In The Spotlight
Even though it might still feel like February as snow continues to fall on mountain resorts across the country, Northeast mountains are celebrating end-of season runs as they look ahead to summer activities and construction. Thanks to snowmakers and some great March snowfall, bases are still deep for those spring runs.
New York’s Whiteface reopens April 20-22 for their final weekend of skiing and riding. Gore will reopen on April 21-22, with pond skimming Sunday at 11:00. Bristol reopens the slopes this weekend for days 126 and 127 with $35 lift tickets.
The season is winding down, but not over just yet in Maine. Sugarloaf is still sitting on an average snowpack of 16-20 inches and planning to stay open daily until April 29. Sunday River will be spinning lifts on weekends only through the end of the month, leading up to the final day of the season April 29, complete with free lift tickets for everyone, an outdoor BBQ, and serious goggle tans.
In New Hampshire, Wildcat will be open daily (weather permitting) through April 22 and is shooting to ski and ride weekends into May.
For the ninth year in a row, Jay Peak will spin chairs into May, with seven-days-a-week operations through May 1. They hope to reopen for one last weekend May 5-6. The focus of spring operations will remain on the Stateside area, with all Tramside services closing April 17.
Thanks to Sugarbush's snowmaking team and Mother Nature's generous five feet of March snow, conditions are in great shape to finish out the season. They'll remain open daily at Lincoln Peak through April 22, then reopen for the following two weekends through Sunday, May 6 (including Cinco De Mayo and Ski and Tee Weekend).
At Vermont’s Killington, skiing and riding could go into June on the Superstar glacier. In order to fit in the $16 million in capital improvements planned for this summer, Killington has already begun plowing work roads and dismantling the Snowdon Quad. Ride the K-1 Express Gondola and Superstar Express Quad through April 22, and the Superstar Express daily through May 1. Beginning May 4, the Superstar Express Quad will turn Friday through Sunday until the snow is gone.
A late-night fire at the Warm Springs Day Lodge at Sun Valley has caused heavy damage to the 25-year-old base lodge, but no one was inside at the time of the blaze as the resort closed four days prior.
Firefighters from surrounding communities rushed to the structure after an 11:30 p.m. alarm at the main base lodge for Baldy Mountain. Flames were reported to be as high as 30 feet.
According to media reports, the damage appears most severe in the roof. Fire officials said the double-layered roof construction made it difficult for firefighters to ventilate the fire. On Friday morning, reports said the walls were still up but the roof was heavily burnt.
No information was available Friday as to the cause of the fire. Early estimates of the value of the damage were set above $1 million – most of which was on the side of the building that faced the ski and snowboard runs of Sun Valley Resort. Resort officials have already said the lodge will be rebuilt.
The elegant lodge was built of logs, river rock and glass, and opened in 1992. It replaced the Northface Hut and became an iconic example of nouveau architecture at U.S. ski resorts. It was known for a potato bar and homemade soups.
Northern Vermont's Burke Mountain Resort might have been through some tumultuous times lately, but the thriving ski and riding, the new lift-served Burke Bike Park, and the opening of the 116-room Burke Hotel are victories for many in the Burke community who have worked hard to create a vibrant four-season resort at a mountain that is still recovering from April 2016 news that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged investor fraud at EB-5 projects at Jay Peak and Burke.
With court settlements taken place and EB-5 obligations still to be met, Burke probably won’t see new owners for a while, but in the meantime, the resilient resort community is looking forward to a bright future.
“As a resort we’re incredibly positioned to both re-create and enhance our winter operations through the things we are doing - the capital improvements, the culture change that we’re trying to bring forth here,” Burke’s Director of Resort Services Kevin Mack told SnoCountry.com.
“Having a hotel that was procured, if you will, through some interesting means, we’re excited about what it can do for this resort and the longevity and sustainability of the resort and the things that we can do with it and the people we can attract,” Mack told us.
The area offers a true outdoor playground, whether you’re into Nordic skiing at the Dashney Center or fat tire biking at Kingdom Trails. The downhill skiing and riding has amazing terrain and some of the best views in the state, overlooking Willoughby Gap. Summer brings upwards of 90,000 mountain bikers to enjoy the Kingdom Trails and Burke Bike Park, all accessible from the new Burke Hotel.
The community has a lot of practice in looking to the future after going through numerous owners in the last few decades. “There is certainly a resiliency here to know there is going to be another owner, at a certain point. The town has practice in understanding that Burke has gone through a lot of changes and has always seemed to come out of it. The next great test for us is that each owner has put a little something into Burke and made it a little better, but has not been able to fully make it what they wanted it to be.”
Since taking over as court-appointed receiver in April 2016, Michael Goldberg has provided $2 million in capital to make improvements to snowmaking and infrastructure, as well as opening the new hotel.
Mack continued, “Mike Goldberg understands that the Burke community is really central to this place and vice versa. We are part of the community. We are not stuck so high up on the hill that we are removed. We need them; they need us. Whoever comes in here next is going to need to see a place that is welcoming and that gets that we’re only going to make this work if we do this together.”
In addition to locals who have lived, skied and worked in the area for years, stakeholders such as Burke Mountain Academy and Kingdom Trails are optimistic that this special corner of Vermont has a bright future.
“Now the test for us is how to we make it better. For me, how do we continue to change the culture back to one in which there’s a lot more 'yes' being said than 'no'. If we can do that, the guests we have here we can hold on to and attract more guests,” Mack added.
Only one resort in North America spins its lifts in all four seasons. That’s Timberline Lodge Ski & Snowboard Area, hard on the slopes of Oregon’s Mount Hood and beneficiary of both high elevations and the largesse of the Northern Pacific storms.
Both the iconic lodge and a rope tow opened in 1938, and the nation’s longest chairlift (at that time) went in the next season. It’s one of four resorts on Mt. Hood.
Terrain. Like all volcanoes, Mt. Hood slopes at a consistent pitch – the angle of repose for lava rock. Thus, majority of trails rates blue or green; the black diamonds cluster around uppermost Palmer lift in the snowfields. Timberline Lodge sits at treeline, halfway up the hill. Many of the trails radiate down below the lodge, served by three of the five high-speed quads on the hill. Lower mountain blue cruisers, like Uncle John’s Band, Mustang Sally and thigh-burnin’ Kruser, are favorites. Green trails wind around on lower mountain, and a few expert shorties keep things interesting. Terrain parks abound off Stormin’ Norman lift. Up above, the trees fall away, and it’s classic alpine terrain. Famed Magic Mile chair gets you onto the snowfields, and the Palmer chair drops off at high point of 8,500 feet. Want to test your legs? With right conditions, you can ski or ride 3.5 miles from top to bottom. There’s more night skiing here than most, off Pucci and Molly’s chairs. By Memorial Day, the lower mountain is closed. But Magic Mile and Palmer typically run daily to Labor Day, then on weekends through the fall.
Play. Non-skiing distractions are limited. Snow cats run to top of Palmer Snowfield, both in day and on full-moon nights. Snowshoeing takes off from the lodge, which has game room and fitness center, as well as hot tub, heated pool and sauna.
Eat/Drink. One restaurant on the mountain, the Philox Point Cabin near base of Pucci lift, serves tacos, beer and hot drinks. Good selection at the lodge and base area. Hearty mountain fare at café and full bar in Wy’East Day Lodge. Timberline Lodge has several bars with food, and high-end Cascade Dining Room, with elite seafoods. More down the road in town of Government Camp.
Stay. The Timberline Lodge is, of course, the go-to accommodations. Classic ski lodge timber décor, well-appointed rooms and stunning views add up to a high-ground experience. Groups can rent a night at Silcox Hut, a European-style hut on the mountain at base of Palmer Snowfields. Six miles away, Government Camp has a half-dozen condos.
Travel. Portland and its airport are an hour’s drive away. Ample parking by the lodge and base area. A shuttle runs from suburban Sandy to the hill, and another circulates between Government Camp on Hwy. 26 and the mountain. Aspen Limo Tours runs everything from stretch limo to 40-seat bus in and around the area.
Deals. Stay-and-ski packages abound out of Timberline Lodge – everything from midweek to holiday to late-season deals. Condos at Government Camp include lift tickets. Spring pass keeps you skiing and riding through May, and Mt. Hood Fusion Pass includes Mt. Hood SkiBowl. Various season pass options for parents, beginners and occasional visitors. As a member of the Powder Alliance, get three free days Sunday-Friday (restrictions apply) with an anytime season pass to any other Powder Alliance Resort.