Where to Ski, Stay and Apres in 2015
The white stuff will soon start flying in mountain resorts across North America, bringing snow bunnies, boarders and schussers along with it. Alex Pasquariello has your guide to what’s fresh at the best ski resorts in the West, from new terrain to hot gear, and the best places to party après ski
Vail & Beaver Creek, Colorado
The powdery steeps at these ritzy Rockies sister resorts will be the center of the global ski world February 2 through 15 when they host the 2015 FIS World Ski Championships with 700 athletes from 70 nations. You don’t have to be a pro to enjoy the upgrades each resort has made over the last two seasons, including Vail’s Gondola One (think heated cabins with WiFi) and Beaver Creek’s state-of-the-art Centennial Lift, which alternates six-passenger chairs with 10-passenger gondola cabins. Bomb the Birds of Prey downhill course like Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn and then slide into the new Talons Restaurant at the base of Grouse Mountain for a salmon burger with truffle fries. Zip your smartphone up in your parka because Vail Resorts’ EpicMix app has digitized the mountain. Plug in your stats and answer a few questions and the guide will customize an itinerary for your day on the hill, allow you to e-race against Lindsey Vonn (track and share your time and the fastest skiers will be invited to race against Vonn in March 2015). Wind down at The 10th an on-mountain hotspot pouring craft booze by The 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company, including moonshine made with local Olathe corn.
High above the historic hamlet for which the resort is named, Breckenridge’s Peak 6 is the largest ski area expansion in America in a decade. Once a favorite among locals for hike-to terrain, the 524 snowy acres spilling down 12,302-foot Peak 6 are now accessible via high-speed quad chairlift from which a hike in either direction leads to gnarly shoots and wide-open powder bowls. The high alpine terrain transitions into dwarf pine glades that feel a million miles from the town’s colorful Main Street. In reality, it’s just a few turns back to the Breck Connect Gondola to the town’s rowdy bars and gourmet bistros. Book a private guide and you’ll get on mountain before the lifts open, hanging out in the ski patrol hut till you can make fresh tracks for two hours before the slopes fill up. Breck was one of the first resorts to embrace snowboarding, so grab a locally made one from Unity Snowboards, perfect for slaying Peak 6’s pow and popping off the lip in the Superpipe. Refuel behind the Victorian façade of Briar Rose Chophouse & Saloon on local beef, lamb, duck, pork and trout paired with vintages from their globe-spanning list.
Aspen is the cultural capital of the Rockies, and the town’s just-opened, $45 million, Shigeru Ban-designed Aspen Art Museum is a must visit this winter with pieces by Gabriel Kuri, Rob Pruitt, Yves Klein and more. Then of course, there’s the skiing with the four mountains of Aspen-Snowmass, each offering unique terrain from big-mountain bowls to World Cup speed courses and X-Games-approved halfpipes. You need to look the part in this tony town and ski-pioneer Klaus Obermeyer is the man to kit you out. The 94-year-old still skis every day and has been designing gear since 1947. Go for a jacket with his patented waterproof-breathable fabrics to stay warm and dry on the mountain and stylish in town, where you can drink in the city’s embarrassment of hyper-local libations. Toast the day at Aspen Brewing Company over pints of appropriately titled Independence Pass Ale, Pyramid Peak Porter and Conundrum Red Ale.
Park City, Utah
This former mining town at the foot of the Utah’s Wasatch Range is the most accessible mountain playground in the West. Hollywood discovered the former mining town back in 1981 when Robert Redford first hosted Sundance, and the Olympics followed 21 years later. This winter, two of its top ski mountains—Canyons Resort and Park City Mountain Resort—are both skiable with Vail Resorts’ EpicPass. The two resorts combine to provide more than 7,300 skiable acres blanketed by more than 350 inches of powpow every winter. If you’re looking for the parks and terrain to help you go freestyle, check into Park City Mountain Resort’s Neff Land for a trippy terrain park where jumps and jibs are giant cupcakes, snowcones and candy canes. Click in to RAMP Sports’ Groundhog skis for all-mountain thrills. They’re pressed in Park City with FSC-certified bamboo cores and have shoveled out tips perfect for the pow. After a day on the slopes, slide down Park City’s Quit ‘N Time run right into James Beard-award winning saloon High West Distillery. Get off the mountain early for a tour and get a peek at the 250-pound copper pot that distills treats like Campfire Whiskey, blending Scotch, bourbon and rye whiskeys.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
With its stunning Teton panoramics, 4,000-foot vertical drop, 450-plus inches of snow, and legendary Red Tram, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a worthy notch on any schusser’s belt. This winter it’s easier than ever to ride the steeps and deeps because Jackson Hole Airport has increased air capacity with non-stop flights from 13 cities including Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, LA, and San Francisco. Standing atop Rendezvous Bowl and looking out over the craggy spires, it's hard not to wonder what lurks beyond the resort boundaries. Heed the call of the wild with the resort's guided backcountry tour and go where no lift, snowcat or chopper can. Ride the steeps in local-shredder Travis Rice’s new Quiksilver collection. Then sidle up in a real saddle bar seat at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, a veritable museum of genuine cowboy memorabilia. After dark it’s a live music mecca and a fave stop for the nation’s top country western acts, including Asleep at the Wheel and Willie Nelson.
Squaw Valley, California
Combined with sister resort Alpine Meadows, this North Lake Tahoe resort sprawls over 6,000 skiable acres blanketed by more than 450 inches of snow every winter. This winter Squaw Valley is entering the fourth winter in a five-year, $70 million renaissance that has added the Big Blue Express, a high-speed chairlift, and the Mountain Meadow chairlift, accessing mellow terrain best for beginner skiers and snowboarders. Additionally, the resort’s ecological forest thinning project added nearly 100 skiable acres in the Red Dog Glades, Paris Glades, and Heidi’s Glades. A new team of The North Face Mountain Guides will provide unprecedented access to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows’ most coveted terrain and secret stashes. Plus, participants will also receive a ThermoBall Jacket from The North Face, one of the most technically advanced pieces of outerwear in the company’s winter collection. For après, slide into Stoked Oak, Alpine Meadows’ brand new BBQ joint with a wood-fired grill churning out pulled pork, ribs, veggie kabobs and cast iron trout. All dishes will feature a recommended beer pairing from a selection of Northern California and Pacific Northwest microbrews.
Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia
With 8,171 acres, three glaciers, 16 alpine bowls, over 200 trails and an average annual snowfall of 450 inches, the side-by-side peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb are a snow rider’s paradise. This year’s $12 million investment comes on the heels of last year’s $18 million investment in the new Crystal Ridge Express and Harmony 6 Express chairlifts. The resort continues to perfect the Crystal Ridge zone, widening trails including Rock n’ Roll, Backstage Pass, and Ridgerunner. Whistler-Blackcomb is one of the biggest resorts in North America, so keep track of your location with Smith Optics’ new I/O Recon goggles, which use Recon technology, GPS and Bluetooth to display your speed, vertical feet skied, altitude, location, and even text messages coming into your phone on your lenses. Whistler Village’s proximity to the Pacific makes for the freshest fish available at a mountain resort. Slide into Sushi Village for a salmon- and sake-fueled scene. For the ultimate Canadian après experience check out The Amsterdam Cafe Pub, a.k.a. “The Dam," for a spicy Caesar, Canada’s version of the Bloody Mary.