Details, Details

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, Travel Guide 1997-1998

Details, Details
By Rob Story

Place to get frostbite in August: Timberline, Oregon
The Palmer Snowfield (upper elevation, 8,500 feet) at Timberline Ski Area on Mt. Hood is the only U.S. lift-serviced run that's open all summer. Getting in some off-season turns on a hot summer day is a rare thrill — until a freak storm blows in off the Pacific, freezing the straw beach hats right to the heads of under-dressed gate skiers and snowboarders. — R.C.J.

What's New: Crested Butte, known for its death-defying double-black-diamond terrain and its duct-tape-wearing, ice-ax-toting hard-core skiers and boarders, is hosting this year's ESPN Winter X Games. A new half-pipe is being constructed at the base area, offering non-competitors plenty of space for viewing the events from the comfort of the lodge and restaurant.

Where to Bunk: For die-hards who want on-slope convenience (with big hotel niceties), the Crested Butte Marriott Resort (doubles, $99-$163; 800-544-8448) has newly renovated rooms with balconies (some have Jacuzzis). The Claim Jumper B&B (doubles, $89-$129; 800-544-8448) is right in town (three miles from the slopes). Each of the six themed rooms (mining, log cabin, etc.) has a private bath and accommodates up to four people.

Local Wisdom: Develop your adductor muscles: Crested Butte's famous North Face lift is a platter, which can be difficult for snowboarders to squeeze their legs around. Grip it wrong and you risk the ultimate embarrassment: falling off a surface lift. Most days at Crested Butte will take you through Paradise Bowl. When exiting Paradise, be sure to stay on the high traverses; the lower ones are too flat for snowboarding.

What's New: Baker, known for its lack of big-resort convenience, doesn't go bonkers on development every year, so this year's opening of its Performance Rental Test Center, where you can rent the latest in snowboards and skis, is significant.

Where to Bunk: For the budget-conscious who want that "Twin Peaks" feel, check out Glacier Creek Lodge (doubles, $42-$65; cabins, $60-$145; 360-599-2991), with nine standard motel units and 12 cabins, some with fireplaces and kitchens. Mt. Baker veterans who realize that staying in is the pinnacle of local nightlife gravitate to the Mt. Baker Chalet (360-599-2405), which rents everything from chalets to cabins to condos. Prices range from about $50 per night for a basic cabin to $250 for a four-bedroom chalet with kitchen, living room, and fireplace or woodstove.

Local Wisdom: Don't try to follow anyone in a red-and-yellow Marmot ski suit: These are the Air Bears, a posse of international jumping freaks who come to Baker for the sick drops and laissez-faire ski patrol.

What's New: A new platter lift extends from the Big Burn summit to the above-treeline powder bowls of the Cirque (12,510 feet), which previously was accessible only by snowcat or on foot. The new surface lift gives Snowmass the highest lift-served terrain in the country.

Where to Bunk: If you want to fall out of bed and onto the slopes — and fall into a hot tub at day's end — check out The Stonebridge Inn (doubles, $80-$225; 800-922-7242) for clean, comfortable rooms and an outdoor sauna and Jacuzzi. Families who want to avail themselves of kitchens and fireplaces — without overwhelming Aspen-area price inflation — will be comfortable at Laurelwood Studio condos ($185-$305 per night for four; 800-356-7893).

Local Wisdom: You can avoid the crowds by taking the Two Creeks bus to the mountain — it's quicker, less hectic, and will drop you off at the Two Creeks quad.

What's New: Like a great politician, Squaw Valley sets out year after year to prove its commitment to the masses: hotshot skiers who come for the moguls and steeps, snowboarders who respect Squaw's efforts to nurture and promote the sport, families from the Bay Area. New this year: A Pulse Lift will bring passengers from the Gold Coast complex to the High Camp Bath & Tennis Club; a snowtubing area just outside of High Camp will be open until 9 p.m.; night skiing and night snowboarding (4-9 p.m.) will be free.

Where to Bunk: Odd couples who want both an adjacent chairlift and good shopping, or body nazis who desire complete health clubs, like the Resort at Squaw Creek (doubles, $229-$335; 800-545-4350). The Mountain House (one- and two-bedroom apartments, $135-$225; 800-545-4350), located about four blocks from the mountain, is a former home that's been converted into four separate apartments; three have full kitchens, and the fourth has a fireplace.

Local Wisdom: Be sure to take the gondola whenever the base area gets crowded, even if the lift lines appear to be shorter than the gondola's line; those long lines move surprisingly quickly, since the gondola loads much faster (and obviously can move a greater number of people) than the lifts.

What's New: The place where snowboarding was invented is once again focusing on the sport; it's moving its entire snowboard park to the Suntanner trail in the heart of the resort, tripling the park's size, adding at least one new half-pipe, and building a hangout spot where boarders can chill while they warm up.

Where to Bunk: For B&B connoisseurs who want pancakes and pampering, call The Inn at Manchester (doubles, $98-$130; 802-362-1793). The inn has 18 rooms, some with sitting areas and fireplaces. Infidels who want inexpensive motel lodging in the Land of the B&B will like the Red Sled Motel in Manchester (doubles, $78-$98; 802-362-2161), with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, cable TV, and in-room refrigerators.

Local Wisdom: Use your hands. Unlike the bushy pines out West, the bare trunks of Stratton's deciduous trees are much easier — and more fun — to push off while you're boarding through glades. Plus, you'll want to use your hands to keep trees at bay because maples are much less forgiving to crash into than pines.

What's New: Lots: Management has invested $14 million in new grooming machines, completed the 83,000-square-foot Golden Peak base lodge, and designed a new half-pipe for snowboarders. At the mountain-top Adventure Ridge activities center, they're lengthening and expanding the innertubing hill, doubling the size of the ice-skating rink, and opening up a late-night dance club in the Terminal Pizza restaurant.

Where to Bunk: For those who can't get enough of Vail's faux-alpine motifs, the Euro-style Christiania at Vail (970-476-5641) has 16 lodge rooms (doubles, $160-$350), five suites ($250-$500), and one studio with kitchen ($260-$400). For less costly digs — a relative term in Vail Valley — within five minutes of the slopes, there's the Best Western Vail Glo Lodge (doubles, $140-$235; 970-476-5506).

Local Wisdom: When Chair 4 (the big quad at Mid-Vail) begins to clog, which it does daily around lunchtime, avoid it. Take the Gitalong Road right below it; a five-minute cruise down the trail leads to less-crowded Chair 11, which accesses the same terrain.

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