Andy started skiing at about three years old. His father Jim held him between his legs and off they went down New England trails. Soon, Andy joined the Fourth Estate and moved to Colorado, thereupon finding work as a staff writer or editor for newspapers – including a stint as Ski Editor for the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph. In between,...
Andy started skiing at about three years old. His father Jim held him between his legs and off they went down New England trails. Soon, Andy joined the Fourth Estate and moved to Colorado, thereupon finding work as a staff writer or editor for newspapers – including a stint as Ski Editor for the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph. In between, he designed and wrote public school curriculum, edited Concrete Pumping & Placing Magazine, and got a master’s degree in English. All the while, he skied. So, the marriage of snowsports and journalism has only been waiting for Andy to catch on. He’s glad he finally did.

Purveyors Of Ikon Pass Buy Snow Valley, Couples With Big Bear Resorts


The owners of the Ikon Pass and 16 North American resorts has bought Snow Valley and linked it with its two other southern California mountains.

Denver-based Alterra Mountain Company said it plans to directly connect Snow Valley with Big Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. They sit 11 miles apart. The triad of ski and snowboard mountains are within easy driving distance from the L.A. Basin, and have long been popular destinations for the metro area's day-trippers.

On February 20, Ikon passholders can ski and ride at Snow Valley without charge. No reciprocal arrangement has been worked out for access to the other two mountains this season, according to Alterra, although Snow Valley passholders can get a free one-day voucher for either Big Bear Mountain or Snow Summit. Snow Valley remains on Indy Pass for this season.

In a press release, Alterra said that it sees beginner-friendly Snow Valley as the first step in a skills development track that leads to intermediate and expert terrain at the Big Bear. Snow Valley's renowned learning area huddles around the base (6,800 feet elevation) with a couple of chairs and carpets, and an award-winning snow school. There's even a chair dedicated to sledding. And the acquisition should reduce crowding by spreading out the number of skiers and riders across three mountains.  

Up above, Snow Valley offers up a mixed bag of blues and blacks to fill out its 1,041 of vertical feet -- topping out with the 35-degree pitch on double-blacks in Slide Peak bowl.

The mountain has an extensive terrain park presence, beginning with a progression park below, then two more jib parks of more demanding layout up the mountain off Chair 3. Snow Valley runs night skiing on selected weekends throughout the season.

People have been sliding down Snow Valley slopes since 1924. The industry's first first overhead cable lift started in 1937. Except for one high-speed six-pack -- the only one in southern California -- the mountain's eight other chairlifts date from the '70s and '80s, and new ownership is expected to upgrade the lift system.

In California, the Ikon Pass is good at Palisades Tahoe, Mammoth and June Mountain, as well as the Big Bear resorts twosome.


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Angel Fire, Red River Suit Themselves To Those New To The Slopes


The Enchanted Circle highway loops through scenic northern New Mexico, providing the route to a pair of ski and snowboard resorts up high in the the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that cater to those who are learning the sport.

The southernmost is Angel Fire which sits on 560 acres of a former cattle ranch with 8,600-foot base elevation. Mostly, Angel Fire appeals to never-ever, novice and leisure skiers and riders.

Known also as a mountain biking mecca, the all-season resort's menu of kind-and-considerate blues and greens sling off a long ridge. A large terrain park runs its own chairlift off the 10,677-foot-high summit. Less than one-quarter of the trail map is rated black.

Appealing to vacationing families, Angel Fire deeply discounts day and season passes for kids 6 and under, seniors 75+ and fifth-graders. It's a member of the Powder Alliance, and pass partner with Cooper, Monarch and Powderhorn. Night skiing lights up on selected evenings, and ample tubing and sledding hills beckon. Not much of an apres-ski scene.

Head north over Bobcat Pass (9,820 ft. high) to Red River Ski Area in a tight canyon 8,750 feet above sea level. A half-day's drive from Texas Panhandle, the Red River valley draws heavily from the high plains. It exudes a Western cowboy vibe with plenty of eats, rooms and music.

The trail map depicts just over 200 acres on a compact but surprisingly steep pitch off its 10,350-foot summit that attracts storms with its persistent northern aspect. Expert runs dive off the high ridge, blues fill up midmountains above lower greens. Snowguns reach more than 85% of Red River. Crews added more snowguns and water lines this summer.

A secondary base at Main Chalet is a premier learning area aimed at improving skill by moving through progressions. Two moving carpets, slow chairs, gentle terrain and a novice terrain park serve the beginner in a non-threatening way. Kids 5 and under and seniors 70-plus ski and ride for free.

Along with Ski Cooper and Sunlight, Red River is in the Freedom Pass system, meaning a passholder from any of 21 U.S. mountains gets three free days at any of the others. A Red River season pass partners include Monarch, Powderhorn, Snow King, Diamond Peak and Red Lodge.





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Indy Pass Road Trip To Local Hills Kelly Canyon, Snow King, White Pine


Many of us cut our teeth lapping runs on small local hills, so taking an Indy Pass on a nostalgic road trip back to our roots should appeal to most skiers and riders.

One such trio of local slopes sit around the Wyoming-Idaho border and within a four-hour drive of each other. Each is under 800 acres, has modest vertical drops around 1,000 feet, brings a definite localfeel from the nearby town it serves -- and takes the Indy Pass.

Start the Indy road trip at Kelly Canyon just outside Idaho Falls. Four fixed-grip chairs -- the newest and longest is an 8-minute ride on Gold Rush -- deliver to Kelly's ample choice of greens and blues. With 1,000 vertical drop on 740 acres, Kelly gives novices and intermediates more choice than most. Frontside full of broad groomers, and upper mountain basically wide open.

New owners came in 2019, and they remodeled base lodge, put in Gold Rush triple, and upped snowmaking capabilities. Day tickets top at $79, so half price on third Indy day is a deal. Night skiing six days a week, closed Mondays.

Head across the Wyoming border to Snow King, rising out of the town of Jackson. Expect the unexpected once at town-owned Snow King. Its compact 500 acres combines with vertical drop of 1,500 feet to produce more steeps (60% of terrain) than most local hills. Snow King even has a small back bowl.

And for sure, no U.S. in-town hill has a gondola. Installed in 2021 for both winter and summer visitors, the four-seater takes five minutes to reach the 7,808-foot-high summit. Double-black a-plenty on both sides off gondola summit. For plenty of blues and a few greens, take the Rafferty quad which has a midstation. Night skiing six days a week, and third day on Indy costs $37.50.

Final stop finds Indy roadies making a two-hour drive to White Pine. Pinedales's go-to hill packs plenty into its 370 acres, including 1,100 feet of vertical drop. A triple fixed-grip takes eight minutes to the 9,500-foot summit, and all 29 trails run off it. Plenty of short steeps to skier's left, while blues and greens weave in and out of each other on the other side. Limited novice slopes at bottom with short chair, but a great resort to learn to ski at.

A third half-off Indy day tops out at $30. White Pine spins its lifts on Friday through Monday.



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Owners Of Power Pass Resorts Buy Into South America's Largest Ski Mountain


The aggressive owner-operator of Purgatory, Arizona Snowbowl and eight other Western mountains has extended its reach to Chile by becoming the majority partner in sprawling Valle Nevado.

Known as a "skier first" resort operator, Durango-based Mountain Capital Partners fits in with Valle Nevado management which, despite its international reputation, has apparently been looking for a partner with the cash to upgrade its lift system and snowmaking. That's right down MCP's alley: When the company buys into a mountain, it immediately invests in on-mountain infrastructure like high-speed lifts and snowmaking systems.

Located an hour-and-a-half drive up from Santiago -- the nation's capital and largest city of 8 million -- Valle Nevado sits between 9,400 and 12,000 feet elevation and covers some 2,200 lift-served, alpine acres (with tens of thousands more for heli-skiing). As the biggest mountain in South America, it has been a popular destination for North Americans seeking to keep their skiing and riding jones going during their off-season, and is a regular summer training location for international World Cup skiers and snowboarders.

A press release says that MCP principal James Coleman and his family skied at Valle Nevado numerous times over the past years: “Our company is made up of authentic skiers who, like me, have a relentless passion for skiing, and we consistently focus on improvements that enhance the skiing experience,” said Coleman. “While we are still getting to know Valle Nevado in this new relationship, there’s no question that we’re committed to maintaining and elevating Valle Nevado’s reputation as the premiere ski resort destination on the continent.”

Valle Nevado is the only South American resort under the continent-wide Ikon and Mountain Collective passes, while MCP is the purveyor of the regional Power Pass. Company officials said they have not decided how season passes would work for Valle Nevado.

MCP now owns and/or operates a disparate 11-resort, one bike park network. Starting in 2000 with the purchase of compact Sipapu in New Mexico, the partnership has grown its portfolio to include mountains of all shapes and sizes in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and, in 2022, Willamette Pass in Oregon.



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Skiers, Snowboarders Can Ride The Rails To Winter Park


Alternate kinds of transportation are all the rave these days, and Colorado visitors and locals can count the Winter Park "ski train" as their own special contribution -- for much of the last eight decades. 

Running Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 26, the Winter Park Express takes skiers and riders over the Amtrak tracks from downtown Denver's Union Station to within walking distance of the chairlifts at Winter Park. Ski-train railcars hitch a ride on the transcontinental Amtrak California Zephyr on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

In the morning, the ski train departs Denver's Union Station at 7 a.m. Seating is limited to about 500, so online reservations are highly recommended.

For $34 one-way adult, $17 preteens -- skiers and riders jump take a two-hour ride of 56 miles, 49 tunnels and 4,000 feet of vertical rise in order to get to Winter Park --- just in time for first chair at 9 a.m. Skis and 'boards get to stow away for free. Ski train ticket-holders sit in coach class.

To return to Denver, skiers and riders head to the Winter Park platform to catch the eastbound Zephyr. It departs at 4:30 p.m. to wind back down from the Continental Divide to the Denver basin and arrive at Union Station 6:30 p.m.

Skiers and 'boarders can customize their train trip over any number of days. For instance, they can ride up on a Friday, book a week's stay at Winter Park, and take the return trip any day the train returns to Denver. During the week -- when the train doesn't stop at Winter Park -- skiers and riders can stay on to the next top in Frasier, and hop a shuttle to the slopes.

The history of "ski trains" runs back into the 1930s. One of the earliest hauled skiers from Seattle-Tacoma up to what is now Snoqualmie. Back east, weekend ski trains provided transport from Boston and New York City to the New England ski areas into the 1970s.

When Winter Park opened in 1940, the first iteration of the ski train steamed up from Denver. It has remain viable until 2009 when it shut down. In 2015, Amtrak and partners agreed to re-christen the Winter Park Express.

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Despite Modest Size, Sunlight And Powderhorn Offer Up Complete Package


Shunning the glitz, a pair of mid-sized mountains on the Western Slope of Colorado bring a bit of the old-school and historic experience back to skiing and riding in Rocky Mountains

Perched on the east edge of the Grand Mesa, Sunlight Mountain opened in 1966, and its front side of Sunlight Mountain appears much as it has been for the last five decades: A ton of blue groomers, a couple of long top-to-bottom greens, and a sprinkling of black glades and pitches.

However, the big change came a couple of seasons ago when the East Ridge came onto the trail map. Its dozens of double-diamond plunges doubled Sunlight's skiable acres to 730, and gave gnarl-seeking locals a reason to eschew the fancy Aspens and take the 13-mile drive up from Glenwood Springs.

This season, Sunlight joined the Indy Pass network for two days at any of 120 resorts in U.S., Canada and Japan. An adult Sunlight season pass includes free days at Loveland, Monarch, Powderhorn and Ski Cooper.

In 2023, skiers and riders will find a new ski school yurt at the base area, along with a new outdoor food station for grab 'n' go. Never-evers get a good deal at Sunlight with the Learn-to-Shine combo of rentals, three half-day lessons and five day tickets anytime afterwards.

Sunlight's three chairlifts are dated ("youngest" went in 1987). So it's big news for locals and day-trippers that the 50-year-old Segundo double chair with a triple fixed-grip next season.

About an hour's drive down-valley sits Powderhorn, off the northern edge of the Grand Mesa near Grand Junction. The trail maps spreads between two 9,800-foot elevation high grounds with 1,600 acres, three chairlifts and two surface lifts.

From a rope tow in the 1940s through multiple owners of varying successes, Powderhorn was bought by experienced Colorado ownership in the last decade. The first step was to put up high-speed quad in 2015. The quad reduced lift lines at the base and ramped up access to Powderhorn's long, groomer blue runs and expert terrain on its east edge.

Novices can ride to the top and wander down the switchbacks of Stagecoach-Pacemaker green run to the novice-friendly base area. Across the way, the two-seater West End chair drops off above some the Powderhorn's steepest terrain.

This summer, crews added capacity to the mountain's snowmaking system, cleared out about 100 new parking spaces, and installed the second beginner surface lift.

Powderhorn season passes include three reciprocal days at a dozen mountains in the West, including Colorado partners Sunlight, Loveland, Monarch, Ski Cooper and Bluebird Backcountry.

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Northern Utah Couples Big-Mountain Skiing, Riding With Local Hill Vibe


Just up the road from its more famous neighbors, the ski and snowboard resorts of northern Utah hold their own, with everything from massive powder terrain to former Olympic race courses to a seriously local vibe.

Up-and-down Nordic Valley finally got stability when Colorado-based Mountain Capital Partners took over management of the Ogden-area mountain in 2019. Right away, the local hill above Eden got a high-speed six-pack to radically upgrade access to its 500 acres of terrain.

This summer, crews cut a half-dozen new expert runs and glades off the Nordic Valley Express detachable chair. Nearly half of its 40-trail network is now black-rated. They also built a yurt lounge at the top of the lift and put in more snowmaking -- plus a new beer bar and expanded parking down below.

Up the road at Snowbasin -- home to the men's and women's downhill races at the 2002 Olympics -- the resort has moved from the Epic Pass to the Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective. More snowmaking, avalanche mitigation, more gladed trails and regrading of the connector Broadway trail topped summer work. Big news next season will be a second lift for more slopetime on Strawberry sector.

With the largest in-bounds skiing and riding in the U.S. (8,434 acres), Powder Mountain is as it was last season: A powderhounds' heaven with lift, snowcat, snowmobile and hike-to stashes. Off-season work focused instead on setting up summer mountain biking terrain, expected to open next summer.

Move over to Logan and a pair of local hills have no new surprises for the season. North at the Idaho border sits Beaver Mountain, the quintessential local hill that opened in 1939 and has been under the Seelhozer family ownership from the git-go. "The Beav'" has four fixed-grip chairs and a couple of magic carpets handle 828 acres of skiable terrain. Night skiing is around the base and mostly private, although a dozen public nights are scheduled.

Utah's newest alpine mountain, Cherry Peak epitomizes the "local hill" as it's just four miles from downtown from Richmond. Opened in 2015, the 400-acre ski area appeals to mid-level skiers and riders with most of its 29 runs in the green or blue categories. And, as many close-to-town areas do, Cherry Park has night skiing, six nights a week.


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Quartet Of Southern Idaho Resorts Aim At Skier-Comfort This Season


Like many U.S. ski and snowboard resorts this season, a group of four Idaho resorts focused on nitty-gritty projects to make things more comfortable and safe for skiers and riders in 2022-2023.

At Boise's own Bogus Basin, lift crews added more chairs to Morningstar and Superior Express to help move more skiers and riders around the mountain. Two new trails on the upper mountain make back-to-front connection easier, and some greens got wider.

Night skiing terrain has expanded, putting Sunbeam and Superior runs under the lights. Down below, there are 50 more parking spots, and snowshoeing operation is gaining ground.

About two hours' north sits Tamarack. Rejuvenation continues since new owners took over in 2018. Focus this summer was on apres-ski: A new 5,000-square-foot restaurant and bar -- with mezzanine and outdoor seatings -- went in slopeside in the base village. Pay digitally and choose from a wall of 40 self-serve beer taps.

The Indy Pass works at Tamarack. On the 1,100-acre mountain, snowmaking continues to be amped up so that about a fifth of the terrain has snowguns. Tamarack's trail map leans toward the more difficult and difficult categories, with clearly 80% of the trail falling into one or the other rating.

Just up the road, Brundage Mountain ski patrol have moved into new digs this winter. A brand-new 2,800-square-foot space houses patrol and first aid facilities. A couple of new groomers are on the hill to smooth out the early-season surfaces. Brundage is also a members of the Indy Pass system.

Nostalgians will take the last rides on the 32-year-old Centennial fixed-grip triple, as plans call for a detachable high-speed chair to go in next season. Also in the near future at Brundage is a new base lodge to replace the original A-frame, and there will be hints of real estate development around the base of the heretofore day-trip resort.

In Idaho's southeast sector, venerable Sun Valley continues its march toward 90 years in business (2026) by opening up some new terrain in the Warm Springs portion of the 2,700-acre resort. Two gladed sections were cleared this summer to expand the mountain's western edge in preparation of two new chairlifts scheduled to go in for next season as part of an aggressive improvement plan.

Also, Sun Valley joined the Ikon Pass as a seven-day partner, and the Mountain Collective for its two days free and half-off any additional days. And, Sun Valley will reclaim some of its old racing roots by hosting the U.S. Alpine Championships in March.



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Front Range Oldies-But-Goodies Celebrate Anniversaries, Upgrades


Copper and Cooper, Eldora and Echo: These well-traveled Colorado mountains have been easy-to-reach for Denver-area skiers and riders for more than a half century -- and this season is no different.

First of all, the birthdays. Ski Cooper outside Leadville celebrates 80 years in operation. Eldora looks back at 60 years on the eastern front of the Rockies. Local hill Echo Mountain is 62 years old this season. And, "youngster" Copper Mountain rings in its 50th season in the ski business.

For 2022-2023, Ikon Pass member Copper is content to pause to commemorate its five decades in operation with events and memorabilia. On the mountain, the family-friendly, beginner-focuses Western Territory enters its second year with two adventure zones, and green runs Roundabout and West Ten-Mile on the far western edge of the resort. (A replacement Lumberjack chair is planned.) Plus, after several years of fees and reservations, parking at Copper is once again free and first-come first served.

Up the road at Ski Cooper/Chicago Ridge, tree-thinning this summer opened up more space in the green-rated Leprechaun Lane forest near the base. Also, crews continued to remove trees from the all-expert Tennessee Creek Basin chutes and glades on the backside of the legendary Tenth Mountain Division ski area that opened in 1942. The ticket is $30 on Thursdays, and snowcat rides up to the Continental Divide are now split out into half-day trips.

Above Boulder, Ikon Pass resort Eldora has added another 800 parking spots -- good news for its Front Range loyalists who were sometimes turned away as parking lots filled up quickly on busy days in recent seasons. More snowmaking capacity went in around the Alpenglow chairlift and Little Hawk learning area, and on-mountain internet connections got a boost.

And at Echo Mountain, which has experienced a renaissance after several seasons teetering upon closure, a longer and gentler Travelers Traverse now connects the top of the chairlift to the bottom in one continuously wandering trail. Popular night skiing will light up trails until 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.





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Longest Vertical, Night Skiing/Riding Highlight Seasons At Mt. Hood Resorts


The Pacific Northwest has gotten pummeled by early-season storms, especially on the ramparts of Mt. Hood -- Oregon's highest point and home to four ski and snowboard areas.

Snow stays all year on the extinct volcano that tops out at 11,245 feet. So, as usual, skiers and riders got to carve turns at Timberline well into September this season because the resort keeps its high-altitude Palmer Snowfields open all summer, ideal for racing camps.

As this winter snows arrived, the most dramatic development has been the completion of the nation's longest trail that connects Timberline snowfields to Summit Pass ski area by way of 4,540 vertical feet and 4-1/4 trail miles, ending near the town of Government Camp. A shuttle returns to the Timberline base.

Aside from the new trail, Timberline has added a covered magic carpet at Summit Pass, and expanded its night skiing options with lights added to a dozen trails and two terrain parks under the Pucci chairlift.

Big news at Mt. Hood Meadows -- a circuitous 40-minute drive from Timberline -- is it's now in the Indy Pass network. Hoodoo and Mt. Ashland are fellow Indy Oregonian mountains that can be had for two days free with the national pass.

The 2,150-acre layout goes in all directions, fed from two distinct parking lots. There's ample jibbing space on a half-dozen terrain parks, and the mountain boasts an off-piste selection in Heather Canyon off the mountain's north shoulder. Night skiing runs on selected Saturdays and Sundays.

Just west of Government Camp sits Mt. Hood Skibowl. Touted as having the nation's largest night skiing acreage with 36 runs, Skibowl now has a night season pass good for seven days a week. During the day, the chutes and bowls below Skibowl and Tom Dick peaks can stand up to any.

This season, the resort has joined with neighbor Timberline in the Mt. Hood Fusion Pass that also includes Powder Alliance mountains.

Take a half-hour drive northeast from Government Camp to Cooper Spur, one of the West's coziest -- and oldest -- family slopes. Opened in 1927 (a year before Mt. Hood Skibowl), Cooper Spur retains its original vibe on 50 acres and 400 feet of drop. The sole double chairlift is open Friday-Sunday all season, with night skiing on Fridays.






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Occupancy, Fees, Reservations All In Utah Resort Parking Mix


Utah mountain resorts and Salt Lake City officials have worked hard to confront the congestion of vehicles heading to the hills -- and this ski and snowboard season will be no different.

For those driving up to the mountains, resorts are making carpooling worth your while, requiring parking reservations and charging parking fees. Here's what to expect for the following Wasatch resorts:

Above Provo, Sundance has new ownership that dramatically upgraded the mountain. This season, Sundance lets vehicles with four or more passengers go free. Otherwise, close-in parking costs $25 weekdays, $45 on weekends and holidays. Next in line lots cost $22 on weekends and holidays, free during the week. The most remote lots charge $5 on weekends and holidays.

Up Little Cottonwood Canyon, Snowbird has a bunch of first-come first-served free lots that require a hike to the lifts. Three close-in lots require pre-arrival reservations and $25 fee. A season pass for preferred parking costs $799, and limited valet parking can be had in advance or upon arrival. Carpooling with 4-plus per vehicle means not parking charge.

Alta continues to work to make space for skiers and riders in its tight canyon setting. This season, online parking reservations are a must Fridays through Sundays; no reservation, no parking. Cost is $25, cut to $10 for day ticket purchasers. Alta and Alta-Bird season passholders get free parking with a code when making reservations.

Over at Brighton, first-come first-served spaces fill up quickly, so an alternative is a $30 per-day reservation for one of 120 spots that's good until noon.

Next door at Solitude, all parking lots charge a fee according to vehicle occupancy: four or more, $5 on weekends/holidays; three in vehicle, $5 weekdays, $15 weekends/holidays; two occupants, $10 and $20; and single driver, $20 and $35. You pay at payment stations at the resort.

And at Park City Mountain, it costs to park at any of the main three surface lots and the parking garage near the base area. Online reservations a must, and good until 1 p.m. At the surface lots, cost is $25 for three or fewer occupants, free for 4-plus in car. In garage, it's a flat $40 fee. Parking areas near Park City have park 'n' ride services, and several remote lots can be had for no fee.

The other way to avoid traffic and parking fees is to take the UTA Ski Bus from various locations around the Salt Lake basin for $5. Most season pass holders ride for free.





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Dodge Ridge, Mountain High Add China Peak, Promise Regional Pass


The owner of two California ski and snowboard mountains have acquired China Peak and plans to create a season pass for alll three mountains.

Mountain High -- one of California's oldest ski mountains and an hour's drive from L.A. basin -- and Dodge Ridge, which draws folks for San Francisco and Stockton markets, will now bracket China Peak and its Fresno following under single ownership.

The purchase should be good news for Central Valley skiers and snowboarders. The new consortium connects a trio of western Sierra resorts that attracts skiers and riders from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Plus, it puts more skiable terrain (about 2,300 acres combined) within a day's driving distance of these major metropolitan areas.

Ownership told The Storm Skiing Journal that they will issue a multi-mountain season pass either this winter or for next season. All three are members of the Powder Alliance -- a season pass at any of 21 resorts is honored for three free days at others -- and the burgeoning Indy Pass that gives two days free at any of its 18 West Coast mountains and 120 worldwide.

As each opened this season, snowmaking topped the what's-new list at each. Mountain High added state-of-the-art snow guns and snow cat, and expanded snow play area. Dodge Ridge -- three hours from S.F. and two hours from Stockton -- will be testing its first snowmaking system at the base this season. And, China Peak became a top-10 California snowmaker this offseason, as well upgrading food service.



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Behind-The-Scenes Upgrades Highlight Taos, Purgatory, Monarch Openings


A trio of southern tier resorts that often line up to catch La Nińa storms opened this season focusing on making skier-experience improvements rather than splashing headline projects.

At Taos Ski Valley, the main work over the last couple of seasons has been to reduce the resort's carbon footprint. This season, a new all-electric snowcat will patrol the slopes, and daytime operations of chairlifts and snowmaking will be powered exclusively by solar energy. Add in high-efficient snow guns and thermal wells heating and cooling the Blake Hotel, and the northern New Mexico resort has jumped into the lead among environmentally friendly operations.

Due to a rash of forest fires in the area, crews have worked to create a fire break and to removed diseased trees on 320 acres within the mountain's boundaries.

After installation of high-speed chairs in recent seasons, Purgatory ownership has shifted its financial focus to snowmaking. This summer's upgrades in pumps, compressors and snow guns got the front side of the mountain open on time in November.

Mechanics delved into the workings of Lifts 1 and 3 to make them more reliable during the season, and the grooming fleet continues to modernize.

Down below, 50 more parking spots went in in the lower parking lot, with hopes of expanding the resort's remote parking in coming years. On-the-hill eateries got a fresh menu, and WiFi access has expanded onto the back side of the mountain.

At Monarch, season pass holders get more space to store their equipment at the mountain with 65 more lockers in a new room with direct outside access. Scan RFID season pass to get in.

Forest crews have taken out about as many beetle-infested spruce trees as they can within the existing trail map. Next summer -- if National Forest is willing -- they hope to open up space in backcountry areas, such as No Name Basin.






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Like The Mythical Phoenix, Sierra-at-Tahoe Rises From The Ashes


A little more than a year after a forest fire ravaged Sierra-at-Tahoe, the 2,000-acre mountain south of Lake Tahoe is up and running for 2022-2023.

In August 2021, the Caldor Fire roared in from the southwest and onto the trails, slopes and glades of "Sierra," abruptly ending any chance of a 2021-2022 winter season. Once the fire was extinguished and hot spots were doused, work began in earnest to mitigate terrain damage and repair chairlifts -- all with an aim of getting a portion of the mountain open again this season.

Mission accomplished, as mountain managers dropped the ropes for a new season on December 3 with a surprising amount of the trail map open. Late fall storms blessed the Sierra with several feet of base layer, with Sierra-at-Tahoe reporting that about 90 inches have fallen prior to opening day.

Skiers and riders familiar with Sierra will find a radically different look this season. While the trails off Grandview Express are ready to be opened, all the forested areas -- including the famed glades between runs on the east side of the mountain -- will remain closed. Unpatrolled steeps in Jack's Bowl are expected to be opened when conditions permit.

The West Bowl -- a popular blue-black network of trails and tree islands -- is now wide open and treeless. The fire hits West Bowl hardest, and crews concentrated on removing damaged trees and spreading wood chips in order to get West Bowl ready and safe for the season. Mountain managers call the mitigated terrain the "hidden backstage in the trees that is now your stage to perform."

Off Grandview chair, upper-ridge easy cruiser Sugar 'n' Spice and its "mellow yellow" fingerlings opened on time along with a dozen other designated trails, but any treed areas will be roped off.

The gentle trails on the Backside, served by two fixed-grip doubles, are expected to open when conditions allow. A passel of blues and greens off Grandview and Nob Hill chairs are listed as open. But all the gladed terrain in between the named trails will remain closed.

Sierra-at-Tahoe is a member of the 21-resort Powder Alliance; merely show a season from a member-resort and get three days free.

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New Terrain, Upgraded Chairlifts Highlight Spokane-Area Openings


A quartet of Inland Northwest ski and snowboard mountains within a couple of hours' drive from Spokane have new offerings as the 2022-2023 season gets underway.

The Lookout Pass trail map got longer this summer with the Eagle Pass expansion on the western edge of the mountain. New is nearly 500 more acres with the new Eagle Pass fixed-grip quad, reachable by a leisurely green run off the resort's main summit. Terrain includes mostly blue runs, plus a long lift-line black and a few other expert pitches.

Straddling the both the Idaho-Montana border and the Mountain and Pacific time zones, the expansion nearly doubles the ski and snowboard area's size to 1,023 acres, and it raises the mountain's vertical-foot drop to 1,650. Also this summer, crews regraded the Success beginner area and tweaked the base lodge, rentals and parking. Its season pass links with eight Western resorts, including Bluewood and Mission Ridge in Washington state.

Staying up north, Schweitzer expansive Outback Bowl got an upgrade with the Stella high-speed adding more chairs to reduce the ride time to acres of glades and blue groomers. The chairlift anchors the skier's right portion of the large basin on Schweitzer's back side.

Down below, the children's center got an upgrade, and a new spa has gone in next to the base Selkirk Lodge. Schweitzer honors the Ikon Pass for seven free days.

At 49 Degrees North (named for its latitude), the big news came last season with the opening of the mountain's first high-speed quad chair. The base-to-summit Northern Spirit takes skiers and riders to the high ground in seven minutes, clearing out base area clogs and improving access to the wide variety of trails off the 5,774-foot Mt. Chewelah summit.

Along with the Sunrise Basin and Angel Peak expansions in the recent years, 49 Degrees North has jumped from 1,500 to more than 2,300 acres. Its season pass reciprocates with Bluewood, Mission Ridge, Loup Loup and White Pass in the state.

Northern Idaho's Silver Mountain has opened more powder-stash terrain this season by pushing the ski boundaries off Chair 2 . Named South of the Border, it adds about 20 acres of glades and powder meadows -- plus a new trail back to the base of the lift.

On the other side of the mountain at the Chair 4 mid-station, Silver has opened up a new Jackass Snack Shack to commemorate the resort's first name, Jackass Ski Bowl. The resort is now a member of the Powder Alliance. And, Silver is the only mountain in the West that connects to town (Kellogg, Idaho) via a gondola.


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Overhaul Of Sundance Mountain Continues With New Terrain


Over the past two years, Sundance Mountain Resort has quietly undergone a major overhaul that has smoothed the flow for skiers and riders around the 467-acre mountain.

Nestled in the southern tier of the Wasatch Mountains, this summer Sundance installed its third new chairlift in two years, and cut new trails for 40 acres of brand-new novice/intermediate terrain. Located at mid-mountain on a southern wing of the trail map, the Wildwood area has a new fixed-grip quad that delivers skiers and 'boarders in five minutes to some 10 new blue and green trails.

The new Wildwood section fits conveniently at the top of Jake's Lift that serves the bulk of the green and blue runs on the lower, front half of Sundance. From the top of the chair, skiers and riders have another way to get to the mountain's backside Flathead chair (reportedly slated to be Sundance's next new chair soon) and all its black chutes and bowls.

Since actor Robert Redford sold the resort in 2020, the new ownership has poured cash onto the mountain and into the base area. Formerly all fixed-grip chairs, Sundance now has a high-speed Outlaw that reaches to the false summit on the front side, and a short, 1,000-foot Stairway triple that simplified getting from the front to the back -- and opens up about 15 acres of modest terrain as well.

Down below, the base lodge has gotten a remodel, and a trio of carpet lifts went in for a dedicated beginner area. There's more room for parking, and a higher capacity of snowmaking -- all aimed to make Sundance a more efficient and easy-to-use mountain.

Ticket-wise, Sundance is a partner with the Power Pass and its three-day reciprocal lift tickets with the southwest Colorado-based consortium of eight resorts, including Utah's Nordic Valley.

The 16 ski and snowboard resorts in Utah now welcome millions to their slopes every winter. The vast majority of them either head up the Cottonwood canyons to Alta, Snowbird, Solitude or Brighton, or hop on I-80 in Salt Lake for the half-hour drive to Park City and Deer Valley.

In essence, the 2,150 vertical feet and 515 acres of skiing and riding at Sundance seems to slip beneath the radar of most Utahns and visitors who flock to the state for its "greatest snow on earth." Yet it's only 50-minute drive from Salt Lake to Provo and then up into the hills to Sundance.

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Buttermilk Makeover Highlights 2022-2023 Season In Aspen


Winter has come to Aspen Snowmass and, as the resort's quartet of mountains head into the 2022-2023 season, much of buzz is about a transformation at easy-going Buttermilk.

Construction this summer brought an aging, clunky base area into the 21st century. A new 9,300-square-foot building consolidates tickets, rentals, ski school and bathrooms into a single skier services center. The former Bumps lodge restaurant got a makeover -- including locker room update -- and a new name (Buttermilk Mountain Lodge), and an expanded outdoor patio called The Backyard.

Mountain officials say the work aims to simplify the area and make the slopes for approachable and inclusive for all guests. However, the finishing touches of the $26 million Buttermilk makeover will bleed past the opening of the season, so skiers and riders should expect temporary facilities for a month or two.

Opened in 1958, Buttermilk has long lived up to its name as the smooth, gentle, non-competitive place to ski and ride in the Aspen complex. Its ski school and learning terrain is renowned. Resort publicists called it "the home of non-stop recess" and the trail map reflects that: Nearly 75% of the runs are green- or blue-rated.

Over at iconic Aspen Mountain, the World Cup returns to the famous America's Downhill course in March, after a six-year hiatus. Two downhills and a super-G are scheduled for the first weekend in March.

The resort's first major expansion in 40 years -- Pandora -- won't be open this season. Located to skier's right off the summit of Ajax Mountain, the new area will add 160 acres to the mountain's existing 673 skiable acres. A high-speed chairlift will service the new area, which will open expert glades and a couple of blue groomers.

Both Snowmass and Aspen Highlands will stand pat this season, as far as on-mountain additions. Both received high ratings for their wine dinners, and Snowmass has added a bear-and-pretzel option to its apres-ski menu. The Ikon Pass works at all four mountains.

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Big Bear Mountain Resorts, Mountain High Bring Skiing, Riding To SoCal


Southern California skiers and snowboarders have plenty to choose from within a couple hours' drive from the Los Angeles Basin into the coastal mountain range.

Two of those resorts -- Mountain High and Bear Mountain/Snow Summit -- actually fill out five separate trail maps as, over the years, consolidation produced a wider variety of terrain.

At Mountain High, skiing began in the 1940s and has expanded to three separate mountains -- East, West and North -- that split out nicely according to skill and type of terrain. The West Resort, now combined with neighbor East Resort, acts as the focus for the three resorts. But each has its own base facilities. Free shuttles run between West and East bases.

This season, skiers and riders will benefit from more snowmaking capacity (essential for a SoCal mountain), more features in the terrain park and renovations to the Foggy Goggle Bar at the West Resort base.

Mountain High is a Powder Alliance member and accepts the two-day-free Indy Pass. Night skiing on 85% of West Resort goes until 10 p.m. every evening at West Resort, with tubing park at North Resort. Parking can be an issue. There is on free parking lot, at the West Resort, but all the others cost $20 per vehicle.

Head to northeast into the San Bernardino mountains to find a longtime favorite of SoCal's skiers and 'boarders, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. Under the moniker of Big Bear Mountain Resorts, the two mountains sit separately above Big Bear Lake, but you only need one ticket or an Ikon Pass, to ski and ride both.

This season, a multi-year renovation of the Bear Mountain base has produced an upgraded Laybacks Bar, a more convenient layout for the rental shop, and additional parking. Bear's 1,665 vertical drop serves a couple of long blacks, but the emphasis is on terrain parks. More than 200 features spread around the 200-acre mountain, plus a pair of halfpipes. The mountain's huge learning area focuses on getting never-evers up and onto the slopes, while progressive parks aim to step up freestylers' game.

Partner mountain Snow Summit is a couple of miles down the road, and emphasizes intermediate and advanced terrain with a double-blacks and a bevy of wide-open groomers. Fourteen lifts cover the mountains 240 acres, with two high-speed chairs to the 8,000-foot-high ridgeline. Night skiing at Snow Summit runs weekends and holidays.



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New Lifts, Learning Terrain, Remodeled Base Debut At Steamboat


It's been a busy summer at Colorado's Steamboat, and skiers and riders -- especially beginners and novices -- will bear the fruit of those labors this winter.

On the mountain, there's now a quick and easy way to get to the mid-mountain Rough Rider/Bashor Basin beginner area: The first stretch of the Wild Blue Gondola is expected to begin spinning in late December.

Loaded at the main base area, the new 10-seat gondola takes less than four minutes to deliver folks to a regraded "terrain-based learning" terrain -- now named Greenhorn Ranch -- on the far northeast side of the lower mountain. The headquarters of Steamboat's ski school moves up there, too. Four moving carpets and a new high-speed quad (replacing Rough Rider chair) aim to make Greenhorn Ranch a completely encapsulated learning center.

Down below, many won't recognize the Steamboat base area as it continues to be transformed into a modern, multi-purpose plaza. A new skating rink anchors the Steamboat Square complex. Skiers and snowboarders will find a clear-cut entrance with escalator and new stairways. There's a food-and-beverage court with a second story, and an outdoor performance stage -- plus plenty of seating and railing for non-skiers to check out the lower mountain slopes.

The Preview chair and mountain coaster have been removed to make room for the new gondola loading area, and the base terminal of the existing Christie Peak Express has been moved for the same reason.

New owners Alterra Mountain Corp., purveyors of the Ikon Pass, bought Steamboat in 2017 and immediately embarked upon a $200 million makeover. The clunky decades-old base area got the initial attention with the Steamboat Square development, followed by the gondola and learning area. Snowmaking has been upgraded all over the hill.

Next summer, the gondola will be extended up from Greenhorn Ranch to the 10,384-foot ridgetop Sunshine Peak. New terrain in Fish Creek Canyon is scheduled to be opened on the far skier's right past Pony Express with a new chairlift.

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Indy Pass Adds Granby Ranch, Echo Mountain In Colorado


Skiers and snowboarders who have an Indy Pass in the internet cloud have a couple more mountains to explore this season with the addition of Granby Ranch and Echo Mountain.

Putting these two day-trip mountains on the Indy Pass means that three alpine areas and one Nordic area are now available in the nation's most renowned skiing and riding state.

The purchase of an Indy Pass or Indy Base Pass gets a skier or rider two days free at each partner mountain, plus 25% off a third day. Typical blackouts (holidays, midseason weekends) apply only to the Indy Base Pass. To get a free day, passholders need only show ID at the ticket window to confirm, since there is no physical Indy Pass.

In Colorado, Granby and Echo join Sunlight Mountain and Bluebird Backcountry Nordic complex in the fast-growing Indy coalition that has 121 alpine and Nordic destinations worldwide. So far, there are 36 Indy Pass mountains in the West.

Granby Ranch sits about two hour's drive northwest of Denver on the west side of Berthoud Pass. The 400-acre layout splits out between two mountains, with a 30-50-20 split among green, blue and black runs, and 1,000 vertical feet. Five chairlifts run daily, and night skiing opens 4-7 p.m. on seven Fridays and Saturdays during the season.

East Mountain keeps it mellow with all the greens and more than half of the blues. A smattering of expert runs spill off the top of West Mountain, intermingling with intermediate carvers. A modest base area and a wide-open learning area are located between the two mountains, and a tight group of condos and vacation rentals hug the base area.

Echo Mountain is the closest ski and snowboard mountain to the Denver metro area -- a drive of 50 minutes from downtown and 20 minutes western suburbs. After a number of years in limbo, the 80-acre mountain has been rejuvenated by local ownership. It's an upside-down hill; that is, entrance, parking, lodge and children's area are at the top.

One triple chair handles the hill's 660 vertical feet. All of the dozen or so named trails are rated green or blue, except for the Westside glades to skier's lift. Unusual is a terrain park in the glades, while the other park is halfway down. Mountain owners are promoting Echo as a shreddin' hill for the young urbanites on the Front Range.

Rather than a formal ski school, Echo's "mountain ambassadors" roam around the base area to give tips and suggestions for free to anyone who wants them. The lights come on for night skiing 4:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.



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