New York Times – What’s New at Ski Areas?
From a new hotel beside the slopes at Jay Peak, in Vermont, to retooled lifts at Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia, North American mountain resorts spent the off-season bumping up the experience for skiers this winter. Curious about what’s new at your vacation spot this winter? Here’s a look.
A few ski areas are expanding their trail maps this winter in intriguing ways. At Breckenridge in Colorado, the addition of Peak 6 this winter adds more than 540 acres, a nearly 25 percent increase in the resort’s skiable acreage. Peak 6 will include 400 acres of lift-served terrain and 143 acres of hike-to terrain. The terrain is mostly high-alpine, intermediate bowl skiing, which isn’t easy to find.
At Sugar Bowl Resort at Lake Tahoe, Calif., installation of the $3 million Crow’s Peak triple chairlift adds more than 150 acres of advanced/expert terrain in the Strawberry Fields area of the mountain, just below Crow’s Nest Peak, including two new groomed runs, wind-protected glades and steeps and chutes.
As part of a growth spurt, Mount Bachelor, outside Bend, Ore., this year adds 646 acres of glades, bowls and natural features on the southeast flank of the mountain (conditions permitting), giving skiers a whopping 4,331 acres to choose from on all sides of the conical volcano. A chairlift is probable for next winter, so this winter the resort will limit access to the ungroomed terrain to advanced skiers who can hike out 20 minutes to the Sunrise base area.
Pats Peak, in Henniker, N.H., has installed a new triple chairlift as part of an expansion into Cascade Basin, an east-facing (sunny) exposure that hasn’t been skied before. The new area consists of four new ski trails as well as a new glade and has full snow-making coverage. In Maine, Sugarloaf is adding nearly 70 acres of glade-skiing; and Sunday River, about 75 acres (glades and a terrain park).
Hotels and Lodges
The Stateside Hotel at Jay Peak Resort in far northern Vermont is the third hotel to open at Jay Peak since 2009. The $25 million complex, at the base area about 50 steps from one of the resort’s main lifts, will have 85 rooms above, and below them two pubs, a restaurant, retail space, a base lodge and a rental center. Aimed at bringing new people into the sport, the hotel will offer ski-and-stay packages from $90, including room and lift ticket. Elsewhere in Vermont, the Topnotch Resort & Spa on 120 wooded acres inStowe reopened last summer after a $15 million investment. Visitors to Topnotch (68 rooms and 23 rentable “resort homes”) will find all-new guest rooms and two new restaurants, Flannel and the Roost, both using Vermont ingredients in contemporary menus; freshened-up public spaces; and a refurbished tennis center with indoor courts.
In the Rockies the latest addition to Telluride Ski and Snowboard Resort in Colorado is the Inn at Lost Creek, a 32-room boutique hotel located slopeside in Telluride’s Mountain Village. The inn has ski-in/ski-out access, a ski valet to whisk away your Volkls at day’s end and rooms that each feature a washer and dryer. Snow King Hotel, steps from the center of Jackson, Wyo., has finally gotten its much-needed upgrade. The 204-room hotel, which sits at the foot of Snow King Mountain, the locals’ hill (and minutes from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) recently completed a $17 million transformation that overhauled its rooms, exterior and spa. The new owner has also opened a restaurant, Hayden’s Post, and added floor-to-ceiling windows that provide 240-degree views of Snow King.
South Lake Tahoe is in the midst of a grand transformation, from a sort of frayed casinoland to a cleaned-up place worthy of the lake it’s on. This season’s example: TheLanding Resort and Spa, which opened earlier this month. The resort, which replaces the former Royal Valhalla Lodge, is billed as the lake’s first five-star lakeside property, with 88 rooms; a restaurant with outdoor fire pits and a menu of wood-fired Greek seafood; a spa and fitness center; and a rooftop wedding site overlooking Lake Tahoe. And it’s just three blocks to the gondola to Heavenly.
Keeping people skiing and snowboarding (especially young ones) is a big focus now, and nearly everyone is rolling out new programs and promotions. At Tahoe, Squaw Valley’snew Teaching Tykes program is a great idea: Instructors well versed in teaching young children to ski or snowboard head out with both parent and child, giving tips to the kids while showing the parents the best way to teach them while eliminating frustration and conveying a passion for the sport. The program, aimed at ages 3 to 5, costs $169, including a one-hour lesson for parent and child, a beginner lift ticket for parent and child if age 5, (younger are already free) and kids’ ski or snowboard rentals.
Brighton, in Utah, is trying something novel: a girls-only terrain park. The park, Brighton’s fifth, is intended to let girls and women gain the confidence to shred (with occasional all-women’s camps and retreats) without feeling intimidated by the male-heavy presence at other parks and halfpipes. Brighton is working with Grete Elliassen, a United States Ski Team freeskier, and with Burton to design the park.
This winter many resorts in the United States are swapping out older, slower lifts for faster ones with higher capacity, and adding bigger lodges. Snowbird, above Salt Lake City, is putting in the only new chairlift in Utah. The original, tired Gad 2 chairlift, which accesses challenging skiing on the west side of the mountain, is being replaced with a high-speed detachable quad, which will cut the ride time in half.
Whistler-Blackcomb, in British Columbia, spent $18 million to upgrade two chairlifts to “high-speed” status. The existing Harmony high-speed quad chairlift on Whistler Mountain was replaced with the Harmony 6 Express, a high-speed “six-pack” chairlift that goes to the same terrain, from the edge of the Symphony Amphitheater to Glacier Bowl. The Crystal Ridge Express Chair on adjoining Blackcomb Mountain, a high-speed quad, is (nearly) an entirely different lift from its predecessor. It will have a different alignment and start 500 feet lower, eliminating the need to use the Excelerator Chair to reach many trails on that part of the mountain and making it even quicker for guests to return to the Glacier Express chair for favorites like Blackcomb Glacier and Spanky’s Ladder.
As part of a multiyear project to enhance its high- alpine skiing, Copper Mountain, in Colorado, replaced the Storm King platter lift with a T-bar, doubling the number of people who can get to above-treeline Spaulding Bowl, Upper Enchanted Forest and Copper Bowl. The resort also installed the entirely new Celebrity Ridge surface lift at the top of the Sierra chairlift. This lift goes to intermediate to advanced gladed terrain on Union Peak, Union Meadows, West Ridge and Copper Bowl and saves powderhounds who want to make another lap from dropping to a lower lift.
In Alaska, Alyeska Resort, outside Anchorage in Girdwood, has installed a high-speed detachable quad, Glacier Bowl Express, to replace beloved Chair 6, which accesses the upper trails at Alyeska and is considered by many the heart of the area.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: December 18, 2013
An earlier version of this article misrepresented the number of rooms at the Stateside Hotel. It will have 85 rooms, not eight.