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Misty Milioto | Photo: Paul Zizka ZIZKA/Banff Lake Louise Tourism, Tripp Fay/Copper Mountain, Chris Mclennan | November 18, 2013
When it comes to skiing, getting extreme isn’t limited to the slopes—from revamped luxury hotels and new world-class restaurants to outrageous mountain adventures, North America’s best resorts beckon the adventurous soul with numerous developments for 2014.
Skiing doesn’t get much better than on the West Coast. For starters, there’s Mammoth Mountain (mammothmountain.com), which boasts an average 300 days of sunshine and 400 inches of snowfall every year. This December, Mammoth Mountain’s neighboring resort, June Mountain (junemountain.com), is reopening with full winter operations. And, because both resorts are located within a five-hour drive of Las Vegas, guys can ski waist-deep powder in the morning and be on The Strip for cocktails and blackjack later in the evening.
Of course, there’s also Lake Tahoe (visitinglaketahoe.com), which offers nine premier ski resorts surrounding the lake in both California and Nevada. And, with more than $100 million worth of ongoing capital improvements designed to boost the region’s bid to host the 2015 Winter X Games and the 2026 Winter Olympics, its new developments are sure to please this winter. Throw in the nonstop nightlife to be found on the south shore of the lake, and it’s a set-up that’s hard to beat.
The Westin Monache Resort Mammoth (westinmammoth.com) offers a new promotion that’s perfectly tailored to a manly getaway. The Mammoth Man Package includes overnight accommodations in a luxurious one-bedroom suite, a signature Storm Ridin’ welcome cocktail, a tour of Mammoth Brewing Company and a pub crawl map so participants can do some exploring on their own. Add an optional 1.5-hour snowmobile adventure for $130 per person. Studio suites from $400, package starts at $370 per night
Skiers flock to Mammoth Mountain for more than 3,500 acres, 3,100 vertical feet and a top elevation of 11,053 feet—the highest in California. So it’s no wonder that when they’re done for the day, it’s time for some serious unwinding. One great place to head is the new Underground Lounge (facebook.com/undergroundloungemammoth), a live-music venue with a bar, lounge and ritzy VIP area. Don’t miss the Angus filet-mignon sliders and impressive selection of imported beers.
Or, if visitors still have some energy left, they might want to try their hand at Mammoth Rock ‘n’ Bowl. Scheduled to bow in early winter, this state-of-the-art activity center combines 12 bowling lanes and three golf simulators with an upscale restaurant and bar. Darts, pingpong tables and a laser maze attraction up the revelry factor.
South Lake Tahoe
Adrenaline junkies won’t want to miss Kirkwood Mountain Resort’s (kirkwood.com) deep snow and steep terrain. Recent behind-the-scenes investments made to ensure smooth operations on a mountain that averages more than 600 inches of annual snowfall include new snow control and snow removal equipment, as well as a new ski-patrol station atop Chair 10. Additionally, Expedition: Kirkwood (expedition.kirkwood.com), a suite of training programs for hard-core thrill-seekers, has received a new million-dollar facility that features classrooms, a backcountry‐focused demo center, high‐end retail space and door‐to‐door access for snowcat powder tours.
Heavenly Mountain Resort (skiheavenly.com) is revving up the action this winter at its Unbuckle at Tamarack après-ski parties. Taking place daily from 3:30 to 5:30pm, the festivities feature DJ-spun music, drink specials, giveaways and lots of dancing. This season, the party moves out onto the patio at Tamarack Lodge (tamaracklodge.com), with more outdoor lighting, special appearances by dance troupe The Heavenly Angels on Fridays and Saturdays, and another bar to reduce wait times for cocktails.
With phenomenal ski destinations in Alberta and British Columbia, as well as notable resorts in Vancouver, Canada is a skier’s paradise. In Alberta, there’s Ski Banff–Lake Louise–Sunshine (skibig3.com), made up of three impressive resorts that are known collectively as the Big 3: Lake Louise Ski Resort (skilouise.com), Mt. Norquay (banffnorquay.com) and Sunshine Village (skibanff.com). Together, the three destinations total almost 8,000 acres of skiable terrain on one tri-area lift ticket. Also in Alberta, Nakiska Mountain Resort (skinakiska.com) is home to more than 1,000 skiable acres and 71 marked trails, almost 90 percent of which are tailored to intermediate and advanced skiers. British Columbia, meanwhile, has Whistler Blackcomb (whistlerblackcomb.com), a spectacular resort that averages more than 460 inches of annual snowfall and has 8,171 acres of terrain.
Lake Louise Ski Resort, known as the birthplace of skiing in Canada, is revealing enhanced amenities this season. In addition to improved snowmaking and grooming, it’s refurbishing Whitehorn Lodge, which is located midmountain and offers views of Lake Louise, Mount Temple and Victoria Glacier. It’s also improving Temple Lodge on the back side.
At Mt. Norquay, guests will enjoy widened runs and a new observation deck at the historic Cliff House—a great place to take in views of the town of Banff and Bow Valley.
Meanwhile, Nakiska Mountain Resort, which enjoys bragging rights for being one of the first resorts to open each year in North America, has added The Beast snowcat groomer to provide smoother, softer snow that’s ripe for carving.
Located at Sunshine Village resort, the eco-boutique Sunshine Mountain Lodge (sunshinemountainlodge.com) is the only ski-in/ski-out hotel in Banff National Park. This season, the lodge is offering the Yoga & Ski Package with pre- or post-ski stretching at 6,000 feet. Rooms from $120 per person, package rates vary
Also located at Sunshine Village, Banff’s highest elevated hotel, The Rimrock Resort Hotel (rimrockresort.com) has upgraded all of its standard rooms with an elegant, modern aesthetic. Look for new leather chairs, carpets and bedding, among other improvements. Rooms from $168 per night
The good news last season at Nakiska Mountain Resort was the opening of the new barbecue pit at the base area. More good news: This year the deck has been expanded to provide even more space to enjoy a well-deserved repast and cocktail before heading back out on the mountain.
With more than 20 ski resorts nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, life for tourists and many locals alike largely revolves around skiing. And, with reliable snowfall year in and year out—and more than 300 days of annual sunshine— visitors are sure to find the perfect cure for wintertime blues.
Extreme guys who want to hone their tricks while learning how to progress in the terrain parks will find just the thing at Copper Mountain (coppercolorado.com). The Woodward at Copper Barn (woodwardatcopper.com), which houses an indoor/outdoor year-round action-sport program, recently underwent a half-million-dollar renovation. Look for a new beginner foam pit with 2- and 4-foot jumps, a pump track designed to help develop park skills and new programming to help produce noticeable results on the snow.
For something a little different, head to Estes Park (visitestespark.com) for a guided backcountry skiing experience along the eastern side of the Continental Divide. Certified ski guides at local outfitter ClimbingLife (climbinglife.com) can be counted on to identify the best areas to ski in Rocky Mountain National Park—and find the best and safest snow conditions to meet clients’ needs, whether it’s a mellow afternoon or an all-out testosterone showdown with the crew.
Choose from one of three recently remodeled homes available for rent at Four Seasons Resort & Residences Vail (fourseasons.com), each featuring a fully equipped kitchen and dining area. One particular stunner is a six-bedroom abode with a large outdoor terrace, game and billiards room, and man cave. The resort is also offering the exciting Adventure & Après Package. Book a room and receive a $100 credit toward a winter activity such as dog sledding through the Vail Valley (visitvailvalley.com) or snowmobiling in the backcountry with experienced guides who know how to suss out the powder. Skiers then head to the resort’s Fireside Lounge, where a custom selection of après-ski eats, such as elk corn dogs and barrel-aged cocktails await. For more formal dining, visit the recently relaunched in-house restaurant Flame, a modern mountain steakhouse featuring tableside steak carving and creative apps. Spirits aficionados won’t want to miss the Four Seasons’ Barrel-Aging Class; here, guests learn how to make their own barrel-aged drink and receive a mini barrel to take home. As part of the Four Seasons Mountain Collection Passport Program, guests staying at all three of the hotel’s mountain resorts (Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Whistler, BC; and Vail) receive discounted lodging and a custom snowboard or set of skis. Rooms from $325 per night, six-bedroom residence from $8,250 per night, package starts at $325 per night, Barrel-Aging Class $150 per person
The Sebastian Vail (thesebastianvail.com) offers the truly unique Machine Guns & Roses Package. For those curious as to what it’s like to fire a machine gun, here’s the opportunity. The package includes lessons on both safety and the history of the guns. Afterward, settle down with a Bloom Spa MANicure and retreat to a luxury room with two queen-size beds. Or relax with dinner at Leonora, a new tapas bistro inspired by the cuisine of the Alps, Pyrenees and Rockies. Guest rooms from $330, suites from $850, package starts at $725 per night
Plan ahead and book the Custom Ski Vacation Package at Solaris Vail (solarisvail.com) to receive a set of Folsom Custom Skis upon arrival at the resort. Hand-built to clients’ satisfaction, each set of skis features a personalized flex pattern, camber profile, shape, length and stiffness. Participants have the opportunity to provide their own graphics or choose from supplied Folsom designs available exclusively to Solaris guests. Rooms from $395 per night, package starts at $3,700
Seasoned snowboarders are sure to love the new Burton Mountain Experience at Vail Ski & Snowboard School (vail.com). Small groups of advanced riders pair up with the mountain’s top instructors, who divulge the best stashes on Vail’s 5,200-plus acres—all from a snowboarder’s perspective. Available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, this crash course also includes Burton demo equipment and the opportunity to circumvent lift lines all day. Rates vary
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa (beavercreek.hyatt.com) is unveiling a $4 million renovation this winter, bringing a fresh, mountain-contemporary vibe to the hotel’s 190 guest rooms. It doesn’t get much manlier than scotch and cigars, and mountain men are sure to love the new Gentlemen’s Package. It features a bevy of perks, such as top-shelf scotch from a Colorado distillery; high-quality cigars; a snow cat tour for two that includes the use of top-notch K2 powder skis, beacons and backcountry gear; a hearty lunch at a backcountry yurt; a $150 food and beverage credit to the in-house 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill; deep tissue massages at the hotel’s Allegria Spa; and a three-night stay in a premium guest room. Rooms from $550 per night, package starts at $1,340 per person
Watch the world’s best skiers at the Birds of Prey World Cup (bcworldcup.com). The event includes two weekends of downhill racing (women: Nov. 29-Dec. 1; men: Dec. 6-8). Afterward head to Beaver Creek Village (beavercreek.com) to celebrate with music, public bib draws and autographs. This is the only opportunity to see the U.S. Ski Team compete for World Cup gold—on one of the toughest racecourses in the world, no less—prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.