Now that Thanksgiving Day has passed and the snowflakes are flying in earnest, mountain resorts are geared up to welcome skiing and boarding enthusiasts to their slopes. Loads of new amenities and services, plus special holiday events, mark the beginning of the 2012-2013 ski season. Here’s a peek at what’s happening at just a few major ski resorts across the United States:Vail, CO:
December 2012 is the 50th anniversary of the Vail ski area. A film that looks back at Vail’s illustrious history will be premiered (complete with red carpet!) on December 14, then a huge outdoor bash for the public happens December 15, with lots of fanfare and fireworks. Vail also debuts its brand-new gondola with heated seats and wi-fi when the lifts open November 16.Keystone, CO:
Kids age 12 and under ski free at Keystone all season long – with no blackout dates. Parents just need to book accommodations at any Keystone Resort property (hotel or condo), for two nights or more, and children are provided with complimentary ski tickets for the length of their stay. Keystone is also home to a new Burton Riglet Park, with mini terrain-park features for emerging snowboarders, ages 3 to 6.
Winter Park, CO:
A brand-new Coca-Cola Tubing Area awaits visitors at this Colorado ski area. Opening in December, it features four lanes, conveyer lift access and a state-of-the-art warming hut with restrooms and hot-chocolate service. Two more guest enhancements at Winter Park: $250,000 in new rental product, including new helmets, boots, skis and snowboards, plus 70 new private ski lockers at Winter Park Resort base area.Mammoth, CA:
Introduced mid-season last year, Mammoth Mountain stands behind its “snow guarantee: a base depth of a certain number of inches of snow by certain dates through February 15. For example, if the mountain doesn’t have at least 20 inches of snow on December 1, booked guests can either keep their original lodging reservations and get a $100 gift card, or change their reservation with no fees or penalties.
Sun Valley's Dollar Mountain, ID:
Snowboarders flock to Dollar Mountain for its three terrain parks and two “cross courses” with an incredible 76 rails. New this year is an expanded 22-foot super pipe, now Olympic standard size, one of only a few this size in North America. The Family Cross Course has been extended and the new Competitive Cross Course debuts.Canyons Resort, UT:
If you’ve ever wanted to ski or board like an Olympian, The Ultimate Mountain Experience at Canyons Resort is the place to learn, with its winter fantasy camps (January 11-13 and March 8-10, 2013). Skiers and riders hit the slopes with celebrity instructors, including six former winter Olympians. Taos Ski Valley, NM:
Long known for its expert terrain, Taos introduces a new 1,400-foot Pioneer lift providing access to just-opened beginner terrain, making the resort even more attractive for children and novice skiers. The new Pioneer lift also means that Taos has expanded its tubing offerings at the Strawberry Hill lift, beginning earlier in the day at 2 p.m. Also new this year, Taos Ski Valley provides its own convenient airport shuttle for visitors flying into Albuquerque.
Breton Woods, NH:
A new 2,000-foot Doppelmayr T-Bar surface lift now serves the Mount Stickney Glades. With the addition of the surface lift, skiers and riders can explore a more remote part of the mountain in the trees without having to return to the main base area. At the top of the new T-Bar near the summit of Mount Stickney is a new 600-square-foot log cabin with an exterior stone fireplace and porch for catching rays on warmer days. Inside, a wood stove warms skiers in between runs.Sunday River, ME:
Santa Sunday takes place December 2, 2012, with at least 250 skiers and boarders dressed head to boot in full Santa Claus attire. All Santas ski or board for free (must pre-register) and donate at least $10 toward a holiday toy drive. It’s one of the most festive days on the mountain, for sure, and the annual group photo of hundreds of Santas is a hoot.Smugglers’ Notch, VT:
If you’re a kid, one of the best places to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s is Smuggs. In addition to the usual family action -- snow tubing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, zip line canopy tour, plus skiing and riding, of course – parents can book their children a special bedtime “tuck-in” by one of Santa’s elves. Holiday celebrations on Christmas Eve include a torchlight parade and fireworks, a candlelight service, and carols and cookies with Santa. New Year’s Eve brings another torchlight parade plus fireworks, as well as a family dance party and festivities at FunZone (home to indoor mini-golf, bounce houses, ping-pong tables and more), plus an adult karaoke and dance party. Fun for all!
ColoradoGal Kara Williams lives
in the Colorado Rockies with her husband and two young children. She
and her family regularly travel to either U.S. coast, Mexico or Hawaii
for their annual “beach fix.” As proud owners of a beat-up pop-up
camper, they take loads of family camping trips around Colorado and
neighboring states in the warm-weather months. (But she counts spa
getaways with girlfriends among her all-time favorite weekend escapes —
shhhhh!) Kara is the co-founder of the award-winning blog The Vacation Gals.
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