Many ski and snowboard resorts in the West rely upon a nearby town that is base for food, lodging and off-slope fun, so SnoCountry took a look at three well-known towns that act as hubs for the mountains that surround them.
The 2018/19 ski and snowboard season has officially arrived in Colorado with a number of ski resorts opening, taking advantage of the recent storms which dumped snow by the feet, not inches, on their slopes.
Here’s a sample road trip for those who have purchased an Epic Pass, have a week or two on the loose, and are ready to ski and ride across the West without having to shell out for a day ticket.
As a new season begins, skiers and snowboarders head to the hills, always looking for what’s new at their favorite resort – and what improvements they might find if they venture to other areas.
Here’s a look at a quintet of resorts in Colorado, Idaho and California that expect to drop the ropes in early November.
Summiting a 14,000-foot peak is a popular pastime in Colorado, since 56 of the 68 14ers in the continental U.S. lie within its borders. And a handful are close enough to cop in a single day.
Summer vacationers often seek out lakefront property to cool off, and a number of ski and snowboard resorts across the West are blessed with a lake within spittin’ distance.
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.
Snowy and still cold through April 20-21? Absolutely! This colder-than-average weather pattern for much of the East will stay through the weekend (21-22) with a gradual warm-up for the final week of April (24-27). That said, with cold air in place we’ll have a better chance at keeping and getting more snow.
Fresh powder can be found across much of the Northeast. (Stowe Mountain Resort)
The Northeast and Great Lakes regions are settled in a weather pattern that allows for more snowfall and cold temperatures. The West sees some snowfall return and possibly a pattern change.
Snowboarder gets the height he needs to win Dew Tour. (Dew Tour/Facebook)
For more than a decade, the Dew Tour has attracted the top freestyle skiers and riders from around the world. This year, it will also be an Olympic qualifying event.
Looking down the slope at Ponderosa Chalet with Glacier National Park in the background. (Snow Bear Chalets/Facebook)
Part of the fun of planning a winter getaway is finding the perfect spot to rest and relax after a day on the slopes. SnoCountry.com has picked some of our favorite hotels that offer more than your standard night’s stay.
Celebrations at Breck. (Breckenridge/Facebook)
As if to say auf wiedersehene to summer and willkommen to winter, Oktoberfest in the Western mountains is celebrated just as the seasons pivot away from fun-in-the-sun and toward the upcoming ski and snowboard season.
Smoke rises from Peak 2 fire. (9News/Twitter)
An intense but compact wildfire between the Colorado towns of Breckenridge and Frisco has forced fire officials to clear people out of the Peak 7 resort area.
The Vermont hills are alive with stunning views from a Trapp Family Lodge sleigh ride. (Trapp Family Lodge)
With all the snow piling up across the country, we may just have to use sleighs to get to the mountains. The classic winter experience is a must-do for a chance to enjoy another side of your favorite resort, many with perks like hot chocolate or dinner as part of the adventure.
More seats on chairs at Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail next season. (Breckenridge/Facebook)
Vail Resorts, which owns all three Colorado resorts, has plans to replace Keystone’s Montezuma Express, Breckenridge’s Falcon SuperChair on Peak 10 and Vail’s Northwoods Chair to increase capacity and streamline flow in key areas of the mountains.
Each project will be subject to U.S. Forest Service review, but resort officials are confident the new lifts will be up and running by the 2017-2018 season.
At Keystone, the Montezuma Express – installed in 1990 – serves the prime novice and intermediate terrain on the upper front side. The new lift will add two seats to become a six-pack to increase uphill capacity by 25 percent, the resort said.
Also at Keystone, Labonte’s Smokehouse BBQ at the base of North Peak will get a facelift over the summer, including more indoor seating to go with the fav “ski beach” outside.
Breckenridge’s Peak 10 has a large portion of the expert terrain on the mountain, and debuted in 1985-86 with the fixed-grip F Lift. A year later, a high-speed quad went in. The newest Falcon SuperChair will be a six-seat high-speed that will bolster uphill capacity and allow snowboarders and skiers more Peak 10 laps each day.
At Vail, the original Northwoods chair went in 1985 to open up intermediate and advanced terrain on Blue Sky Basin on the upper front side. Resort officials noted congestion on the lift, especially for skiers and riders heading over to the back bowls.
“The replacement of Northwoods will impact a key area of the mountain, especially at the end of the day, as guests are leaving Blue Sky Basin and making their way west,” said Vail’s Doug Lovell.
It's party time on the shores of Lake Tahoe at Heavenly Valley on New Year's Eve. (TahoeSouth/Facebook)
The annual celebration of the new year at a ski and snowboard resort signals that the season is in full swing – and looking forward to tons of snow in the coming months.
Mountain resorts traditionally feature torchlight parades, fireworks, festive food and hearty drink on the evening of Dec. 31. Many add twists to the holiday activities – for kids, VIPs and just regular folk.
Here’s a preview of some of what will be happening in the across the country as 2016 turns into 2017 up in the hills:
South Lake Tahoe shuts down Main Street for Heavenly Valley visitors to party with music, food and drink before famed Gondola Ball Drop (ala Times Square) to signal in new year.
Crystal Mountain lays out buffet and prix fixe dinners, separate parties for teens and adults, and torchlight ski and ride down the Cheers trail for 16 years or older.
Grand Targhee gets going early with glowstick parade for 5-14 year olds with basic turning and stopping skills. Adults parade at 5:45 p.m. with roadside flares (wear an old parka), and then fireworks.
Breckenridge starts out with a glowworm parade on the slopes for the kids, then an adult version later. Many hike up Boreas Pass for best view of nighttime fireworks.
Sunday River features evening ride up Chondola for fancy meal at mid-mountain Peak Lodge. Back at base, the music is nonstop until midnight.
Stowe goes all day on Dec. 31 with face-painting, handbell concert, champagne tasting and free s’more before torchlight parade and fireworks cap off the year.
Sugarbush honors a human’s best friend with annual Dog Parade in the afternoon at base of Lincoln Peak, followed by the usual evening festivities.
A pair of skiers punctuate the new season at Copper Mountain. (Copper Mountain/Facebook)
Just as doomsayers raised their voices, Mother Nature came to the rescue in the West and turned the conversation to, “When are you opening?”
For many resorts in the Rockies, Sierra and Cascades, the answer is a resounding “soon.” Yes, terrain will be quite limited – often a couple of runs in the beginner/intermediate areas – but many ski and snowboard areas put up cheap ticket deals to get people to the slopes as soon as possible.
Significant snowfall coursed across the northern tier of the Western mountains in the past week, dropping as much as a foot on Steamboat which opens this week. Most Colorado resorts that pushed back their traditional pre-Thanksgiving opening days have put a new date on the calendar. Colorado’s Keystone, Breckenridge, Winter Park and Copper Mountain all dropped the ropes this past week, after a week’s delay. Eldora is set drop the ropes this week.
Out west In SoCal, Mammoth Mountain has been open for a couple of weeks and, in the Sierra, both Boreal and Mount Rose began spinning lifts this past week while a slew of other Tahoe-area resorts plan to open for Thanksgiving.
Early snow has come fitfully to Utah, but Snowbasin plans to lead the pack with a Wednesday (Nov. 23) start, followed by Park City on Friday (Nov. 25). A bunch of Utah’s 15 resorts haven’t announced an opening yet.
Up in the Northwest, Mount Baker expects to win the race this season by kicking off the season on Nov. 23. Others have coverage, but await more.
OpenSnow forecasters see multiple storm systems rolling in off the Pacific in the next couple of weeks, bringing significant snowfall to the mountains and brightening the prospects for early-goers all across the West.
Grooming 'cats work hard to get Keystone open. (Keystone/Facebook)
Loveland's snow guns have been blasting in the last couple of weeks. (Loveland/Facebook)
UPDATED Wednesday, Nov. 9: Loveland Ski Area becomes the second ski and snowboard mountain in the Rockies as the resort is all prepped and ready for opening on Thursday (Nov. 10).
Hit high speeds on alpine coaster at base of Snowbird (Snowbird/Facebook)
Since the mid-1990s, summertime alpine coasters have sprung at winter resorts all over the country. The wind-in-your-face speeds, high-speed turns and mountain vistas mimic the sights and sounds what skiers and snowboarders feel during the snowy times.