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.
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’s mountain resorts roll out the fun carpet during the summer, especially for families with children. Base areas abound with entertainment for the younger set, while most resorts put kids on the mountain for outdoors activities, like mountain biking and tubing.
Resorts all over the West put gravity mountain biking on the top of the summer attractions. Those who crank up the lifts in the off-season put on bike racks and bring riders to great heights.
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.
Apres-ski singing was popular with folk tunes joining ski songs in 1950s and 1960s. (Dick Smith/State of NH)
Early ski trips were largely couple- and singles-oriented affairs, with 1930s’ snow trains popularizing the social connections and good times that became associated with the sport. Many joined ski trips just for the fun of the après-ski life — skiing was optional if looking for a mate.
A51 Terrain Park is one of the best. (Keystone/Facebook)
At Keystone, the motto is “It’s all here.” From renowned terrain park to wide groomers to high-alpine bowls, the Colorado resort does have the full package. Aimed clearly on the family vacation business, Keystone focuses on how to keep the kids engaged, the teens entertained and the parents challenged.
A keystone holiday getaway is a good bet. (Keystone)
The B-rolls of early snowfall photos have started, and the usual suspects have already dropped their ropes on a new season. So the next question is: Where to ski and snowboard during the holiday season?
Fourteeners loom over Keystone golfers (Keystone/Facebook)
The golf season at Colorado winter resorts may be truncated but, while they are open, the courses reflect the mountains amidst they sit.
Spring jumpin' at Sierra-at-Tahoe (Sierra-at-Tahoe/Facebook)
With plenty of snow still on the ground, a growing number of resorts across the West are going to keep the lifts turning longer than scheduled.
In New Mexico, Taos Ski Valley announced it will extend its season an extra week to Sunday, April 9 – although it will closed April 3 for it annual employee day. Three lifts will be running that extra week, but the beginner lifts will be turned off.
In Los Alamos, Pajarito Mountain officials decided to keep things going a week longer to March 26 – and then on weekends if conditions permit.
To the north, Purgatory will cease daily operations as scheduled on April 2, but will reopen on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through the end of the month.
Also at the southwest Colorado resort, there’s a new surface, “transfer” lift open now to eliminate a long, flat traverse for skiers and snowboarders to the Legends Express on the mountain’s backside. Lift 11 can be picked up at the bottom of Dirty Secret, Siegele Street and Bottom’s Chute and shuttled back to the high-speed quad.
“The new lift provides easier access from advanced and expert trails to the newest high-speed quad,” said Purgatory’s Ed Youmans.
There’ll be another week of skiing and riding at Sierra-at-Tahoe, which announced it will stay open until April 24 – also Customer Appreciation Day. The Tahoe-area mountain has seen more than 500 inches fall from the sky this season, a “season for the books,” is how GM John Rice characterized the season.
Skate with the stars at Sun Valley (Sun Valley/Facebook)
Downhill skiing and ice skating have been linked closely during the cold winter months, and a number of winter resorts around the country link with outdoor ice rinks.
Most stay open into the evenings, and typically charge a fee for a couple of hours of skating, offer skate rentals that are sometime free if you’re staying at the resort, and have food and drink nearby.
SnoCountry.com took a look around the country, and came up with some ice rinks of note for some skating enjoyment:
Squaw Valley. You have to take an 8-minute cable car ride to 8,200-foot High Camp to reach a 100x200 foot rink, with Olympic Museum and mind-blowing views of the Sierra and Lake Tahoe. Cost includes tram ride.
Sun Valley. Outdoor rink next to Sun Valley Lodge in main village, the 77-year-old sheet hosts popular Sun Valley Ice Shows. Individual or group lessons available, and world-class skaters often stop by for practice and autographs.
Keystone. Colorado resort has two skating venues: A five-acre lake in the heart of the resort’s village with Zambonis putting down new surface; and, the more traditional Dercum Square Ice Rink near the base of the ski and snowboard mountain.
Guidant John Rose Oval. While not at a resort, this 110,000 square-foot sheet in Roseville, Minn., is close enough for skiers and snowboarders from nearby Afton Alps, Hyland Hills and Buck Hill to stop by apres-ski. Rink has hosted U.S. and international speedskating competitions.
Liberty Mountain. The Pennsylvania resort opened a new skating pond this season, located in the newly renovated pedestrian core of the base area and open daily till 10 p.m. Courtyard Pond has seating for viewers.
Whiteface. Take a turn on the same ice as Olympic champ Sonja Henie, and where annual Stars on Ice Tour features top skaters. The Speed Skating Oval has skate rentals and a fir pit in the middle. Or glide onto Mirror Lake for some old-fashioned pond hockey.
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.
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).
Free rides all the time at Bretton Woods (Bretton Woods/Facebook)
A ride up a ski lift in the offseason both gives a different perspective on a favorite mountain and gets the juices flowing for the upcoming skiing and snowboarding season.
The first storm cycle of the season has brought much-need precipitation to California and the Pacific Northwest, and enough snow to open a few more resorts, and expanded terrain offerings in Colorado.
Minnesota’s Afton Alps and Michigan’s Mr. Brighton are both part of the Epic Pass, which offers unlimited access to all of Vail Resorts western ski areas as well as both Midwest resorts. It offers as much slope time for diehard Heartland skiers and riders as they want.
New lifts and trails often get the headlines during the off-season, but much of this summer’s work in Colorado centers around lodges, base facilities and restaurants.