Three More Ski Resorts Join The Mountain Collective

The Mountain Collective offers great savings for skiersWay back in August of last year we told you about the Mountain Collective, a group of independent ski resorts in North America that had joined forces to offer skiers and snowboarders access to each of their mountains at an amazing price. The collaboration between these iconic ski destinations was unprecedented at the time and yesterday it got even better.

The resorts that were on board at the launch of the Mountain Collective included Alta in Utah, Aspen/Snowmass in Colorado, Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows in California. On Tuesday it was announced that three more great resorts would join their ranks as Snowbird, Mammoth Mountain and Whistler Blackcomb were all added to the Collective.

The inclusion of these new resorts makes an already amazing ski deal even better. The Mountain Collective Pass costs just $349 and provides two free days of skiing at each resort with an additional 50% off an unlimited number of lift tickets thereafter. Furthermore, the pass grants discounts on lodging and other amenities too, making it a fantastic option for those who simply can’t get enough time on the slopes.

After announcing the addition of the new resorts, a limited number of passes for the 2013/2014 season went on sale at both the Mountain Collective website and Liftopia.com. These passes are being offered at the same price as the 2012/2013 tickets, but once they are sold out, that price will be gone. If you want to be able to take advantage of this amazing deal, you’ll want to grab a ticket while they last.

I know that the 2013/2014 ski season sounds like a long way off, particularly since we’re still wrapping up the current season. But this is just too good of deal to pass up. The price is likely to increase in the fall, so get your hands on one of these passes while you can.

[Photo Credit: Alta]

The West’s Best Hostels For Winter Sports Enthusiasts

backcountry skiContrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be young, broke, or drunk to stay at a youth hostel. I’ll be the first to admit not all hostels are created equal, but as a perpetually cash-strapped journalist in her 40s, they’re often my only option for indulging in the snowy outdoor pursuits I love. Fortunately, there are clean, efficient, well-run hostels throughout the West that make a stay pleasurable, rather than painful.

There are other good reasons to bunk down at a hostel, whether it’s a dorm, private, or shared room. If you’re planning to play all day (and possibly night), who needs an expensive room? Hostels are also great places to meet like-minded people to hit the backcountry or slopes with – a huge advantage if you’re traveling solo.

Most hostels also possess a decidedly low-key, “local” atmosphere where you’ll get the inside scoop on where to cut loose (on the mountain or off). In many instances, hostels also offer tours or activities, or partner up with local outfitters, which make life easier if you don’t have a car or require rental equipment. Also…free coffee.

Below, in no particular order, are some of my favorite Western hostels, based upon their proximity to snowy adventure:

St. Moritz Lodge
, Aspen, CO

I’ve been a regular at this place for a decade now, and I’m still smitten. Its groovy, ’70s-meets-Switzerland ambience; friendly, helpful staff; clean, well-lit rooms, and free mega-breakfast kick ass…what’s not to love? It’s just a few minutes walk from the slopes, and free parking is plentiful. A dorm bed is $44, and a private room/shared bath $95, high season.

The Abominable Snowmansion, Arroyo Seco, NM
Just outside of Taos is this classic, rambling old hostel with a communal feel. Arroyo Seco is an adorable mountain hamlet (all you need to know is that Abe’s Cantina gives great green chile). A private room/bath at this hostel is $59 in winter, and the region abounds with backcountry opps and natural hot springs.banff national park HI-Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel, Banff National Park, Alberta
The photo at right shows the sauna at this off-the-grid cabin near stunning Lake Louise. If you’re good with no shower and using an outhouse, this 20-bed spot will keep you cozy after a day ice-climbing, snow-shoeing, or skiing the backcountry.

Grand Canyon International Hostel
, Flagstaff, AZ

Owned by the same people who have the janky Du Beau hostel in town; I recommend this place instead, which is located in a historic, multi-story building minutes from downtown. “Flag” has loads of opportunities for outdoor buffs, from backcountry, to downhill skiing at Arizona Snowbowl, 20 minutes away. The hostel also offers year-round tours to the Grand Canyon, 80 minutes away. Flagstaff itself is a happening little college town; before heading out for the day fuel up on caffeine and divine, house-baked goods at Macy’s European Coffeehouse (I accept bribes in this form).

Alyeska Hostel, Girdwood, AK
Girdwood is pure Alaska-weird. Moose wander the main street, and quirky locals are just as likely to invite you to an all-night kegger in the snow as they are to take you cross-country skiing (the bonus of being female in Alaska, I discovered). This tidy hostel will set you back $20 for a bunk bed, making it the best deal in (a very, very small) town.

Hostel Tahoe, King’s Beach, CA
I’ll be honest; I’ve never bothered to stay in a hostel in Lake Tahoe for two reasons: dirt-cheap motels abound, and my brother lives there. But I came across this place researching this story, and it looks great. You’ll need to self-drive or shuttle to ski (it’s mid-way between South and North Shore, but right by a bus stop servicing Northstar, Squaw, and Alpine Meadows), and it looks infinitely more pleasant than some of the budget lodging I’ve enjoyed in Tahoe in the past. King’s Beach is old-school Tahoe at its best: funky, boozy, and a bit down-at-the-heels.

Crested Butte International Hostel, CO

Cheap lodging is tough to come by in Colorado ski towns, which is what makes this place such a find. Eighty dollars for a private queen with shared bath in downtown CB is a hell of a deal, and a $39 dorm bed can’t fail to make cash-strapped skiers and snowboarders happy. This is also the place to induct hostel-phobic friends or partners. I find it rather sterile, but it’s spotless, quiet, and kid-friendly. With two apartments for families ($184/night) and off-site condo rentals also available, CBIH makes family vacay do-able. Bonus: loads of free parking, and just 100 yards from the free mountain shuttle (Mt. Crested Butte is 3 miles away).

Fireside Inn Bed & Breakfast and Hostel
, Breckenridge, CO

This sprawling, historic old home converted into a warren of rooms is a treasure if you’re a lover of hostels. Friendly and walking distance to downtown (you can shuttle to the Breck Connect Gondola, Peak 7 and 8, and the Nordic Center), it’s got the patina of years on it, but it’s cozy, homey, and a great place to meet like-minded travelers. Love.

The Hostel, Jackson Hole, WY
In this spendy little ski town, affordable accommodations are rare as a ski bum with a Platinum card. Located at the base of Teton Village, The Hostel offers dorm beds and private rooms. Backcountry fans will love being just one mile away from the glory of Grand Teton National Park (be sure to check park website for information on restrictions or necessary permits)

[Photo credits: skier, Flickr user Andre Charland; hostel, Flickr user Mark Hill Photography]

Nordic Skiing Basics

Snowstorms Bring Plenty Of Powder For The Holidays

Snow storms bring plenty of powder to the western U.S. Skiers and snowboarders who have been watching the weather, just hoping for an opportunity to hit their favorite ski resort this holiday season, are likely to be pretty excited at the moment. Snowstorms across the western United States have started dumping plenty of fresh powder on the region and it now looks like we could be on course for a much better ski season compared to last year.

A late autumn storm brought plenty of fresh accumulation to most of Colorado this past weekend, with Wolf Creek picking up an impressive 30″ and Purgatory getting more than 20″ as well. Monarch Mountain wasn’t far behind with 17″ of new snow, while Steamboat was hit with 13″. Most other major resorts across the state also received anywhere from five to ten inches of new accumulation, which means nearly any hill will be ready for the holiday rush beginning this weekend.

Taking a quick look at current base levels for snow at some of the more iconic ski destinations across the west shows that there is plenty of powder currently on the ground. For instance, Snowbird has a base of 60″ at the moment and has already received more than 118″ so far this season. Jackson Hole is doing quite well for themselves too, having racked up an impressive 164″ of snow before winter has even officially begun. If you’re headed to the Lake Tahoe region, Heavenly is boasting a base of between 30-50″ with total accumulations in excess of 120″ on some parts of the mountain. Nearby, Squaw Valley has received as much as 6″ of fresh powder in the past day or so, bringing its base up to nearly 70″ as well.Not to be outdone by its competitors, California’s Mammoth Mountain is measuring their base between 5.5 and 6.5 feet, with total accumulations in excess of 134″ already this season. The forecast calls for more snow over the next few days as well, bringing those totals up even more. All of this fresh powder comes just as the first flights of the season take off for the resort. Regular air travel to Mammoth begins tomorrow, just in time for the holiday season ahead.

Weather forecasts indicate that another large storm front will hit the western U.S. later this week, bringing more snow to many areas. If you’re planning on spending some time on the slopes this holiday season, it seems you’ll have plenty of fresh powder to shred.

[Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]

Dream Ski Trip: Heli-Skiing In Jackson Hole

Heli-Skiing in Jackson Hole, WyomingNestled deep in Wyoming’s Teton Mountains and averaging more than 450 inches of snow each year, Jackson Hole is easily one of the best ski destinations in all of North America. With more than 116 different runs, spread out over 2500 skiable acres, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a little slice of heaven on Earth for skiers and snowboarders alike. But to truly enjoy this magical place, you’ll want to get off the beaten path and indulge in a heli-skiing adventure.

As the name implies, Heli-skiing employs the use of a helicopter to carry skiers and snowboarders deep into the backcountry to access slopes that would normally be unreachable during the winter months. For example, High Mountain Heli-Skiing, the company that provides the service in Jackson Hole, uses a Bell 407 aircraft to shuttle guests out to a 305,000-acre winter wonderland that is virtually untouched for most of the season. Those guests will have the entire area to themselves while they shred through isolated mountain glades, take on steep chutes and zip across large, open bowls.

A day with High Mountain Heli-Skiing usually consists of six runs that cover anywhere from 12,000-15,000 vertical feet. A group consists of a maximum of just six people, one guide and five guests, who spend the entire day shredding virgin backcountry powder. At most, there are only four such groups in the field at any given time, which makes for a ski experience that is vastly different from the long lift lines and crowded slopes you’ll find on a typical hill.

And after spending a long day of making turns on untouched powder, you’ll want to relax in luxury and style as well. Fortunately, Jackson Hole has you covered in that department too. There are plenty of luxury rental cabins available throughout the area with amenities that will comfort and pamper you throughout your stay.

If you’re looking for a unique winter adventure for the ski season ahead, then put Heli-Skiing in Jackson Hole on your bucket list. It’ll be an experience unlike any other.

[Photo Credit: High Mountain Heli-Skiing]

U.S. ski resorts get much needed snow at last

Ski resorts across the western U.S. get snow at lastIt has been a very tough season so far for many of the ski resorts across the western United States. Warmer than normal temperatures and little snowfall had conspired to make it a challenging start to the winter. But things have started to change out west, and a few big storms over the past few weeks have made now made it possible for skiers and snowboarders to hit the slopes at last.

The Jackson Hole Ski Resort in Wyoming, for instance, got hit with a massive winter storm last week, resulting in 80 inches (that’s 6.5 feet!) in just eight days time. That brought their snow base up to 80 inches on the mountain, and their total seasonal accumulation to 198″. As a result, all runs are open and skiers are taking advantage of the great conditions at last.

Similarly, Mammoth Mountain in California had a big snow storm in late-January as well, getting more than four feet of accumulation in just a few days time. That brought their total base to 40-60 inches, depending on where you are on the slopes, and they currently have received over 107″ of powder so far this year. After a bit of slow start to their season, Mammoth now has all lifts and runs open for business too.

In Utah, Alta and Snowbird now have over 165″ of snowfall for the year, bringing their bases to 69 and 65 inches respectively. In Colorado, Vail has grown their base to more than 35 inches, with a foot of new snow falling in the past week alone. Montana’s Big Sky Resort now has a base between 45 and 69 inches in depth, while Sun Valley, Idaho reports similar numbers.

What does all of this mean for skiers? Winter is now officially here! Take advantage of it while you can, as it could be fleeting, but it seems that at long last, there are some excellent snow conditions for those eager to hit the slopes.

[Photo courtesy Mammoth Mountain]