The West's regional multi-mountain pass has ventured beyond the Southwest with an agreement to operate Willamette Pass in Oregon.
The addition of the 555-acre mountain means skiers and riders with the full-on Power Pass now have eight ski and snowboard mountains to chose from -- and the first outside of Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico that are owned or operated by Mountain Capital Partners in Durango.
Located an hour's drive from Eugene, Willamette Pass fits well into the size, vibe and on-the-hill focus of MCP's portfolio: “Willamette Pass Resort's unique terrain, incredible snowfall, operations that often extend late into spring, and its authentic community of local skiers and riders will be a perfect addition to our family of resorts," said MCP's James Coleman in a press release.
Regulars at Willamette Pass can expect to see improvements in infrastructure -- snowmaking, grooming and lift upgrades -- as that has been Coleman's strategy ever since he purchased his first resort, northern New Mexico's Sipapu, in 2015.
Opened in 1941 with two rope tows, Willamette currently has a magic carpet and four chairlifts, including Oregon only high-speed six-pack chair. Two of the other fixed-grip chairs date back more than three decades ago. Because of an annual average snowfall over 400 inches, snowmaking is limited, but skiers and riders should get more coverage as MCP settles in to operating the mountain.
With 1,500 feet of vertical, Willamette Pass has a 20-45-35 mix of trail ratings, with both long and gentle green runs and a couple of the steepest trails (R.T.S.) in the Pacific Northwest. Both front and back sides have a variety of ways to get down, including a half-dozen long blues and plenty of glades between trails.
Oregon's Mt. Bachelor has become the first U.S. ski and snowboard resort to give a price break on day tickets to anyone who signs a form that releases the resort from liability in case of injury.
The move appears to help protect the Powdr-owned resort further if it has to defend itself from lawsuits involving injury accidents within the ski terrain boundaries of the 4,300-acre mountain. Resort officials did not say how deep the discount would be for a day ticket. The 2021-2022 day tickets cost $159 for adult weekend, $119 for adult weekdays, and a top price $169 for holidays.
“This change is a result of the current legal landscape in Oregon,” said Bachelor's John McLeod in an email to season passholders. “In recent years large lawsuits against outdoor recreation providers in Oregon, including many related to the inherent risks of skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking, have started to significantly threaten the outdoor recreation industry.”
Physically signing such a liability waiver has long been a standard practice when season passes are bought at U.S. ski and snowboard resorts, but Mt. Bachelor appears to be the first to give day-ticket purchasers the option to sign or not.
Coincidence or not, the announcement of the discount program comes as Mt. Bachelor and owner Powdr are in court contesting a $49 million wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a 9-year-old boy who died on the upper slopes of the mountain in January 2021.
All U.S. resorts have small print on the back of the ticket that essentially say purchasing a ticket is a waiver of liability because of the sport's "inherent risks." However, the power of that statement has been repeatedly challenged in courts -- and sometimes overturned.
Both Colorado and New York have passed laws that further protect ski and snowboard resorts from lawsuits arising out of alleged negligence within the resort boundaries. However, the force and breadth of those laws continue to face legal challenges.
The summer season has a month or so remaining in Oregon, where a quintet of ski and snowboard resorts attract outdoor enthusiasts of all skills and ages.
Plenty to do at Mt. Bachelor, highlighted by an extensive zipline setup at the top of Pine Marten chairlift. Starting at more than 7,800 feet elevation (right at timberline), a side-by-side cable drops a total of 1,400 feet in a three-stage tour. It's touted as the highest, steepest and fast zip tour in the Northwest.
In addition to the zipline, Mt. Bachelor serves up disc golf, MTB and hiking trails, and chairlift rides up into the spectacular volcanic landscape in southern Oregon.
With the highest elevations in the state, eastern Oregon's Anthony Lakes has fine-tuned a network of mountain biking trails on the mountain and in nearby terrain. No lifts run, so MTB-ers should expect uphill, downhill and level tracks -- all laid out on nordic trails.
Toughest climb has a 1,000-foot elevation gain, and the renowned Broadway Flow Trail covers three miles of banks and berms. A leisurely level ride circles Anthony Lake itself. Trail system open Thursdays through Sundays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Just northwest of Mt. Hood, Cooper Spur has both road and mountain biking routes. Road bikers hit the pavement for the 18-mile circuit down into the valley and back. It's a long and easy MTB route around the mountain itself. All enjoy clear views of Mt. Hood.
On the southeast shoulder of the extinct volcano, Mt. Hood Meadows cranks up the Stadium Chair to get folks to a high ridge, where a web of hiking trails for stroller to trail runner await. The resort also offer a slew of kids camps and music series.
Off the southwest of the mountain, you'll find Mt. Hood SkiBowl that offers up a smorgasbord of classic summer activities. Go-karts, batting cages, free-fall bungee jump tower and aerial park, climbing wall, and Aqua Rollers (human hamster cages) nestle up to the East base area. On the west side, scenic chairlift rides and interpretive hikes complete SkiBowl's summer menu.
At least a dozen ski and snowboard resorts in six states in the West have strung ziplines at or near the mountain to augment their offerings during the summer months.
In New Mexico, Angel Fire put its zipline network at the summit, with broad views of Sangre de Cristo Range. Guide-required for four-zip tour with six people max. Tours run every hour until 1 p.m, Friday-Monday.
Neighbor Red Riverloads two-seat Pioneer Flyer for backwards pull up to 600 feet elevation. A short pause for viewing, and then pairs are released for 35-mph free-ride back down. A shorter zip ride is incorporated into Hidden Treasure Aerial Park.
A couple of Colorado mountain resorts have ziplines at the mountain. Vail's on-mountain Epic Discovery Park incorporates a kids-only zipline -- about 10 feet in the air -- among its adventure package.
Utah is home to one of the world's highest and longest ziplines, at Sundance Mountain Resort. Tucked up above Provo, the Sundance Zip has four spans with side-by-side cables that total two miles in length. And, you drop 2,100 vertical feet with control of speeds up to 65 mph -- with mid-air stops, too.
Above Salt Lake City, zipliners climb a 50-foot tower at the base of Snowbirdand reach 30 mph on side-by-side cables, landing on the deck of the tramway building. The ride is 1,000 feet long on a 15% grade.
Over in Idaho, Zip Tamarackruns four tours a day for a max of eight people, which lasts four hours. Each tour hooks onto eight ziplines with two suspension bridges interspersed -- plus a total of 1.5 miles of downhill hiking between platforms.
In California, Heavenly Mountainhas several ziplines on the hill. The rock-star zip is Blue Streak, one of the longest at 3,300 feet with a 525-foot vertical drop. Speeds reach 50 mph. The nearby Heavenly Flyer also reaches 50 mph as it skims the tree tops on an 80-second ride. And, an introductory ride can be had on the Red Flyer, which goes 100 feet at 15 feet above the ground.
And at Mt. Hood SkiBowl in Oregon, the resort has set up an aerial park the in air above the base area that includes an 800-foot long zipline. It's open Thursday to Sunday.
Many other resorts in the West sit near independent zipline operations, like Ski Cooper, Palisades Tahoe and Big Bear.
The usual suspects will extend the 2021-2022 ski and snowboard season through May and beyond, as a flurry of late-season storms has reinforced the snowpack throughout the West.
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A burgeoning trend in the ski and snowboard industry is for resorts and states all across the country to expand ski-free programs for youngsters and teens in hopes they stick with the sport -- and also save families a bit on ski vacations.
Following the challenging winter of 2020-2021 when ski areas implemented measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic - including limited seating capacity on chairlifts - this season's outdoor operations will look much like they did prior to the pandemic. Ski areas plan to return to full chair lift capacity for 2021-2022.
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Areas in South America are opening for their 2021 winter this week, as the last area known to be still open for winter 20-21 in Asia, Gassan in Japan, nears the end of its 2021 run.
Chelsea Clapham and her family began snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain four years ago. They enjoyed it so much that they return to the resort year-round. “We like summer and fall up there almost as much as winter,” said Clapham, who lives in Santa Clarita with her husband, Shaun, and two kids. “We have family friends who let us use their condo, so we’re hooked.”
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