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Vail’s Top 10 Most Epic Resorts

I love Vail… its one of the top ski resorts on the planet, and I have sampled a few (ok, over 170). There’s even more to love now that Vail owns 18 ski resorts, some of the best in ski country, and they are all on The Epic Pass. Yes this is an epic time for skiers and riders. Like that’s not enough, right? But Vail Resorts offers even more skiing on its affordable season pass ($800 range) to 46 other ski resorts in the US, Canada, Japan and The Alps. Its mind-blowing, especially when you consider a pass to any one of these mountains would cost over a $1,000 … yes for just one ski resort… now you have access to 65 for under $900! You may need to take the winter off. Seriously….

Here are the Most Epic Ski Resorts on the Epic Pass, in this skier’s opinion:

Vail – yes, it is a perfect skier’s mountain, with great front side trails, huge back bowls, high-speed lifts everywhere, stunning Rocky Mountain views, and a ski village that looks plucked from a Zermatt postcard. From first gondola one, and first tracks down the Back Bowl or Blue Sky Basin, to lively après ski in Vail village, Vail is a skier’s paradise.

Whistler Blackcomb is the biggest in North America. 37 lifts, 200 trails and 8,171 acres and 7,494′ vertical …Boom! I love the vast terrain, the two unique mountains, the crazy Canadian extremes, and the even crazier après ski in the Intrawest village.

Breckenridge – yes, I’m a Breck girl – I love skiing this vast resort in Summit County Colorado. First, Breckenridge has the highest lift service ski terrain in North America (12,840’)… cool. Second, Breck has five unique ski peaks across 3,000 acres, Peaks 10 thru 6, each offers everything from tame groomed boulevards to gritty high-alpine all-natural skiing. Finally, you have the beastly village of Breck – once a quaint silver mining frontier town, now it’s a big bustling skier’s paradise of breweries and bars for Breck après, shops and hotels. Beware Breck is busy…

Stowe, the Ski Capital of the East, is iconic, with formidable New England terrain – including the Front Four which should be on every skier’s bucket list. Spruce Peak is a gorgeous mountain village, steps to the slopes, that looks more Beaver Creek than Vermont. Then you have the charming village of Stowe with classic après ski bars, boutiques and inns up and down the Mountain Road, and iconic Main Street with its pretty church steeple. Stowe is the best in the East.

 

Heavenly California – the name says it. This Lake Tahoe Resort has it all – the most beautiful views of the magnificent Lake, great glades, steeps, cruisers, bi-state skiing from Cali to Nevada on 4,800 acres- Lake Tahoe’s biggest – served by 28 lifts! Add in après ski Casinos, or a boat ride on Lake Tahoe. Bonus: a Heavenly ski trip can encompass skiing at neighbor Vail resorts Kirkwood and Northstar at Tahoe.

Beaver Creek – This is Vail’s little sister, and she deserves some secret love. The Beav’ has such long well-pitched trails, steeps that host the annual Birds of Prey downhill, swift lifts, the best grooming, and two super classy base villages at Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gultch – where you’ll find the swank slopeside Ritz. The Beave doesn’t get a busy as the Front Range or Vail, another reason to love the sophisticated lil’ sis… did I mention Beaver Creek’s  five-star mountain hotels, the beautiful birch groves or the fresh baked cookies handed out at day’s end in the perfect pedestrian skiers village?

4 more ski resorts, not Vail owned, but epic and worth exploring on the Epic Pass

Telluride Ski Resort is remote, and worth it! This absolutely stunning mountain resort in a boxwood canyon in South West Colorado is special. The San Juan range scenery is a gem, the 2,000-acre ski terrain is awesome, and the old mining town is as authentic as they come. Be sure to lunch at the highest restaurant in North America – Alpino Vino at 11,966’ is a cozy European chalet on top of the world. Stay at Telluride’s modern Mountain Village or down in town in an historic lodge with cool après ski and local dining, either way – your ski days are scenic, with “epic” terrain from 12,500’ Palmyra Peak (or hike for more) – hence the nickname To Hell U Ride.

Kicking Horse in the Canadian Rockies is kick ass. On the powder Highway of BC, this ski resort has long steeps, with a vertical of over 4,300’- the 4th biggest on the continent. A swift gondola takes you to tremendous bowls and chutes, while the ski village is humble and fun, not overdone. The panorama from the mountaintop Eagle’s Eye restaurant is amazing, reached by a 2,800’gondola. From Kicking Horse, you can try a heli-ski day with Purcell Heli Skiing in Golden, or visit sister Resorts of the Canadian Rockies – Kimberly, Nakiska and Fernie. You’re also close to Lake Louise and Sunshine in Banff but they are not on the Epic Pass.

Les Trois Vallées in France is epic, with skiing on the Epic Pass when you purchase partner lodging. The 3 Valleys represent the largest interconnected skiing in the world – joining Courchevel and Val Thorens via Méribel. It’s highly scenic – in the French Alps with views of Mont Blanc, it’s huge – with 600 kilometers of trails served by 155 lifts connecting 8 ski areas, 4 valleys, 6 glaciers, and 25 peaks. Add in some French chalets for ski-to-lunch, the chic ski hotels of Courchevel and Meribel (Val Thorens is modern – not so charming), crazy off-piste opportunities, and even crazier après ski … you have the joie de vivre of French skiing.

St Anton Lech and Zurs – the most authentic ski region in the world, the cradle of alpine skiing in fact, is the Arlberg of Austria. Ten interconnected ski resorts are the stuff of legends– for their vast Alps terrain, amazing lifts  – 88 trams, cable cars, 8 packs and funitels, for their snow abundance, for the ski culture that exudes in each quaint mountain village, and for the alpine huts along the ski trail sides serving delicious homemade cuisine just as the locals have for centuries. Every skier worth his edges must  skiing the Austrian Alps, ride the Valugabahn, ski to lunch in St Christoph, tour the White Ring of Lech, and après ski at the Moosewirt in St Anton. An Arlberg ski vacation is epic, and its on the Epic Pass – 3 days free skiing when you book lodging via Vail partners.

Those are my favorite Epic Ski resorts, and I have yet to ski Japan… or Japow as my powder friends call it, and Hakuba Valley’s nine ski resorts on the Epic Pass. Enjoy your winter, and I see you in the million vert skiers circle if you are also tracking your epic ski season with Vail Resort’s Epic Mix app.

Copyright 2019, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com  Photos by Greg Burke of Luxury Vacation Guide

  

Best Snowvember skiing ever!

My first ski turns at Sunday River felt more like February than end of November. Natural snow, so soft – wall to wall white on steep fun trails like Agony, Vortex , and Airglow. I’ve not had such great first tracks since… I can’t remember. You must go ski, you’ll be amazed at what you see – snow ghosted trees, top to bottom mid-winter conditions.

140 ski resorts are open in the country on 11/30, compare that to about 40 last season at end of November. Skiers are stoked, myself included. Temperatures have been cold for much of the nation – The East, The Rockies, and North. Snow dumps have been regular, versus last November which was downright balmy across most to the US.

In the East, Sunday River and Sugarloaf have both received over five feet of natural snow in November… these Maine sister ski resorts are skiing on 400 acres of open terrain each, reaching the magic number of 100 open trails, including glades. Sugarloaf will open  for Cat Skiing on  December 1 on Burnt Mountain, way ahead of last winter’s March opening – only open for a couple of days at that!  This is “New England’s only cat skiing operation” according to The Loaf, if you don’t count Sugarbush’s occasional Lincoln Limo by appointment on pow days.

In Vermont, Killington hosted an amazing World Cup Women’s FIS race with mid-winter like conditions, and a huge hometown crowd to cheer on locally trained Mikaela Shiffrin to slalom victory. The Big K has been open 43 days since its “first to open in the East” bell back in October.

Sugarbush, celebrating its 60th season with a Sugarbash on December 15, has great snow conditions and over 50 trails open already. Stowe is Epic, Vail Resort pun intended, with half their trails open by November. Okemo is also Epic now… yes another new Vail resort on the Epic Pass – Okemo has been blowing snow and offers 70 trails already, their gunning for Jackson Gore by early December. Mount Snow opened in October with its earliest top to bottom skiing ever.

In New Hampshire, Wildcat opened super early with top to bottom skiing. Loon Mountain had the earliest ever top to bottom skiing on both Loon and North Peaks. The White Mountain look truly white with great skiing at Bretton Woods, Cranmore and Waterville Valley too.

Out west, Big Sky in Montana is already skiing off the Lone Peak Tram into all natural Dictator Chutes and Otter Slide. Mammoth California already has 41 inches of snow. Jackson Hole claims over 90 inches so far, while Vail and Breckenridge are nearing 100 inches of snow so far – and again its November! Grand Targhee is 100% open!

Utah finally got 30 inches of snowfall end of November, and there’s skiing on Utah’s slopes at Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Park City Mountain, and Snowbasin – though not as bountiful as Colorado, Montana and Wyoming so far. Washington, Oregon and Lake Tahoe areas could use more snow, and sustained cold, but again – its early.

Its not yet winter, and we’ve already experience big snow storms – Avery & Bruce according to The Weather Channel’s annual winter storm name alphabet. I’m personally excited for snow storm Wesley – my near and dear, departed friend and Sunday River ski buddy. I bet “snow storm Wes” will hit Maine on Feb 2, his birthday and annual Sunday River Wes Mills ski day now in year 3.

Dreaming of a White Christmas – I think you can “snow” bank on it. My first day was the best day, at Sunday River last day of November. See you on the slopes.

Copyright 2018, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com  Photos by Greg Burke of Luxury Vacation Guide

  

 

First Ski Resorts to Open

Don’t you love fall skiing in ski country? Nothing prettier than autumn leaves and the first dusting of snow to make those brilliant autumn colors really pop. There’s also the excitement of watching  ski resorts drop ropes and open lifts first. It’s a race to be first to ski – out West and in the North East.

When it’s not even Halloween yet and  dozens of ski resorts are chomping at the bit to open… this is no trick, just a treat,  for skiers…

This year’s first place winner is Wolf Creek – this south western Colorado ski resort opened a full week ahead of everyone else, Oct 12 2018. That’s early.

The following weekend, perennial Eastern eager beavers Sunday River and Killington duked it out for first rights, as they always do. Sunday River opened to the public Friday October 19, Killington opened same day but exclusively for pass holders – a nice privilege, which also included the awesome IKON pass this season. In addition to a private pass holder first ski day, the Big K provides lunch to their first day skiers and riders. Killington also stayed open midweek, while Sunday River closed Monday- Friday to re-open for the weekend.

As for the usual first-to-open Rocky Mountain resorts, Loveland and Arapahoe Basin both opened October 20th weekend.

Pre-Halloween weekend,  more ski resorts joined the early season roster: Wildcat in New Hampshire and Mount Snow in Vermont open Saturday October 27, earliest openings ever for both resorts. A Nor’Easter snow storm dropped snow pre-Halloween weekend just to cap off snowmaking efforts.

Before Thanksgiving, so many ski resorts East & West enjoyed early openings: Vail, Aspen, Grand Targhee, Breck & Keystone, Mammoth and Squaw, plus New England’s Sugarloaf, Stowe, Loon and Sugarbush.

What I love about these early ski openings is not just the advanced opportunity to ski, but the enthusiasm and commitment these resorts make to stretch the ski season, to give long-term value to mostly pass holders –the majority of zealots that show up for early October/November and late May skiing.  Fall skiing can range from fast frozen grass with a thin layer of early season natural snow, to  snowmaking surfaces that range from groomed to rimy to erratic to pow. Still it’s a chance to get your ski legs, thread some first tracks on a ribbon of snow on a trail or two, upload and download, and see your ski buddies that have been hibernating all summer like you. lol…

So the race of the ski resorts to get those first to open “bragging rights” benefits the skiers, and snowboarders. The sooner ski areas open, the more snow they make, the better and longer your ski season is apt to be. Similarly, the season pass competitions of late are great. Conglomerate passes like the Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass and the IKON Pass are offering amazing alpine options, 30-44 ski resorts all on one convenient lift pass, at the price of what we used to pay for one single resort season pass. Seriously!

Examples: You can now ski Stowe, unlimited on the $949 Epic Pass, when previously a Stowe Season pass was upwards of $1,800, plus now you get the #EPIC opportunity to fly to Colorado for a week or two with free (ok, included) skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breck, and now even Telluride and Crested Butte all part of your pass, plus Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly, Kirkwood, and Northstar, and east coast sister resorts Okemo and Mount Sunapee! I’ve got my EPIC pass, do you?

While I’m not making first tracks skiing Halloween weekend, that’s a bit pre-mature for me – I’ve got costumes parties and leaves to rake still, I’m stoked to ski a bunch this winter, and I love watching ski resorts stock pile a bunch of snow for when I’m ready to go. This time of year I like to see my ski peeps at the Boston Ski Show Nov 8-11, to  shop this year’s best gear, and check out the best ski and stay deals for the year. This year, I also receive an “Excellence in Snowsports Coverage” award in Boston. See you soon on snow!

See our Top Early Ski Season Resorts Favorites:
Top Early Season Ski Resorts – East 
Top Early Season Ski Resorts – West

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Vail’s Epic Pass is a 10

This ski season marks the 10th anniversary of the Epic Pass, arguably the best season pass for skiing, best value, versatility, at the best ski resorts for serious vertical. Vail, Whistler Blackcomb, Breck, Stowe, Heavenly, Park City… the list goes on!

Not only is the Epic Pass now ten years old in its great pass tradition, it has expanded 10 fold since its introduction in 2008. The Vail Resorts Epic Pass is now valid at over 65 major ski resorts, with benefits to dozens of others around the world.

One more epic “10” for you ski friends – this year’s epic pass is dedicated to the 10th Mountain Division. The US 10th Mountain Division trained in the challenging alpine terrain of Colorado’s high peaks, and went on to serve and fight in WW II – playing a pivotal role in winning the war overseas in the harsh Italian Dolomites. Pete Seibert, founder of Vail, and Earl Eaton, both served in WW II and later developed one of the best ski resorts in the world- Vail (inception 1957).

Fast forward to 2008, as Vail Resorts was growing into a Titan of Ski Resort mergers and acquisitions. The Epic Pass was launched as a conglomerate of Vail’s 5 extensive ski resorts terrain. The affordable pass cost less than most ski resort season passes, and provided skiers with unrestricted skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. And that was just the beginning…

For ski season 2018-19, the Epic Pass includes Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge, Park City, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Crested Butte, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stevens Pass, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Wilmot, Mt. Brighton, Afton Alps, Perisher, plus 7 days at Telluride and the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies – Fernie, Kicking Horse, Nakiska and Kimberley, Mont Sainte Anne, and Stoneham in Quebec.

Overseas, Epic Pass holders get three day skiing at Les 3 Vallées, Paradiski and Tignes-Val D’Isere in France, 4 Vallées in Switzerland; Arlberg in Austria, Skirama Dolomiti Italy, and Hakuba Valley in Japan. That’s a lot of ski perks for the price of one Epic Pass at $899. You must buy your Epic pass by Sept 7, 2018 for that lucky price.

Funny that in a Sports Illustrated interview in the 1980’s, Vail founder Pete Seibert said ski industry peeps called him and his big ski plans “crazy.” Well, cheers to the crazy ski pass. Vail Resorts later launched a crazy app, The Epic Mix that allows skiers and rider to track their vertical, see snow reports, grooming and trail openings, lift line wait times, and view photos of their skiing and their kids day in ski camp.

What else sets the Epic Pass apart on its 10th anniversary? It’s actually charitable! To honor our military, Vail Resorts has committed to donating $1 for every season pass sold, to Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) – which should reach and exceed $750,000 based on last year’s pass sales. Generous with their $7.5 million in pass sales.

Will Vail Resorts continue to buy up ski resorts and broaden its skiing portfolio, adding to its Epic Pass and making it more and more epic? That we cannot say. But we do say, buy up your Epic Pass before Sept 7 for an epic deal on skiing at over 40 phenomenal ski resorts!

See more about Vail Resorts, and the Best Ski Resorts anywhere:

Best Ski Resorts in The East
Best Western Ski Resorts
Top Canada Ski Resorts for Families
Top European Ski Resorts

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Ski Writer Award – Heather Burke

Heather Burke of Kennebunkport Maine received a 2018 national award for her travel journalism. NASJA, North American Snowsports Journalist Association, awarded Heather the NASJA Mitch Kaplan Award, honoring persons who have contributed to the advancement of skiing and snowboarding, demonstrating excellence in media relations, bringing commitment and dignity to journalism. The award was presented in Lake Tahoe, California, at NASJA’s annual meeting, coinciding with The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame and a Legends of Skiing reunion, and at the Boston Ski Show.

Heather and her photographer husband Greg manage the websites theluxuryvacationguide.com and familyskitrips.com, and are major contributors to snowpak.com.  Their works have appeared in scores of outlets including Boston.com, Forbes Travel Guide,  Marina Life, Snow Country, Liftopia and newspapers like the Boston Globe, The Maine Sunday Telegram – where Heather wrote the ski column for 11 years, Montreal Gazette, Providence Journal, Burlington Free Press and more, with her husband Greg’s photography accompanying her articles.

Award presenter, NASJA past-president, Martin Griff said, “When I read Heather’s work, I’m awed by how good it is, how she captures the essence of the ski experience at each resort she writes about and how effortlessly her words flow together. Heather was and still is an inspiration to me and it is just so appropriate that she be honored by NASJA for work that reflects the spirit, enthusiasm and dedication that Mitch Kaplan had for snowsports writing.”

Heather, who learned to ski at the age of three at Gunstock in New Hampshire, worked at her parents’ Smugglers Notch Vermont ski lodge, and as a ski instructor before embarking on her writing career. She has been a ski journalist for over two decades, sampling over 170 ski areas and gathering many awards along the way including three NASJA Harold Hirsch Excellence in Journalism Awards, and Freeskier Magazine’s “Top 100 ski industry people to follow” honor.

Klaus Obermeyer of Aspen Colorado, Nordic Olympic Gold Medalist Jessie Diggins, and Jeff Wise of Stowe Mountain  also received awards  at the 2018 NASJA media event. Previous winners of this NASJA award include The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore and extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan. NASJA, founded in 1963 as the United States Ski Writers Association, is North America’s largest association of professional snowsports writers, authors, photographers, videographers, broadcasters and industry professionals.

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Affordable Family Ski Trip Tips

Shred the Slopes And Not Your Wallet: Tips For A Budget-Friendly Ski Trip

In 2016, 13.91 million people traveled to a ski resort for a family ski vacation. This is because there’s absolutely nothing like feeling the wind against your face as you take on the toughest Black Diamond trail. However, ski trip costs add up. With the cost of lift tickets, ski gear, lodging, and transportation for everyone, skiing is not a cheap sport. But never fear because you can still participate in the sport you love while being kind to your wallet. Check out these budget-friendly tips to help you save a little on your next family ski trip.

Plan early and book off-peak
Ski season is typically from late November to early April. Therefore, you should start planning your trip  end of summer. This will allow you enough time to shop for bargains and get discounted rooms and airline tickets. You should also ski off-peak seasons, typicallythe beginning and end of the ski season. Early December, ski lift ticket prices are generally less expensive and so are lodging costs, same goes for early April at high-elevation ski resorts that stay open later, like Vail and Snowbird. You definitely want to avoid Christmas-New Years, Martin Luther King weekend in January and mid February – high-peak seasons that come with  higher costs and crowds. See our Tips on Planning the best ski vacation.

Travel with more families
One of the best ways to reduce your cost of travel is to vacation with more than one family. You can find neighbors, family friends, or extended family members to help split the expenses of lodging – renting a  big condo or ski house,  and you can share food expense. Not only will you save some money, but you will also have someone for the kids to play with, and après ski with your adult friends. It’s always more fun with more people to share your experiences with!

Be prepared to cook your own food
When shopping for lodging, try to find a resort ski home, cabin, or condo that comes equipped with a kitchen, and often washer dryer! So you don’t have to eat  out every meal – saving you money, and sparing you from dining with tired hungry kids after a big day of skiing. If you travel with another family or extra friends, you can all take turns cooking every night. This way you can split the cost of groceries as well as the cooking. See our Tips on Packing for a Ski Condo.

Start saving as soon as you book
As soon as you book your lodging and transportation, set up a “ski trip” savings account. Determine how much money you will need for the trip and set this as your goal. You can determine how much you should save each month and what you plan to put on your credit card. If you have a rewards card, place purchases on this card to get cash-back for the big ticket purchases. This will help you budget, with the bonus of rewards later.

Look at Pass Prices instead of Day Tickets
Check out he price for a season pass at the ski resort if you are going for more than 5 days. Today’s ski passes, like the Epic Pass, IKON pass and Mountain Collective are often better deals (valid at many ski resorts all winter) when bought in advance than the retail day tickets. Vail is over $179 a day but an Epic Pass starts at $599! You do the math!

Buy second-hand equipment
One of the most expensive costs of skiing is the equipment. If you already have your own equipment, that is great. But for everyone else, renting your skis every trip can become costly. You may want to look into second-hand shops, local ski swaps hosted by school and ski clubs, and ask about used gear at ski shops for deals on previously owned gear or demos. Also shopping in spring , online, you can find great deals on last year’s ski gear. See our Ski Gear Guide for the top skis to buy or rent.

Pack Well in Advance
Many families find packing for skiing to be stressful, see out Tips on What and How to Pack for a successful ski trip.

If you love skiing, you shouldn’t let cost keep you from hitting the slopes. Shred the snow without damaging your wallet with some preparation, organization, and research.

Skiing = expensive, memories skiing with your family = priceless!


DIN – When in doubt, come out

DIN, three little letters with big implications, an acronym for safety when skiing. What’s your DIN? is a question oft heard on first tram at Snowbird or Jackson Hole. As if your binding setting determines your weightiness on the ski slopes. 9 or more is a source for bravado, like you are a bolder beefier skier than others set at a timid-sounding 2, 3, or 4.

Growing up, my brothers loved the mantra, “when in doubt, don’t come out.” They also enjoyed making figure 11s top to bottom, “when in doubt straighten em out” …which is now referred to as straight-lining. Now that I’ve matured, I recognize my brothers’ practices were quite perilous. I’m more concerned about safety these days…in my 2nd half-century.

My interpretation on DIN: you don’t want to be a yard sale, with skis scattered across the hill from a premature release, BUT what’s far worse is a twisting fall when you binding doesn’t pop but your knee or other body part does…

Here’s the deal with DIN:

DIN setting is calculated based on your boot sole length, age, weight, height and ability level, when your bindings are mounted on your skis. The higher the DIN, the higher the force required to release (toe or heel) from your bindings. DIN =  Deutsches Institut für Normung (German)

Your height, weight, age and ski ability are all factors in a proper DIN setting. Age is perhaps the key fluctuating component for skiers that’s not always updated –  properly calibrated among old-school skiers, who’ve always had a DIN of 8 for example, but at 55 or 60 should dial it back to a safer 6, say, to prevent injury.

DIN calibrated standards change at 50, and so should your settings. Of course you should also be honest about your height, weight and ability (lol)… and adjust when any of these change. It’s a ski shop form, so it’s not like your weight gain or shrinkage is going on Facebook for all your ski buddies to see.

I for one had a ski injury at 48, that could likely have been prevented if my ski binding had released. That sharp twisting turn should have caused my binding toe piece to release, but alas my marker bindings stayed on – tight, as they were adjusted to avoid a premature nuisance release. Lesson learned, I’ve loosen up. I recovered from that fractured tibial plateau, and now set my DIN per the appropriate age height and weight setting. Staying safe and alive at 5….

For the safest binding setting, your skis should be professionally checked annually, providing real “true” data of your actual weight (lol) height, age and ski ability, 1, 2, 3 and 3+. By the way, very few of us are 3+ ski level, that’s for extreme skiers.

Yes, your ski popping off prematurely is a pain, but not as big a setback as not releasing and popping a ligament, or worse… Have your binding professional set and checked annually. Better safe than sorry, “when in doubt, come out.”

See our Gear Guide to the  Top Skis!

Copyright 2018, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com

Top Ski Writers’ Top Ski Resorts

As ski journalists, we have the enviable job of traveling to ski resorts and sharing our likes, dislikes, and love of the sport of skiing. Not only do I love my travel writing work, (please no job applications – I’m set) I also enjoy reading ski resort reviews from my peers, fellow ski writers. A departure from my favorite ski resorts reviewed, here are my best colleagues in the ski biz sharing their top ski resorts, along with their humor and inside tracks:

Favorite Ski Resort from Eric Wilbur, talented sports writer with whom I worked at Boston.com for a decade.

“It’s quite difficult to narrow this down to a singular superlative. The best North American resort I’ve skied with kids? Sunday River. Site of the best powder day I’ve ever experienced? Magic Mountain. The best vibe I’ve ever felt at a resort? Copper Mountain. The best place I’ve visited, but never skied? Kirkwood (Sitting at the base all day with an ACL tear, all while hearing avalanche control in the midst of a total whiteout also qualifies as the greatest, individual torture at a ski resort).

But ever since my first visit more than a quarter-century ago, Stowe has consistently remained my favorite place to ski, a matter that speaks about as much about the mountain’s history as it does Stowe’s infamous terrain and the resort’s brand of mountain luxe. Few experiences are comparable to a spring-time bump run down Hayride, or a mid-winter duck in the woods wherever you might choose not to tell. Skiing these trails, so steeped in lore matters so much more, particularly in creating the soul of a skier. Cookie cutter slopes serve a purpose elsewhere, but at Stowe the skiing is about immersing yourself into a culture that has come to define the Vermont outdoors.

Yes, you can pay heftily for the experience. But in a world of Big Mac skiing and riding, Stowe remains that James Beard destination that lives up to the exorbitance. The drive up Mountain Road still delivers a unique anticipation upon approach, no matter how many times I’ve made the drive. And when the day is through, I can always count on the Front Four winking at me in the dusk, as if knowingly scheduling my inevitable return. ”

Eric Wilbur is a freelance writer and a member of NASJA whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Boston.com, The New England Ski Journal, and Boston Metro. Samples of his work can be found at ericwilbur.tumblr.com and www.facebook.com/GlobeEricWilbur

 

 

Top Ski Resort from Rich Stoner of All About Après, who I typically find in the ski bars “researching” though we hit first chair at Okemo on an epic snow day:

“I love Deer Valley and Vail is, of course, epic, but there is just something about your home mountain that makes it…well, home. For me that resort is Mount Snow. It’s where I learned to ski oh so many years ago and it shames me to say that it took me 25 years to eventually go back. However, now that I’ve returned, I plan on being there for a while, especially since my three daughters also learned to ski there and it holds a sentimental place in my heart, having created a lifetime of future memories.Despite this emotional connection, Mount Snow is also a darn good resort. They have come a really long way since I first visited, oh so many years ago and continue to evolve each season with a host of improvements to the overall mountain scene. Now, with snow making capabilities that are arguably the best in the East and apres ski offerings guaranteed to satisfy everyone, Mount Snow has proven to be the perfect ski resort for my family to call home.

I’ve experienced it all at Mount Snow. From warm, rainy days that have created gnarly ice coast conditions, to deep pow that produced incredible gladed runs (duck in off Olympic, you won’t regret it) you just never know what the weather will bring to southern Vermont. However, having spent $30 million last summer upgrading their snowmaking system to a capacity that is, basically, unlimited, what you do know is that they can rebound from these unpredictable temperature swings very quickly while producing a much longer ski season. This alone makes Mount Snow worth the trip because you’ll be skiing more trails with more snow and for longer than most other eastern resorts.

However, increased skiing is only the half of it. We are, after all, All About Apres and when the snow is skied off, later in the day, there are après options galore, all right there for the taking. Need to recharge at the summit? Head to The Bullwheel for some tasty Bloodies and pretzel sticks dipped in cinnamon butter. Bypass the line for the tables and walk straight to the bar to order, then head out on the deck and drink in the view. Done for the day and don’t want to deal with wait service? Canned is your gig. Serving craft beers in cans from Vermont, its simplistic approach will have you thirst quenched in no time. If drinking from the can is not your thing, then head upstairs to The Taproom Station. They, too, have quite the selection of brews (on tap and in bottles) for the savvy craft beer drinker and a few more food options as well. Finally, if you are looking to really go next level and party a bit more, then you need to take in all that is Bruce Jacques and his Saturday shows at Cuzzins. Get there early or you’ll struggle to get in at all. Once inside, there is no shortage of table-dancing après skiers singing along with Bruce as he plays his set while donning a variety of outlandish costumes and interacting with the crowd that is, very much, all in. Trust me, you just won’t be able to peel yourself away, no matter how hard you try.  It’s this type of “can’t stay away” mantra that defines how I feel about Mount Snow. Now that I’m back, the improvements in snow making and incredible variety of apres ski options will keep my family and me there for a long while.”

– Rich Stoner – From first chair to last, call he’s bound to be laying down tracks or throwing back beers with family and friends somewhere in the mountains. www.allaboutapresski.com @allaboutapres

Favorite Western Resort – Snowbasin – Rich Stoner, All About Après
“Wait until you see the lodges at Snowbasin, there is nothing like them. And, the bathrooms…yes, the bathrooms, are nicer than anything you’d see at a high end wedding. Sounds a bit odd for a ski resort, especially one that, all things being considered, is not on too many lists as being super posh. But, that’s what you get when you’re a Sun Valley property and your owner really wants the Salt Lake City Olympics at his resort. Nothing says the Olympics like Venetian chandeliers hanging from the lodge’s ceilings. However, for as opulent as these buildings are, it is still hard to define Snowbasin as a showy resort. There’s some seriously sick skiing complemented by ridiculously tasty culinary delights both of which know no boundaries.

Breakfast is something that I usually skip out on when skiing but when the menu in Earl’s Lodge offers Smoked Beef Brisket Hash and Eggs, that’s a dish that cannot be overlooked. With two runny fried eggs oozing goodness all over the perfectly smoked brisket hash, this is a breakfast entree you cannot pass up. It’s delicious and is sure to have you energized for some incredible skiing. When it comes to skiing, what truly makes Snowbasin special, is the notion that you can pretty much ski anywhere. I can remember riding the lift up with Paul Marshal of Ski Utah and pointing out something that looked like a ravine saying, “That might be fun to ski.” So we did. With nothing but open bowls, the idea of defined trails is a notion that should be forgotten for the day. You can and should go anywhere. From The Sister’s Bowl to local favorite, Lone Tree Chute, it’s all there for the taking.

When you’re a little spent and need a lunch break, there’s no better place than the John Paul Lodge. With insane 360° views complemented by the “Best in Snow” winning chili or the John Paul ‘Mondo” Pastrami Burger (yes, that’s a thing) you may need a nap before you head back out, but head back out you must. The lift lovingly named, “The Beer Can” is right there to take you to the mens’ and womens’ Olympic downhill courses, and you need to try them. Want to burn off all of those, oh so worth it, calories? See if you can make it down either course in one shot. You may not have anything left in the tank after that, but if you do, head back up, there’s plenty more to shred. However, if your day does end there, quads sore and stomach full, grab a beer and a seat on the expansive patio at Earl’s Lodge.  There, you can look back out at the mountain and reminisce about the epic freedom to ski and fantastic fare that makes Snowbasin so special.”

– Rich Stoner –  www.allaboutapresski.com @allaboutapres

Photos by Greg Burke, More Top Ski Resorts:
Top 10 New England Ski Resorts for Families
Top 10 Western Ski Resorts for Families
Top Canada Ski Resorts for Families
Top European Ski Resorts for Families

 

Vail Epic Pass is more epic for 2018-19

Vail Resort’s Epic Pass keeps getting bigger and better, and the price stays amazingly affordable for all this skiing, under $1,000. The Epic Pass is priced at $899 for unlimited skiing at 19 Vail owned ski resorts and 7 days each at 4 more, plus ski pass benefits in the Alps, for a grand total of 65 resorts.  Vail Resorts now include:  Colorado’s Vail, Beaver Creek,  Breckenridge,  Keystone,  Crested Butte, and Arapahoe Basin, Park City in Utah,  Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, California’s Heavenly,  Northstar,  and Kirkwood,  Washington’s Stevens Pass, Vermont’s Stowe,  Okemo, NH’s Mount Sunapee, the Midwest’s Wilmot,  Mt Brighton,  Afton Alps,  and Perisher Australia.

Additional ski benefits to Epic Passholders  for 2018 – include Telluride and the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies!  Plus 5 days at Hakuba Japan.

In Europe, the Epic Pass also allows for ski tickets in the French Alps – Les 3 Vallees in  (think Courchevel, Val Thorens and Meribel), Paradiski – Les Arcs and La Plagne, and Val D’Isere Tignes, plus Skirama Dolomiti Adamello Brenta in Italy, 4 Vallees in Switzerland – which encompasses Verbier, and The Arlberg in Austria – 3 days at Lech Zurs, Stuben, St Christoph and St Anton. Some of these free ski benefits require lodging purchases in The Alps.

Well, skiers are the winners in this big mountain pass blow up, with great choices at significant savings versus the old-school one-mountain season pass at over $1,000!

If you are planning a couple of weeks out west skiing, or time in The Alps for next season, you should strongly consider buying the Epic Pass, then download the Epic Mix and start bagging serious vertical and bragging rights.

The other amazing pass option is the IKON pass which combines Aspen’s ski resorts (the newly formed Alterra Mountain Company) with Boyne, Powdr and Intrawest Resorts plus some indies for a total of 30 – its another extremely versatile pass valid at  Aspen’s 4 mountains, Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain, Eldora Mountain Resort, Squaw Alpine Meadows, Mammoth, Big Bear, June, Stratton, Snowshoe, Tremblant, and Blue Mountain.  Plus limited skiing at Deer Valley, Snowbird/Alta, Brighton, Solitude, Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Killington, Revelstoke, and Sugarbush, Canada’s  Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Norquay, and Loon, Sunday River and Sugarloaf.

Where are you skiing next ski season? See our Guide to the Top Ski Resorts and our Guide to Skiing the Alps to plan your winter!

Copyright & Photos 2018, by Heather Burke of   FamilySkiTrips.com and Luxury Vacation Guide

Top 10 Reasons to Rock The Epic Pass

Top 10 Reasons to buy an Epic Pass…Now!  There is no better season pass deal, and no better time than now to ski! And all of these fun Vail Resort event are part of  your Epic Pass.

10.  Stowe’s ‘80s Retro Weekend every March. Who doesn’t love the 80s and rockin’ a one piece ski outfit in day glo, totally awesome! Après ski at Stowe, hit the classy Hourglass Bar at Stowe Mountain Lodge, or the local fave Matterhorn, or  the visit Trapp Family Lodge’s Bier Hall where the hills are alive with the sound of brewing!

9.  Vail  hosts the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships in Vail early March. This is the biggest event post Winter Olympics and X Games… Download the Epic Mix app and track your own vert between viewing the best snowboarders launch big vert in the halfpipe!   Come April, Vail is all party – Spring Back to Vail with free concert, Taste of Vail – the best ski foodie fest anywhere, and World Championship Pond Skimming – a wet wild good time!

8. Partake in Beaver Creek’s 15th Annual Talons Challenge on Saturday, late February. More than 26,000 vertical feet of black diamond and double black diamond trails –14 in total – are waiting for you. Finish the job and earn your spot on the Talon’s Wall-of-Fame!

7. Ski seven of Park City Mountain’s peaks during the inaugural Seven Summits Challenge, Saturday, mid February. Earn bragging rights, and hit the après ski party at Red Pine Lodge. Park City keeps partying  with include Spring Grüv – that means warm sunny days, soft snow, free concerts, and Easter celebrations with Utah’s best pond skim competition.

6.  Breck Pride week is mid March, celebrate with live music, daily aprés, a flamboyant Color Run in costumes down the mountain and inclusive fun for everyone at Breckenridge!

5. Celebrate all things spring at Spring Loaded at Heavenly with a Spring Loaded Rail Jam, Gunbarrel 25, Live Music, and pond skimming.

4. Whistler Blackcomb is always a blast, especially during the annual World Ski and Snowboard Festival. This six day  jam-packed event covers snow sports, music, arts, and mountain culture  mid April.

3. Need more girls in the sport of skiing? Chicks? Check!  Northstar hosts Her Mountain Retreat March 10-11 with personalized lessons with female coaches, restorative yoga, Platinum First Tracks and Platinum tōst. Cheers ski chicks.

2. Got Kids?  Keystone’s Kidtopia Music Experience is early March  with outdoor concerts, music themed daily Kidtopia fun, a mountaintop snow fort, a village parade, and fireworks.

1.  Just rock your Epic Pass already… with skiing at 19 of the best ski resorts …recently added are Telluride, Crested Butte, Okemo and Mount Sunapee, its the most epic season pass and the best ski value out there, unless of course you don’t use it …. than you’re a loser, not an epic user. We’re taking our Epic Pass to the Alps where you can cash in free skiing at Val Isère, Les Trois Vallees, La Plange Les Arcs, St Anton and Verbier, and more… See you on the Epic Mix leader board ski friends! 1 million vert – I’m coming for you! Cheers!

See our Guide to the Top Ski Resorts and make your skiing EPIC!
Copyright 2018, Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com and TheLuxuryVacationGuide

 

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