In ski country, lifts will go farther and faster this year, even as more enthusiasts choose to trek uphill under their own power to ski back down. New lodging options range from rustic micro-homes to a five-bedroom staffed alternative. And winter fans will find new ways to race to the runs on the ground and in the air.
By Train, Chopper and Cat
Traveling in and out of snow country requires a certain amount of delay risk on powder days. The new Winter Park Express train from Denver’s Union Station to Winter Park Resort cuts out the mountain drive. The Amtrak-operated service will run on weekends and holiday Mondays from Jan. 7 to March 26. The roughly two-hour ride one-way (from $39) means you can make it a day trip and be back for a 7 p.m. dinner reservation.
Take a Eurocopter into the Chugach Mountains in Alaska with Black Ops Valdez. The heli-ski operator will offer a new seven-night package in 2017 with overnight accommodations aboard a 72-foot yacht in Prince William Sound complete with a hot tub on deck ($89,600 for up to eight people, all-inclusive). Black Ops will also open a new remote base camp in the mountains outside of Valdez with three heated tents for seven-night trips (from $2,400 a person, all-inclusive).
Train for remote conditions with Telluride Ski Resort’s three-day Heli-Ski Camp that combines two days at the resort with an instructor and the final day heli-skiing in more remote slopes and bowls in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado.
In the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, Whisper Ridge Cat Skiing will start operating Dec. 26. Eight snowcats, ferrying groups of up to 12 skiers and snowboarders each, will have access to 60,000 acres of private terrain (from $450 a person). Guests have the option of overnighting at one of its 10 mountaintop yurts with meals included (from $775 including cat skiing).
Overnight options in ski country will expand across the range beginning with the new Limelight Hotel Ketchum in Idaho, gateway to Sun Valley Resort. Owned by Aspen Skiing Company and opening Dec. 16, the 99-room lodge in Ketchum’s very walkable downtown will include outdoor hot tubs and a swimming pool, firepits and a lounge with regularly scheduled live music as well as free shuttles to the ski area and free use of fat-tire bikes and snowshoes (rooms from $240).
In Alberta, Canada, Banff has its first new hotel in nearly 10 years: the 174-room Moose Hotel & Suites downtown. Amenities include rooftop heated pools and a 10-treatment-room spa (from 169 Canadian dollars, about $126).
In South Lake Tahoe, Calif., the new Hotel Becket from Joie de Vivre Hotels joins two existing properties into one 167-room inn across the street from the lifts to Heavenly Mountain Resort. It also hosts an indoor-outdoor barbecue restaurant, and guests may take Remington, the hotel’s resident Bernese mountain dog, for walks (from $119).
Sample the downsized life at the new Mount Hood Tiny House Village near Mount Hood National Forest and Mount Hood Meadows ski area in Oregon. Opened in May, the five individually decorated homes ranging from 175 to 260 square feet feature wood-paneled interiors and sleeping lofts (from $129).
Just opened in Telluride, Dunton Town House, from the owners of nearby Dunton Hot Springs, comes with a house manager to act as personal concierge to the residents of the five-bedroom home, just a few minutes’ walk to the ski area’s gondola (from $300).
In Vermont, the new Burke Mountain Hotel and Conference Center opened in the fall offering 116 rooms and ski-in/ski-out access to Burke Mountain runs (from $109).
In Beaver Creek, Colo., the Pines Lodge, a RockResort, will unveil a renovation of all 60 guest rooms including USB ports and 55-inch televisions (from $249).
Resorts are newly embracing uphilling. Also known as skinning or ski touring, the activity involves marching up ski hills in your skis — with special bindings that free your heels — then skiing back down for a no-pain-no-gain round trip. According to SnowSports Industries America, participation in the sport has grown from 1.8 million to 2.1 million since the 2008/2009 season.
This year Aspen Snowmass in Colorado is encouraging uphilling at all four of its mountains by publishing a guide to the routes and offering lessons and gear rentals.
Monarch Mountain in south central Colorado has added three uphill routes for treks to the top of the Continental Divide. Skiers must register with the resort, but the trip does not require a lift ticket.
Stay at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail to take a few turns before the slopes open. Its Dawn Patrol program pairs guests with a guide for a pre-sunrise ascent and return downhill to breakfast back at the resort.
In Utah, 55 miles north of Salt Lake City, Powder Mountain Resort is adding two chairlifts, opening up an additional 1,000 acres of ski hill. The resort, which now offers over 7,900 acres of skiing, promises low skier density by limiting adult season passes to 1,000 and day tickets sold to 2,000.
At Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming, the new Sweetwater Gondola is scheduled to open mid-December. Rising 1,276 feet in 7.5 minutes, the 48-cabin gondola will offer a new way to get uphill. A midway station with a new ski school facility will open next winter.
Vail Mountain Resort in Colorado aims to get skiers around its famous Back Bowls quicker with the introduction of its new high-speed Sun Up Express, increasing capacity by 65 percent and cutting average travel time by roughly half to 3.9 minutes.
In New Mexico, the state’s first lift-accessed cross course for boarders and skiers will open at the expanded terrain park at Angel Fire Resort. Groups of competitors go edge-to-edge on the racecourse, which features jumps, banks and turns.
A new high-speed quad chairlift known as Cloudchaser will add 635 accessible acres of terrain at Mount Bachelor in Oregon by mid-December.
Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont will open its new Adventure Center this season, offering children’s programs including ski and ride lessons for children age 3 and up and an indoor climbing wall. Nearby, Smugglers’ Notch Resort will open a family-friendly FunZone with an obstacle course, laser tag, climbing wall and arcade in midwinter.
Programs, Passes and Events
Women-specific ski programs, now staples of the Vail Resorts family, continue to proliferate across the industry. Crested Butte Mountain Resortin Colorado is introducing Women’s Tips on Tuesdays ski clinics, half-day sessions that conclude with an après-ski glass of wine at the on-mountain Umbrella Bar.
Two multiresort passes are expanding, including Mountain Collective, which has added Telluride and Revelstoke in British Columbia to its 14-resort portfolio. Pass holders get two days at each resort ($419). M.A.X. Pass added 10 resorts including Crested Butte and Alyeska Resort in Alaska for a total of 39 resorts, each offering five days’ access throughout the season ($749).
The Audi FIS World Cup tour will touch down in Aspen (March 15 to 19), for the first time in 20 years, with men’s and women’s competitions. It’s been almost 50 years since Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe hosted the tour; the women’s events will take place there, March 10 to 11.