In The Spotlight
The days have lengthened, the sun is higher in the sky and the wildflowers are out, as Utah’s winter resorts put on their summer best and welcome the offseason.
All manner of entertainment awaits locals and visitors to Utah’s high country – from mountain biking to thrill rides to just plain settin’ and inhaling the cool mountain air. Foodies can get their jones satisfied at dozens of culinary events – like mountaintop Sunday farm-to-table meals at Powder Mountain -- while music junkies will have to hustle to make it through a crowded calendar of outdoor concerts and festivals, including Sundance’s new concert series.
Many of Utah’s 14 ski and snowboard resorts reopen a lift or two for scenic rides and both hiking and biking access. They also focus on keeping the kids occupied with adventure parks, thrill rides and challenges like the new WreckTangle obstacle course at Snowbird.
Up the canyon at Alta, alpine lovers finally can get into wildflower-haven Albion Basin via a chairlift. The Little Cottonwood Canyon mountain will run the Albion lift on weekends and holidays to not only give visitors a taste of above-treeline terrain but also to protect that terrain from too much foot and vehicle travel. And, the Albion Grill will be open seven days a week to slake appetites and thirsts.
Over the ridge, Brighton doesn’t run its lifts in the summer but improved access has put Brighton Lakes within hikers’ reach. Start out at the base of the mountain and choose from more than a dozen routes into four high alpine lakes. Later in the summer, there’s no better place to see wildflowers.
Up north, Utah’s newest ski and snowboard mountain Cherry Peak touts its “redneck water slide” aka Little Bear Bottoms Slide, which has no website or publicity and is merely a backyard sheet laid down a steep slope. On top of that, you have to GPS “5000 S, Hwy 89-91” to find the general location.
Deer Valley has upped its mountain biking game this summer, with a major trail overhaul and a mountain biking school that teaches basic techniques and conducts tours around the mountain.
Next door at Park City Mountain, longer is better with a 3,000-foot alpine slide – reputed to be the longest in U.S. – and 4,000-foot mountain coaster curls down the mountain in the active base area.
A biking trail overhaul also has occurred at Brian Head, which is building a reputation for top-class trail and competitions. Access is both via chairlift and daily shuttle service that begins at the base of the southern Utah mountain.
Make it a multisport adventure at Mammoth. Top-to-bottom shredding continues until least June 17, then add in over 80 miles of single track biking and California's highest golf course to round out a perfect June day.
The Palmer lift is now open at four-season Timberline Lodge in Oregon with glacier skiing to be had into September.
In New Zealand, Mt Hutt is home of the South Island’s highest chair lift and largest lift accessible terrain. Kids 10 and under ski free.
If you’ve got the Mountain Collective, get your summer’s worth at Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. Adventure capital Queenstown packs a punch and is hot on the travel bucket list. Coronet Peak offers spectacular views, terrain and back bowls. Across the valley, The Remarkables is renowned for its friendly, relaxed atmosphere and is loved by families, freestylers, extreme skiers and boarders alike.
There’s still plenty of time to plan a trip Down Under to Thredbo, also part of the Mountain Collective. Thredbo boasts Australia’s highest lifted point (2037m), almost double the vertical fall line of any other Australian resort (672m) and the country’s longest runs. Add in a bustling European-styled village and year-round access for back-country enthusiasts, mountain bikers and outdoor adventurers.
Nestled in the Andes and two hours from Santiago, Chile, Ski Portillo offers an all–inclusive resort with a maximum of 450 guests a week, eliminating crowds and lift lines. Portillo is famed for its steeps with easily accessed backcountry terrain.
Chile’s Valle Nevado gets you 7,000 acres of terrain, 90 minutes from Santiago and 9,800 feet high in the Andes Mountains. Find uncrowded slopes and a friendly ambiance, and heli-skiing with runs of up to 5,000 vertical feet. All-inclusive hotel packages and independent condos give you a complete experience.
Nestled in the heart of the Argentinian Andes,1,200 km from Buenos Aires, Las Lenas offers world-class cuisine and first class accommodations with snow operations June through September.
Colorado ski and snowboard resorts took a short break after winter, but they quickly turned their attention to the burgeoning summer season – full of hikes and bikes and thrills of all kinds.
In the past decade, resorts have worked hard to get visitors to come up to altitude. Along with the basic hiking, mountain biking and scenic lifts have come a slew of ziplines, disc and mini golf courses, ropes courses and climbing walls, coasters and alpine slides. Some cluster activities like games, challenges and plain fun in “adventure parks.” Add in yoga, fly-fishing, nature walks and horseback riding, and every minute can be filled while vacationing in the cool mountain air.
Colorado mountains keep adding more to their portfolio of warm-weather diversions. This summer, among the latest attractions is paddle-boarding with yoga at Breckenridge. And, new mountain coasters go into service at Snowmass and Purgatory, which also adds mountain scooters to its offerings.
Golfers can tee it up at a number resorts, and those resorts near rivers hook up with river-running companies for rafting, kayaking and standup paddle-boarding.
SnoCountry.com went looking for some of the more off-beat, innovative choices for summer fun in the Colorado mountains. Here’s what we found:
Breckenridge brings on summer dog sledding. Hook up a golf cart to a team of sled dogs for a group ride through the forest. For the more adventurous, rent a scooter and a pair dogs for a wild ride around the valley.
Over at Keystone, the resort’s crews have saved some snow from the winter season for summer snow tubing. Take a ride up to the top of Dercum Mountain and re-enact winter tubing without the parkas, snow pants or woolen hats. A package deal includes lunch at the top of the mountain.
Head to the southwest corner of the state to Telluride and a host of summer variety. Tops is paragliding. Step out into space with an experienced guide off the top of the gondola for an hour’s flight for a eye-popping view of the ski trails and valley below.
Mountain biking abounds in Colorado, and Winter Park has one of the most extensive networks of trails, ramps, jumps and steeps in the state. All served by lifts, Trestle Park winds all over the mountain with easy, intermediate and difficult routes.
Although Monarch Mountain’s lift are idle for the summer, across U.S. 50 is the Monarch Crest Scenic Tramway – the oldest working tramway in Colorado. Ascend to 12,000 feet of elevation and stand atop the Continental Divide, with horizon-to-horizon views of peaks and vast forests. A web of hiking and biking trails spread out from there.
Vail Resorts launched another salvo in the battle to own the winter destination market and a larger slice of the ski marketplace with the purchase of Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort, Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire, Crested Butte in Colorado and Steven Pass in Washington Monday.
Vail Resorts, Inc. has entered into an agreement to purchase Triple Peaks, LLC, the parent company of Okemo Mountain Resort, Mount Sunapee Resort, and Crested Butte Mountain Resort. The Company will purchase Triple Peaks, LLC from the Mueller family for a purchase price of $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."
In a separate announcement this past March, Vail Resorts announced that the Epic Pass would be valid at Crested Butte, Sunapee and Okemo in a multi-year partnership. However, 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.