. 12). What is more, you can buy a season pass at one of the participating resorts, such as Okemo in Vermont (new this year!), where you would have unlimited access, and buy a M.A.X. Pass Add-on ($299)to get the five days each at the other 31 resorts (the pass pays for itself with a three-day visit).  In this way, you can make regular visits to Okemo and also have a trip to Crested Butte (Okemo’s sister resort), or Copper Mountain in Colorado. Other mountains on the list: Pico, Loon, Mount Sunapee, Snowshoe, Mountain Creek and Blue Mountain in the East; Mount Batchelor and Alyeska (Alaska) in the West. What is more, passholders also get 20% discounts on lodging, even the extra discount off special deals.

M.A.X. Pass details are spelled out at www.themaxpass.com.

Yet another is The Mountain Collective which gives you two days skiing at 14 different major resorts with no blackouts (plus discounts on lodging) for $409/adults, $99/child (12 and under). The pass also offers 50% off additional days.

Copper Mountain, Colorado: With the M.A.X. Pass program, you can have a season pass at popular Vermont resorts like Okemo and Pico and get five days to ski at Copper Mountain, Colorado © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Copper Mountain, Colorado: With the M.A.X. Pass program, you can have a season pass at popular Vermont resorts like Okemo and Pico and get five days to ski at Copper Mountain, Colorado. Copper Mountain is also part of the Rocky Mountain Super Pass © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus gives you unlimited access to Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain and Eldora Mountain Resort in Colorado, plus Steamboat (6 days), Crested Butte (3 days) and Alyeska Resort, Alaska (3 days), as well as 7 days access to international ski destinations including Mt. Ruapehu, Cardrona Alpine Resort, Tomamu, Alts Bandai, and Nekoma. This pass also provides other benefits, including discounts on 20 Friends & Family tickets (10 for Winter Park Resort and 10 for Copper Mountain), and discounts on activities (like tubing), retail purchases, merchandise, lodging, and food and beverage (see www.winterparkresort.com).

Get unlimited access to Winter Park, Colorado plus other benefits with the Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Get unlimited access to Winter Park, Colorado plus other benefits with the Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here’s another twist: you can buy a season pass at Bolton Valley, near Burlington Vermont, and for no extra charge (it used to be $50 extra), can have the benefits of the Freedom Pass

Ski areas are offering all sorts of innovations – Millennial passes (Stratton Mountain extended the years for eligibility from 18 to 32 (up from 29), while Mount Snow extended the purchase date for the discounted season pass to Dec. 15)

Take note: there are enormous number of packages and ski-and-stay deals online leading up to the season.

New England resorts, especially, are hoping to make up for losses due to last year’s bad weather – but are looking forward to better weather conditions (at least normal) this year, plus have made improvements in snowmaking and facilities to “weatherproof” .

Lock them in now.

Here are more details:

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass not only gives unlimited access to 13 resorts including world-class destinations like Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Park City and Heavenly in the US plus Australia but is the only multi-resort pass to offer three to six days access to European skiing and snowboarding (depending upon the resort): Les 3 Vallees, Paradiski and Tignes-Val D’Isere in France, Skirama Dolomiti Adamello Brenta in Italy, 4 Vallees in Switzerland, and Arlberg in Austria.

Enjoy unlimited access to Keystone Mountain, Colorado, with its fabulous Kidtopia Fort and kid-friendly activities, with Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Enjoy unlimited access to Keystone Mountain, Colorado, with its fabulous Kidtopia Fort and kid-friendly activities, with Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 2016-2017 Epic Pass offers unlimited access to the Vail Resorts in Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City in Utah (which with the merger of Canyons is now the largest ski resort in North America); Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin, Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan; and just for good measure, so you can ski in summer, Perisher in Australia. The Epic Pass allows pass holders to visit resorts as they choose, each with its own personality and distinct experience, combining unique terrain and traditions with Vail Resorts’ renowned service and unmatched resort improvements. The Epic Pass is available at EpicPass.com  ($829/adult until the next deadline is Oct. 9).

“There is nothing in the ski industry today that can compare to the value of the Epic Pass,” said Kirsten Lynch, chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. “The value of the Epic Pass is giving skiers and snowboarders the flexibility to ski when they want and the choice to ski where they want, and the variety of experiences our resorts offer, whether it’s the iconic slopes of Vail or Park City, or the grandeur and tradition of Europe, which should be on the bucket list of every skier or snowboarder.  Whether you ski five days or 100, no pass is tailored to the way skiers and snowboarders actually want to access the best mountains in the world like the Epic Pass.”

That access now includes four of Europe’s most iconic destinations. France’s largest ski areas, Les 3 Vallees, Paradiski and Tignes-Val D’Isere  offer a unique playground to skiers and snowboarders from all over the world, accessing five glaciers, 391 ski lifts and over 800 miles of marked runs for all ability levels within a 30-mile radius. The three areas combine high-altitude skiing guaranteeing quality snow from November to May with stunning view of Mont Blanc and a 360-degree panorama of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps.  (6 days of free skiing with 2 days of skiing at each resort area)

South of the Alps, nestled amongst some of the most beautiful mountain peaks in the world such as Brenta Dolomites and Adamello (11,666 feet), is some of the best skiing in Italy. Skirama Dolomiti Adamello Brenta is home to 150 lifts and 236 miles of ski slopes that that make up acclaimed resorts such as Madonna di Campiglio and Pinzolo in Val Rendena; Folgarida-Marilleva, Peio and Tonale in Val di Sole; Ponte di Legno, Andalo-Fai della Paganella, Monte Bondone and Folgaria-Lavarone. The winter offering is enriched by the high-quality cuisine and the exclusive “Italian style.” (3 days of free skiing)

Verbier, part of the 4 Vallees ski area, is the largest resort in the Swiss Alps, is acknowledged as one of the premier “off piste” resorts in the world, and is home to a number of professional freeride competitions. Above and beyond this reputation, Verbier is well-known internationally for its electrifying, cosmopolitan nightlife, and the resort is proud of its legendary après-ski and its lively clubs. While skiers and snowboarders from all over the world rave about this off-piste paradise and fun evenings, families also appreciate the resort’s social atmosphere and family-friendly offerings. (5 consecutive days of free skiing)

For decades, the mountain range between Tyrol and Vorarlberg, home to Arlberg, has been a highly sought-after metropolis for international ski and snowboard enthusiasts. Arlberg is widely considered the cradle of modern skiing and in December 2016, thanks to the opening of four new chair lifts, it will be Austria’s largest linked ski area. It is also where champions, athletes from Ski Club Arlberg have garnered an incredible 83 medals at various Olympic Games and World Championships. (3 days of free skiing).

Less expensive variations of the Epic Pass include:

Epic Local Pass ($609) offering unlimited, unrestricted skiing or riding at Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton and Wilmot Mountain with limited restrictions at Park City, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood. The Epic Local Pass also includes a total of 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek with some holiday restrictions

Enjoy unlimited skiing at Northstar at Lake Tahoe, California, with Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, including the Epic-4 Day Pass © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Enjoy unlimited skiing at Northstar at Lake Tahoe, California, with Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, including the Epic-4 Day Pass © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Epic 4-Day™: A convenient option for a short ski trip. Save 35 percent versus individual lift tickets and receive a total of four unrestricted days valid at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, and Arapahoe Basin, plus four free days at Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton or Wilmot Mountain. $399 for adults and $219 for children (ages five to 12.)

See www.snow.com  for more Vail Resorts info

The Mountain Collective

The Mountain Collective gives you two days skiing at 14 different major resorts with no blackouts (plus discounts on lodging) for $409/adults, $99/child (12 and under). The pass also offers 50% off additional days.

The 14 resorts are some of the best names on the continent plus three international destinations: Alta/Snowbird, Aspen Snowmass,  Jackson Hole,  Mammoth,  Revelstoke,  Ski Banff/Lake Louise/Sunshine,  Ski Queenstown/Coronet Peak/The Remarkables,  Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows,  Sun Valley,  Taos,  Telluride,  Thredbo,  Whistler Blackcomb. In addition, it provides two days each at 2 days each at Valle Nevado in Chile (in summer), Hakuba Valley in Japan and Chamonix in France. (800-705-6286, https://mountaincollective.com/)

Here is a twist on the multi-mountain pass: When you buy your season pass to Bolton Valley near Burlington, Vt., the Freedom Pass is included at no extra charge (there used to be a $50 surcharge), giving unlimited visits with no blackouts to Bolton Valley and up to three days skiing at each of the 12 other ski areas, spanning the country from Alaska to Maine, for a total of 36 free lift tickets. These include Magic Mountain  in Londonderry, VT (which is just being acquired by a group of locals who are making millions of dollars of new investment), Granite Gorge on the Keene/Roxbury Line in southwestern NH is close to Keene State College; Black Mountain in Jackson, NH. Buy your Bolton Valley All Access Season Pass* before prices go up after Sept. 30. (www.boltonvalley.com/tickets-passes-rentals/seasons-passes/Freedom-Pass).

Ski.Com

Ski.com can help you choose and get the best deals at 120 different resorts, like Breckenridge, one of the top trending resorts this season, and book special events, such as dog-sledding (photo by Eric Leiberman/Travel Features Syndicate)
Ski.com can help you choose and get the best deals at 120 different resorts, like Breckenridge, one of the top trending resorts this season, and book special events, such as dog-sledding (photo by Eric Leiberman/Travel Features Syndicate)

Need help planning? Ski.com – an agency that can tell you where you can use your boarding pass the afternoon you arrive for free skiing for the rest of the day; where to go for an on-mountain dining experience (Bavarian dinner at Keystone, Heavenly’s Saturday night gourmet meals with wine), which are the best for families, where you can take advantage of free guided snowshoe tours (Copper Mountain), or learn about the new Amtrak service to Winter Park from Denver’s Union Station (accessible by light rail form Denver International Airport – could work for outbound trip, trickier for inbound), and all the umptium details that go into booking a ski vacation.

You can book online at more than 120 different ski resorts (4000 different lodging options);  search by the top resorts (currently trending: Vail, Aspen/Snowmass, Breckenridge, Deer Valley Resort, Beaver Creek, Steamboat Springs, Park City, Jackson Hole, Telluride, Whistler Blackcomb, and Zermatt) or by preference (such as budget, luxury, private homes, ski in/out, or best sellers). Or you can search by your interest. They can book every aspect of the ski trip including air, transfers, dining experiences, lessons, rentals, children’s programs.

The site offers featured lodging and lift ticket deals, plus thousands of ski vacation package deals in the system/ You can  call or chat online and browse ski vacation deals by visiting our all deals page or check out our top affordable resorts and lodging.

If you are unsure of where to go, you can call, chat or email with its 65+ knowledgeable Mountain Vacation Specialists or use a new, intuitive Resort Finder tool. If you’re looking for deals, visit the Deals page or ask one of the Mountain Vacation Specialists about current discounts and promotions. After determining where you want to go and stay, Ski.com can also help you book the rest of the package, including flights, ground transportation, rentals, lift tickets, lessons, activities and  all the elements of a vacation. You can book the complete ski vacation through Ski.com over the phone, in a live chat, using our online booking engine, or via email. You can also check out guides and tips on theSki.com Blog and the Ski.com Packing List.

Using Ski.com is free, can save you time researching on your own because it is a one-stop shopping place; it can save money because of negotiated discounts and deals. (800-908-5000, 970-429-3099, ski.com).

Vermont Resort Season Passes 2016-17

Season Passes at Vermont ski resorts make for one of the best deals around for skiers and snowboarders. Many resorts offer special preseason discounts. Here are this year’s highlights and pricing deadlines for Vermont resort season passes:

Bolton Valley- Pricing Deadline: Oct. 31. The Ski Bum Pass- $179 for anyone ages 18-25 and full time college students. All passes, which include the Freedom Pass, can be found at www.boltonvalley.com

Bromley Mountain- Pricing Deadline, Oct. 15. Super Value Pass– $525 – Ski Bromley 7 days a week, non-holiday with the Super Value Pass, www.bromley.com.

Burke Mountain- Pricing Deadline: Oct.10. The Judge- $899, valid at both Burke Mountain and Jay Peak Resort, skiburke.com .

Jay Peak Resort- Pricing Deadline: Oct.10. Jay Adult Season Pass- $779, Ski or ride Jay Peak every day of the week, jaypeakresort.com

Killington Resort- Pricing Deadline: Oct. 15. Adult Unlimited-$1,289, Killington’s adult unlimited pass gives unrestricted access to the Beast all season long; M.A.X.ify your Killington Unlimited Season Pass: Add-on 30 resorts, 5 days at each, 0 blackout days – starting at only $299 for adults, and $199 for youths,  www.killington.com.

Mad River Glen- Pricing Deadline: Oct. 15. Adult Full Season Pass- $771; A free season pass is available for kids 12 and under with the purchase of a Family Mad Card or any Adult Season Pass. The Family Mad Card-$209. Get 3 transferable day tickets good any time during the ski season plus free season passes for all kids who are ages 12 and under.  Receive $5 off any additional full day lift ticket purchased throughout the season, www.madriverglen.com.

Magic Mountain: Pricing Deadline: Oct. 31. Couples Unlimited Pass-$858. Magic offers 2 passes for couples living at the same address at a discount this season, www.magicmtn.com

Middlebury College Snow Bowl- Pricing Deadline: Nov. 30. Adult Season Pass-$420. Ski or snowboard at the Bowl all season long for under $500; Student Season Pass- $310. (7th grade through college), www.middleburysnowbowl.com.

Mount Snow- Pricing Deadline: Dec. 15. Drifter Pass-$399, offers unlimited access, with no blackout dates for those aged 18-29, www.mountsnow.com.

Okemo Mountain Resort- Pricing Deadline: Oct. 10. Peak Pass -$1,359 provides skiing and snowboarding every day at Okemo with no restrictions.  M.A.X. Pass Add On,s $299 until Oct.12, www.okemo.com

Pico, Vermont, is now part of the M.A.X. Pass program © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Pico, Vermont, is now part of the M.A.X. Pass program © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Pico Mountain: My Pico, My Way.-$449, Get unlimited access to Pico Mountain all season long for under $500, www.picomountain.com.

Quechee Ski Area: Family of 4 Season Pass-$625, www.quecheeclub.com

Smugglers’ Notch Resort- Pricing Deadline: Oct.31. Adult Season Pass-$609, www.smuggs.com.

Stowe Mountain Resort- Pricing Deadline: Nov. 6. Young Adult Pass (19-34) $599,  www.stowe.com

Stratton Mountain Resort- Pricing Deadline: Oct. 10. Strattitude Pass -$329, valid every day with no blackout dates for ages 18-32 (the age raised from 18-29), www.stratton.com

Sugarbush Resort . For20s All Mountain 7 Pass- $469, features unlimited skiing and riding at Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen for ages 19-29; Mt. Ellen 7 Plus Pass- $985, Ski Mount Ellen plus 5 days at Lincoln Peak (anytime) and enjoy spring skiing at Lincoln Peak after Mt. Ellen closes. www.sugarbush.com

Suicide Six- Pricing Deadline: Nov. 30. Adult Season Pass-$449, valid every day. All season passes at www.woodstockinn.com.

See SkiVermont.com for more info.

 

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