Tag Archives | Resorts

How to survive skiing during the holidays.

 

Very crowded ski resort

Very crowded ski resort

For a lot of people, Christmas week isn’t complete without skiing. You’re off from work, the fam is together, and besides, you have all those vacation days you have to use up. Nonetheless, this isn’t the easiest time to be out on the mountain. There are loads of like-minded individuals who are going to be there. It may even be your first ski day of the season. And let’s not forget holiday pressure: You WILL have a good time! It’s Christmas! Be HAPPY! But if you’re determined to ski this week, there are a few things you can do to make it more fun:

Start early. I know it’s vacation, but really, the earlier you start, the better the snow and the less crowded the mountain. So while a lot of people are still in bed nursing their hangovers, make an effort to be out when the lifts start spinning. Really, you get out of bed early for work and that’s a heck of a lot less fun. I know you can do it.

Go to a smaller resort. You don’t have to ski the mega resorts to have a good time. Smaller, more off the radar resorts can offer just as much fun, at prices that are a lot more family friendly.

Lock your skis. Don’t let the beautiful surroundings lull you into a false sense of security. Yes, there are some nasty characters around, and yes, they have their eye on your skis. Well, on anyone’s skis for that matter. I can’t fathom how these sleazebags get their jollies making off with someone else’s equipment — it’s sort of the anti-Santa Claus — but somehow they do. Ebay is full of them. So if you’re going into the lodge, lock up your equipment. You’ll save yourself a lot of pain, and maybe put the sleazies out of business.

Bring your lunch. Unless you  have a hankering for a hamburger that tastes like cardboard and is made from God knows what, this is really the way to go. Food at ski resorts doesn’t just taste bad, it can cost a small fortune. So bring your own, save big bucks, and eat a lot healthier.

Eat early. Or late. If you really want to avoid crowds in the cafeteria, eat when others don’t: either way before noon, or way after. Added bonus: you’ll see fewer people on the mountain when everyone else is chowing down.

Try the singles line. It’s a lot faster. Plus, if you need a break from your friends and family, this is definitely the way to go. Besides, you never know who you’ll end up on the lift. Hey, it could be Mikaela Shiffrin under that face mask!

Establish a meet up place in case you get separated. And a meeting time, too. Sure, you can always text one another. But texting’s not always convenient and if you’re like me, you’re not always aware when a text comes in.

Leave plenty of time. For EVERYTHING. Renting equipment, buying lift tickets, parking. It’s all going to take a lot longer, especially if you have kids. Recognize this. Embrace it. Live in the moment. And breathe. Just breathe.

Have Fun. The seems so basic, but a lot of people forget to enjoy themselves, especially since skiing during the holidays can be full of frustrations — the lift lines, the crowds (I don’t need to go on). Realize there are lots of things you can’t control, and decide at the outset that you’re going to have a good day. Your attitude can make a big difference not just in your own enjoyment, but in the enjoyment of people around you. So suck it up, buttercup. Leave your complaints in the car.

Remember, ’tis the season. Peace, love, and good will to all. And happy holidays.



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

A Chat with Laura Davies, or How To Ski 15 Countries in One Year

Laura backcountry skiing  outside of Cerro Catedral resort in Bariloche, Argentina

Laura backcountry skiing outside of Cerro Catedral resort in Bariloche, Argentina

How many countries have you skied in? One? Two? Maybe, just maybe three or four? What would you say if I told you I’ve come across someone who’s skied in fifteen countries in just one year? Incredible, right? But that’s just what 27-year old Laura Davies did. In August, 2016, Laura did what most of us only dream about: she left a corporate job in Denver, Colorado, and embarked on what anyone would call the ski trip of a lifetime.

I spoke to Laura recently to find out more.

Ski Diva: What an amazing experience! How’d you come up with the idea to ski around the world?
Laura: The idea came from my first international ski trip to Chile in the summer of 2015. By several accounts this was the worst vacation I have ever taken. I went with four friends to ski Portillo and Nevados De Chillan and we experienced disaster after disaster. We got hit by a truck on our first day and totaled our rental car, a friend got her credit cards stolen, every bus we took broke down, and we lost power in our lodging.  Despite all of that, the skiing was decent and I loved it. I liked the challenge of the travel, the excitement of exploring new mountains, and skiing in the middle of summer just makes you feel like a badass. I was hooked.

Ski Diva: Okay, so you like to ski internationally. How did that turn into quitting your job to ski around the world?
Laura: I was sitting at work one day talking to one of my mentors, Ian, about the next step in my career.  I was at a point of transition and needed to decide if I was going to pursue a change to an operations role in my company or go back to business school. I had been raised in Texas and grew up thinking this was the path to success and happiness: stable job, promotions, marriage, children, a house, etc.  Well, guess what? I wasn’t happy on that path and didn’t see that changing with more money or a better house. I needed to do something different.

So, Ian being the awesome person he is, pushed my thinking and said “Well, if you don’t want any of that, what do you want to do?” It took me a second but it finally clicked: I would ski. I would spend my time skiing around the world. And that was it, the trip was born.

Ski Diva: How were you able to do this? I mean, didn’t you have obligations?
Laura: Sure, I had all of the ones you typically have: an apartment, good job, steady life, and a new relationship. As my dad likes to say, life is a series of trade offs.  I traded all of the stability in my life for an around the world adventure.

Don’t let the simplicity of that answer fool you though, it wasn’t an easy decision.  At 28 I was essentially disregarding every responsible expectation of what I should be doing with my life such as buying a house, finding someone to marry, saving for my 401K, etc. Mentally that was a pretty big hurdle to get over but that standard path wasn’t giving me much happiness and I am so thankful I pursued it.

Ski Diva: How did you go about planning your trip?
Laura: I had a white board in my office and for about six months there was a list of months written on the left hand side and I would research where there was consistent snow during each of those months. I would rigorously check snow reports, resort websites, and country tourism sites to see when resorts were opening and how much snow they would have. I also did a lot of research on the Mountain Collective and Epic Pass resorts to try and align the countries with places where I already had a ski pass. By August I had picked my first country and started the clock on the twelve months.

Ski Diva: Sounds like you were pretty laissez faire with a lot of your planning. Did that strategy ever backfire?
Laura: Absolutely. I was a few hours late in submitting my eVisa for India and ended up getting stranded in Amsterdam because I didn’t have the visa code, even though I had a confirmation email to say I had been approved. The visa number would have been provided by the time I landed in India but apparently that wasn’t good enough for the airline so I was stuck. I stayed in an awesome hotel, CitizenM, and was well rested for the long flight. It was stupid but turned out fine.

Another time, I showed up the day the resort closed in South Korea. That was a huge blow; I was really excited to ski where the 2018 Winter Olympics were going to be held. I had just spent two weeks not skiing trying to reduce swelling from my recently torn ACL and had traveled ten hours only to arrive and be told the resort closed early to lack of snow. Great. I spent about two hours crying in my hotel room before determination set in. I grabbed my touring gear the next morning and skinned up the resort to get my run.

When I provide ski trip advice to other people, which I love doing, I try to give them more detail than I use for my own trips. The last minute style isn’t for everyone.

Chamonix, France - Hikers coming down off of Mt. Blanc

Chamonix, France – Hikers coming down off of Mt. Blanc

Ski Diva: Did you go alone? If so, what was that like?
Laura: Yep, at least 95% of the time I was doing this as a solo female. I would occasionally meet up with friends to ski if they were already in the same country, but there were only a handful of times that happened, so most often I was alone.

The majority of the time I found the solo travel invigorating. People, both men and women, were shocked that I was doing such a big undertaking alone and I loved altering their perception of what is possible. I think traveling to ski towns actually made things easier — you have a common love of the mountain you can bond over.

Ski Diva: How many days did you ski in each country?
Laura: To be honest, I didn’t count. I skied one day in Kazakhstan and spent over a month in Switzerland. It really depended on how much I liked the country and how injured I was at the time. I was skiing with a torn ACL, torn meniscus, and a broken wrist for most of this travel. I’m sure I could have gotten more days on mountain if I stayed home and played it safe. Oops.

Gulmarg, India - Looking out over the Himalayas

Gulmarg, India – Looking out over the Himalayas

Ski Diva: Did you go from country to country, or did you return home in between?
Laura: A little bit of both. For my first five trips I was still working, so I would fly out to ski for a week or two and then come back to Denver for work. Starting in January I left my job to ski full time hoping to start in Japan and work my way back west before going to ski Australia and New Zealand.

Due to some unanticipated injuries I did have to fly back to the US for a few weeks in May for a surgery.  The longest I was out of the US continuously was about three and a half months.

Ski Diva: You mention a number of injuries. What happened?
Laura: Unfortunately, two days after I quit my job in January I was skiing the backcountry of Beaver Creek and smashed into a rock. I broke several bones in my wrist and dislocated my hand from my arm.  We had to ski for two hours to safety and then I was put into surgery the next morning. I was supposed to take off on the biggest portion of my trip two days later starting with meeting some friends in Japan to ski. Obviously that didn’t happen.

After surgery I spent six weeks in Colorado rehabbing and was able to fly to India in February to resume my trip. A week after India I was skiing in Kazakhstan and had a binding malfunction on some rental skis and ended up tumbling down the hill and tearing my ACL. I took two weeks to rehab that injury and then skied the rest of the trip in a knee brace. That worked well until the last week of my trip. I had just started down my first heliski run in New Zealand and heard the dreaded pop on the same knee I had a torn ACL. Something else just went… great. I paid a lot to ski so I was determined to finish the rest of the day and even convinced our guide to give us a bonus run since this would be my last time skiing for several months. After that I only skied one more day and flew home to the US for knee surgery.  The surgeons were surprised I was walking, much less skiing.

The Remarkables, New Zeland - The view from the Remarkables resort truly lives up to the name

The Remarkables, New Zeland – The view from the Remarkables resort truly lives up to the name

Ski Diva: Did you find differences in ski culture between the countries that you visited?
Laura: Such a great question and at the core, no.  I think the best part of skiing is going around the world and knowing that no matter where I am, no matter what language someone speaks, we can relate at a base level over our love of mountains and snow. That feeling was at the heart of every mountain town I went to from Banff, Canada, to Almaty, Kazakhstan.

That said, each place I have skied has things that make it unique and different which is what makes me so passionate to continue skiing around the world.  I have a giant ski bucket list that  I developed as a result of this trip. Some of the coolest things I checked off of my list this year were:

  • Partying with Richard Branson in Verbier, Switzerland
  • Heli skiing in July in New Zealand
  • Skiing on an erupting Volcano in Chile
  • Skiing with snow monkeys in Gulmarg, India

Ski Diva: So what were your favorite — or at least your top three — ski areas and why?
Laura: This is everyone’s favorite question. My favorite resort was Gulmarg in Kashmir, India. I think it is an incredibly underrated hidden gem. When I talk to people about skiing internationally they immediately think Japan, but I believe India is the ultimate powder destination. It has just as much snow, 6,000 ft vertical drop terrain, no lift lines, and the whole trip can cost you less than $2,000 including your guide. I liked it so much I even help book trips for the company I used, KLineadventures.

Las Trancas, Chile - Volcanic eruption on the mountain while skiing.

Las Trancas, Chile – Volcanic eruption on the mountain while skiing.

 



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

A chat with Kelly Pawlak, new president of the National Ski Areas Association

Kelly Pawlak

Kelly Pawlak

There’s nothing unusual about female ski instructors. And women in resort human resources, marketing, communications, and sales? Common as dirt.

But women general managers are a somewhat rarer breed. According to statistics from the National Ski Areas Association [NSAA], there are only about 20 to 30 nationwide. It’s more or less a boys’ club.

All this is about to change. Because starting in January, the boys’ club will have a woman in charge. Kelly Pawlak, GM of Mount Snow, VT, will become NSAA’s first female President and CEO. NSAA represents 313 alpine ski resorts that count for more than 90 percent of the skier/snowboard visits nationwide, as well as 414 supplier members who provide equipment, goods, and services to the mountain resort industry.

That’s a pretty big responsibility. According to its website, NSAA’s primary objective is to meet the needs of ski area owners and operators nationwide and to foster, stimulate, and promote growth in the industry. To do this, it analyzes and distributes ski industry statistics; produces annual conferences and tradeshows; produces a bimonthly industry publication; and is active in state and federal government affairs. It also provides educational programs and employee training materials on industry issues including OSHA, ADA and NEPA regulations and compliance; environmental laws and regulations; state regulatory requirements; aerial tramway safety; and resort operations and guest services.

I recently spoke to Kelly about her new position.

SD: You’ve been in the ski industry for a long time. How’d you get started?
KP: Quite honestly, it was sort of by accident. When I graduated from college, I realized that if I wanted to ski, I’d have to pay for it, myself. My dad wouldn’t do it anymore. So I looked for a job, found one at Mount Snow, and never left.

SD: You really came up the ranks, too. I understand you held a variety of positions, correct?
KP: Yes, I’ve been there since 1985, and I’ve worked in marketing, sales, operations, events…pretty much everything.

SD: So how has this has helped prepare you for your position at NSAA?
KP: Well, I think it helps me understand some of the needs of the 300-plus member ski areas. Clearly, my expertise is not very strong in the west and midwest, so I have a lot of learning to do there. Luckily, I’m not alone. There’s an extremely qualified staff of about 12 people behind me, so I’m confident that with their assistance, and talking with the folks at the ski areas, retailers, and suppliers, I’ll be a quick study.

SD: Women GM’s are few and far between, and you’re the first female president of NSAA. What are your thoughts on that? Why aren’t there more female execs in the ski industry?
KP: There are more and more women every year. Certainly there aren’t as many as men. But it’s a demanding schedule and it’s a woman’s choice to decide whether or not she wants that lifestyle. I often joke and say that most of my women friends who work in the industry are too smart to take a position like mine because they know the hours I work. I was lucky – I was able to work it out with my husband so I could do this job. He put his career on the back burner for me, and I’m grateful for that.

SD: There are a number of issues facing ski areas today. Off the top of your head, what do you think are the biggest challenges and which do you think you’ll be addressing right away?
KP: The biggest issues are already being addressed by NSAA, but I have two that interest me the most. The first is getting enough people to fill the jobs at ski areas and ski towns. As you know, the hospitality business requires a lot of people to get the job done; it’s not as automated as some other industries, so finding staff is difficult.

SD: I understand  there have been a lot of issues recently regarding  J-1 Visas. [Ed. Note: there are reports that the President is considering axing the program that allows students from all over the world to work U.S. ski area jobs in the name of cultural exchange.]
KP: Exactly. We’re trying to make our legislators understand that if we could fill all the positions with domestic staff, we would, but it’s just not possible. So we support the international staff members.

The other challenge – and we’ve been working on this for years – is bringing new skiers into the sport and retaining them, once they try it. I think this is an area where we need a lot more discovery. We’re going to have to try some new things. Skiing is an amazing opportunity for people and once you’ve tried it and had an enjoyable experience, you’ll want to do it for life. We have to discover what those hurdles are and break them down and make it easy for folks to ski. There’s more work that needs to be done and we’re going to have to be a bit more innovative.

SD: How do you feel about all the consolidations that have been going on in the ski industry?
KP: There are pros and cons, depending on where you are and who you are. It’s not black and white; it’s gray. At Mount Snow, I’ve been part of three different ownerships and each one brought different benefits to the resort. A lot of times when a ski resort changes hands it really motivates other resorts in that demographic to try new things. I know that for Peak Resorts, which owns Mount Snow, buying Hunter Mountain was a really good move because we were able to connect all of our ski areas, so now our skiers could buy our Peak Pass and ski the Poconos, Hunter, and Mount Snow. So in that case, it was excellent for our portfolio.

SD: Consolidations can also make it difficult for the smaller resorts to compete. What can NSAA do to support them?
KP: Besides working with the larger areas, part of my new job will be visiting some of the smaller ski companies so I can better understand their challenges. It’s important to address their needs just as much as the larger ski areas.

SD: I know climate change is another major challenge. That has to be high on your agenda right now, too.
KP: Yes. Again, NSAA has been working on this for many years. There isn’t a ski resort that isn’t focused on sustainability. NSAA is great about sharing knowledge, so every time we can learn about a resort that’s lowering their kilowatt hours or reducing their dependence on diesel air compressors, we share that throughout the industry. What helps one helps us all.

SD: And it seems that so many of them are working on becoming four season resorts, too.
KP: Absolutely. The ski industry is becoming so versatile. We have resorts that do better in the summer than in the winter.

SD: On a personal note, you’ve been living in Vermont for a long time. I suppose you’ll be moving to Colorado now? You’ll have to trade your ice skis in for powder skis.
KP: Exactly! I’m going to have to take some lessons and learn how to ski powder. I’m looking forward to that. But this position does have quite a bit of travel involved, so I still plan to come back east to ski. This time, however, I’ll be a guest so I can do all the things I couldn’t do when I was focused on providing the guest experience at Mount Snow. I’m looking forward to that.

 

 



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

What’s it like to ski in June?

I’m the type of person that would ski all year, if I could. Unfortunately, for me that’s not possible. Some Ski Divas, however, are luckier than I am, and are still out making turns, even after Memorial Day. Since it’s something I’ve never done, I asked Ski Diva forum member, Rachel Vecchitto, to give us her take on skiing in June. So take it away, Rachel!

—————————————————————————–

When I moved out west six years ago, there were lots of reasons I chose Boulder, Colorado: 300+ days of sunshine a year (it’s true!), plenty of jobs in my field, respectable mass transit, and an unbeatable location right at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. If I’m honest with myself, though, the biggest reason I chose Boulder was probably because I’d have easy access to lift-served skiing 9 months a year at Arapahoe Basin.

You can ski into late spring and early summer in more places than you might think. Snowbird and Mammoth stay open as long as they can, which almost always extends their seasons into June and beyond. Whistler and Timberline both have high alpine snowfields that usually stay open for limited skiing and riding all summer long. Few places, though, match A-Basin’s commitment to keeping as much terrain open for as long as they can (the 10,600ft base elevation and north-facing slopes don’t hurt).

I headed up to A-Basin on Saturday, June 3rd, excited for a solid day of late spring skiing and another month of getting out on the snow. Crowds have usually died down by June, and Saturday was no exception. By the time early spring and its surprise snowfalls have passed, everyone except the most dedicated skiers have moved on to mountain biking, climbing and all the other summer activities the mountains have to offer. It’s fantastic; you can roll into the parking lot at a leisurely 10:30AM and not worry about finding a place to park, and you’re sharing the slopes with super enthusiastic skiing superfans who are so psyched to still be out on the snow that it’s impossible not to get caught up in the energy and have a great time.

Excited to still be making lift-served turns in June.

Excited to still be making lift-served turns in June.

Conditions were excellent for so late in the season. A-Basin runs two lifts this time of year, but as summer gets closer the terrain that’s served becomes increasingly limited as snow melts and conditions deteriorate. On June 3rd, though, thanks to a solid early winter and some great late spring snow, just about all of the possible terrain was still open. I was able to ski wide open alpine faces, slushy bumps and soft groomers, pop off a few cornices, and pick my way down playful gullies. When I lived back east I made the pilgrimage to Tuckerman Ravine and took advantage of Killington’s late season operations, but in my experience it’s hard to beat the variety and quality of terrain that A-Basin works so hard to offer in the springtime.

A-Basin in June 2017: a few bare spots surrounded by tons of skiable terrain.

A-Basin in June 2017: a few bare spots surrounded by tons of skiable terrain.

Even at 10,600 ft, the weather is warming up by June, and temperatures from about 50F to 65F are common. I usually wear a light long-sleeved baselayer and a T-shirt, but that’s mostly just because I don’t think there’s enough sunscreen in the world to keep me from frying in the June high alpine sun. Many others are braver than me, and wear bathing suits, tank tops, shorts and all kinds of crazy costumes. My favorite this spring was a skier dressed as a giraffe, playing a vuvuzela. Combined with all the usual springtime skiing trappings — pond skimming, live music, BBQ, tailgating — it’s quite the scene.

June 1, 2017: a crowd cheers on the skiers and riders during their pond skimming attempts.

June 1, 2017: a crowd cheers on the skiers and riders during their pond skimming attempts.

I really do think that A-Basin in the springtime should be on every skier’s bucket list. There’s usually no powder, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an experience that’s more fun, more novel, or more likely to get you counting the days until next season.

 



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Is Consolidation Good or Bad for the Ski Industry?

Unknown-1In recent weeks, the ski world has been rocked by a number of acquisitions: Vail bought Stowe, and then Aspen and KSL Capital Partners formed a partnership that led to the purchase of Intrawest resorts, followed by Mammoth, June, Bear, and Snow Summit.

UnknownConsolidations are nothing new, though they seem to be getting more and more common. Let’s take a look at the biggest, so you understand who owns what (keep in mind, though, that things could change any moment):

Vail Resorts owns Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone in Colorado; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Park City and Canyons in Utah; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan; and Stowe in Vermont.

Aspen-KSL Capital Partners owns Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, Winter Park, and Steamboat in Colorado; Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, and Mammoth in California; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Blue Mountain in Ontario; Mont Tremblant in Quebec; and Stratton in Vermont.

On the smaller side, there’s Peak Resorts, which owns Alpine Valley, Mad River Mountain, and Boston Mills/Brandywine in Ohio; Attitash, Wildcat, and Crotched in New Hampshire; Hunter Mountain in New York; Jack Frost and Big Boulder in Pennsylvania; Mount Snow in Vermont; Hidden Valley and Snow Creek in Missouri; and Paoli Peaks in  Indiana.

And let’s not forget Boyne Resorts, which owns Big Sky in Montana; Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain Resort in Michigan; and Crystal and Summit at Snoqualmie in Washington. Boyne also has long term operating agreements with —but does not own — Brighton in Utah, Cypress Mountain in British Columbia, Loon in New Hampshire, and Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine.

Skiing on Aspen Mountain, Aspen, Colorado

Skiing on Aspen Mountain, Aspen, Colorado

So is this good? Is it bad? And what does it mean for skiers?

Depends by what you mean by good and bad. After all, it’s a matter of perspective.

For skiers,  it may mean lower lift prices — at least for now. For example, let’s look at what’s been happening in Vermont. Days after Vail bought Stowe, Killington slashed the price on adult season passes by several hundred dollars, to $899. Sugarbush dropped the price of its early-bird adult season pass from $1,149 to $799, extended discounts to skiers up to age 40, and announced that it would join the Mountain Collective network for the first time. And Stowe became part of Vail’s multi-resort Epic Pass, which means skiers will pay less than half of the $1,860 Stowe charged for its adult pass rate this season.

There are other benefits, too. Ski areas are capital intensive, and the deep pockets of large corporations can mean greater investments in things like lifts, snowmaking, grooming, on-site amenities, and so on. It might even mean better salaries for resort employees, which can help attract top tier people to its resorts. And it can mean investments in more and better non-skiing activities, which are essential in turning the resorts into four-season destinations — which is critical for their survival in the face of climate change. What’s more, a growing roster of mountains under multi-resort passes, like the Epic pass  or the Mountain Collective Pass, gives skiers greater access to some of the best skiing in the world. Nothing wrong with that.

But still, I’m conflicted. I’m always a little nervous when one company gets too big in any particular industry, and I’m afraid this is what we’re seeing here. Sure, Aspen-KSL and Vail are doing well now. But a bad year could cause problems not just at the Mother Ship, but at all their resorts, across the board. What’s more — and this applies to Vail, a publicly traded company — there’s a responsibility to shareholders to continually improve its bottom line. And this doesn’t always engender practices that are to customers’ liking. For example, If Vail decides to increase its lift prices, a lot of people at a lot of mountains are screwed. The competitive incentive is gone. And that’s not good.

For the acquired resorts, there’s the issue of having a remote corporate overlord. Will decisions have to be approved by someone hundreds of miles away? Everything from expansion plans to the color of ski school jackets may now have to through a number of corporate layers. Will pay for employees go down, instead of up? Will issues that affect the community get the consideration they deserve? And will the acquired resorts become more and more homogenized, so they bear more resemblance to one another and lose the characteristics that once made them so unique? Finally, will the emphasis become less on skiing and more on real estate development, retail, and off-slope amenities?

I’m also worried about the tremendous influence these large companies have in the ski world. Whatever Vail or Aspen does — good or bad — can have a profound effect. If Vail offers a particular amenity, for example, a lot of other resorts are going to feel pressure to do the same, whether it makes sense or not.

Which leads me to the following: all this makes it increasingly difficult for smaller ski areas to survive. What’s the incentive for a skier to go to a smaller, independent resort, if they can purchase an Epic pass and have access to multiple resorts for the same amount they’d spend for one? And with Vail and Aspen having such deep pockets for investment, how can a smaller area compete? Before you shake your head and say, well, that’s the market at work, survival of the fittest and all, consider this: Since the 1980’s, roughly 33% of US ski areas have gone out of business and up to 150 more are considered threatened by industry experts. Sure, there are a lot of factors that have caused this to happen. Many of these places were smaller Mom and Pop hills. And though they had limited lifts and trails, they also nurtured beginner skiers and served as feeder hills for resorts like Vail. What’s more, they offered something larger resorts generally lack: a measure of character and community involvement that goes to the heart of what skiing is all about.

Are there ways for smaller areas to stay competitive with the consolidated resorts? Not many. In recent years, the ski industry has seen little to no growth, so skiers who go to one resort tend to take  business away from someplace else. In short, one resort tends to cannabilize another. For example, Vail sold about 50,000 season passes less than a decade ago. Now the number is closer to 550,000. These skiers are choosing Vail over some other resort. And while it’s great for Vail, it’s not so great for wherever it is they’re not going. One organization that’s trying to help smaller areas compete is Mountain Riders Alliance. MRA is involved in forging partnerships with community ski areas to help them become sustainable, community-oriented playgrounds that focus more on skiing than on real-estate development. I interviewed Jamie Schectman, one of MRA’s co-founders, here.  He has an interesting perspective that’s worth checking out.

So what does the future hold?

Don’t expect to see many changes for ’17/’18. The Intrawest resorts will honor current passes for next season, including the Rocky Mountain Super Pass and the MAX pass. And according to Mike Kaplan, Aspen Skiing’s president and CEO, there are no immediate plans to change lift ticket prices or amenities at any of the acquired resorts.

Longer term, things could get interesting. But it certainly makes you wonder who’s next in the acquisition line-up. Jackson Hole? Crested Butte? Telluride? Sun Valley? Will Aspen-KSL and Vail make further inroads into the East? And what about the smaller groups, like Powdr or Boyne? If Intrawest can be acquired, can one of these be purchased, too? Will we eventually be left with just two ski companies?

One thing’s a pretty safe bet: We haven’t seen the end of this trend. Stay tuned for more…….

 



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Announcing TheSkiDiva’s Best of the Year: Our 2017 Mountain Top Picks

It’s the season for awards. This past weekend the US Ski Hall of Fame inducted its Class of 2016, which included three women: Ellen Post Foster, Marion Post Caldwell, and Gretchen Rous Besser (for more about them and the other inductees, go here). Congratulations, one and all.

MTP-2017But that’s not the only award that’s being handed out right now. Because at TheSkiDiva, we’ve come up with our Mountain Top Picks — our selections of the best of the best in skiing for the past year. Sure, there’s no fancy-dancy ceremony, no gold statuette, and no certificate with ornate Latin script. And no, you won’t see any celebrities posing on a red carpet with paparazzi taking pics. Instead, our winners just get the satisfaction of knowing they’re a favorite of all of us at TheSkiDiva.com — which by itself, is pretty darn cool. And yes, they can even use the logo here, if they want. S’okay.

So now, for your reading pleasure, here are TheSkiDiva.com’s Mountain Top Picks for 2017:

[Drum roll here]

Ski Gear
Favorite ski for groomers: Volkl Kenja
Favorite ski for deep snow: Nordica Santa Ana
Favorite all mountain ski: Blizzard Black Pearl
Favorite ski boot brand: Lange
Favorite Ski Goggle: Smith IO/S*
Favorite Helmet Brand: Smith Vanage

H16-VAMBLGMIPS

Favorite Helmet Brand: Smith Vantage Helmet

Ski Apparel
Favorite Brand of Baselayers:  Smartwool
Favorite Brand of Socks: Smartwool*
Favorite Jacket Brand: The North Face
Favorite Brand of Ski Pants: Arc’teryx*

Favorite Base Layer: Smartwool

Smartwool Base Layer

Ski Resorts
Favorite Eastern Resort: Sugarbush
Favorite Western Resort: Mammoth
Favorite Resort, eastern Canada: Mont Tremblant*
Favorite Resort, western Canada: Whistler-Blackcomb*
Favorite European Resort: St. Anton
Favorite Women’s Clinic: Okemo Mountain Resort
Favorite Kids Program: Smugglers Notch

Favorite Eastern Resort: Sugarbush

Sugarbush

*Second win in a row! For a list of our 2015 Mountain Top Picks, go here.

Congratulations to all!



Read full story · Comments { 1 }

Which Multi-Resort Season Pass Should You Choose?

Getting a season pass used to be fairly simple. You decided which mountain you’d ski the most, handed over your credit card, and that was that. Easy peasy.

Lately it’s become a lot more complicated. Ski resorts have teamed up to offer joint passes that are good at multiple locations. On the upside, these can save you a lot of money. With daily lift passes at many resorts well above $100., the pay-off comes pretty fast. The catch is figuring out which pass is best for you. You pretty much have to 1)  decide on next year’s ski plans a year in advance and 2) have a ph.d in Math, like my son-in-law, to figure out which one makes most financial sense.

So here’s a limited compilation about what’s out there.

In the West:

listingRocky Mountain Super Pass: Unlimited skiing at Winter Park, Copper Mountain and Eldora with six days at Steamboat and three days at Crested Butte Mountain Resort.  You also get 7 days at four resorts in Japan and two in New Zealand. The price is $529. for adults, through April 11. That’s up from $499 for 2016-17. And for a second year in a row the Rocky Mountain Super Pass provides a free kids pass (12 and younger) with the purchase of an adult pass.

epic-pass-logo2(1)Epic Pass: Click on the Epic Pass link, and you’ll find 13 varieties of this pass. Here are four of the more popular:

The Epic Pass: For $859., you get unlimited skiing at 11 major resorts, including Colorado’s Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, as well as 30 European resorts across Austria, France, Italy, and Switzerland.  You also get six Buddy Tickets if you buy before April 9, and six Ski-With-A-Friend tickets at varying discounts, which are automatically loaded onto your pass.

The Epic Local Pass, offers unlimited, unrestricted skiing or riding at Breckenridge, Keystone, Wilmot, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton and Arapahoe Basin with limited restrictions at Park City, Heavenly, Northstar & Kirkwood. Also includes a total of 10 days at Vail, Beaver Creek and Whistler Blackcomb with holiday restrictions. $639. for adults, with lower prices for teens, college students, and children. In addition to six buddy tickets (if you buy before April 9) and six Ski-With-A-Friend tickets, you get:

• Half-price pass holder tickets available during restricted dates at Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood;
• Advanced lift ticket rate available during restricted dates at Vail and Beaver Creek and beyond 10 days;
• Unlimited access to Vail and Beaver Creek in April 2018 available to pass holders who purchased their 2017-2018 passes before 5/29/17;
• 2017 Summer Scenic Access.

The Summit Local Pass, Unlimited skiing or riding at Keystone and Arapahoe Basin with limited restrictions at Breckenridge. Same side benefits as above. $529. for adults.

The Tahoe Local Pass, Unlimited skiing or riding at Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood 7 days a week, with limited holiday restrictions. Saturdays included at all resorts. It also includes 5 total restricted days at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City or Arapahoe Basin.

PA-Logo-Stacked-v2-895x217Powder Alliance:  Buy an anytime season pass to any of 15 areas and receive three free days at all the rest. Powder Alliance Resorts include Angel Fire, Arizona Snow Bowl, Bridger Bowl, China Peak, Crested Butte, Kiroro, Mountain High, Mount Hood, Schweitzer, Silver Bowl, Sierra at Tahoe, Snowbasin, Stevens, Timberline, Whitewater, Wild West Powder Quest.

d5bbb8e18cf3c3cd310bb2d137955221Mountain Collective Pass:  The MCP gives you two days at a wide range of ski resorts (and for a limited time, three days at the mountain of your choice). New for ’17/’18,  Utah’s Snowbasin and Vermont’s Sugarbush, which replace the Vail-incorporated Whistler and Stowe. The collection of independent ski areas includes Aspen-Snowmass, Alta, Banff Sunshine, Jackson Hole, Snowbasin, Snowbird, Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows, Sugarbush, Sun Valley, Taos, Telluride; in Canada, Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, Revelstoke;, and in the Southern Hemisphere, Thredbo and Coronet Peak-The Remarkables. This year the Mountain Collective splits Alta and Snowbird into two resorts, offering two days at each and offers the same deal at Canada’s Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise ski areas. The price: $399. For a limited time, you can get $1 passes for kids 12 and younger with the purchase of an adult pass.

Ski Utah Silver and Gold Passes: These are a bit costly, but if that’s what you want, who am I to judge? The Ski Utah Silver Pass allows the holder to ski for 30 days at each of 14 Utah ski resorts (30 days at Alta, 30 days at Deer Valley, 30 days at Sundance, etc.), except for Park City, where it’s valid for 60 days of skiing. The price? $3,150 The Ski Utah Gold Pass offers 50 days of skiing at each Utah resort, except for Park City, where it’s valid for 100 days; however, the pass is also fully transferable pass so your friends and family can enjoy your same privileges on the days you’re not using the pass. A cool $4,800.

The Gold Tahoe Super Pass: Worried about buying a season pass and not using it? Here’s one with a  worry-free guarantee. The Gold Tahoe Super Pass gives credits for unused days that can be put towards the following season. Skiers get unlimited access to Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, plus 2 free days at Zermatt, Switzerland, and unlimited 50% discounts on lift tickets at Mountain Collective resorts. But if you’re unable to ski at least five days during the upcoming season for any reason (not just poor conditions) on your 2017-18 Tahoe Super Pass, they’ll credit you up to 4 days towards your 2018-19 pass when you purchase a Gold or Silver pass. $869. til April 18.

california-cali4nia-ski-passCali4nia Pass: One pass covers Mammoth, Bear, June, and Snow Summit. There’s a host of benefits when you buy early, including 5 exclusive Early Up events at Mammoth, 5 Bring-A-Friend tickets, 10% off rentals, 10% off retail when you spend more than $100., and up to 20% off lodging at Mammoth Lodging Collection properties. $749. through April 3.

In the East:

 Ski Roundtop/Liberty Mountain/Whitetail Pass: Includes unlimited access to Ski Roundtop, Liberty Mountain, Whitetail Resorts. You also get 30 minutes early lift access Thursday through Sunday, preferred parking at Roundtop on weekends and holidays until 5PM,  50% off regular class lessons, two snow tubing tickets valid Monday through Thursday non-holiday, one free Learn to Ski or Board Package for a friend, special hotel rates at the Liberty Hotel, 15% discount in the sports shops, and 50% off midweek/non peak tickets at Mountains of Distinction resorts. $469. for adults.

superpassWhite Mountain Superpass: Valid every day of the 2017/18 winter season at Bretton Woods, Cannon, Cranmore and Waterville Valley. $979. before May 31.

 

 

NEPass_logo-bw-180New England Pass: Includes unlimited access to Sunday River, Loon, and Sugarloaf. $1,099. before April 30.

 

 

PeakPassPeak Explorer Pass: Unlimited days at Mount Snow, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched, Hunter, Jack Frost and Big Boulder, along with discounts on retail, lodgings and activities. $599. until April 30.

 

UnknownFour.0 College Pass: This is for the full-time college student who wants unrestricted access to Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Killington and Pico at a price that fits a student’s budget. Includes resort-specific benefits. $369. through August 31.

logoVermont Travel Club Card: Get varying discounts at 11 Vermont ski resorts plus Sunday River. Individual cards are $54., Family cards (up to 5 members) are $179.

 

East & West, Combined

MAX_Pass_Logo_highresThe MAX Pass: The MAX pass advertises five days each at 44 mountains with zero blackout dates. You can find the full list here; this year their new offerings include Belleayre Mountain, Gore Mountain, Granite Peak, Lutsen Resort, Whiteface Mountain, and Windham Mountain. You can buy the pass outright for $629. through May 1. But if you have a season pass at one of the 44 mountains, you can buy a MAX pass add-on for just $329. The web site has a handy calculator that tells you the savings you’ll get by using the MAX Pass.

Mountain Playground Card: I don’t have a price on this one yet, but this year, the $29. card got you great deals at a variety of smaller, community-oriented ski hills. You also got deals with brand partners, and helped benefit SheJumps, a non-profit geared toward increasing the participation of women and girls in outdoor activities. More details on the ’17/’18 season to come in the Fall. To find out more, go here.



Read full story · Comments { 1 }

Skiing at a Private Resort: The Hermitage Club, Wilmington, VT

Have you ever wished you had your own private ski hill?

Yep, me, too.

If you’re a member of the Hermitage Club in southern Vermont, this is very nearly a reality.

logo-hc2Located just down the road from Mount Snow, the Hermitage Club is like a private golf club, but for skiing. You pay an upfront amount — in this case, $85,000 — plus a recurring fee each year. Use of the facilities is limited strictly to members and their guests, and membership is now capped at 1,500 — so you’re virtually assured that even when they’re standing on long lift lines over at Mount Snow, you’ll never find the trace of a lift line here.

I recently spent a day at the Hermitage Club, and was blown away. It’s pretty much a New England skier’s fantasy: great skiing, impeccable facilities, and amazing service — all with no crowds, even during the busiest weekends and holidays.

Things weren’t always rosy at the Hermitage Club, at least before it was the Hermitage Club. Built on the site of the former Haystack Mountain Ski Area, the property once belonged to Mount Snow, and then to the now defunct American Ski Company. It then changed hands a few times, even sitting idle for a period, before being bought by its current owner, Jim Barnes, in 2011. It was that close to joining the roster of lost New England ski areas.

Today, the Hermitage Club is the only private ski club in the East. The 3,200′ mountain features 1,400 vertical feet, 46 trails, and 6 lifts. One of these lifts is a high speed bubble with heated seats, a godsend on the cold day I visited last week, when the wind chill was well below zero.

Here’s a view of the Clubhouse and bubble lift:

Lodge

Hermitage Club Lodge & Bubble Lift, photo by Peter Hines

And here’s the Clubhouse’s main entrance:

Main entrance, photo by Peter Hines

Main entrance, photo by Peter Hines

At 90,000 square feet, the Clubhouse is the largest post-and-beam structure east of the Mississippi. You can’t help but be impressed by the huge vaulted ceiling. And there’s enough room to hold a party in the massive stone fireplace.

The Fireplace

The Fireplace

Lodge Interior, photo by Peter Hines.

Lodge Interior, photo by Peter Hines.

But there’s more here than just a gorgeous clubhouse. Here are some of the amenities that Club members enjoy:

Sweeeeet skiing. True, this isn’t the gnarliest terrain around. But it’s impeccably groomed, has a snowmaking system that covers 90% of the mountain, and provides the feeling of having a whole ski resort just about to yourself. All this translates into a lot of fun.

trail-map2016final

Lots of food choices.  The Hermitage isn’t huge, but it has six restaurants. Which means you have a multiple options. During the Sunday that I visited, there was a buffet brunch in the Clubhouse featuring everything from omelets to sushi to shrimp, oysters, pork chops — you name it, it was there. And it was all really, really good. Here’s my lunch:

Not your ordinary ski lunch.

Not your ordinary ski lunch.

One of the restaurants is located in the Mid Mountain Cabin. You can eat lunch while looking out over the beautiful Deerfield Valley.

mmc-snow

Mid Mountain Cabin

Outstanding service. You know how the genie from Alladin’s lamp says, ‘Your wish is my command?‘ That’s pretty much what it’s like here. You get your skis valeted when you pull up to the Clubhouse, so you don’t have to exert yourself before skiing. They’ll store them for you all winter, and they’ll valet your car, too. There are lots of staff at work here, and they’re committed to making you happy. They’re all terribly polite, friendly, and service oriented.

The Clubhouse: Okay, I know I spent a lot of time talking about this already. But this is not your ordinary ski lodge. It has a bowling alley and a movie theater, private lockers for members and guest lockers for guests, a fitness center, an indoor sauna and lap pool, daycare, and a kids’ arcade.

Spa-ahhhhhh. The Clubhouse also features a spa with 14 treatment rooms where you can get everything from facials to skin treatments to massage. The spa also has private men’s and women’s locker rooms, steam rooms and showers, and a large relaxation room with daybeds and a waterfall. I couldn’t pass up a massage and a facial as my aprés ski, and I practically floated home.

The Serenity Room in the Hermitage Spa

The Serenity Room in the Hermitage Spa

Other activities. If you don’t like to ski, you have other options, too, such as cross country skiing, ice skating, sleigh rides, snow tubing, bonfires, and snowshoeing. And because this is a four-season resort, members have access to year-round recreational activities, as well. In the summer, you can tee up on an 18-hole, Desmond Muirhead-designed championship golf course. Or go fly fishing, swimming, hiking, or more.

Private Concerts: This is for real. They bring in acts like Hall and Oates, Jackson Browne, Huey Lewis, and Counting Crows to perform just for members. You get big names in a pretty small venue. Nice.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?
The Hermitage Club is a New England skier’s dream come true, but the price tag puts it out of reach for most people. If you have the bucks and the inclination, it’s a pretty nice way to go. If you can’t handle the fees and still want to ski there, you can — but only if you stay at one of the inns owned by the Club. It’s worth checking out.



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Clinic Review: Women’s Discovery Program, Sugarbush, VT

UnknownVermont has 20 alpine ski resorts. And though each has its own particular charm, one of my favorites is Sugarbush. Located in the Mad River Valley, a beautiful region in an especially beautiful state, Sugarbush consists of two main peaks: Lincoln Peak (3,975 elevation, 2,400 vertical) and Mount Ellen (4,083 elevation, 2,600 vertical). Between the two is Slide Brook basin, a wilderness ski area made up of 1,000 acres.

IMG_0488

Sugarbush

So what makes it so special? First, it strikes a great balance between being a skier’s mountain and a family destination. There’s plenty of expert terrain — more than 40% of the mountain is rated black diamond — but there’s enough to keep intermediates and beginners happy. Instead of the broad groomers that make one mountain pretty interchangeable from the next, Sugarbush has terrain with character. There are lots of the traditional, winding New England trails that offer a surprise around every bend. There’s plenty of tree skiing and bumps. And there are spectacular views; look one way, and the Green Mountains stretch out before you; the other, Lake Champlain. What’s more, Sugarbush has what can only be defined as a Vermont vibe. It’s as if the place was weaned on maple syrup. And yes, it makes a difference in the atmosphere.

This past week I had the pleasure of spending a few days at the mountain’s Women’s Discovery Camp. Sugarbush ran two of these this season: one over a weekend in January, and one during the week in early March.  So let’s cut to the chase: Was it good? Would I recommend it? An emphatic yes to both.

I’ve always been a strong proponent of women’s clinics. I even wrote a blog post a while back called Why a Women’s Clinic, which explains why I think they’re so worthwhile. Meredith McFarland, Sugarbush’s Director of Adult Programs, agrees. “It’s a fun, comfortable, supportive environment. The women who come love the camaraderie. It’s just different from learning in a mixed group.”

I’ve attended a few women’s clinics over the years, and I liked what I saw at Sugarbush. Maybe it’s because it has a history. Meredith told me that the clinic at Sugarbush goes back at least 25 years. Although the focus was initially more social than instructional, it evolved over the years to the shape it’s in today.

So what did I like about it?

• Great student/instructor ratio: The clinic I attended had 13 women attendees, the one in January, 20. In general, there’s a 6:1 student/instructor ratio (though my group was 4:1). Which means you get a lot of individual attention and feedback.

• First rate female instructors: Make no mistake, these women are top notch. My instructor, Lisa Segal, is an L-3 PSIA Examiner. In case you don’t now, this is as high as you can go in the instructor hierarchy. It requires a massive amount of  training and expertise. And it showed.

So does it make a difference to have all-women instructors in an all-women’s clinic? I believe it does. As Meredith McFarland said, “I think it’s easier for a female instructor to understand what a woman is asking about some sort of movement. Sure, there are men who are great at teaching women. But I think women instructors generally have better insight into what works and doesn’t work for a woman skier.”

PSIA Examiner, and my instructor, Lisa Segal.

PSIA Examiner, and my instructor, Lisa Segal.

 

• The terrain: I described Sugarbush’s terrain at the beginning of this piece, and the variety makes it perfect for a learning situation. You get to try new skills in a lot of different situations.

• Off slope learning: The first morning of the clinic, we had an address by Terry Barbour, Sugarbush’s Ski School Director. Terry discussed the importance of proper stance along with the uses of edging and turn shape, and took us through a few off-slope drills. Later that day, there was a presentation about new skis. And the next day, a talk about ski boots. So a lot of good information about stuff skiers need to know.

Ski School Director Terry Barbour explains rotation.

Ski School Director Terry Barbour explains rotation.

• Sure it’s a learning experience. But if sure feels like fun! That’s because everyone associated with it — the instructors, the staff —  did their best to make this a low pressure, highly enjoyable environment. Let’s face it: we’re not trying out for the US Ski Team. The idea behind this is to not only make you a better, more confident skier but to amp up the fun factor. And they do.

Instructors and students of the March session

Instructors and students of the March session

• Ski demos: If you want to try new skis, you can. Demoing is a great way to figure out if a particular ski is right for you before you plunk down your hard-earned cash, and Sugarbush had a variety of skis available free to clinic attendees. Usually, you have to pay to demo. So this was an added plus.

• Running gates: OMG this was so much fun! I’m not a racer, so I’ve never had the opportunity to run gates before (full disclosure: these were stubbies). But it gave you a feel for what it was like. And it helped us with our turns.

Running the stubbies.

Running the stubbies.

 

• Videotape analysis: This is pretty standard in any good clinic. Nonetheless, it’d been a loooong time since I’d been taped. And yeah, it’s an eye opener to see how you really ski, particularly when it’s slowed down for frame-by-frame examination. A good way to find out what you’re doing wrong — and right! :smile:

An instructor takes an attendee through videotape analysis.

An instructor takes an attendee through videotape analysis.

• Yoga: We had the option of starting each day with a yoga workout, something I took advantage of.  And why not? Yoga gets your body ready and engaged for skiing. Plus it’s just good for your all around health.

Don’t just take my word for it.

Here are some comments from some of the other women attending the Camp:

• What I really like about the camp is how it not only helps engender a love of skiing, but also helps foster friendships that last. This is the third one of these I’ve attended at Sugarbush. And though the chemistry of each is different, they’ve all been fantastic.

• I love the low pressure environment. Sure, I’m here to learn, but I don’t feel the anxiety that I’ve found in a mixed group. The instructors really know what they’re doing. They’re so supportive. And they make it so much fun!

• I came to improve my skiing and I found a community, and every time I come back, I refind that community.

And then there’s the hotel…..

One of the great things about doing the clinic was staying in the fabulous Clay Brook Hotel, just steps away from the lodge at the base of the mountain (can you say pampered?). Opened in December, 2006, the hotel has accommodations ranging from studios to five bedroom suites. I stayed in a one bedroom unit, which consisted of a full-sized, completely outfitted kitchen, a living room/dining area with a  gas fireplace, a bedroom with a Queen-sized canopy bed, and a bathroom featuring a huge jetted tub. It even had a washer/dryer to take care of dirty ski clothes. If you want to soak out the kinks after your day, you can relax in the hotel’s heated pool or hot tub. Or if you don’t get enough of a work out on the slopes, there’s a fitness center, too.

All my interactions with the staff were extremely pleasant. For example, check in was a snap. They valet your car, unload your gear, and take your skis and boots to the respective ski and boot valets where they’re conveniently stored until you need them again. As for check out: I wanted to ski before I left, so they even put my bags in my car, where they were waiting when my vehicle was brought around at the end of my stay.

Here’s a file photo of the hotel. I love the Vermont barn-influenced design.

Clay Brook Hotel

Clay Brook Hotel

Here’s the living room/dining area of my unit, looking toward the kitchen (you can see the door to the hallway against the wall):

Clay Brook Living Room

Clay Brook Living Room

I also highly recommend the Timbers restaurant, which is attached to the hotel. I had dinner there one night. The food is terrific, and look at this place. It’s reminiscent of the round barns you can find in the area:

Timbers Restaurant

Timbers Restaurant

It was awfully nice to relax in this place at the end of a busy ski day. Truly, I felt like I was in the lap of luxury.

Was there anything you didn’t like?

Hmmmmm……um….no.

The bottom line:

Sugarbush has a great thing going. Granted, it’s probably not for those of you who are thinking about trying out for the US Ski Team. But for the recreational skier who wants to improve their skiing, increase their confidence and have a hell of a good time, it’s definitely worth doing.

 

 

 

 



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Oui, Ski Mont Tremblant!

Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated. I mean, I only live a few hours from the Canadian border, and until this past week, I’d never, ever been to Mont Tremblant.

Sure, I’d heard about it for what seems like forever. I’d seen how time and time again, it gets rated #1 in SKI magazine’s annual round-up of Eastern ski resorts. But to get in my car and actually go? That was another matter.

Well, last week I finally made it. I’m a member of the Eastern chapter of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association, and this year our annual meeting was held in Tremblant. I’m so glad it was; now that I know what I’ve been missing, I’ll be sure to come back.

Mont Tremblant is the second-oldest ski resort in North America (Sun Valley, Idaho, is older). But the Mont Tremblant you see today is relatively new. The mountain was acquired by Intrawest in 1991, who has turned it into a world-class destination.

Yes, I said world class; Tremblant has so much to offer that I think it deserves that designation.

Why? Consider the following:

The mountain: For all of us Ski Divas, this is by far the biggest concern. Sure, good food and accommodations are nice, but if the mountain doesn’t delivery, frankly, we’re not interested. Never fear. Mont Tremblant has loads of great terrain for everyone. First, some stats:

Summit elevation: 2,871 ft (875 m)
Vertical drop: 2,116 ft (645 m)
Skiable area: 662 acres (268 ha)
Number of lifts: 13
Number of trails: 96
Longest run: 19,800 ft (6,035 m)
Ability levels: Easiest, 17%; More Difficult, 33%; Most Difficult, 40%; Experts Only, 10%

catr_trailmap

So what did I like? First, every part of the mountain is easily accessible. All the lifts go to the top. And once you’re there, you can ski the north, south, or soliel (sunny) side. So if it’s blowy or the snow’s not great on one part of the mountain, you can easily move to another and chances are it’s entirely different. Second, there’s literally something for everyone — lots of long, long trails with a good amount of pitch; super fun glades; great bump runs; terrific views; along with plenty of greens for those who’re just starting out. Some of the favorite trails: Jasey Jay Anderson, Duncan, Mcculloch, Taschereau, and lord knows what else; I just followed the guides around. It’s all good.

 

Le Cabriolet

Le Cabriolet

The village: Spread out across the base of the mountain is a pedestrian village, otherwise known as Quartier Tremblant. Constructed in the early 2000’s, it’s built in a style that’s reminiscent of Quebec’s Old City. And sure, it’s probably a bit Disney-esque. But it’s also very convenient and loaded with hotels, shops, and restaurants, all within easy walking distance of each other and the slopes. We stayed at the Ermitage du Lac, but others in my group stayed in the Holiday Inn Express and the Marriott Residence Inn. To get to the slopes, you can either walk or do what I did: take Le Cabriolet, the commuter lift that skims over the village’s rooftops to land you steps away from the gondola base (my husband said it made him feel ike Mary Poppins).

Quartier Tremblant

Quartier Tremblant

Old World Charm: Tremblant is French to the core; well, French-Canadian, anyway. So you get this Old World-I’m-in-another-country feeling without ever having to cross the Atlantic. It’s lovely, everyone speaks both French and English (which makes it easy for those of us who aren’t bi-lingual), and the food is terrific. Speaking of which….

Lots of dining options: The village has tons of restaurants. A few we had the chance to enjoy include Gypsy at the Westin (great tapas), Le Shack (try the burger), La Diable (wonderful beer options), and Windigo at the Fairmont (great atmosphere and menu). All were very, very good. But if you want to stop and warm-up while you’re skiing, I recommend The Refuge, an on-mountain on-trail cabin that’s positively charming. A great place to stop for hot chocolate by a wood stove.

The Refuge

The Refuge

And lots of non-skiing activities, too: Sure, I was too busy skiing to do anything else. But if you come to Tremblant and have people who want to do something besides ski, there are lots of great options: Ice skating in front of the picturesque St. Bernard Chapel; gambling at the Casino; dog sledding; snow shoeing; fat tire biking; cross country skiing, spa treatments….the list goes on and on.

One of the best parts of the trip was that I had the chance to ski with two other members of TheSkiDiva.com. (Ski Divas are everywhere!) They gave me a local’s tour, as well as their own thoughts on why they love to ski Tremblant:

Three Ski Divas

Three Ski Divas

Judy: There are many reasons I love Tremblant. It’s an easy hour-long drive from my house, and we can park very conveniently on the North Side (not the main side of the mountain), just steps from the lodge. Often the car is so close we use it as a locker. As for the skiing, there’s plenty of choice and you can ski all day never doing the same run twice. There’s also plenty of variety: lots of groomers but also fun ungroomed stuff and glades. And because of the various “versants” (sides) to the mountain, you can stay in the sun all day long. Snowmaking and grooming are excellent. Some people complain about flat runouts at the bottom but you can make use of these – this is where I learned to carve. As passholders who park on the North Side we tend to avoid the busy-ness of the South side, but should we want to enjoy a longer lunch or browse some shops, we can head down to the pedestrian village for a totally different experience. Oh yeah, did I mention the views are great?

Jill: Here’s what I love about Tremblant…
The vertical: There’s over 2,000 feet, compared to places near me in Ontario. Most of these have only have 300 to 400 feet. Even Calabogie only has 760 feet, and that’s the highest in Ontario.
Terrain: There are lots of choices for everyone.
The people:  I have so many friends who ski here.
Things to do beside skiing: Lots of stuff, spas, shopping, dog sledding, tubing, XC skiing, snowshoe….
Conditions: They do try to make it great. Mother Nature can play games, but management makes the best of it.

 

Are there any downsides?
Depends on your perspective. I’ve heard some people say they don’t want to ski in Quebec because it’s cold. Yes, that’s true, there can be cold days. But you know, it is winter. Skiing is a cold weather sport, and yes, it gets cold everywhere. If you dress warmly and take a break here and there, you’ll be fine.

I’ve also heard some people say that it’s hard to get to. If you’re not within driving distance, Mont Tremblant has an airport with direct flights to New York and Toronto. And there’s an airport in Montreal, too, an hour and change to the south.

All I can say is that it’d be too bad if you let any of this get in the way of a great ski trip. So go to Tremblant. You’ll have a blast.

IMG_5496

 

 

 



Read full story · Comments { 2 }