For snowboarders and skiers, the past two winters have featured more moguls than a black diamond mogul race. The pandemic shut down many areas just before Spring Break 2020, then forced reduced capacity and services last season. The good news? Resorts have adapted and learned to operate safely. And they used the time to upgrade everything from elevators to lodges. Here are nine areas with new gear on and off the mountain.
New and modernized lifts are common in ski areas, but replacing a quarter of your lifts in one season? That’s what’s happening at Mount Snow with owner Vail Resorts’ grand 15-year revitalization plan. This year’s first phase sees a new high-speed quad on the Sunbrook face – home to a host of intermediate runs and glades – that cuts ride time by 30% for shorter lines and steeper turns fast. On the main face, the old Tumbleweed and Sundance triples are replaced by a new high-speed six-seater. In the past, Tumbleweed took runners halfway up the mountain, where they had to descend and climb Sundance to the top. The resort’s Carinthia Zone, a 100-acre expanse devoted to terrain park and halfpipe skiing and riding, is also being reconfigured with new features that provide a more progressive flow for beginners and intermediates to practice.
Hardcore skiers and snowboarders have been roaming the course from the top of Timberline Ski Area to the base area of Summit Pass for years. It is, after all, the greatest drop of any ski run in the United States, at 4,500 feet. But Timberline’s merger with Summit Pass means it’s now fully integrated, with dedicated trails. From historic Timberline Lodge, take the Magic Mile chairlift and then a snowcat ride to the 8,540-foot summit of Palmer Snowfield, nestled below the crumbling peak of Mount Hood. Snap into your bindings for a roller coaster descent starting in the expert, ungroomed terrain of Palmer before dropping into Timberline proper. Keep the skier’s right to take Alpine, the narrow middle trail to the base of the government camp and your shuttle back to Timberline. Be sure to stop occasionally to marvel at the transition from Palmer’s treeless alpine tundra to temperate forest, an experience like no other in the United States. the tracks are open.
To Colorado locals, the basin is known for three things: expert high-altitude terrain, the longest ski season in the state, and the legendary “Beach” party scene in the spring. Add one more: the new Steilhang Hut, definitely a lunchtime favourite. Perched like an aire above the tree line at 12,456 feet, the cozy Steilhang (“steep slope” in German) has a huge wraparound terrace and sweeping views of the eastern wall and watershed. continental. Chilled and tired of tearing up the towers at Montezuma Bowl? Warm up with German-style cuisine like locally made specialty sausages (elk-jalapeño, anyone?), pretzels and soft pastries, and beer from New Belgium and Prost, a craft brewery based in Denver which respects the famous Austrian beer purity 1516 Reinheitsgebot law. In summer, after the ski lifts have been shut down (until July 4 in some years), the Steilhang will remain open as an operating base for the region’s new guided via ferrata.
Most of California’s skiing glory goes to the big resorts of Tahoe or Mammoth, so it’s easy to overlook Mountain High, just 90 minutes from downtown Los Angeles (in good weather). Despite a base elevation of 6,600 feet, Mountain High is trying to reduce its dependence on natural snowfall, so for 2021 the resort has invested $350,000 in high-efficiency snowmaking to build its base snowpack. The new snow cannons sit 35 feet above the slopes for more even coverage. This snow will cover the many terrain parks in the 290-acre region, which get 10 new features and over 50 revitalized features such as rails, jumps and boxes. The latest element of Mountain High’s million-dollar madness is a new Rossignol Experience Center, a state-of-the-art rental and tuning facility, stocked with $200,000 worth of ski and snowboard gear trendy.
Arguably the most comprehensive winter resort in the Midwest, Boyne Mountain offers just about every snow sport you could want, from fat biking to tubing, not to mention 415 acres of terrain serviced by lifts that average 140 inches of snow per year. For this season, it also has freshly renovated accommodation. Remodeling of Chalet Edelweiss transforms the 35-room Swiss-style lodge into a four-star luxury retreat, with spacious bedrooms appointed with ‘modern mountain’ furnishings and rain showers, a cozy new lounge and a Nordic sauna . Tucked right under the Mountain Express lift, it’s as ski-in/ski-out as it gets, with easy access to the village’s many dining options. This refresh is the first phase of an ambitious 10-year renovation plan that will see the Midwest’s first eight-person chairlift next season.
One of the features that makes Copper fantastic for beginner skiers and snowboarders is the terrain which naturally gets steeper from west to east. This not only helps prevent less experienced people from unintentionally stumbling into expert terrain, but it means no one lines up directly with the section of the station that is best suited for lessons and learning. This area is expanding with the first phase of Copper’s Western Territory Expansion, a multi-year project to revamp the western side of the 2,500-acre area. For ’21/’22, this includes two new “Adventure Zones” for skill development and two new trails for beginners. Future plans include an elevator replacement and updated snowmaking.
Have you ever stood in a long queue and wished you could just… glide forward like a VIP? POWDR’s new Fast Tracks program, which debuts at four of its resorts, including Snowbird, does just that, with quick access to dedicated lines at select lifts. Dynamic pricing starts at $69 per day (plus lift tickets or passes), but expect to spend more on weekends, holidays, and powder days, of which Snowbird has a ton. thanks to its 500 inches of average annual snowfall. The program is not without controversy; critics say allowing people to pay extra to skip the lines makes an already exclusive sport even more elite. But POWDR hasn’t changed its plans and is betting (probably correctly) that those who follow the “no friends on a powder day” mantra will win some extra money for a chance to do some hot laps in the snow bowls. Little Cloud or the Slopes of Gad Lift.
Hood Meadows’ Sahale Lodge was technically finished before last season, but the pandemic meant access was limited to take-out, rentals and outdoor seating. This year, the region hopes to open the 24,000 square foot pavilion to all comers. The first floor features the expanded Meadows Course and Rental Center, while one flight higher you’ll find several dining options, including the Sahale Grill’s imported Italian pizza oven. With tables for 230 diners and a spacious patio, there’s plenty of space to spread out, and floor-to-ceiling windows provide stunning views. Need a warm up? Curl up by the fireplace at Bullwheel Bar and order a Sahale Moka (bourbon, Kahlua and hot chocolate) or refuel with a beer from pFriem Family Brewers, Ninkasi and other local favourites.
Vermont Adaptive has been teaching snow sports at resorts like Sugarbush to children and adults with physical, cognitive, and developmental disabilities since 1987. This year, the nonprofit gets its own 4,000 square foot lodge at the base from the resort’s Mount Ellen, where guests can access three lifts servicing everything from beginner slopes to double-diamond terrain and breezy glades. Ten times larger than the old facility, it offers room for a full range of services for 100 athletes, staff and instructors each day: lockers, a load of specialized adapted skis and boards, plus indoor space for yoga classes, even a soundproof room to decompress from sensory overstimulation. In the summer, the facility will help Vermont Adaptive expand its other programs in the area, such as hiking and mountain biking.