Ski Preview: 5 Headlines to Watch in North America

A variety of new and increased flights will improve access to Telluride Ski Resort this season.
A variety of new and increased flights will improve access to Telluride Ski Resort this season.

Ski season is around the corner and with it a host of new upgrades, improvements and offers at resorts in the Rocky Mountains and New England. We’ve rounded up some top developments to keep an eye on.

Vail’s Big Plans in Utah

Clients headed to Utah this winter are in for some big changes: This season will mark the debut of Vail Resorts, Inc.’s $50 million capital improvement project to connect Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort. Vail says the connection will create the largest single ski area in the country, with more than 7,300 acres of skiable terrain.

Vail purchased Park City Mountain Resort back in 2014. This season, the company will begin operating the two resorts under a unified Park City brand, with the tagline, “There is only one. Park City.” The Canyons base area will be renamed “Canyons at Park City.”

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Vail will add an eight-passenger, high-speed gondola between the base of Park City’s Silverlode Lift (here) and Flatiron Lift at Canyons.
Vail will add an eight-passenger, high-speed gondola between the base of Park City’s Silverlode Lift (here) and Flatiron Lift at Canyons.

As part of the improvement project, Vail will add an eight-passenger, high-speed two-way gondola from the base of the existing Silverlode Lift at Park City to the Flatiron Lift at Canyons. Additionally, the company will upgrade two other lifts at Park City: King Con Lift will go from a four-person to a six-person, high-speed detachable chairlift, and the Motherlode Lift will be upgraded from a fixed-grip triple to a four-person, high-speed detachable chairlift. Both moves will improve lift capacity and reduce crowding and lift lines, Vail said.

Off the trail, Vail will build a completely new Snow Hut restaurant at the base of the Silverlode Lift and next to the Park City terminal for the Interconnect Gondola, with 500 indoor seats. The “scramble area” inside the Summit House restaurant will also add seats and change its layout to improve the flow of diners. At Canyons, the Red Pine Restaurant will be renovated to accommodate an additional 250 indoor seats.

Finally, Vail will round out the project with some snowmaking upgrades on two trails in the Iron Mountain area of Canyons, which the company says will become increasingly central ski terrain due to its proximity to the gondola connecting the two resort areas. The plan also includes almost $5 million of “catch up” maintenance and upgrades at Park City.

Colorado Ski Passport Program

In Colorado, Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) will be bringing back its popular 5th and 6th Grade Passport Programs for the upcoming season. Good for multigenerational clients to keep in mind, the program offers free access for fifth graders and discounted access for sixth graders at 20 of Colorado’s ski resorts. The program aims to introduce fifth and sixth grade children to skiing and snowboarding, CSCUSA said.

The CSCUSA 5th Grade Passport allows fifth graders three days of free skiing at participating resorts, and the 6th Grade Passport allows sixth graders four days of skiing at member resorts for $99. New for the 2015-16 ski season, passport holders are also entitled to one free daily ski or snowboard equipment rental from Christy Sports, a new presenting sponsor for the program.

For first-time clients, CSCUSA’s First Class lesson program allows 5th Grade Passport holders who have never skied nor snowboarded before to receive a free ski or snowboard lesson and one day of rental equipment during the month of January (Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month). First Class is available at 17 resorts, and advance reservations are required. Reservations begin in November.

New Flights to Telluride

Also in Colorado, Telluride will be stepping up its air service this season with the addition of new flights from New York-LaGuardia on United Airlines, Los Angeles and Chicago on American Airlines and Las Vegas on Allegiant to Telluride/Montrose Airport.

Additionally, American Airlines will be running an additional 50 percent flights from Dallas-Ft. Worth, more than doubling DFW service to the area over the past two seasons. From Phoenix, flights will more than double this winter.

Delta will also up its capacity with the addition of Wednesdays to its Saturday and Sunday flights from Atlanta in the second half of the season.

This season, Okemo Mountain Resort will add a second high-speed bubble chairlift.
This season, Okemo Mountain Resort will add a second high-speed bubble chairlift.

New Upgrades at Okemo

On the East Coast, Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont is adding a few new updates and improvements to be aware of this winter.

The resort is adding a second high-speed bubble chairlift, named Quantum Four. Along with the recent upgrade and renaming of the Jackson Gore Express Quad that saw the replacement of chairs with four-passenger bubble chairs, this new lift will make Okemo the first resort in North America to have multiple bubble chairlifts.

The new bubble chairlift will join the Sunshine Quad, a new fixed-grip Leitner-Poma chairlift that will connect the Village Center at SouthFace Village, Okemo’s newest on-mountain community, to the South Face Express Quad, providing access to the new Suncatcher trail.

The resort is also adding Real.Easy Card RFID ticketing, which will allow guests to pass through gates equipped with special RFID readers without stopping to fumble with bulky gloves and jackets in order to fish their lift tickets out of their pockets. After an initial visit to the ticket window to purchase a Real.Easy Card, guests can go directly to the lift on subsequent visits, as well as refill their card with additional lift tickets and resort credit by going online.

In terms of trail improvements, the resort will expand its snowmaking for the third year in a row with the addition of two snowmaking trails: White Lightning and Rolling Thunder at Jackson Gore, increasing snowmaking coverage to 98 percent of Okemo’s trails. The resort is also adding another new Prinoth 500 horsepower Beast to its fleet of grooming machines.

For terrain park and pipe lovers, Okemo will be enhancing the Tomahawk trail with additional jumps and hits. The resort will also be renaming its Homeward Bound terrain park to recognize the contributions of Okemo’s first Snowboarding Program Director Gordon Robbins, including jumps, hips and features meant to highlight and celebrate Robbins’ love of snowboarding.

Learn to Ski at Bromley

New for 2015-16 at Vermont’s Bromley Resort is “Super Duper 6-Pack,” a learn-to-ski or -ride package that comes with free skis or a snowboard. For $649, children and young adults ages five to 14 receive six full-day KidsRule Mountain Camp lessons and are presented with a pair of Rossignol Terrain Boy skis with bindings, or a Burton Chopper or Custom Smalls board and bindings to keep. What’s more, the young students will have successfully earned a 2015-16 Bromley season pass to practice what they’ve learned. Ski or snowboard boots and accessories are available at a 15 to 25 percent discount from Potter Brothers Ski & Snowboard Shop located at the Bromley base area.

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