By Jules Older
The easiest skiing to access is usually your local ski hill. Right. You knew that.
What’s next easiest?
Utah, without doubt. In His wisdom, the Angel Moroni placed the mountains near the airport and later added easy public transport from said airport to said mountains.
In second place, probably Vermont. Again, airport and biggest city are handy to, in this case, Smugglers’ Notch, Stowe, Sugarbush, Mad River Glen and more snowy mountains.
Not even a contender? Bend, Oregon and its home hill, Mt. Bachelor. While there are direct flights to nearby Redmond from Denver, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle, from anywhere else you need to change planes or drive long highways.
So if it’s not convenient, why ski there?
Let me count the ways …
What are the attractants of Bend? Five is the magic number here, too.
Though it’s a city of 80,000 (who knew?), Bend is surrounded by the great outdoors. If you’re into, say, mountain biking, road biking or fat-tire biking; canoeing, kayaking or paddle boarding; rock climbing, windsurfing or bird watching, you’re in the right place. Like the locals, you will love it. Beware, though: Many locals started as visitors and lost the will to go home.
Second, Bend sits in an environment you’re probably unfamiliar with — high desert. Below the surface, lava tubes snake through soil and rock; a mile-long cave awaits exploration. Up top, the exemplary High Desert Museum helps you understand the peoples and the creatures that abide here.
Third, in the middle of Oregon, near almost nothing at all, Bend has become a culinary destination: Three Thai restaurants, including Wild Rose, a northern Thai delight. Zydeco, a genuine Cajun restaurant plunked down in this far-northern outpost. Sunriver Brewery and Carson’s American Kitchen, a few miles from downtown. CHOW and Sparrow and Victorian for outstanding breakfasts. Some of this fine dining is found in Bend resorts: Carson’s at Sunriver, 10 Below at the Oxford Hotel, and Tetherow Grill at Tetherow.
Fourth, for craft-beer lovers, Bend is Mecca. At last count, greater Bend had 26 breweries and climbing. Benders argue their beer with the same passion Daytonans fight about NASCAR drivers: Stout vs. porter. Boneyard Beer vs. Deschutes Brewery. Comatose Imperial IPA vs. Pre-Prohibition Lager. “Wait — let’s try another round of those two again.”
And, last but certainly not least, welcome to Oregon, a birthplace of legal marijuana. In a clean, well-lighted place, a.k.a. a dispensary, you can inhale the aroma — and discuss the virtues — of Thai, Afghan, Mendocino, homegrown and other varieties of ganja legal delights. Make your choices, then surprise Mom and Dad with the gift that keeps on giving.
Jules Older is a contributor to and publisher of another gift that keeps on giving, the ski book ebook, SKIING THE EDGE: Humor, Humiliation, Holiness and Heart.
Story & photos by Jules Older
I learned to ski in the cold — the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Laurentians of Quebec. I lost a girlfriend by introducing her to my favorite sport when it was minus 20 at Sugarbush, almost gained a divorce by repeating that trick at the same temp at Jay Peak.
The one and only time I’ve refused to buckle up because of cold was at Mont Tremblant on a morning it was minus 39 … at the base. The rest of my colleagues at the UVM Outing Club thought I was a sissy and merrily skied off without me.
Then I moved to San Francisco. Now, I ski the High Sierra, whose name more accurately reflects high temperatures than altitude. Typical chairlift conversation:
Local: Sorry about the cold. It was a lot nicer last week.
Me: How cold is it?
I restrain myself and do not point out that 26 degrees above zero is the ideal, the perfect, the most wonderful temperature to ski. I don’t point out that while he is covered in Gore Tex from his gurgle to his zatch, I’m wearing a zipped-down turtleneck and a vest.
So. I’ve gone from cold to warm. Sure, my blood is thinning and my character shrinking, but really, no complaints.
Only now I’m heading back into the cold. Real cold. Deep cold. Banff, Alberta, Canadian cold.
The first time I skied here, it was minus 26. The next time, a balmy minus 15. In the gusting wind atop the aspirationally named Sunshine Village, I thought I was fixin’ to die. Especially my fingers. (More on that, below.)
So, this time I’m prepared. Hyper-warm Helly Hansen Racer jacket. Merino layered Helly Hansen Warm pant. Turtle Fur hood. K2 helmet with closeable vents. Serius serious gloves. A Transpack heated boot bag. Plus, half a carton of hand warmers.
Hand warmers. I’d brought hand warmers the last time, too. Why, then, were my fingers so cold? Because I packed said hand warmers in my carry-on, and TSA declared their potential heat a hazard to flight. Hand warmers on the no-fly list? Who knew?
Oh, and maybe my fingers were cold because I was too cheap to buy new hand warmers at a resort shop. Pack yours in your suitcase as I do this time, along with all the rest of my cold-weather gear.
So, did it work?
No idea. When I get to Banff, it’s warm. Yes, 26-degree warm. 26 above.
It feels wrong … but wonderfully, gloriously wrong. And while I’m overdressed for the occasion, the skiing is beautiful.
“The skiing is beautiful” usually means great snow — packed powder, fresh fallen or perfectly groomed. And except for the blizzard that whited out Sunshine just as I reached the top, that part held true.
But in Banff, beautiful skiing has another meaning. With the possible exception of the Italian Dolomites, and with apologies to the scenic glories of Lake Tahoe, this is the most beautiful skiing in the world.
The mountains don’t just surround the town; they encase it. Whether you’re looking at art in one of the many Banff galleries, lunching at Park Distillery or hot-tubbing at the Willow Springs spa, as soon as you step outside, the mountains fill your eyes.
The view from the slopes of the three resorts — Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Norquay — are so stunning, you have to stop, gasp, and maybe hide the tear in your eye by pulling out a phone for a photo.
Even the two Fairmont hotels — Chateau Lake Louise and Banff Springs — are dreams of what a Canadian ski resort should look like. Massive, venerable, stately.
That’s not an accident. With the exception of nearby Jasper, Banff is the only municipality within a Canadian National Park. It’s gorgeous by nature and gorgeous by law — it may not expand its land base, and it doesn’t truck with ticky-tacky.
The protection of the park gives other gifts. The last time I skied here, on the last run of the day, I got ahead of my party on a heavily wooded trail. When I stopped to wait for them, my eyes grew wide. Ten yards in front of me, a large, furry animal with pointy ears swaggered across the trail. I thought cougar and tried to decide whether to grab my camera for posterity or my ski pole for defense. The cat paused in the middle of the trail, gave me a surveying look — Predator? Tourist? Lunch? — then continued her slow stroll until she disappeared into the forest. (I don’t know how I decided it was a she, but I felt that from the start.)
But this cat was no cougar. She was a lynx.
Lynx and cougar, brown bear and black, coyote and wolf, marten and muskrat make Banff their home. And in warm weather or cold, we have the privilege of joining them in the eye-filling beauty of the Canadian Rockies.
Banff by the numbers
360 inches of annual snowfall
2 towns (Banff and Lake Louise)
1 park (Banff is Canada’s first national park)
And here’s one more number: Twenty leading ski writers are at their finest in Jules Older’s ski book ebook, SKIING THE EDGE.
By David McKay Wilson
Atop Lone Mountain at Big Sky, with the wind blowing a gale at 11,000 feet, and the ice pellets providing an Arctic facial for my exposed cheeks, we contemplated our descent from the peak of one of North America’s prized summits in Montana’s Gallatin Range.
We lacked the avalanche beacons and shovels required for the harrowing Big Couloir or the snowfields down the mountain’s North face. Instead, we inched our way down through the ice and rocks, took a hard left, and found a trail called Marx.
There we discovered a broad snowfield with wind-packed powder, with just enough give for our wide swooping turns as we skied down hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of vertical feet. From there we found the Dakota woods on the resort’s southern flank, with delicious powder over our boot tops in a tight forest of lodge pole pines.
So it went on our mid-February visit to Big Sky, that resort in southern Montana where we spent two days exploring the sprawling resort high up in the alpine reaches, and a third day further down the mountain, discovering the glories of the Nordic skiing on Lone Mountain Ranch’s well-groomed trail network.
It was the fifth straight year I’ve headed out west with the boys, seeking out alpine adventures, and enjoying the family camaraderie that evolves during a Mancation in the mountains. These trips also provide a check-up on my conditioning – can the 62-year-old keep pace on the steeps with the young dudes? How many more years are left in the tank?
As a journalist, Big Sky always held a certain allure, as retired NBC anchor Chet Huntley had the vision – and moxie – to put together the deal in 1970 to purchase the stunning Lone Mountain Peak, and thousands of acres surrounding it to create a winter resort during the industry’s early 1970s expansion. But Huntley died in 1973, at age 62, which happens to be my age. And three years later, his corporate partners were ready to bail, as the resort remained in the red.
To the rescue came Everett Kircher, the Michigan resort owner and head of Boyne Resorts who looking to expand his holdings in the west, but unwilling to strike deals to buy Sun Valley, Telluride or Copper. Forty years later, Big Sky is the most prominent holding in Boyne’s portfolio, and its investments in the resorts facilities have made the Montana resorts an increasingly popular destination for winter travelers, and high-rollers looking to invest in multi-million dollar slopeside homes and skiers of all ranks finding a welcoming winter playground.
We stayed at the Huntley Lodge, the resort’s first hotel, which is situated at resort’s growing mountain village. Our first floor room was a short walk to the lift. The lodge’s outdoor pool and hot tubs – with bar service – provided the perfect setting for après-ski conviviality and a chance to meet some of our fellow skiers, a preponderance of whom were from the Northeast.
While the mountain is huge, and sprawls over several peaks, we found it easy to negotiate. We warmed up each morning with zippy runs down Big Horn on the fresh corduroy off the Thunder Wolf lift, keeping pace with the teens from the local racing team. There’s nothing like a top-to-bottom screamer first thing to warm up the legs.
Then it was up the mountain to the summit, taking the 15-person tram where we experienced our only wait during our visit, lining up for 15 minutes to make it to the top. In line, we met students from Montana State University’s Bozeman campus who bragged about skiing there five days a week, and middle-aged women from Wisconsin, who opted to take the tram from the summit without their skis, and descend by tram as well.
By the afternoon, we’d made our way to the former Moonlight Basin on the north side, with my boys eschewing the wide-open bowls for the woods, where we skied laps on the rollercoaster run called Single Jack.
On-mountain dining kept us fueled. One day, we stayed up high, squeezing into the Black Kettle Soup Co. shack at the base of Lone Peak for hot spicy chili. The next day, we opted for table service at Montana Jack’s – the rebranded Whiskey Jack’s, with opulent burgers and sweet potato fries.
After our final soak in the Chet Huntley hot tub, we drove down the hill to Lone Mountain Ranch, acclaimed by XcSkiResorts.com as North America’s top luxury cross-country resort. We stayed in a two-bedroom log cabin all tricked out with the comforts of home: electric heat, spacious bathroom, and a wood stove to provide the feel of roughing it, which you most definitely are not.
We feasted on meals in the rustic dining room, all decked out in Montanan taxidermy – a cougar prowled one of the massive rough-hewn pine beams, a massive bison head scowled from above the fire place while 12-point elk antlers framed the chandeliers
After a five-mile morning ski, we returned to the outdoor center for the ranch’s Bark and Bite lunch. That’s when teams of nine dogs take you on sleds up the trail to a cabin for a lunch of bison chili, corn bread, and elk sausage. If you’ve never been on a dog sled, it’s a real treat to experience the power of the dogs – lean Alaskan huskies, with an occasional brown Lab. Our sled carried three men who together weighed close to 600 pounds, and the pups pulled us up the hill with great alacrity.
Come evening the ranch’s Percheron and Belgian work horses pull sleighs up to the cabin for candlelight dinners. That creates an opening for the elk herd that roam the hillside. Once the horses depart, they descend the mountain, as many as 50 elk will arrive, and leap over the fence, and dine on the hay bales left behind by the horses.
On our final afternoon, the boys, who’d been playing hooky from their high school and college studies, stayed back in the cabin to catch up on the school work they’d missed.
My legs still felt good. So I headed out with Martha Crocker, one of the ranch’s cross-country guides, on a 15K tour that tested my stamina and brought us deep into the Montana woods. We were shuttled up to the Lone Moose condo complex, at the end of the Middle Fork trail. From there we descended along a branch of the Middle Fork river, on a gentle decline. The climbs came when we looped up the Andesite trail – up past the condos and homes, and through a field of lodge pole pines.
It was spitting snow by late afternoon. A gibbous room was on the rise. My legs felt stronger. Dinner was set for 6.30. Trout was on the menu. And another glass of Bent Nail IPA awaited.
Visit Big Sky Resort
Visit Lone Mountain Ranch
By William Triplett
I’ve skied Canaan Valley Resort in West Virginia only twice. The first time was so long ago, I barely remember anything other than a massive storm swooping in toward the end of the day, dumping a lot of snow and nearly stranding me and my friends. The second time was just a little over a week ago, when a weather system so big it got its own name – Jonas – lumbered in like a steamroller, burying us under almost three feet of white stuff over the course of two days.
Next time I go, I hope to have the meteorological good fortune of arriving after a storm has done its work. When Jonas headed on up the East Coast, the skies were a brilliant blue, conditions magnificent, and we had to leave – it was the end of our stay. But skiing in a blizzard is its own kind of fun. Visibility wasn’t great, but there was no denying the fun of floating through more powder than I’ve seen in a long time in resorts in Utah and Colorado.
Moreover, only a handful of slopes were open when we got there, but Jonas dumped enough snow to drop the cordons from the start of all of Canaan Valley’s nearly 50 trails on the first day of the storm. While not a huge resort, its mountain summit of 4,280 feet, vertical drop of 850 feet, and three chairs make it plenty respectable and readily attractive to skiers like me in the Washington, D.C. area, about a two-and-a-half hour drive away. It’s an easy day trip, but a better weekend getaway.
Also, Canaan recently underwent a pretty thorough renovation. The main lodge has been updated along with the addition of two wings offering a total 160 new rooms. Cabins and cottages are available as well.
I stayed in the lodge, which has a contemporary feel – lots of exposed blond brick, high ceilings, mural-size windows, and gas-burning fireplaces. My room was comfy and spacious. The ski area is maybe a half-mile away, but the lodge runs shuttles to and from regularly. You can also store your gear in a room just off the mainentrance to the lodge, making it very convenient to offload from the shuttle, stow everything, and head to your room.
Even with wind whipping snow in my face I could appreciate the varied terrain, which overall probably appeals more to advanced-intermediates than experts. (Steeper runs are available at nearby Timberline resort.) But there are plenty of drops and tight turns along with big old groomed cruisers to keep things interesting.There’s even a gladed trail. My favorite turned out to be among the tamer ones in terms of pitch, but nicely loping along for more than a mile, occasionally narrowing in places and turning compactly.
Largely because of the storm I didn’t check out other available fun, like ice skating and tubing as well as the nearby town of Davis and its galleries, eateries, and pubs. I’ll have to do that next time – post-storm, with any luck.
Visit Canaan Valley Resort
By William Triplett
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is looking pretty good for 50. The storied ski mecca celebrates its golden jubilee this season, and it’s a bit of an understatement to say a lot has changed since 1965.
Long known primarily for nuthin’-but-steep-and-deep chills and thrills for experts with at least a mild death wish, in recent years JHMR has carved an extensive network of intermediate and beginner trails into the mountainside. Unlike the old days, upscale dining and lodging aren’t hard to find, and off-mountain activities and attractions are plentiful. The eye-widening drops and chutes are still there (Corbett’s Couloir, anyone?), but never has Jackson Hole been more welcoming to skiers of all levels and their families than now.
Not being a member of the double-black diamond corps, I didn’t make my maiden visit to Jackson Hole until just this past February. If I had to summarize it for Twitter, I’d say: Easily the most fun I’ve had trying to up my abilities on challenging–sometimes scary–terrain; ate, drank and slept very well. I was there just shy of a week, and ever since I’ve been looking forward to going back.
From Teton Village down at the base, you can get a good sweeping look the vast expanse of the 2,500-acre resort, which is essentially divided into three segments rising from right to left. It starts on the right with the Apres Vous Mountain at roughly 8,500 feet elevation, continues to the Gondola Summit at 9,100 feet in the center, and crests with Rendezvous Mountain at 10,450 feet.
Generally I like double-blues and the occasional single-black, with a preference for wide groomers. I had no problem finding any such runs. Skiing them? Different story. Single-blacks I’ve skied at most resorts have nothing on the double-blues at Jackson. And the JHMR single-blacks are, let’s just say, a bit tougher than others I’ve been on.
I discovered this after my first ride up the ultra-sleek Tram, which airlifts you to the top of Rendezvous Mountain and the start of the Rendezvous Bowl, which is neither groomed nor blue. But it’s big. Since it’s the only way down other than Corbett’s (no, thanks), I figured there was no point finding out whether it was single- or double-black. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t often ugly with at least one tumble, but I made it – and at times actually felt really good.
Still, I felt more suited to the blues – 40 percent of the total 116 trails! – and so stayed with Gondola Summit and Apres Vous, where the majority of them are. The double-blues were, for me, plenty demanding, but also enormous fun. I found myself smiling wider – and skiing better – with each run. Back in the day, I imagine you already had to know what you were doing on skis before you took on Jackson Hole. Nice to know you can come here now and choose runs that are only as tough as you can handle, appealing to just about everyone from newbies in skiing 101 classes all the way to adrenalin junkies still looking for that steep-and-deep fix.
Admittedly, much my own improvement over several days was due to having been able to test-drive a pair of DPS Wailer skis. More on those amazing boards and the Jackson scene in my next report. Meantime — Happy 50th, JMHR.
By David McKay Wilson
There’s a truism in skiing – the higher up the mountain you go, the better the snow, especially if want to ski in a mid-winter drought in southwest Colorado. That was our theory when we flew west from New York for four days in late February at Wolf Creek and Telluride.
Our first stop was Wolf Creek, the world-class Mom & Pop operation that was founded 75 years ago with a rope tow connected to a Chevy engine at the top of Wolf Creek Pass. The ski area has $65 lift tickets, lodging 23 miles down the mountain in Pagosa Springs, and some of Colorado’s most challenging terrain. We ended our trip at Telluride, the mega-resort with high-speed lifts galore, fabulous terrain, lavish accommodations at 9,400 feet, and adult lift tickets at $122 a pop.
These two mountains, at very different ends of the Colorado ski experience, traditionally wrack up staggering depths of high-alpine snowfall. The 2015-16 season’s November and December bounty has provided some of the West’s best early season snow.
But back in February, there was some concern about exactly when the heavens would open to blanket the rugged San Juan Mountains in white. Even movie director Quentin Tarantino groused at a nearby ranch, as his crew chilled in Telluride’s Prospect Bowl as they waited for a Colorado Rockies dump to set the stage for The Hateful Eight, his 19th-century drama of wilderness survival and betrayal.
It was our Mancation in the Mountains – me and the boys heading out West as we’ve been doing for seven seasons. I’ve watched them grow up as they’ve skied down, and the memories of those alpine adventures have become milestones in our lives.
At 61, I’m still hanging with the young dudes – it’s a fitness goal that keeps me active. My son and godson are growing older, but it’s good to see there were still boys, despite being 16 and 26. At Telluride, they raced each along the meandering 4.6-mile-long Galloping Goose. Later, as I paddled about the apres-ski pool, they careened down the two-story water slide, making grand splashes, much to the delight of the surrounding eight-year olds.
Showing us around at Wolf Creek was Roseanne Pitcher, a member of the family that has owned the ski area since 1976. It was the first time I’d gone alpine skiing with a dog. As we loaded onto the Treasure Stoke quad, her collie, Spencer, leapt to her lap. From the top the hound scampered straight down the fall-line with great exuberance.
On our third run, she left Spencer with her husband, Dave, who was doing the plumbing at the long-awaited Expresso bar at the summit, which was built with spruce hewn on the mountain. It was four years in the making.
“We got delayed by the lifts we were building,” said Dave, referring to the three lifts, including two high-speed quads, that were installed in recent years.
We climbed a bit from there, before descending in the steep, wide-open, Boundary Bowl. The boys went down first, eager to attack the fall line, up tempo. I waited for them to clear out, and I found my own rhythm in the hard-pack, which still had plenty of snow to turn upon. She took through Pitch’s Gate, named for her father, Pitch, who was part of founding the mountain in the 1930s.
We’d passed her test, so she declared us fit for a hike up to the precarious Knife Ridge, and down into some of North America’s most radical terrain that you reach from the Alberta lift.
After getting off the chair, there’s the heart-pounding 80-step hike up the steep snow cliff, then another 42 steps up the steel stairway to the ridge, at about 12,000 feet. There wasn’t much cover on the ridge, but there was just enough to traverse out to the Dog Chutes.
What Wolf Creek lacks in vertical elevation – it’s only 1,600 feet from its 10,600-foot base – gets made up in its horizontal expanse along the ridge. Pitcher led us past the harrowing rock-strewn chutes called King Pin, Big Cornice, and Tres Amigos. We found an opening called Haydukes, where Rosanne treated us to a stash of fluffy powder up to our boot tops, several weeks since the mountain had seen a serious storm.
We’d skied plenty by the end of the first day, and could feel our quads as we should drove down the mountain pass to our tidy two-bedroom pad in Pagosa Springs at the Mountain Landing Suites , which rents for $318 a night, just outside of town. We found solace at the Pagosa Springs Spa and Resort, sampling the 30 pools built into the riverside cliff of the San Juan River.
They are fed by the world’s deepest geothermal spring – 1,002 feet underground – which comes out of the Earth at 144 degrees. The springs draws its name from the Native American Utes, who discovered the water’s therapeutic and healing qualities.
The spa has 30 pools filled with the underground mineral waters from the mother spring. The temperatures in the pools varied from the somewhat tepid 98 degrees in one called Serendipity to the sizzling 109 degrees in the Lobsterpot, right down by the San Juan, which my intrepid son and godson dipped into to cool themselves off.
For breakfast, we fueled up at the Pagosa Baking Company with two-fisted breakfast burritos, brimming with beans, cheese and rice. For dinner, our we felt at home at the Riff Raff brewery, a gathering spot for skiers and other high-altitude wayfarers. It’s a cozy brew pub, where I savored a hoppy IPA, and chowed down on a Cabrito burger, slathered in carmelized onions, cotija cheese, and garlic lime sauce.
Our day done in Wolfs Creek we headed for Telluride – 66 miles as the crow flies, but 180 miles over Lizard Pass.
At Telluride, we checked into a room at The Peaks Resort and Spa, the sprawling slope-side destination in Telluride Mountain Village. The spa, which was purchased by the Telluride resort in 2015, calls itself Colorado’s largest. If a day on the slopes isn’t enough, there’s a fitness club with a rooms for spinning, lifting, yoga and squash.
The sparsity of fresh snow had proved a boon for Helitrax, the helicopter ski operation operating in the hotel. Guide Joe Shults said he’d taken out a group of four that day – at $1,200 a person – and had another group booked for the following day. The powder hounds were antsy. The phone rang. Could he take another group tomorrow?
I ordered Pin Stripe Red Ale and settled into a comfy leather chair in the Great Room, with a fire blazing in the four-story atrium while a troubadour named Jeff sang ballads by James Taylor and Cat Stevens. The night was young, so we changed into our swim trunks to soak in an outdoor hot-tub in the crisp San Juan Mountain air at 9,400 feet. I could get used to this.
At Telluride, the lower mountain was in perfectly good shape, with the groomers buffed in corduroy each morning. But the upper mountain has issues. Much of it was closed. It was no fun on Happy Thought, with the rock-solid snowpack providing little on turn on.
It was a different story up in Black Iron Bowl at 12,000 feet. The snowpack was still deep, and the 10-minute hike was well worth. We make looping turns as we did laps down Genevieve, Crystal and Confidence.
We recounted our exploits later that night at Allred’s, Telluride’s premier dining spot at the top of the gondola, where you can see the sunset in all its majesty while sipping a Telluride Brewing company pale ale. The Colorado rack of lamb was succuclent, topped with warm tomato-eggplant jam, watercress, shaved fennel, and goat cheese.
As our bad luck would have it, one of those legendary San Juan blizzards was drawing nigh. I imagined Tarantino was happy. But we were flying the next morning from Durango-Plato County Airport, over a mountain pass, 125 miles away. This wasn’t hype. We needed to get out of Dodge.
But before we left, the boys insisted upon stopped at their favorite Telluride restaurant – Cucina de Luz, on Fir Street, with endless chips and salsa, and all sorts of enchiladas and tostados. They remembered it from our last visit in 2013.
The next morning, Telluride reported 14 inches of fresh snow. Wolf Creek had a foot. There was so much snow in Durango that our flight was canceled. We flew to Denver, overnighted there, and made it back to New York the next day. And by the time the storm ended, the San Juans had four feet of new snow that set up Wolf Creek and Telluride for a most marvelous March.
Another truism in skiing: timing can be everything.
by Kim McHugh
As reported in an earlier post, skiers and snowboarders aren’t content any longer to just cruise down the trails on their mountain vacations. Indeed, many resort visitors find relaxing in a quiet room, getting a massage, enjoying a facial or experiencing a host of body therapies (think seaweed wraps, salt baths, oxygen infusions) are great add-ons to their trip. Here is a continuation of spa choices in snow country.
AMANGANI SPA, Jackson Hole, Wyoming—Four treatment rooms, two exercise studios, and separate men’s and women’s steam rooms make a visit here rewarding. Amangani, voted the #1 Ski Hotel in North America by Condé Nast Traveler readers, is a resort whose setting on the edge of East Gros Ventre Butte provides panoramic views of the peaks around Grand Teton National Park.
Guests benefit from a spa menu that not only includes a range of massages, facials and healing therapies, but also mud, salt and seaweed body treatments in the wet room. Yoga, Body Shaping, FitBall training, Active Isolated Stretching and personal training are in the Wellness Studio. Outfitted with two ellipticals, one recumbent bike and two treadmills the Fitness Centre invites guests to boost their cardio. 307-734-7333; www.amanresorts.com.
AVELLO SPA & HEALTH CLUB, Whistler, BC—Named by SKI Magazine’s 27th annual Reader’s Poll as the number one resort in North America, Whistler/Blackcomb is unquestionably popular. A favorite place for visitors to convene is the Avello Spa & Health Club at Westin Resort & Spa. Offering 75+ treatments, from facials and body wraps to hot rock massages, it is a great spot for re-booting the body and mind. Twenty four treatment areas, eucalyptus steam rooms, a guest lounge featuring a river rock fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling windows revealing mountain views make the spa and health club, which occupies two levels, one of the most dramatic in snow country. The health club has free weights, an indoor/outdoor pool, two hot tubs and gear designed for cardio and resistance training. In-room spa treatments are also available in hotel guest’s rooms. 604-935-3444, www.whistlerspa.com .
BACHELOR GULCH SPA AT THE RITZ-CARLTON, Bachelor Gulch, Colorado—A Forbes Four Star-rated resort and spa, the 21,000-square-foot retreat features 19 treatment rooms, a manicure/pedicure salon, and a curated spa menu that includes rejuvenating treatments for couples, expectant mothers, and bride and groom. In 2013 the resort topped Travel + Leisure magazine’s 2013 World’s Best Awards list of Top Hotel Spas in the Continental U.S. and its spa wows guests with men’s and women’s rock-lined grottos featuring steam, sauna, hot and cold plunge area and a co-ed rock-lined grotto with waterfall. Treatments like Roaring Rapids, a hydrotherapy massage experience, and Hot Toddy for the Body, a luxurious scrub containing sweet almond oil, jojoba beads and shea butter with the aromatic spices of cinnamon and nutmeg that is massaged into the skin keeps guests coming back. 970-478-6200, www.ritzcarlton.com .
BISHOP’S LODGE, Santa Fe, New Mexico—Meaning “vitality and energy” in Navajo, SháNah is how guests feel after visiting the SháNah Spa & Wellness Center near the Ski Santa Fe resort. Six indoor treatment rooms, two outdoor private massage gardens, an outdoor Watsu pool, fitness center and an authentic Native American Teepee for massage and private reflection give guests a portal towards discovering rich Native American customs woven into exhilarating rituals for body and mind. Treatments like the Purification Polish, a body scrub using a blend of blue corn with mineral salts and Aloe Vera gel, the Tesuque Clay Wrap, where a mineral rich clay masque is applied to the body to nourish and detoxify the skin or Desert Fusion, where a custom blend of essential oils is rubbed on your body to leave you felling wholly energized. 505-983-6377, www.bishopslodge.com.
FOUR SEASONS SPA/JACKSON HOLE, Jackson Hole, Wyoming—Recognized among the Top 100 Spa Resorts in the U.S. in a Condé Nast 2012 readers’ poll, this spa invites guests to enjoy a range of massages and treatments to promote relaxation, invigoration and renewal. Of 16 treatment rooms in this luxurious 11,685-square-foot escape, two private suites each have a Swiss shower, fireplace and deep soaking tub. Men’s and women’s tranquility lounges with fireplaces also occupy the space. Guests choose from treatments like Native Stone, where warm stones are used in combination with organic oils to bring instant relief to tense muscles and sore joints, Awaken, a full-body brushing followed by a coffee, cinnamon and clay wrap to remove dead skin cells and promote detoxification, and Alpine Berry, where crushed hawthorn berries mixed with strawberry seeds, wild honey and peppermint to bring a skin-smoothing experience. 307-732-5175, www.fourseasons.com/jacksonhole .
THE BLOOM SPA, Vail, Colorado—Located at The Sebastian, voted #1 Best Hotel in the West in 2014 in the Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards, the Bloom Spa leaves guests feeling peaceful and rejuvenated. Bloom’s six treatment rooms include four for massages, a couple’s room, and one for facials. Separate men and women’s areas have steam rooms and saunas, and in-suite services are available for hotel guests. Focused on six core areas—Thrive, Nourish, Flourish, Luxuriate, Glow and Refresh—treatments include the “8150 Elevation Attunement,” which includes oxygen inhalation, a high altitude massage and an oxygenating elixir to promote adaptation to the higher altitude of the Rockies. Cardio and strength training equipment by Technogym® also keeps guests fit and trim. A Ski Free/Spa Free Package starts at $288 per person, per night. 970-477-8000, www.thesebastianvail.com/bloom-spa.
SPA ANJALI, Beaver Creek, Colorado—Centered on three healing mountain regions—the Alps, Rocky Mountains and Himalayas—Spa Anjali at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa offers guests a full menu of relaxing spa treatments. Ranked #8 in 2013 on the “Top 100 U.S. Resort Spas” list by Condé Nast Traveler, the 27,000 square-foot spa recently underwent a major renovation.
Guests benefit from a new trio of rejuvenating Chakra Blessing treatments, a unique collection of ancient rituals designed to help to balance energy, clear negativity and create an optimal state of well being. Easy access to the resort’s saline-based outdoor pool and three riverside hot tubs give guests additional ways to unwind and feel refreshed. A state-of-the-art Athletic Club offers an extensive schedule of daily ski conditioning, group exercise, Pilates, yoga and cycling classes. 970-790-3020, www.spaanjali.com .
ST. REGIS REMÈDE SPA, Aspen, Colorado—One of only 120 spas to receive a Forbes Four Star Award The Remède Spa had a “facelift” last fall, giving it a hip, modern look. Celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the spa has a number of specials as well as a fun way to après ski—the St. Regis’ traditional Afternoon Tea Service in the relaxation lounge.
Named in the Travel & Leisure 2014 Readers’ Choice Survey as the #1 Hotel Spa in the World, it invites guests to experience the Oxygen Lounge, a popular spot for guests to acclimate to Aspen’s altitude. A heated pool and three outdoor hot tub areas combine with treatments like Farm-to-Massage-Table. A twist on the popular Farm-to-Table concept, it uses locally sourced, natural ingredients in a five-course spa experience. 970-920-3300, www.stregisaspen.com .
VICEROY, Snowmass, Colorado—From Ute Indian-inspired therapies to contemporary beauty rituals, the 7,000-square-foot Viceroy Aspen Snowmass spa provides guests a wonderful sanctuary. Designed by Jean Michel-Gathy the space has six treatment rooms, including a couple’s suite and a hydrotherapy Vichy showers room. Enriching the spa experience is a meditative relaxation lounge, whose sound of falling water from an infinity pool and waterfall is deeply soothing.
Its fitness center, adjacent to the spa, encourages guests to burn calories with Technogym® treadmills, cross trainers, stair climbers, exer-cycles and lateral trainers. Nurturing, rejuvenating and holistic spa treatments are comprised of rituals inspired by ancient Ute, Nordic and Asian ceremonies and culture, as well as traditional massage, facial, and beautification journeys. A slope side pool and 15 percent discounts on all spa treatments before 1 p.m. daily add to the appeal. 970-923-8000, www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com .
WALDORF ASTORIA SPA, Park City, Utah—Recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as a “Top Hotel in Utah” on the 2014 Gold List and listed in 2013 among the “Top 500 World’s Best Hotels” by Travel + Leisure, no wonder skiers and riders are quick to check in. Located at the base of Canyons Resort, the 16,000 square-foot spa includes 15 treatment rooms, including a few specially designed rooms for Thai massage and couples treatments. The state-of-the-art fitness center, kinesis studio, a private STOTT Pilates studio buddy up with a full-service hair and nail salon to entice guests to be place even further under the spell of the Waldorf Astoria magic. Forming the foundations for the spa are ancient Asian influences, environmental attunement and classic European spa techniques. Tea and Fireside Lounges—complete with custom teas—amplify the warm, stress-free environment. 435-647-5500, www.parkcitywaldorfastoria.com .
Details: Check with the spas to learn about full day, half-day and multi-day packages and or specials that include a variety of body and skin treatments. Bride-to-be, moms-to-be, new moms and male-centric packages are common as well. Personalized wellness, skiing/snowboarding fitness and nutritional programs are often available (expect to pay a premium fee) and, in most cases, you needn’t be a guest of the hotel to be able to visit the spa. Most spas have an age minimum for guests that is 16 years and older. Gratuities to spa staffers are extra.
By Kim McHugh
Serving Zagat Survey-worthy cuisine and postcard views, these snow country restaurants invite you to pull up a chair and eat yourself silly. From entrées such as Pecan Crusted Elk Tenderloin and Sea Bass with Manila Clams, Apple Cider and Chili Braised Beef Short Ribs, Crab Stuffed Rocky Mountain Trout, Vegetable Napoleon and Lobster Risotto, be prepared to be satiated at a higher altitude.
At the top of the gondola Telluride’s flagship restaurant offers a memorable dining experience. Welcomed by General Manager Mario Petillo, patrons look forward to an extraordinary evening. A menu inspired by Chef Mike Regrut features delectable elk, lamb, steak, and seafood entrees, as well as fresh local vegetables, salads and a wonderful wine selection. Dinner served nightly.
Alpenglow Stube, Keystone
At an altitude of 11,444 feet, the Alpenglow Stube (pronounced STEW-bay) is North America’s highest AAA Four-Diamond fine dining experience. Draped with a lap blanket, guests arrive via a pair of über fast gondola rides. The menu features a choice of four- or seven-course dinners focused on Colorado and contemporary cuisine with Bavarian accents. Dining is offered Thursday – Sunday.
The highest elevation fine-dining restaurant in North America at 11,966 feet, Alpino Vino is reminiscent of intimate restaurants found throughout the Dolomites of Northern Italy. Traveling by heated snow coach guests are awed by views of the Wilson Range and then enjoy a five-course Italian-themed menu along with the warmth of a wood-burning fireplace. Dinner served Wednesday – Saturday.
Beano’s Cabin, Vail
Hidden amongst aspens and evergreens at the base of Larkspur Bowl, Beano’s Cabin satisfies with AAA Four Diamond Award, DiRoNA award and the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence dishes. Accessible via skis, snowboard or snowcat-drawn sleigh, the restaurant features three- and five-course prix fixe dinners in a “Jeremiah-Johnson-meets-Ralph-Lauren” log cabin. Dinner is served Thursday – Sunday.
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, Aspen Highlands
A most aptly named restaurant, Cloud Nine Bistro is an intimate, Euro-style bistro with ski-in/ski-out table service for lunch or dinners on most Wednesday and Thursday evenings. The hearty European-style fare might include Raclette or Fondue, Duck Confit, Black Truffle Gnocchi, or Bouillabaisse. After 1:30pm, champagne bottles begin popping, the music volume increases, and a lively dance party takes over the cabin. Also open for private dinner parties.
Couloir, Jackson Hole’s most unique dining experience, is located at the summit of the Bridger Gondola at 9,095 feet. Named on the Condé Nast Hot Tables List, its seasonal menu features American cuisine with Rocky Mountain roots. The Wine Spectator award- acknowledged Executive Chef Wes Hamilton, who also offers Chef’s Table dining for parties up to six, helms the eatery. Dinner served Thursday, Friday and select holidays.
Der Fondue Chessel
A decidedly Bavarian vibe characterizes Der Fondue Chessel, which sits atop North Peak. After a pair of gondola rides, guests gather round the tables to perhaps start the evening with a traditional Swiss Cheese fondue—a blend of Gruyère and Emmentaler cheeses mixed with a little white wine and kirschwasser. Meats, veggies, bread cubes, crisp apples add to the dipping fun. Dinner offered Wednesday – Saturday.
Located at 9,716 feet atop the Four Points chairlift, the Four Points Lodge offers a five-course culinary experience rooted in the traditions and flavors of Northern Italy. Guests travel by heated snowcat to sample Chef John Shaw’s innovative cuisine that focuses on healthy, made-to-order items featuring local ingredients, fresh made salads, pastas, homemade soups and hot-stone
Game Creek, Vail
Nestled in Game Creek Bowl, this dining destination is reached via skiing or snowboarding down Ouzo or by snowcat from the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Once inside, guests cozy up to the fireplace before venturing into the Mount Jackson Room. A fusion of American-French cuisine with regional and seasonal ingredients awaits patrons. Open for dinner Tuesday – Saturday.
Enjoying a short gondola ride from the base, guests are treated to the best views in the Yampa Valley before reaching the summit and entering Hazie’s where the views are equally stunning. The restaurant, named after Hazel Mae Werner, Olympian Buddy Werner’s mom, features an a la carte menu with culinary delights such as a Blue Cheese Crusted Filet of Beef and Macadamia Nut Crusted Halibut. Open Wednesday – Saturday.
The Lodge At Sunspot, Winter Park
Board the Zephyr Express gondola and your next stop is this award-winning restaurant, whose stone hearth fireplace acts as a magnet. The culinary astute have been seeking its five-course dinners for years along with an excellent wine selection. Elk Tournedos, Steelhead Trout, Colorado lamb, fondue and vegetarian fare tempt patrons. Open for dinner Friday and Saturday evenings and select holidays.
Lynn Britt Cabin, Snowmass
Traveling to the cabin by snowcat, up to 60 patrons can enjoy an exquisite, four-course dinner that kicks off with a basket of fresh baked breads and muffins. Menu choices might feature steak, trout, lamb or duck, and one of the tastiest treats is the live bluegrass and Celtic music played by local musicians. Reservations for the Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday seatings are required.
The Peak Lodge
Built in 1967 as the Summit Terminal the original Peak Lodge was positioned to serve up panoramic views of the Green, White, and Adirondack Mountains. Able to accommodate up to 300 guests for special event/occasion dining, the restaurant is accessed via the K-1 Express Gondola. Expect cuisine crafted with robust flavors and healthy mountain living in mind.
Parallax at McCoy Station
Arriving by a luxury heated snowcat guests look forward to a gourmet dining adventure at 9,600 feet. A delicious four-course dining experience awaits at Parallax, the private dining room at McCoy Station. Start your ride with a glass of champagne followed by a Chef’s Table dinner perhaps comprised of Mussels in Cioppino Broth, Colorado Lamb Chop or Red Elk Loin. Seatings available Friday, Saturday and during holidays.
Ragnar’s, Steamboat Springs
Ragnar’s, named in honor of ski jumper Ragnar Omtvedt, is fabelaktig (Norwegian for fabulous). Guests ride the gondola to the summit before traveling by a snowcat-drawn sleigh to this Scandinavian chalet in the woods. Tout de Mer, seafood wrapped in a pastry shell, Pomegranate Duck Breast and Herb Grilled Venison are a few of the temptations. Dinner is offered Thursday – Saturday.
Since 1939 the Roundhouse has been serving delicious meals, soul-warming drinks and stunning views from Mount Baldy. After riding the Gondola to an elevation of 7,700 feet, guests savor American/European cuisine such as Cheese Fondue for Two, Braided Puff Pastry Salmon and Napoleon of Roasted Vegetables. Its central stone fireplace, and vintage photos of Sun Valley’s history enrich the ambience. Dinner Fridays and Saturdays.
Overlooking the Gore Range, The 10th is Vail’s newest ski-in, ski-out fine dining experience. A nod to the World War II veterans of the 10th Mountain Division, including several of Vail’s founders, The 10th invites guests to arrive on Gondola One to enjoy a gourmet dinner atop Vail Mountain. With a focus on Modern Alpine classics, the cuisine is as impressive as the views. Dinner is offered Tuesday – Saturday.
Zach’s Cabin, Beaver Creek
Serving American cuisine with a distinctly Pacific twist, Zach’s Cabin is a perennial favorite of Beaver Creek visitors. Executive Chef Tim McCaw, a Colorado native, favors fresh Colorado produce in his amazing dishes. Awarded the Wine Spectator Best Of Award of Excellence for five years running, Zach’s is accessed by a sleigh ride and can accommodate up to 110 guests. Dinner is served Tuesday – Saturday.
Editor’s Note: Reservations are encouraged for these restaurants. When consuming alcohol keep in mind that the higher the elevation the more potent the effect (e.g. one glass of wine at sea level may feel like two or three glasses at 8,500 feet or higher). Ask if there is a child’s menu and associated pricing.