The Ski Resort world has closely mirrored the contemporary American corporate landscape with the “big boys” buying up smaller resorts through merges and acquisitions. Fortunately this often ends up to be a win-win for snow loving consumers. If you have the time, money and inclination to ski a lot this winter—you are in luck.
Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood are now truly “epic.” First of all, these fine Lake Tahoe area-mountains are part of the Vail Resorts team offering the Tahoe Local Pass at $459, which offers unlimited skiing or riding at the three resorts—including Saturdays (some blackout dates apply). The excitement expands by purchasing the full Epic Pass at $709. This pass offers unlimited, unrestricted access to all Vail resorts properties in California, Utah (The Canyons), Colorado (Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge) and five days skiing at selected resorts in Switzerland, Austria and France, such as Verbier, Arlberg and Courchevel. Check out epicpass.com for all resorts and important details. There’s even a contest for the first person to ski at all 26 included resorts.
The Mountain Collective Pass is back and better than ever. This pass—currently selling for $379—is more for the uber ski traveler but absolutely a great deal if you want to experience some of the best resorts in North America. It includes two ski days at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows and also two days each at Alta/Snowbird (Snowbird is awesome), Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Mammoth and Whistler Blackcomb. It would be hard to imagine a more impressive group of resorts to visit in a season. Find details and deals at mountaincollective.com.
Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort has invested $4.5 million into a new (and needed) 9,000 sq. ft. plaza in front of the resort that should streamline and enhance the visitor experience. Sierra Resorts has also joined the Powder Alliance, which allows unlimited passholders free skiing at twelve Western Resorts, considered boutique “Gems” of the West. Among others, these include: Crested Butte, Snowbasin, Timberline, Schweitzer, Arizona Snowbowl, Mt. Hood Skibowl and Bridger Bowl. It’s a steal at $379 but some restrictions apply, so see sierraattahoe.com for full info. Additionally, Sierra unlimited passholders can receive free early and late season lift tickets at both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. “We are just happy when people are out enjoying the mountains,” said Steve Hemphill, PR Director at Sierra-at-Tahoe. This season, Sierra-at-Tahoe is also offering free “Gates with a Guide” tours on Fridays, and guided snowcat tours focused on improving backcountry skills.
Other Tahoe news: Sugar Bowl is opening the new Crow’s Peak Chair providing access to 150 acres of advanced/expert terrain in the hereto hike-to-terrain Strawberry Fields area. The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe (located mid-mountain at Northstar) has named Stanley Miller the new executive chef of its signature restaurant Manzanita. (Don’t miss if you’re at Northstar.) Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe has begun a big, $23.5 million expansion that will include almost 100 acres of additional terrain, expanded snowmaking, a couple of new chairlifts and a new restaurant. They’ve also partnered with various Reno casino properties to offer excellent stay-and-ski packages starting as low as $79.
Pass deals aren’t for everyone, but if you’re interested, it’s best to act fast. Some passes will be sold out and the prices seem to go up as the snow comes down.
Photo 2: Northstar, by Chris Bartkowski
Photo 3: Squaw Valley Groomer, by Hank deVre
Photo 4: Squaw Valley Tram, by Nathan Kendall
Photo 5: View from Squaw Valley, by Keoki Flagg