Get away from muzac in the mall, grab your cookie cutters, and head to the mountains for some authentic holiday cheer. What follows are a few ideas:
The highlight of the holiday season at Heavenly is the ESQ Ski With The Greats event on Jan. 3 and 4. Demo ski and snowboard equipment, partake in instructional clinics and watch the celebrity pro-am race featuring such greats as Phil Mahre, Bill Johnson and Kiki Cutter. On Jan. 9 and 10, the competition gets serious when the Wendy's Downhill Relays hit the slopes. Teams of former Olympic and World Cup champions compete in relay-style events for more than $300,000 in prizes and money.
On Dec. 13, take part in the Full-moon BBQ and Cross-Country Ski Tour. Head into the woods on Northstar's Nordic trails, and the reward is a blazing bonfire. The more ambitious can snowshoe, cross-country and telemark ski in the XC triathlon on Dec. 20.
Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
The town of Mammoth hosts a tree-lighting ceremony Dec. 5. Check out Mammoth's new terrain park, the Unbound, at the Boardercross vs. Motocross event Dec 13-14. The Unbound features music, a mid-park cafe and lights for night skiing and boarding.
WinterFaire, held Dec. 14, has prize drawings, food and a snow-calling contest. On Dec. 20, join in the Holiday Snowboard Workshop to step up your technique.
Ski Homewood, Calif.
The 8th Annual Ho-Ho-Homewood Toy Drive is Dec. 19. Bring a toy worth $10 or more, and you can ski or ride all day for $5. Toys go to families in the Lake Tahoe and Reno area. Santa skis at Homewood Dec. 20-Jan. 4.
Squaw Valley, Calif.
On Dec. 28, look for the U.C. Berkeley marching band to play in full dress on the slopes. The band starts playing at the bottom of the Cable Car, then goes up to High Camp, over to Gold Coast and down the mountain to the base for an afternoon session.
At Blackcomb on Christmas day, snowboarders can celebrate by riding high in the Christmas Day Pipe Jam. Those not quite up to halfpipe riding can partake in one of many snowboard camps and clinics happening in the days following Christmas: A Women's All-Star Camp hits Whistler Dec. 26-27, and the Snowboarding Camp of Champions hits the same hill Dec. 27-28. Ski competition fans have a slew of pro events from which to choose: Men's Downhill and Super G Dec. 11-14 and the World Cup of Extreme Freeskiing Jan. 4-7. On New Year's Eve, a torchlight parade is followed by First Night in Whistler Village, an outdoor, nonalcoholic family event with entertainment on two stages. Or, ring in the New Year on top of the mountain at Pika's with a gourmet dinner, followed by dancing.
Lake Louise, Alberta
Lake Louise will host the World Ice-Sculpting Competition Jan. 16-18, which draws competitors from around the world. Not a week later, from Jan. 23 through Feb. 1, the 81st Annual Banff/Lake Louise Winter Festival gets underway. Parades, horse-drawn sleigh rides, dog-sled races and various other winter-sport competitions and festivities guarantee 10 days of fun.
Diamond Peak, Nev.
As part of the Northern Lights Festival, skiers staying in local lodging can ski free at Diamond Peak Dec. 21-23. Skiers staying elsewhere can ski for $10 on those days. The festival, which runs Dec. 21-31, includes a variety of events throughout the community, starting with the free skiing and ending with a New Year's Gala. Call (800) GO-TAHOE for information on all ticket pricing.
Mount Bachelor, Ore.
Bright and early on Jan. 1, start your year off right by torturing yourself at Bachelor's New Year's Relays at the Nordic Center. Teams of three to four people take turns panting and sweating the 12-mile race. Winners take pride in knowing they got a head-start on their New Year's resolutions.
Mt. Hood Meadows, Ore.
The highlighht of the Holly Fest Family Celebration Dec. 12-14 is the Slopestyle Snowboard Competition on Dec. 13. But other family-oriented events-such as "The Great Snowdeer Search"-round out the weekend festivities.
Snoqualmie Pass, Wash.
On Dec. 20, to properly greet the first day of winter, Snoqualmie is hosting Kickin' into Winter. This all-day celebration features ski and snowboard demos and various live bands, plus entertainment for kids and families.
Here, There & Everywhere
There's nothing like a good torchlight parade to put you in the mood. Look for blazers at Kirkwood, Mt. Hood Meadows, Whistler, Squaw Valley, Northstar-At-Tahoe and Snow Summit.
The Buck Stops Here
Starbuck's high-octane expansion is not being greeted enthusiastically in Tahoe City, Calif. The Seattle coffee chain is rumored to be taking over a building that now houses the Tahoe City Pharmacy in the center of town. In response, some local coffee and sandwich shops circulated a petition and gathered more than 1,000 signatures from people who don't want Starbuck's. But the anti-bucks have little chance of decaffeinating the giant because the county cannot tell a corporation that their business is not welcome. "Eating and drinking establishments are an allowed use," said Bill Coombs, a senior planner for Placer County, "but the petition might send a message to Starbucks."
Chateau Whistler resort was rated the number one hotel in Canada by Travel and Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler in each of the magazine's annual Top 100 issues. The hotel, which is driven by convention-type business, recently finished a $45 million expansion and now boasts 555 rooms and spa facilities that woo even the most pampered guest.
Next Stop Nagano
The first U.S. Olympic Snowboard team will be selected following the third and final U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix event in Mammoth, Calif. Following the competition on Saturday Jan. 26-31, the top finishers will travel to Reno and fly from there straight to Nagano.