Winter Travel Guide 1996
ALTA SKI AREA UTAH
What's New: Many an Alta off-season is spent refining--a lift is repositioned to take a new fall line here, a mid-mountain restaurant is overhauled there. New tram and base-lodge unveilings? Not this year.
Snowboarding: Mayberry, remember? No Snowboarding now, nor in the foreseeable future.
Where to Party: Goldminer's Bar at the bottom of the Wildcat and Collins lifts gives you views of the famous High Rustler run; plus, you can get a beer despite the still-funky Utah liquor laws.
Where to Stay: You don't just ski Alta--you live it. Five base-area lodges offer a version of the Modified American Plan: Try the Alta Lodge (doubles, $211-$332; 800-707-2582) or the Rustler Lodge (doubles, $190-$510; 800-451-5223), which has an outdoor heated pool and a full-service ski shop. The bargains are in Salt Lake, where dwells every national motel/hotel chain (Utah Reservations Service, 800-733-8824).
Off-Slope Action: At Alta they keep it simple: The only formal activity is skiing. But after a long day on the slopes you can always head down to Wasatch Mountain Massage (801-742-3313).
How to Keep Cost Down: The $27 lift ticket is a good start. Or pay $20 for half-day or beginner-terrain-only tickets.
Kid Stuff: The Cub's Den entertains (snacks, video games) kids who are too old for child care but too young to keep up with mom and dad. The Skecology program consists of signage on certain runs discussing local wildlife and vegetation.
By Andrew Tilin
MOUNT BAKER SKI AREA, WASHINGTON
What's New: The snowboard banked slalom course in a creekbed is a half-dozen hair-raising turns longer this year.
Snowboarding: The West Coast version literally was invented here, about the same time Jake Burton Carpenter was crafting wide boards in Vermont, and Baker remains America's powder-cruising Valhalla. Experts hike from the top of Chair 8 to the massive, unpatrolled powder fields on Shuksan Arm. Go with a local, or stay in bounds and test yourself on a limbs-in-your-face tree run like Sticky Wicket.
Where to Party: In somebody's RV at the White Salmon parking lot. Second choice: The Chandelier (which just might have been where they filmed that "Rawhide" scene in The Blues Brothers).
Where to Stay: Lodging is hit-or-miss. Closest to the mountain is the Snowline Inn in Glacier (17 miles west), which offers spartan motel rooms (doubles, $65; 800-228-0119). You'll fare better by booking further ahead at Glacier Creek Motel & Cabins (doubles, $42; cabins, $60-$135; 360-599-2991) or the Mt. Baker Chalet (private cabins and condos, $75-$225; 360-599-2405).
Off-Slope Action: Close-by Heather Meadows is a sublime cross-country skiing and snowshoe area (rentals are available; call 360-734-6771), with vistas of Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker.
How to Keep Costs Down: New this season are discounted lift tickets ($17.50) on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Kid Stuff: Baker has made great strides here--with a quality ski school, and Wee Wildlife day care and lessons packages for kids four to eight--but other Northwest resorts are easier for the young ones to maneuver in.
By Ron C. Judd
TAOS SKI VALLEY, NEW MEXICO
What's New: Despite those nasty drought rumors, snow-making capabilities have been expanded. Other improvements have been slower in coming--has anyone in Taos heard of high-speed lifts?
Snowboarding: Taos's party line is eerily reminiscent of Dana Carvey's Church Lady routine: "Snowboarding? No, no, no. Not gonna do it. Not pure."
Where to Party: Tim's Chile Connection (younger off-mountain sibling of Tim's Stray Dog Cantina) serves up BIG margaritas and hot green chile. For aprŠs-steeps two-stepping in a family atmosphere, try the Hotel St. Bernard.
Where to Stay: Jean Mayer, owner and host of the Hotel St. Bernard (seven-day package, $1,170-$1,370 per person including lodging, meals, lift tickets, and lessons; 505-776-2251), offers a taste of Europe without the jet lag. The Quail Ridge Inn (doubles, $79-$390; 505-776-2211), located between town and mountain, has hotel rooms, condos, and houses.
Off-Slope Action: If you're feeling alpined out, step into some snowshoes (or a pair of nordics) and slog the 2.25 miles from the base of Lift 4 to Williams Lake. Los Rios River Runners (800-544-1181) rents snowshoes ($10 per day) and nordic packages ($8-$20 per day).
How to Keep Costs Down: Book a ski trip during Early Season (December 2- 20), and pay only $26 for a full-day lift ticket. During Value Season (January 6-February 7, excluding January 18-20, and March 31-April 6), multi-day lift tickets go for $33 per day.
Kid Stuff: The 18,000-square-foot Kinderkafig Children's Center, now in its third year, offers full- or half-day classes for children ages three through 12.
By Amanda Stuermer
RED MOUNTAIN, BRITISH COLUMBIA
What's New: While nobody was looking, Red Mountain has quietly prepared to go medium. New plumbing, water, and utility systems went in this year, paving the way for 1,800 on-mountain beds in coming years.
Snowboarding: Red Mountain's steep, gladed upper-mountain runs are dreamy territory for practitioners of Northwest-style deep-powder riding. Nearly half of the runs here are rated expert. Beginners and intermediates get along just fine on Red Mountain's Back Trail and the fine powder glades in the Paradise area.
Where to Party: Rossland remains a two-bar town: the Flying Steam Shovel and the Uplander Pub both do that tradition proud.
Where to Stay: The almost elegant Uplander Hotel (doubles, $56-$60; 604-362-7375) is a favorite, with a grand view of the ski mountain. Also highly rated is the close-in Ram's Head Inn (doubles, $77-$85, including breakfast, lift tickets, and big wooden hot tub; 604-362-9577).
Off-Slope Action: The Blackjack Cross-Country Area on the northeast side of the mountain has 35 kilometers of trails; pick up rentals across the street at the Red Mountain Motel.
How to Keep Costs Down: Few specials on lift tickets, but nearly all the lodgings in Rossland qualify as bargains.
Kid Stuff: There's a centrally located day-care center and lessons for kids three and up, but kid-friendly runs are somewhat scarce.
GRAND TARGHEE SKI AND SUMMER RESORT,WYOMING
What's New: One of the more significant high-speed-quad holdouts, Targhee took the plunge this summer, replacing the Bannock chair with a speedy quad.
Where to Party: True to its name, The Trap in the base village can be tough to get out of: It attracts the same local ski bums night after night for live music and free-flowing beer.
Where to Stay: The cozy Targhee Lodge has economy rooms (doubles, $60-$110), the fancier Teewinot Lodge has lodgepole furnishings (doubles, $90-$165), and Sioux Condominiums offers studios and two-bedrooms with kitchenettes ($135- $405)--all booked through 800-827-4433.
Off-Slope Action: A 15-kilometer cross-country facility, sleigh rides, and sled-dog trips are found in the resort village. Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are short day trips away.
How to Keep Costs Down: Targhee's family packages are one of the West's best deals, with free skiing all season for kids 14 and under if parents book three- to seven-day lift/lodging packages.
Kid Stuff: Targhee's family packages, youth powder-skiing and Snowboarding lessons, and Kids Club day-care programs are first-rate, and the resort layout makes it impossible to get lost.
MAD RIVER GLEN, VERMONT
What's New: Not a damn thing. Well, okay, they did print up a new trail map this year (the first in more than a decade), dividing up a few existing trails to bring the trail count up to 41 from 33.
Snowboarding: Eighty-six percent of respondents in a recent Mad River poll said no to Snowboarding--forever.
Where to Party: First stop is The Hyde Away Inn to shoot pool, drink Bud, and sneer at Sugarbush. Later, ricochet between the Mad Mountain Tavern and Gallagher's--jammed dance barns that share the hot corner in Waitsfield.
Where to Stay: The Hyde Away Inn (doubles, $49-$89, including breakfast; 800-777-4933) and Inn at the Mad River Barn (doubles, $33-$48 per person, with breakfast; 800-631-0466) are both small, rustic lodges a mile or two from the lifts. Three miles up the road is The Sugarbush Inn (doubles, $161; 800-537-8427), an upscale 46-room country inn.
Off-Slope Action: Try horseback riding at Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm (802-496-7141) or ice skating at the Skatium outdoor rink in Waitsfield. Clearwater Sports (802-496-2708) runs guided snowshoe treks. The Inn at the Round Barn Farm (802-496-2276) has 30 kilometers of groomed nordic trails.
How to Keep Costs Down: Discounted lift tickets are sold at participating lodges. On weekdays in January, college kids can ski for $16 per day. And on Turn Back the Clock Day, held the last Tuesday in January, everything at the resort costs what it did in 1947 (the year Mad River opened).
Kid Stuff: At the Cricket Club day-care center, child care starts at six weeks. Ski programs start at age three, and there's a junior race program for kids six to 14.
By Meg Lukens Noonan
SMUGGLERS' NOTCH RESORT, VERMONT
What's New: Two new trails have been cut: one for experts on Sterling Mountain and one for intermediates on Madonna. Also on Madonna, experts will find new glades just next to supersteep Freefall.
Snowboarding: No trail restrictions. Kids ages six and up can enroll in week-long snowboard camps, and riders and skiers share a terrain park.
Where to Party: Most people see no need to leave the village. There are two planned activities each night--one at 7 p.m. for families (bingo, sing-alongs, sledding) and one at 9 p.m. for adults (dancing, karaoke, nordic ski touring).
Where to Stay: Smugglers' Notch Resort (packages from $79 per person per day; 800-451-8752) has condominiums ranging from studios to five-bedroom villas. The 11-room Smugglers' Notch Inn (doubles, $75-$105, with breakfast; 802-644-2412) in nearby Jeffersonville is a tin-ceilinged former farmhouse built in 1790.
Off-Slope Action: In the resort village you can rent an inner tube and slide down lighted, lift-served Sir Henry's Hill, skate at the outdoor rink, or ski on 23 kilometers of nordic trails. Resort guides also conduct snowshoe tours into the backcountry. (Call 800-451-8752 for all resort activities.)
How to Keep Costs Down: During Supersaver Ski Weeks, December 6-20, January 12-24, and March 23-April 7, adults pay $79 per person per day for lodging, lifts, lessons, and resort activites; children under 18 pay $65.
Kid Stuff: The FamilyFest FamilyFestival, January 26-31 and February 2-7, offers free ski camps for kids ages 3-12.
ARAPAHOE BASIN, COLORADO
What's New: This ski season marks Arapahoe Basin's 50th year, and, in typically stoic A-Basin form, the resort is celebrating with . . . not much! But look for apparel with "special anniversary" logos.
Snowboarding: No special provisions, but no restrictions--it's been that way for 11 years. Accomplished boarders should try the largely treeless, double-black-diamond runs making up the west wall off the Pali lift; beginners will want to stick to the green-circle groomers accessed by the Molly Hogan and Exhibition chairs.
Where to Party: Arapahoe loyalists love the main parking lot and the adjacent area known as "the Beach" as much as they do the precipitous slopes. Locals haul in portable hot tubs and small sailboats as venues for carousing, and you'll spy everything from dreadlocks to lei-wearing mannequins. After sundown, the party continues down the road at the Snake River Saloon.
Where to Stay: There's zero lodging at Arapahoe, but plenty of pillows six miles away in Keystone. The Inn at Keystone (doubles, $155-$225) is a pinkish cement building that looks better than it sounds; many units have views of Keystone's runs. Or go over the top at the Chateaux D'Mont, with two- and three-bedroom condos ($630-$840) where you can hang your clothes in a cedar closet. For both lodgings, call 800-468-5004.
Off-Slope Action: At A-Basin you ski, snowboard, or dress up mannequins. But down at Keystone are 18 kilometers of groomed nordic trails, snowshoe rentals, ice-skating, and dogsledding. For most activities, contact the Keystone Activity Center (800-222-0188).
How to Keep Costs Down: In Denver you'll find discounted tickets at mega-supermarkets like King Soopers and Safeway, Gart Bros. sporting-goods stores, and Total gas stations. In April and May there are Stay Free, Ski Free packages where you get the fourth day of skiing and the fifth night free; call 800-468-5004.
Kid Stuff: At A-Basin (970-468-4182) you can hand off kids from 18 months to 12 years. But why not leave them at Keystone? Care starts at two months, and at the Mini-Minor's and Minor's Camps tykes can play in the Gold Rush Alley terrain garden while older kids receive rentals and all-day instruction and supervison; call 800-468-5004.
Information/Reservations: 970-468-0718 (Arapahoe Basin)/800-468-5004 (Keystone)
PURGATORY RESORT, COLORADO
What's New: Snowmaking facilities have been greatly expanded for this season, which means previously B-listed Purgatory may be poised to join the big league of Colorado ski areas--good news or bad, depending on whom you talk to.
Snowboarding: All but one of the trails are open to boarders; the place has 40 acres of easy green runs (locals are especially enthusiastic about Paradise), as well as a quarter-pipe and plenty of obstacles and jumps. First-timers can get lessons at the ski school, or watch less-seasoned natives, who last year congregated in an impromptu clinic near where Lift 3 used to be.
Where to Party: Best local hell-raising is in Durango. Try Farquahrt's for pizza, beer, and live music, and two-steppers can hit the Sundance Saloon.
Where to Stay: Lodging prices in Durango actually go down in winter. Try the Econo Lodge (doubles, $29-$59; 970-247-4242) for a no-frills room. The Old West-style Strater Hotel (doubles, $82- $170; 800-247-4431) is where Louis L'Amour banged out several of his Sackett novels in a room above the bar.
Off-Slope Action: The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad doesn't make it all the way to Silverton in the winter, but it's still a gorgeous ride ($36 adults, $18 children 5-11; 970-247-2733). Grab a soak and massage at Trimble Hot Springs (970-247-0111), about 20 miles south.
How to Keep Costs Down: Ask about the Total Ticket program, in which you can buy multi-day ski passes that allow you to trade in a day of skiing for any number of local activities (train rides, etc.).
Kid Stuff: There's plenty of not-too-challenging terrain and inexpensive instruction for children as young as three--but parents may wish there were more to do with the little ones off the slopes.
By Dave Plank
SCHWEITZER MOUNTAIN RESORT, IDAHO
What's New: Schweitzer's lone high-speed quad, like many other Western lifts carrying the unsettling Yan label, is being revamped, and should be ready to roll early in the season.
Snowboarding: Welcomed throughout, but many riders gather in a natural snowboard park complete with half-pipe. Off-trail riders who like to taste their kneepads congregate in the Siberia Chutes; long-trail powder cruisers go to the chutes and glades of the South Bowl or South Ridge.
Where to Party: There's Eichardt's Pub, Grill, and Coffee House in Sandpoint. Or try the new contender, Pend Oreille Brewing, right down the street, for beer with names like City Beach Blonde and HooDoo Porter.
Where to Stay: The slopeside Green Gables Lodge (doubles, $80-$200) has 80 basic rooms. Other options are condos or townhouses; one-bedrooms start at $80 per night. Call 800-831-8810 for all lodging.
Off-Slope Action: Sleigh rides are offered for your lurching pleasure, but the smarter non-skiers make good use of the hotel's extensive hot tub/pool complex (outside, but heated floors) at the Green Gables Lodge.
How to Keep Costs Down: The last week of skiing is great spring cruising--and an all-week ski pass is only $50 for adults, $35 for kids 12 and under.
Kid Stuff: All-day day care/lesson packages start at age three and a half ($50 per day); Mogul Mice (kids 5-11; $45 per day) includes lift tickets, lessons, and lunch.
SILVER MOUNTAIN RESORT, IDAHO
What's New: Ownership and management. Eagle Crest of Redmond, Oregon, is taking over the reins to try to do what previous managers couldn't: bring in enough destination travelers to turn a healthy profit for Kellogg.
Snowboarding: Increasing numbers of riders are drawn to Silver Mountain's short lift lines. Upper runs on Kellogg Mountain are favorites of bushwhackers and big-air launchers, while the gentler powder runs off Wardner Peak are best for cruisers.
Where to Party: Timbers Cantina, at the base, has killer margaritas and live music. Dirty Ernie's can get wild and the Longshot Saloon has darts and pool.
Where to Stay: Choices range from basic--the newish Kellogg Super 8 right next to the gondola (doubles, $62; 800-785-5443)--to the baronial-style Coeur d'Alene Resort, 34 miles west on I-90 (doubles, $99-$229; 800-688-5253).
Off-Slope Action: Lots of interesting
How to Keep Costs Down: The Coeur d'Alene Resort offers off-peak package deals for families with kids under 12; prices start at $148 per night for a family of four, including lodging, lift tickets, and meals.
Kid Stuff: Kids ski free, but only if they're six or under. The gondola-ride access thrills kids--once. Then it's tiresome.
WHITE PASS SKI AREA ,WASHINGTON
What's New: The drawing board is still smoldering at White Pass, where managers expect to submit plans for a substantial area expansion by early 1997. Stay tuned.
Snowboarding: There's the standard snowboard park, but most of its riders love White Pass for the same reasons skiers do: great snow, greater views, short lines.
Where to Party: A party spot this is not, but skiers can unwind at the comfy Summit House lounge across from the day lodge.
Where to Stay: Some 300 beds in 55 privately owned condos (studios to two-bedrooms, $85-$140) are right at the base. A wide range of hotel and motel space is an hour east in Yakima. Cavanaugh's at Yakima Center (doubles, $60-$70; 509-248-5900) has 152 standard rooms.
Off-Slope Action: Bring the climbing skins. Backcountry hikers and telemarkers love the open-bowl skiing on the north side of Hogback Ridge, a short trip away on the Pacific Crest Trail.
How to Keep Costs Down: Wednesday-Thursday skiing at White Pass is a mondo bargain: last year's lift tickets cost $15.
Kid Stuff: Good ski school, convenient on-mountain lodging, and a slew of wide, reassuring rookie runs make this a great family destination.
Information/Reservations: 509-453-8731/ 509-672-3131
Filed To: Snow Sports