“Skiers are riders are passionate
people, they are going to ski no matter what,” said
Bernie Weichsel, chief organizer of the annual Denver and Boston
Ski Show in November. “The Ski Show is the kickoff event
to the ski season. Attendance is an excellent indicator of what’s to
come this winter. People are looking for deals, but they are definitely enthusiastic and planning to travel to ski.”
With the web and a competitive market, skiers have become savvy sophisticated shoppers. Skiers can compare everything from ski stats and snow conditions to lodging at ski resorts, then book online for the best season pass deals and overnight ski and stay packages in New England, The West, Canada, and even Europe.
“People are doing their research and booking their ski vacations last minute,” said Estrella Woods, International Marketing Director for Telluride Ski Resort in Colorado. “We are doing really well at Telluride with the international market – with new customers from the UK, Germany, Australia.”
Here on the East Coast, Killington hosts the Women's World Cup in November. Recent improvement include the Peak Lodge at the summit of the K-1 Gondola replacing the 60s vintage lodge which was panoramic but falling apart. Enjoy a very scenic lunch at this lofty 4,241' Peak Lodge. Killington is was the 1st to open in the East, Oct in 2016-2011.
Waterville Valley opens Green Peak with a new quad and 10 trails on 45 acres, the biggest expansion in the east this season.
Okemo Vermont now has two bubble cover chairlifts, the North Star Express from mid-mountain to the summit and the Jackson Gore Express. In Maine, Sunday River, now the 2nd largest ski area in the East at 870 acres - big sister Sugarloaf has 1,056 acres, lost its Spruce Peak Triple chair, so that old lift will be replaced next season, for now you'll have to hike to Amex and Risky.
For comparison, Killington is now third largest with 752 acres, Okemo has 632 skiable acres, Stratton has 625, Sugarbush has 508 inbounds acres, Stowe has 458.
Mount Sunapee added a new quad to the Sunbowl area, recycling Okemo's quad here. Ragged Mountain, also in southern New Hampshire, has a new high speed quad on the Spear Mountain area.
Stowe Mountain Resort is purchased by Vail Resorts including the alpine Spruce Camp Village center and the Stowe Mountain Lodge. The expansive and posh Stowe Mountain Lodge anchors the impressive Spruce Peak base village, with topnotch service including a spa, gourmet farm to table Vermont cuisine, and an alpine concierge to see to your every ski need. It feels more Beaver Creek or Deer Valley than Vermont.
Jay Peak remains open despite the ski ponzi scheme, EB5 misallocation of funds here and at Burke. Jay Peak has three new hotels, Stateside, Hotel Jay and The Tram Haus Lodge, plus an Amphitheatre, a Pumphouse Waterpark and Ice Haus skating venue. The Stateside of Jay Peak has a quad lift and magic carpet to complement the new Learning Center. Meanwhile at Burke Mountain, a new quad chairlift and a new mountainside Burke Mountain Hotel debut.
Skiers are seeking out new and unique experiences. Cat skiing at Sugarbush, which debuted a few seasons ago, is an example of something not offered at any other New England resort. John Egan, Chief Recreation Officer at Sugarbush, said “Our first year of snow cat skiing was so successful its first season, so we are extending it. People are coming away from the experience with such positive feedback.”
Sugarbush also uses their new luxury snowcat to transport diners to a mid-mountain lodge for upscale evening dinners. On mountain dining adventures are the rage, like those offered at Maine’s Sugarloaf and Sunday River on Saturday nights and certain holidays with fancier than standard ski area fare. Okemo in Vermont provides cat rides to the Solitude Lodge were you dine at Epic on a Chef's prepared menu on moonlight evenings.
Clint Erwin, Sunday River’s North Peak Lodge Manager, said, “We provide VIP treatment on these evenings and our customers are loving it. From the moment our dinner guests arrive on the Chondola and are handed Champagne, it’s an exceptional experience.” Erwin said the first year of Peak dining at Sunday River was very well attended, often selling out.
Clearly, transforming an on mountain day lodge into a sophisticated dining experience at the end of the ski day is a novelty that skiers are willing to reserve and pay for. Sunday River also expanded dining at the Grand Summit Hotel with "Camp" a casual 300-seat restaurant serving Maine comfort food in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.
The Epic Pass to all Vail resorts, a baker's dozen now with Stowe as the only Eastern ski resort, it remains the best value for skiing. The Max Pass is a good deal for New Englanders with 39 ski resorts East and West and in Canada. The White Mountain Pass is a good deal for skiing at four New Hampshire resorts - Bretton Woods, Cannon, Cranmore and Waterville Valley. The New England Pass is valid at Loon, Sunday River and Sugarloaf. There is a significant resurgence in frequent skier discount cards too which save skiers money off the full whack of retail ticket rates. Check out skier savings cards if a season pass is more than you can utilize, available at Loon, Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Killington, Smugglers Notch, Sunapee and Wildcat to name a few.
How will skiers and ski resorts fare this winter? Farmer's Almanac is calling for a cold snowy winter! Are you planning your Halloween ski outfit, dreaming of a White Christmas and a happy snowy New Year too? Our friends at Luxury Ski Trips are too!