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Find Your Place in the Snow

By Carol Sottili
The Washington Post
Sunday, November 23, 1997; Page E01
   


Every ski resort has a mountain and a way up it. It's the details -- rope lifts or quad lifts, nacho trays or fondue pots, moguls or virgin powder, jeans or Patagonia chic -- that can make two resorts as dissimilar as a minivan and a Maserati. And just as the pilot of the familymobile probably doesn't want to wind up on a speedway, the skier avec famille will probably be happier at kid-cozy Smugglers' Notch than among the serious downhill racers at black-diamond-studded Jackson Hole.

Inside, we've identified 11 different types of skiers and matched them with eastern and western ski resorts in the United States and Canada.

SKI-O-MATIC

To find your place in the snow, choose your category

below and check the eastern and western maps:

1. Families Smugglers' Notch, Vt.

Steamboat, Colo.

2. Singles Killington, Vt.

Aspen, Colo.

3. Couple, Stratton Mountain, Vt.

No Kids Telluride, Colo.

4. Disabled Ski Windham, N.Y.

Skiers Winter Park, Colo.

5. Gays Lake Placid, N.Y.

Aspen, Colo.

6. Seniors Smugglers' Notch, Vt.

Copper Mountain, Colo.

7. Groups With Mont Tremblant, Quebec

Non-Skiers Whistler Resort, B.C.

8. High Rollers Stowe, Vt.

Deer Valley, Utah

9. Discount Mad River Glen, Vt.

Shoppers Alta, Utah

10. Busy Folk Bolton Valley, Vt.

Vail, Colo.

11. Experts Jay Peak, Vt.

Jackson Hole, Wyo.

1. FAMILIES

This is an increasingly dominant target group. In 1994, 56.5 percent of parents brought their children along to the slopes, according to the National Ski Areas Association. By 1997, that number had jumped to 70.6 percent. Ski resorts, which, overall, have been losing customers in the last decade, have paid attention, and resorts are falling over one another to prove each is best for families. Day-care centers now routinely take infants as young as six weeks. Ski and snowboard lessons for youngsters have evolved into week-long camps and day-into-night experiences with names like "Team Extreme" and "Kid Cross." "Yurts" with piped in music and videotaped runs are springing up along half-pipes in an attempt to attract teens and their well-heeled parents.

Calling itself "America's Family Resort," Smugglers' Notch in Vermont, while not as large as some Vermont resorts, has carved itself a well-deserved niche.Much is in the details -- child-size toilets and 18-inch-high door handles in many of the buildings. Its new Madonna Terrain Park is marketed to appeal to teens with "multiple hits for intermediate and expert riders including table tops, spines, rolls and piped-in music." There are even Me & Mom and Me & Dad snowboard programs, so old folks can learn how to knuckle-hang, and a teen nightclub, "Millennium Zone." 1-800-451-8752, http://www .smuggs.com.

Steamboat in Colorado also has long been known as a family ski area. Parents so inclined can see very little of their children because Steamboat offers not only all-day instruction and day care, but the Kids' Adventure Club, open from 6 to 10:30 nightly. There's a "Night Owl" programs for teens, where participants can climb the vertical grip gym or go out for chaperoned pizza and a movie. And for Mom and Dad, 260 new acres of expert-advanced terrain opens this year. 970-879-6111, http://www.steamboat-ski.com.

Other good bets: Sunday River, Maine; Okemo, Vt.; Stratton, Vt.; Purgatory, Colo.; Beaver Creek, Colo.; Keystone, Colo.; Snowmass, Colo.

2. SINGLES

We know it's not trendy to party too hearty, but there are still great apres-ski activities and night life at some resorts.

Killington in Vermont is the East Coast destination for unencumbered skiers looking for hard skiing and even harder partying. Ranked No. 1 in the East and No. 5 in North America for night life by readers of Snow Country magazine, the resort's Access Road is lined with crowded clubs and hotels. The skiing is also serious -- a new gondola this year will take riders to the top of 4,241-foot Killington Peak in six minutes. There's also a new half-pipe for snowboarders, and a new slopeside hotel and club with restaurant, bar, pool and 200 rooms is scheduled for completion in February. 1-800-621-6867, http://www.killington.com.

It may be a cliche, but Aspen in Colorado does offer enough glitz and glamour to rub off on regular folk. Where else can you ski all day on any of four mountains and then pop in to a late-night caviar bar complete with an array of chilled vodkas? And for those who think that only the rich can play, Aspen now offers an "Independence Pass" for skiers up to age 27. For $39 a day, you can ski Aspen, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk. If caviar and vodka are too rich for young blood, try a burrito at Aspen Underground, a pick-up broomball game at the Silver Circle Ice Rink, or a pitcher of beer and five shots for $7.50 after 11 p.m. at Little Annie's. 1-800-262-7736, http://www.skiaspen.com.

Other good bets: Crested Butte, Colo.; Squaw Valley, Calif.; Whistler Resort, B.C.; Mont Tremblant, Quebec; Park City, Utah.

3. COUPLE, NO KIDS

There's lots of talk of romance in the slick brochures sent each fall by the major ski resorts. While we haven't found a resort outside the Poconos with champagne-glass-shape tubs, plenty of ski resorts offer fine dining and luxury accommodations.

Telluride in Colorado, a National Historic District, is a place to get away from it all. Because it's not near a major international airport and it boasts many expert runs, it is not the resort of first choice for families with young children, making it a quieter retreat for adults. This old mining town 60 miles from the nearest traffic light offers beautiful scenery, a free gondola from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. that takes you from the center of town directly to the slopes, twilight sleigh rides and a new luxury hotel, Camel's Garden Resort, with a fireplace in every room and a 24-foot hot tub. The skiing is serious, but outdoor hot springs in nearby Ouray can help soak weary bones. 1-800-525-3455, http://www.telski.com.

Stratton Mountain in Vermont is an upscale resort that has long attracted the Manhattan and Connecticut elite. With its finely groomed slopes, accessible base village and extensive chalet-style lodging choices, laid-back skiers can enjoy a quiet weekend. Snowtubing under the lights, a new luge park, and sunrise and sunset snowcat tours make it equally attractive to more active couples. Be aware, however, that it's also a major destination for snowboarders. 1-800-STRATTON (1-800-787-2886), http://www.stratton.com.

Other good bets: Lake Louise, Alberta; Deer Valley, Utah; Breckenridge, Colo.; Sun Valley, Idaho; Sugarloaf, Maine; Stowe, Vt.

4. DISABLED SKIERS

There's a growing movement to establish adaptive programs for skiers who need special help. Many resorts offer lessons for the blind and amputees, but some have elaborate programs that aid skiers with such disabilities as autism, cerebral palsy, paralysis, Down syndrome and muscular dystrophy.

Winter Park in Colorado is home to the National Sports Center for the Disabled, the largest and most comprehensive such program in the world. Physically, mentally and developmentally challenged individuals from the age of 3 are offered alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing instruction. A six-hour, one-on-one downhill skiing or snowboarding lesson costs $80, including a lift ticket and all equipment. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing costs $20 a day. The program begins Thanksgiving weekend and continues through late April. 970-726-1540, http://www.nscd .org/nscd.

The Disabled Ski Program at Ski Windham in New York was established 14 years ago and serves skiers with just about any disability. About 600 students took advantage of the program last year. For $50, you get four hours of lessons, a lift ticket and adaptive equipment. The ninth annual Disabled Festival Weekend is scheduled for March 7-8. The disabled ski program, in conjunction with the Professional Ski Instructors of America, is in the process of establishing a winter adaptive ski program for critically ill children. 518-734-5070 or http://www.wdski.com.

Other good bets: Park City, Utah; Alpine Meadows, Calif.; Ascutney Mountain Resort, Vt.; Sugarbush Resort, Vt.; Waterville Valley, N.H.; Crested Butte, Colo.

5. GAYS

The granddaddy of gay ski weeks held annually at Aspen in Colorado has set the standard for what is becoming a common special event.

Aspen will host its 21st annual Gay Ski Week on Jan. 24-31. The skiing is the catalyst for a calendar of events that include a human rights summit, a film festival, a costume competition and many, many parties. About 5,000 gay skiers attend the ski week, which is sponsored by the nonprofit Aspen Gay & Lesbian Community Fund. 1-800-444-0680 or http://www.rof .net/yp/aspengay.

Lake Placid in New York will host the eighth annual "Gay Ski East -- The Winter Games" Feb. 6-9, "offering an affordable price and an alternative to Aspen." The party, with skiing, award ceremonies, dancing and Olympic-style competitions, is sponsored by Eclectic Excursions, 813-734-1111.

Other good bets (all offer gay ski weeks): Whistler Resort, B.C.; Heavenly, Calif.; Mammoth, Calif.

6. SENIORS

Ski resorts are starting to notice the large contingent of skiers who are getting older and still hitting the slopes. In Colorado, it's common for resorts to offer free skiing to anyone over 70. Senior skiers even have their own organization, the Over the Hill Gang (719-685-4656, http://www .skiersover50.com), which sponsors trips and clinics and has agreements with resorts to offer member discounts on designated days.

Copper Mountain in Colorado not only allows seniors over age 70 to ski free, but it also offers seniors a 20 percent discount on accommodations booked no more than 30 days in advance of arrival. The Over the Hill Gang was founded here in 1976 and maintains an active presence with more than 1,000 members in its chapter. 1-800-458-8386, http://www .ski-copper.com.

Smugglers' Notch in Vermont, in addition to its elaborate kids program, wants the grandparents to come along on the vacation. The "It'SnoWonder" club for those 55 and over costs $10 a season and allows seniors to get 50 percent off lift tickets and rentals, plus discounts on food and clothing. Seniors 70 and up ski free. 1-800-451-8752, http://www .smuggs.com.

Other good bets: Angel Fire, N.M.; Heavenly, Calif.; Mammoth, Calif.; Bromley, Vt.; Vail, Colo.

7. GROUPS WITH NON-SKIERS

What happens if Mom and the kids are dying for a ski holiday, but Dad has bad knees? Go to a resort that offers lots of other fun stuff to do, such as sleigh riding, ice-skating and marshmallows roasted on an open bonfire.

Whistler Resort in British Columbia was chosen in September as the No. 1 resort overall in North America for the sixth year running by Snow Country magazine. The 6,998 acres of patrolled skiing has a lot to do with the ranking, but its myriad extracurricular activities also weigh heavily in the resort's favor. Its pedestrian village offers more than 80 shops and a vast array of dining choices. And there are sleigh rides, bonfires, sing-alongs, evening snowshoe walks, ice skating and snowmobiling for those who don't care for the thrill of downhill. 1-800-944-7853, http://www.whistler-mountain.com.

Mont Tremblant in Quebec is as close to a European village as you can get without leaving eastern North America. This French Canadian resort with its bright red, yellow and green buildings and the smell of baking pastries wafting over its cobblestone streets looks and feels as if it were lifted wholesale from the French Alps. You can mush a full dog sled team, ice-skate on the lake, snowshoe in the back country, or just eat petit fours and drink wine.

1-888-736-2526, http://www.tremblant.ca.

Honorable mention: Breckenridge, Colo.; Vail, Colo; Stowe, Vt.; Stratton, Vt.

8. HIGH ROLLERS

If you can walk into a ski shop and say, "Outfit me with the latest gear," or call your travel agent and say, "Put me in premium on-mountain accommodations," these resorts are for you.

When you drive up to Deer Valley, Utah, you're immediately greeted by a handsome young staffer who cheerfully removes your equipment from the roof rack and walks it to the lift. The service, food and smiles never waver at Deer Valley, and even working-class stiffs can feel rich, although it helps if you have the outfit to match and the $54 to spend on a lift ticket. Multimillion-dollar homes complete with carved works of art hug the slopes, which are so well groomed that you'd swear someone was out there all night with a toothbrush. The seafood buffet at the Snow Park Lodge is a near religious experience. If you've got the dough, stay at the mountainside Stein Eriksen Lodge, where rooms start at $450 a night. 1-800-424-3337, http://www.deervalley.com.

The village of Stowe in Vermont, seven miles from the slopes of the same name, with its Victorian bed-and-breakfasts and whitewashed farmhouses, is an authentic New England town. The resort draws a sizeable European contingent, and the area offers many European-style restaurants, including the top-rated Isle de France, and lodgings, such as the Trapp Family Lodge. The area has 30 three- or four-diamond accommodations and this year the resort will offer nighttime torch parades, fireworks and live music on select evenings. 1-800-253-4754, http://www.stowe.com/smr.

Other sure bets: Vail, Colo.; Aspen, Colo.; Beaver Creek, Colo.; Sun Valley, Idaho; Killington, Vt.; Stratton, Vt.

9. DISCOUNT SHOPPERS

If you frequent the ski swaps, make dozens of calls to find a cheap motel room 30 miles from the slopes and can't afford to take along even your own kids, these resorts are for you.

Alta in Utah, just outside Salt Lake City, may have slow, creaky lifts, but with $28 lift tickets, no one complains. Where else can skiers share the trail with porcupines instead of snowboarders (who are not allowed)? There's no night life and limited dining, but serious skiers don't care because more powder falls at Alta than any other ski resort in North America. If you're looking for a real bargain, stay at the new $10-a-night Hostelling International hostel in Salt Lake City and take the public bus the 25 miles to Alta. 801-742-3333, http://www.altaskiarea.com.

While every other resort touts its latest high-speed quad, Mad River Glen in Vermont likes to brag about having the nation's last surviving single chairlift. With 250 inches of snow annually, a no-snowboarders-allowed policy and $29-a-day lift tickets, this is a purist's ski area (don't use the word resort). It's one of the few ski co-ops in the United States; true believers can buy $1,500-a-share pieces. 802-496-3551, http://www.madriverglen.com.

Other sure bets: Grand Targhee, Wyo.; Sierra-at-Tahoe, Calif.; Kirkwood, Calif.; Big Mountain, Mont.

10. BUSY FOLK

There are plenty of skiers who can live with the thought of a plane ride to get out west, but the four-hour drive to the slopes is not an option. And a nine-hour drive to Vermont seems like an inefficient use of time.

Vail in Colorado, the big Kahuna of Rockies skiing, has traditionally been known for its great terrain, off-mountain activities and chic clientele. But for the first time, beginning Dec. 13, a nonstop flight will depart Washington Dulles each Saturday for Vail/Eagle County Airport, just 35 miles from the resort. The flight leaves at 5 p.m. and gets you into Vail in time for dinner. Ski for a week and take the nonstop return flight that leaves Sundays at 10:25 a.m. and you'll be home in time for a good night's sleep before work on Monday. A $414 round-trip fare is currently being offered. (Also within easy driving distance of Vail/Eagle County Airport are these other members of the Vail Resort family: Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone.) 1-800-525-2257, http://www.vail.net or http://www.snow.com.

Bolton Valley in Vermont is a 30-minute drive from Burlington, Vermont's largest city. Take US Airways' 8:30 a.m. nonstop flight from Washington National on Saturday morning, land by 10:20 a.m. and hit the slopes before lunch. Monday, take the 6:35 a.m. flight back, land at 8:30 and be at your desk by 9 a.m. The resort has 50 trails, six lifts and Vermont's most extensive night skiing network. 802-434-3444, http://www.hyperski.com/vermont /bolton.html.

Other sure bets: Hunter Mountain, N.Y.; Snowbird, Utah; Squaw Valley, Calif; Copper Mountain, Colo.; Winter Park, Colo.; Mount Snow, Vt.

11. EXPERTS

There is no doubt that some resorts cater to black diamond skiers. In the press kit for Jackson Hole in Wyoming, a snowboarder is quoted as saying, "Waterproof? Hell, I need something flame retardant." Such cowboy bravado, exemplified best by Olympic gold medalist Tommy Moe, who trains at Jackson Hole, is part of the mystique of this mountain, with the second highest vertical rise in the United States. The Bridger gondola, new this season, opens up even more terrain to expert and intermediate skiers alike. 1-800-443-6931, http://www .jacksonhole.com/ski.

Jay Peak is situated in Vermont's northernmost reaches, near the Canadian border. It advertises the "longest, steepest and snowiest glades and chutes in the East," and if you read the ski magazines, that description is on the money. Its new "Mountain Adventure" program for accomplished adult skiers offers such challenges as mogul skiing and ski racing. 1-800-451-4449, http://www.jaypeakresort.com.

Other sure bets: Taos, N.M.; Big Sky, Mont.; Squaw Valley, Calif.; Arapahoe Basin, Colo.; Mount Bachelor, Ore.; Sugarloaf, Maine.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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