Schweitzer Mountain, one of the largest ski and snowboard mountain in the Northwest, has been bought by Alterra Mountain Corp., and Ikon Pass holders will get unlimited time on the North Idaho mountain.
In addition, by joining the Ikon Pass family, Schweitzer will undoubtedly benefit from Denver-based Alterra's propensity to put cash into mountain and infrastructure improvements shortly following a purchase.
Alterra, which owns and distributes the multi-mountain Ikon Pass, will assume ownership of the mountain and its operations. As in the past, the company will have Schweitzer managers continue to be operate, but it will likely have Schweitzer's existing plans for an expanded base village become a reality.
The purchase of Schweitzer adds the 17th North American ski and snowboard resort in the Alterra portfolio, joining Crystal Mountain as the second mountain in the Northwest to honor the full-on Ikon Pass. Alterra Since 2021, Schweitzer has been an Ikon "partner," accepting the pass for a limited number of days each season.
Those who already have a Schweitzer season pass for the coming season will get a discount upon purchase of an Ikon Pass for 2023-2024. Inclusion of discounts for Ikon's sub-products, like its Base Pass and Session Pass, have yet to be determined. The Ikon Pass is also good at more than 30 resorts around the world.
Schweitzer, located above the town of Sandpoint and two hours' drive from nearest airport in Spokane, has 2,900 acres inside its ropes. The trail map sprawls across Schweitzer Bowl on the front side, and dips in Outback Bowl on the backside. Some 92 named trails and bowls pitch off the 6,000-foot-high top ridge into 2,400 vertical drop, and they are served by 10 lifts, including four high-speed chairs.
Terrain ratings lean toward the advanced skiers and riders, with just 10% rated for beginners. Upper mountain features steeps of open bowl and gladed terrain, while beginners get their own slopes under the Musical Chairs lift.
Located above the North Idaho town of Sandpoint, Schweitzer has been an Ikon partner-resort since 2021, accepting the mega-mountain pass for seven days on its 2,900-acre layout. When announcing the pending purchase, Alterra Mountain Company said seven-day partner access on the Ikon Pass will be in place for 2023-2024 season. That may change as 15 of the 17 resorts that the Denver-based firm owns now take the Ikon for unlimited visits.
Schweitzer's trail map covers three distinct aspects out of a central village at 4,000 feet elevation, and a total of 2,400 vertical feet. It has an evenly rated trail system with 50% expert or advanced, 40% intermediate, and 10% beginner runs. Its lift network includes five high-speed chairs, three of the fixed-grip variety, one T-bar and a beginner moving carpet.
The purchase of Schweitzer adds a fifth mountain to the Ikon portfolio in the Northwest -- and the second along with Crystal Mountain to be fully owned by Alterra. All five will continue with limited seven-day access under the Ikon Pass -- for the time being.
With either unlimited or limited access, the multi-mountain Ikon Pass is now taken by nine resorts in Colorado; six resorts in California and Utah; two in Washington and Idaho; and one each in Oregon, New Mexico and Wyoming.
Alterra has a reputation of pouring money into its new purchases, while allowing existing management to stay in place. To the company's benefit is that all of Schweitzer sits on private land, meaning no lengthy U.S. Forest Service permit process will be necessary to start construction.
A 2018 master plan calls for a trio of new chairlifts, expansion of the backside Outback section, a second base area, and more beginner terrain. On-mountain upgrades already in place include terrain expansion, five new chairlifts, and the mountain-top Sky House.
At 673 acres and narrow, Aspen Mountain lacks heft, but it makes up for that shortcoming with 3,200-ft. vertical, nary a green run or terrain park, knock-out scenics, and some of the longest, sustained steeps in the country.
On the Ikon Pass seven-day ledger, Aspen Mountain stands tall at 11,212 feet. Half the trail map is blue, clustered on the upper slopes with snowfield blacks out back. The rest of map marks persistent blacks, more on the lower portion of the mountain, that produce renowned moguls, high-speed groomers and, on powder days, ample trees lines.
Despite Aspen's smaller size, it's best to ski it in pods. Some 76 named runs form up in groups, like Bell Mountain, Ruthie's or Gents Ridge. Each is challenging in its own way, like the endless lines down Mine Dumps. Bulk of the runs bear names of silver claims, and they tend toward the short but sweet (like their run of fortune), as found in the glades off Raynor Ridge.
Aspen sits amidst a massif of some of the highest peaks in the nation. Total snowfall is moderate, in the 200- to 300-inch range. Most storms course into the central Rockies from the west, meaning they pass over miles of high ground building up famous Rocky Mountain dry powder and cold winds. Playing the sun, especially in the spring, is a daily habit.
The Aspen Mountain trail map hasn't changed much in 77 years, but there's plenty for everyone -- except novices. The mountain's leg-frying bump runs are among the longest around: Catch Ruthie's Run after a week's without grooming, and the moguls can easily be head-high. In pitch and length, Aspen's middle ground blues take full advantage of the 3,000 feet of drop.
In 1968, the Silver Queen Gondola went in to take the heat off four workhorse fixed-grips. A couple are now detachable, but enough stayed as fixed-grips to retain a bit of Aspen's place in American history -- and give visitors a chance to soak in the peak views.
Next season, Aspen's first boundary expansion, up the Pandora snowfields off the summit, will add 153 acres and a new high-speed quad.
As does all of the others in the Aspen Snowmass complex (Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass), Aspen honors the Ikon Pass for seven days. For most, there's easily a week's worth of skiing and riding on the mountain.
A duo of truly big mountains in the Northwest have lots in common, including that they stick to the business of what skiers and snowboarders do on the slopes.
Both Oregon's Mt. Bachelor and Washington's Crystal Mountain are the largest ski and snowboard resorts in their respective states. Each has more than 2,000 acres in the area, lots more off-piste, high-speed lift networks, and deep annual snowfall. Base facilities tend to the basics, and there's limited lodging at Crystal, none at Bachelor.
Ikon Pass seven-day partner Mt. Bachelor touts 4,323 skiable acres, but at least half of that is backside backcountry. From the summit, the vertical drop is 3,365 vertical with about 2,000 of that on the lower half. Miles of intermediate runs splay off the volcano's skirt, and as does the the 12-stop Woodward terrain park complex.
Eight of 12 chairs spin at high speed, all on the northern side of the cone volcano. All but one stops at treeline: The Summit Express drops off just below 9,065-foot summit for a 360-degree choice of skiable lines. Back bowls vast and mostly blue, with gnarly drops in between. A "catchline" boundary trail ushers all around to the base areas.
With first-come first-served parking lots at two base areas, Bachelor mostly handles day-trippers from Bend, Eugene or distant Portland. Bachelor's horizon-to-horizon exposure can bring harsh winds. City of Bend (95,000 pop.) boasts top breweries and lodging options.
Farther north in the Cascades, Ikon partner Crystal Mountain runs off a volcanic ridge just east of Mt. Ranier. Basic base facilities are undergoing an overhaul. New and developing skiers and riders get four chairs in a dedicated slow-skiing area, alongside Crystal's three terrain parks.
Most of the skiing and riding take place above -- 3,000 vertical drop off a steep cirque that tops out at 7,000 feet. An 8-person gondola and half-dozen high-speeds do the heavy lifting on an upper mountain evenly divvied up between blues and blacks. Alpine steeps and glades of trees make Northway Peak expert backside bowl popular.
Seattle isn't far away, and full parking lots have been a problem for Crystal in its tight quarters. This season, online pre-registration required for all on Friday-Sunday for $20. Ikon Pass holders need only register pass and license number for free parking.
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.
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.
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.
We are entering the final period for discounts on multi-resort passes in the West, so let's take a look at what's new for the five nationwide players in the multiple mountain game.
The roster for the two-days-at-each Indy Pass continued to grow domestically this summer, with an eye for close-by pairings. The latest to join up are California's Mountain High -- creating a pairing with nearby Snow Valley above L.A. -- and Dodge Ridge in the Central Sierra, close to Indy partner China Peak.
Earlier this summer, Mt. Hood Meadows became the fourth Indy resort in Oregon. With five in Washington, the road-trippin' Indy Pass now boasts 28 full-on partners in the Rockies, Sierra and Cascades. Just show your pass at the ticket window, and head to the lift.
The unlimited-access Ikon Pass now covers 24 resorts in the West. Last spring, Utah's Snowbasin and Idaho's Sun Valley joined up and later, Panorama on Canadian Rockies' Powder Highway -- bringing Ikon's international presence to 10 countries. The pass also added 2- and 3-day options to its short-term Session Pass.
The Powder Alliance requires showing a season pass from any of its 21 resorts to get three free days at Alliance partners. The pass beefed up its international portfolio this summer with the addition of two New Zealand resorts on the flanks of the nation's largest volcano: Tūroa Ski Area and Wakapappa Ski Area. The rest of the Alliance's roster, including 17 in the West, remains the same.
Mountain Collective passholders now have Snowbasin and Sun Valley in the U.S., and Canada's Marmot Basin and Massif de Charlevois to put on their itinerary. Skiers and riders get two days at each of 11 resorts in the West, seven in Canada, and six others around the globe. Just show proof of purchase of the Mountain Collective pass and head to the hill.
After a decade of frenetic acquisitions, Vail Resorts only added Andermatt-Sedrun in Switzerland to its Epic Pass. Now, the industry's first multi-mountain pass has 37 resorts in the U.S., including six resorts in the Rockies (plus limited-days partner Tellluride), four on the West Coast, and western Canada's Whistler-Blackcomb.
Epic and Ikon passes also offer a variety of more restrictive passes for local areas or regions, limited number of days or late season, and special groups such as seniors, college or military.
Details of the 2022-2023 Ikon Pass are out, highlighted by Sun Valley and Snowbasin joining the mega-mountain season pass family.
Of the mountains that the Ikon Pass covers in Colorado, Steamboat and Winter Park encompass some 6,000 acres and have something for everyone: Scads of intermediate runs, cruisers and groomers galore, and fields of moguls.
Ikon Pass holders should head to Seattle and cash in two very different ski and snowboard mountains in the Cascades -- each catching tons of snow out of northern Pacific storms.
With snowmaking temps more favorable, more and more Colorado ski and snowboard resorts are opening, and Ikon Pass holders can try out as much variety in Colorado as in any other state in the Union.
Things are expected to get closer to "normal" at California ski and snowboard resorts this season, as do the four mountain resorts in the Golden Bear State that honor the Ikon Pass.
Locals and visitors to Utah who have an Ikon Pass hanging around their necks will get to check out some improvements and upgrades at five Utah resorts that honor the multi-mountain season pass.
Last season, Covid gave a jolt to the time-honored habits of skiers and riders, but the 2021-2022 season promises to be a bit less restrictive -- with exceptions.
You want season pass choices this season? American ski and snowboard resorts, state associations and resort-to-resort partnerships have burst out all over -- all designed to get you on the slopes more often, and at discounted prices.
Beginning with the 2021/22 ski season, Schweitzer will become a partner on the Ikon Pass, joining 44 other iconic destinations including Crystal Mountain, RED Mountain, Snowbird, Alta, Revelstoke, Big Sky, and Mt. Bachelor among others. Schweitzer is proud to be the first Idaho destination to join the Ikon Pass community.
Three years after being acquired by big ski conglomerates, Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain faced their biggest test yet: COVID-19.
The first round of 2021-22 multi-mountain season pass sales is underway, with a few changes from this past season in the works and price competition that continues to heat up.
Finally, some good post-vaccination news for skiers and snowboarders after two rough pandemic winters that greatly disrupted ski vacations, travel and the snow sports industry. Unlike just about everything else we enjoy in travel and recreation, the cost to go skiing has actually dropped in recent years, mainly do the prevalence of multi-resort unlimited ski passes. But as of today it is going down even more, at dozens of the most popular and desirable ski destinations in the world.