Colorado ski resorts prepare for ski season, introduce social networking to slopes

Skiers and snowboarders who have been eagerly waiting for the Colorado ski season to begin, had their patience rewarded last week when Keystone Resort opened to the public for the first time this year. They’ll soon be joined by Breckenridge, which fires up the lifts tomorrow, followed by Vail and Heavenly, who kick off the season on the 19th, with Beaver Creek finally joining in on the fun on the 24th of the month.

It may still be early November, but the snow has already been flying on the mountains, with several of the resorts receiving in excess of 7″-8″ of snow in the past few days alone. That means that skiers can already expect a good base of powder when the gates open over the next few weeks, and considering these resorts average 300+ inches of snow per year, you can bet that the season ahead will be a good one.

Fantastic lodges and beautiful powder aren’t the only thing these resorts have up their sleeves this year however. They’ve also managed to bring their lift tickets into the 21st century by incorporating an RFID chip right in the passes themselves. That technology opens up a host of new opportunities for visitors in what can only be described as an Epic Mix.

Epic Mix is a unique blend of outdoor fun, social networking, and technology that comes together in an online environment or on a mobile app for the iPhone and Android devices. As you spend the day going up and down the mountain, making great run after great run, the RFID chip is busy keeping track of how far you’ve skied, how many vertical feet you’ve dropped, and so on. It then allows you to share that information online at the Epic Mix website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. You can even earn special Epic Mix achievements for completing certain goals or attending specific events. Those achievements can be shared with friends and family in the form of badges that can be prominently displayed on your Epic Mix or Facebook page. Examples of some of these achievements are the Snow Turkey, which is awarded for visiting a resort on Thanksgiving Day or the Three’s Company badge for skiing more than 3000 vertical feet in a single season.

As of this writing, the Epic Mix mobile apps are not available yet, but the website promises that they’ll arrive “by Christmas.” Android and iPhone users will find plenty to love in these applications, as they’ll not only allow you to access your Epic Mix account while on the go, they’ll also show you exactly where your friends are on the mountain at any given time, and allow you to message one another to set up when and where to meet. The apps will also give you real time weather and snow reports, traffic updates, and information on the conditions of your favorite run.

For more information on what Epic Mix can do, check out the video below and be prepared to have an even more social experience on the slopes in Colorado this season.

[Photo credit: Breckenridge Lodge]

Vail and RockResorts summer travel discounts expiring by Monday!

Looking for a quick summer fix at a deep discount? The latest deals from Vail Resorts Hospitality and RockResorts will definitely turn you on. Book by Monday, May 24, 2010 at noon, and you can pick up a room at Keystone Resort for a mere $71 a night or spend only $79 a night for the newest RockResort, One Ski Hill Place in Breckenridge. If Colorado doesn’t tickle you, The Landings St. Lucia is offering a deal for $277 a night, and it’s good through November.

There’s one more catch: you need to book online.

Make your summer Epic at Vail

Flee the cities and suburbs this summer, and head out to Colorado to connect with nature and use your body as more than a wedge for subway doors. Vail Resorts is reading to for you to hit the Rocky Mountains with style and help you get the most fun and relaxation (or excitement, depending on your taste) out of your summer getaway.

The seven-day/six-night “Epic Summer” package is designed to deliver the Rocky Mountain experience as a whole. You’ll be able to raft down the Colorado River, enjoy some horseback riding on Beaver Creek Mountain and take scenic gondola rides through Keystone and Vail. You’ll eat picnic lunches, do some hiking and take an incredible walking tour through Breckenridge.

If the $1,495 (including all meals) is a bit rich for your blood, think about the four-day/three-night alternative, which starts at $289 per person per night for adults and $226 for kids. The deal runs from June 3, 2010 through September 12, 2010.

Three all-inclusive vacation packages for summer

The best part of all-inclusive trips is that the thinking is taken out of the equation. Want a second drink? Hell, a second entrée? Go for it! There’s no reason not to … because the bill is already paid. I had my first brush with the all-inclusive concept last summer, and I’m sold on it, especially since I get impatient while waiting for the bill (when the meal’s over, I just want to get on with my life). So, I was pretty excited to see a handful of all-inclusive deals come across my desk or this summer.

So, take a look below at what’s coming at Vail Resorts, Curtain Bluff and Grand Teton National Park in the next few months. You’ll probably find a vacation idea to turn you on and make the coming warmth even better!

1. Vail Resorts Epic Summer Package
Head out to Colorado for this family-oriented package. Everything is covered, from airport pickup to drop-off, with plenty of activities to keep you and the kids busy. You’ll also have access to a guide who can show you the best rivers to raft, trails to hike and so on. At $249 a day for adults, you’ll pick up a savings of more than 38 percent … and you won’t have to cobble together the itinerary yourself.

2. Grand Adventure Package
If you prefer peace and quiet – not to mention being enveloped by nature – check out Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The Grand Adventure Package includes accommodations at Jackson Lake Lodge, a rafting trip on the Snake River and hiking through Grand Teton National Park. You’ll also receive all meals and even more activities, depending on how long your stay is. A four-night package starts at $1,902 for two adults and two kids, with seven nights starting at $3,806.

3. Curtain Bluff in Antigua
Curtain Bluff is an all-inclusive resort, but the deal for the summer can be found in the rate. For a mere $322.50 a night (and up), you can go deep-sea fishing, reef snorkeling or SCUBA diving, among other activities. I’m a big fan of the spa – and the restaurant, skippered by an Alain Ducasse-trained chef.


Three late-season skiing options in Colorado

Spring sunset skiing sessions kick off in only a few weeks at Keystone Resort. Starting March 28, 2010, you can get some great late-season skiing out in Colorado. Most resorts in the Rockies don’t force skiers and snowboarders to call it quits until April 11 or 18, so there’s still plenty of time to hop a plane and get a few runs in. at Keystone, you can pick up the “Game On” package for $99, which includes free NASTAR ski racing (for the family) and Nordic skiing.

Need some late-season skiing ideas? Here are three in Colorado:

1. Keystone Resort
Book by March 31, 2010 and you’ll pick up a free night with the “Spring Break on Us” package (must stay three nights). While you’re there, take the kids to the new Kidtopia Festival, with the Mountaintop Ultimate Snow Fort featuring 12-foot walls, a snow throne and a draw bridge, parades, disco tubing and more.

2. Vail
Take 33 percent off your stay at The Arrabelle at Vail Square and your lift ticket. While you’re in town, check out the April 17 Wyclef Jean concert, as well as the World Pond Skimming Championships.

3. Arapahoe Basin
You can ski here through early June and even enjoy a ski “beach” scene, with barbecues, snow beach volleyball and hot tubs. If you need to feed your skiing addiction, A-Basin is the place to do it.