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Mon 03 February 2020
Nature’s annual mantle of winter’s snows across awe-inspiring terrain create the perfect conditions for world class skiing in North America’s western mountains. More than perhaps any other, winter sports are very much at the whim of the weather (auspicious or not). But for the spontaneous traveler who is ready to sniff out the right conditions, such leaps of faith can be rewarded with spectacular scenery and heart-pounding runs.
A collection of fine resorts dot the higher reaches of these slopes, and among the most celebrated destinations, there is much that’s new to report.
The snow has arrived in California giving Alpine Meadows a chance to debut its $10 million Treeline Cirque chairlift. This detachable, high-speed quad transports guests from the base to Sherwood ridge in a quick five minutes, where the ride used to take 45. The lift features a mid-station for quick access to some of Alpine’s best intermediate terrain, then on to the expert back bowls of Sherwood.
Boasting Tahoe’s highest base elevation of 8,260 feet, Mt. Rose is among the snowiest of the local resorts year after year. Their Twofer-Tuesdays offers a $145 price for two tickets to be used that day.
Northstar’s fine mountain experience just got even better. Michael Mina’s Bourbon Pub Northstar, is a brand new 125-seat restaurant located at the base of the Big Springs Gondola. Unfortunately, this year, free parking at Northstar will only be available at the Castle Peak parking lot, the first available parking option on Northstar Drive. Then you shuttle to the resort. There’s also paid parking by cash, which is available closer in. However, free parking is available at all lots daily after 3:00 PM.
For the second season in a row, guests staying a Sunday evening at Heavenly’s Gondola Vista, the new Lakeland Village or Zalanta Resort are invited to ski a run with the Heavenly Ski Patrol after the resort closes. They’ll be invited to attend an exclusive après at Lakeview Lodge and will receive a free beverage and sample appetizers. Don’t miss this cool behind-the-scenes Après Tracks experience.
Utah skiing is simply fantastic and only an hour-and-forty-five-minute nonstop flight from Sacramento. Then after landing in Salt Lake City, less than an hour to most ski resorts. Delta Air Lines has a special package connected to various Park City properties including the outstanding Stein Eriksen Lodge, a Forbes Five-Star Hotel & Spa (awesome breakfasts) at Deer Valley. Offering a $300 Delta credit for a minimum three-night stay, this is a pretty good deal. Deer Valley Resort maintains the coveted title of the 2019 United States’ Best Ski Resort by the World Ski Awards for the seventh year in a row.
Park City Mountain Resort is opening a new “Over and Out” fixed grip quad lift that will provide much better access to the Canyons Villager area. Alta’s Snowpine Lodge opened January 2019 as the premier year-round destination in Alta, UT, and the first luxury resort to offer ski-in/ski-out access with the simultaneous opening of the adjacent Snowpine ski lift.
Solitude Mountain Resort is excited to announce the opening of a walk-up waffle window at the Moonbeam Center. This new dining option will offer fresh, piping hot Liège-style waffles – sounds tasty. And Woodward Park City is the nation’s first action sports and ski resort, which will be open 365 days a year. This mega-entertainment area, with the most modern facilities imaginable opened in mid-December.
Copper Mountain’s new Tucker Mountain Lift opens 273 acres of expert terrain previously, only accessible by snowcat or by hiking in. Keystone Resort continues its Kids ski free program in 2019. With a minimum of a 2-night stay, kids under 12 get a free lift ticket. Telluride is opening 40 acres of north-facing gladed terrain off Lift 9, creating even more expert terrain for guests. Telluride is a truly historic American city. Winter Park has brought in a new, 6-person Sunnyside chair which replaces the original 3-person fixed grip chair.
The Colorado Hut Yurt Alliance boasts more huts and yurts (30-plus) than in any other state. Lots of “out there” yurt lodging is available for a different take on enjoying backcountry activities this winter. Arapahoe Basin’s Il Rifugio, the highest lift-served restaurant in North America at 12,500 feet, will be open for its first full season this winter. Not to be outdone, Sam’s Restaurant in Aspen Snowmass is a new, modern Italian eatery located at 10,620 feet at the top of Sam’s Knob.
The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village, WY, is legendary. With a fearsome 4,139 feet of vertical drop and an airport nearby, it’s a “bucket list” ski resort. In fact, the Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) is the only commercial airport in the United States located within a national park (Grand Teton). Various airlines have good deals on flight/lift ticket and hotel packages. Jackson Hole combines the old American West with challenging runs.
The largest ski resort in North America, Whistler-Blackcomb is an incredible 8,171 skiable acres located about two hours northeast of Vancouver. This massive, world class resort has so much to offer, with premier lodgings, lifts, restaurants and bars. For the seventh year in a row, Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside has been recognized as the best ski hotel in Canada by the World Ski Awards.
Whistler-Blackcomb, however, is far from the only resort to consider in British Columbia. Sun Peaks, the second largest resort in BC, really has some of the most perfect corduroy anywhere, a great village and lots of fun events. Another resort, Big White is one of my new favorites. It offers great runs plus is so close to BC’s Kelowna wine country. Don’t miss a “Gunbarrel Coffee” at the Gunbarrel Grill. You’ll thank me later.
The main resorts in Alberta are the Big Three, comprising Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt. Norquay. All are gorgeous, set deep in the Canadian Rockies and wonderful to visit. Only about an hour and half from the Calgary Airport, these resorts are accessed by a stunning drive through Banff National Park. Stay at the incomparable Fairmont Banff Springs – the Castle in the Rockies – or the only ski-in, ski-out lodge in Banff, the Sunshine Mountain Lodge high on Sunshine Mountain. Great mountains, scenery and typical warm Canadian hospitality.