In The Spotlight
Just before the 2008 recession, Grand Targhee unveiled plans for major changes to the western Wyoming resort, but they didn’t get much farther than that. Now, 10 years later, they are back.
Resort officials have brought their ambitious plans back to the U.S. Forest Service and Teton County in hopes of moving them toward approval – and, ultimately, development of both on-mountain upgrades and base area renewals.
On the mountain, those improvements for winter include new skiable terrain, five new chairlifts and two magic carpets, increased snowmaking, two restaurants and warming huts, and a permanent tubing hill. Summer visitors will also get more trails for hiking and biking, plus ziplines and canopy tours.
“(The) return rate (of visitors) to Grand Targhee Resort ranks among the highest in the nation,” the resort said in its master plan. “However, while repeat guests are evident, skier visits have barely increased in the last 10 years. This stagnation is primarily due to a lack of lodging, resort services, parking, and amenities resulting in under utilization of the mountain.”
According to the plan, Grand Targhee averages 160,000 skier-days a year, on the lower end of the scale for Western resorts.
The plans separate out between the base area and the mountain. Around the base, they call for the 120-acre “resort parcel” to built out to 450 dwellings, 150,000 square feet of commercial space, a transportation plan aimed to handle 70 percent ridership, and employee/affordable housing.
On the mountain, planned improvements include new Lift 6 -- a high-speed quad on Peaked Mountain; new Lift 7 -- a fixed grip chair on Lightning Mountain; and new Lift 8 that will run from the bottom of Sacajewea to the base area.
Located on the western slope of the Tetons nearly on the Idaho-Wyoming border, Grand Targhee opened in 1969 with two lifts and a base lodge. It has grown to four lifts serving 2,400 vertical feet – plus a reputation for light, deep powder brought on by Pacific moisture funneled through the Snake River Plain.
Picture this: having an entire ski mountain all to yourself. No lift lines, no huge crowds, fresh tracks, and familiar faces all around. That's just what skiers and riders get when they rent New York’s Plattekill Mountain for the day—exclusive mountain use for a range of purposes, from corporate events to birthday parties, or even a "sick day" from work to enjoy the snow with friends.
Plattekill has been offering private mountain rentals since 2013, but only in recent years has the idea really begun to catch on. It all started one weekday when a group of skiers arrived to ski, only to find the doors locked tight. When they asked how much it would cost to get the lifts running for them, "that's how the idea started," explains owner and General Manager, Laszlo Vajtay.
He continues, "We put a price tag on it that would allow us to cover expenses and make it worth it to open, and they took us up on it." As one can imagine, the result was a day that that group of skiers will not soon forget, and thanks to them, private mountain rentals are a reality.
The idea of renting an entire resort property has started gaining some traction with other recreational businesses throughout the U.S. However, starting at $3,500 per day for new customers, Plattekill Mountain remains one of the most affordable options offering this kind of customer experience. Guests enjoy exclusive use of the mountain, including all open ski trails and lifts. The rental fee provides up to 250 lift tickets (more available at a drastically discounted rate), optional private use of the snow tubing park, and group discounts on equipment and lessons. Plattekill’s team can also arrange custom catered meals and beverage options too, ensuring a truly unique day for each customer.
In the off-season, Plattekill Mountain is a popular location as a destination wedding venue that offers private use of the entire resort throughout the entire week leading up to the wedding (no other mountain activities or guests). Now, with winter private mountain rentals, couples can enjoy a private wedding any time of year.
Dates for the upcoming 2018-19 winter mountain rental season are filling up quickly, but customers can secure their date with a $500 deposit. The rental fee starts at $3,500, but will go up to $4,500 if booked after October 31, 2018.
Alterra Mountain Co. has announced it has an agreement to purchase Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington – the first Pacific Northwest holding for the Denver-based resort conglomerate and its Ikon Pass.
With the deal, Crystal joins the Ikon Pass family that offers unlimited skiing and riding on 14 resorts that Alterra owns – plus multiple days at nearly two dozen Alterra partner resorts.
On the northeast edge of Mt. Rainier National Park, Crystal Mountain is about two hours’ drive from the Seattle area. The 2,600-acre mountain has highest lift-serviced terrain in the state, topping out at 6,872 feet in elevation. Lifts include a gondola and 10 chairlifts that serve 57 runs and a vertical drop of 3,100 feet.
Owned for two decades by Michigan-based Boyne Resorts, Crystal was purchased by John Kirchner, longtime general manager at the Cascade Mountain resort and a shareholder at Boyne, in 2017.
Alterra Mountain Company was created when affiliates of KSL Capital Partners, owners of Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows, and affiliates of Henry Crown and Company purchased Intrawest, Mammoth Resorts, and Deer Valley Resort in 2017. Since then, the company has gone on a spending spree to acquire the 14 resorts in seven states – from Vermont to California.
The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2018, but the Ikon Pass has already added Crystal to its list of unlimited skiing and ‘boarding destinations.
Rock climbing is a specialized sport, with its own equipment and techniques. But European-based via ferratas have begun to spring up in the U.S. mountain country to make the sport more accessible to more people.
Translated as “iron roads,” via ferratas originated as a way for Italian troops to navigate the Dolomite Mountains during World War I. Fixed “protection” on the rock, such as cables, steps, pegs and ladders, allow non-technical climbers to hook in and climb over rocks. Some via ferratas incorporate hanging bridges.
The sudden appearance of via ferratas came after the 2011 Recreation Opportunity Enhancement Act that permitted a wider range of activities on U.S. Forest Service land, on which many U.S. ski and snowboard resorts sit.
Here’s a look at the via ferratas in and around North American mountain resorts:
In the Telluride box canyon, the mountain club has set up a via ferrata on the south-facing wall at the end of the canyon near Bridal Veil Falls. Local guiding companies take climbers onto the wall that rises 500 feet out of the canyon floor. Featured is the “Main Event” that crosses 300 feet on a sheer cliff.
Jackson Hole has the first via ferrata built on public land. It has eight routes – from introductory to more-difficult – and a 120-foot suspension bridge. Rates include two-hour practice climb, half-day option or six-hour full day on the rock.
Squaw Valley has installed one of the newest via ferratas in the West, with two routes on the Tram Face that juts out above the main base village. Routes are particularly kid-friendly, and guides provided by the resort.
Routes rise out of Waterfall Canyon above Ogden, Utah. A trio of climbs sit west of the ridge that tops Snowbasin Resort. Built by local climbing legend Jeff Lowe. Mount Odgen Via Ferrata includes a training wall and main climb.
Other via ferrata are planned for the mountains of the West, including several routes on the backside of Taos Ski Valley. The East has one in Rumney, N.H., in the famed Polar Caves.