Songwriter Fran Landesman must have been a skier: What else could explain her lyrics to "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most" but that snowless window between April and November? Sure, we endure the warm weather and clear skies all summer, but our hearts belong to winter and to our beloved ski hills. The only thing that makes our six-month separation bearable—especially this time of year—is the knowledge that when we finally get back on the slopes, they'll be better than we left them. Resorts spend all spring, summer, and fall making improvements—installing new chairlifts, glading trails, expanding terrain, and renovating amenities—to ensure that we'll fall in love with them all over again. Here’s a quick roundup of the changes you can expect when you finally reunite with your favorite hill in just a few short weeks.
Breckenridge, Colorado Breck recently announced its long-anticipated plans to expand onto Peak 6, but that terrain won't open until next season. The resort is hoping to hold over eager guests with private tours of the moutnain’s already massive trail system. An extension of Breck’s Ski and Ride School, the Peak to Peak Challenge program is an all-day, thigh-burning expedition across Breck's four peaks. For $230 plus the cost of a lift ticket, intermediate and advanced skiers in groups of no more than four guests to one instructor can explore hidden powder and jump to the front of long lift lines, all in an attempt to ski Breck's 10 most difficult trails. Succeed, and you'll be handsomely rewarded at the end of the day.
Sierra-at-Tahoe, California So your boss isn’t too keen on you playing hooky for a week to heliski with your buddies in far off B.C. or remote Alaska? If finding a cooler boss isn't a reality, how about this alternative? Sierra-at-Tahoe is offering the next best thing to a heli expedition—backcountry cat skiing closer to home and office. Huckleberry Cat Tours will deliver you to the summit of Huckleberry Mountain where you can blow off steam charging through bowls, glades, cliffs, and chutes. All you need is a weekend. The TPS Reports will be right where you left them. A short lesson on avalanche safety along with a shovel, probe and beacon are included with the cat ride for $79. The cats carry up to ten guests and the excusion lasts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a short break for lunch provided by Huckleberry Cat Tours.
Snowmass, Colorado Aspen Ski Co. started adding 230 acres to Snowmass’s Burnt Mountain earlier this summer. On September 5, the Ark Institute filed suit against Aspen to stop the removal of some trees in a roadless section of the forest. Aspen has stopped all construction but hopes to resume and open the area before the ski season. Tucked away on the westernmost side of the resort, Burnt houses some of the resort’s best intermediate terrain. Rolling hills, loosely packed trees, and ungroomed glades cover most of the area. The addition would boost the resort’s total skiable acreage to 3,362 acres, making it the second largest ski resort in Colorado. Click here to read more.
(Photo: Aspen Ski Co.; Arrow indicates location of addition)
Okemo, Vermont If six inches of fresh powder can’t get you out of bed in the morning maybe the smell of fresh waffles will. Okemo Mountain is adding a second Waffle Cabin at the Jackson Gore base area. If you’ve ever been to the resort, you know that people go nuts for these waffles. So much so, that The Travel Channel featured the cabin on its show, "Extreme Fast Food." Maybe it’s the imported beet sugar used in the batter? Maybe it’s the fact that it’s something hot to hold as you shiver in the frigid Vermont air. Whatever it is, they’ve got loads of calories and are worth every one.
Photo: Skye Chalmers
Vail, Colorado Leave it to Vail to one-up the competition. For its 50th birthday, the resort is unveiling a new 10-passenger gondola. Extending from the base village to mid-mountain, the gondola is the fastest of its kind in the world, and, in extravagant Vail fashion, the cabins will feature heated seats and Wi-Fi. But please, utilize the Wi-Fi for tunes and weather updates. Answering work emails is not acceptable during a ski vacation.
Photo: Vail Resorts
Jackson Hole Resort, Wyoming Jackson can be an intimidating place. Not only because of the telemark-skiing cowboys and rowdy watering holes but also because of all that double-black diamond terrain. Well, the resort heard your cries and is improving its intermediate terrain. Not only does a new high-speed quad make the Casper intermediate trail network more accessible, the resort is also revamping and expanding the trails themselves.
Photo: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Arapahoe Basin, Colorado Move over Colorado ski veterans because the little guys are about to invade your hill. A-Basin’s new Pika Place Learning Area features a wide beginner trail, magic carpet, and terrain park built specifically for riders with an 8 p.m.-or-earlier bedtime. The new learning area is intended to groom the next generation of freeskiers and keep them from flying the coop to bigger resorts.
Check back often for more updates leading up to the 2012-2013 ski season.