Tag Archive | "ski"

Snow Flurries: Exploring Slopes On A Snow Bike

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Snowbiking at Winter Park, CO

Snowbiking at Winter Park, CO

 

By Kim McHugh

Remember your first bike? Mine was a candy apple red Schwinn and I wish I could have ridden it year round. But I grew up in Illinois, where the long winters meant trading my bike for skis, ice skates or a Flexible Flyer. Had I been more imaginative, I would have invented the snow bike, the device that is now transporting me down the mountain in a “laugh-out-loud-fun” fashion.

Now in my AARP years, and after more than 40 seasons on skis, I thought I would try a new way during my visit to Telluride to go from point A to point B. A snow bike was just the ticket.

 

 

Sport Invented in the 1940s

Austrian Englebert Brenter is credited with designing the first snow bike in 1949 in his factory in Hallein, Austria. Fashioned in the spirit of a bicycle, a snow bike, instead of having two wheels, a chain and hand brakes, has a front and rear ski. Ridden similarly as a two-wheeler, it has the rider sitting on a seat and steering primarily by turning the handlebars, and assisted by short skis attached to each ski boot.

This gives you the ability to cruise the trails controlling your speed and direction by keeping your feet and the bike’s skis on the snow, leaning right or left to steer and stop. Resorts like Breckenridge, Telluride, Copper Mountain and Purgatory/Durango have been offering snowbiking for years, but Crested Butte is hopping on this season.

“We want our guests to have fun on our mountain, whether it is skiing, snowboarding or snow biking,” said Nick Herrin, Assistant General Manager, Crested Butte Mountain Resort. “Snow bikes allow you to get out on intermediate and beginner terrain and really have fun with the family.”

 

Telluride snowbiking class. Photo courtesy Telluride Ski & Golf.

Telluride snowbiking class. Photo courtesy Telluride Ski & Golf.

Easy As Riding A Bicycle

I started my day gripped equally by enthusiasm and trepidation, not convinced that my skiing expertise would translate into snowbiking mastery.

My instructor, who, equipped with identical gear, shared the basics of the sport with me as we walked to a virtually flat slope with a 500-yard face, soon vanquished my fears.

Having ridden a bike for more than fifty years, it seemed plausible that I could get the hang of this new sport pretty quickly throughout the course of my 45-minute lesson.

At first, every action felt foreign and I envisioned roaring toward the bottom and crashing like a bowling ball into the unsuspecting people below. But after 20 turns, the feelings passed, and I gained more confidence, slowing to a stop 100 feet from the lift.

What followed was what I feared would be the hardest acts of all; getting on and off the lift. Shuffling through the line was a little like walking on a tile floor in bare feet covered with olive oil.

Next, I had to hoist the 17-pound bike on to the lift, worried I might drop the darned thing. However, boarding went smoothly, and I was headed back up the mountain relieved. That changed as we approached the summit. Worried about a finger-pointing, laugh generating fall, I asked my instructor to review the departure instructions.

Her coaching paid off and I got off the lift without incident on my way to making my descent on Double Cabin. On this, the first top-to-bottom trail, it quickly became clear as to how snow biking was so easy.

 

Telluride snowbiking. Photo courtesy Telluride Ski & Golf.

Telluride snowbiking. Photo courtesy Telluride Ski & Golf.

Didn’t Want the Adventure to End

I leaned left; I leaned right, repeating these moves with increasing confidence, even picking up speed as I made my way to the bottom. My instructor and I made another six round trips, graduating to slightly steeper and longer runs with each journey.

Appreciating that I wasn’t yet skilled enough to tackle a black diamond, I stuck to the blue runs as I buzzed from side to side. With each turn, I sent long plumes of snow from under my skis as I snaked down the mountain chasing my instructor in a game of cat and mouse.

On Marmot, we took a side trail through the trees. About 30-feet wide, it was covered with small moguls and about five inches of new snow. The combination was just right to create the sensation of being a kernel of popcorn in a popper, as we bounced and floated along. I ended my inaugural snow bike riding morning with another run down Sundance, hesitating to return my newfound toy to the rental shop, but making a promise to myself to do it again. Laughing out loud all the way.

 

Telluride snowbiking group. Photo courtesy Telluride Ski & Golf.

Telluride snowbiking group. Photo courtesy Telluride Ski & Golf.

Where to ride: Snow bikes are permitted at these resorts:

California

  • Heavenly*

Kirkwood*

Sierra-at-Tahoe*

Colorado

  • Arapahoe Basin*
  • Aspen*
  • Beaver Creek*
  • Breckenridge
  • Copper Mountain
  • Crested Butte
  • Durango
  • Eldora*
  • Keystone
  • Snowmass*
  • Steamboat
  • Telluride
  • Vail
  • Winter Park

Montana

  • Big Sky•
  • Whitefish*

New Mexico

  • Angel Fire*
  • Pajarito*
  • Sipapu

Oregon

  • Hoodoo

Utah

  • Brighton*
  • Sundance*

Vermont

  • Sugarbush*

Washington

  • Crystal Mountain

      *Snow bikes are not rented and lessons/certification aren’t offered at this resort; personal bikes and bikes rented elsewhere are allowed; the bike must have a leash and riders must adhere to resort guidelines for riding. If the resort you’re visiting isn’t listed, find out if it allows or disallows snow biking.

 

A Fat Bike at Telluride, CO

A Fat Bike at Telluride, CO

Note: At resorts like Sundance (UT), Sugar Bowl (CA), Boyne Highlands (MI), Telluride and Crested Butte (CO) and Giants Ridge (MN) you can go fat biking. Riders pedal what is basically a mountain bike with wider tires then generally ride on groomed XC trails.

 

Lessons/Certification: Depending on which resort you visit, you can take a lesson, get oriented or be certified. Crested Butte, for example, offers a two-hour certification starting at $110, plus bike rental and lift ticket, while Keystone’s lesson and rental costs $49, plus lift ticket. Once a guest is certified via the lesson, they can rent a bike for $40/day. Telluride’s two-hour certification costs $160 and includes a lift ticket, plus use of the bike for the day.

 

Intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders can enjoy riding at Vail’s Adventure Ridge. Cost is $70 for a full day rental, $50 for a half day; a lesson is included in the rental price. Guests can also do an evening guided snow bike tour at Vail’s Adventure Ridge; cost is $80 for the two-hour tour. A helmet, while not required, is recommended. www.skicb.com/snowbike. Rentals range from $35 to $89, depending on where you rent and whether it is a half-day or full-day rental.

 

Snowbiking at Keystone, CO. Photo courtesy Jordan Loyd.

Snowbiking at Keystone, CO. Photo courtesy Jordan Loyd.

Rental Sources: Breckenridge and Copper Mountain, www.rogerssnowbikerentals.com; A-Basin, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, www.highcountryactivities.com; Purgatory/Durango, www.durangosnowbike.com; Denver Metro (serving most CO resorts), www.rentsnowbikes.com. Salt Lake City Metro (serving Brighton),  www.outlawunion.com

 

Kim McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has been skiing for 40+ seasons. His articles have appeared in SKI, Hemispheres, POWDER, Colorado AvidGolfer, Luxury Golf & Travel, RockyMountainGolfMag.com, The Washington Post, The Toronto Sun, The Denver Post and Tastes of Italia.

Kim McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has been skiing for 40+ seasons. His articles have appeared in SKI, Hemispheres, POWDER, Colorado AvidGolfer, Luxury Golf & Travel, RockyMountainGolfMag.com, The Washington Post, The Toronto Sun, The Denver Post and Tastes of Italia.

Breckenridge is Now Even Better

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Winter Views of the Town of Breckenridge.

 

By Larry Olmsted

American skiers and snowboarders are blessed with a wealth of great choices when it comes to planning a winter vacation, and there are plenty of excellent options – but Colorado’s Breckenridge should be near the top of any short list of finalists.

Continue reading …

 

Award-winning travel journalist Larry Olmsted is a Contributing Editor to US Airways Magazine and Cigar Aficionado Magazine and “The Great Life” columnist for Forbes.com.

Award-winning travel journalist Larry Olmsted is a Contributing Editor to US Airways Magazine and Cigar Aficionado Magazine and “The Great Life” columnist for Forbes.com.

Gifts for the Skier & Snowboarder

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ScarpaBoot

By Larry Olmsted

In this week’s holiday gift guide, I tackle two of my favorite sports, skiing and snowboarding. My picks range from high performance to comfort, at every price point. Unlike many magazine gift round-ups, I have either bought or tested a manufacturer sample, and personally tried and approved each product (unless otherwise indicated).

Continue reading …

 

Award-winning travel journalist Larry Olmsted is a Contributing Editor to US Airways Magazine and Cigar Aficionado Magazine and “The Great Life” columnist for Forbes.com.

Award-winning travel journalist Larry Olmsted is a Contributing Editor to US Airways Magazine and Cigar Aficionado Magazine and “The Great Life” columnist for Forbes.com.

The Peak of Alpine Chic in Courchevel

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L'Apogee in Courchevel, France

L’Apogee in Courchevel, France

L’Apogée is the latest rarefied resort to open in Courchevel, that lair of ski-happy oligarchs in the French Alps that’s often dubbed Moscow-on-Snow. It’s situated in Courchevel 1850, the glamour-puss of the resort’s four villages (the number refers to the altitude in meters), an otherworldly locale where the sidewalks seem to sprout Parisian fashion designers and English celebrities, all jostling with those Russian magnates. This is the place, after all, that hired Karl Lagerfeld last year to give one of its cable cars a “makeover.”

Read  more at ForbesLife …

The Billionaire Who Bought Taos Ski Valley

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Hiking up Kachina Peak at Taos Ski Valley

Hiking up Kachina Peak at Taos Ski Valley

By Everett Potter

When hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon bought northern New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley (TSV) in December 2013, it baffled many in the ski world. Twenty miles outside the latter-day-hippie redoubt of Taos itself, TSV is arguably the least likely major U.S. ski resort to attract a highflier’s attention. It’s not a posh haven like Deer Valley or Beaver Creek but a none-too-chic outlier with an architectural hodgepodge of aging condos and ersatz alpine chalets. And its visitor base–it’s been drawing the same dedicated families for decades–likes it just the way it is.

Continue reading …

Colorado: The Best Week of Skiing Ever

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Copper Mountain, Colorado

Copper Mountain, Colorado

David McKay Wilson

When you have the best day of skiing, ever, on the first day of a six-day romp through the Colorado Rockies in mid-February, what do you to top that?

You have the best week of skiing ever.

That was my conclusion after skiing Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge and Winter Park over six days. The snow was deep, the air crisp, and it kept snowing, night after night, day after day.

It was a week that tested my 60-year-old legs against the likes of my two sons, 15 and 17, and godson, age 25. I chased them all week – across the back bowls of Copper Mountain, down the steeps at A-Basin, and through the fresh powder fields at Breckenridge, where the northern wind blew a gale.

It was the third consecutive year that the four of us had ventured out West for our Mancation in the mountains – to challenge ourselves on the toughest terrain we could find, endure the brutal weather that can unfold at 12,000 feet, and kick back together after a day on the slopes.

On the sixth day, on a blustery afternoon at Winter Park, with the snow still plentiful on the Mary Jane Chutes, my sons were back at the Olympia Motel, finishing up their homework in recompense for playing hooky for three days. I skied until 4 p.m. and declared victory.

The snow all week was bountiful. It began dumping in Colorado in early December, and hadn’t stopped, setting the stage for spectacular spring skiing.

At the offices of Colorado Ski Country, they had to reconfigure it website to allow three digits in the base-depths because so resorts many had more than 100 inches piled up at their mid-mountain measuring sticks.

“Mother Nature has been very kind this year,” said Jen Rudolph, of Colorado Ski Country. “Now we’re waiting for the next round of announcements, to see who will extend their closing date. I skied last year on Mother’s Day at A-Basin. It was my best Mother’s Day ever.”

Copper Mountain

Our first stop, at Copper Mountain, just off I-70 in Summit County, about two hours west of Denver International Airport,  provided a glimpse at the snowfall bonanza, and the deals to be had this year. Along with discount tickets at Liftopia.com, Copper has a $99 pass Snow Day promotion that provided a ticket on Super Bowl Sunday, Copper’s closing day, and any day in which the mountain had reported at least four inches of powder. By mid-February, there’d been 18.

We felt like heroes on our first runs at Copper. It was one of those bluebird days, with the brilliant sun revealing the majestic Tenmile Range, and three inches of light, luscious powder providing the perfect float for our rockered skies, including the pair of demo Rossi Soul 7’s my son rented from Christy Sports in Copper, and returned five days later in Breckenridge.

Far above timber line, the vast bowls of Copper were in perfect shape. So were the glades, where stashes of powder abounded through openings in the lodge-pole pines in the appropriately named Enchanted Forest.  Over on the Super Bee, where the US Olympic Ski Team did its speed work in December, I did my Ted Ligety imitation as I cranked up my GS turns to see just how fast I could go. It was plenty fast.

While I relaxed after dinner in our fifth-floor two-bedroom unit at the Passage Point lodging, the boys headed over to Woodward at Copper, the indoor facility with jumps, trampolines, and foam pits where you can work on your inverted snowboard and skiing tricks.  A word of warning: a slip-up at the facility can put you on the shelf for a day, as it did to my god son, who turned his ankle on the trampoline and sat out a day to let it heal.

Deep powder in Colorado this winter.

Deep powder in Colorado this winter.

Arapahoe Basin

On Day 3, we headed to Arapahoe Basin, the down-home mountain in Summit County that calls itself “The Legend,” which recalls its early days in the mid-1940s, and its reputation for some of Colorado’s longest lasting alpine conditions. A-Basin typically stays open past Memorial Day, when the tailgating gets serious along The Beach – the front row spots in the parking lot that can be reserved for up to $175 a day. A-Basin maintains a strong audience among the locals who snap up $299 adult season tickets and $99 for kids up to 14. A three-day adult pass was $139.

With no lodging at A-Basin, we stayed five miles down the road at the Keystone Resort, in a spacious two-bedroom  at the Sundance Manor Condos, with a well-equipped kitchen that helped for the Italian dish I whipped up for the young lads. I felt like I was doing the time warp at the Sundance, which featured two cassette boom-boxes, preserved in their 1980s splendor, in a glass cabinet. I need to bring my cassettes next year!

The opening of the Montezuma Bowl in 2007 increased the area’s terrain by 80 percent, and provides groomers for intermediates and steep chutes and cornices from those looking for a launching pad. On our visit, however, the wind was blowing a gale, leaving an unforgiving hard-pack. So we skied the front side, cavorting down the natural half-pipe on Humbug, and discovering the wonders of Pallavincini, the world-renowned run with bumps galore, and a steep pitch that tested my legs.

While making my deliberate turns, an A-Basin hot-shot straight-lined it down the edge, in a blur.

“That’s a whole different game,” remarked a fellow skier.

On a ski vacation, it’s always good to splurge, at least once, for lunch on the mountain. That day came to A-Basin, at 6th Alley, its $1 million addition, where I quaffed my thirst with a Bacon Bloody Mary, and chowed down on a savory pork stew. The boys, meanwhile, devoured mac n’ cheese with roasted tomatoes, a calzone stuffed with exotic cheese, and waffle chicken sandwich that took two hands to eat.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge

We arrived under the portico at One Ski Hill Place at Breckenridge before sunset, just as the snow began to swirl again. Open in 2010 by Rock Resorts, the 88-unit condo complex at the base of Breckenridge’s Peak 8 provides a state-of-the-art experience on slope-side skiing. The spiffy kitchen was all Bosch, the master bathroom had steam piped into the shower, and the complex’s two-lane bowling alley reminded me of grand hotel I stayed at 30 years ago in Arosa in the Swiss Alps.

Having a place on the mountain at Peak 8 is the ultimate in luxury. There’s no need for transport, as you walk to the lift, can dine at The Living Room, and even come back on lunch to make sandwiches. There’s a free gondola downtown, where you can walk to groceries at City Market, or procure some over-the-counter medication for your sore legs at the Breckenridge Cannabis Club.

The snow Gods were with us again. We awoke to six inches to a foot of fresh powder, with the snow coming down sideways. It was downright cold – 5 degrees and 40 mile-an-hour gusts. So we layered up, and headed up for the powder day of our dreams. We skied Peak 8 early, finding untouched powder eight inches deep on Cresendo. We hit it straight down the lift line on Spruce, strutting our stuff for the early morning crowd. Then it was up the T-Bar to Horseshoe Bowl, and then Contest Bowl, where the boys found a lip through the trees which they launched.

Skiing the powder at Breckenridge

Skiing the powder at Breckenridge, Colorado

While they did laps on Peak 10 through the glaes called Windows, I explored a run called Devil’s Crotch, where I found my rhythm on the steep, undulating terrain. Later that day we made it out to Peak 6, the new addition to Breckenridge, where the six-pack Kensho Super Chair ensured that the wait wasn’t long. We hiked briefly up to the Beyond Bowl, where peaks jutted up to more than 13,000 feet, and we made fresh tracks with ease down Elysian Fields, and Daydream.

The day ended with a soak in the outdoor hot tub, and a treat my Dad – an inveterate skier who instilled the love of the sport all through my childhood – would have savored: a shot of Breckenridge single barrel Bourbon Whiskey, straight up.

Skiing Winter Park, Colordao

Skiing Winter Park, Colordao

Winter Park

Our last stop was Winter Park, ski area owned by the city of Denver, and operated by Intrawest since 2002, which you reach by crossing the Continental Divide over Berthoud Pass on US Route 40. We stayed at the Olympia Motel, a no-frills economy hostelry popular with Coloradans that had all 40 rooms sold out during our stay.

From the Olympia, you are within walking distance of a dozen restaurants, including the Library Sports Grille and Brewery, where I guzzled the Winter Park Ale, a hoppy salute to the mountain village at 9,800 feet, and the boys devoured hamburger platters brimming with French fries.

If you are staying in town, take the free shuttle to the mountain. You won’t like the walk from the lot to the resort. We skied Winter Park on Sunday, and got a taste of Colorado weekend skiing – it can get mobbed.

We skied the Super Glade Express, down the soft bumps on Sterling Way. There was plenty of snow in the woods, and as I skied alone for the first time all week, ventured into glades far denser than I had in the whole trip. I took it slow, side-slipping through one particularly tight chute. It was quiet in the woods. I drank it in.

There was four inches in the parking lot at the Olympia on Sunday morning. We had a 3:45 flight p.m. flight, and contemplated grabbing a few runs before embarking for DIA. But we’d heard stories about driving back to Denver on I-70 on Sunday. So we enjoyed our continental breakfast of bagels and pastries at the Olympia, and began 65-mile drive to DIA, which took us about two hours, as we crossed the Berthoud Pass. We ogled the back country skiers and their lines down the steep chutes. We crawled along the bumper-to-bumper to traffic I-70 for 20 miles.

And we began planning for another Mancation in 2015.

http://www.breckenridge.com/

http://www.winterparkresort.com/

http://www.arapahoebasin.com/Abasin/Default.aspx

http://www.coppercolorado.com/winter/index.html

http://www.liftopia.com/

 

DW-300x268 (2)   David McKay Wilson has written on travel over the past 30 years as a freelance journalist, with his travel stories appearing in The Boston GlobePhiladelphia InquirerHartford CourantNew Haven Advocate, and Gannett News Service. An avid cyclist and skier, Wilson enjoys vacationing in the mountains and by the sea. His articles on public affairs have appeared regularly in The New York Times. He’s currently the nation’s top freelance writer for university alumni magazines, with his work appearing in publications at 81 colleges and universities, including Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown and the University of Chicago.

Telluride, Silverton & Durango

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Telluride, CO.

Telluride, CO.

Story and photos by David McKay Wilson

On the eve of my 60th birthday, I headed to the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado with my two sons and nephew to test a series of hypotheses:  Would my legs hold up for six days of skiing down some of the world’s greatest ski terrain at Telluride, Silverton and Durango?

Did dear old Dad still have it?

Was 60 the new 49?

We gloried in the luxury of Telluride’s Hotel Madeline, skied its luscious groomers and harrowing chutes, and dined on fine cuisine in one of the West’s finest resorts. At Silverton, we experienced the steeps with a guide who led us down terrain we’d hiked to at 13,000 feet and chilled in a sleepy Colorado mining town making a go of it, catering to a winter clientele that likes its powder deep, and its terrain largely untouched by other skiers. We ended our journey in Purgatory – in a netherworld between winter and spring – all cozy in a fully-equipped condo, with groomed runs softened to perfection by the bright spring sun.

We arrived in Telluride in late March, our legs in shape from a season at Vermont’s Mad River Glen. After a snowless start in December, 2012, the snow finally arrived in the San Juan Mountains in mid-January, and by late March, the base hovered at around 50 inches mid-mountain.

We stayed four days at the Hotel Madeline, just steps from the lift, in adjoining rooms, with one son sleeping on a pull-out bed with a surprisingly comfortable blow-up mattress that the ever-attentive hotel staff inflated upon our request. We passed on the breakfast buffet – at $25 a pop – and opted for peanut-butter and jam sandwiches and Cheerios in the room, which we bought at the Mountain Village market, accessed by a two-minute gondola ride from the resort plaza.

Bluebird day at Telluride.

Bluebird day at Telluride.

Telluride was not immune from the escalating cost of a day on the mountain: three day passes cost $303. But the sticker shock quickly faded once we got up on the mountain. There’s something for everyone, and the beauty of Telluride is the fact that there’s a groomed run from the top of every lift – including down the middle of Revelation Bowl, at 12,500 feet.

The bowl skiing was spectacular. We found tons of good snow off the Prospect Express lift, where we skied Black Iron Bowl. Later, we earned our turns by hiking for 15 minutes up to the double-black diamond Gold Hill Chutes, which we negotiated with care, and amazement as one bowl opened into another as we crossed a ridge.

We stayed up in Mountain Village, the resort’s own municipality, which really is the resort’s mid-station. Down below is the town of Telluride, the former mining town that had it’s heyday between the 1870-s and 1920, which over the past 40 years has become transformed into a winter destination for skiers, and a summer haunt for lovers of the arts, who flock to its weekly festivals – which includes bluegrass, jazz, and blues, as well at the Telluride Film Festival.

It’s a hip scene downtown, with the restored Sheridan Opera House attracting national acts to the its cozy 244-seat theatre, outdoor recreation shops galore, and lunch places like the Butcher and Plate serving tasty avocado, bacon and cheese sandwiches.

On the skinny skis at Telluride.

On the skinny skis at Telluride.

I decided that to make it all week, we needed to pace ourselves. On our third day, we visited the Nordic Skiing Center in Town Park to rent some skinny skis. My kids had never experienced the pleasures that come with feeling the kick-and-glide. After I provided a quick tutorial from what I’d been taught 40 years ago in Norway, they were in the groove, and flying around the 3-kilometers of tracked trail by the summer stage and along the river.

The boys wanted more activity. So we walked downtown to Paragon Bootdoctors, to rent some “fat bikes” for a guided tour” up to Bridal Veil Falls, where Tesla helped design the world’s first hydroelectric plant. The bikes are modified mountain bikes, with huge tires, four inches wide, to give you better grab on the snow, and to provide a great work-out as you climb slowly out of town.

Ashley Boling squired us around downtown on a historic tour.

Ashley Boling squired us around downtown on a historic tour.

Upon our return, Ashley Boling squired us around downtown on a historic tour, which included a stop at the New Sheridan Hotel, with its original bar – and brass foot-rail – from 1895. Boling told us that the Wild West mining town kept the whiskey flowing during Prohibition. He seemed optimistic that the town’s six medical marijuana dispensaries for a town of 2,300 would prepare the town well for the legalized marijuana trade sometime in 2014.

Two-time Olympic gold medal snowboarder Seth Wescott, dining one night at Allred’s at the gondola’s midstation, told me he returns for the terrain, the feel of the place, and its 3,875 feet of elevation from the gondola in town up to the top of Revelation Bowl.

“It has a soul,” he said, sipping a Tempter IPA.  “And the vertical is sick.”

The view from the top of Silverton.

The view from the top of Silverton.

From Telluride we drove 80 miles to Silverton Mountain, where you can access 1,800 of skiable acreage with a back-country guide, in a funky ski area served by a single lift, with nothing groomed, and no trail markings.  We stayed in Silverton at the Teller House Hotel, a Victorian-era bed-and-breakfast in the sleepy town that once thrived during the gold mining days.

Now it serves vacationers, including the skiers who pay $139 a day to be guided on the mountain, in groups of up to eight. The terrain is steep, and you have to hike to much of it.

Our guide, Marc Kloster, met us at the base – at 10,400 elevation. The lift takes you to 12,300, and there’s another 1,000 of vertical you can hike to reach 13,487 – the highest –point for lift-served skiing in North America. We didn’t hike all the way, but we headed up for 45 minutes to reach the steep snowfield called Rope Dee Dope, pointed our skis down, and followed Kloster’s line down through powder, finding our rhythm in big, swooping turns.

On the way up to Rope Dee Dope at Silverton.

On the way up to Rope Dee Dope at Silverton.

At the bottom, an old laundry van, with reggae music throbbing, picked us up, and brought us back to the lift. We kept going all day, with Kloster dialing it back on the hiking, as my legs were starting to feel it. Nevertheless, we skied five runs that day; a bottle of Pin Stripe Red Ale in the tent at the Silverton base ended the day in fine fashion.

We were bushed as we headed south for our final destination 28 miles away at Durango Mountain Resort, once known as Purgatory. We stayed a Cascade Village, a condo development just two miles north of the ski area.  Curious about downtown Durango, we drove 27 miles into town, hoping to grab a dinner and a beer at Steamworks Brewing Co. But there was a line out the door, we were bushed from a day on the slopes, so we discovered the spicy tacos at Nini’s Taqueria.

On our final day, the boys knocked off at noon, needing to address the schoolwork they’d been promising to  do all week, but never seemed to get to.  My legs had become stronger from a week in the Rockies. I still have more turns to make. So I did a slew of top-to-bottom runs – no stopping – as the spring snow softened in the afternoon sun. I quit at 3 p.m., and unwound at the resort’s Creekside Restaurant with a pint of Euphoria ale.

The 2012-13 season was over. Now we had to figure where out West our legs were destined for 2013-2014.

 

 

DW-300x268 (2)  David McKay Wilson has written on travel over the past 30 years as a freelance journalist, with his travel stories appearing in The Boston GlobePhiladelphia InquirerHartford CourantNew Haven Advocate, and Gannett News Service. An avid cyclist and skier, Wilson enjoys vacationing in the mountains and by the sea. His articles on public affairs have appeared regularly in The New York Times. He’s currently the nation’s top freelance writer for university alumni magazines, with his work appearing in publications at 81 colleges and universities, including Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown and the University of Chicago.

Travels with Larry Olmsted: For A Great Ski Vacation Try a House Instead Of Hotel

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Not your grandfather’s ski house: this “single family” rental home in Steamboat Springs, CO sleeps 32 and spans 14,000 square feet with Great Rooms and gourmet kitchens on every floor. Courtesy of Moving Mountains.

Not your grandfather’s ski house: this “single family” rental home in Steamboat Springs, CO sleeps 32 and spans 14,000 square feet with Great Rooms and gourmet kitchens on every floor. Courtesy of Moving Mountains.

 

A good friend of mine from San Francisco takes his family skiing to Utah’s glitzy Deer Valley in high style every Spring Break, and has for years – but he has never stayed in a hotel.

“It’s just so much more comfortable with a house. We have plenty of room, the kids have their own space, it’s a lot easier to have breakfast here rather than going out, and we can do laundry, which piles up fast on a ski trip with three kids.”

Some travelers have always chosen to rent condos or homes to save money, but that is not exactly the point at top ski resorts like Deer Valley, where homes can be just as pricy as luxury hotels. The idea is to have a better ski trip.

Read more at Forbes.com

 

larry  Award-winning travel journalist Larry Olmsted is a Contributing Editor to US Airways Magazine and Cigar Aficionado Magazine and “The Great Life” columnist for Forbes.com.

Banff National Park’s Big Three: Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village

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Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. Photo courtesy of Lake Louise.

Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. Photo courtesy of Lake Louise.

By David McKay Wilson

Yearning for a powder day can consume one’s thoughts while on a ski holiday. I said a prayer when I turned off my bedside lamp on the final night of our five-day sojourn in mid-December to ski Banff National Park’s Big Three: Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village.

We awoke at Sunshine Mountain Lodge to eight inches of light Canadian powder. The resort’s  TeepeeTown lift, open for the first time in the 2013-14 season, brought us to trails on Lookout Mountain with snow up to our knees on the T.P. Main Chutes.

The powder day in the Canadian Rockies was a fitting culmination of our trip to western Alberta, two weeks before Christmas.  I’d cashed in the remaining week of vacation I needed to use or lose, and my son, Luke, a high school senior, assured me he could miss a few days during his victory lap in secondary education.  Skiing through the Sunshine powder on a trail called Schoolmarm seemed appropriate for a day of playing hooky.

Skiing has long been a family tradition, with our ski vacations dating back to Luke’s first turns at age three. Now it was one of those rare times for father and son to spend a week, alone together, cranking our turns from 9 am. to 4 p.m. each day, and then kicking back to sample the fine locally sourced cuisine for which Alberta is known.

In recent years, I’ve grown fond of our annual trips out west to American ski country at my favorite places like Jackson Hole, Telluride, and Alta. But my desire to ski Canada was piqued after hearing about the direct Air Canada flight from Newark International to Calgary, and the ease of the 90-minute drive on the Trans-Canadian Highway to Banff. It was early season, and rooms for two at Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts lodges in Banff and Lake Louise were just $85 a night.

 

After landing, we drove directly to Norquay, the park’s first ski hill, just a few minutes up a twisting road from the town of Banff. It was our first outing of the season, and the 1,600-foot vertical at Norquay provided the perfect warm-up. My 60-year-old legs still had some pop, and Luke was already searching for rock outcroppings from which to launch.

We spent our first night in Banff, at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge – a quick drive up Tunnel Mountain. Downtown Banff was bustling in mid-December, with a snowboarder jam attracting hundreds of 20-somethings on Caribou Street while high-end winter apparel shops along Banff Avenue were decked out for the upcoming Christmas holiday surge.

We dined at the Bison Restaurant, where we discovered a flavorful stone flat bread with duck confit, caramelized onions, gorgonzola cheese and figs, and an oh-so tender rack of venison harvested in the nearby wilderness.

The next morning, we drove 45 minutes west on the four-lane Trans-Canadian Highway to reach Lake Louise, one of the North America’s largest ski resorts, and site of the World Cup women’s downhill a few days earlier. It was in Lake Louise that our yearnings for powder really kicked in. The early season snow Gods, which has covered the mountain by late November in 2012, had not looked kindly here in 2013.

Its famed bowls were closed, with some of the continent’s most extreme lift-served terrain looking more than a rock-strewn moonscape than double-black diamond trails. Nevertheless, Lake Louise’s vast snowmaking apparatus was blowing up a storm. The mountain crew had buffed up the groomers for spirited high-speed cruising, including on the downhill course, where I tucked a particularly steep section in my ragged imitation of Bode Miller, to see just how fast I could ski. On the backside, we found fresh snow on Raven and Ptarmigan, and skied top-to-bottom laps until the lift attendants informed us that our day was done.

Luke in limbo. Photo by David McKay Wilson

Luke in limbo. Photo by David McKay Wilson

What they didn’t know was that we’d signed up for that evening’s  Torchlight Dinner, a good-time affair that starts at 4 p.m. with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, as well as a limbo contest led by two-man band.  I watched while my limber son made it to the finals. When darkness had settled in, we gathered under a full moon at the Whitehorn Lodge atop the Glacier Chair, and skied down with headlamps, feeling the snow underfoot in an entirely new way, and thanking the mountain crew for laying down its well-grooved surface of fresh corduroy.  Back at the lodge, the party proceeded apace, with a buffet dinner and a few cans of Keith’s Pale Ale, and plenty of time to socialize with some fellow travelers.

Soaking at Deer Lodge. Photo by David McKay Wilson.

Soaking at Deer Lodge. Photo by David McKay Wilson.

At Lake Louise, we stayed at the Deer Lodge, one of the park’s historic hostelries. After skiing one day, we soaked our sore legs in its rooftop hot tub as the moon rose over the nearby mountain cliffs. Refreshed, we walked a quarter mile up the road to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the imposing castle by the glacial lake with close to 1,000 rooms.

When the Canadians decided to build the resort along the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1890s, they imported Swiss guides to lead tourists up into the mountains. That Swiss heritage remains strong at the Chateau. We dined in Walliser Stube, a wood-paneled dining room, where women strolled through with their finest furs, and the wine vault covers one entire wall. We chose for the Fuez Brothers Fondue dinner – bread dipped in Swiss cheeses for an appetizer; thinly sliced filet mignon and bison that we cooked in beef broth for an entrée; and fruit slathered in dark chocolate for dessert.

We skied on last two days at Sunshine Village. Like many American skiers, I’d never heard of the place, which was founded along the Continental Divide with a rope tow in the mid-1940s, and now has 3,300 skiable acres, making it one of North America’s biggest expanses. It’s just a 40-minute drive from Lake Louise, but enjoys a different weather pattern along the Continental Divide, which lets it capture the snow as the low pressure rolls in from the Pacific.

Sunshine’s six-month long season – from mid-November through mid-May – is testament to its prodigious snowfalls. It relies almost exclusively on natural snow, and has a system of what it calls “snow farming” in its vast above-timberline terrain to trap snow in webbed plastic fences, which later gets groomed out by Sunshine’s mountain crews.

At $238 a night, a room during the early season at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge is a bargain, when you consider that it comes with breakfast, two lift tickets – at $85 a pop – and a guarantee of fresh tracks if you are lucky enough awake to eight inches of fresh Canadian powder, as were we.

Luke gets some air at Sunshine. Photo by David McKay Wilson

Luke gets some air at Sunshine. Photo by David McKay Wilson

Our final day at Sunshine was one of those epic days of skiing that demands all that your quads can muster as you descend the steeps, and find your rhythm in the forgiving powder. It also left us yearning for more. Sunshine’s Goats Eye lift –with 1,900 feet of vertical elevation  – was opening four days after we hopped our direct flight home.

Sunshine’s season extends to mid-May. Spring skiing in Banff sounds like a plan.

 

DW-300x268 (2)   David McKay Wilson has written on travel over the past 30 years as a freelance journalist, with his travel stories appearing in The Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Hartford Courant, New Haven Advocate, and Gannett News Service. An avid cyclist and skier, Wilson enjoys vacationing in the mountains and by the sea. His articles on public affairs have appeared regularly in The New York Times. He’s currently the nation’s top freelance writer for university alumni magazines, with his work appearing in publications at 81 colleges and universities, including Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown and the University of Chicago.

 

Smart Deals: Sonnenalp Hotel’s Ski Safari

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The Sonnenalp Hotel, Vail

The Sonnenalp Hotel, Vail

What’s the Deal: The Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail is one of my favorite ski hotels in the world, a gracious old-world family-run property that has seemingly been magically airlifted from the Alps.  The Sonnenalp Hotel’s Ski Safari is a package that gives guests the opportunity to ski and ride four of Colorado’s top resorts in four days, all while being guided by one of the world’s best skiers, Olympian Sarah Schleper, and Sonnenalp Hotel owner Johannes Faessler.

The Details:  Ski the slopes at Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge or any combination of the four, depending on which resort offers the best ski conditions for the day. Ski Safari at the Sonnenalp Hotel includes: five nights lodging, a four-day lift ticket, breakfast each morning at the Sonnenalp Hotel, daily transportation to and from the hotel to the mountain, a ski guide for four days and two cocktail receptions for the group.

Backstory: Sarah Schleper is a four-time Olympian and FIS Alpine Ski World Cup winner. Throughout her 15 year skiing career, Schleper took part in 186 World Cup races and achieved four podium finishes including one victory.  The VailValley has been her home her entire life.

Fine Print: The Ski Safari Package is available from Jan. 12-17, 2014; Feb. 9-14, 2014 and Mar. 30- Apr. 4, 2014. The cost of this ski adventure is $3,530 for double occupancy and $2,700 for single occupancy.

Booking: Visit http://sonnenalp.com/skisafari/index.html

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