Win A Lifetime Ski Pass For Colorado’s Winter Park

Winter Park Is Giving Away A Lifetime Ski Pass!The 2012-2013 ski season gets underway on November 14 at Colorado’s Winter Park Resort, where the snow has already been falling. To celebrate, the resort is giving away a host of prizes including skis, snowboards and other gear. But the prize that will be the most coveted amongst ski bums everywhere will no doubt be the ski pass that is good for an entire lifetime.

To be eligible to win, entrants must simply “like” Winter Park on Facebook and then fill out a simple online form. The contest runs through January 10, 2013, after which one winner will be selected to receive the pass that is good for unlimited skiing or snowboarding for the rest of his or her life.

Located one hour outside of Denver, Winter Park features 2762 skiable acres spread out across three different mountain peaks. The resort, which averages nearly 350 inches of snow per year, has more than 130 individual runs, most geared for intermediate and advanced skiers or riders. Adrenaline junkies can get their fix in one of six different terrain parks or by taking a run through the resort’s massive Superpipe.

Imagine having this winter outdoor playground at your disposal for the rest of your life. That is the potential for whoever wins this contest and earns themselves a lifetime pass. I’m sure more than a few of you skiers and snowboarders could appreciate winning this particular contest.

[Photo credit: Jameschipmunk via WikiMedia]

Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin Offers Two-Season Double Down Ski Pass

Colrado's Arapahoe Basin Offers Double Down Ski PassIt may be hard to believe but a new ski season is closer than you think. The mountaintops of Colorado have already started to receive light snow and ski resorts across the Western states are already busy preparing for opening day. One of those resorts is the legendary Arapahoe Basin, which is generally amongst the first hills to open each year and the last to close as well. That long season makes A-Basin an extremely popular destination for avid skiers and snowboarders who have become accustomed to getting their moneys worth out of their season pass.

This year, the folks at the resort have actually made it even easier for us to cash in on the savings. Until the end of the year, they’re offering their new Double Down 2-Season Pass for just $499. The pass grants unlimited and unrestricted access to Arapahoe Basin for the entire 2012/2013 season as well as all of the 2013/2014 season. Yep, just as the name implies, the pass will take care of all your skiing needs for the next two years.

But that’s not all. The pass also entitles the holder to 10 percent discounts on food and beverages, with the same discount applying to any retail items bought in the ski shop. It also allows for reduced ticket prices for any friends and family members who happen to tag along, not to mention special pricing on lessons and performance tuning of skis or snowboards too.

Last year wasn’t a particularly good one for snow at most of the Colorado resorts. But A-Basin averages 350 inches of fresh powder each winter, which means even on a down year it’s still a pretty good place to hit the slopes. The mountain features 900 skiable acres with 108 total trails, the longest of which is more than 1.5 miles in length. With that much room to roam, there are enough runs for everyone to explore no matter if they’re a beginner or an expert.

Arapahoe Basin is expected to open in mid-October and typically doesn’t close until May, giving it one of the longest ski seasons of any place in North America.

What Is The Highest European Capital?

highest European capital
I’ve lived in Spain part time for eight years now and I’ve been under the impression that Madrid is the highest European capital at 667 meters (2,188 feet) above sea level. You see the “highest capital in Europe” claim everywhere, including city tours, travel websites and even the second edition of “City Guide Madrid” by Blue Guides.

A friend who just came back from hiking in Andorra, however, told me that’s not true. Andorra’s capital, Andorra la Vella, stands at 1,023 meters (3,356 feet) and takes the prize for highest European capital. While its population is only a bit over 22,000 and the city governs one of the smallest countries in Europe, size doesn’t matter in this contest.

Andorra la Vella is nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France. My friend tells me there are numerous day hikes from town that take you into spectacular valleys and peaks past alpine streams and waterfalls. The winter ski season is justly famous. The city is pretty cheap too. Sounds like I’ll have to do an Andorran series sometime soon.

Defenders of Madrid can nitpick, though. Andorra is a co-principality and you could make the case that it isn’t a fully independent country. The President of France and the Bishop of Urgell in Spain act as co-princes. Like other European monarchs, however, they don’t have much power in the day-to-day running of the country. Andorra is a parliamentary democracy with an elected Prime Minister. Andorra has all the other trappings of nationhood as well, such as a flag, diplomats and membership to important international bodies such as the EU and UN. So it looks to me that the common statement that Madrid is the highest capital in Europe is wrong.

It just goes to show that you can’t believe everything you hear and read.

[Photo courtesy Gertjan R]

5 great spring ski destinations

Arapahoe Basin is a great spring ski destination.Winter may now be officially over but that doesn’t mean we have to hang up our skies and snowboards just yet. After all, spring usually brings warmer weather, shorter lift lines and discounted passes. For those still hoping to hit the slopes a few more times this year, here are five great spring ski destinations that will leave you wishing it was winter all year round.

Arapahoe Basin, Colorado
Traditionally one of the first mountains to open in North America each year, A-Basin is a popular destination all season long. While many resorts have already started preparing for closure, Arapahoe still boasts 56 open trails and up to seven lifts still in operation. The mountain has a consistent base of 44 inches of snow as well, which means there is still plenty of powder to shred. They’re even running some great spring specials on lift tickets, which you can find here.

Heavenly, Lake Tahoe
Located along Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border, Heavenly more than lives up to its name. The expansive ski area currently has a snow base that spans from 48-85 inches depending on where you are located on its more than 4500 skiable acres. As of this writing, the resort still has 88 trails and 25 lifts in operation and late season storms continue to blanket the area with fresh powder on a regular basis. The resort is now offering a BOGO deal on lodging and lifts as well.

Snowbird, Utah
With a vertical drop of more than 3240 feet and 85 spectacular runs, Snowbird is one of the most popular ski and snowboarding destinations in the U.S. The resort still has an impressive 94-inch base and regular snow falls continue to add to that total. Better yet, Snowbird has a full schedule of events slated for spring, including live music, ski competitions and discounted passes. Checkout the entire line-up here.Jackson Hole Mountain, Wyoming
One resort that hasn’t lacked for snow this year is Jackson Hole Mountain. Following a season that saw more than eight feet of snow dumped on the hill, Jackson Hole still has a base of 95 inches for skiers and riders to enjoy. As a result, nearly all the lifts are still in operation and every one of the 116 trails, 40 of which are groomed, remain open for business. It wouldn’t be spring at Jackson Hole without a little party and on March 31 and April 1 the resort will hold its seventh annual Mountain Festival featuring plenty of live music and skiing.

Mammoth Mountain, California
Wyoming isn’t the only place to enjoy heavy snow this winter, however, as Mammoth Mountain has had its fair share as well. The resort currently lists its base as between 6 and 8 feet, which means all 150 trails and 28 lifts remain open to skiers. Mammoth also features one of he best terrain parks in North America and a season that generally stretches into June. Currently, the resort is running a 2-for-1 special on airfare which makes getting there easier and cheaper than ever.

Just because it’s spring doesn’t mean we have to give up on our favorite winter sports. There will be plenty of time for mountain biking, hiking and kayaking in the months ahead. For now, hit the slopes and enjoy it while you can.

[Photo courtesy Arapahoe Basin]

Racing the wind on a frozen Michigan lake

Racing across a frozen Michigan lakeA frozen lake on Michigan‘s Upper Peninsula seems an unlikely place to hold a world championship event – particularly in February. Yet that is exactly where I found myself this past weekend as I watched more than 40 competitors from around the globe zip to and fro across the ice propelled by nothing more than the wind.

I made the trip to St. Ignace, a small town located on the banks of Lake Huron, to attend the annual World Ice and Snow Sailing Association (WISSA) Championship. The weeklong event pits competitors against one another in a variety of wind-powered races that mix grace, skill, and speed in equal measures.

The field of competitors came from across the planet just to take part in the event. The U.S., Canada, Finland, and Russia were all very well represented, as were numerous other countries including Cuba. The lone entrant from that nation acquitted himself quite nicely, finishing tenth in his division despite the fact that his homeland hasn’t seen ice or snow in quite some time. The male and female racers ranged in age from as young as 17 to well into their 50s, although they all shared a youthful exuberance and love for their sport.

The WISSA Championship features three divisions based on the type of apparatus that the racers use to capture the wind. Some competitors prefer the quick and agile wing, which resembles a small hang glider and is usually paired with a set of ice skates or skis to propel them across the ice. Raising the wing above their heads and turning it to catch the wind, they are able to generate quite a bit of speed, while still remaining very nimble. Steering is accomplished by constantly adjusting the glider in subtle ways to meet the changing breezes.The second division pits competitors against one another on sailboards that are not unlike something you’d find on water that hasn’t entered a solid state. Many of the entrants in this category have built their own sleds, merging a snow or wake board with a specially designed sail that is capable of harnessing the wind to generate impressive speeds. Sailboards are not nearly as nimble as the wings but they are still a lot of fun to ride and are probably the easiest of the three types of WISSA vehicles to learn how to control.

Racing across a frozen Michigan lakeThe third and final category actually uses large kites to pull the racers, who are typically strapped onto a snowboard or skis, across the ice. These kites are attached to the end of long cables and use a unique steering system to allow competitors to adjust direction on the fly. What they lack in agility, the kites more than make up for with pure speed, although they do require more skill to control than it would seem at first glance.

Each of the three divisions holds their own appeal of course, although the one that fascinated me the most were the kites. One of the racers let me control his kite while it was in flight and I was amazed at the amount of force it could generate. On more than one occasion an errant gust threatened to rip the handle from my grasp and at times it was all I could do just to hang on. That same racer confessed that he was able to hit speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour on larger, wide-open lakes, although all of that speed wasn’t exactly translating into wins for him in Michigan.

While the graceful wings and speedy kites were a lot of fun to watch, it was the competitors themselves that left me the most impressed. After spending the better part of two days watching them race – and interact – with one another, I was amazed at the level of camaraderie that was on display. While it was clear that they all enjoyed the spirit of the competition, it was even more evident that they simply enjoyed hanging out with one another. Many of them were old friends who had raced against one another in the past, and in between heats they were often seen sharing gear, testing out each other’s rigs, and sharing tips to improve their performance. There was a lot of laughter and good-natured ribbing as well and it was abundantly clear that for many of them the WISSA Championship was simply a great excuse to get together with acquaintances both old and new.

The St. Ignace edition of the WISSA Championship was the first to be held in the States. Next year it will return to Finland, which has been a frequent host in the past. But organizers of the event in Michigan plan to set up a North American competition, which will return to the region on an annual basis. They also hope to continue to grow interest in the sport, which has the potential to be a popular alternative to traditional winter sports.

Visit Michigan.org for more ideas on what to do in Michigan during the winter.