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.
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 Vail Unveils Its Future Full Of New, Upgraded And Realigned Lifts

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With a new and approved master plan in hand, Vail Mountain officials now have a blueprint for overhauling their massive lift sytem to unclog main base areas and streamline everyone's ability to get around Colorado's biggest mountain.

No dates have been put to any of these upgrades, as each new lift will have to be OK'd by Forest Service officials, on whose domain 5,317-acre, 21-lift Vail Mountain operates. But with emphasis in the plan on getting guests up and out of Vail's five base villages, skiers and riders should expect to see the first construction on the lower front side.

When looking maps of the aggressive plan, skiers and riders can hardly find a spot on the frontside of Vail Mountain that won't be affected if this plan reaches full fruition.

The plan aims to reduce lift lines out of Vail Village with an already-approved six-pack Trans Montane chair to Riva Ridge run, and an upgraded workhorse Eagle Bahn gondola from eight to 12 seats -- with new a mid-station next to the top of the Born Free Express, which is soon to be a six-pack as well.

Perhaps the biggest game changer will be Riva Bahn Express gondola out of the Golden Peak base. It will be Vail's first lift to deliver folks from the bottom to the Back Bowls in one fell swoop. Now a high-speed quad that winds its way up to the base of Northwoods chair, River Bahn will become a 16,000-foot-long gondola -- with a mid-station -- that runs all the way up to the ridge that overlooks the Back Bowls.

On the opposite side of the bottom, the fixed-grip Cascade Village chair -- one of Vail's first lifts -- can get upgraded to a high-speed quad.

On the mountain, Vail will add seats all over the front side, including ridge-reaching pair Wildwood and Mountaintop high-speeds and the busy Avanti Express. Even the short (1,000 ft.) fixed-grip Little Eagle that serves upper mountain learning areas is planned to be a high-speed quad.

On the backside, the most significant upgrade is a new Mongolian Express that will give new life to Mongolian and Siberian bowls. Previously served by a high-speed quad and a long traverse, the skier's left sector will have a new high-speed chair right in the middle of the action. And, both Teacup and Orient high-speeds get two more seats.

Vail officials insist that the updated plan does not try to get more skiers and riders on the hill (they "manage to" a 19,900 capacity right now). Instead, they say that it will create a more efficient lift system that will spread them out all around the mountain.

 

 

  32 Hits

Most Of Alaska's Ski And Snowboard Resorts Collect Near Anchorage

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The state's largest city, Anchorage is home to half the state's population, and many of hem ski and ride at a quartet of mountain resorts within an hour's drive.

The big gun in Alaska is Alyeska Ski Resort (1,600 a., 2,500 vert.), the state's biggest and a 50-minute drive from Anchorage. It gets plenty of snow (1,000 inches in 1998-99), which tends to be heavy.

Not much for easy terrain (11%), as upper mountain grabs the attention. Two high-speeds and a tram deliver to three bowls. North Face off the tram and Glacier high-speed is renowned for steep, long runs -- to some, the longest steeps in North America.

On the other side, the lengthy High Traverse off Glacier Express opens into Upper Bowl's wide-open steeps. Keep going onto Max's Traverse and the gnarly double-diamonds drop through sparse trees. Plenty of short drops on the lower sections, too.

Lifts generally open around 10 a.m., and tram, quad and base lifts run until 8 p.m. There's tons of hike-to terrain, including a long hump up to the summit of Alyeska Peak (3,939 ft.) and along the ridge to the nefarious Headwall.

Alyeska just went on as an Ikon Pass seven-day partner. The hotel at the bottom offers classic high-mountain lodging and dining.

About 30 minutes drive from Anchorage is nonprofit Artic Valley (320 a., 1,500 vert.), the oldest operating ski hill in the state and run by Anchorage Ski Club. Open on weekends only, Artic Valley has a pair of 40-year-old double chairs, but the star is a 2,800-foot retractable cable T-bar that handles the front side.

Terrain is wide open, not a tree to be seen. Most of the pitch leans to novice-intermediate grade, but steeps are tucked away under Rendezvous Peak (4,068). Tickets are cheap, facilities basic at this local hill. Closing times extend as late at 7:30 p.m. as the season goes on.

Hilltop Ski Area (30 a., 294 vert.) qualifies as Anchorage's genuine local hill. Perched above the suburban Hillside East neighborhood, it's got a triple chair for the main runs and a long platter for the extensive terrain park. A couple of black runs intermingle with greens and blues.

With snowmaking and lighting all over the hill -- and even RFID ticketing -- Hilltop is open until 8 p.m. except on Sunday. There's competitive ski jumps next door.

And finally Sheetawk (30a., 300 vert.), an hour's drive from Anchorage at Hatcher Pass. Open in 2020 by a local nonprofit, what the native Dena'ina call "the place we slide down" has a triple chair for the whole hill. Big plans for future would extend to summit of Government Peak (4,068) for a 2,600 vertical drop. 

  27 Hits

Sandia Peak Gets A New Life, New Owners After Long Hiatus

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After a couple seasons of closure, Sandia Peak Ski Area (300 a., 1,700 vert.) reopened Feb. 10 with new, aggressive ownership that bodes well for the future of the New Mexico ski and snowboard resort.

Management reported that all 300 acres on the mountain were open, served by triple-seat Lift 3. Recent southern-trending storms have put down a 33-inch base, with more on the horizon.

The rejuvenation of Sandia Peak began last fall when Durango-based Mountain Capital Partners entered into an operating agreement with a group headed by Albuquerque balloonist Ben Abruzzo. Then, in early February, MCP took over ownership of the 300-acre mountain.

Along with new owners comes inclusion into the regional Power Pass, and a new interation called Power Pass Core.  Available now for $399 and good through next season, the new Core season pass covers unlimited skiing and riding at Sandia Peak, Pajarito, Sipapu and Ski Hesperus (closed for the season due to mechanical failures) -- all New Mexico ski areas. As with all MCP properties, kids 12 and under ski free all the time.

Tall and narrow, Sandia Peak operates three fixed-grip chairlifts, two side-by-side from bottom to top, and one with mid-mountain loading. A conveyor serves beginners at the base. Terrain is moderate, with nearly 70% either green or blue. It's a 45-minute drive from downtown Albuquerque.

However, another way up to the mountain is the Sandia Peak Tramway that rises out of northeast Albuquerque for a 15-minute ride to the 10,300-foot summit and top of trail system. In the ownership shift, the tram remains in hands of the Abruzzo family, famous for high-altitude ballooning.

As one of the southernmost resorts in the West, snow days can be hard to come by at Sandia Peak. Several times recently, it has closed mid-season for lack of sufficient cover. In 2014-2015, it snowed 18 days for a total snowfall of 74 inches -- the most in the last 10 years. The last four seasons have brought just three days or less of snow all season.

However, MCP has owned and operated snow-challenged Four Corners resorts since 2012, when it bought Purgatory. The company is known for putting money into on-mountain upgrades, such as snowmaking, high-speed chairs and grooming. Sandia Peak currently covers 30 of its 300 acres with artificial snow, and has no high-speed lifts.

As one of the few winter mountains with direct access from a city, Sandia Peak is New Mexico's oldest ski area -- opening in 1936 as La Madera Ski Area with a mitten-shredding 1,500-foot rope tow. A 4,200-foot T-bar -- the longest in U.S. at that time -- went up in 1946, the first chairlift in 1963, and the tram in 1966.

 

 

 

 

  35 Hits

Washington's Town Hills A Glimpse Of Skiing's Past ... And Future

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The state of Washington is dotted with small towns that have ways of entertaining themselves, including skiing and riding at local hills in the eastern Cascades.

Whether called community, town or family hills, these minuscule bumps provide local residents an easy way to get outdoors during the winter. Many a youngster made the first runs down these slopes, and their parents headed up to grab a few runs after work. They are the ground-floor of skiing and riding -- the pride of their communities -- so a trip dedicated to support these local operations deserves our time.

Badger Mountain Ski Area (10 a., 325 vert.) is an easy five miles from Waterville (1,100 pop.) on the very east edge of the Cascades. Opened in 1939 and operated by volunteers from the Waterville Lions Club, Badger has one T-bar, two rope tows and three runs.

Touting the "lowest priced ski ticket in America" ($10), the ski hill runs on weekends and holidays only. Cash only for a simple $8 hamburger, chips and soda lunch. Everyone (except ADA folks) has to hike 500 feet from the parking lot up to the base lodge.

Not far to the north, Echo Valley Ski Area (69 a., 300 vert.) is another volunteer-run town hill, located above summer playground Lake Chelan. Open in 1955, the Lake Chelan Lions Club handles operations that include one poma-platter and three rope tows.

A nine-mile drive from Manson or Chelan, the hill's layout requires rope tow ride to get to the 1,400-foot-long poma. Facilities are surprisingly comprehensive, with a day lodge, full-menu lunch concession, equipment rentals and lessons.

Like most small hills, there's tubing, and the $25 day ticket includes tubing time. Kids five and under free and season "membership" costs $175. Cash-only at this time, Echo Valley operates daily.

Head southwest and into the Cascades for Leavenworth Ski Hill (17 a., 300 vert.), right on the edge of the Bavarian-style town of Leavenworth (2,400 pop.). The history of this decidedly old-school hill begins in 1929 with a jumping hill and a warming lodge. Downhill skiing and rope tows began in 1936 (an outdoor restroom went in 1938), operated by the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club.

Like Echo Valley, it's a hike from parking to lodge. Once there, each of its two slopes are groomed and have a rope tow. Lifts run Wednesday-Sunday -- 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends. A true community hill, Leavenworth has an extensive Nordic trail network, tubing hill, snowshoeing, several ski jumps and fat-tire bike trails.

The 2,000-square-foot Ski Hill Lodge is the center of activities. Concession includes food, beer, wine and hot cocoa. Some indoor seating and an expansive deck with fire pit when the weather's right.

Adult day ticket costs $29, kids five and under free. There's a "play all day" ticket for all activities. Leavenworth Ski Hill is on the Register of Historic Places.

 

 

 

 

  47 Hits

Powder Highway Runs Deep Into Canadian Rockies Steepest Terrain

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The farther you go on western Canada's Powder Highway, the more rugged, remote and challenging the ski and snowboard mountains get for serious powderhounds.

Start with Panorama (2,975 a., 4265 vert.), probably the least known along the Powder Highway. It's 3.5 hours' drive from Calgary -- on a clear roads -- and 5.5 hours from Spokane. Despite its remoteness, it has an extensive base village for lodging, as nearest town is 30 minutes away. Ikon Pass works for seven days, Mountain Collective too.

Half the trail map is black-rated with just one summit lift. Super pitch-y glades and natural chutes cover top half of the hill. Powderhounds have to ride three chairs to that high ground, where a ridge subdivides Panaroma Mountain. Skier's left finds sparse glades served by lappable Summit fixed-grip quad.

Same but more on the other side. Extreme Dream's double blacks -- long and technical with hidden cliffs -- stick close to the ridge. Farther out, Taynton Bowl's long ridge traverse ends up with more open bowl skiing. A $24 snowcat shuttle cuts traversing time. Since no lifts, only way out is return to base.

Next stop on the Highway is Kicking Horse, an Epic Pass resort. Probably the most concentrated collection of chutes, couloirs, drops and straightlines anywhere. Runs are long and test fitness: "I got kicked by the Horse today." Famous for ridge-drops with slot entries that thankfully open up into alpine bowls.

Spread across five ridges and bowls, more than half the hill is black-plus. With only the base gondola and lappable Stairway to Heaven fixed-grip quad serving high ground, a good portion of the best stuff requires traversing and boot-hiking -- and long runouts. Less than half of acreage is directly lift-served.

Cold temps make powder snow among lightest in B.C. Decent lodging at base, more in quaint Golden nearby.

And then there's Revelstoke (3,121 a., 5,630 vert.), with the most vertical drop in North America and a trail that goes for 9.5 miles. Vertical is unrelenting; several black runs extend all the way to bottom. It's much taller than it is wide, with a main gondola and two upper, lappable chairlifts.

PeakRankings calls it "decidedly wild." It's aimed at the seriously adventurous. Once you push off, there's nowhere to bail. Both bowls have lifts but also require a hike. Down from there it's trees, trees and more trees. One reviewer: "It's a ski area in a giant forest with a few trails and bowls that get in the way of all the tree skiing and off-piste."

Persistent fog and snowy weather reduces visibility and adds to the challenge. Because of the vertical drop, snow can vary widely from top to bottom. Revelstoke holds Canadian record of 80 feet in a season. Several snowcat and heli-ski ops load at the base. Seven-day Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective work.

Base area modest and with minimal lodging. Town of Revelstoke (8,700 pop.) has a limited number of beds with places to eat and drink. Calgary is a four-hour drive.

  42 Hits

Ikon Pass Parent Company Purchases Arapahoe Basin

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Alterra Mountain Co. has scooped up Colorado's Arapahoe Basin as the 18th North American ski and snowboard resort in its portfolio.

Initial statements from the principals involved indicate no changes for the rest of this season, and no word if an Ikon Pass will be fully honored at the mountain this season. A-Basin is already in Ikon's partner system that gives passholders up to seven days at the Summit County mountain.

A Colorado Front Range go-to for decades, "The Basin" has always treasured its non-corporate, authentic Rocky Mountain vibe that fits with the hardy, old-school free spirits who fill its parking lot daily. And Alterra is known for leaving management and culture in place -- unlike rival Vail Resorts. 

There's a certain irony to this deal: For a brief moment, A-Basin was owned by Vail Resorts but monopoly concerns nixed that. It was a partner on the Epic Pass until 2019, when A-Basin owners decided to step away because a surge in Epic passholder visits overwhelmed the mountain's cramped facilities, producing long lift lines, jammed parking lots and angry regulars.

Leaving the Epic Pass came in conjunction with an industry-shocking move to cut season pass sales in hopes of reducing crowding and retaining the resort's "vibe and culture." So it remains to the be seen what full-on Ikon Pass participation will produce.

Opened in 1946, Arapahoe Basin has long been known for opening early and staying open later than any other Colorado mountain. Its 1,428 skiable acres sit astride the Continental Divide among some of the highest peaks in the nation. Its summit elevation of 13,050 feet is the highest for inbounds skiing and riding.

The trail system leans heavily toward the steep stuff, with nearly 75% of its runs rated black diamond or double black diamond. The East Wall Traverse has long set a standard for adventuresome alpinists. The Pallavicini mogul field has been on many a bucket list.

Under previous owners, the mountain's footprint nearly tripled with the expansion over the Divide into Montezuma area, and adding lift access to the hike-to Beavers/Steep Gullies side-country terrain. Every lift on the hill has gotten an upgrade, and an upper mountain restaurant opened.

 

  65 Hits

Crave The Deep Stuff? Hit British Columbia's Powder Highway

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A deep powder day hypnotizes top-end skiers and riders, so a trip to Western Canada's Powder Highway is an obvious destination.

Eight resorts sit on a 600-mile loop in the snowy Kootenay Rockies southwest of Calgary, and they've earned their moniker honestly with deep powder and precipitous pitches -- all inside the ropes. Snow-catting and heli-skiing aplenty, too.

Let's start with RED Mountain (2,700 a. inbounds, 2,900 vert), a three-hour drive from Spokane in the snowy Selkirk Range. All six chairlifts are fixed-grip across three mountains. But there are so many double-black diamond runs at RED that black diamonds seem like cruisers.

Powderhounds focus on Grey Mountain (6,870 elev.), with its persistent fall line and over-the-top tight lines in the trees. Add in extreme "cliff areas" that require straightlining and air drops. Smaller Red Mountain (5,219) is no slouch, with a tidy cohort of double black glades.

Snow can be heavy, because of lower elevation, and famous Kootenay Fog rolls in. Ikon Pass works. Nearby Rossland (4,100 pop.) has classic mountain mining vibe.

An hour northeast is Whitewater (1,184a., 2,044 vert.), another down-home, fixed-grip gem that averages 40 feet of snow and 60% expert terrain. Online Powderhounds rates it No. 1 in Canada because of its renowned tree skiing on four distinct aspects.

Powderhounds head to the forested cirque Summit and the peel-off-the-piste Glory Ridge sectors that hold Whitewater's private treasures: traverse-to alpine bowls and steep-steep glades.

All four chairs are fixed-grip but, oddly, some run faster than others. Basic base facilities include grab 'n' go, rustic pub with local beers, and a yurt. No cell service at all. Rustic civilization down the road in funky Nelson.

Finally, there's Fernie Alpine Resort (2,500 a., 3,500 vert.), the biggest of its nearby Powder Highway cohorts and the farthest east (4.5 hours from Spokane). It averages 29 feet of powder a year, and has the tallest vertical drop in western Canada. However, weather can be mild, and it often shuts down in February. So, make plans early ... and bring an Epic Pass.

The trail map presents a classic layout: Five peaks hold five alpine bowls that drain into five distinct trail systems below timberline. Up top, it's more than 1,000 acres of blacks highlighted by Polar Peak Headwall (7,000 elev.) that's got its own chair. Innumerable pitches dive off the ridges below.

Two high-speeds and eight fixed-grips do what they can to get powderhounds up into the high country. The best stuff requires a traverse, but the freshies stay longer because of that effort.

Base village features the usual suspects, including three overnight spots and hangouts. Coal-mining town Fernie is just down the road, with turn-of-century feel and modern amenities.

 

 

  51 Hits

Untangling Driving, Parking When Heading Into Utah's Wasatch Mountains

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Mid-winter breaks are approaching, and plenty of skiers and riders will head out to Utah to catch some of the state's famous powder days.

If you are driving a car with the intention of heading up to ski and ride at a Wasatch resort, some pre-trip tips might help streamline your trip.

Greater Salt Lake City is home for nearly three million folks, many of whom ski or ride in the winter. Plus, nearly six million others visit the city every year, many of whom ski or ride too.

The Wasatch Front alpine go-tos -- Solitude, Brighton, Alta and Snowbird -- are less than an hour's drive from city environs, as are Park City Mountain and Deer Valley. Sundance, Snowbasin and Powder Mountain aren't much farther.

Routes into the Wasatch Front are two-laners, leading to notable traffic jams. What this means is lots skiers are on the road, notably on weekends, holidays and powder days. Strategies include getting up very early, consolidating into fewer vehicles, or just chill out on the ride up and down. Or, take public transport.

If you drive, you'll have to park. Putting four in one vehicle gets priorities at most mountains. But there's not enough space for everyone. So, expect to make parking reservations and pay a fee on busy days. Capacity limits so, at worst, someone has to drop off and pick up.

Starting with the most congenial, Powder Mountain and Sundance have no restrictions. Snowbasin's free too, save for vehicles with three or more who get close-in parking. Same at Deer Valley.

Expect sellouts at the Cottonwood Canyon resorts on busy days. At Snowbird, a string of cramped parking lots offer options. Get there early for free, pay to get close to the tram, or buy a season pass to priority spots.

Neighbor Alta focuses on weekends and holiday, with reservations a $25 charge before 1 p.m. Over the hill, Solitude requires reservations prior to 11 a.m. on weekends and holidays, and it costs for parking until 1 p.m. on all days. Brighton goes simple: $20 reservations Friday through Sunday.

Park City Mountain has a combination of paid reservations, first-come first-served paid lots, high-capacity and carpooling incentives, and park-n-ride locations.

Salt Lake City has a robust, inexpensive public transportation system that works to make it convenient to let someone else drive up to the mountains. Commuter rail hooks up with shuttles on Wasatch Front, from Ogden (Snowbasin and Powder Mountain) to Provo (Sundance). There's a $20 service, Cottonwood Connect, that runs daily. High Valley Transit serves the Park City-Deer Valley area.

 

  60 Hits

A Three-Resort Cluster In Banff National Park Makes For Easy Road Trip

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For a trip full of high-mountain terrain, long cold winters and spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies, a trio of resorts in Banff National Park is just the ticket.

Most trips begin in Calgary and an 1-1/2 hour drive to base camp in the town of Banff. From there, three resorts beckon -- after paying an entrance fee into the national park. Elevations top out at 10,000 feet, but the slopes sit squarely in path of most Pacific storms -- and northerly latitude typically extends skiing and riding into May.

First stop is Mt. Norquay (190 a., 1,650 vert.). A classic town hill that is one of the oldest ski areas in North America (open 1926), Norquay spreads across the lower, forested skirt of Mt. Cascade (9,836 ft.).

With a mixed trail menu of 29-21-50, basic base lodge and no beds, Mt. Norquay fits into the mountain-town scene of Banff (8,000 pop.) four miles and seven switchbacks down the road. In fact, Mt. Norquay is so local that its sells a Last Hour ticket so locals can cop a couple of late-afternoon turns.

Three sections divide out among all ratings: North American, with its unique fixed-grip "pulse" chair that bunches chairs for higher uphill speed, is for experts; Cascade and Spirit chairs serve novices; and, the Mystic high-speed handles the blue runs. A Big3 season pass works here.

About 20 minutes west of town sits Banff Sunshine(3,358 a., 3,514 vert.), contained within a massive cirque. Half of the runs follow a green-blue valley floor that is perpendicular to the steeper terrain. Day-skiers can only come in via gondola from parking lot to mid-mountain base. Big3 season pass, Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective accepted.

From there, seven high-speeds -- including a heated quad -- and a pair of fixed-grips handle the flow. It can be frigid, but the season often goes into May.

On the high ground, double diamonds are short but treacherous, punctuated by three super-pitchy, sparsely marked "free zones": Goat's Eye, Wild West and Delirium Dive. Accessed by a short hike off Lookout Mountain, "The Dive" pitches off a 50-degree cornice into precipitous terrain punctuated by cliffs.

To top off the trip, mothership Lake Louise (4,200 a., 3,250 vert.) is 40 minutes up the road. Remote and imposing, Lake Louise rates 70% of its terrain in the black. It does concede much of the forested skirt to blues and greens, especially long, gentle wanderings like the five-mile Saddleback-Pika green off the summit that gives novices a hint of above-timberline skiing.

But as the trees recede, the fun begins. Frontside West Bowl's alpine chutes and glades -- opened in 2020 -- give hotshots all they can handle. Head over to the backside for some of the best bowl skiing North America has. The Summit quad, Paradise triple and Ptarmigan quad deliver powderhounds to what they dream of: Infinite lines down onerous chutes and cliffs anchored by steep, expansive glades.

Eleven lifts include four high-speed chairs and the Grizzly gondola. Backside system a bit clunky and slow, but improvements on the horizon. A broad choice of ticketing fits all abilities. No lodging at mountain. Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective welcome, as well as Big3 season pass.

  67 Hits

Lack Of Snow Forces Sleeping Giant To Close For The Season

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With less than a foot of snowfall so far this season -- and not much on the horizon -- northwest Wyoming's Sleeping Giant has called it quits without opening at all.

Early season notwithstanding, the weather gods have not been kind to this local hill this season. So, when the latest storm off the Tetons failed to drop much on Sleeping Giant, ownership decided to pull plug on the 2023-2024 season.

Season passes will be refunded or credited for next season, and reciprocal partners at Snow King, Ski Cooper, Bogus Basin and Soldier Mountain will honor free days for Sleeping Giant passholders.

Over the years, the 186-acre ski and snowboard area an hour west of Cody has had its snowfall-challenged seasons. Only nine inches fell in 2015-16, and 20 inches total in 2021-2022. The 10-year average is 68 inches, topped by 147 inches in 2013-2014.

Ownership said that it could not keep seasonal workers on payroll any longer. Fulltime staff will turn its attention to projects in the plans, including getting National Forest approval for widespread snowmaking upgrades once the spring comes.

Currently, only 18 acres of Sleeping Giant's terrain gets hit by snow guns at this point. Owners bought some $100,000 in new snowmaking equipment, but the aging pipe network that was installed in 2008 must be rejuvenated first.

Located an hour's drive east of the eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Sleeping Giant has spun its two chairlifts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with night skiing on Saturday evenings.

It opened in 1936 -- one of the first in the northern Rockies -- and operated a T-bar annually until 2004. After a four-year hiatus, it reopened with a triple chairlift, under the auspices of a community nonprofit. A local resident bought it in 2020.

 

  84 Hits

A Couple Of New, Revitalized Chairlifts Streamline Skiing, Riding In Oregon  

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With an even dozen ski areas within its borders, Oregon tends toward the low-key and local vibe at its winter resorts that, because of new operators and new money, continue to upgrade.

From top, the 34-year-old Skyliner high-speed quad at Mt. Bachelor had have major repairs in 2022 in order to operate last season. So mountain management has replaced it with a new Skyliner with six pack.

The new chair -- the first six-seater on the 4,100-acre mountain -- should give relief to base-area workhorses Pine Marten and Sunrise chairs, located on either side of the new Skyliner. It also will deliver more carver-dudes to the central mountain cruisers, and more park-rats to the resort's substantial cadre of Woodward terrain parks.

Over on Mt. Hood Meadows, another six-pack replaces an aging four-seater. A new Mt. Hood Express went in this summer to upgrade the original high-speed, installed in 1994. Increased capacity should help, since the new chair is one of three that haul skiers and riders out of the main base and onto the upper mountain. The resort has also gone cashless this season.

And up at year-round Timberline, there's a new conveyor to help develop a new learning area off Bruno's run.

New operators debuted this season at Willamette Pass, and the mountain will be open seven days a week for the first time since 2007. The Power Pass combine dropped cash on snowmaking and grooming, and expects to reopen the Midway chair. Squeezed between the Eagle Peak Accelerator high-speed and Twilight fixed-grip triple, the Midway last spun in 2015 to pull folks out of the base.

At Mt. Ashland, the nonprofit local hill has added a third night of twilight skiing and riding on Saturday and, in conjunction with that, now sells of Twilight Skiing pass. There are more snowcats in the fleet.

In the future, Mt. Ashland is set to revitalize the beginner area around the base lodge with a new chair that will run where the former Poma lift did. With it, skiers and riders won't have to hike out or use Comer lift to get back.

And, now at Hoodoo, kids ages 10 and under get free skiing and riding all season. Oldsters get a break, too, with $49 ticket for those 75 and older. Night lights got an upgrade.

 

  70 Hits

Utah's Skiers, Snowboarders Find More Conveniences This Season

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A new chairlift, acres of new terrain, expanded parking lots and more snowmaking mark what folks will see when they venture into the Utah mountains this winter.

Starting up north, Beaver Mountain has added more parking spaces. At the base, crews have begun building a new 25,000-square-foot lodge that will hold space for skier services, food and beverage, and retail next season.

Nearby Cherry Peak has put in a tubing park served by a magic carpet just to the viewer's left of the main lodge. On the hill, more snowmaking infrastructure went in this summer.

Up above Ogden, Snowbasin has addressed the popularity of the Strawberry Peak area with the new Demoisy Express high-speed six-pack. The new chair is expected to both relieve congestion and make it easier to traverse a long ridge and return to the base area.

The new high-speed will load next to the gondola and rise nearly 2,000 vertical feet to a sheltered dropoff point just short of the top ridge. From there, trails lead to and from the frontside Middle Bowl Express, and skiers and rider get a choice of the alpine terrain of Diamond Bowl or the Strawberry treeless steep slopes.

Neighbor Powder Mountain has tweaked its ownership model to makes its real estate more attractive by designating three two existing chairlifts -- Mary's and Village, and a new high-speed in the Raintree sector -- for homeowner-only skiing and riding. But another 500 acres of gnarly steeps, called DMI, has opened for guided tours off the upper north boundary.

As a nod of changing conditions, Powder installed its first snowmaking equipment. Night skiing now coasts $19 for some 300 acres under the lights.

Down below, Nordic Valley has had a tough run of it so far this season. The Eden-based mountain lost one of its two chairlifts -- the 53-year-old Apollo double -- to major mechanical issues. In its place, Nordic Valley has 18-seats sled towed by snowmobiles to bring folks to the upper mountain high-speed Nordic Express. Management says it can handle about 200 skiers-riders an hour.

Two new runs -- blue Beserker and black My Backyard -- were cut over the summer, and more parking spaces went in. In January, the resort's base lodge caught fire and was destroyed. The mountain was closed for several days, but is now open with temporary facilities.

Always cramped for parking, Sundance spend the summer tweaking the parking and access around the base of Jake's Lift, and then adding a new beginner run from Jake's to the upper parking lots.

Down south, Brian Head opened more glade runs -- from beginner to expert rated -- in the trees beneath Wildflower chair, and alongside the Shotgun run. More snowmaking went in, too.

And Eagle Point went deep into the inner workings of both the Skyline and Monarch chairs to upgrade for more efficient operation.

 

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After Two Decades In Mothballs, Southern Colorado Mountain Reopens

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This season, Colorado's skiers and snowboards welcome an old friend back into the fold, as Cuchara Mountain Park reopens 23 years after the last lift ride went up the southern Colorado hill.

In a state known for giving folks a chance to start anew, this compact ski area may be the poster child. Opened for the first time in 1981 with two chairlifts, a rope tow and about 100 skiable acres, the resort formerly known as Pandora and Cuchara Valley shut down and reopened four times until 2000, when the lights went off for more than two decades.

At least until recently. With locally raised funds, county government purchased 47 private acres at the base of the mountain, and began developing it as an all-season "mountain park," including downhill skiing and riding. It's located 25 minutes south of the town of La Veta and 40 minutes from I-25 in Walsenburg.

For the time being, a trailer outfitted with old bus seats and towed by a snowcat will ferry downhillers on a five-minute ride to the lower slopes of the mountain. Operations will run 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and a ticket costs $40. The trailer can carry 22 people per ride. Uphillers can head up to the upper mountain on their own.

The operator was quoted by Colorado Public Radio as saying, "We like to say we're cheaper than a cheeseburger, a Coke and fries at any of the other competing major ski areas in Colorado."

Cuchara covers 230 acres and has a 1,500 vertical drop. Three of the original four chairs still stand on the mountain, but operators have been working to get Lift 4 -- the base-to-summit (10,800 feet) workhorse that went up in 1981 -- up and running. For now, base facilities are minimal.

There's snowmaking infrastructure in place all over the mountain, which is important for a ski area exposed on the very southeastern edge of Colorado's Front Range -- in times of a warming climate.

Back in the day, Pandora-Cuchara was the closest Colorado ski mountain to the Great Plains and drew skiers from there and southern Colorado. A collection of nearly 100 condos and a dozen homes were built around the base area.

 

 

 

 

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A Plethora Of Modest Changes Await Skiers, Riders In Southern Colorado

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Last season will go down as one of the best in recent memory for the southern Colorado Rockies, so so ski and snowboard resorts can be forgiven if improvements this season don't make the headlines.

Known more for powder stashes than learning terrain, Wolf Creek has put up a new four-seat fixed-grip chair to give beginners and novices more to work with. The Tumbler quad is a short traverse from the Alberta parking lot -- about halfway to the Alberta chair.

It serves about 100 acres and 100 vertical drop in the small and gentle Engelmann Glades, downhill from the Emma chairlift. With its addition, Wolf Creek now has 20% of its trails rated green, all in pods: a few runs off the Bonanza chair of skier's far left, and more off the Cutty Jane Express to skier's right.

Westward to Durango, Purgatory continues to bring both its mid-mountain lodges into the contemporary condition. Dante's upstairs bar splays out behind picture-window views of the San Juan Mountains. And Powderhorn's menu got an upgrade. Plus, management found more room in the lower parking lots, and added another winch cat to the grooming fleet.

When Telluride decided to put in a new Lift 9 (aka Plunge Lift) for last season, crews had to demolish Guiseppe's Restaurant to make room for the top terminal of the high-speed quad. With eye-popping views from 11,900 feet, this modest warming hut and eatery served Tellluride skiers and riders from its original location at Lift 7 and from the top of Lift 9 since the 1980s. It was a spot to pause before heading up, or to take a deep breath before plunging down double diamonds on the townside of the resort.

Ownership immediately issued statements about an upgraded rebuild but, until that goes up, temporary structures may handle the business.

Over the crest, the news at Silverton Mountain centers on new ownership. The Shill family started the the single-lift powder stash in 2002 with guiding until spring skiing, then added heli-skiing in 2010. With up to 20,000 acres to explore, Silverton regulars say a full day is five runs.

The Shills sold it in 2023 to an Aspen-based heli operation. Plans approved by BLM for a second chairlift in the upper basin have been put on hold for this season.

In other news, Ski Hesperus just outside Durango will not operate this season because of a balky mechanism in its only lift, a 35-year-old fixed-grip double. Uphilling is popular at Hesperus, but the gates will be locked and all services suspended.

 

 

 

 

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Aspen's Landmark Expansion Tops What's New At Western Colorado Resorts

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People say that nothing much ever changes at Aspen Mountain, and they would be correct -- until this season.

A trail map that has been essentially the same for 50 years will now have to be redrawn with the expansion of the Hero's on Aspen's upper mountain. After several years of planning and politics, the new ground adds 163 acres to Aspen's existing 673-acre inbounds terrain. With only double-diamonds chutes and glades, the Hero's section puts more expert runs on a mountain that has no green runs at all.

Located to skier’s right of Walsh’s Run -- which was the boundary of the last expansion in the mid-1980s -- the area formerly known as Pandora's has long been a favorite “side country,” unpatrolled stash for skiers and riders who get to it through a gate at the top of the Silver Queen gondola. Return has been along the flat catwalk Lud’s Lane.

The new high-speed quad chairlift would be 4,300 feet long and rise 1,260 feet in vertical, and would allow for lengthening of Walsh’s, Hyrup’s and Kristi double-diamonds off the summit. The new layout will open up several chutes and glades up the ridge off the existing summit, as well as a pair of blue runs tracking into the base of the new Hero's chair. Expert skiers and 'boarders will be able to make laps on the Hero's steeps without having to traverse out to go lower on the mountain to get back to the area.

For 2023-2024, all else is status quo at the four-mountain Aspen Snowmass complex. The FIS World Cup returns in early March but for slalom and giant slalom rather than traditional speed events. And the base of Buttermilk -- the beginner's yin to Aspen's Mountain's expert yang -- has been completely overhauled.

Down valley, Sunlight Mountain will have different new choices on its menu at the base lodge. And under consideration is the future replacement of the 50-year-old Segundo chair -- one of Sunlight's three classic double chairs -- with a fixed-grip triple.

And on the edge of the Grand Mesa, Powderhorn Mountain Resort is debuting a remodel of its main lodge, including the Sunset Grill and the Umbrella Bar, where skiers and riders can take a break with local craft food and cocktails.

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Washington State Resorts Bring Modest Upgrades To New Season

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Late to the party, Pacific storms have finally unleashed their wintertime largess on the Pacific Northwest this season -- and Washington's skiers and riders can't wait.

When they head up to the mountains, they will find couple of new chairlifts, a few more eating spots, streamlined ticketing and a bit more parking.

At Alpental -- the big brother of four-mountain Summit at Snoqualmie complex -- a replacement triple goes in on the beginner hill. It upgrades the Sessel chair, one of the older double chairs (1967) in the state. While it's expected to have minimal effect this season, plans call for a new lift to link the top of Sessel to the upper mountain.

Trying to unclog weekend and holiday lift lines, Alpental also added chairs to the workhorse Armstrong high-speed quad. All are part of a master plan to freshen up an aging lift system. Elsewhere at Snoqualmie, the magic carpet at the base of Summit Central got an upgrade, as did night lighting.

Over at Stevens Pass, another old double is out. The 63-year-old Kehr's chair has been replaced by a new fixed-grip quad to make it easier to connect to the Double Diamond chair and Big Chief Bowl. Also at the Seattle-area favorite are dedicated carpool parking in two lots.

The state's largest hill, Crystal Mountain has put in a mid-mountain yurt at the base of the Rainier Express -- the second on-hill eatery on Crystal's 2,600-acre expanse. RFID ticket access has been expanded on the mountain. And down below, management keeps trying to mitigate crowding with new lot shuttles, more RV overnight slots, and expanded bus service from Enumclaw.

About halfway between Seattle and Spokane sits Mission Ridge, a top-rated learning mountain on the eastern slope of Cascades. This season, Lift 4 got a mechanical upgrades, as did night lighting. These modest improvements are the beginning of what is planned to be a major expansion at Mission Ridge.

In other upgrade news, White Pass now required RFID ticketing for all. And, Mt. Spokane now has a rustic taphouse at the top of the hill.

And good news from the Olympic Peninsula: local hill Hurricane Ridge will reopen this season after a fire destroyed its base lodge two seasons ago. It's basic-basic for visitors to the hill withing the Olympic National Park: Temporary bathrooms and "contact station," use cars for warming and pack food. No potable water, food, or rentals right now.

 

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Improvements Around Tahoe Resorts Focus Mainly On Conveniences

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After a flurry of spending in recent years, the 2023-2024 headlines for "what's new" at Lake Tahoe-area ski and snowboard resorts do not include any new lifts or new terrain.

Rather, resorts turned to sprucing up on-mountain lodges, streamlining ticketing, pumping up snowmaking and grooming, and adding non-skiing activities.

Starting up around Truckee, regulars at Boreal can reduce the cost of their lift ticket by choosing a later start time than 9 a.m. Arrive at noon or later and the online cost is nearly cut in half.

At Tahoe Donner, seniors (50-plus) can enroll in a season-long race training program. From 9 a.m. to noon on Thursdays and Friday, older skiers get technical and tactical instruction through drills and an occasional race. For kids 3-6 years old, the resort has three age-group programs -- from beginners three days a week, more experenced on Thursdays, and "speedsters" on Saturdays. Parking is free, so are shuttles.

It's been a nearly a decade since Sugar Bowl put up a new lift, but California's oldest ski and snowboard mountain continues to upgrade. Money has gone into new grooming equipment and new warming hut, and there's a new speed-racing venue that can be booked.

In its 75th year, Palisades Tahoe paused after finally getting base-to-base finished a major remodel of Gold Coast mid-mountain lodge. The resort added five snowcats to its nation's largest fleet, and also winch picks to upgrade steep grooming.

Over in Nevada, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe upped its snowmaking game, then went for creature comforts. There's a new deck atop the Lakeview Express, a remodel in the Lodgepole Cafe, and a heated ramp from parking lot to ticket windows.

Along the north lakeshore, Diamond Peak got a new winch cat for grooming steeps, while the base food courts got remodeled for better flow.

West-shore Homewood returns to the public arena after a plan to go private stalled. New real estate development ownership has enhanced menus and tweaked mountain operations.

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In The Middle Of It All, Central California Resorts Keep Pace With Upgrades

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Keeping up with the Jones' are the bywords for ski and snowboard resorts in the West, so it's no surprise that central Sierra ski and snowboard mountains kept busy in the off-season.

Starting with the largest, Mammoth Mountain management hopes a new Canyon Express high-speed six-pack will ease wait times at a prime access point. Replacing a 39-year-old quad, uphill speed will be cut by more than a minute.

Also new at California's highest resort (11,053-ft summit) are upgrades at the tubing park and snowmaking, plus evidence of a future Day Lodge.

Neighbor June Mountain opens this season with a couple of "adventure zones": Enchanted Forest in the trees under J2 chair, and Haunted Forest off J6 chair in the trees below Rainbow Summit. A new cantina has popped up midway up to June Mountain Summit.

Over on the western side of the Sierra, China Peak doubled the capacity of the workhorse Canyon fixed-grip -- and concurrently upped all out-of-base capacity by 30%. New lift should untangle waiting times for getting onto the mountain.

The Fresno favorite also joins the Cali Pass and Powder Alliance this season, along with Mountain High, Dodge Ridge and Bear Valley.

Speaking of which, both Dodge Ridge and Bear Valley spent the off-season tweaking things rather than making headlines. Near Pinecrest above Modesto, Dodge Ridge put in a RFIC ticket-checking system and streamlined both rental and check-in operations. The lesson area got a second conveyor lift, and mid-mountain Wayfarer's remodel is done.

Up at Bear Valley, the addition of a pair of winch cats to the grooming fleet should smooth out some of the serious steeps in the Grizzly Bowl and Snow Valley black-rated runs.

And farther north at Sierra-at-Tahoe, the ski and snowboard mountain -- among California's oldest in its eighth decade -- is still recovering from the 2021 wildfire that roared right through the mountain slopes and trails. The trail map is new, because of how the fire thinned the trees, but mountain ops are slowly coming back to life. The road to the mountain has been repaved and parking lots improved.

 

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Faulty Chairlift Mechanism Forces Hesperus To Close This Season

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Ski Hesperus' 35-year-old double chairlift wouldn't start up at the start of this season and, consequently, the Durango-area locals' hill will not open for the 2023-2024 season.

Crews worked on the chairlift's gearbox during the offseason but could not get it to do what it's supposed to do: connect the motor to the bullwheel so that chairs can spin.

"The only viable option is to remanufacture the original gearbox, making it impossible to open Hesperus Ski Area for the 23-24 season," mountain officials said.

So Hesperus' only lift, and 80 acres of trails with 700 vertical feet will lie dormant for this winter. All facilities will be moth-balled and locked, including parking lot, and popular uphill and hike-to tubing. The mountain's minimal base operations will be shuttered as well.

Mountain managers have come up several options for passholders, including a limited season pass credit/exchange with Purgatory and credit toward a 2024-2025 Hesperus pass. The resort is covered by the Power Pass.

Since 1962, Hesperus has been a true locals' hill where many Durango-area youngsters learned to ski and ride, and where adults could get a few turns in after work. It sits conveniently along U.S. 160 west of town. Night skiing has been a staple of the operation for decades, with lights from top to bottom.

The ski area does not have snowmaking and only minimal grooming, and it's on the bottom edge of the San Juan Mountains storms. However, the base sits at 8,100 feet in a narrow pocket, so on good years, Hesperus gets plenty of cover. Half of the mountain's 13 named runs are rated black, and regulars find personal powder stashes off-piste in the scrub oak.

The existing double chair was purchased from Mt. Bachelor in 1988 and went up in 1988 to replace a treacherous rope tow ride. In 2016, Durango-based Mountain Capital Partners purchased the lease for the 160 acres on which Hesperus sits. Purveyor of the Power Pass, the firm has Purgatory and owns or operates nine other American resorts, including Pajarito, Sipapu and Sandia Peak -- local hills like Hesperus.

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New Mexico Resorts Focus On More Snowmaking For This Season

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In northern New Mexico, Taos Ski Valley continues to upgrade its chairlift fleet, while other ski and snowboard mountains work to offset climate change with more and more snowmaking.

New Mexico's resorts string along the Sangre de Cristo range at the southern edge of the Rockies. The Sangres contain 10 peaks above 14,000 feet and 13 over 13,000 feet. Despite this high ground, snowfall can be moderated by the southerly, warmer-climate latitude.

As such, snowmaking is critical to the well-being of New Mexico nine skiing and riding areas. This season, more than half invested in snowmaking upgrades. Red River put in 10 new automated snowguns. Pajarito finally got its snowmaking system going by refilling its mountaintop reservoir. Ski Santa Fe jumped its snowgun capacity to 46 nozzles. And Angel Fire stepped its snowmaking capacity up a notch.

As for infrastructure upgrades, Taos Ski Valley makes the headlines. A new high-speed quad has gone up on the backside, replacing a 31-year-old fixed grip chair. Running from Phoenix lodge to Kachina Basin, the lift will service the mountain's main intermediate terrain with more efficiency.

At the main base, the Pioneer beginner chair has been moved to the other side of the regraded learning slope. The alteration. will open up space for an anticipated base-to-base gondola.

Nearby Sipapu has cut a new trail, Dysfunction, that extends the eastern edge of the trail map farther into the trees. And, Sipapu's decidedly old-time overnight cabins got a remodel this summer.

It's the future for Ski Santa Fe, as owners announced that the first high-speed chair will be installed next season. The first new lift since 2005, the detachable quad will replace the 35-year-old fixed grip Super Chief out of the busy base area.

And, above Albuquerque, dormant 300-acre Sandia Peak has new operators -- the same ones that sell the Power Pass and own  Pajarito and Sipapu -- with expectations of spinning chairlifts after a two-year hiatus if the weather cooperates.

Way down south, Ski Apache puts down manmade snow on one-quarter of its slopes, while Cloudcroft hopes temps stay low enough to fire up its guns.

Lift stats courtesy of liftblog.com

 

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