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What's New On The Slopes This Season

By EVELYN KANTER
Fall is always a busy time for ski/snowboard resorts. In addition to food and wine festivals and other outdoor events, that’s whenhey beef up snowmaking capabilities, modernize lifts, upgrade restaurants, negotiate with airlines for more flights, and design new programs to entice winter visitors, including those who don’t ski but enjoy off-slope activities and events. This year is no different. There’s lots to look forward to on slopes from the Midwest to the Far West.

MIDWEST

Boyne, MI Visitors to Boyne’s three northern Michigan resorts can expect enhanced snowmaking with the addition of 50 new snowguns, and an all-new spa. Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain have partnered with Burton to offer the only Riglet Parks for snowboarders in the Midwest. This program targets kids ages 3-6 to introduce riding in a friendly, supportive way that focuses on balance and fun.  2012/13 winter package values start at just $107 per person/night including lift ticket, lodging at Boyne Highlands, Boyne Mountain or The Inn at Bay Harbor, and a hot breakfast.

Granite Peak has installed a brand new high-speed quad to whisk skiers and snowboarders to western runs. The resort was top-rated last season by Snowboarding magazine for its six terrain parks, which include nearly 50 jumps and jibs. There’s also night skiing and riding. Granite Peak is in Wausau, WI.

Buck Hill Ski Area is offering a beginner special lift-lesson-equipment package for just $35, which is less than a daily lift ticket.
Advance registration is required. The program is available four days a week, including weekends, December 1st through February 27th.  Buck Hill is in Burnsville, MN.
Indiana Dunes National Park offers more than a dozen miles of cross-country ski trails, some of which have panoramic views of Lake Michigan in the distance.

WEST
This is Vail CO’s 50th Anniversary, with special events this season at all Vail Resorts.

Keystone, CO, is marketing to families with a great new offer—kids ski free all season. There are no blackout dates and no restrictions, other than a minimum two-night stay booked through central reservations. Also, Keystone is installing a Burton Riglet park, to teach 3-6 year olds snowboarding.

Beaver Creek, CO  The slopeside Park Hyatt is launching “Haute Tub” service. Guests can reserve one of five dedicated hot tubs for up to six people in one hour increments, and get Vegas-style poolside cabana service. Also, there are new weekly, complimentary cooking classes for teens, to inspire them to start cooking. Classes will include themes such as basic knife skills, gourmet pizza making and sushi rolling.

Breckenridge, CO Breckenridge keeps skiers coming back for its long varied trails and the rustic charm of a genuine Victorian mining town. Take the gondola between downtown and Peak 7 and Peak 8 to save time for skiing and riding. Apres ski favorites include horse-drawn sleigh rides through picturesque mountain meadows that pause at an old mountain cabin for hot chocolate and a cowboy band. It’s a great family activity.

Another new program at all Vail Resorts is the opportunity to race against Olympic champion Lindsay Vonn, via digital technology.  She sets the pace, and skiers have their race times compared. Top racers will be invited to a grand finale event in April 2013, to race against her for real on the Birds of Prey World Cup Course at Beaver Creek.

For the first time ever this season, four top independent resorts in the west have joined forces to sell a combination ticket. The new Mountain Collective unites Alta, Utah; Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado; Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, in a joint ticket that offers two days of skiing at each destination for $349, plus unlimited discounts once the days are used. Collectively, the pass offers more than 100 lifts and 16,000 acres of terrain for all levels.

Aspen/Snowmass, CO, has added 230 acres of new terrain, making it the second largest ski area in Colorado. The historic Hotel Jerome, which dates back to 1889, re-opens in December after a multi-million dollar facelift that includes a new Auberge Spa. Unlike the Victorian hotel, the spa has a contemporary décor. The equally iconic Little Nell is modernizing its Victorian restaurant, Montagna, into a casual, modern venue, to appeal to a younger and less affluent crowd. The new name, Element 47, which is silver on the periodic table, reflects Aspen’s mining history.

Squaw Valley, CA A new six-pack chairlift whisks riders to the mid-mountain High Camp, with its ice skating rink and the world’s only ski-in Starbucks. Alpine Meadows has built a mile-long terrain park, one of the longest in North America, for snowboarders and freestyle skiers.

Heavenly, NV At the south end of Lake Tahoe, Heavenly is opening another kid’s adventure zone. This one is on the California side, to go along with last season’s Black Bear Hollow at the top of the Gondola on the Nevada side.

Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, NV  New backcountry snowcat tours take skilled skiers and riders straight to the top of Huckleberry Canyon, allowing backcountry enthusiasts to save energy for  deep powder turns, by-passing the hike out to the gates. The tours will run on select days throughout the season (weather and conditions permitting) from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
    
Also, Sierra has the world’s only Burton Star Wars Experience, which uses the beloved intergalactic saga to help children ages 3-6 make their first snowboard turns. The park is full of familiar characters, including R2-D2, C-3PO and Chewbacca, who are interactive, dispensing advice on movement, navigation, control, and the environment. It was great fun when I visited last season.
    
Connecting to the resorts around Lake Tahoe from the Reno
airport is now faster and safer with the completion of the I-580 Freeway, allowing shuttle vans and rental cars to avoid the Pleasant Valley bottleneck.

Deer Valley, UT This upscale Utah resort has replaced the long and slow Deer Crest chairlift on Little Baldy Mountain with a high-speed quad. The new St. Regis Deer Valley is offering complimentary photography classes for children.

Park City Mountain Resort, UT  The new Neff Land terrain park becomes the resort’s fourth. This one is designed for young riders, under age 8, with an over-the-top candy land theme.

Canyons Resort, UT New this season is The Ultimate Mountain Experience winter fantasy camp, which allows skiers and riders lessons with celebrity instructors, including six former winter Olympians. Off the slopes, the new Red Pine Zip Adventure Tour includes three zip lines of increasing length and speed across snow-capped treetops and canyons.

Park City, UT’s famous Quick START promotion will be in its 10th, and final, year this season. It allows non-Utah residents to convert their airline boarding passes into free, same-day lift tickets at any one of Park City’s three resorts, Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley and Canyons Resort. The resorts of Park City are just 35-45 minutes from the Salt Lake City airport, so it’s easy to be on a chairlift within an hour of grabbing your gear off the luggage carousel. (www.visitparkcity. com/quickstart/)

Upgrades also are coming to Taos, NM, but not in time for this season.  In September, the US Forest Service approved construction of two new lifts to high-alpine terrain plus construction of a snowshoe trail system.  Those will be built over the summer for next season.

Airline baggage charges have prompted a growth in rentals. I can vouch for Ski Butlers, which delivers current year equipment to resort guests throughout the West. Guests order online, and the equipment is delivered by a skilled technician who sets the binding while you watch. Unlike renting from the resort or a local shop, Ski Butlers lets you pick up in one place and return in another, for no extra charge. Last season, I got my gear at Heavenly and gave it back at Squaw.

Published: October 13, 2012
Issue: November 2012 Issue