'Iron Paths' Climb Some Of Most Iconic Walls In The West

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Via ferratas require rock-face, cliff-y terrain, so it's no surprise that "iron paths" in the West can be found on ski and snowboard mountains known for their steeps.

Fixed “protection” on the rock, such as cables, steps, pegs and ladders allow inexperienced climbers to hook in and safely ascend on rock faces. Some via ferratas even incorporate hanging bridges. Reservations required for guided tours from 90 minutes to four hours. Here's a look at the "iron roads" within the trail-map boundaries of five resorts in the West.

The highest elevation for a via ferrata sits in Arapaho Basin's East Wall. A chairlift ride to mid-mountain, then an OHV ride gets to the base of the climb at 11,800 feet elevation. The full-day climb ascends 1,200 feet to the 13,000-foot top ridge of A-Basin. A shorter version goes to an abandoned mine shaft for a history lesson.

In the northern Rockies, Jackson Hole built the most extensive via ferrata in the West. A gondola ride delivers climbers to extensive route layout in upper-mountain Casper Bowl. A dozen routes – from introductory to most difficult – and a 120-foot suspension bridge await. Rates include two-hour practice climb, half-day option or six-hour full day on the rock, all spread across rock face with 500 feet of vertical drop.

In the southern Rockies, Taos Ski Valley has open a via ferrata complex on the famous cliffs of Kachina Bowl. At 11,500 feet above sea level, beginner and intermediate routes criss-cross the Kachina face and include a 100-foot-long bridge suspended 50 feet in the air. More advanced climbers move over to the infamous K Chutes that has a 50-foot cable walk.

In California, Mammoth Mammoth is one of two resorts in the state with a via ferrata. A gondola ride to mid-mountain McCoy Station arrives below the Caldera Overlook. Six routes await: three beginner, two moderate with a suspension bridge between, and one expert. Climbs are 180 feet long for three-hour private and 90-minute group tours.

The other is Palisades Tahoe, where the lower mountain's iconic Tram Face is ideal for fixed-route climbing. A 4x4 ride and short hike gets climbers to four routes of varying difficulty that ascend some 800 feet of rock wall. Routes were designed with kids in mind, and 4x4 await at the top for return ride to the Olympic Village.

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Get Up And Out There: Mountain Biking In New Mexico's Mountains

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Summertime mountain biking has taken hold at most ski and snowboard resorts in the West, including a trio of northern New Mexico mountains whose MTB trail maps cover more than 100 miles in riding routes.

At all these resorts, base elevations are 8,000 feet or more above sea level. Flatlanders should allow a day or so to get acclimated before taking on strenuous rides. Drink plenty of water and carry more with you. Thunderstorms regulary roll through the southern Sangre de Cristos, so pack rain gear and warm clothing.

At Angel Fire, mountain biking has put down deep roots. Host to pro MTB competitions in the past, the resort has built an enviable bike park. A web of trails feeds off of the high-speed Chili Express, and the park's 60-mile trail systems consumes most of the front side of the mountain. Plenty of downhill for freeride and technical MTB-ers -- 2,000 vertical drop -- and miles of easy beginner routes, too.

The northern New Mexico resort boasts a base skills park, a dual slalom course, a long uphill-only trail and upper mountain hiking offshoot. Resort quote: " ... the best skinnies, jump lines, manicured flow and super chunk trails the United States has to offer."

Over the ridge, Taos Ski Valley is in the nascent stages of bike-park bulding. The resort has carved out its MTB trail system on its backside. Lift 4 out of the Phoenix base delivers riders to the head of Kachina Basin, right below 12,481-foot Kachina Peak.

Once there, two choices await: a 4-mile green run that winds back and forth down the hill, and a 1.5-mile blue run that is more directly downhill. On the front side there area a couple of beginner flows and steep-steeps, but no lift access this summer.

Down the Rio Grande, Pajarito Mountain spreads across 280 acres below a ridge above Los Alamos. Volunteer-built and raw in nature, the Pajarito Bike Park begins on the Aspen and Mother chairlifts that run up the middle of the trail map. Topping out at more than 10,000 feet, some 48 trails total 39 miles in length, and tend toward the higher skill levels on both downhill and technical routes.

The lifts run on Saturdays and Sundays only, and tickets must be bought at the hill. The park is part of the Mountain Bike Power Pass system that includes all-summer season access to Brian Head in southern Utah, Purgatory in southwest Colorado, and Spider Mountain Bike Park in Austin, Texas.

 

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SnoCast: Big Storm for the East; Waves of Snow Out West

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According to Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast, we should be ending our six-week stretch of remaining winter, but Mother Nature has other plans with ample snow and cold in the cards. Here’s what to expect in this week’s SnoCast.

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SnoCast: A Fickle Finish to February

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Following big snow in the Southwest and Four Corners, a storm will work across the country and deliver fresh snow to many Northeast ski areas to finish the week. With new powder all around, let’s dig into this week’s SnoCast forecast.

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Check Out These Five Independently Owned Ski Resorts

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This winter, large ski resorts owned by parent companies have been uber crowded. Because Vail resorts decided to decrease their season pass price by 20%, people from across the world flocked to the mountains. According to Vail Resorts’ annual report, the company sold 67% more epic passes in 2021 compared to 2020. 

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SnoCast: Major Storm Hits Southern Rockies, Now Targets the Northeast

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According to Punxsutawney Phil, we have six more weeks winter, and we are LOVING that report. Rodents aside, the weather clearly looks like winter this week with heavy snow from the Rockies to New England. Here’s the scoop in this week’s SnoCast.

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Ski Mag Ranks The Best Ski Resorts in the U.S.

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From Vermont's classic glades to the powder-choked bowls of the West, the destinations on this list will delight skiers of all stripes.

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SnoCast: Bursts of Snow and Wintry Chills

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In this week's SnoCast, we'll see bursts of snow for the Rockies, the Midwest, and Northeast ski areas. And with late-January chilly temperatures on tap, bundle up and hit the slopes during this fairly quiet stretch.

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Resorts To Loosen Covid Restrictions

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Last season, Covid gave a jolt to the time-honored habits of skiers and riders, but the 2021-2022 season promises to be a bit less restrictive -- with exceptions.

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Taos Ski Valley Lays Out Ambitious Upgrade Plan

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Since hedge-fund manager Louis Bacon bought Taos Ski Valley in 2013, skiers and riders who favor the New Mexico resort have seen something new each season: infrastructure, chairlifts, overnight accommodations, even paved parking lots, and all-mountain cell service.

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Western Season Passes For 2021-2022 Loaded With Extras

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The options keep on coming, as single-mountain season passes for next season have more add-ons than ever before to compete with the multi-resort mega-passes.

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Even As Spring Arrives, Powder Days Can Be Found

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Spring break is upon us which, sadly, means the end is near. But it's still snowing and, with the right conditions, there should be plenty of powder to track up.

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SnoCast: Coast to Coast Snow To End January

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So much to cover in this week’s SnoCast as we dig out from feet of snow in the west, and eye new snow in the Midwest and Northeast—everyone gets something to finish off January.

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SnoCast: Active Pattern with Multiple Storms Ahead for the West

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This week, snow activity really begins to pick up. As more and more ski areas open, we'll have multiple storms out West and fast movers in the East to build up the bases.

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New Mexico First State To Delay Resort Openings Due To COVID

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Several New Mexico ski and snowboard resorts will delay openings, as the governor brought her state back to early-Covid restrictions this week by issuing a stay-at-home lockdown.

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SnoCast: Who Gets Tricks, and Who Gets Snowy Treats?

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Halloween weekend and first days of November will feature forecast tricks and treats. With a leftover hurricane delivering snow to New England and ski areas opening in the west, this time of year is always a treat to build ski season excitement.

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Northern New Mexico Resorts Ready For Season Of Limits

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Snow guns are ready, chairlift inspected, and snowcats ready to go as the New Mexico 2020-2021 ski and snowboard season begins to open in late November.

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Via Ferratas Cable Up At Cliff-y Western Resorts

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Many have stared amazed as rock climbers wind their way up seemingly vertical cliffs in the Western mountains, but few take the plunge. But now, the advent of via ferratas -- "iron roads" -- has brought the holds, cracks, caribeeners and safety of rock climbing to a wider audience.

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Summer At West Ski Resorts With Covid-19 In Mind

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Many of the usual summer activities -- mountain biking, ziplines, hiking, scenic lift rides -- will be in place in the West during the warm months. But the Covid-19 pandemic has forced resorts to tone down or fully eliminate offerings for the time being.

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Credits Toward Next Season, Opt-out Options For Season Pass Holders

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The first deadline for savings on season pass prices for the 2020-2021 season is coming, and skiers and snowboarders will have to decide whether the low cost or the uncertainty of COVID-19 virus carries more weight.

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