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Family ski vacation guide with the best ski resorts for family skiing

Category: Ski Pass Deals

What’s New @The Best Ski Resorts for Winter 2017-2018

At Sunday River Maine, the new Spruce Peak triple will open, a complete $2.1 replacement of the old lift (which was not operational last season) will shorten the ride time from 11 minutes to 8 minutes. Other improvements at the River, New England’s third largest ski resort, include a beginner-friendly trail “Bear Paw” on Locke Mountain, and the launch of a new Holiday pass- just $299 for peak Christmas skiing Dec 23- Jan 1, available by flash sale thru Sept 15.

Sugarbush Vermont will replace both the Lincoln Peak Village Double chairlift and Mt Ellen’s Sunshine Double chairlift with two new fixed-grip quads. Sugarbush also has some very cool new season pass deals, like the For30s at $599, and For20s at $399, and The Boomer for 65-89 midweek just $139. Sugarbush is now part of the Mountain Collective Pass, and introduces RFID technology for quick scans at the lifts.

Burke Mountain in Vermont gets a new “high-speed t-bar” to replace the World War II vintage poma. Burke has been declared an official US Ski team Development performance site, with a new dedicated slalom hill.

Magic Mountain is under a new ownership group will finish installing the Green chair – a double from the base to mid-mountain.

Saddleback Maine is under new Australian ownership, after being closed for two winters. A new Rangeley fixed grip chair is on order to replace the aging double, as well as a new surface lift, however completion of the lift upgrades and re-opening is unlikely till next season.

Sugarloaf Maine will offer cat skiing on Burnt Mountain, via two snow cats, skiers and riders can access 1400 vertical and 100 acres for single laps at $20-30, by booking their seat in the snow cat, which depart every 20-minutes 9:30-2:45)  in advance.

Whaleback in New Hampshire gets a new T-bar, this locally operated ski hill is part of the Freedom Pass of independents- Bolton Valley, Black Mountain, Dartmouth Skiway, Granite Gorge, Lost Valley, Magic Mountain, and McIntyre Ski Area.

Out West
Vail Mountain replaces the Northwoods Express (Chair 11) with a six pack – Vail’s 10th new lift in a decade.

Beaver Creek will replace the summit Drink of Water lift with a high-speed quad that will be known as Red Buffalo Express Lift #5. The lift serves the resort’s higher-elevation beginner terrain.

Copper Mountain replaces the Kokomo triple-chairlift with a high-speed quad with better access from Copper’s West Village and beginner terrain.

Breckenridge will upgrade the Falcon SuperChair from a quad to a six-pack, serving advanced and expert terrain on Breck’s Peak 10.

Keystone upgrades the Montezuma Express Lift on Dercum Mountain to a six pack on the front side.

Alta’s new Supreme detachable quad will replace the two old Supreme and Cecret lifts extending lower, with loading by Alf’s Restaurant, reaching the Supreme summit. Alta remains one of three ski resorts in the US that bans snowboarders, a true skiers only mountain.

Snowbasin will replace the Wildcat Triple Chairlift with a high-speed six-pack, reducing the ride time to five minutes.

Whitefish Montana moves the Chair 5 Glacier View lift from Ptarmigan Bowl to the East Rim, with a new bottom terminal at the intersection of Russ’s Street and Moe-Mentum.

Taos New Mexico opens a new Children’s Center and Strawberry hill beginner area, the Rueggli lift has been upgraded to a triple fixed grip chair, and a new gondola connects the resort plaza.

In Europe, Kitzbuhel gets a new 10 passenger gondola replacing a six pack, St Anton also gets a new gondola.

Among the biggest ski news is Aspen/KSL $1.5 billion purchase of Intrawest resorts, and a portfolio that includes  12 mountain resorts:  Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain,  Snow Summit and Bear Mountain also in California, Steamboat and Winter Park Resort, Colorado, Stratton Vermont, Tremblant in Quebec,  Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia,  Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Ontario, and  Canadian Mountain Holidays heli skiing.

Vail Resorts now owns 14 ski resorts with its most recent acquisition of Stowe Vermont, Whistler Blackcomb and Park City Utah in just two years. teh good news if for season pass holders that can enjoy multi mountain ski benefits, often for less than the cost of previous season pass to one of these top ski resorts.

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Aspen Ski Resorts Epic Merger

What does $1.5 billion in the the ski biz? A bunch of great ski resorts, so says the Crown family, of Aspen Resorts, with their recent acquisition of Intrawest, KSL and Mammoth.

Aspen owns a mammoth ski resort conglomerate now – competing with the likes of Vail Resorts which now tallies 14 ski resorts.

This new Aspen ski company, yet to be renamed and branded, includes 12 mountain resorts and six million annual skier visits, including:
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows
Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain
Snow Summit and Bear Mountain also in California
Steamboat and Winter Park Resort, Colorado
Stratton Vermont
Tremblant in Quebec
Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia
Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Ontario
Canadian Mountain Holidays heli skiing operations

Boom!

Aspen Resorts, and its four ski mountains, Snowmass, Ajax, Aspen Highland and Buttermilk, remain a separate company owned by the Crown family. If you were to count them in the overall ski picture that would be 16 ski resorts, more than Vail… but Vail is still the big daddy in skier visits with busy resorts like Vail, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge and Keystone.

KSL Capital Partners and the owner of the four Aspen resorts, Henry Crown and Company, are the backers of this 1.5 billion ski bundle.

For now, Aspen and the new company says they will honor existing passes this ski season 2017-18, including the Rocky Mountain Super Pass +, the M.A.X. Pass, and the Mountain Collective.

It will be interesting to see what mega mountain pass Aspen’s new entourage  will roll out in future ski seasons to compete with Vail Resorts Epic Pass – 14 ski resorts for about $800 bucks. While we don’t love ski monopolies and downhill dynasties, you can’t beat the value of a multi-venue unlimited vertical ski pass for under a $1000….

By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke, Copyright 2017

Visit Heather Burke’s websites Family Ski Trips.com and  for luxury resort reviews: www.theluxuryvacationguide.com

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Most Epic Ski Winter Ever?

Entering this winter I had lofty ski goals. I vowed to ski my age in days, and pledged to do so at a big birthday party with all my friends as witness. Not only did I hit my mark, I exceeded 50 with a bunch of bonus ski days! This was the best winter of skiing EVER. How was your ski season?

My amazing ski season brought first tracks in Maine and a White Christmas in Vermont, cat skiing Canada to Courchevel France, ending with perfect spring corn in Colorado. 69 days at over 28 ski resorts. It was truly epic, thanks in large part to the EPIC Pass. Did you achieve your ski goals? Ski anywhere new and different?

My skis are put away, so I am reminiscing about this best-ever ski season, already dreaming of next winter’s snow and where to go!

My Top Ten from a Top Ski Season:

1. Skiing Vermont over Christmas with my daughter and husband was snow globe magic. I grew up in Vermont so I treasured being back in the Green Mountains all covered in white at Jay Peak and Burke.

2. Cat skiing in the Canadian Rockies. How ironic that we flew from Maine to the remote Monashees only to find that our cat ski companions were all from Sugarloaf! What followed? Four days of fantastic camaraderie, untouched powder, steep and deep tree skiing and hot tubbing amid Alpen Glow with our new ski friends.

3. Discovering Big White was a big win, this cool Canadian ski resort is friendly, fun, with fantastic frost-covered trees. What’s
not to love? Good snow, gorgeous groomed trails, genuine Canadian hospitality in the village, and a bonus 25% exchange rate for beer, eh?!

4. Skiing five Colorado ski resorts on one Epic Ski Pass in January was, well, EPIC! The snow goods blessed Colorado, and we skied fresh powder at Vail, Beavercreek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapaho Basin. We followed that trip with Utah, where we hit Park City and Canyons also on our Epic Pass. A lot of ski bang for our $800 bucks.

5. Powder Mountain in Utah lived up to its name. What a cool powder stash, and an up-and-coming indie resort, owned by the Summit Group. If you want to get away from Vail Resort conglomerate and crowds, Snowbasin and Powder – just a half hour apart, are gems with huge terrain, few peeps, and terrific scenery.

6. Skiing The French Alps! It had been 30 years since I’d skied France and the alpine ambiance was just as “charming” as I remembered. Jagged snow covered peaks, vast vertical descents at the biggest ski resorts in the world, alpine chalets serving fondue on the slopes, après ski dancing and drinking, followed by more refined cuisine and fine wine at five-star French hotels. Fantastique!

7. My new favorite European ski villages are Courchevel and Méribel, on par with Kitzbühel and St Anton. Val D’Isère is another classic ski town – historic and happening apres ski with La Folie Douce on-snow party that’s off-the-hook.

8. The best culinary event on the snow is “Taste of Vail” combining my three favorite things: wine, food and skiing. This is an extraordinary culinary event for the vertically obsessed. I’ve never tasted such wonderful wines – the perfect après ski in quintessential Vail resort.

9. The big splash to our end of season – watching
Vail’s World Championship Pond Skimming at Spring Back to Vail
which also featured a big name band live concert, free, with Magic in Gerald Ford’s presidential park at Vail. A musical magical ending to a 69 day ski season!

10. Two scary moments that make the highlight reel: Escaping a horrendous car crash on Vail Pass on our way to the slopes at 7am. (When it says icy roads may exist, you need to slow down even if you’re driving a four-wheel-drive Subaru. No one is invincible on ice). Surviving food poisoning in France (eating raw scallops at 10,000′, even at a Michelin 1 star restaurant, is a bad idea).

What were your top 10 ski memories of 2016-17 ski season? Remember, if you don’t set ski goals, then how can you accomplish them? Skis are stowed, pulling out the Paddleboard, the bike and the boat… but dreaming of next ski winter!

By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke, Copyright 2017

Visit Heather Burke’s websites Family Ski Trips.com and  for luxury resort reviews: www.theluxuryvacationguide.com

 

Vail’s plans for Stowe Vermont? Epic or Not?

For years I had been hoping Vail Resorts would round out their portfolio with an Eastern ski resort. Wish granted, but like all wishes – its not exactly as you’d dreamed or anticipated. I was hoping Vail would come in with capital infusion for a New England ski resort in need- say Saddleback that has been closed for two ski seasons, or maybe Jay Peak and Burke Mountain now in receivership after last season’s EB5 ponzi scheme and scandal. But no – Vail goes for Stowe… my favorite ski resort in the East. I must say Vail Resorts has excellent taste!

The $50 million price tag for Stowe is for the Mountain Ski operation, so ownership of the luxe Stowe Mountain Lodge, the Stowe Mountain Club, and the Stowe Golf Club remain with AIG. That makes for an interesting, perhaps complicated, equation. After all Vail Resorts loves its real estate and lodging revenue, right? They also own RockResorts – a posh collection of hotels, spas and resorts from Colorado to the Caribbean.

Back to Stowe.  Vail will include Stowe in its Epic Pass. Consider that a day ticket at Stowe is over $120, and an Epic Pass unlimited for next season is just over $800. Doesn’t take a math wiz to calculate the savings in 7 days, with bonus access to 14 ski resorts to boot! Vail Resorts Epic Pass is unlimited, no blackout dates for Stowe  for the 2017-18 Epic Pass.

So with unlimited access – the throngs will be at Stowe next season, including me! After all it is some of the best skiing in the East. Arguably Stowe’s epic snow conditions this winter are better than some resorts out west…lol to my western ski friends that assume we “ski ice in the east.”

Currently the Epic Pass is an outrageous deal, with full access to 14 major ski resorts Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, and Arapahoe Basin, and Perisher Australia, plus four small regional ski areas, and next year Whistler Blackcomb – which Vail bought just months ago. The Epic Pass also gets you some free lift tickets in the Alps, 6 days of skiing in France which I just enjoyed at Les 3 Vallées, Paradiski, and Val D’Isere Tignes, plus 3 days skiing the Dolomites of Italy, and 5 days at Les 4 Vallées of Switzerland which includes Verbier, and 6 days in Austria at Lech Zurs, St Anton and St Christoph (the Austrian ski resort privileges require that you purchase lodging and pre register).

I predict lodging rates will go up in Stowe – now that it is a Vail destination. And Stowe is already pretty pricey by New England ski standards. I envisions Vail will make some changes, streamlining of systems and cut backs to Stowe staffing – as I witnessed at Park City last week. Hey, at least Stowe already has the RFID lift ticket technology so they can adapt to the Epic Mix vertical tracking app – bonus. I already now you can bag a lot of vert on Stowe’s Front Four – 10 X 10 when the lifts open at 7:30! Hmmm, that might change too…

So there will be pros and cons with Vail’s Stowe purchase. Now is the time to lock down the best season pass deals  for next season. The Max Pass, Rocky Mountain Super Pass, Epic Pass, Mountain Collective… it’s a ski deal show down throw down. A little healthy competition is a good thing, right my ski friends?!

By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke, Copyright 2017

Visit Heather Burke’s websites Family Ski Trips.com and  for luxury resort reviews: www.theluxuryvacationguide.com

 

 

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