Virtual Reality is fast-becoming an important player in the world of creative filmmaking. (Sundance Film Festival/Facebook)
It’s begun. The Sundance storm nearly rivals the actual Snowmaggedon that this ski hamlet has felt for the past month and continues to experience. Park City is bracing themselves- $100 parking lots and all- for the flood of People in Black. We are a mere day away from the extravagant parties and film premieres, the branding and “activations”.
Bay Area-based company Chariot will provide free transit services within Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows neighborhoods
Getting to the slopes in Massachusetts and California this season just got easier with new programs at Wachusett and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows that utilize ride-hailing apps to get you to the snow without having to drive your car.
Wachusett Mountain and Uber have teamed up to improve transportation options to and from the Central Massachusetts ski resort.
A new Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) Commuter Rail station recently opened, just 10 minutes from the mountain, with a shuttle running on weekends. Skiers and snowboarders can take the commuter rail from Boston’s North Station to Fitchburg on weekends throughout ski season.
In addition to servicing the new Wachusett Train Station, Uber is a viable transportation option for skiers and riders in the greater Worcester area traveling to the mountain.
To encourage guests to take advantage of the new partnership with Wachusett, Uber is offering riders a $25 “Get to the Slopes” credit on their first ride when the sign up using the code SKIWAWA.
Wachusett General Manager David Crowley said, “We are excited to partner with Uber to grow transportation options, providing an affordable and convenient way to access the mountain if they don’t have a car or choose to leave the keys at home. This partnership improves on-demand transportation options, allowing Wachusett visitors to travel to and from the train on their own schedule.”
California’s Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will offer a pilot intra-valley transit program in partnership with the app-based transportation provider Chariot, Dec. 23 through Jan. 4.
The trial program is offered as a transportation option for guests and residents in the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows neighborhoods, while also removing cars from roads and parking areas.
Chariot’s mobile app will allow people to book rides for both on-demand and fixed-route services within the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows neighborhoods, using new 14-passenger Ford Transit vehicles equipped with ski and snowboard racks.
Chariot’s shuttles will pick up passengers along fixed 15-20 minute routes between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., and from 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. In the middle of the day, Chariot will provide custom resort-to-doorstep rides within the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows neighborhoods, in addition to fixed routes.
Resort-to-doorstep rides can be booked via Chariot’s mobile app.
California kids enjoy programs just for them at Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. (Snow Summit/Facebook)
Parents always want to find a safe, entertaining activity for their children before they head off to find the powder or hit the bumps.
Resorts across the country offer special kids lessons, amusement parks and treasure hunts. Here’s a few that caught the eye of SnoCountry.com editors:
Snow Summit has built a new 3,000-square foot Summit Kids Center at the base of the Southern California mountain to house rentals, lift tickets and ski school just for kids.
In Utah, Deer Valley has a trail map just for kids, and its children’s center doubles as a ski school and licensed day care center for those as young as two months old.
Family-focused Keystone runs kids-only group lessons, and keeps ‘em busy with tunnels at its Kidtopia and on-mountain snow fort.
Northstar California Resort on Lake Tahoe is renowned for its tubing hill, bungee tramp and build-your-own-s’mores at aprés ski fire pit.
Smugglers' Notch puts kids in lessons with their own age, from 2-1/2 old on dedicated slope and nursery school. Night School for Boarding runs 4 to 7 p.m. for beginners to get comfortable in a terrain park. Teen Alley’s music, games and movies awaits, too, at the northern Vermont mountain.
The trails at upstate New York’s Holiday Valley are full of surprises for kids – a secret snow fort, “snow monsters” galore, and a rock hunt that teaches Seneca Nation of Indians history. Race a friend, and finish off day with rides down mountain coaster till 6 p.m.
At California’s Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, the Badger Pups Program aims at kids 4 to 6 with two beginner lessons. Or enroll them in the all day Kids Camp on weekends and holidays.
At Winter Park in Colorado, all kids get free rides on the Galloping Goose lift, which serves the bunny hill at Mary Jane. The resort also has the "Family Easy Start" program that allows families to learn together for one price.
Sun Valley puts bear prints all over the mountain for kids to find, runs build-a-snowman contests and hosts youthful ice skaters right at the base of the Idaho resort.
My parents called tonight. They're coming to Sundance. I choked a bit. I've lived in Park City since 1990 and this is a first. "Are you sure?" I queried. "Sundance is a zoo. There's no parking, all of the restaurants are booked, it's even more expensive around here than normal, the tickets are probably sold out…" Was there a Beginners Guide To Sundance out there anywhere?
"Your father and I want to see snow and Europe's too far," said Mom. "Plus, I've always wanted to stay at the St. Regis." My folks are in their 80s. Back in the day, our vacations revolved around skiing but they retired the sticks decades ago. Still, you can't help but miss the mountains in winter when you've spent almost your whole life playing in them.
I considered this new information. Parents who don't ski but love film, snow and mountains. Sundance might just be the perfect vacation. When they've visited Park City in the past they've been bored. This is a town for adventure junkies. Once you've done the outlet mall, gotten a massage and fed on the "fine dining" there's not much else for retired skiers around here.
I started my research. How then do I advise my parents, your average tourists, to make the most out of their time at Sundance? Looks like I was going to have to devise my own Beginners Guide To Sundance.
The Beginners Guide To Sundance Starts With Lodging
You won't have a place to stay if you don't have a place to stay. In other words, book your lodging early and don't be picky. Everything in Park City gets gobbled up the closer you get to those last 10 days in January. My parents aren't into crashing in a three-bedroom place with four other people so they got a room at the St Regis with timeshare points that could have bought them a month in Hawaii. You can get a place in Salt Lake City for much less but the highway commute in January can be a nightmare if it dumps. You don't want to be stuck in a whiteout on I-80 while your movie plays. BTW, the major benefit of having a condo over a hotel room is the ability to cook, so you don’t have to eat out for every meal, saving some money.
The Beginners Guide To Sundance Transportation
No, Mom, you do not need a car. Split a cab, call Uber, book a shuttle. You DO NOT want a rental car in Park City during Sundance. The city shuts down Main Street to traffic, there's zero parking available unless you want to pay $50 for lots that are normally free, and the congestion is ridiculous.
I hitched a ride from Park Avenue to the top of Main (two miles tops) last year and it took over an hour. The bright side was I got to spend that time chatting with a fascinating, charmingly abrasive, post production supervisor from New York who worked on several of my favorite films.
Park City brings in extra buses to handle the transportation. The free system runs like clockwork and rivals any you would find in a large metropolis. They run late into the night so you don't need to worry about being stranded and the cast of characters on those buses- from local ski bums to Netflix execs- are priceless.
The Beginners Guide To Sundance Ticketing
Get a Sundance ticket package if you can afford one. My parents will see as many movies as they can but if you don't plan ahead individual tickets (which go on sale Jan. 17 for non-locals) sell out fast and you wind up standing in a cold waitlist line hoping someone doesn't show.
There is a new ewaitlist system that eliminates standing in line TWICE to MAYBE get in but you'll still have to be at the theater at least 30 minutes prior to showtime. You'll also need to be somewhere with a strong signal. The waitlist opens one hour prior to the screening and if you get a number higher than 50 your chances of actually getting in are slim to none. You can often buy tickets off scalpers standing in front of the theater. Patrons wind up with extra tickets because friends or clients couldn't make it in time or they decided to go to a party instead. I've gotten many a free ticket this way.
The Festival packages are pricey for non-locals ($650) but in addition to 10 tickets ($250 value), they include Festival credentials for two peeps.
You can only plant your butt in a dark theater for so long. The pass gets you into the rocking ASCAP music café, the Cinema Café, the Filmmakers Lodge, and several other "credential-only" venues that host VIP events like cocktail receptions and filmmaker panel discussions. You also get a ticket to the opening night party, but it's only a bonus if you like blaring dance music and drunk 20-somethings.
The Beginners Guide To Sundance Dining
"We want to go to the restaurants and experience the scene," my mom added. So does everyone else, Mom. If you get to Park City without reservations you will be ordering Domino's and Davanza's. Start booking the minute you know you're coming. Three nights in town equals three reservations.
Private parties book out most of the restaurants. Still, the best spots to celeb spot if you can get in are the Riverhorse Café, Chimayo, Zoom, Yuki Yama and Prime Steakhouse. I recommended St Regis' J&G Grill to my folks for the first Saturday night of the Fest to avoid the mayhem of Main. You can also eat someplace off Main that doesn't take reservations – like Sammy's Bistro, El Chubasco, The Blind Dog and our newest yummy Ganesh Indian Cuisine. If you just want something to eat and you want out of town anyway, locals head to Kimball Junction where you have a ton of options from Five Guys to Ghidotti's.
That's it for this first leg of our journey. Stay tuned for my mom's next phone call.
Ropes are dropping on trails from California to Maine as snowstorms and snowmaking weather offer up one of the best starts to a winter in recent memory. As your options open up, mountain general managers from across the country shared with SnoCountry.com their not-to-miss routes for fun on the hill.
It's party time on the shores of Lake Tahoe at Heavenly Valley on New Year's Eve. (TahoeSouth/Facebook)
The annual celebration of the new year at a ski and snowboard resort signals that the season is in full swing – and looking forward to tons of snow in the coming months.
Mountain resorts traditionally feature torchlight parades, fireworks, festive food and hearty drink on the evening of Dec. 31. Many add twists to the holiday activities – for kids, VIPs and just regular folk.
Here’s a preview of some of what will be happening in the across the country as 2016 turns into 2017 up in the hills:
South Lake Tahoe shuts down Main Street for Heavenly Valley visitors to party with music, food and drink before famed Gondola Ball Drop (ala Times Square) to signal in new year.
Crystal Mountain lays out buffet and prix fixe dinners, separate parties for teens and adults, and torchlight ski and ride down the Cheers trail for 16 years or older.
Grand Targhee gets going early with glowstick parade for 5-14 year olds with basic turning and stopping skills. Adults parade at 5:45 p.m. with roadside flares (wear an old parka), and then fireworks.
Breckenridge starts out with a glowworm parade on the slopes for the kids, then an adult version later. Many hike up Boreas Pass for best view of nighttime fireworks.
Sunday River features evening ride up Chondola for fancy meal at mid-mountain Peak Lodge. Back at base, the music is nonstop until midnight.
Stowe goes all day on Dec. 31 with face-painting, handbell concert, champagne tasting and free s’more before torchlight parade and fireworks cap off the year.
Sugarbush honors a human’s best friend with annual Dog Parade in the afternoon at base of Lincoln Peak, followed by the usual evening festivities.
The Sandia Tramway offers a different way to get to the skiing and riding. (Sandia Tramway/Facebook)
Interstate 40 is the main thoroughfare between Flagstaff and Albuquerque – and its also the route to a trio of lesser-known skiing and riding resorts along the southernmost tier of the Rocky Mountains.
Find terrain for everyone in the family at Jackson Hole. (JHMR)
With winter about to start in earnest, now is the time to check the SnoCountry snow reports and book a mountain retreat. With so many great options out there, here’s a few of SnoCountry.com’s favorite holiday getaways:
Okemo's Sunburst Six makes riding the lift a pleasure. (Okemo)
Vermont's Okemo is all about making it easy and comfortable to be out having fun in the snow. The Sunburst Six and Quantum Four signature-orange bubble lifts make getting to the top of the mountain a pleasure. And to load the lift, glide through special gates equipped with RFID readers that can be stowed safely inside jackets or pants pockets.
All three base areas at Copper are never far from the lifts (Copper/Facebook)
If there ever was a mountain created for downhill skiing and riding, it’s Copper Mountain. Nestled among 13,000-plus foot peaks just off the Continental Divide, Copper sits in a snow alley right along I-70 about 1-1/2 hour drive from Denver.