Faster Chairs At Sun Valley, Jackson Hole Aim To Ease Congestion

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Two of the West's most recognizable ski and snowboard mountains will be replacing a pair of aging chairlifts with swifter versions during this year's summer work season.

The projects at Sun Valley and Jackson Hole are elements in multi-year improvement plans that have been approved by the U.S. Forest Service, from whom the resorts lease use of public land.

At Sun Valley, the last five construction seasons have been about upgrading chairlifts all over the 2,000 acres that sit under Bald Mountain. They took care of the Warm Springs side of the mountain -- far skier's left -- with new and realigned chairs. Now it's time to fix up the other side.

This summer, installation crews will turn their attention to Seattle Ridge, an all-green pod on far skier's right off Bald Mountain. Since 1993, more and more skiers and riders looking for gentle, quiet terrain have ridden 4.5 minutes on the high-speed Seattle Ridge quad.

Now, this summer, Sun Valley crews will put up a six-pack detachable chair, which will allow 600 more folks per hour to get onto Seattle Ridge's collection of easy-going trails.

Management hopes this project will reduce wait time in one of Bald Mountain's busiest intersection along the Broadway runout. The Seattle Ridge high-speed shares loading space the 50-year-old fixed-grip Mayflower triple that heads up to the 9,150-foot summit of Bald Mountain.

Next up in 2025 construction season will be replacement of the detachable Christmas quad with a six-pack "chondola," creating a base-to-summit gondola route and hopefully moving people more readily through the busy mid-mountain Roundhouse area.

About 450 miles to the east, Jackson Hole got the go-ahead from the USFS in January for replacement of the fixed-grip Sublette four-seater. For nearly 40 years, Sublette has been the way to get skiers and riders into a trio of bowls just below famed Rendezvous Bowl.

For the 2024-2025, Sublette riders will feel the speed with a new detachable quad that will cut riding time down to about four minutes. Unloading area will be enlarged, and a new traverse will run under the tram to Tensleep Bowl.

This project follows on the heels of making Thunder chair a detachable quad that brings skiers and riders from the bottom of the Headwall amphitheater back up to the ridge at Laramie Bowl. It also is the only new lift included in Jackson's six-year plan to realign trails, modify visitor venues, develop a full menu of summer activities, and mitigate avalanche danger.

 

 

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Jackson Hole's Golden Ticket, Extended!

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Jackson Hole has some of the steepest lift access terrain in the country, and now it has some of the steepest lift access spring deals, too! Jackson Hole is extending the Golden Ticket to get you ripping the goods from the February powder parade in the heart of the Teton Range. 

With your valid 2023-24 season pass to anywhere in the world, Jackson Hole lift tickets are available for 50% off! That means Epic, Indy, Ikon… it’s on! Hoodoo, Sugar, Wachusett: you bet! Travel to Jackson Hole any time between March 18 - April 14, 2024 and receive a 50% discount on the current daily window rate (full details below). Lift tickets are subject to availability, as daily capacity will be limited this year. Advanced purchasing is highly recommended.

This winter season will be JHMR’s longest ever with 143 days of skiing and riding right up until closing day 4/14/24. The resort's two mountains offer a variety of terrain, from wide-open groomers to some of the most challenging in the country, and Jackson Hole knows how to have fun too. In the home of the world famous Corbet’s Couloir, a new world record was set this season for the most skiers and riders on the slopes in jeans. Coming up is the Dick’s Ditch Classic Banked Slalom March 22. Step away from the blazing downhills to enjoy the aprés scene of Jackson, live music, and events like the Rendezvous Music Festival April 5-6 headlined by Mt. Joy and The Head and the Heart. Whether you're drawn to the live music, prime snow conditions, or vibrant après scene, now is arguably the best time to plan your visit to Jackson Hole. Come on out for the best spring break ever!

Book your trip now and secure your Golden Ticket to The Big One here.

FULL DETAILS: 

Multi-resort passes, such as the Ikon and Epic pass, are eligible to purchase the Golden Ticket if the pass grants at least 10 days of skiing. The discount does not apply to the multiday rates. Pass must be 10 days or more for winter alpine access.  Pass must be presented along with photo ID to qualify. JHMR reserves the right to verify the authenticity of any pass with the issuing mountain. Promotion is valid for the passholder only, not for resale, no cash value.  We will refund wholesaler tickets by request; standard policy applies (guest must contact wholesaler directly for refund and pay us directly for the Golden Ticket.

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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.

 

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Wyoming's Winter Choices Bring It Home On The Range, In The Mountains

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Wyoming is among the largest, least populated and geographically diverse states in the Union, meaning if you don't mind putting on some miles, you will find just about any kind of skiing and snowboarding you want.

Most skiers and riders know that the mighty Grand Tetons host major skiing and snowboarding slopes. Jackson Hole has long been a bucket-list destination, albeit an expensive one. Its 2,500 acres and 4,139 feet of vertical is home to renowned steeps, like Corbet's Couloir. A tramway delivers to the summit where an array of bowls, chutes and famed Hogback ridges that corn up in the spring.

Weather can get severe, with north-trending storms latching onto the Tetons and high winds funneled by the Snake River valley. Regulars say that snow can go from powder to slush and back in a matter of hours.

For those looking for a bit less glitz, just up the road sits Grand Targhee near the Wyoming-Utah border. It's big -- 2,220 vertical on 2,700 skiable acres -- and sprawls beneath two 9,800-foot peaks. Powderhounds head to the short, steep chutes on the upper mountain, but it's the cruisers who get most of the hill (70% blue) to carve. Plus, location draws an average of 500 inches a year.

Lesser known in the northern Wyoming Rockies are Sleeping Giant just east of Yellowstone National Park in true cowboy town Cody, and White Pine and Pine Creek tucked away on the southern arms of the Tetons. The latter two fall into the mid-sized, local/family category; White Pine was once known as White Pine Family Ski Area, and Pine Creek is only open Friday-Sunday.

If a "locals' hill" appeals, trundle over the Snow King for the most extravagant townie bump in the West. It's got 1,500 of vertical on just 500 acres, and the only gondola on a town hill in the West. Plus, the city has turned the base area into a full-on recreation area.

A number of isolated mountain ranges dot the eastern High Plains of the state. These are remnants of ancestral Rockies that have eroded more slowly than the surrounding landscapes. However, they are high enough to get consistent snowfall for skiing and riding -- all with a homey feel, lots of night skiing, municipal and non-profit ownership, and few crowds.

Antelope Butte and Meadowlark Ski Lodge in the Bighorns (a rare same-day pairing in this part of the state), Laramie's home hill Snowy Range in the Medicine Bow range, and Hogadon on the northern tip of the Laramie Mountains outside Casper. The latter has experienced a renaissance as the city has committed public funding like Jackson has for Snow King.

As a sidelight, Beartooth Basin is one of two places in the U.S. with lift-served summer skiing.

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Keep The Thrill Of Speed Going With Summer Ziplines In West

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In the summer, ziplines trace down the mountains of the West with the a hurtling wind-in-your-face rush that skiers and riders cherish during the winter.

Most resorts in the West have strung up ziplines, where adventure seekers put on a helmet, clip into a harness, grab ahold of speed controls, and release into the wild blue at speeds reaching 65 mph. Each zip tour has intermediate platforms -- some with side activities. Age, height and weight limitations apply. Here are a trio of example of zip tours.

The king of vertical drop on a zipline resides at Utah's Sundance Resort. Zipliners drop 2,100 feet -- the longest vertical drop of a zipline in the U.S. -- on two miles of wire that divides up into four sections from the summit to the base of the mountain.

After a ride up three chairlifts, zip-riders go side-by-side with speeds up to 65 mph that can be controlled by the rider. Stop for a moment mid-ride to soak in the southern Wasatch Mountains, including 11,275-foot high Mt. Timpanogos -- the second highest mountain in the Utah range.

Reservations can be made every hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through the first week of October. A special feature is the Full Moon ZipTour.

In Jackson, Wyo., proper, Snow King Mountain one of the steepest ziplines anywhere. The tour begins with a ride up the brand-new Snow King gondola. From there, the city of Jackson sits in the foreground, and the Grand Tetons rise up beyond.

After a short intro zip ride at the summit, thrill-seekers can go for all 3,100 feet of wire and 415 vertical drop in two stages. With braking devices, speeds top out at 65 mph, and wire grade tilts to 36 percent tops.

Set in three dual-wire stages -- plus a short beginner's intro slide -- Mount Bachelor's zip tour flies high above open bowls, glades, and volcanic terrain. Tours run every half hour from 9:20 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. through September, and reservations required.

It begins just above treeline at the 7,800-foot elevation top of the Pine Marten high-speed quad, and drops 1,384 total feet of vertical on 1.3 miles of wire. A self-braking systems allows pairs of riders to regulate their own speed, stopping at three platforms that propel riders to progressively steeper and longer rides.

 

 

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SnoCast: Atmospheric River Out West; Nor'easter Possible Next Week

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As we roll into the second weekend of March, there is much to talk about in the weather department. An active weather pattern will bring a series of storms from coast to coast which, for some, will result in very heavy snow in the mountains (great for skiing), but also other (not so fun) impacts such as travel disruptions, flooding, and high winds. 

Before we dive into the forecast, don't forget that with this kind of pattern, it's important to check forecast more often. Because the way one storm behaves might impact the track or intensity of the next, so there's more room for things to change farther out in time. 

With that, let's dig into the forecast, highlighting great ski and ride conditions from March 9-15, 2023.

 

West

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Western U.S. is once again in position for a deluge of Pacific moisture that will bring long-duration mountain snow and low-elevation heavy rain. An atmospheric river setup (or a long, steady firehose of tropically-charged moisture) will target the Western U.S., with a bullseye on California starting Thursday and lasting into next week. 

The steady stream of moisture will yet again deliver feet upon feet of snow to the Sierra Nevada in California, with lower, but still impressive totals spreading across the Northwest U.S. and the central and northern Rockies.

In California, unlike some other storms this winter, snow levels will be rather high (see tweet from NWSSacramento), with rain/snow line sneaking up to  ~8000' for a period of time. This means really heavy rain down low (which will lead to flood problems) and weigh down existing snowpack. Particularly in California, high winds, plus this much snow will impact travel to the slopes, and no doubt interrupt operations for some due to safety concerns. Be sure to check in with your favorite mountain before hitting the road.

Not to be overshadowed by the impacts in California will be significant snow through the weekend for the central and northern Rockies. Many ski areas will pick up 6-12" of fresh snow, with locally 1-2 feet for the higher and southwest-facing slopes of Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and southern Oregon.  

 Take a look at the forecast snowfall through Sunday, March 12.  

Beyond Sunday, the pattern remains active with a series of storms yet to come. A brief respite late Sunday will give way to a new storm Monday, which delivers moderate to heavy snow up and down the Pacific state mountains before shifting east to the Rockies by Tuesday.

Yet another storm waits in the wings for Wednesday-Thursday next week, targeting California and the central Rockies. 

East

Plenty to talk about in the Eastern U.S. and Canada, too. A storm will trek across the lower Great Lakes and shift off the Eastern coastline through Friday (March 10). This will leave behind a swath of snow from Minnesota to Pennsylvania. Expect a widespread 2-5" of snow for many of our Midwest and interior Northeast ski areas before the weekend, locally higher totals for Wisconsin ski areas. This storm will be a near miss for New England.

Here's the Eastern U.S. snow forecast through Sunday, March 12 from the National Weather Service. 

Early next week looks intriguing with potential for a nor'easter Monday-Tuesday. While there is still plenty of time for things to change, there is potential for this to be a significant snow (and wind) storm for parts of New England and the interior Northeast, with rain and travel disruptions closers to the major cities. Exact location of the low and amount of cold air will determine how much snow falls and where. Definitely something to keep monitoring!

Here's the "suite of computer models" (ensembles) indicating low pressure location--the farther the spread, the less certainty there is for now. 

 Keep up with the latest forecast information around the U.S. from the National Weather Service, or I'll also tweet information about these upcoming storms, too, @KerrinJeromin on Twitter

 

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

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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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Two-Day Mountain Collective Pass Returns With Western Flavor

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With prices for 2022-23 comparable to recent seasons, the two-days-each Mountain Collective ski and snowboard pass returns with a shuffled resort lineup that includes two big mountains in the West coming back to the fold.

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5 Ski Resorts That Has Something for Everyone – Even Non-Skiers

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There’s something to be said about the magical feeling you get when you look outside and everything is coated in fluffy white snow. To the people who live in ski resort towns, it’s just another wintery day, but to those who come from warmer climates, it’s a winter wonderland! 

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Indy Pass Road Trip Combining Montana, Wyoming

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Midwestern Indy Pass holders on the far west side of the Heartland don't have a lot of choices for using the pass on road trips. In other parts of the Midwest, it's fairly easy to combine ski areas for a road trip hitting two or three areas on a trip.

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Mountain Collective Wyoming Pairing: Jackson and Targhee

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Here's a Rocky Mountain trip for Mountain Collective pass holders to get as much skiing and riding as they can -- without wasting time on the road or in the airport.

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On An Iconic Wyoming Peak, Ski Mountaineers See A Test

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Many people dream, talk and plan of skiing Grand Teton for years, only to be forced by poor conditions to start their wait all over. But the obsession never fades.

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SnoCast: First Big Snow Blankets the Rockies

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This past week featured the first significant snow of the season. Many ski areas across the Rockies received 4”-10”, with locally near a foot and a half, of fresh snow.

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It’s Summer in the Ski Towns, 2.0

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Last year, mountain resorts were overrun by travelers in search of space and fresh air. The visitors are expected back, but now the towns have expanded activities and plans in place to deal with the crowds.

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More Than a Ski Hill

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Known for intimidating steeps, bounteous snowfall, and gobsmacking Grand Teton views, Jackson Hole looms near the top of every skier and snowboarder’s tick list. World-class runs like the South Hoback and Corbet’s Couloir keep starry-eyed visitors and grinning locals alike enthralled all winter long. Only recently, however, has Jackson Hole Mountain Resort been able to generate a similar buzz come summer.

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New Owner of Wyoming's Sleeping Giant Ski Area Planning Improvements

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After one ski season under his belt, Sleeping Giant Ski Area owner Nick Piazza is looking to get ahead of the curve by further investing in his mountain this summer.

“In my businesses, I know things are running well if we’re not talking about things for tomorrow or next week, but we’re talking about things for two months from now,” he said.

Piazza is forgoing the summer zip line season in order to focus on construction efforts for the mountain. Although the zip line has traditionally been the mountain’s biggest money-maker, he said it only makes sense to take a season off and come back in 2022 in a more prepared state.

“It never really got big enough to really solve the issues of the ski season,” he said of the zip line. “So we had to make kind of a bet, and our bet was we really care about the ski season, so why don’t we try to make that the best it can be rather than operate a whole other business and try to learn that again.”

 Read the full story at USNews.com
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Locals' Hills In Northern Rockies Plan Upgrades For Next Season

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After closing for this season, a group of smaller ski and snowboard hills along the northern tier of the U.S. Rockies will work toward making improvements that range from new lifts to base area upgrades to snowmaking.

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Wyoming Ski Area To Retire Well-Known Steep And High Lift

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Kristine Harris walked from her home to Snow King recently for a last dash up the Summit Lift. She and her husband, Adam, wanted to pay tribute to the lift one last time.

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Backcountry Ski Entry From Resorts Reconsidered After Deaths

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The stairway to heaven may actually be a bootpack.

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Why a Ski Vacation During Covid Is Worth the Hassle

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Jackson Hole and other popular ski resorts in the West are up and running with varying Covid rules and limitations. For purists, that’s not such a bad thing.

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