The mountain is open at Jackson Hole and eager skiers who’ve been watching the Wyoming weather (to summarize: snow and snow and more powdery snow) will be happy to hear that getting to the Tetons is easier this winter. United is flying directly from Newark and San Francisco and Delta has added direct flights from Minneapolis, bringing the number of cities with direct service to the valley up to nine.
Intermediate skiers (me!) get a little love from the notoriously Black Diamond-heavy resort, too. A recently completed detachable quad lift opened last week to sweep Blue Trail skiers (me!) up to mid-mountain in just three and a half minutes. The Casper trail network has been expanded and buffed and more than half the blue trails are open, even this early in the season, because of the benevolent snow gods have dumped over 130” so far—more than at any other Rockies resort.
We love it when celebrities drop by the T+L offices. And on Wednesday, Olympic and World Cup Champion skier Lindsey Vonn stopped in to tell us about how many pairs of skis she travels with (150), how many days a week she trains in the off-season (6, for several hours each day), and how many eggs she eats to fuel her workouts (a lot).
But the gold medalist didn’t come to the snowless east coast just to talk training. Lindsey’s also involved in a cool new program with Vail Resorts, and she brought along the company’s CEO, Rob Katz, to announce EpicMix Racing.
As a professed snow snob I scoffed when a group of friends
recently proposed a ski weekend in Killington, Vermont. It’s hard to get
excited about mountains that look more like the hills I used to sled down as a
kid in Salt Lake City than the exhilarating, death-defying declines that tattoo
the Rocky Mountains. When you grow up within an hour of seven world-class ski
resorts you tend to develop a cavalier attitude about the prospects of cleaving
down a worn, icy tilt and paying good money for it. So I opted to head for this
quaint northeastern burg sans my snowboard. Half the fun of a ski vacation
anyway is exploring the town, enjoying the fresh air, eating at great
restaurants, and plunging into the après ski scene.
These new high-speed chairlifts shave minutes off those mountain rides—which means more time going down than up.
Resort: Mount Snow, Vermont
New Lift: Bluebird Express
Vertical Feet: 1,608
Duration: 7 minutes
Time Savings: 7 minutes
Resort: Bergbahn AG Kitzbühel, Austria
New Lift: Resterhöhe
Vertical Feet: 1,657
Duration: 5:45 minutes
Time Savings: 8 minutes
season ushers in major improvements at these ski resorts.
Northstar California Resort, California
The News: Thanks to a $30 million investment, the mountain welcomes additional trails, a
high-speed quad lift, a new 500-seat on-mountain restaurant—plus a 22-foot
halfpipe designed by Shaun White. 5001 Northstar Dr., Truckee; 800/466-6784; one-day pass from $85.
Big Sky, Montana
The News: The
remodeled, slopeside Solace Spa & Salon expands its treatment rooms and
salon services, and Andesite Mountain adds 20-plus gladed acres. 1 Lone Mountain Trail, Big Sky; 800/548-4486; one-day pass $84.
A handful of on-mountain restaurants are reinventing the cafeteria concept.
California: Tamarack Lodge
Peak Pick: Seared peppercorn-encrusted ahi sandwich and house-made peach cobbler.
Getting There: California Trail, a blue run offering views of Lake Tahoe from 3,000
Top of the
gondola; 775/586-7000; lunch for two $32–$40.
Village, Japan: Goshiki
Peak Pick: Hokkaido-crab miso soup and local lily bulb tempura.
Getting There: Misoshiru (which means miso soup), a black diamond featuring Niseko’s
Leaf; 81-136/443-311; lunch for two $52.
Sip on Haute Chocolate: St. Regis Aspen Resort
Looking for something sophisticated to do post skiing? The latest offering at this newly redesigned resort is just your cup of tea, er, hot cocoa. The program features a flight of three kinds of hot chocolate, created by Vosges Haut-Chocolat exclusively for the resort (Australia lemon myrtle, lavender flowers, vanilla and white chocolate, anyone?)—plus gourmet grilled-cheese finger sandwiches. For those who still want a little booze après ski, go for the Spiked Flight.
Head to the “Beach”:
Ski Beach at Canyons Resort in Park City, UT
This mountain hot spot—located between the base terminal of the new direct-connect gondola and the “Orange Bubble” enclosed heated-seat chair lift—comes complete with beach chairs, lifeguard stands, and fruity drinks (courtesy of The Farm restaurant). Sure, there’s no ocean, but if you use your imagination, that snow will start looking like sand in no time.
Don't miss Travel + Leisure’s December Trip of the Month, Big Sky Montana and Yellowstone National Park. In association with Travel + Leisure Elite Traveler, our travel club for deals on hotels, cruises, and more, the Trip of the Month offers T+L readers exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime itineraries from the world’s top tour operators.
Want to save on your 2012 ski trip? Now’s the time to book your hotels. After Thanksgiving, rates can skyrocket, especially for experiences in some of the country’s best ski destinations, including Vail and Squaw Valley. “Consider Colorado, which had an awesome ski season last year thanks to La Niña.” A-List travel agent Michelle Bemis agrees that travelers should book now, “Airfares will definitely increase as the holiday season approaches,” she says. Get ready: Winter’s just around the corner.
Like migrating birds and manufacturers of snow tires, skiers start planning for winter long before snow falls (or even, in my husband’s case, well before temperatures have dropped below 80°).
Liftopia, an online source for discounted lift tickets, has been around since 2006 but now represents more than 150 ski resorts. A visit to their newly revamped site can transform the fall fantasies into actual slope time. At resorts from Arapahoe Basin to Zermatt, you’ll find discounted lift tickets as well as deals on equipment rentals, lessons, and multi-day passes.
While many of the available discounts are as thrilling as waking up to fresh powder (e.g., up to 40% off at Snowbird, 23% off Sun Valley, 32% off Whiteface), the lift tickets in Liftopia's inventory are date-specific and sell out quickly. So snag some now before the deals melt away.
Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photo courtesy of Lake Placid Lodge.