It’s not just the snow that is plentiful in ski country this season, so, too, are the offerings from an industry that is hustling to attract millennials and Gen Xers who have proven to be less interested in skiing and snowboarding than their parents.
Mid-way through the season, here are some of the newest developments affecting skiers and riders in the western United States.
Machines and mountains
Many old chairlifts are being replaced, and new ones are opening up fresh territory. In Colorado alone, said Chris Linsmayer, a spokesman for the nonprofit trade group Colorado Ski Country USA, 11 lifts have been installed or replaced since the start of the 2018-19 season.
“Guests have come to expect quick lift times and comfort, and the ski areas are spending with that sort of capital investment,” said Adrienne Saia Isaac, director of marketing and communications for the National Ski Areas Association.
A new $15 million gondola at the Steamboat Ski Resort in Colorado moves people from the base nearly 38 percent faster than the old one, said the resort’s spokeswoman, Loryn Duke. In California, the new $11 million Treeline Cirque quad chairlift at Alpine Meadows has a mid-station where the previous lift ended, and then continues with a 1,300-foot extension.
Woodward Park City in Utah opened in December, offering year-round sports and activities, and a “humanpowered” backcountry ski area opened in Northern Colorado this month. At Bluebird Backcountry at Peak Ranch, people pay $50 for access to 300 acres of open and gladed terrain. (Another 1,200 acres can be accessed by hiring a guide.) Ticket-holders skin up, but have the amenities of a traditional ski area with rentals, lessons, ski patrol and a warming hut. It will be open just 15 days (mostly weekends) between Feb. 15 and March 15.
The base and the basics
It’s also easier to get to some areas, and to get outfitted once there.
American Airlines has started nonstop service on Saturdays from Philadelphia International Airport to Colorado’s Eagle County Regional Airport for the winter, making it more convenient for some travelers to get to Vail, Beaver Creek and other places.
Taos Air charter service now flies to Taos, N.M., from California’s Hawthorne-Los Angeles and Carlsbad-San Diego airports.
Colorado’s new Snowstang bus service on winter weekends offers an affordable way to get from downtown Denver to Loveland Ski Area, Arapahoe Basin and Steamboat. Alta, Solitude and Brighton joined Snowbird in Utah on an app called R.I.D.E. (Reducing Individual Driving for the Environment) to encourage car-pooling by offering incentives.
And winter outerwear is now available for rent at Big Sky Resort in Montana and dozens of other resorts. That makes it easier for those who don’t want to haul suitcases, or invest in expensive outerwear.
New hotels and accommodations
At the base of Peak 9 in Breckenridge, Colo., the new Gravity Haus hotel and social club recently opened “for the modern adventurer.” It has 60 rooms, a co-working space, a trampoline and a Japanese-inspired bathhouse.
In Jackson Hole, Wyo., the extreme-sports filmmaker Teton Gravity Research moved into the travel industry with the debut of the T.G.R.-branded Continuum hotel.
There’s also a lot happening in Aspen, Colo., where a new W hotel and the Snow Lodge pop-up restaurant — open until April and backed by the owners of the Surf Lodge in Montauk, N.Y. — both ooze a party vibe.
The W is the city’s first luxury hotel in 25 years. The slope-side property has 88 guest rooms, ranging from a two-bedroom suite with a circular bed and D.J. booth to rooms with bunk beds sleeping up to eight people. An underground cocktail bar is decorated to commemorate Aspen’s former Red Light district, and the roof deck, open year round, boasts a heated pool, fire pits, dance floor and another D.J. booth.
Utah’s Deer Valley Resort and Cooper in Colorado are among the recent converts to R.F.I.D. technology, a change that allows a guest to keep their lift ticket in their pocket, rather than have it scanned.
The technology can help reduce lift-line bottlenecks and allows a single pass to be used at multiple resorts, said Oliver Suter, head of marketing and sales for Axess AG, a provider of ticket and access management systems.
It also collects data. That’s useful for resorts, and tracking the stats can be fun for skiers and riders; so much so that it has started to gamify skiing and snowboarding.
EpicMix allows Epic Pass holders to earn pins for a range of challenges at 15 resorts. Credit is awarded for vertical feet, chairlift sequences, days on the slopes and more. Not to be outdone, this season Ikon Pass introduced its app, which tracks lifts, trails, distance, hours, altitude and more, as well as comparing the stats of the user against a leader board of the top 25 guests for each of the 41 Ikon Pass destinations.
Follow Karen Schwartz on Twitter: @WanderWomanIsMe