by Karen Rubin Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
With all that is impacting mountain resorts, from wildfires to COVID-19, the major ski resort companies are focusing on drive-markets and alleviating uncertainty with pass flexibility and refundability, as well as significantly changing mountain operations to incorporate the highest health protocols.
Here in the Northeast, Ikon Pass, the seasonal pass program of Alterra Mountain Company (most famous for Aspen and Snowmass mountains, but the owner/operator of 15 others and partnerships with dozens more around the nation and worldwide), is expanded with the addition of Windham Mountain, in New York’s Catskill Mountains, an easy drive from the New York metro and Long Island. This is in addition to Stratton, Sugarbush Resort, and Killington in Vermont, giving the Ikon Pass that much more value to Northeast skiers.
Alterra Mountain is not just prioritizing access for season pass holders in order to tightly regulate the number of daily lift tickets that will be available, but eliminating day tickets and walk-up window sales; the sale of some undated lift ticket products will be discontinued until further notice. While it is not instituting an advance reservation system at the 15 destinations that Alterra Mountain owns and operates, the dozens of partner resorts may have their own advance reservation protocols this season (check the sites).
“The pandemic has disrupted our lives in so many unpredictable ways,” Rusty Gregory, Alterra Mountain Company’s Chief Executive Officer, stated. “Medical professionals and scientists tell us that this constantly changing dynamic will likely continue until effective vaccines and therapeutics are developed and become available to the general public. Alterra Mountain Company and our destinations are committed to staying on top of the inevitable changes to come as best practices and health regulations throughout the two countries, six states, three Canadian provinces and 15 mountain communities in which we operate rapidly evolve. Our teams will communicate these changes to you as soon as possible so we can all adjust and plan accordingly.”
This year, to address the extraordinary conditions, Ikon Pass introduced Adventure Assurance, free for all passholders, designed to alleviate uncertainty and provide flexibility for the 20/21 passes.
Ikon Pass holders may elect to defer the purchase price paid for their unused 20/21 Ikon Pass to the 21/22 winter season. Or, if passes are used and there is an eligible COVID-19-related closure at any North American Ikon Pass destination, Ikon Pass holders will receive a credit toward a 21/22 Ikon Pass based on the percentage of days closed, more details below. Expanded Adventure Assurance coverage is free and included with every previously purchased 20/21 Ikon Pass and new 20/21 Ikon Pass purchases. (Details and terms and conditions at the Adventure Assurance Program page and Ikon Pass FAQ.)
“We understand that there is still pass holder uncertainty around winter 20/21, and we aim to offer Ikon Pass holders peace of mind and more time to make the best decisions,” said Erik Forsell, Alterra’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Pass holders can ski a little, ride a lot, or defer the purchase price of their unused 20/21 Ikon Pass, we’ve got them covered. We look forward to next winter, sweet days await us.”
Ikon Pass continues to expand access across North America with the addition of Mt. Bachelor in Oregon and Windham Mountain in New York for the 2020/2021 season, bringing the total number of destinations accessible on Ikon Pass to 43.
Ikon Pass holders will have access to seven days each at Mt. Bachelor and Windham Mountain with no blackout dates, and Ikon Base Pass holders will have access to five days each, with select blackout dates.
Just two and a half hours north of New York City, Windham Mountain boasts 285 skiable acres across 54 trails serviced by 11 lifts, six terrain parks, an award-winning snowsports school, Terrain Based Learning™, lodging, on-mountain dining, an Adventure Park, a full-service spa, and sunset skiing (on select nights during the season), all in a private-club like atmosphere. In summer, Windham offers the Windham Mountain Bike Park famous for its World Cup course and a three-mile-long beginner trail and Windham Country Club with an 18-hole public golf course.
Ikon Pass Gives Access to 43 Destinations
The 43 destinations on the Ikon Pass span the Americas, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan and include such iconic mountain resorts as Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park, Copper Mountain Resort, 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, Sugarbush Resort, and Killington 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, one of the world’s largest heli-skiing and heli-accessed hiking operations. For more information, visit www.ikonpass.com.
In addition to the 15 year-round mountain destinations, one of the world’s largest heli-ski operation and the Ikon Pass program, Alterra Mountain Company owns and operates a range of recreation, hospitality, real estate development, food and beverage, retail and service businesses out of its Denver, Colorado headquarters. For more information, visit www.alterramtnco.com.
Travel brings family together, forging relationships and bonds – whether it is siblings, parents with children, multi-generations – in a way that the everyday does not. Holiday travel is that much more special, building those lifelong memories as surely as the aromas of a holiday meal.
That’s because travel encompasses not just place, but activities and experiences that families share together, and perhaps even more significant, the luxury of spending time together.
Consider: a ski holiday is a superb activity to bring everyone together, not to mention getting cozy around a roaring fire– some of our favorite ski resorts include Okemo, Stratton Mountain, Smugglers Notch in Vermont; Heavenly and Northstar in Lake Tahoe; Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Winter Park in Colorado (check out Ski Colorado, www.ColoradoSki.com; Vail Resorts, snow.com; Ski Vermont, skivermont.com; Ski New York, www.iskiny.com; Ski.com); cruising is a great way for families to travel together (check out www.cruisecritic.com, www.dunhilltraveldeals.com, cruisecompete.com, www.crowncruisevacations.com, cruising.org); a resort stay; dude ranch; or a themepark resort holiday are essential to childhood (DisneyWorld, Universal, SeaWorld are among our favorites for the winter holidays). Historic Hotels of America are wonderful venues – they are stewards of tradition and heritage, after all, that provide just the right atmosphere to knit your own family tradition.
Or think about experiential, active, or adventure travel: a family safari; London in search of Harry Potter; cycle on the Danube Bike Trail (great for families).
The best holiday destinations offer plenty of activities indoor and out, so no matter the weather, there is something enchanting to do. But there is more: they manage to create an entire atmosphere that leave everyone in the family with lifelong memories. Over the years, we have had magical winter holidays in such places. Here are some of our family’s favorites.
Gilded Age Holiday in Newport, RI
Newport, Rhode Island is such a charming place any time of the year, but especially at Christmas. There is so much to do throughout the city, eminently walkable – ice skating on the harbor rink, boat rides to see seals, walking along the Cliff Walk, but the essence are visiting the Gilded Age mansions when you really feel yourself transported in time.
Beginning November 19, 2016 and running through January 2, 2017, The Preservation Society of Newport County offers music, tours, visits from Santa Claus, model trains, antique toys and shopping at three of America’s most outstanding historic houses: The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms.
Each year new themes, ornaments and decorations are added to keep the experience fresh for returning visitors. For 2016, there will be a total of 28 decorated Christmas trees throughout the three houses each decorated to coordinate with its setting.
New this year at The Breakers, the toy train display in the second floor loggia will focus on the Vanderbilts’ New York Central Railroad. Three model train sets, each different vintage reproductions of New York Central rail lines, will run through a grove of decorated Christmas trees. Nearby, display cases will exhibit memorabilia from the New York Central Railroad from the Preservation Society’s collection.
The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo, was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and completed in 1895 for Cornelius Vanderbilt II, President and Chairman of the New York Central Railroad. Its interiors include rich marbles and gilded rooms, a 50-foot high Great Hall, mosaic tile floors and ceilings, and open-air terraces with magnificent ocean views.
At The Elms, a Gilded Age streetscape theme in the ballroom will feature period sleighs and lanterns, mannequins wearing vintage clothing, trees and a topiary horse. Also on display in the house will be a collection of antique decorations and toys donated by Berwind family descendants.
The Elms is an elegant French-style chateau built in 1901 for Philadelphia coal magnate Edward J. Berwind. It serves as a backdrop for monumental artworks, including wall-sized 18th century Venetian paintings and Chinese lacquer panels. The Elms is situated on a 10-acre park with an elaborate sunken garden.
Marble House was the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. Built and furnished at a reported cost of $11 million, it was the most lavish house in America when it opened in 1892. It became a grand stage for Alva Vanderbilt’s climb to social and political power, first as a leading society hostess and later as a leader of the “Votes for Women” campaign.
Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions recreate the ambience of an evening soirée during the Gilded Age. These open house evenings allow guests to stroll at their leisure through the decorated house, listening to live holiday music and enjoying cookies, eggnog and cider. Holiday Evenings at The Breakers are scheduled for Saturdays, November 26, December 3 and December 10, and new this year, two Friday evenings, December 23 and 30, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. On December 17, guests can enjoy a Holiday Evening Duet: The Elms and Marble House, and see both of those houses for the price of one, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Admission to Holiday Evenings is $35 in advance, $45 day-of the event. Children 6-17 are admitted for $10 in advance, $15 day-of. Children under the age of 6 are admitted free. Preservation Society members enjoy reduced admission, $30 in advance, $35 day-of. More information, including the schedule of Holiday Evening entertainment, and advance tickets are available online at www.NewportMansions.org, or call (401) 847-1000.
A grand choice for accommodations is The Hotel Viking, nestled in the Historic Hill district on famed Bellevue Avenue. Once the summering destination of America’s wealthiest, the Hotel was opened in 1926 to accommodate their haute monde guests. With the most recent multi-million dollar renovation finished in 2007 this hotel is the perfect choice for a historic stay in the heart of Upscale Historic Newport Rhode Island. Hotel Viking is a member of Historic Hotels of America (historichotels.org).
Another is the Vanderbilt Grace Hotel, a boutique hotel originally built by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, a scion of the wealthy Vanderbilt family. The 1909 property is a vintage Newport mansion that has been restored to its former glory and is one of the few private homes of the era to operate for guests as a fully functioning and top luxury hotel in Rhode Island. Today, as The Vanderbilt Grace, the mansion comprises a luxurious hotel with 33 rooms and luxury suites and a lavish spa and fitness center with indoor and outdoor pools. The hotel features two restaurants including Muse (www.gracehotels.com/vanderbilt).
For a complete line-up of holiday and winter events, travel packages and last minute deals, visit Discover Newport, 800-326-6030, DiscoverNewport.org.
Quintessential New England
Manchester, Vermont, a delightful New England village, hosts six weeks of holiday merriment, across the Manchester and the Mountains Region (a whole village of outlet shops, too!). There are tours of decorated inns, pub crawls with local restaurants offering special pairings, a Lighted Tractor Parade, and the Elf Express Train ride. Some events charge admission. (visitmanchestervt.com/merriment).
One of our favorite places to stay for the holidays in Manchester is the historic Equinox, where Mary Todd Lincoln would spend summers. The Equinox has since become a four-season luxury resort with every imaginable amenity including world-class spa, indoor pool, Orvis fly fishing school, a falconry school, Range Rover driving school. The Equinox is near fabulous outlet shopping and historic sites such as Todd Lincoln’s home, Hildene, which hosts holiday tours and cross-country skiing. Equinox is also a short drive to superb downhill skiing and riding at Stratton Mountain, Bromley Mountain and Magic Mountain (www.equinoxresort.com, 800-362-4747).
Woodstock, Vermont is the quintessential New England village, oozing charm and its centerpiece is the historic Woodstock Inn. An AAA Four Diamond resort, it is decked out in holiday finery and activities galore (Tubbs Snowshoe Adventure Center, crosscountry skiing, luxurious spa and indoor recreation center with tennis, visits to the fascinating Billings Farm & Museum, downhill skiing at the resort’s own Suicide Six ski hill, with Killington just 25 minutes away and Okemo 40 minutes away. Founded by the Rockefellers, the Woodstock Inn & Resort is owned and operated by The Woodstock Foundation, Inc. Proceeds from Resort operations support The Woodstock Foundation and Billings Farm & Museum education and conservation programs. Find vacation packages and specials at www.woodstockinn.com.
A Capital Christmas
Washington DC is an ideal winter destination – so much that is fascinating to see inside, as well as enchanting places outside, and easy walks between the attractions that line the mall – National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, Museum of the American Indian, to list but a few. Break up museum visits with ice skating on the mall, a ride on the carousel and a visit to the National Zoo (reachable by metro).
Holiday Displays and Lights Galore: Among the elaborate displays:
ZooLights returns to brighten the paths throughout the National Zoo (Thru Jan. 1, closed December 24, 25, 31). More than 40 animated light installations as well as Panda Claus delight visitors (nationalzoo.si.edu/events/zoolights)
Character-guided candlelit tours of George Washington’s Mount Vernon welcome visitors to walk through the founding farmer’s mansion and try 18th century dancing and fireside caroling. Aladdin the Christmas camel, a nod to General Washington’s tradition of bringing a camel to his farm for the delight of his guests, will be in the barn. Christmas festivities November 25 – January 6. (Open 365 days of the year including Christmas and New Year’s, www.mountvernon.org/plan-your-visit/activities-tours/christmas-at-mount-vernon)
The National Christmas tree in President’s Park on the Ellipse kicks off a month of nightly musical performances at the site at dusk (through Jan. 1).
Georgetown Glow, the city’s only curated exhibition of contemporary light-art installations dot the historic riverfront neighborhood, Dec. 2-Jan 1, 6-10 pm nightly. (www.georgetownglowdc.com)
For details and assistance planning a trip, go to Destination DC, www.washington.org. There’s also a real-time concierge service (800-422-8644 between 9am-5pm) and lively social channels for tailored suggestions and inspiration.
Historic hotels in Washington include Willard Intercontinental Hotel, offering themed packages; The Morrison-Clark Inn, The Jefferson, The Churchill, Henley Park Hotel, The Fairfax at Embassy Row, The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection, The Capital Hilton, and Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington DC (see historichotels.org). For an extraordinary bed-and-breakfast in a historic mansion home, Swann House, 1808 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009, tel. 202-265-4414, E-mail email@example.com, www.swannhouse.com.
Christmas on the Potomac
Get a full family resort experience (and still enjoy easy access to DC) with a stay at Gaylord National Resort which offers a dazzling array of holiday activities during its annual “Christmas on the Potomac” festival, including ICE! (Nov. 19, 2016-Jan. 1, 2017), this year with the theme, Christmas Around the World to showcase different cultures and their Christmas festivities.
Artisans from Harbin, China travel more than 6,000 miles to hand-carve more than two million pounds of colorful ice into larger-than-life ice sculptures to illustrate scenes celebrating the world’s diverse cultural traditions. Adults and kids alike also can enjoy two-story ice slides, an enchanting Parade of Toys, and larger-than-life ornaments. The 9 degrees attraction brings back The Frostbite Factory for its third year, allowing visitors to learn how the attraction is made through colorful sculptures, as well as to see an artisan carve live using chainsaws, ice picks. Pricing, advance purchase of tickets and hours can be found at www.ChristmasOnThePotomac.com.
In addition to ICE!, Gaylord National offers a variety of other holiday attractions, dining events and more during its Christmas on the Potomac celebration.
New this year, guests can dine with their favorite Peanuts characters at Breakfast with Charlie Brown and Friendsholiday meal. This one-of-a-kind, interactive character breakfast includes a delicious breakfast with Peanuts-themed dishes and tableside visits from Peanuts characters. During the meal, guests can pose for a photo with Charlie Brown and the Gang as a keepsake from the experience (extra fee).
Guests also can enjoy the return of The Elf on the Shelf®Scavenger Hunt. By finding all the scout elves hiding in the resort and solving the puzzles in the scavenger hunt booklet, families will reveal the elves’ names so they can get their Christmas magic. Guests who help the scout elves will receive a special prize.
New for 2016,Gaylord National Resort has an exclusive Build-A-Bear Workshop experience that lets guests build their very own furry winter friend—a cuddly, cute polar bear plush, designed for Gaylord Hotels, which can be personalized with cozy winter clothing and accessories.
Additional holiday entertainment includes nightly holiday fountain shows with lasers and indoor snowfall, photos with Santa, an indoor train ride and attractions, gourmet holiday food and beverage offerings including a new Christmas Cookies Around the World class, winter spa treatments, gingerbread decorating and more.
Overnight packages are available that include unlimited priority entry to ICE! priced from $199; and a Christmas on the Potomac Package, which includes one night room accommodations, tickets to ICE! with unlimited, priority entry, $100 resort credit per night for hotel dining and Relâche Spa services; and souvenir ICE! photo, priced from $259.
Celebrate with the DuPonts in Wilmington DE and the Brandywine
One of my most memorable Christmases was spent in Wilmington, Delaware, nearby historic Newcastle and the whole Brandywine Region. There are scores of holiday attractions and activities – the DuPont Mansion all decorated, Longworth Gardens, famous for its holiday decorations and enchanting Dancing Fountains (open even on Christmas Day). Staying at the historic Hotel DuPont, makes it all the more special.
Yuletide at Winterthur (Nov 19, 2016 – Jan 8, 2017): Be dazzled by Henry du Pont’s 175-room home, decorated in holiday style. Tour the house and enchanting gardens (Winterthur.org).
Winterthur Galleries (thru Jan 8, 2017): The featured exhibit, “The Artists of Currier & Ives” lets you discover the extraordinary art of Fanny Palmer and Arthur Tait, two of the most prolific artists of Currier & Ives. Winterthur presents an unparalleled collection of nearly 90,000 objects of decorative and fine arts made or used in America from 1630 to 1860 (winterthur.org).
A Longwood Christmas (Nov 24, 2016 – Jan 8, 2017): Wander through half a million twinkling lights, thousands of poinsettias and magnificent Christmas trees. Listen as carolers share the sounds of the season. (Buy before you arrive; timed admission tickets required and are limited. 1001 Longwood Road,Kennett Square, PA 19348, longwoodgardens.org)
A Brandywine Christmas 2016 (Fri, Nov 25, 2016 – Sun, Jan 8, 2017) The museum celebrates the season with fabulous holiday displays including an extensive O-gauge model railroad, antique dolls from the collection of Ann Wyeth McCoy and thousands of whimsical “critter” ornaments on holiday trees.
Holidays at Hagley (Fri, Nov 25, 2016 – Sat, Jan 21, 2017): Lace decorations add to the ambiance of Hagley’s annual holiday exhibition. The theme this year at Eleutherian Mills residence is “A Feminine Touch.” Well-loved displays returning include the elaborate Twelfth Night celebration in the dining room and the Victorian library’s Christmas for children with its table-top tree surrounded by toys and games. (200 Hagley Creek Road, Wilmington, DE 19807, 302-658-2400, www.hagley.org)
Herr’s Lights Up the Holiday Season (Nov 24, 2016-Jan 1, 2017): Ring in the holiday season with Herr’s celebrated annual holiday lights display. A family favorite, the free driving tour incorporates more than 400,000 sparkling lights. Classic family favorites include oversized falling snowflakes, delightfully hung Christmas balls, a nativity scene and the famous 12-foot wreath and giant bow adorning the snack factory warehouse. (271 Old Baltimore Pike, Nottingham, PA 19362, 800-284-7488, www.herrs.com)
Brandywine River Museum of Art Presents: Rural Modern (thru Jan 22, 2017): Rural Modern explores the adaptation of modernist styles to subject matter associated with the American countryside (www.brandywine.org/museum)
Christmas Tours in Odessa and Old New Castle (December): In Old New Castle, the annual “Spirit of Christmas & A Dickens Experience” events feature carolers, street vendors and actors recreating street scenes straight out of “A Christmas Carol,” as private homes and historic sites open their decorated doors to sightseers. “Christmas in Odessa” features private house tours, craft sales, holiday concerts and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. (See details at www.visitwilmingtonde.com/events/holiday.)
Gift of Travel
Can’t get away for the holidays? Gifting a future trip is a dream come true for many on your list. Consider a spa getaway (spafinders.com), an adventure tour (see moralcompasstravel.info for ideas), a fantasy camp (baseball, Rock n Roll, Broadway), Outward Bound adventure, a chance to join a research expedition (Earthwatch), a river cruise, a cycling trip (see biketours.com). Many hotels and resorts have gift card and gift certificate programs that you pay for a certain dollar denomination that your recipient can use to pay for meals or activities; cruiselines (like Norwegian Cruises) make it easy to purchase gift cards in customizable denominations ($25 to $1000) that can be used for onboard experiences or even shore excursions. If you know of someone who is planning a trip, you can gift a sightseeing tour or some special experience.
At this time of year, keep in mind that many travel entities (Vail Resorts, hotel companies, cruiselines, tour operators) run Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials.
For the 2016/17 season, Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) guests will find new dining options, new chairlifts and new terrain enhancements, expanded air service, as well as other improvements that elevate the premier skiing and snowboarding as well as the apres experience at CSCUSA resorts.
Many of the resorts can be experienced as part of Ski Pass programs (which typically pay for themselves in about five days), such as the M.A.X. Pass which, in addition to a full complement of Northeastern resorts features five CSCUSA members (and the five-days at each can be an added on for $299 to a local unlimited season pass): Copper Mountain, Winter Park, Steamboat, Crested Butte and Eldora, which gives visitors 5 days at each resort and The Rocky Mountain Super Pass that gives six days each at Steamboat, Crested Butte, Copper Mountain, Winter Park and Eldora.
Here’s a summary of the many upgrades, improvements and what makes CSCUSA resorts special that guests will enjoy during the 2016/17 ski season:
Copper Mountain is introducing an all-access Copper Pass that provides unlimited visits to the Woodward Barn, a unique indoor training facility where you can learn and practice freestyle techniques in a safe environment (for example, you go down an artificial slope into a pool of plastic balls). It’s just one of the reasons why Copper is such a special place for teens, particularly.
Copper offers many distinctive features: a noon groom, where a trail is kept pristine until the afternoon; free snowcat rides up to Tucker Mountain for a backcountry-type advanced experience on weekends (first come, first-served, but you can take as many rides as you like); free snowshoe tours (fantastic), One of the most convenient major Rocky Mountain ski resorts to reach from Denver International Airport, it’s just 75 miles and reached by a host of shuttles (about $40-60), and there’s no need for a car once you arrive at the resort, which is actually three pedestrian villages and three mountains (a naturally divided terrain, progressing in difficulty from the easiest terrain to the more difficult as you move east), linked by free, shuttle buses (frequent service).
Check the website for value packages, but one this year is “1-2 Free” (book 2 nights of lodging, and the third is free); also third day of rentals are free; third day of Youth or Group lessons are free. Also: free 1/2 day lift ticket to be used on day of arrival or departure per Adult Two Day Secret Pass purchased; kids 12 & younger ski FREE (Adult 2 day ticket required); -FREE Secret! Pass upgrade – early access / skip lines. Tubing: Purchase two or more sessions and save 33%.
And for those looking for luxury accommodations: White River Luxury Rentals will allow guests to book units through the White River Luxury Rentals website and coppercolorado.com.
What’s special about Winter Park is that this is a world-class resort with fantastic skiing and non-skiing activities, a terrific base village, skating rink, and all the amenities, yet it is owned by the city of Denver (managed by Intrawest). And this year, The Winter Park Express ski train returns, restoring passenger rail service from Denver’s Union Station to the slopes of Winter Park (weekends and holiday Mondays beginning Saturday, January 7 through Sunday, March 26, leaving Denver 7 am), the only service of its kind in the United States. The train leaves Denver at 7 am, arriving at the slopes at 8:30; and you can buy a one-way ticket so you can overnight and return at 4:30 pm, to arrive back in Denver at 6 pm ($39/one way, kids half-price).
This is phenomenal for business travelers and visitors to Denver who want to extend their stay with a ski holiday; out-of-towners can use the light rail (Light rail $8) from Denver International Airport and overnight (and acclimate to altitude) in Denver; or, take a shuttle directly from DIA and the ski train back to Denver.
There are four new state-of-the-art snowcats that can be used year-round to trim trees and bushes in the summer that have a tendency to peek through the snow in the winter. At peak output the resort will be able to groom almost 1,000 acres, which is a lot of corduroy. This year, Winter Park is participating in the M.A.X. Pass program (www.themaxpass.com) as well as The Rocky Mountain Super Pass. (www.winterparkresort.com)
One of the special experiences at Steamboat, which claims more Olympians than any other resort, is the opportunity to take free lessons with one of the most famous American Olympians, Billy Kidd, the first American to win an Olympic medal; now in his 70s, he teaches intermediate and advanced skiers for free); another famous Olympian, also Nelson Carmichael, who medaled in moguls, teaches a free clinic in moguls (advanced). “Sometimes there are five in the group, sometimes 50.” More free: free guided snowshoeing (you pay for rentals), and free guided ski tours.
Famous for its Rocky Mountain cowboy feel, Steamboat is very family-focused – it was one of the first to offer kids ski free program (kids still ski free with adult for five days and rent free if adult rents), opens the season with a new high speed detachable quad (replaced old lift) which gets skiers up the mountain in less than half the time. What is more, this is the third season that Steamboat offers night skiing (Thursday to Monday, 5-8 pm, in spring, 5:30-8:30 pm’ 1000 vertical feet, beginner to advanced).
Steamboat’s new mountain coaster will operate year-round in the vicinity of Christie Peak Express lift. The mountain coaster will allow guests to ride a gravity driven sled up the mountain and then slide down the rails while controlling the sled.
For 2016/17 Steamboat is replacing its Elkhead fixed-grip quad with a Dopplemayr high-speed detachable quad, cutting ride times by more than half. Safety bars will also be added to the new lift. The increased speed and capacity of the new Elkhead lift is expected to substantially improve the guest experience in the popular Sunshine and Priest Creek areas of the mountain, especially at lunchtime and end-of-day egress. Skiers will also benefit from improvements to snowmaking include a new Leitwolf snowcat and an upgrade to the pumphouse to increase water capacity for snowmaking.
You can fly directly into Hayden Airport (30 minutes from the ski resort) from Newark and (new this year) from San Diego, and ski free that day with a boarding pass, just show your boarding pass at the ticket office. If you’re arriving on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you can ski free Thursday night. With an evening departure, Alaska Airlines passengers can ski for free that day before the flight (minimum two-day lift ticket).
Steamboat’s winter air program continues to grow with the addition of nonstop flights from San Diego International Airport (SAN) to Steamboat/Hayden Airport (HDN) on Alaska Airlines for the 2016/17 ski and snowboard season. The twice-weekly flight will operate Wednesdays and Saturdays from Dec. 17 to March 25 on a 76-seat E175 jet, operated by SkyWest Airlines. The 2016/17 air program increases nonstop markets served to 12 major cities in the fourth consecutive year of nonstop flight growth.
In addition to the new San Diego flight, the winter air program will provide larger aircraft flying into Steamboat/Hayden Airport and a focus on expanding service during popular travel periods. Alaska Airlines guests will enjoy nonstop flights on an E175 aircraft, which offers more capacity and amenities, including a first class cabin and Preferred Plus seating with extra leg room. United Airlines also will fly bigger jets this winter, including an upgrade to a 737-800 for nonstop Chicago Saturday flights that will increase seats from 70 to 166. Capacity on United flights from Newark will increase from 150 to 166 seats, and the Washington-Dulles flight will go from 128 to 150 seats. More nonstop access also will be available for guests flying from Dallas during the holidays with American Airlines adding 14 days of flights in addition to regularly scheduled daily service during that time.
Steamboat’s air program now provides nonstop access from 12 major airports on Alaska, American, Delta and United Airlines as well as convenient connections from more than 300 airports nationwide and worldwide, making Steamboat one of the most easily accessed resorts in the Rocky Mountains. Airfares and packages are currently available for purchase at Steamboat.com/flights or by calling Steamboat Central Reservations® at 1-800-922-2722.
A new flight will offer travelers a chance to experience Steamboat’s legendary Champagne Powder® with a direct flight from San Diego International Airport (SAN) to Steamboat/Hayden Airport (HDN). Alaska Airlines will fly routes twice a week from Dec. 17, 2016 to March 25, 2017.
Steamboat, which is owned by Intrawest (also owns Killington and Snowshoe and manages Winter Park) is part of the Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus.
Crested Butte has a split personality: the modern, self-contained ski resort on the mountain is a few miles away from a charming, historic coal mining town. It’s an authentic destination, without crowds, where festive community events are a priority, and genuine family adventure awaits. With wide open beginner and intermediate runs, great terrain parks and some of Colorado’s best in-bounds extreme terrain, the mountain has something for everyone.
An historic coal mining turned ski town; Crested Butte is a place that lives and breathes outdoor adventure where the only limits are your own. An authentic destination, where crowds don’t exist, zany, festive community events are a priority, and genuine family adventure awaits. With wide open beginner and intermediate runs, great terrain parks and some of Colorado’s best in-bounds extreme terrain, the mountain has something for everyone. Be sure to check out the town of Crested Butte: Colorado’s Last Great Ski Town, it’ll leave you wondering why you don’t call this place home.
A new program at the resort debuting this season, Women’s Tips on Tuesday’s, is a half-day women’s specific ski school led by Crested Butte’s top female pros that finishes with a glass of wine.
Receive up to a $300 airfare credit per person when you fly into the conveniently located Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) and stay at The Grand Lodge, Lodge at Mountaineer Square or most CBMR managed lodging properties. The offer is valid on nonstop flights from Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH) and Los Angeles (LAX) to the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport. (Restrictions apply. Subject to availability. Limited time offer.
Save up to $300 per airline ticket when traveling to Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) via Gunnison/Crested Butte airport (direct flights from Denver, Dulles, Houston, Los Angeles). Savings based upon originating city and travel dates; restrictions apply. More information at www.skicb.com/information/save-big-airfare (800-544-8448, snow report 970-349-2323, firstname.lastname@example.org, skicb.com.
Book Early and Save BIG: Combine airfare offers with CBMR’s Book Early Save Big Promotion: : Get 25% off lodging when you book 4 nights or more by October 15; get 20% off lodging when you book by November 15 (based on availability; no blackout dates). Discount lift tickets are available with lodging reservation.
Crested Butte is the sister resort to the popular Okemo Resort in Vermont and Sunapee in new Hampshire, and all three pare part of the M.A.X. Pass, which means that season pass holders can, for $299 add on, get five days each at the other resorts (along with unlimited skiing at the home resort), or with just the pass ($599), have 5 days at each of 32 resort (the pass pays for itself in 6 days or less). Also, pass holders get 20% off lodging.
Aspen will host the 2017 Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals March 15-17, 2017, marking the first time the event has been held in the U.S. in 20 years. The races will feature the best men’s and women’s alpine skiing athletes in the world competing in downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and nation’s team event.
Aspen is excited to be hosting the World Cup Men’s and Women’s Finals, March 15-17, 2017 – marking the first time the event has been held in the U.S. in 20 years. The races will feature the best men’s and women’s alpine skiing athletes in the world competing in downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and nation’s team event.
Visitors will be able to watch the events for free on the hill, but there is still plenty of skiing – Aspen-Snowmass is really four ski areas, each with a very distinct personality and ambiance: Aspen is a historic mining town with a hip vibe, the mountain itself is geared for intermediates and advanced; Snowmass is a complete, self-contained full-service ski resort with a full complement of ski terrain (a new lift was added to Gwyn’s High Alpine last year), lodgings styles, restaurants (Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant capacity is being increased from 350 to 800, and a new bar has a large wood-burning fire and big-screen televisions); Buttermilk is a great learning mountain; and Aspen Highlands (relatively secluded and challenging). (www.aspensnowmass.com)
Lodging Deal: Aspen’s The Little Nell offers a “Ski Free in Aspen” package, which includes two complimentary ski passes to four incredible mountains – Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass – for each day you stay at The Little Nell, staying a minimum of three nights. Ski passes do not include guest arrival and departure days (as most prefer to acclimate to the altitude upon arrival and soak up town on departure). (Based on availability. black out dates. Not combinable with other offers (www.thelittlenell.com/offers).
Arapahoe Basin, a small (by Colorado standards), unpretentious, privately owned mountain, is just next door to Keystone, one of the Vail Resorts, and provides a totally different experience which you can enjoy either on its own (though Arapahoe Basin doesn’t have its own lodging), or free with your Keystone lift ticket or VailResorts EpicPass (a free shuttle between Keystone and A-Basin is provided by the county November through March).
To celebrate A-Basin’s 70th Anniversary, the resort has made significant investments into improving the base area including renovating buildings, improving walkways and ramps, upgrading skier services, expanding Arapahoe Sports and providing better outdoor seating and viewing areas for the main stage.
This is a “confidence building” mountain offering amazing extreme terrain, and some groomed intermediate terrain but is mainly for more accomplished skiers. The views, Adrienne Saia Isaac, Marketing & Communications Manager, tells me, are “breathtaking, like no place else in Colorado.” This year, Dream, the Toronto-based real estate development company that owns the mountain, is investing $4 million in upgrades including an expansion of its intermediate terrain and glade skiing (most of the mountain is above the tree line), kids programs and restaurant.
“We’re turning 70 but keeping up with the times. We offer a different experience from resort – friendlier, more inclusive for families.”
A-Basin has recently updated all of its webcams, installing new ones last season in the base area and facing the Pali terrain and invested in a partnership with Prism for the Divide Cam, situated at the summit. (www.arapahoebasin.com)
The beloved Telluride Mountain Village Gondola system, which links the mountain village with the historic town, is celebrating its 20th anniversary in December. A celebration with a series of events and a festive gala will take place during the anniversary month while a number of events will take place to celebrate the Gondola and its contribution to the region throughout the season.
Telluride’s newest restaurant, Altezza at the Peaks, offers incredible views. Altezza, which means “height” in Italian, offers an Italian-inspired menu, with a variety of main courses such as traditional pastas and Colorado-inspired dishes. To broaden the overall resort experience, Telluride is adding a number of ongoing, free, family-friendly events to take place when the lifts stop turning for the day including a kids’ zone, a holiday prelude and movie series, other movie nights and live music in the mountain village.
New this year, Telluride, a charming historic town at the base of an incredible ski resort set in the San Juan Mountains, with dramatic peaks and stunning views, has joined The Mountain Collective – a collection of independent resorts, Aspen-Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Taos and Monarch – which gives two free days each at (additional days at 50% off the window ticket rate). Telluride is independently owned by Chuck Horning since 2004.
“We’re not a mega resort – part of the enchantment is that we are not close to other resorts or Denver International Airport. You feel like you have the place to yourself. The San Juan Mountains are spectacular – the Alps of Colorado. Stunning, dramatic,’ in your face’ mountains.”
The mountain offers all levels of abilities and terrain – 60 percent rated beginner and intermediate.
Last year, the resort took over the on-mountain luxury Peaks Resort & Spa, which boasts one of the largest spas in Colorado, at 42,000 sq. ft., indoor/outdoor pool.
This year, there is increased direct air access from the New York area (Newark), Saturday and Sunday on United Airlines, direct into Montrose Airport, 1 hr, 15 min away, as well as a nonstop United Flight on Saturdays from LaGuardia.
Skiers and riders will also have new transportation options with Allegiant Airlines adding a flight between Montrose/Telluride and Denver. The seasonal flights will operate twice weekly and fly nonstop between Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ) and DIA (DEN) with one-way fares as low as $44.
Telluride continues to invest in its infrastructure by enhancing the snowmaking capabilities in the Meadows area that caters to Ski School and beginner skiers and snowboarders. (www.tellurideskiresort.com)
New this season guests will notice the Columbine beginner area has been expanded and re-graded to improve the area where beginners learn to ski and snowboard. Also, the Snow Coaster Tubing Hill has been relocated, redesigned, and enhanced for a better user experience and a hazard tree mitigation project will vastly improve the health of the forest and enhance tree skiing at the resort.
A modernized rope tow, the new T-3 surface lift, will transport skiers on the backside of the mountain heading west to the Legends Lift 8 high-speed detachable-quad chairlift, which debuted last winter. The T-3 lift will also connect a new trail to the Legends Lift 8. The Legends Bypass, which opened last winter as an alternative way down to Lift 8, will be widened and re-graded.
Additionally, the snowmaking system has been enhanced with additional snow guns and upgraded nozzles, making snowmaking efforts more productive and efficient allowing for snowmaking as early as October.
Purgatory installed a new point-of-sale software that will make it easier for consumers who are making purchases throughout the resort, providing them with faster transactions at the Ticket Office, Snow Sports School, rentals, retail, and restaurants.
This fall, Purgatory is opening a new convenient retail, rental and repair services shop in Durango at 2615 Main Ave. The remodel will provide a new storefront for outdoor recreation apparel, gear, rentals, repair services, ticket/pass purchases, as well as the resort’s reservation center. (www.skipurg.com)
I feel I have discovered a new ski destination, even though Gore Mountain, in New York’s Adirondacks is one of the oldest in America, now in its 81st season. It doesn’t have the cachet of Whiteface Mountain, an hour further north in Lake Placid, which has been around since the 1930s and has hosted two Olympics. But for purists whose focus is the best skiing and riding, Gore Mountain is a spectacular discovery. I suspect that the regulars – some who are third generation Gore Mountaineers – want to keep Gore “their mountain.” That community now includes me, because Gore Mountain is a place I want to return to again and again. There is so much to explore here. And you feel such peace and clarity amid these Adirondack Mountains. In fact, skiing Gore was the closest I’ve had in the Northeast to feeling like I was skiing in the West – looking out from the peaks at a great expanse of pure wilderness; taking long cruisers down.
The surprises begin with how easy it is to reach Gore Mountain -up the New York Thruway, to the Northway, then about 20 miles off the highway, going through some quaint towns – about 4 1/2 hours from New York City, which is equivalent to coming into southern Vermont.
But this is the mighty Adirondacks, much more rugged than the Catskills Mountains, even more rugged than Vermont’s Green Mountains.
Gore, with 2537 vertical feet, offers the 6th greatest vertical in the East – a greater vertical drop than such famous mountains as Stowe (2360), Sunday River (2340), Okemo (2200), Jay Peak (2153), Mount Tremblant (2116), Loon, (2100), Mont-Sainte-Anne (2050), Mad River Glen (2037), Stratton Mountain (2003) and Mount Snow (1700).
Gore is also the biggest ski destination in New York State, with the most skiable acres (446 acres), 107 trails, 27 glades (Gore was one of the first eastern ski areas to develop gladed terrain)+, six freestyle areas. Six of its trails are longer than 1 1/2 miles, with the longest run 4.4 miles. In all, Gore offers 42 miles of skiing.
Gore is actually nine faces of four mountains, each with their own character: Gore Mountain is the highest, at 3600 ft., and biggest; Bear Mountain rises to 3200 ft., Burnt Ridge Mountain rises to 2735 ft. and Little Gore Mountain goes up to 1900.
Among them is an astonishing array of terrain, not to mention views and the fact that if conditions are not the best in one area, or are too crowded (not likely because of the way skiers are dispersed), you can simply move to another.
There is terrain to satisfy all abilities: 10% are classed as easier, or green; 50% are intermediate, or blue; and 40% are most difficult, or black trails.
It is more useful, though to divide Gore into its different areas (as the Gore people do): the Straight Brook Area on Gore Mountain is where you will find a variety of challenging terrain and glades; it is also where you will find The Rumor, rumored to be the steepest train in the East (unconfirmed). but there are also a couple of intermediate trails – like Cloud – which will connect to other blues and greens to come the whole way down. In all, this area has 10 trails, 4 glades and 54 acres accessed by a quad lift.
“The Dark Side” of Gore, known as the High Peaks Area so very popular with experts, is “Classic Adirondack” skiing. There are 12 trails, 2 glades on 30 acres, accessed by a double chair.
Bear Mountain offers the Northwoods Area, where I confess I spent most of my time most enjoyably, taking the long cruisers, accessed by the Northwoods Gondola and Gore’s newest lift, a high-speed detachable quad. You can take a green trail Sunway, 2.2 miles down to the base; my personal favorite was a blue trail, Twister, which was long, wide and forgiving, and beautiful, lined with trees and with lovely views of the Adirondacks. (The gondola is marvelous, and they cleverly post these interesting historical notes in each car.) This area offers 29 trails, 3 glades,, gondola, detachable quad, double and four surface lifts on 154 acres.
The North Side is off the beaten path, and offers an array of easy-going cruisers and gorgeous views of High Peaks. It’s considered the best bet for families (9 trails, 2 glades on 37 acres serviced by a quad).
Burnt Ridge area is one of Gore’s four peaks of development, which is noted for its geology and great views of North Creek and the Hudson River – six trails, four glades on 70 acres, serviced by “one of the most luxurious rides” on the mountain, a high-speed quad.
North Creek Ski Bowl is where they offer night skiing as well as tubing (8 trails, 5 glades, on 47 acres, serviced by two triples. This area has its own base lodge and parking lot, plus half pipe and terrain park. That means you can drive up in the day, arrive in the late afternoon, and purchase a night-skiing ticket; or if you purchase a multi-day ticket, you purchase an add-on for night skiing (3-9 pm). Night skiing is offered Friday, Saturday and Sundays, and daily during holidays, until 9 pm.
All of this is accessed by 15 lifts, including a wonderful, high-speed eight-passenger gondola, four quads (the newest is a high-speed detachable quad with comfortable cushions, which replaced the oldest detachable quad in North America), plus three triples, two doubles, four surface lifts and a tubing tow.
Gore started off as a destination ski area – after all, it wasn’t that easy to reach. But over time, especially as the New York Thruway and Northway made it so easy to reach from Albany, Saratoga Springs and Glen Falls and even Montreal, Gore became more of a day trip.
But that is changing again – and for good reason – as people are discovering what a special destination Gore is. There is so much skiing here. The Adirondack area is breathtaking, and significantly, relatively undeveloped. You also have some marvelous resorts and lodging – the grand, historic Sagamore Resort on Lake George is 45 minutes away (they offer a shuttle bus), and in North Creek, the Copperfield Inn is as intimate as an inn (only 31 rooms), but with all the services of a luxury hotel (the town offers a free shuttle bus to the mountain, less than 10 minutes away, every 20-30 minutes throughout the day, in season).
And even if Gore Mountain, itself, doesn’t offer all the bells-and-whistles of apres-ski and non-snow activities of a destination resort, the area, itself offers many delights – unique natural and heritage attractions – which demand a longer stay to properly explore and experience.
Indeed, that is Gore’s major charm.
A Proud Tradition
Gore Mountain is now in its 81st year – in fact one of the oldest commercial ski areas in North America.
“North Creek was a mining village – trains came up from New York City,” Michael Platt, Gore’s general manager, relates.
“In the 30s, 40s and 50s, enthusiasts would come by train – Saks Fifth Avenue at one point sponsored the train. They would ride up [in taxis and buses] and ski down. They would be brought up from the back side of Gore – where there is an old garnet mine (still).”
In fact, the Adirondack Branch of the railway survived the Great Depression due in part to the ski trains that ran from Schenectady and New York City in the 1930′s. Skiers flocked to North Creek and to the first downhill ski center in New York State, which was constructed at the Ski Bowl on the slopes of Gore Mountain, the North Creek Depot Museum notes.
Gore has steadily grown and improved over the years (it is allowed to add one trail a year) and you can trace the remarkable development of Gore Mountain resort over its 81 year history in posters at the food court in the base lodge.
Most recently, “Little Gore” (actually one of the first areas ever opened to skiers), was connected to the other three mountains, and today has its own base lodge, where they offer night skiing (Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and daily over holidays, 3-9 pm), a terrain park, half pipe, as well as tubing.
This year, Gore replaced the oldest high speed quad in North America with a new high-speed detachable quad, the Adirondack Express II. “A fat man’s chair,” Pratt jokes, offering the smoothest, most comfortable cushioned seats.
Also, Gore replaced a 1940s T-bar (in honor of which they named a trail the 46-er). Other improvements for this year include more snowmaking and four more glades.
The improvements have been spearheaded by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), which took over operation of Gore, one of three mountain destinations owned and operated by New York State, from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation in 1984. ORDA was formed around the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid took over management of Whiteface; it took over operations of Belleayre, Highmount, in the Catskill Mountains, just two years ago.
DEC is great at environmental conservation, but ORDA are “ski people” – they know how to operate a mountain and the improvements it brings to the mountains can be seen in the lift operations, snowmaking and lessons.
ORDA this year introduced a new learn-to-ski program, called Parallel from the Start – an updated version of a method used at Whiteface for 20 years – that uses specially designed skis by Head which are much shorter, even for adults. The idea is that you feel more confident, are able to turn easily and keep skis parallel from the start, and then transition to longer skis.
Parallel from the Start (for skiers) and Learn to Snowboard (for snowboarders) are specifically geared toward those ages 13+ looking to get into the sport. The three-day all-inclusive programs include three days of beginner lift tickets, lessons and rentals for only $169 – a deal that can’t be beat considering that you can use these three days anytime consecutively or not consecutively throughout the season. In addition, skiers and riders in the program receive a free Frequent Skier Card at the end of their third day that gives them discounts on lift tickets for the rest of the season.
Gore offers a race program with trails that are “homologated” for FIS and USSA standards for slalom, giant slalom and Super G.
Another key advantage of the three mountain destinations – each with their own special appeal and character – being owned and operated by ORDA and New York State, in practical terms, it means that season passes and even multi-day tickets can be used at any of the three mountain resorts – Whiteface is just an hour away.
“Heritage is powerful,” says Michael Pratt, Gore’s general manager.
“The attractiveness of Gore is that the people who come – sometimes three generations – consider it ‘their mountain’. Ownership is powerful. They find it their personal destination.”
And Gore is so big – there is no way to ski the entire area in a day – and with so many faces and variety, even if you’ve skied here your entire life, you couldn’t get bored. The serendipity of weather and snow conditions and all the other factors will change the experience each time you take a trail.
“We are returning to being a destination mountain,” he says. “Our bread and butter are the families.”
Gore has everything the most persnickety skier/rider would want and none of what they don’t need. There aren’t the bells and whistles – no posh restaurants on the mountain, no waffle shacks, or snowcat sightseeing.
The food court at the base lodge serves really excellent fresh and homemade food at very fair prices – Rosie’s egg salad (fabulous), freshly made soups (chicken vegetable, cream of vegetable, clam chowder, chili, $5.50 a bowl, $2.50 more for a bread bowl, excellent). Also, the Ski Bowl Lodge at the base of North Creek Ski Bowl, offers meals and snacks from sunup through twilight to accommodate the night skiing and tubing. And the Tannery Pub & Restaurant in the upper level of the Base Lodge offers drinks and live entertainment.
These are public lands – you are in the Adirondack State Park, after all, and the area is owned by New York State – which means there is no housing, no villas or townhomes on the side of the trails, and when you look out to the mountain peaks, all you see is an amazing expanse of magnificent wilderness. Gore offers 26 glades, all at elevations in the forest with hardwoods, spruce and birch (you think you are skiing the Rockies for the expansive views from one mountain to the next). Indeed, the Adirondacks offer that sort of rugged peaks – larger than the Catskills.
“This is America’s last wilderness,” Pratt says.
Gore taps the mighty Hudson River for its snowmaking water, and returns the favor when the snowmelt makes for some of the most fearsome river rafting in the country, rivaling even the Grand Canyon for its vertical drop.
The beauty of Gore is quite literally its authentic wilderness experience. Skiing and riding bring you up to these magnificent peaks.
And North Creek, the nearest village, is part of that special charm.
Five resorts partner with Gore Mountain and the website (goremountain.com) offers 86 properties for lodging. Packages include “Gore Holiday Your Way” (two nights stay, two or more days, from $179 pp); “January Jamboree (from $190pp); MLK Fireworks & Fun (3-nights lodging, 3-day lift tickets, from $263pp); weekend packages from $175 pp.
North Creek is a quiet country village with many delights, including the Hudson River Trading Company store, and delightful restaurant BarVino on Main Street, and a few miles away, on Rte 28, Basil & Wicks (see story).
If you want a high life, it’s easy to find it in Lake George, 30-45 minutes away. Indeed, the grand, historic Sagamore Resort at Bolton Landing on Lake George offers a shuttle bus to the mountain.
Gore Mountain is very much a four-season destination. Indeed, Gore offers mountain biking, hiking and gondola rides. There is also fly-fishing and the Hudson River offers some of the best river rafting in the country (see GoreMountain.com or GoreChamber.com for outfitters). There are also some spectacular geological formations, such as Ausable Chasm and Natural Stone Bridge & Caves, and all the delights of Lake George, even the Great Escape theme park.
More to do: Scenic train rides on the Saratoga & North Creek Railway to seven stops along the Hudson River in elevated dome cars (SNCRR.com, 877-726-7245); North Creek Depot Museum (NorthCreekDepotMuseum.org); Ski Bowl Gardens (which offers a new hike/bike trail system); Garnet Mine Tours (518-251-2706, GarnetMineTours.com); and Garnet Hill Lodge, a full-service hiking and mountain bike center offering guided history and nature hikes, 600 acres of trails (Garnet-Hill.com, 518-251-2444).
Getting here: NYS Thruway to Exit 24. Take I-87 (the Northway) to Exit 23 (Warrensburg). Follow Route 9 for 4 miles to Route 28 for 16 miles to 793 Peaceful Valley Road.
Gore Mountain, 793 Peaceful Valley Road, North Creek, NY 12853, Snow Phone 518-251-5026, 518-251-2411, www.goremountain.com.
Next: The Special Charm of Copperfield Inn and North Creek
The three of us stuff ourselves into the bobsled behind the driver and take hold of a strap along the inside; the “pusher” takes a running start, pushes us off and jumps in behind me, and we begin our descent.
Heart pounding, I feel the rush as our bobsled picks up speed, and we race around the sequence of curves. David calls out “Right,” then “Left” so we lean into the curve to pick up even more speed (he’s not the driver and can’t even see the track in front of him, but we get that extra thrill).
Even though our Bobsled Experience at the Lake Placid Olympic Sports Complex is only half of the length that is used for international competition (literally a half mile, versus one mile), we reach speeds of 55 mph, hitting the turns at 2Gs of force and come away with much greater appreciation for what the competitors do who reach speeds of 85 mph and register 5 Gs at the turns in the course of a mile.
We can’t see the track, we feel it. And we can’t hear it, but we know that there is a track announcer announcing our progress as we whip around one turn and another – the turns have names and reputations – all giving us that extra facet of our Olympic experience.
We reach bottom in 47 seconds according to the scoreboard.
This is just one of the many extraordinary experiences of winter in Lake Placid, which has had the distinction of hosting two winter Olympics – 1932 and 1980 (most famous for the “Miracle on Ice” USA hockey defeat of the Soviet Union).
Few places have such a storied tradition .
Later, at the Olympic Museum in the Olympic skating stadium on Main Street, I appreciate so much more seeing the equipment the early Olympians used, and learning the answer to the question that Eric raised as we arrived at Whiteface Mountain, why did the Olympics come here?
Lake Placid was one of America’s first resorts, and was America’s first winter resort, and as the host of only the third winter Olympics, it developed many facilities – like the bobsled track – that were firsts for North America.
There is no other place in the Northeast to do bobsled, no other place to see a World Cup or international style competition like bobsled, luge, or ski jumping; and because Lake Placid continues to be a major training facility for top athletes, you can watch training exercises.
Olympics are part of the spirit that imbues the community here – kids who grow up here are very likely to pursue some sort of sport.
In fact, Lake Placid is the only community in United States that has sent an athlete to every winter Olympics since the first one in 1924. The very first Olympic medal of the very first winter Olympics in Chamonix was won by a Lake Placid speed skater Charles Jewtraw, for the 500-meter speed skate (which we get to see later at the Olympics Museum on Main Street).
But the thrill is not just that you might see the athletes in training, but that you can ski, cross-country ski, skate, and do such things as bobsled, luge and skeleton, even biathalon on the same Olympic and international competition tracks. This experience gives you a context and an appreciation when you see competitions.
You also appreciate Lake Placid as a destination, with a special allure that brought the earliest visitors.
Today, it is particularly distinctive because it draws so many international visitors – Canadians, to be sure, considering its proximity to our northern neighbor, but also many Europeans who feel quite at home in a village with a Bavarian feel, and the spiking mountain peaks of Whiteface and the Adirondacks, and people from India and other locales around the globe. No doubt drawn by Lake Placid’s Olympic fame and its mystique, their very presence perpetuates the Olympic ideal of globalism.
This is all the more remarkable because of Lake Placid, itself – a tiny, dare I say modest, and unpretentious village. where development has been limited by virtue of being contained within the state’s Adirondack Preserve, so there is a quaint quality, a tradition and heritage that adds so much to the experience.
And since there are no slopeside lodgings at Whiteface, you come to Lake Placid, and ski Whiteface. This means that Lake Placid is a true destination, offering such variety and interest that skiing or snowboarding is just one of the many pleasures and experiences.
Many of the attractions in the area are oriented around the Olympics. Largely because of its heritage, the Olympic feats that were achieved here will never be matched again. The very proximity of the Olympic sports venues to each other is unusual today: within a 10-mile radius, you have Whiteface, the Olympic Center, the ski jumps, the skating venues – and all offer very special experiences for visitors today.
We all get to be Olympian, or at least have a taste of what it is to compete at that level.
It is especially exciting to know this isn’t a tourist track, but the real thing.
That’s what you realize at the Bobsled Experience, which is part of the Olympic Sports Complex.
The track we are on is used for international competition, such as the February 2000 Winter Goodwill Games as well as by the world’s best athletes for training.
“It is regarded as one of the best – not the fastest, but is demanding and technically challenging. You have to be on your game,” says Jon Lundin of the Olympic Regional Development Authority that manages the Olympic venues including Whiteface Mountain.
The upstairs lounge where we waited for our turn and where non-Bobsled guests can watch video of their loved one coming down the track or just watch the event unfold – has a fascinating exhibit about the track and the Olympic bobsled and luge, with some sleds and wonderful historic photos.
This was the first bobsled run constructed in the United States, in advance of the 1932 Olympics. It cost $135,000 to build the track (a small fortune for the tiny village of Lake Placid); and construction began 1930, when the country had already plunged into the Great Depression. The curves of the 1 1/2 mile earthen track, we learn, became world famous: “Whiteface, Shady, Little S, and Zig Zag were respected and feared curves throughout the world.” Hometown heroes Curtis and Herbert Stevens won gold in the two-man bobsled (they were the only team to heat their runners between runs), while the four-man gold-medal team included Billy Fiske and Eddie Eagan, a gold medalist in boxing, who was “along for ride,” who became one of only a few athletes to win gold in both summer and winter Olympics.
The upper half-mile of the track was incredibly dangerous; as a result, the Whiteface, hairpin curve, was only used for the 1932 Olympics.
We realize that like Eddie Eagan, we are “along for the ride” – essentially ballast for the sled, but thrilled nonetheless. You can pack your group as many as four into a sled with the professional driver and pusher. They do about 300-400 runs a day, if you can believe it.
You can also do Skeleton and Luge at select times.
The Skeleton Experience is where you individually ride what looks like your childhood sled, and lying on your stomach, rocket down the ice chute, reaching speeds of up to 40 mph.
There are two kinds of Luge that you can experience: The Regular Athlete, which is offered only four times a year for the public, and the Rocket Luge, only offered Christmas Day using a modified sled but you start higher on track, covering three-quarters of a mile ($65).
We are told that Luge is often called the fastest sport on ice – a test of nerves you travel feet first solo down the track on a sled. There are only five Luge classic events offered during the year at Lake Placid – most uniquely, the Dec 31 New Year’s Eve Party (Riders need to be 13 years old; reservations required at 518-523-4436 or email@example.com).
Our Bobsled Experience is complete when we are handed a copy of the photo they took in front of the sled when we landed at the bottom, a Bobsled Experience pin, and a tee-shirt (all included!), and, after we fill out a survey for Chevy Suburban, the commercial sponsor (and when you get in the SUV for the ride up to the top, you do appreciate the car), we even get a backpack.
There is so much more for visitors to enjoy of the Olympic Experience.
Olympic Ski Jumps, Biathalon, Cross-Country
On the way to our Bobsled Experience from Whiteface Mountain, we emerge from the River Road (this backcountry “shortcut” from Whiteface to Mt. Van Hoevenberg, and get our first look at the imposing 90 and 120-meter Olympic Ski Jump Towers – intimidating even from where we are.
You can ride up a glass look-out elevator to the skydeck of the 120 meter tower (about 26 stories high) for the scenic view of the High Peaks. You approach the elevator via chairlift, which rides up the steep landing hill. Ski jumpers train at the facility year-round. There is access to the breathtaking outside start gate.
This is a year-round activity: Jumping on the 90 meter hill in summertime is possible thanks to a porcelain tile in-run that propels the skiers down the ramp. They land on a synthetic surface that looks like a thatched roof.
Also, there are weekend clinics for beginner ski jumpers of all ages through the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF). Call 518- 523-1900; (the elevator ride is included in The Olympic Passport,$32).
You can also visit the Freestyle Park where there are the aerial ski launching ramps (known as “kickers”) for freestyle skiing athletes to propel themselves as high as 60 feet in the air to complete rotation and twist maneuvers. In the winter, the snow-covered kickers sit atop a steep, snow-packed landing hill.
In the summer and fall, you can watch aerialists train and compete in the state-of- the-art park as they launch themselves off the ramps and land in a 750,000 gallon heated pool with an impact reducing aerating system. Adjacent to the pool, there is trampoline training. The combination of “tramps and ramps” finds athletes perfecting their tricks in the off-season. You can watch competition and training from surrounding bleachers. In July and August, they offer Wet ‘n Wild Wednesdays, where world-class aerial skiers perform for visitors. Events are scheduled throughout the year.
There is also snow tubing here at the Olympic Jumping Complex, day and some nights (open until 7 pm on Friday and Saturday; $9/hour) You get to catapult yourself down a 700 foot chute Olympic Jumping Complex
The Olympic Sports Complex also includes the Biathalon Center (the sport that combines cross-country skiing with riflery) – and sure enough, you can take part in that, as well. You get to take a freestyle skiing lesson and then test your marksmanship with a 22-caliber rifle and shoot at the same targets used during the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan (or just go onto the shooting range) (the Discovery Biathlon is $55 with lesson, trail pass, rental, biathlon; $36 for range and lesson; in summer, you can just shoot at the rifle range for $15; http://www.whiteface.com/activities/be-biathlete.)
But if you would like to have an Olympic experience, each year, there is a cross-country ski race on the Olympic trails at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, called the Loppett and Kort Loppett, http://www.whiteface.com/events/lake-placid-loppet. You can chose to ski the full 50k in the Loppett event, utilizing all of the trails from the 1980 Olympic Games, or race in the Kort Loppett, a 25k race.
Our Olympic experience began this day on Whiteface Mountain about nine miles outside of Lake Placid village, where we are staying at The Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, literally on Lake Placid (there is a free shuttle bus we could take that leaves from across the street, but we find it more convenient to take the car; parking is not difficult at all, but there is premium slopeside parking at $15/day).
There are many superlatives that attach to Whiteface Mountain: it has the greatest vertical drop, 3430 ft, East of the Rockies – but what distinguishes Whiteface more than anything is character and tradition.
You can ski and ride the trails of the 1980 Winter games: the Men’s Downhill, from Cloudspin to Broadway to Lower Valley; the Women’s, from Skyward to East Street to Lower Valley; the Men’s Giant Slalom course, Thruway onto Lower Valley and the Women’s, down Parkway onto Lower Valley, and the Slalom course on Mountain Run.
At Lower Valley, you see the race finish, the hut where the judges and announcers would have sat, and the race board.
One of the distinctive features that adds to the experience is the number of international visitors that come to Whiteface and Lake Placid- Lake Placid’s proximity to Canada is a natural draw but we also met any number of European visitors. No doubt drawn by Lake Placid’s Olympic fame and its mystique, their very presence perpetuates the Olympic ideal of globalism.
We breeze through the rental process – they have very fine Rossignol equipment – and are impressed by the services in the base lodge, and soon make our way to the Cloudsplitter Gondola that takes us up to Little Whiteface at 3676 feet. The trails from here are blacks and one blue, Excelsior, which gives a lovely view of the surrounding Adirondack peaks.
New this year is snowmaking on Hoyt’s High Trail. Hoyt’s High Trail has always relied on Mother Nature to cover its 1,400 feet of vertical. As a result, the 4,700 foot long expert trail, cut in 2008 and named in honor of Whiteface veteran ski patroller Jim Hoyt Sr., has only been open for a handful of days. That has changed now with the installation of snowmaking.
Intermediate and advanced skiers can start on the Gondola to Little Whiteface, at 3676 feet elevation, from which there is only one blue trail (Excelsior) which is not particularly difficult, and multiple black trails.
Ski down to the Summit Quad to get to the highest point that is served by lift, Top Station at 4386 (Whiteface summit is at 4867), from which there are blue and black trails down.
Because we visited so early in the season, the Lookout Mountain lift was not yet open, but I really wanted to do the Wilmington Trail, a blue that meanders 2.2 miles (the longest on the mountain).
The trails, like many of the older ski areas, tend to be narrow especially from the top, and Whiteface is known to get icy (best to ski as early as possible in the day). Whiteface offers a snow guarantee, whereby you can get a refund on your lift ticket within the first hour if conditions not great.
There aren’t any green trails from the summits (Excelsior is a relatively easy blue), but there is an entire learning area, Kids Kampus, that is separated from the main mountain area, and reached by a delightful sequence of greens from Facelift lift – a shuttle bus from the main base lodge brings kids to the Kids Kampus, where the learning programs are housed. Bear’s Den Nursery is for non-skiers 1-6; Play-n-Ski is for ages 4-6; there is a a new Burton Riglet Park for beginner riders 3-6; Junior Adventure skiing and riding for all ability levels for ages 7-12; and Teen Experience for 13-16 skiers and riders of all ability levels.
During our stay, I was happiest (I must confess) on a sequence of green trails accessed by FaceLift: Easy Street and Boreen, down to the base. On this day, it had the best snow and the best views (which help me zone into my skiing), and I could really just relax and enjoy my skiing.
In all, Whiteface offers 86 trails – over 22 miles of skiing and riding. It claims the greatest vertical drop in the east, at 3,430, from a base of 1220 to The Slides, at 4,650 (the highest lift goes to 4,386).
There are some beautiful eateries at midmountain: Boule’s, a bistro serving fine foods and crepes; and the Mid-Station Lodge, serving up traditional resort fare, which also has a magnificent view.
The base has a nice selection as well – Base Camp Market, Cloudspin Lounge, Black Bear Cafe and J Lohr Cafe and Wine Bar.
Other practical considerations: you can check your skis with unlimited access for $5 for 24 hours; and $4 for bin, or you can rent a locker (which can accommodate up to 3 sets) for $15 for a 24-hour period.
There is a premium slopeside parking lot for $15/day on weekends, holidays, $12 for midweek/nonholiday.
With all that the Lake Placid area offers, you need to build in extra time in your visit. The Whiteface lift tickets allow for such flexibility to take a day off to explore, 2 out of 3 days, 3 out of 4, 4 out of 5) – to have this extraordinary experience of getting a taste of what it is to be an Olympian.
Indeed, what makes Whiteface Mountain special is Lake Placid – the history, tradition. This is a real place, not a creation of a ski resort.
For information, www.whiteface.com, where you can prearrange trip, get tickets to special events, track snow conditions, see live webcam, book ski/stay packages.